The Tightening Grip of the Politicized Life

rcplogoNovember 25, 2015–Thanksgiving is right around the corner, friends, and you know what that means: a fresh new batch of think pieces on how to be the most unbearable person at your family’s holiday gathering.

On Monday, led the charge, publishing a multi-part guide on “How to Survive Your Family’s Thanksgiving Arguments.” On the plus side, the piece is unintentionally hilarious. On the minus side, the whole thing should probably be marked off with bright yellow “Warning: Do Not Cross Unless You Are Completely Insufferable” hazard tape. Also, in a more just world, the links to the various sections of the piece—“Syria/ISIS,” “Donald Trump,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Benghazi,” and so on—would automatically trigger those cheap-looking, high-wailing sirens that faithfully guard the bad guy’s lair in pretty much every B movie ever made.

Read the rest here…


Hillary Clinton and the Question of American Doom

rcplogoMarch 5, 2015–This week, America learned two amazing things. The first is that Hillary Clinton—former secretary of state, likely presidential hopeful, and the hardest-working poor little rich lady in D.C. showbiz—apparently cooked up a bizarre “home-brewed” private e-mail server that she used to conduct all of her official, top-secret government business for the State Department. This, of course, was weird. It was also quite possibly illegal.

The second is that America, at least according to two prominent left-wing journalists, might be toast. Writer Matthew Yglesias devoted thousands of words to the topic this week at, with the following prediction: “American Democracy Is Doomed.” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, apparently a more hopeful yet cautious sort, responded with his own think piece: “There’s a Chance American Democracy Is Not Doomed.” Chait’s article, by the way, features movie stills of aliens blowing up the White House. It also includes the helpful caveat that if America is doomed, it will almost certainly be the fault of the “unique power” of our country’s “right wing.”

Well. Let’s start with the political apocalypse, since that’s the most exciting.

Read the rest here…



How Scott Walker Brings Out the Worst in the Left

rcplogoFebruary 19, 2015–Imagine that I’m a political consultant. This week, my clients, who are all government employees, are hopping mad about cuts in their state’s spending.

“Don’t worry, folks,” I tell them, muttering something random about “optics” and “externalities,” which is the oldest political consultant trick in the book. “Here’s the plan. Gather a group of about 100 protestors, invade a quiet residential neighborhood, and shout through bullhorns at the governor’s house!”

Talk about winning hearts and minds! Lest you doubt, the plan gets even better. Having forgotten that the governor lives in the state governor’s mansion, not his old house—details, details—my gullible group of protestors will actually be bellowing at a house where the governor’s elderly parents live, all alone!

“Wow, you’re a terrible political consultant,” you’re probably thinking. “That’s laughably bad advice.” You’re right. It is. And yet, this week, this exact scenario unfolded in suburban Milwaukee, Wis.

Read the rest here. 


Some People Don’t Want to “Coexist”

rcplogoFebruary 12, 2015–Last week, a French graffiti artist named “Combo” was beaten on the streets of Paris, left with a black eye, a dislocated shoulder, and massive bruising. His offense?  Painting a giant “Coexist” mural in a largely Muslim neighborhood, integrating the letters with a Muslim crescent, a Star of David, and a Christian cross.

You’ve likely seen similar bumper stickers, which, in America, usually also integrate a peace sign, male and female symbols, pagan images, and a yin-yang symbol. They seem to thrive in certain specialized habitats, most commonly the backs of Priuses, Subarus, or rusty Plymouths sporting approximately 5,000 other fascinating half-peeled-off, multi-layered stickers. “Coexist” stickers share an admirable and hopeful sentiment — similar, perhaps, to the “Visualize World Peace” stickers that dominated the 1980s.  Unfortunately, they are also, as Combo’s experience might indicate, a bit naïve.

The course of human history, in fact, has made it quite clear that some people, no matter how “enlightened” the era, simply do not want to coexist.

Read the rest here.


The Rise of Weak-Kneed Feminism

rcplogoFebruary 5, 2015–Want to score an invite to the State of the Union address? One way to do so, it turns out, is to turn a rape accusation into a contemporary art project.

Imagine the following scenario: You’re a college student, and you believe you have been raped by a former friend. You don’t want to formally press charges with the police—that, you say, would be “too draining”—so you turn to your university administrators instead. When that approach goes awry, and school officials find your former friend “not responsible,” you, being a media-savvy sort, decide to turn your accusation into “performance art.” This involves schlepping a giant, 50-pound mattress around campus, gaining widespread praise in the press, and publicly dragging your former friend’s name through the mud.

 This is the case of Emma Sulkowicz, a fourth-year visual arts student at Columbia University. Her senior thesis, “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight,” started in September 2014, two years after the alleged rape occurred. It will continue, Sulkowicz insists, until her accused “rapist” leaves the university campus. “Carry That Weight” was praised by New York magazine for its “messianic rage” and “pure radical vulnerability.” It also caught the eye of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who invited Ms. Sulkowicz to join her at the president’s annual State of the Union applause fest—a speech that also, incidentally, put Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg straight to sleep. The traveling mattress, alas, did not get a seat in that particular row.

This week, journalist Cathy Young presented the other side of the story, giving Paul Nungesser, the accused rapist—a student from Germany whose name has long been public—a chance to speak out.

Read the rest here.


State of the Union: Weary of Washington

rcplogoJanuary 26, 2015–Every time I go to Washington, D.C., I leave town a little more libertarian. Unfortunately, our nation’s capital seems to have the opposite impact on its long-time residents.

Don’t get me wrong: D.C. is really nice. It’s a gorgeous city. But every time I go there, I can’t help but think that it’s really nice because you, I, and your cousin Rick are paying for it. That new hotel with the shower replicating Balinese rainfall is harder to love, really, when you realize it’s probably just your trickled-down tax dollars. That swanky bar with the Prohibition theme may be fun—and ironic!—but it also might leave you with the sneaking suspicion that in some way, shape, or form, through the long, twisting curve of the economic chain, you just bought everyone in the room a very expensive drink made of top-shelf alcohol, artisanal pomegranate seeds, and edible gold glitter. Cheers!

Here’s where it gets even creepier: Odds are, pretty much everyone at that same fancy bar is connected, usually financially, to the growing government borg. I once spent a half hour at the bar of the Park Hyatt Washington, a modern minimalist luxury hotel that advertises itself as offering “a warm, alluring ambiance that pays tribute to Americana.” Whatever, guys. Waiting for a friend, I ended up chatting with a young woman who worked for the Department of the Undersecretary of Interagency Special Projects of Something or Other. After approximately 24 minutes, I felt like the downsizing consultants in the movie “Office Space.” I honestly could not figure out what she did.


The Monsterization of Men

rcplogoJanuary 8, 2015–“What happens,” asks the web’s latest viral video, “when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her?”

If you’re like me, and you tend to think that little boys are generally not miniature clones of Ike Turner or, say, Hannibal Lecter, the answer to that question should seem fairly obvious. But to the Italian creators of “Slap Her”—and to the more than 40 million global viewers the video has earned in just four days—it’s apparently not obvious at all.

The video features several adorable, dewy-eyed Italian boys, aged 7 to 11. After a few introductory questions from an off-camera interviewer—and following the dramatic musical flourish of, yes, a harp—each boy is introduced to a girl named Martina, a willowy reed of a preteen with a delicate face, red pouty lips, sparkly braces, and blonde flowing hair.

Martina, apparently, is a magical creature, and each boy, in a perfectly charming way, is somewhat enthralled.  “You’re a very pretty girl,” says one. “I’d like to be your boyfriend,” says the boldest. (Illustrating the somewhat cruel joke that adolescence and God like to play on young males in their preteen years, Martina towers approximately three and a half feet above the height of all the boys combined.)

The interviewer asks the boys what they like about Martina. This being Italy, he also asks them to “caress” her, which involves a series of rather awkward pets on the arm or the cheek.  He asks the boys to entertain Martina with a funny face. Finally, the interviewer makes his ultimate request: “Slap her!” he barks. “Hard!”

The video’s music, the kind of bubbly piano warble one might associate with a toddling band of baby chicks, stops cold. The world grows deathly quiet. Here, you see, is a tightly concocted moment of tension. Will brutish testosterone finally raise its ugly head? Will the natural evil of masculinity prevail over the fair Martina, who, like most women, apparently alights upon various destinations via the twinklings of a magical harp?

Read the rest at RealClearPolitics here. 


Lena Dunham’s Assault on Humanity

rcplogoDecember 11, 2014–Ah, the holidays. ’Tis the season to be merry! Unfortunately, as media critic Howard Kurtz recently pointed out, ’tis also, apparently, “the season for disputed rape claims.”

I’m sorry. It’s depressing, I know. First came Rolling Stone magazine’s explosive University of Virginia gang-rape story, which now, due to a significant dearth of actual facts, appears to have imploded. And this week, in its aftermath, our nation—much like awed and embarrassed patrons witnessing an epic fistfight in the bar area of the local Applebee’s—turns its eyes to Lena Dunham.

Dunham, in case you don’t subscribe to HBO and are impervious to millennial generation hype, is the star of “Girls.” In the process, she’s become a media darling, a “feminist” guru, and the best-selling author of “Not that Kind of Girl,” which may be the most abysmal book I’ve ever read, with the possible exception of Taro Gomi’s “Everyone Poops.” I reviewed Dunham’s book a few months back, noting her general dysfunction, her sad mutation of the “feminist” credo, and her crazed, decidedly un-empowered, and quietly desperate dependence on men.

What I didn’t address—and, to be fair, there was a lot of craziness to run with in this book, and yes, it is still on the New York Times bestseller list—was the chapter where Dunham reaches back into her assorted college memories, tosses them around like a soggy old salad, and casually accuses the Oberlin campus’s “resident conservative,” a guy she calls Barry, of rape.

Read the rest at RealClearPolitics here.


The UVA Rape Case and Feminist Confusion

rcplogoDecember 4, 2014–Over the past two weeks, a horrific story, originally published in Rolling Stone, has rocked the University of Virginia. According to the article, a bubbly U-Va. freshman named Jackie attended a fraternity date party two years ago. There, she was lured into a dark room, pushed to the floor, beaten atop a shattered glass coffee table, and brutally gang-raped as part of a twisted pledge initiation ritual.

The details, if you choose to read them, will make you sick. They’ve also set the U-Va. campus on fire, sparking student protests, a police investigation, a temporary suspension of fraternity life, and mild administrative panic.

If you think the story has details that stretch credulity, you’re not alone. Media critics from across the ideological spectrum are focusing on various inexplicable-sounding assertions in the article. Jackie’s friends refusing to take her to the hospital because they desperately want to secure invites to future gang-rape fraternity parties strikes me as particularly odd.  But the fact that the accused rapists were never contacted by Rolling Stone, which is a basic journalistic requirement, is even more problematic.

With national media scrutiny and a new police investigation—Jackie never reported her rape to the police, and refused to file an official complaint with the school—the plot will continue to thicken. But let’s assume, for a moment, that Jackie’s story is true. If you look at it through the prism of assumed truth, the reaction to it becomes increasingly bizarre.

Read the rest at RealClearPolitics here…


How To Ruin Thanksgiving in a Few Easy Steps

rcplogoNovember 26, 2014 — Don’t you love Thanksgiving? I sure do. Apparently, however, a lot of people kind of hate Thanksgiving—or, at the very least, they kind of hate their relatives.

Here’s Henry Alford writing in Friday’s New York Times: “The hurt feelings and the culture of psychological entrapment. The long-dormant resentments that seem to redouble like fingernails on a corpse. Like you, I have often wondered, ‘How might a hostage negotiator help the average American family get through Thanksgiving?’”

Ha! Actually, I have never wondered that—I tend to focus on constructing an elaborate Potemkin kitchen mess and dabbing some flour on my face so that I can fool people into thinking I made the pre-cooked Whole Foods turkey all by myself—but I certainly applaud Mr. Alford’s dramatic flair. (Also, as a woman of science, I must set the record straight: Fingernails, contrary to gross and popular opinion, do not grow or “redouble” after you die.)

Those quibbles aside, however, the invocation of holiday-season hostage negotiators isn’t as crazy as you might think. Despite decades of well-bred warnings not to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table, many Americans seem to approach Thanksgiving as their own private “Crossfire”—and many in the media, much like the prepubescent, hormone-crazed audience at a World Wrestling Entertainment showdown, are wildly cheering them on.

Read the rest at RealClearPolitics here…