Sen. Richard Lugar ruled ineligible to vote for his own reelection. [...]
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Ever since Bill Maher started fretting about how mean everyone is being to El Rushbo, I keep seeing these "Well, Limbaugh's awful, but ..." takes from people who are ostensibly on the left.
Here's Slate's John Dickerson, on the Political Gabfest (starts ca. 24:00):
JOHN DICKERSON: I like the whole thing because I hate bullies and Rush Limbaugh is a bully. And so it's good that he's getting beaten in the nose ... And if the advertisers are doing it, I think it's good. We feel so powerless in most of our lives to actually do anything to change the behavior of snotty bullies like Limbaugh. But I also, on the other hand, think its great that there are different kinds of voices, and he certainly speaks for a group of people ? whether they have to agree with everything he says or not ? who feel similarly powerless, who feel like they've been on the wrong end of the mainstream media for generations.
Yes, as we all know ? white male right-wingers are just so powerless. Who will speak for them?
Good God, what nonsense. There's nothing "great" about a hate-spewing propagandist, who has made hundreds of millions of dollars peddling outright lies over the people's airwaves. For more than 20 years, he's been convincing people that up is down. He's a cancer on the body politic, and worse, he's metastasized into dozens of other bad actors, who also peddle hate and lies on the radio and on television on a daily basis.
As an aside, Limbaugh's worst feature isn't that he's a bigot or a bully ? it's that he's a liar. Democracy doesn't function properly when people are misinformed, and Limbaugh ? as Al Franken pointed out on a daily basis on his show ? feed his audience a steady stream of lies on a daily basis.
Kevin Drum is similarly conflicted.
Limbaugh is getting what he finally deserves. I couldn't be happier about it. I just hope that down the road this doesn't turn into a preemptive boycott of every political gabber out there who has even the smallest chance of ever producing any national blowback. That runs the risk of turning every show into a bland marshmallow. It wouldn't make the world a better place.
Yes it would. Where is it written that we need politics to be presented as "shows"? That's one of the big problems with our country today: politics as entertainment. Policy is hard. Issues are complex. The country was better off when politics wasn't a "show," when the Fairness Doctrine required both sides of issues to be presented on the people's airwaves, when Vice Presidential candidates didn't get their own reality shows ? and when shock jocks like El Rushbo weren't the de facto heads of one of the two major political parties in the U.S. and able to shape public opinion by incessant lying.
I'm not sure what these guys are thinking. Rush Limbaugh's professional demise would be a deliverance for progressives -- and the nation. The advertiser boycott that's crippling his show should be celebrated ? not lamented.
Pundits on TV Tuesday night seemed disconcerted that Santorum won among working women in Alabama. Unless you want to be disconcerted that any working women vote in a Republican primary-- virtually no African Americans do-- why bother wondering about this? I mean, by "working women," we're not talking about Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman or anyone from David Vitter's little black book. So if Republican women are voting their pocketbooks... clearly Mitt Romney with his Swiss bank account and Cayman Islands tax shelters and agenda for laying off as many people as possible isn't all that palatable. And "moderate" on women's issues? That's not how he was marketing himself in Alabama and Mississippi last week.
Romney's utter lack of authenticity went beyond his off-putting (to say the least) awkwardness with human beings. He doesn't just come across as an alien because of a fake southern accent or because of his attempts talk about how much he loves eatin' "cheesy grits." He comes across as someone with no moral compass when he flip-flops so deviously and so frequently on virtually everything, including, of course, women's health.
To compete with radical right extremists like Santorum and Gingrich and to try to please people like this (the non-Wall Street heart of the Republican Party base, as opposed to the ones with a full set of teeth in their faces), Romney has to contort himself into positions that normal Americans (so not the ones at that link) just cannot abide. And that includes women, even Republican working women in Alabama! He has even been on record in favor of eliminating all Title X family planning (which also pays for cancer screenings, etc), not just that funding which goes to Planned Parenthood. Women may have noticed that he came out in favor of the concerted Republican Party effort to get rid of Title X when it almost shut down the government, something women are particularly opposed to seeing happen. Tuesday night Rachel Maddow looked not just at Romney's general messaging dilemma, but specifically at his Planned Parenthood dilemma. The whole video is good but she gets to the point at the 4 minute mark:
He believes in Roe v Wade, he told voters over and over and over. He even donated his own personal money to Planned Parenthood and attended at least one of their fundraisers himself. Now he's trying to out-extreme people in his own party who have made lifelong careers out of bigotry, hatred and insanity. He comes across as crass and insincere and, as always... alien. "Astonishingly dishonest!" is how Maddow termed it.
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To keep the solar-panel market growing, the best thing the U.S. government can do is create a good environment for technology innovation, and that will require a combination of demand-side policies and protection from adverse price incentives. Photo: AP.
By Melanie Hart and Kate Gordon
The U.S. Department of Commerce early next week will issue a preliminary verdict on a trade petition filed by SolarWorld Industries America, Inc. That petition alleges that the Chinese government unfairly subsidizes crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells and modules by providing cash grants, tax rebates, cheap loans, and other benefits designed to artificially suppress Chinese export prices and drive U.S. competitors out of the market.
As a remedy SolarWorld wants the Commerce Department to levy import tariffs to alleviate damage from these artificially cheap panels on solar-panel manufacturers in the United States. At first glance this would seem to be a reasonable solution. A sustained look yields the same conclusion. But it is important to understand the dynamics of the U.S. solar-panel market?where our labor skills and ability to innovate are strong but where demand for solar panels is low due to the lack of any national commitment to lower carbon emissions or to diversify our sources of energy?to comprehend why import tariffs are not the only solution.
Indeed, this petition, along with a second action brought by SolarWorld accusing China of ?dumping? its cheap solar panels into the U.S. market, has generated major controversy in the fledgling U.S. solar industry. Just about everyone seems to believe that Chinese officials are probably violating trade rules in this sector but there is substantial disagreement over what, if anything, the United States should actually do about it.
Our current trade institutions address illegal subsidies by levying import tariffs on imported subsidized goods. In theory when trade partners artificially suppress prices and export those underpriced goods to the United States, import tariffs should level the playing field by raising prices back up to natural market levels. In theory these tariffs are lowered over time and finally eliminated as the trade partner phases out its subsidies.
In the current case SolarWorld alleges that the Chinese government uses dumping and a variety of subsidies to artificially suppress solar panel export prices by a margin of at least 100 percent. SolarWorld has asked the Commerce Department to levy a comparable tariff to eliminate that price discrepancy.
Everyone agrees that imposing import tariffs on Chinese solar panels should benefit the U.S. solar module manufacturing industry. Solar-panel prices fell 50 percent in 2011, and that unusually steep price drop has eroded profit margins worldwide. Cheap Chinese manufacturing appears to have contributed to the price drop, so reducing the impact of Chinese prices on the U.S. market should slow the price decrease to a more sustainable rate and increase profit margins for U.S. manufacturers. U.S. tariffs on Chinese solar panels would also help manufacturers in other countries that do not provide these subsidies, such as some in the European Union, because those manufacturers also export to the United States and compete for U.S. market share.
What is less clear is how tariffs would affect the demand side in the United States.
Many U.S. solar-installation companies, which purchase solar panels and therefore benefit from low Chinese prices, fear that import tariffs will erode their profit margins, slow industry growth across the value chain, and make it even harder for solar energy to compete with traditional fossil fuels. Some of these solar-installation firms are so concerned that they have formed an opposition group to push back against SolarWorld?s trade petitions. That group?the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy?claims that imposing high import tariffs on Chinese-manufactured solar panels would decimate the U.S. solar installation industry and eliminate thousands of jobs in that sector.
Solar energy already faces an uphill battle in the United States. The combination of heavyfossil-fuel subsidies and weak national-level political support for policies to spur demand for renewable energy can make it hard for emerging energy technologies to compete in our country. Some politicians have even attacked the few solar-industry development policies we do have in an attempt to reduce federal government spending on clean energy across the board.
The clean energy advocates who have supported solar-industry development throughout these political battles certainly do not want to throw more obstacles in the path of the solar-installation industry. But that does not mean that the United States needs cheap Chinese solar panels so badly that we should just roll over and let a foreign government break enforceable international trade rules. If the U.S. Department of Commerce finds that the Chinese government has acted illegally, then the Chinese government and the industry it is subsidizing should pay a price for that behavior. Under the current trade system that price is tariffs.
If the U.S. Commerce Department finds that Chinese government dumping and subsidies artificially suppressed prices by a significant amount and that the price decreases harmed the U.S. manufacturing industry, then it is possible that the resultant tariffs could be 100 percent or above. Contrary to what the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy is claiming, that is not a reason to panic.
For one thing, many different factors are contributing to declining global solar prices. Chinese manufacturing certainly plays a role, but innovation is also important. Solar panels are becoming increasingly efficient (generating more energy per module), and manufacturers are steadily improving production processes to bring down costs. The U.S. solar manufacturing market is already fiercely competitive, so even without discounted Chinese imports other U.S. manufacturers?and other solar-panel exporters to the United States?should still have strong incentives to keep innovating to bring down costs.
It is possible that imposing import tariffs may slow the price decline or even create a temporary price bump in the U.S. market if U.S. customers shift orders from Chinese to non-Chinese manufacturers and the latter cannot keep up with demand. It is important to note, however, that one of the biggest problems facing solar-module markets worldwide isoversupply, so it should not be difficult to fill any gaps produced by a shift away from Chinese solar panels.
Furthermore, Chinese manufacturers would likely respond to import tariffs by shifting production to the United States or other overseas markets where the tariffs would no longer apply, so they would not be out of the game for long. They would, though, be investing in the United States or at least in countries, such as in the European Union, where trade standards are more comparable.
If Chinese companies do begin manufacturing here, they will find that the United States is in a strong competitive position to manufacture solar panels because of our skilled labor force, domestic supply of silicon, and strong manufacturing infrastructure. It certainly helps that China?s own labor costs are increasing: Boston Consulting Group recently estimatedthat within five years China?s manufacturing wages will be within 25 percent of those in the lowest-wage U.S. states (South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee).
The solar-panel industry is one in which labor costs play a smaller role than they do in less advanced, lower-tech manufacturing sectors. Labor accounts for only 3 percent to 4 percentof the cost of producing solar panels, meaning that higher labor-cost countries such as the United States should be in a strong position to increase solar-manufacturing capacity.
Given the volatility of global oil prices, the cost of transportation is currently much more important to most advanced manufacturers. High transportation costs mean that many manufacturers are looking to locate as close as possible to both their suppliers and their customers, so that they can keep costs down and maintain ?just-in-time? manufacturing standards. And here is where the United States has a problem in solar.
We have inconsistent demand for these products, making it difficult for manufacturers to take the risk in spending the upfront capital to build new plants or expand existing ones. Demand-side policies have spurred solar growth in the past. In 2010, for example, the seven states with the strongest development policies accounted for 82 percent of new U.S. solar installations. In third-quarter 2011 that share increased to 89 percent. But political attacks on state-level renewable energy standards, the expiration of many federal clean energy support programs, and the lack of federal policies that would create sustained demand for renewable energy in the United States all play a part in making demand for solar far less stable than it is in the European Union countries or even in China itself.
Whether the U.S. solar market continues to grow, therefore, may depend much more on demand-side policies than on access to cheap Chinese imports.
Overall, then, it is not clear that import tariffs would harm solar-market growth in the United States over the long term. What is clear, however, is that long-term U.S. market exposure to illegal subsidization certainly would not only harm solar-panel manufacturers but possibly also slow growth across the value chain.
Chinese leaders look at the United States and want what we have. They want to become a global research and development powerhouse that creates and exports cutting edge technologies with big profit margins. China?s traditional command-and-control economic system was not good at creating those innovation incentives, so they are working to reform that system, but reform takes time.
In the meantime they are trying to fill the gap with heavy government subsidies. Problem is, that approach can actually reduce innovation, not only in China, but also in the United States. Bureaucrats are not adept at picking winning companies and winning technology standards. When Chinese officials heavily subsidize their favorite domestic solar manufacturers, those subsidies can reduce prices to levels that other firms cannot match, thus driving competitors out of the market and reducing incentives for innovation. When China exports those products to the United States, the same dynamic can play out here.
The long-term result is that a small number of heavily subsidized Chinese manufacturers could dominate the global solar market. That may make Chinese leaders happy, but if those firms are not producing the best solar technologies?for example, if their solar panels are not as efficient as they need to be to compete with traditional fossil fuels?that can slow solar-market development worldwide.
To keep this market growing, the best thing the U.S. government can do is to create a good environment for technology innovation, and that will require a combination of demand-side policies and protection from adverse price incentives.
Melanie Hart is a Policy Analyst on China Energy and Climate Policy at the Center for American Progress. Kate Gordon is Vice President for Energy Policy at the Center. This was first posted by CAP here.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) signed into law HB 934, which requires all Pennsylvanians to show a certain form of photo ID in order to be allowed to vote, after the Republican-controlled state legislature approved the bill this week. It will have a disastrous impact on the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who currently lack photo ID, half of whom are senior citizens. With the new voter ID law in place, they would not be permitted to cast a vote in the November general election. (In 2008, a watershed Democratic year, Barack Obama only won the state by 600,000 votes.)
The Montgomery News details which forms of photo ID are acceptable under the new law:
A valid ID would include a driver?s license, military ID, passport, and ID card from state-accredited colleges and universities and state-licensed care facilities. Pennsylvania residents who attend college out-of-state could not use their student IDs to vote.
Not all student IDs are considered acceptable, however. Only student IDs with expiration dates are permissible; those that lack them will not be accepted at the polls.
The law, which will be in effect for November’s presidential election, makes Pennsylvania the ninth state since 2008 to pass a strict voter ID law. A number of other states, like Michigan and Louisiana, request a photo ID at the polls, but unlike strict voter ID states, they still allow people who lack photo ID to vote once they sign an affidavit affirming their identity. In Pennsylvania, those who show up without photo ID will be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot, but it will only be counted if they present acceptable photo ID within the next six days.
Voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina were recently blocked by the Justice Department because of their biased effect on minorities. Those two states have a history of discrimination and must get federal clearance for any changes to their elections under the Voting Rights Act. Pennsylvania, however, is not subject to the Voting Rights Act and does not need preclearance from the Justice Department.
Though voter fraud is as non-existent in Pennsylvania as it is elsewhere in the nation, Republicans in the Keystone State have nevertheless used fraud as justification to enact a law that could bar hundreds of thousands, predominantly minorities and the elderly, from the ballot box.
Across the nation, lawmakers are debating several different anti-abortion bills seeking to make it more difficult for women to have an abortion. One tactic is “informed consent” measures that require women to be given information before an abortion — even if they do not want that information or getting it would violate medical guidelines.
Now, the New Hampshire House has passed a bill that, along with mandating a 24-hour waiting period, requires doctors to give women “informational materials” before an abortion that aren’t even accurate, including that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. Here’s the text of the bill:
It is scientifically undisputed that full-term pregnancy reduces a woman?s lifetime risk of breast cancer. It is also undisputed that the earlier a woman has a first full-term pregnancy, the lower her risk of breast cancer becomes, because following a full-term pregnancy the breast tissue exposed to estrogen through the menstrual cycle is more mature and cancer resistant.
In fact, for each year that a woman?s first full-term pregnancy is delayed, her risk of breast cancer rises 3.5 percent. The theory that there is a direct link between abortion and breast cancer builds upon this undisputed foundation.
The problem is that a direct link between abortion and breast cancer is not only disputed, it has also been rejected by multiple health organizations. The National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are a few of the groups who say no such link has been scientifically proven. Even the Susan G. Komen Foundation denies there is a link.
That has not stopped Republicans, including presidential candidate Rick Santorum, from peddling this theory. Nor is New Hampshire the first state where such a bill has been proposed — Kansas and Oklahoma have both considered legislation with similar provisions. But it is hard to understand how a bill can protect women’s health when it gives them incorrect information.
While the British government begins accepting public comment on whether to let same-sex couples marry, two legal decisions from elsewhere in Europe today offer an interesting look at how countries are approaching LGBT rights at different paces.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that France did not discriminate when it prevented a lesbian couple from both becoming their daughter’s legal parents. The court simply upheld France’s laws, which prevent unmarried couples from adopting together, apparently disregarding the injustice that France does not allow for same-sex marriage. It’s unclear what “human rights” the court stands for, but in this case they did not seem to include family security.
The Italian Supreme Court took a slightly different position when it ruled that a same-sex couple married in another country could not have their marriage legally recognized in Italy. Nevertheless, the court said the two men still had the “right to a family life,” which could open future possibilities for gay rights in that country.
The European Union has been increasingly committed to LGBT rights, but these decisions suggest that it is still leaving room for individual countries to work toward recognizing same-sex families in their own ways.
Fellas, you may want to review No. IX again.This week, the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and the president of the bishops' conference, met to decide whether they still hate women's health care.
Guess what? They do!
In a statement issued by the committee, the bishops insisted that they are "strongly unified and intensely focused" in their "opposition to the various threats to religious freedom." Religious freedom, as we all know by now, means their right to demand that women be denied access to health care the bishops don't like.
The bishops then proceed to do some serious false-witness-bearing:
This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church?s hand and with the Church?s funds.First, yes, this is about access to contraception. Second, no, it is not inexpensive. Third, no one is requiring the Church to provide it. And fourth, no one is forcing the Church to pay for it.
But the lies don't end there:
The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a ?religious employer? deserving exemption?employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.Riiiiiiight. That "extremely narrow" definition of "religious employer" is so narrow, it doesn't even cover someone who opens a Taco Bell! Which, as you may recall, was the demand issued by Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But the false witnessing doesn't end there. Oh no. According to the bishops, the mandate also is a "violation of personal civil rights":
The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.That's a whole steaming pile of Ninth Commandment violation right there too. Why? Because the mandate doesn't force any individual to do anything. The government is not preventing any individuals from going on about their lives, believing whatever they want to believe, living in accordance with whatever they think their faith demands of them. You think your faith prohibits you from using birth control? Guess what? You are still free to not use birth control! Your religious liberty is still totally intact!
The bishops have laid out the "next steps" in their war on women's health care, including "pursu[ing] legislation" and "explor[ing] our options for relief from the courts." And, oh yes, continuing to beg American Catholics, who have roundly rejected this idiocy, to support them in their war. Good luck with that one, fellas.
The bishops conclude by stating:
Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength?for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.Suuuuuure. Of course, they don't really believe that either, and they're not going to take their chances by leaving it up to God and prayer. Hell no! Thus, they'll continue to spend millions of dollars lobbying their Republican friends in Congress and perhaps even seek "relief from the courts."
Who would Jesus sue, right?
One of the most visible publicity campaigns at South by Southwest Interactive festival this year featured two guys dressed up as a fighting elephant and donkey. They ran around downtown complete with gloves, satin boxing shorts, and even a referee. Americans Elect?the political group they represented that wants to nominate an independent presidential challenge for the 2012 election?tweeted photos of the pair fighting. They also tweeted attendees to invite them to the group's lounge. The room featured t-shirts, hats, and "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots"?with a donkey and elephant head instead of robotic heads. Of course, the biggest draw was the free beer, which they advertised nonstop.South by Southwest is known more for hipsters and indy music than it is for campaign nerds and public policy. But this year's interactive portion of the festival featured an entire "Government and Global Issues" track?much of which dealt particularly with political changes caused by the evolving internet landscape. And, as evidenced by Americans Elect winning "Special Honors" at the festival's people's choice awards, a major question loomed: doesn the current party structure work? Americans Elect begins with a clear "no." The group, which is holding an online primary open to all American voters, will nominate a presidential candidate from one party who must choose his or her would-be vice president from the other. "We are basically crowd-sourcing a third choice for president in 2012," said Kahlil Byrd, the CEO of the party and former staffer to Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick. Byrd spoke with Josh Levine, the group's chief of technology who previously ran E*TRADE. The panel was largely a cheerleading session for the group and its goals?a reform to the nominations process rather than a third party itself. (If you haven't read Harold Meyerson's fascinating piece on the effort, you really should.) Levine is particularly proud of the technology involved. The site allows people to actually vote online for their candidates. Americans Elect identifies and attempts to remedy a common frustration?the lack of bipartisanship and spirit of compromise in national politics. It's certainly generated buzz and enthusiasm; Levine bragged about the site's 400,000 users. It's not clear how the election of one bipartisan ticket would fix long-term problems with gridlock. Lawmakers in the Senate and House still rely on parties for campaigning, support and the like. While Byrd says the group hopes to expand to beyond just presidential nominations, it's hardly clear that the 2012 presidential fight offers an opportunity to really change party dynamics. Even more interesting was a panel featuring political heavyweights and former partisans discussing "How Social Media Imperils Political Parties." Two panelists, Mark McKinnon and Joe Trippi, have long been agitators within their parties (Republican and Democratic respectively). McKinnon has been involved in Americans Elect, although he joked he's still 'trying to be a Republican." The two other panelists had seemingly given up on political parties, shocking given their previous roles. Nathan Daschle, the former head of the Democratic Governors' Association, no longer is registered as a Democrat; instead he works on Ruck.us, a site inviting people to find others who agree with them on specific issues. Marci Harris, former legislative council to Republican Representative Peter Stark, now runs POPVOX, a website that helps individuals find legislation they care about and then find ways to act on it. "Individual choice and individual expression on not luxuries to this generation," said moderator Matt Bai, a journalist with New York Times Magazine. "They are birth rights." Unlike Americans Elect's more candidate-focused approach, Ruck.us and POPVOX begin with getting people excited about one issue or another. In some ways, they focus on governing rather than campaigning. All four panelists talked about the dangers of the political parties as institutions. "I realized how much I did not like being a partisan," explained Daschle in what quickly seemed like the "confessions" segment. "The system and the incentives are set up so those in politics are forced to play a zero sum game where you only win if the other team loses." Daschle and Harris both argued for a larger focus on issues rather than team membership, and saw the Internet as a unique place to connect people around issues they agreed on, creating cross-cutting coalitions around one issue or another. While everyone voiced their frustrations over the partisan gridlock in Washington?and noted that lawmakers are just as frustrated?no one seemed confident that the parties would be able to bring any change. "The spirit of cooperation ... has to come from outside party lines," said Harris. Even Trippi, who remains involved in Democratic politics, agreed. "I'm not really sure either of the two existing parties can do anything," he said, explaining that he believed parties had become "transactional" instead of "transformational," in which politicians offer voters a deal, either on taxes, government programs or the like. "You cannot solve the deficit problem in this country," he said, "using a transactional approach." And according to many at the festival, sites like Ruck.us and POPVOX might be the place where Trippi's "transformational" politics might begin.
Portlandia, or as it?s known around my place, ?Stuff White People Like: The TV Show? aired its season finale on March 9, having successfully bested ?Mad Men? as the show whose impact on the cultural discourse furthest outstrips its ratings. The kind of people who pen magazine articles defining the culture?s official watercooler topics spring directly from the educated, anxiously hip urban middle class that Portlandia captures so perfectly, giving it a massive edge in this contest. Beyond just being an entertaining black hole of self-referential humor, however, Portlandia signals an important shift in the zeitgeist. By replacing once-fashionable hipster-bashing with warm-hearted humor about hipsters, for hipsters, Portlandia suggests that finally, a decade after it became cool, hipster-bashing is square yet again. It?s once more hip to be hip, so long as you have a sense of humor about it.
To be clear, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the creators and lead actors of Portlandia, target plenty among the ranks of the non-hip in their sketches about life in Portland, Oregon. They take particular delight in taking on overanxious yuppies, middle-aged squares, and granola-crunching second-wave feminists. But the show is at its funniest when it chronicles the various stripes of cool-hunting in the urban middle class. The show gets that the people who obsess about cocktail culture aren?t necessarily the same people who hang out in punk rock bars, but that they all get bundled under the label ?hipster? for a reason. As Armisen and Brownstein have repeatedly said in interviews, they marinate in the very culture they?re satirizing, and their affection for their characters shines through.
Portlandia functions, therefore, as a barometer of hip factor it mocks; not grasping the loving attitude the show has towards its subjects signals that you are most certainly not ?with it.? Hearing someone reference the show to negatively characterize a behavior, whether it?s organic food snobbery or picking up DJ-ing as a hobby, causes my internal snob to flinch. Even New York Magazine fell into the trap, describing a fancy but cheap coffee shop as if ?sounds like a Portlandia parody, but we?re not ashamed to admit that we like it,? a phrasing that suggests that shame should attend those moments of feeling like you?re a character in Portlandia. Of course, this embarrassment on the behalf of those who don?t really get it had its moment on Portlandia, when a character played by Brownstein found herself unable to overcome a date?s affection for Pearl Jam.
About a decade ago, hipster-bashing was strictly the province of those who considered themselves truly hip?they were, after all, the only people who could be reliably called upon to know a hipster when they saw one. Hipster-bashing had a weird internal logic: While it reflected a strange obsession among the tastemaker class with establishing authenticity, it attacked the very obsession itself. ?That person tries really hard to be cool,? the hipster-basher was trying to say, ?but baby, I?m so cool I don?t even have to try.? Back then, if someone sneered at the stupid hipsters, you could guarantee with near-certainty that this person lived in a hip neighborhood in a fashionable city, and odds were that she was in a band.
But as with many trends, hipster-bashing spread to the general population, turning the trend into an imitation of itself. Now hipster-bashing is indistinguishable from the jealousy-tinged bile that?s always been spewed at hep cats, jazz babies, greasers, hippies, and ?liberal elitists.? In the past couple of years, someone sneering at hipsters needn?t have any relationship to the culture of cool, and increasingly votes Republican. This became especially evident after Orrin Hatch described Obama as someone sporting a ?hipster fedora and a double skim latte.? Once the privilege of the so-called liberal elite, hipster-bashing now is about as sexy as wearing a kitten-adorned sweater vest unironically.
Luckily, the path laid out by Portlandia gives the cool kids a strategy for being hip without looking like you worry too much about it. Now you can simply acknowledge your hipster status while having a laugh about it, demonstrating that you don?t actually take yourself that seriously. The best part is that this strategy passes the all-important authenticity sniff test. Portlandia, like ?Stuff White People Like,? is genuinely funny. The sketches this season that made me laugh the hardest were the ones I saw myself in, such as the charming couple that goes out of their way to use the mysterious fruit included in their local farm-raised weekly shipment. Or the non-sci-fi fans who find themselves obsessed with ?Battlestar Galactica.? Or the woman who still makes mixes on actual cassette tapes, in a spasm of Gen X nostalgia.