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Radical leftists like Jon Chait STILL don’t realize that Obama is playing 93rd-level World of Warcraft

[ 112 ] July 14, 2011 |


It’s sad, really.

All that’s necessary to turn Obama into a POTUS that any sensible liberal would love is to assume that his words and actions are all intended to produce the opposite effect of what he appears to be trying to accomplish.

Call it Constanzian politics.

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 |


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 |


. . . 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.

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