REVIEW: Chrisley Knows Best

At work, the TV nearest to my desk is usually set to USA Network, but today, instead of doing their usual NCIS marathon, USA is doing a marathon of one of their original programs, a “reality” TV show called Chrisley Knows Best, about Todd Chrisley, a Nashville-by-way-of-Atlanta real estate developer and his family.   So I had this thing on the screen most of the day and got to look at it off and on.

This show has completely altered my perception of reality.  I mean, I saw the last week of Twin Peaks: The Return, but this shit is fucked up.

First, this has to be the whitest show I have ever seen.  And I remember The Brady Bunch.  I mean, I could walk up to the TV set and actually smell the mayonnaise and imperialism.

Secondly, this family has to be the gayest bunch of straight people I’ve seen since Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin.  Maybe that’s not the right term.  I can believe that Todd and his elder son are sincerely heterosexual, if only because they’re both raised to believe that running a family within a Christian marriage is a high priority.  But when you wear hot pink T-shirts to bed, call women “sister” and chaperone your 77-year old mom when she goes on dates, there’s a word for this attitude.  And that word is:

GAY.

 

You might think I exaggerate, but I was really convinced with the episode where Todd’s mom, wife and daughter go to a small club to play “Drag Queen Bingo” while Todd and his friend go bowling, but then Todd and his friend crash the club IN drag, and Todd is a better drag queen than anybody else in the room.

Then there was the episode where Todd’s daughter Savannah, a full-time beauty pageant contestant, had already won Miss Teen Tennessee and was thus eligible to compete in Miss Teen USA, so the family accompanied her to the national pageant in Las Vegas, which meant that the natural tackiness of the city threatened to reach critical mass.

And I know that these shows all have some recurring moment to wrap things up, but even considering that this guy is enough of a control freak to put security cameras in the loft he bought for said daughter, are we supposed to believe that he would let a camera crew in his bedroom every night so that the kids can talk to him before he and the wife go to bed?

Further proof, as if it were needed, that the phrase “reality TV” is a bigger oxymoron than “pregnant virgin.”

But as it turns out, this marathon is a promo for tonight.  Not only does Chrisley Knows Best start its new season on USA tonight, it is being shown back to back with a new program, According to Chrisley, which is basically Todd Chrisley doing an evening talk show.

I am not sure I am able to deal with that concept yet.

 

Alt-Facts

The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.

-Doctor Who, “The Face of Evil”

Well, it’s only been one week in the reign of King Donnie, First of His Name, and prior to all the stupid shit that happened just on Saturday January 28, the Trump Administration became noteworthy for a set of events that happened in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration, starting with the fact that his speech was  written by either special advisor Steve Bannon or Walter Kovacs.  But after the speech, the press reported, in accordance with aerial photographs and other evidence such as Washington Metro subway passenger figures, that attendance at the 2017 inaugural was considerably less than attendance at Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural ceremony. In response to media feedback, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, at his first press briefing, insisted to the media that Trump’s inaugural was the “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration – period”. The day after that, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared for an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press, and not only insisted that “there’s no way to really quantify crowds” but when Todd insisted that Spicer’s claim was a “provable falsehood”, Conway responded, “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and … our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that.” To his credit, Todd stated what had been obvious before Trump ran for president: “Alternative facts are not facts.  They are falsehoods.”

The Trump Administration’s blatant confrontation of the press when corrected is of a piece with their antagonistic relationship to the rest of the Washington establishment. On Saturday January 28, while everyone was screaming about Trump banning legal immigrants from Middle East countries and sparking a confrontation with a New York court that suspended his executive order on a national basis,  it was less reported that on the same day, Trump signed an executive order rearranging the National Security Council so that his “chief strategist” Steve Bannon would be included along with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, while excluding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. Bannon is the same guy who publicly stated that “the media here is the opposition party.”  All of this was parallel to the hostility Trump expressed toward the CIA when evidence kept piling up about Russian partisanship in the 2016 election.

In some respect this is all typical of the modern “conservative” contempt for information in general, especially the institutions that America traditionally relied on for information. Not that there isn’t some objective evidence for suspicion.

But what we’re dealing with is not the Administration’s enemies being caught in a lie, but the other way around. We are not dealing with alternative facts in the sense of facts that are not considered or emphasized by mainstream media. We’re dealing with “alternative facts” as in things that did not happen and claims that are not true, because partisans want to rewrite reality. Or as some liberal critics call it, “alt-facts.” In the same way that “alt-right” does not mean an alternative to the oldthink of establishment Republicans so much as an alternative to being right.

But this makes sense given that most of the Trumpets I’ve talked to are really not stupid per se, just possessed of a stubborn, blind faith that would make Torquemada look like a postmodern atheist. And the more that faith contradicts the reality, the more clear it is that such faith is based on a pre-existing concept of reality that was in place even before Donald Trump entered the picture. It was often said of Barack Obama that he was something of a Rorschach test (to his critics and especially his fans) in that they projected what they wanted to see on him. That is no less true of Trump “conservatism.” Again, that’s how David Duke, and Sheldon Adelson, and Christians and Ayn Rand fans can all think he’s their guy, and how each is inevitably going to be disappointed, at least to the extent that they do not deny evidence.

But given that Trumpets are immune to airy fripperies like “facts,” “logic” and “evidence”, alt-facts really aren’t needed for them. As we’ve seen, alt-righters and other Trumpets have a lot more experience in lying to themselves than Sean Spicer has in lying to the Washington press, and they’re actually more subtle about it. The goal of the disinformation campaign is to convince the rest of the unconvinced public that Trump’s opinion, changeable as it is, is the new normal and must not be questioned.

Because the one area in life where Donald Trump has demonstrated competence is in avoiding the legal and social consequences of his otherwise perfect incompetence. I had said previously that on some level, Donald Trump must be aware of this, and ran for President because that was the only way he could justify his own self-image to himself, by attaining the one position that actually would make him all-powerful and unaccountable. Living in a world without consequences for failure, Donald Trump is himself uncertain of any reality beyond social construction. And it’s an attitude that has gotten him this far. Thus when he receives any objective data that contradicts his fantasy, he at first angrily rejects it and then becomes obsessed with remaking reality through the media, as though agreement constituted fact.

This would explain an odd contradiction in Trump’s posture versus his behavior. He accuses the press of lying, he accuses intelligence agents of being Nazis,  and yet when asked where he got his information, candidate Trump said he watches “the shows” –  that is, the same media he bitches about as being “fake” and biased. Why does Trump refuse intelligence briefings when that would give him more information than anyone else in the world? If he thinks that the press are a bunch of liars, why is it that he spends so much time watching TV news shows?

The Left loves to refer to the Trump team’s strategy as “gaslighting”  – explained in the Wikipedia entry as follows: “Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics.  Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically are also convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions.” But gaslighting is not needed for Trump cultists and others whose sense of reality, however wrong, is secure. Gaslighting is used to undermine a target’s sense of reality and then to replace reality with the fantasy of one’s imagination. Yet this mindset may reveal a crucial vulnerability.

If Trump is simultaneously paranoid and not prone to examine his information sources, that is a critical weakness in that he cannot verify his own knowledge. If he is a narcissist, he cannot help but obsess over even negative media, as long as the media is about him. And if Trump is simultaneously “gaslighting” and prone to projection and overcompensation in all aspects of his life, that implies he is vulnerable to gaslighting and manipulation himself.

So if for instance, someone Photoshops a picture of Trump’s head onto the body of a guy wearing lingerie, Trump is less likely to say, “oh, some schmuck on social media doesn’t like me” and more likely to say “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT????

At the same time, Trump has survived the most prurient sexual allegations about him, because they play on the image that the “base” has of him. The key is that the new info does less to present Trump as transgressive (in a rebellious or macho sense) and more to present him as small, petty and impotent.

That is why it is very important that the press keeps maintaining the point that Trump and his crew lie about his inauguration attendance, and that he is lying when he says he won the popular vote (‘if you don’t count illegals’) because remembering the facts that Obama had a higher inaugural turnout, and that Clinton got more votes, serves to remind both Trump and the nation at large that MOST AMERICANS ARE NOT ON BOARD WITH HIS BULLSHIT.

And given the ineffectiveness of rumors, it would be better if Trump’s enemies were to find real data on him, specifically his financial activities, as his financial status seems to be at the core of his self-image. The key here is to make him choose between revealing a legal but humiliating truth and preserving his public image by cover-up, even to the point of being prosecuted over it. Hell, the only reason that this didn’t work on Bill Clinton is that he was both popular and competent.

But then again, no. For such a strategy to work, there would have to be an organized campaign of media manipulation. And neither the American press nor the American intelligence community would ever do something so unethical. I mean, the only reason they would even think of it is if Trump had done something to actively antagonize them.

 

 

 

Your Damn Emails

Shortly after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, she had met with some of her campaign donors and told them that a decisive factor in the result was the decision of FBI Director James Comey to resume inquiries on her use of email on a private server while she was Secretary of State, 11 days before the election.  This despite the point that Comey had already told the Department of Justice on July 5 that there should be no criminal charges brought on the case. While some pundits have considered Clinton’s statement (and similar opinions from campaign chairman John Podesta) as defensive rationalizing, I think it’s on target. Given the margin of victory and Clinton’s lead in the polls, Clinton had reason to believe that simply bringing up the matter again, even to Clinton’s apparent favor, “stopped our (campaign’s) momentum” and undercut her advantage with white suburban women. Before the election, a Clinton spokesman had even said that by “dribbling these out every day WikiLeaks is proving they are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political agenda doing [Vladimir] Putin’s dirty work to help elect Donald Trump. The FBI is now investigating this crime, the unanswered questions are why Donald Trump strangely won’t condemn it and whether any of his associates are involved.”

It turns out that there is some outside support for the theory.  According to a CIA statement on December 9, “Moscow was not only interfering with the election, but that its actions were intended to help Trump, according to a senior U.S. official. The assessment is based in part on evidence that Russian actors had hacked Republicans as well as Democrats but were only releasing information harmful to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.”

As a result of such information, President Obama has ordered an investigation of the elections, but it wasn’t just the Russians who brought up Clinton’s emails. Obviously Comey did too, and no one believes he is compromised by the Russians. Whether he had motive to bring Clinton down, he had the ability to do so, because what Bernie Sanders called Hillary’s “damn emails” remained a weakness that the Clinton campaign did not minimize and largely did not recognize.

Along with numerous other issues (that I’m sure many books will be written on), Clinton’s campaign was undermined by her persistent use of private email services for her communications as Secretary of State. She never used an official (state.gov) email address. Her email accounts were not disclosed to senior State Department personnel. The State Department’s policy as of 2005 (Clinton joined in 2009) is that employees must “generally” use department systems to conduct official business. Furthermore the Department had issued numerous warnings with regard to cybersecurity owing to known attacks on State Department posts. On March 2011, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security sent a memorandum directly to Secretary Clinton,  saying: Threat analysis by the DS cyber security team and related incident reports indicate a dramatic increase since January 2011 in attempts by cyber actors to compromise the private home e-mail accounts of senior Department officials.” The State Department confirmed that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had used a private email server, although Washington staff had also confirmed that at the time Powell was in office, other employees did not have Internet connection on their desktop computers and that the Department “was not aware at the time of the magnitude of the security risks associated with information technology.  By Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the Department’s guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated.”

Emails sent to Clinton’s private address were first discovered in 2013, when the hacker “Guccifer” hacked the email account of Clinton family associate Sid Blumenthal, including communications about the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  Blumenthal did not have a State Department clearance when he received material that has since been classified by the State Department.   

By contrast, Army intelligence analyst Chelsea (ne‘ Bradley) Manning has been given a 35-year sentence at Leavenworth for providing information to WikiLeaks (the same site that helped leak some of Clinton’s State Department emails) and former CIA Director David Petraeus has had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for providing his mistress classified information.   (Of course, as President-elect, Donald Trump had entertained the possibility of appointing Petraeus HIS Secretary of State, and when he recently went on a victory-lap tour of the heartland, and the crowd yelled ‘Lock Her Up’ in their now stock-chant against Hillary, Trump said flat-out: ‘No, forget it.  That plays great before the election.  Now we don’t care, right?’)

Only after Clinton left her position at State did the Congress pass the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014, specifically forbidding an executive department employee from using personal emails for government business unless submitted for archive.

The best that could be said in this case is the Clinton team was able to operate that loosely with electronic security because the rules were that undefined, which is not exactly a defense of the way things were run, by either party. The worst that can be said is that the Clinton team’s relative nonchalance on the matter of electronic security made it that much easier for the Russian hackers to compromise their communications and make the emails an even bigger politcal issue than they would have been. I mean, I’m glad that Democrats think that a government official’s emails are a security interest now. But do they think that rival powers only spy on us when it’s an election year?

The thing is, if the election turned out to be that close, and the emails were a long-term weakness that Republicans were able to exploit, and the press kept going for them, why didn’t Clinton and her team consider the matter serious enough to decisively address? No, it wasn’t fair that she got taken out largely by a “nothingburger” issue, especially given Trump’s far greater level of corruption, which he has gone out of his way to emphasize since becoming president-elect. No, it isn’t fair that Republicans made her connection to Goldman-Sachs an issue when Trump is making at least two Goldman-Sachs veterans members of his Administration. No it isn’t fair that she lost only because of the Electoral College. But Clinton, like Trump, like Al Gore, and like every other candidate, knew what the terms of getting elected were, and it reflects on the candidate if they can’t meet them.

Hillary Clinton failed as a candidate by the obvious test that she failed to prove to enough people that she was a better president (or at least more ethical than) Donald Trump, which should be the easiest thing in the world. But to look at it another way: As weak a candidate as she was, she was going up against DONALD TRUMP. And were it not for the Electoral College system, she would have won the presidential race with a clear majority of votes. It makes you wonder how well she would have done if she had felt as threatened by Trump as she was by Bernie Sanders. But this is just the most obvious example of how the mainstream Left falls into complacency in its sense of superiority to the Right spectrum of opinion, even if that superiority is akin to the comparison of a 300-pound chainsmoking couch potato to a paraplegic with an IQ of 70 and delusions of being God.

As it stood, the Left based its case on screaming, “We HAVE to elect Hillary Clinton! Hillary is the only way to stop Trump! If we don’t elect Hillary Clinton, the gates of Hell will open up and swallow the Earth!” and a lot of the country went: “…fuck it, let’s see what Hell looks like.”

BREXITED!!!

Just before the “Brexit” referendum in which the United Kingdom voted on whether to leave the European Union, the “Remain” (in the EU) side was predicted to eke out a narrow victory, such that even supporters of “Leave” were starting to concede defeat on the day of the vote. As it turned out, Leave won by a percentage of 52 to 48. When I heard about this on Thursday, I couldn’t help but think of the Monty Python “Election Night” sketch where the Sensible Party candidate lost a Parliament seat to Silly Party candidate Jethro Walrus-titty, and the network anchor asked for the opinion of the poll analyst, and the analyst said, “Well, this is largely as I predicted, except that the Silly Party won.”

The results of the Brexit vote were such that they not only offended a lot of people who were betting on the other result, they supposedly offended a lot of the people who voted for Leave. In fact in the few days since the vote there have been various news stories showing a spike in British Google searches on questions like “what is the EU?”, and requests for a second referendum on the grounds that voters didn’t know what they were getting into.

Eh, wot?

The EU referendum came on the heels of two other important votes in the nation. In September 2014, Scotland held its own vote on whether to begin separation from the United Kingdom, one reason being that there is much greater support for the European Union project within Scotland than there is in England. Thus even though the independence vote lost (by a 55-45 percent margin), there has since been an implied threat that if the anti-EU movement did stage a “Brexit” that this would result in a second independence vote.  And last year, Britain had scheduled a parliamentary election in which Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged to allow a referendum on EU membership if his party won a majority,  a referendum which was called for because of growing unease within Britain towards the continental institution. So it’s not as though none of these issues had been outside public debate.

In reaction to the results, most Remain supporters, especially on the Left, have chalked up the results to ugly nativist racism in the UK population. Analysis reveals it isn’t that simple. The UK has already accepted non-white immigrants from India, Trinidad and other Commonwealth nations for generations since World War II, before the EU was integrated. They are a part of the culture now. Indian food is now more popular than native British food. (If only because native British food is stuff like spotted dick and haggis.) It is however true that EU rules oblige Britain to take in a certain number of immigrants from other EU countries (there were 2.3 million foreign-born in the UK in 1993, when Britain joined the EU, and there are 8.2 million immigrants as of 2014). This led to an impression that workers who were white Europeans, but from economically depressed, low-wage areas like Poland, would compete with natives for jobs and thus lower wages. This is because of demographics that are not being acknowledged.

The current leader of Britain’s leftist Labour party is Jeremy Corbyn, an old-school socialist who is against capitalism in general and the “neo-liberal” free trade policies represented by the EU in particular. In the 1970s, he had opposed the initial negotiations to enter the EU. He has since come out in favor of remaining in the organization as long as the EU and the Cameron government did not “dilute” workers’ rights, although during and especially after the vote campaign he has been criticized for a supposedly lukewarm support for the Remain position. That may be because, as it turns out, 37% of Labour voters went for the Leave side of the initiative.  Thus the Left has to face at least one of two possibilities: Either not everyone who voted for Brexit is a right-wing, racist, crabby old meanie, or being a Labour voter is not mutually exclusive with being a racist, crabby old meanie.

Conservatives and other critics have pointed out that the actual maintenance of the European Union is through the European Commission, whose leaders are not elected by Britons or anyone else. As with most transnational agreements, European Union rules override those of national governments, and are determined within its structure and not those of the governments. Thus even apologists who say that the system can be reformed from within cannot refer to meaningful ways of doing so. Moreover the whole premise of the European Union is putting disparate economies on the same currency and structure regardless of what is good for the local economy. In the case of Greece in the last few years, it has no power to set its own currency policy because it is in the eurozone, and what economists say would be a better policy for depressed Greece (printing more money) is not a good policy for Germany (because the German economy is already strong) and Germany as the overall stronger country and more important factor in the world economy has more say. Mind you, I much prefer a prosperous and liberal Germany that is dominating Europe economically to a hungry, authoritarian Germany that is getting into wars every twenty years, but let’s not act like the current system doesn’t have flaws.

It’s much like the current debate in America and elsewhere over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which raises similar questions over how much say we will have over our own economic policy, something that offends both the Right for sovereignty reasons and the Left because of its favoritism to the corporate order. Well, the European Union is a good case of what a TPP would look like after more than a decade of integration, and even Britain, which deliberately did not integrate into the eurozone, can see that the more involved it is in the structure, the more painful it will be to get out, even if the drawbacks are (allegedly) outweighing the advantages. But that may mean that Continental countries that are even more integrated may feel more impetus towards their own exit movements, not less.

Pushing the idea that people voted for the Brexit referendum without knowing what they were getting into is not just a way for Conventional Wisdom to save face for being wrong about people’s opinion, it also sells the overall philosophy of such people: We’re too stupid and naive to make our own decisions. Which might be the case. It’s been pointed out that a clear majority of Britain’s younger population, including those who were more affected by the economic downturn than older workers, supported remaining in the EU. Yet, the higher the median age of a district, the more likely it was to go Leave.   So we could be dealing with the equivalent of Sanders Democrats.

Given the problems with the EU, voting to Leave was probably the right choice in the long run. But it creates many, MANY problems in the short run, some of which, like the renewed prospect of Scottish independence, were known well in advance. There were enough consequences that it might have persuaded me to vote Remain, were I in Britain. The fact that the vote was both a close and clear margin for the other position ought to be taken as a loud vote of no confidence not only in the Cameron government but the presumptions of the European Union.

It also ought to serve as a warning to those in America who think they know what “the people” want and what’s best for them.

 

 

 

 

 

There Are No Comments

Just to get to something before I start posting in earnest, you may notice there is not an option for posting comments.

There will not be one.

This is a deliberate decision on my part, as opposed to just not having certain features on the site cause I don’t know where all the buttons are yet.

There are no comments for several reasons. Again, one of my primary inspirations for blogging is Andrew Sullivan’s site, The Daily Dish, and he decided fairly early not to allow comment posts on the site, although he did sometimes respond to mail. At first, free speech advocate that I am, I didn’t agree with this idea, but as I’ve gotten more and more involved in social media, I have come to see the wisdom of it. And when I refer to involvement in social media, I mean Facebook. And I’ve noticed that posting something usually sets up a debate that really isn’t a debate, just two or more people reiterating their pre-decided talking points and not actually getting anywhere. The more disturbing aspect of this was when two people would get into a particularly angry argument and one of those people wasn’t ME. It was like my post had been hijacked. So in addition to losing the post, there was a lot of negative feeling associated with it. (And if you’re one of my Facebook friends, and you feel the need to ask ‘am I the person he’s talking about?’ … you probably are.)

The other issue being that as a free speech advocate, I posted on Facebook because I wanted debate. And again, I eventually saw the wisdom of changing that opinion. I frequently advocate for libertarian positions, and while some of my leftist friends will go into detailed discussions of the movement’s flaws, that at least indicates they’re taking the subject seriously. Then there’s people who invoke “Somalia!” as an example of libertarianism in action, as though some guys in Mogadishu got together with Ayn Rand and Chicago School economist books and decided to run the country, or as if “Somalia!” was a magic word that strikes you with lightning and gives you superpowers. A similar line of “argument” is when they’ll say something like “if you don’t like the government, why don’t you get John Galt to run this for you?”

(The joke being that for every reader who thought, ‘that poster obviously never read Atlas Shrugged,’ there’s at least two more thinking, ‘who is John Galt?’)

Now sometimes on Facebook I will look at the pages of certain lingerie models and former PLAYBOY models and make the mistake of enlarging the photo which causes the comments to become visible. And while I am hardly a politically correct man (for one thing, I like looking at nude and lingerie models) I really can’t understand why a woman would get involved in that business, or even non-sexual cosplay, given the knuckle-dragger comments I see on their pages. Adrienne Curry, for one, has been very outspoken about this. Generally speaking, such comments are made by men whose names and mangling of the English language indicate they live in countries where white slavery is still legal, and their posts usually involve putting the woman through maneuvers that are probably still illegal in Utah.

On the other hand, I consider the medium, and I think, “what do you expect? It’s FUCKING FACEBOOK.” It is a perfect example of casting pearls before swine. And then there’s Instagram and Twitter, which are apparently designed for people who think that Facebook is too intellectual.

To me, when you go “Somalia!” to a libertarian, you’re basically saying, “My opinion can be summarily dismissed because I’ve demonstrated that I have no clue what I’m talking about.” It is the political equivalent of going on the lingerie model’s Facebook page and posting “YOU GOT GRATE JUGS LETS MAKE FUCK”.

Don’t be that guy.

And don’t waste my time.

If you really need to express your opinion, do what I did: Research how to start a blog, and then just do it.

Having said that, I’d obviously appreciate it if this site got some traffic, and I’d be willing to correspond to somebody who is serious. I am also willing to post the most ridiculous trolls to the site for the purpose of making fun of their stupidity.

Sorta like this guy.