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Mitch McConnell is trying to play a busted hand

[ 140 ] July 12, 2011 |

For sheer cynicism it’s hard to top McConnell’s latest bright idea, which is essentially to pass legislation that will give the Obama administration the power to raise the debt ceiling, subject to a 2/3rds over-ride by Congress. The practical effect would be to raise the debt ceiling while allowing Republicans to vote “against” doing so with impunity:

Politically, the new debt process is a McConnell classic in that it seeks to shift all of the blame for any debt increase on to the president and Democrats. Republicans would be free to vote in opposition without the consequences of risking default.

Getting to a two-thirds majority in the Senate to override a veto will be immensely difficult for Republicans, who have only 47 votes at this stage. Even in the Republican controlled House it would be a climb, but going into the 2012 elections, the plan offers three opportunities then to put Democrats on the spot.

What this signals is McConnell’s recognition that he’s overplayed his hand, and that if the Socialist Death Panels have to euthanize grandma because her social security check bounced* the GOP is going to get the lion’s share of the blame (where have we seen this movie before?).

I’m hoping Obama calls this bluff.

*Hypothetical scenario

Life expectancy, race, gender, SES, and Medicare

[ 64 ] July 12, 2011 |

The news that part of the budget deal Obama offered to the GOP included raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 should be digested in the context of the vast differences in life expectancy in the US population based on various demographic factors. Consider that the gap in life expectancy between Asian-American highest SES quintile females and African-American lowest SES quintile males is nearly 20 years, and that, for an African-American male born in 2007, moving the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 will effectively reduce the time span during which he will be covered by Medicare by 40%. (On reflection the previous sentence is a statistically misleading and unhelpful way of phrasing the issue, because as several commentators have noted it conflates two separate questions: overall life expectancy and life expectancy of geriatric populations. It would be more accurate to say that as a matter of social justice the fact that large percentages of certain demographic cohorts — in particular low SES African American men — never benefit from old age programs ought to be taken into account when making cuts in those programs for those members of those cohorts who do benefit from them).

Update: Thoughts from Jon Cohn

Richard Dawkins asks: “Can’t we just get back to talking about how awful religion is?”

[ 106 ] July 12, 2011 |

Rebecca Watson demurs:

Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!

Dawkins’ comments during this whole incident are creepily reminiscent of the right-wing meme about how Western feminists are hypocrites for not necessarily supporting invasions of countries in which women are worse off than they are in the Western world.

UPDATE [SL]: Lindsay has more. As does Tracy Clark-Flory.

Don’t click on this link.

[ 82 ] July 11, 2011 |

It’s the #1 twitter topic in the world, which in itself is a devastating critique of our so-called culture.

(Also if you start you won’t be able to stop. Believe me I’ve tried. Seven days).

Extremely rich man accepts six-figure gift from impoverished admirer

[ 77 ] July 11, 2011 |

Jeter

All Gotham rises as one to salute feudal cap-doffing.

Derek Jeter has, um, “earned” $205,430,000 (and counting).

Christian Lopez makes slightly less as a cellphone salesman and apparently owes $200,000 in non-dischargeable student debt.

A quick scan of the interwebs indicates almost universal acclaim for the “integrity” Lopez displayed in not selling the ball to the highest bidder.

Has the world gone mad? How does Derek Jeter sleep at night after accepting a gift worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from a worshipful young man with no money and enormous debts? (Let me guess: On top of enormous piles of cash surrounded by naked supermodels).

An unsentimental legal note: Technically Mr. Lopez should owe gift tax was using up part of his five-million dollar estate and gift tax exemption (when he caught the ball it became his property. By giving it to Jeter he was making a gift, whose value above the $13,000 per person annual exception is considered taxable income to him).

Of course all these goings-on are based on the willing suspension of disbelief without which professional sports could not exist, or at least could not be nearly as profitable as they are. It requires believing that Derek Jeter is something other than a very rich employee of even richer employers, who together are dedicated to separating Christian Lopez and Co. from as much of their scarce discretionary income as possible. And that’s fine — I’m a sports fan and I suspend disbelief happily and willingly all the time.

But if I had caught that ball I would have been on the phone to Sotheby’s before Jeter had gotten to second base.

There is a non-trivial chance that 18 months from now we’ll be saying hello to . . .

[ 48 ] July 8, 2011 |

null

. . . President Bachmann.

There’s a good joke somewhere in all this involving The Turner Diaries, The Book of Revelation, and Bachmann Turner Overdrive.

RIP Dick Williams

[ 11 ] July 7, 2011 |

Williams and Martin

Williams, Earl Weaver, and Billy Martin were all similar men: tough SOBs who didn’t care if the toes they stepped on were wearing cleats or Italian loafers. I was 13 at the time of the Mike Andrews incident, and it was the first thing of that type that genuinely shocked me. It was a stark introduction to the idea that crazy rich old men played by different rules than everybody else.

Another sharp memory of Williams was how he just outright released Juan Bonilla at the start of the 1984 season, before the Padres went on to win the pennant. That was a classic Williams move: simply cutting a 27-year-old second baseman who had had 617 plate appearances the year before, and handing the job to Alan Wiggins, a second-year guy who had played exactly one game at second base in his major league career.

After Williams was told that Tony LaRussa had passed the bar, he remarked “I never pass a bar.”

Stand By Your Man

[ 10 ] July 7, 2011 |

Sometimes it’s hard to be a liberal
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times
And he’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand
But if you love him you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man

How it’s supposed to work

[ 33 ] July 7, 2011 |

The perfectionist strain in American culture tends to rebel against the idea that in a well-functioning criminal justice system lots of probably-guilty people should not be convicted.

Synecdoche and lese majeste

[ 39 ] June 30, 2011 |

Scott has already noted Jon Chait’s objection to the quasi-royalist subtext of Mark Halperin’s suspension (Halperin is a juvenile hack, but if that were a firing offense there would be no cable news channels). So this seems like an ideal time to review the relative strength and meaningfulness of various genitalia-associated figures of speech in our political discourse.

First, perhaps anthropologists can explain why a penis is an insulting synecdoche but testicles are invariably positive (in English anyway). If Halperin had said Obama had “balls” or “stones” or “sack,” or “cojones” this would be considered a form of vulgar but highly positive testimony on the president’s behalf. (BTW cojones is an extremely vulgar term in Spanish, with a profanity valence roughly comparable to “cocksucker” in English An anglophone should probably avoid using it in front of his Spanish-speaking future mother in law. I am told that a similar problem of cultural translation exists or at least existed with regard to “schmuck”).

Second, it’s clearly better for a male politician to be a dick than a pussy. I suspect Halperin’s calculated little stunt would much more likely have involved the use of the p-word prior to Obama displaying that he had the stones to kill Osama bin Laden. (Of course male Democratic politicians bear the burden of persuasion to display their non-pussy bona fides, which they can do by conducting at least two wars simultaneously, or one war and numerous assassinations).

Third, another oddity of our practices is that it isn’t possible to insult a woman politician — or any other woman — by calling her a pussy (that attempted insult reads culturally as nonsensical on its face), but calling, say, the Secretary of State a cunt would certainly get someone like Halperin fired on the spot.

This is true for American English anyway (strangely to my ears “cunt” is apparently a far less fraught word in British English — perhaps comparable to “prick” in American English).

Jeff Greene: He’s taking a leave of absence from HBO because you called him a cunt.

Larry David: What? It’s what you call somebody when he’s not being manly.

Jeff: It’s a bad word Larry.

Larry: What’s so bad about it? People call me a prick all the time.

Jeff: Cunt is much heavier.

Larry: That’s absurd! Prick, cunt — same thing!

Jeff: I never questioned it.

This is taking the myth of the gritty gutty white kid without great natural talent who excels by trying harder . . .

[ 72 ] June 28, 2011 |

. . . a bit too far.

In high school, Tim Tebow was the #1 ranked quarterback prospect in the nation.

Victor Davis Hanson gets paid

[ 97 ] June 27, 2011 |

To write stuff like this.

As a student of the past, the learned professor is no doubt well aware that every ruling class has needed its toadies and flatterers, its court eunuchs and its Hoover Institute Fellows, its . . . but really, what’s the point? Still this particular bit of magisterial toga-tugging caused me to cast my eyes toward the heavens, in expectation that a just deity might feel impelled to cast a Parthenon-sized asteroid in VDH’s general direction:

Reduce much of what Barack Obama says, advocates, and tries to implement and you find a particular kind of despised but uniquely American species in his cross-hairs: upper-middle class, making $200-800,000 a year, employed as a professional or small business person, living in the suburbs or small town America, children in non-Ivy League private and public colleges, a nice house, perhaps a vacation home, boat, 2-3 nice cars, residing outside the east and west coasts without an aristocratic pedigree, for whom food stamps are as much an anathema as is Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol.

Oh put-upon “upper middle class” cultivator of your own vineyard! Oh globe-trotting emeritus being read to by a boy!

Just for the heck of it, I calculated the total monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit a four-person household, consisting of one adult and three children, is eligible for in Colorado, assuming the parent of the children works full-time and earns ten dollars an hour, has a monthly rent of $800, pays $100 a month in utilities, and has no other sources of income. The answer is $474 a month. This is the massive redistribution of income that so offends our classical scholar, as he wrinkles his nose in distaste at the leveling immorality of nations — countries far less wealthy than the United States — where it is taken for granted by literally all respectable political opinion that it is not acceptable for people to starve because they happen to be poor.

Since Hanson is so fond of ancient texts, perhaps he should review this one:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

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