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The Passing of a Playboy

I’ve been intrigued by the reactions to the death of Hugh Hefner – the founder of Playboy Magazine. Erotica goes back thousands of years on cave walls, in paintings, sketches, and later in woodcuts and engravings. Since the invention of halftone printing there have been magazines like PhotoBits, first published in 1898. Pinup girls like Bettie Page used to pose for such magazines, which were usually sold discreetly to adult men, who usually concealed them. Playboy was the first high-quality, mass market men’s magazine to feature nude pictorials, and the first of the type that many women and children ever saw on the shelves. My father concealed his Playboys, though not very well, but we had neighbors whose parents were less conscientious.

I subscribe to the self-described progressive outfit The Young Turks (TYT), who have one show called, “Old School.” During a recent broadcast founder Cenk Uygur announced Hefner’s passing as breaking news. Even though they have vastly different backgrounds and business models, Uygur seemed to feel a connection to his fellow entrepreneur/publisher:

Cenk: What’s funny is that I just got a little emotional. I almost teared up, I didn’t, but … what do I know about Hugh Hefner. I interviewed him once. He was nice…. He was part of America, man.

Malcolm Fleschner: He was an iconic figure in America.

Cenk: I just got really, really sad.

Malcolm: There is only one Hugh Hefner, there is nobody like him, and there never will be again, we’ve lost him, whatever you thought about him, he was a uniquely American figure and had a massive impact on our culture …

Cenk: If ever a person was iconic, it was Hugh Hefner … Man, he lived a good life.

On TYT’s Pop Trigger, a younger group, Brett Ehrlich, Grace Baldridge, Daron Dean, and Jason Carter also covered Hefner’s passing, and extolled Hefner as forward-thinking, even while acknowledging his objectification of women. On the TYT main show, Ana Kasparian, Ehrlich and Baldridge again seemed to take Hefner for granted as an exponent of social progress, despite his flaws. On their recurring youtube show, Reality Rescued, TYT’s roving reporter Jordan Chariton even tossed out that he had first masturbated to Playboy, shocking poor Emma Vigeland.

I had seen many of my father’s copies before December 1967, but will always remember a Playboy pictorial on erotic Art Nouveau engravings by Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, Franz von Bayros and Norman Lindsay which my younger self found much more provoking than remote and detached photos of Hef’s carefully selected bunnies. I could probably buy a copy, but it probably wouldn’t live up to my memories.

Even though he was a vocal champion of (many) liberal social values, Hefner fares less well with liberals than the TYT progressives. In a New Yorker article, Hugh Hefner, Playboy, and the American Male, Adam Gopnik writes:

There was a time when his excursions into the Playboy philosophy, which was not quite as ridiculous a document as its title makes it sound, were, though never taken seriously, at least seen as significant. Now, they seem not merely quaint but predatory.

For The American Thinker, Rick Moran writes, Hugh Hefner is Dead:

What was Hefner’s role in this transformative America? Actually, he was a lot less impactful than certainly Hefner would have us and the media believe. He did not initiate the sexual revolution. We can thank the Pill for that. Rather, Hefner rode the wave of changing morals and mores by creating bankable images of nearly nude women, along with sharp political and cultural commentary from some of the best liberal writers in America. He made it cool to be a cad and reinforced the male fantasy of consequence-free sex.

And The New Republic decries, Hugh Hefner’s Incomplete Sexual Revolution:

What derailed the male revolt was the female revolt. Women reasonably asked themselves: If men like Hefner were abandoning the traditional claims of chivalry, then what were they offering? The answer: a patriarchy without any promise of protection—a raw deal.

Without a trace of irony, today’s intersectionally woke neoliberals signal their virtue by pointing out that Hefner profited from wrapping himself in the social revolution at the same time that he was sexually exploiting his lowly-paid female employees.

Interestingly, a woman architect really appreciated Hefner. Writing for the AIA journal, Architect, Karrie Jacobs penned, Playboy Magazine and the Architecture of Seduction in 2016, quoting Beatriz Colomina:

… Hefner made [midcentury modern design] mainstream. That’s the point of the exhibition, that Playboy did more for modern architecture and design then any architectural journal or even the Museum of Modern Art. At its peak, it had seven million readers.

I gave a lecture at Cornell at the beginning of this research. At the end of the lecture, a woman said to me, “Now I understand why my father, who never went to a museum, who never had any idea about art or architecture or design, had an amazing collection of midcentury furniture.”

And then I had a correspondence with her. She asked him, “Where did you get all this furniture?” And he said, “Playboy told me to buy it.”

That is absolutely spot on. Along with the girls, and the interviews, and the fiction, were descriptions of the Playboy Pad: apartments or houses that would reflect well on the bachelor’s good taste, with lists (and costs) of the Barcelona chairs, Burberry raincoats, Fleischmann’s Preferred Blended Whiskey, Miles Davis albums, Blaupunkt hi-fi sets, etc that midcentury human male bowerbirds could purchase and arrange to attract a mate.

 

 

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Bad Boys, Mean Girls and Normies

Despite not knowing what it was for, I joined Twitter a few months ago. I don’t tweet much, but I follow people I respect, and read a wider variety of articles. Aussie progressive gadfly Caitlin Johnstone tweeted that, except as concerns Russia, President Trump seems to be caving to the establishment agenda. I decided to circle back to John Robb at Global Guerillas, and in an article from a few days ago, The OODA loop of Trump’s Insurgency has been Smashed, he agreed. OODA means Observe, Orient, Decide, Act:

 … the real uniting goal of Trump’s insurgency was “opposition to a failed establishment.”

That goal held the insurgency that put him in office together, despite gaffes, scandals, leaks, etc that would have ended the political career of any other candidate.  It was also a goal that allowed the insurgency to continue after winning the election.  In most cases, once the goal has been accomplished (i.e. remove Mubarak), the insurgency evaporates.

The reason it didn’t: the media. …

It was maddeningly clear that the establishment media was in the bag for Hillary Clinton over Sanders, then over Trump. In the world according to Robb, that was enough to keep resentment of Clinton stoked, but it hasn’t been enough to maintain a Presidency aimed at dismantling the Deep State. Steve Bannon, the architect of that goal, was ushered out weeks ago, and now:

 … senior military staff running the Trump administration launched a counter-insurgency against the insurgency. …

•Former generals took control of key staff positions.
•They purged staff members that were part of the insurgency and tightly limited access to Trump.
•Finally, and most importantly, they took control of Trump’s information flow.

That final step changed everything. General Kelly, Trump’s Chief of Staff, has put Trump on a establishment-only media diet.  Further, staff members are now prevented from sneaking him stories from unapproved sources during the day (stories that might get him riled up and off the establishment message). … by controlling Trump’s information flow with social media/networks, the generals smashed the insurgency’s OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act).  Deprived of this connection, Trump is now weathervaning to cater to the needs of the establishment (as seen with his new stance on DACA and the Wall).

Robb broke down his view of the Trump political climate further back in August in, American Politics: Bad Boys vs. Mean Girls. I’ve quoted but rearranged his descriptions:

The political parties and the media aren’t the primary actors in the US political system anymore.  Increasingly, politics is being waged online by networks.  A fight between two powerful and very different online social networks:

Robb claims that the ‘Bad Boys’ “(similar to a gang or tribe) network grew in support of Donald Trump,” but I think they’ve been growing as long the middle class has been collapsing and have long flourished on certain corners of the internet. In Kill All Normies, Angela Nagle sets a possible beginning of transgression for it’s own sake in 2003 on 4chan, but I encountered the same sort of misanthropic and misogynistic ‘transgressors’ in usenet in the 1990s. Eventually, as explained by Ta-Nehisi Coates recently, they and Trump were bound to find each other.

 [Bad Boys] has one organizing principle: disrupt the status quo.  This network fights like an open source insurgency composed of many small groups and individuals acting independently.  It disrupts from the shadows.  It’s opportunistic, disorganized, and aggressive.  It misleads, angers, and intimidates.  It scores victories by increasing fear, uncertainty, and distrust.

Robb calls Trump’s opponents the ‘Mean Girls’ “(similar to a social clique or ruling aristocracy) network solidified in response to Trump’s unexpected victory.” Again, I believe that some sort of establishment or Deep State has been around for decades, but found a more compelling common cause in opposing Trump.

[Mean Girls’] cohesion and single mindedness neutered the Trump administration even before he took the oath. … It has one organizing principle: repel the barbarians.  This network fights like a ruling clique, albeit vastly larger than we have seen historically due to the scaling effects of social networking.  This network openly connects people in authority across every major institution (from education to the media to the government to the tech industry) and leverages it and the politics of identity to establish moral authority.  It fights by categorizing, vilifying and shunning enemies.  It scores victories by manufacturing consensus.

One only has to read my old haunts TalkingPointsMemo or dagblog, or watch Stephen Colbert or John Oliver or Samantha Bee go after Trump, or one of his staff, or even Bernie Sanders to see this clique in action.

Which leads to my question: Where does the progressive citizen who wants things to get better for everyone fit in? Clearly the Bad Boys want to toss out anyone who isn’t white (or doing a pretty good imitation of white) and start over in a pastoral America that never really existed. There’s no place for the Normies there.

Just as clearly, the Mean Girls profess a world where everyone can be equal and get ahead based strictly on merit. That’s great if you are one of those who can swing a tech job, but not much comfort when those tech firms are transferring the few remaining blue collar jobs to immigrants, foreigners or robots. The Mean Girls become much more pragmatic when asked to support the more progressive reforms proposed by Bernie Sanders.

Are the Bad Boys and Mean Girls just the loudest part of the electorate? Could we create a populist network to rival either of them?

Classical Gas Attack

I wrote about the possibility of a false flag operation during the Ukraine situation, but had been holding off on the recent Syria gas attack.

A few sites, Yournewswire, Antimedia, ShadowProof and the like, went false flag immediately, as did The Sane Progressive. They also noted that two previous Sarin attacks attributed to Assad had been later shown to have been carried out by rebels. Senator Rand Paul pointed out on camera that we didn’t know who was behind the Syria attack, and was roundly criticized in the mainstream media. Many liberal bloggers, like Juan Cole, pointed out that the US had just killed innocent civilians in a drone strike, and had used tear gas on its own citizens at the DAPL protest, but these bloggers seemed to go along with the assumption that Assad was probably culpable.

A few outlets urged us to be cautious in assigning the blame to Assad. On The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur felt that the timing seemed suspicious, with Assad mostly having what he wanted and peace talks looming.

But from his office away from the office at Mar-a-Lago yesterday, President Trump ordered that the military fire over 50 (to confuse Russian defense systems) Tomahawk cruise missiles at the suspected Syrian airbase in retaliation. After the attack, Common Dreams put out, Without Proof or Cause or Consent, ‘Impetuous’ Trump Bombs Syria:

Though Trump claims there is “no dispute” that Assad was responsible for the horrific deaths earlier this week in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, he is widely regarded as a serial liar and someone whose own FBI and top intelligence officials have had to discredit recent public accusations he has made.

Common Dreams quoted Sam Sacks on Twitter:

Guest after guest is gushing. From MSNBC to CNN, Trump is receiving his best night of press so far. And all he had to do was start a war.

Many pundits observed that George W Bush rescued his deeply unpopular presidency by attacking Iraq after 9/11 (based on false data about weapons of mass destruction), and worried that the even more unpopular Trump might resort to the same tactic. Assuming that the Deep State wanted Hillary Clinton to initiate a proxy war in Syria, I would say that National Security Adviser McMaster’s edging out of Steve Bannon and our subsequent attack on Syria represent a clear victory for the neoconservative/neoliberal Deep State over the anti-interventionism expressed by Trump during his presidential campaign.

Updates, from the Jimmy Dore Show, on Youtube:

Evidence Suggests S-Y-R-I-A G-A-S ATTACK Is False Flag

Proof Gov & Media Lied About S-A-R-I-N G-A-S Attack

No Country for Old Parties

On a cold Saturday, I was doing my laundry and browsing the internet, when I saw my old Talking Points Cafe buddy Jason in a Facebook video. Jason has started Artisan Politics, and plans to host interactive videos on Sunday evenings, and perhaps during the week. I skyped to ‘Artisan Politics’, and we had an off-the-cuff discussion – which is harder than it looks on TV – for about forty minutes.

At one point Jason said he thought that Richard Nixon had broken the Republican Party and that Ted Kennedy had broken the Democratic Party when he primaried President Jimmy Carter. That seems like ancient history, but it does roughly correspond with the regime change timeline proposed by Professor Corey Robin, which I summarized in a previous post. I was reminded of Jason’s comment while watching Press the Meat this morning. Chuck Todd introduced John Kasich:

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Even though Governor John Kasich of Ohio won only one primary, Ohio, last year, he developed a reputation as a Republican who was willing to work with Democrats and really say what’s on his mind. And Friday he had an op-ed column in the New York Times arguing that Democrats created Obamacare without Republican support and that Republicans are now trying to repeal and rewrite the law without Democrats. He said Democrats were wrong then and Republicans are wrong now. Governor Kasich joins me now. Not surprising to hear something like that from you.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, it’s not sustainable. If you don’t get both parties together, nothing is sustainable. I mean, if they pass this just by themselves, we’ll be back at this again.

CHUCK TODD:

In three years when Democrats take over or whatever.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, you know, look. The other thing is I was there when we created the CHIP program, the health program for children. It was done on a bipartisan basis. It was sustainable. I was there in ’97 when we did the budget deal. I was one of the architects. It was sustainable. But when you jam something through just one party over another, it’s not sustainable. It becomes a point of attack.

Kasich failed to mention that the Republicans were committed to opposing everything Obama proposed, but sure, he wants to work together now. But back to broken parties:

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

We’re all big boys and girls in this town. I mean, if you really want to be a leader. Look, I believe the political parties are disintegrating before our very eyes. I think more and more people across this country see no purpose for political parties.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Because — I’ll tell you something. You talk to people. There are more and more independents because of the squabbling. What’s at risk here to Democrats is you can’t turn your back on these people. And to Republicans, you need to invite Democrats in because we’re talking about lives.

All this consumption with who gains politically, you know, life is short. And if all you focus on in life is what’s in it for me, you’re a loser. You are a big time loser. And this country better be careful we’re not losing the soul of our country because we play politics and we forget people who are in need.

Unfortunately the moment of candor ended when Todd tried to put Kasich on the spot about his loyalty.

The question I have is whether the parties can be revitalized or whether something will arise to take their place.

Fake Accompli

I didn’t watch President Trump’s now-infamous Thursday press conference live. WBAL’s morning news said something about a meltdown, but I mostly pay attention to the weather, so I know what to wear on the bike. I did go to work curious enough about how Trump had handled the Flynn resignation to want to see the entire conference for myself.

When I walked upstairs for our Friday morning bagel and doughnut feed, I asked my office tennis buddy if he had seen the story on Eugenie Bouchard’s twitter date. He was too busy giggling and shaking his head over a video of the press conference on his iPad. He told me Trump was really crazy. A few minutes later another work buddy came over to my desk and asked me if I had seen the press conference. I told him I had a youtube link to watch over lunch. He said I had to watch it. It was great, he said, Trump really gave it to the press!

These are both bright guys, and I like them both. It wasn’t too surprising that they would disagree, but I was intrigued that they had vastly different takes on the same event. So I watched it over tea and a chocolate cake doughnut, and tried to keep an open mind.

I was waiting for him to pull out a pair of steel balls, but mostly saw Trump being Trump. He was lying here and blustering there, as always, but he wasn’t melting down. I don’t like the job he’s doing, but didn’t really blame him for calling out the press for attacking him. He’s threatening the established order – the Deep State – so of course the press is attacking him. And of course he’s going to play the victim.

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf posted One Press Conference, Two Audiences, in which he claimed:

Viewers who watched it themselves saw a rambling, misleading performance. But those who relied on conservative cable newscasts or talk radio hosts got a very different impression.

But my friend saw it himself, and loved it. So I’m thinking Friedersdorf is engaged in wishful thinking.

Perhaps the divergent coverage of Thursday’s press conference helps to illustrate that a great many of those people aren’t seeing the same information as those who oppose Trump — they are being fed lies and untruths by coastal-dwelling millionaires like Hannity and Limbaugh; and they exist at a time when even more responsible right-leaning outlets that make up their information bubble are unlikely to target the lies they encounter, and in a culture where a columnist like Goodwin sees what’s going on and celebrates it as Trump playing the game well.

I think we’re getting a predictable amounf of slant from both sides. Scott Adams thinks different expectations lead to Imaginary News.

We live in our own personal movies. This is a perfect example. Millions of Americans looked at the same press conference and half of us came away thinking we saw an entirely different movie than the other half. Many of us saw Trump talking the way he normally does, and saying the things he normally says. Other people saw a raving lunatic, melting down.

Adams is pretty much on board with Trump, but I don’t think he’s wrong about the people or the news. As others have pointed out, the mainstream media used the term fake news to vilify news they couldn’t control, and now it can’t control that many people see it as little more than better-packaged fakery.

From Russia, With Love

A story originating in The Washington Post, also known as Pravda on the Potomac, has become the leading excuse for the establishment presidential candidate’s stunning defeat in the electoral college. The Post asserts that the CIA believes that Russian hackers acted to swing the election to Donald Trump:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter. …

The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

Mainstream media are all over the story. On Meet the Press, Reince Priebus denied it, while on Face the Nation, John McCain pressed for further investigation. These are, however, the same outlets that did just about everything short of begging us to vote for Hillary Clinton, so I am not inclined to believe them.

Also, there have been reports of a power struggle with the CIA favoring Clinton and the FBI supporting Trump – “minor disagreements” – so it makes little sense that the Post should blindly repeat CIA claims without that perspective.

Even if Russia did hack the DNC, nothing that was revealed was particularly surprising. The DNC was in the bag for Clinton, and for big donors. Everyone knew that.

A useful hack would have been learning that Trump was going to stock his cabinet with establishment billionaires.

Choose Your Fake Reality

What are those Kubler-Ross stages of grief again? Oh yeah, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think a lot of us are still in denial, or maybe anger, but at Salon, Andrew O’Herir seems to be bargaining, as he attempts to prepare us for a Presidency in which the traditional media may well be out of the loop:

Fake news, a fake president and a fake country: Welcome to America, land of no context 

… After an election cycle driven by lies, delusions and propaganda — including lies about lies, multiple layers of fake news and meta-fake news — we are about to install a fake president, elected by way of the machineries of fake democracy.

The country that elected him is fake too, at least in the sense that the voters who supported Donald Trump largely inhabit an imaginary America, or at least want to. They think it’s an America that used to exist, one they heard about from their fathers and grandfathers and have always longed to go back to. It’s not.

Their America is an illusion that has been constructed and fed to them through the plastic umbilicus of Fox News and right-wing social media to explain the anger and disenfranchisement and economic dislocation and loss of relative privilege they feel. …

I have a quibble with selectively blaming this or that media. For all of us, our view of America has been fed to us by selective memories of older folk, by what is taught in schools, and by what is portrayed in our increasingly intrusive media. Our parents talked about the good old days – that’s nothing new. We were also taught that America is a beneficent democracy rather than an opportunistic economic empire – jingoism is not terribly new either.

And, for just one example, my generation watched endless melodramas in which a hero shooting someone actually solved more problems than he caused. That sentiment might not have been new, but we’ve progressed from clean deaths on The Rifleman to blood spurting everywhere on Call of Duty.  Just yesterday we saw some self-styled hero trying to “clean up the town” at Comet PingPong – which ironically was the subject of a fake news conspiracy asserting Clinton and Podesta were child trafficking out of that pizza place’s non-existent basement.

Trump supporters certainly imagine a fake America in which white people are the good guys and darker people can only succeed by emulating us. But Clinton supporters just as certainly imagined a fake America in which business is booming, unemployment is falling, and things would get even better for everyone if only we passed the TPP.