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David Brooks Has So Much To Be Ashamed Of, And Doesn’t Even Know It

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, January 3, 2014 13:57 EDT

David Brooks wrote a column today that was so stupid that I think it can actually be considered an own goal, where he literally—no joke—argues that because his own experiences with marijuana smoking suggested to him that it’s not the best use of your time, other people should go to jail and have their lives ruined over it.

But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

If Brooks thinks going to jail is “subtly” encouraging his preferred behavior of smoking less weed, then he really ought to make an example out of himself and volunteer for prison time. Brooks pretends in his article, of course, that banning weed has no criminal justice aspects and acts like the only effect is to raise the price of it. But the reality is the ban destroys lives:

According to “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know,” a 2012 book by scholars at the Rand Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center, there are currently 40,000 prison inmates with marijuana convictions, and “perhaps half of them are in prison for offenses related to marijuana alone.” A recent ACLU report tells us that between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million marijuana arrests in the U.S., 88% of them just for possession.

But Brooks doesn’t think of these people as people. Just objects to be sacrificed so young men like he says he was are slightly less likely to smoke weed. (By the way, there’s evidence that decriminalization actually reduces drug use.) But again, there’s almost no reason to argue against this piece, since it’s self-evidently completely wrong and shows how pro-criminalization forces don’t even have an argument. What I want to highlight is this paragraph, which might be the most Brooksian bit of cluelessness that David Brooks has ever written.

Stoned people do stupid things (that’s basically the point). I smoked one day during lunch and then had to give a presentation in English class. I stumbled through it, incapable of putting together simple phrases, feeling like a total loser. It is still one of those embarrassing memories that pop up unbidden at 4 in the morning.

David Brooks writes something objectively more embarrassing than that memory at least 3 times a week, but that’s what makes him wake up screaming in the middle of the night? That fact alone should be enough to deprive him of his job at the New York Times. That little amount of self-awareness is a bad sign in someone who needs to operate a cash register for a living, much less someone whose job is supposedly to write down insightful opinions to make the reader think. Bless his heart, but David Brooks just really isn’t cut out for this writing gig. A modicum of shame for things that are actually shameful is necessary. Without it, well, nothing you say can ever really be trusted.

The Good Side of Political Polarization

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, January 2, 2014 12:21 EDT

Paul Waldman at the American Prospect is projecting what he thinks the big trend in American politics is going to be, and he predicts more polarization: One trend I do think will shape people’s lives this year and in years to come is the increasing divergence between the places where lots of Democrats live and the places where lots of Republicans live. Yes, it sounds trite and overdone to talk about Two Americas, but it is true,…


Fox News Says: Don’t Be Fat, But Don’t Try Not To Be Fat

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 10:00 EDT

David Neiwert found a hilarious example of how the knee-jerk rejection of anything considered “liberal” leads to pure idiocy on Fox News. Pundits did an entire segment freaking out because this plus-size modeling Facebook page suggested that Mattel make a plus-size Barbie, with a little photoshopping to show how it…


Why Are Republicans Rejecting Basic Biology Even More?

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 30, 2013 14:20 EDT

I wish I could say this news is surprising, but it’s really not (via): Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory…


Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 23, 2013 10:23 EDT

The “war on Christmas” once again proves to not exist, but continues to be an imaginary war being used to justify actual abuse of non-Christians and anyone who might believe that Christians should not be upheld as superior to everyone else. The latest example happened in South Jersey. Freedom From…


Why Do People Bag On Cats So Much?

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, December 20, 2013 14:21 EDT

Molly doesn’t love people. Just Xbox. Rebecca Watson has a great post up that, while purporting to be an examination of the cat vs. dog debate, is a subtle lesson in how to think critically about scientific studies, especially those that have pat “lessons” that just so happen to appeal…


Conservatives Should Be Thanking A&E For Suspending “Duck Dynasty”

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:18 EDT

With a plodding inevitability, the ignorant screams of “free speech” are coming from the usual suspects in the wake of Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty getting suspended for his homophobic remarks in GQ. (He was also mind-bogglingly racist, but for some reason, that hasn’t been as sticky a story, maybe…


The Imaginary “War On Christmas” Inspires Real Violence

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:27 EDT

The “war on Christmas” that Fox News pretends is going on every year is one of those things that liberals, I think, feel widely guilty about watching with fascination, even to mock it. Like we fear that we’re feeding the beast somehow by even acknowledging  the stunningly dishonest hysteria about…


No, Ross, Misogyny Does Not Make Women Happier

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 9:58 EDT

Ross Douthat’s utopia: Weeping couples hauled to the altar. I know I’m a bit late to the party in mocking/criticizing Ross Douthat’s lame column once again arguing, as he likes to do, that many to most of the world’s problems could be solved if women stopped fucking. Launching off a…


We Are All Beyoncé

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 16, 2013 9:08 EDT

A few more thoughts on pop music, and then I swear, we’ll be back to the regularly scheduled programming of political rants and mocking Fox News. One thing that’s been bugging me about some of the more in-depth reviews of Beyoncé’s new record is the assumption that her music—or pop…