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Maureen Dowd’s Greatest Misses

[ 247 ] February 12, 2015 |

For time out of mind, this weblog has been critical of Maureen Dowd’s consistently ghastly op-ed column.  While we have made similar arguments about numerous pundits, Dowd is the most likely one to generate inexplicable defenses, so it’s worth taking stock of what exactly has made her column such a massively negative net contribution to the national net discourse.

Obviously, any such discussion has to start with her unforgivable conduct during campaign 2000, which involved not only passing on every conceivable lie being made about Al Gore but making up some of her own.  (For this reason, I’m not impressed by the fact that she started making up funny names to criticize the Bush administration.  I can forgive a 20-year-old college kid for believing lies about how an incompetent who governed to the right of the Texas legislature was a harmless moderate and that nothing is really at stake in a presidential election. A very well-compensated political pundit, not so much.)  Her columns leading up to an election that would result in hundreds of thousands of people being dead all over the world and Sam Alito with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court involved a multi-part series of columns in which Al Gore had an imaginary dialogue with his bald spot.

But she won a Pultizer!  Yeah, and Crash won Best Picture.  Read some of the columns she would be honored for — I triple-dare you.  (Sample disgraceful sexist nonsense: “Suddenly, That Woman stamped her feet. Like the Glenn Close character in “Fatal Attraction,” Monica Lewinsky issued a chilling ultimatum to the man who jilted her: I will not be ignored.”)

But, OK, her defenders say, she doesn’t care about policy at all, but she has such psychological insights.  No, she doesn’t. Not that this type of armchair psychology has much value anyway — the idea that pundits should be theater critics brought us such classics as “Dick Cheney — what a sensible moderate.” But even if you think this stuff matters more than I do, she has nothing to say about it.  As I said yesterday, she has one witless shtick — male Democratic politicians are women and Female Democratic politicians are men.  He narratives are not only devoid of substance, they don’t tell us anything about the politicians as individuals either.  Back in the day, Bob Somerby explained the basic dynamic:

But then, why should pundits criticize Coulter when she describes Dem males as big “f*ggots?” It’s very similar to the gender-based “analysis” their dauphine, the Comptesse Maureen Dowd, has long offered. In Dowd’s work, John Edwards is routinely “the Breck Girl”(five times so far—and counting), and Gore is “so feminized that he’s practically lactating.” Indeed, two days before we voted in November 2000, Dowd devoted her entire column, for the sixth time, to an imaginary conversation between Gore and his bald spot. “I feel pretty,” her headline said (pretending to quote Gore’s inner thoughts).That was the image this idiot wanted you carrying off to the voting booth with you! Such is the state of Maureen Dowd’s broken soul. And such is the state of her cohort.

And now, in the spirit of fair play and brotherhood, she is extending this type of “analysis” to Barack Obama. In the past few weeks, she has described Obama as “legally blonde” (in her headline); as “Scarlett O’Hara” (in her next column); as a “Dreamboy,” as “Obambi,” and now, in her latest absurd piece, as a “schoolboy” (text below). Do you get the feeling that Dowd may have a few race-and-gender issues floating around in her inane, tortured mind? But this sort of thing is nothing new for the comptesse. Indeed, such imagery almost defines the work of this loathsome, inane Antoinette.


Leave aside the persistent infantilism involved in images like “Godzilla” and “Bambi.” Here, Dowd states her endless—and vacuous—theme. Big Dem males (like “Barry”) are girls. And big Dem women are men.

Dowd has pimped these inane, tortured theme for more than a decade. For the record, though, one Dem male was not a girl in Saturday’s column. That would be Clinton aide Howard Wolfson. In paragraph 7, Dowd called him as a “thug.”

So let’s see. Obama (“Obambi”) is just a boy. Clinton (“Godzilla”) is a man—and she’s feral. And what led Dowd to cast this strange drama? Simple! When David Geffen called Clinton every name in the book, Clinton called on Obama to denounce his statements! Was this a good tactical move by Clinton? We have no idea—but it’s a very tame bit of political conduct. But it isn’t tame in the mind of Dowd, or in the scripts of her well-scripted cohort! (More below.) In Dowd’s mind, this unexceptional behavior made Clinton a thug—and, of course, it made her a man. And when Obama didn’t punch back hard enough, that made him a weak boy—a “Barry.”

Dowd goes on and on, throughout this column, trying to start a (pointless) fight among Dems. But let’s remember the basic theme: Every Democrat must be a loser! When Clinton makes a fairly trivial move, she has fought Obama too hard! When Obama doesn’t name-call Clinton, he hasn’t fought hard enough!

It would be hard to get dumber than this. And it’s hard to imagine why grown men and women at the Times (Andrew Rosenthal) still put this embarrassing schlock into print. But unfortunately, Maureen Dowd is an authority figure, writing at the top of our “journalistic” elite. She has offered this tormented dreck for years. During that time, Dems and liberals have suffered endlessly from her dumb, tortured conduct. We are in Iraq today because of the work of these losers.

In yesterday’s thread, Dilan offered a novel defense of this utterly worthless crap — she said mean things about Edwards, and Edwards’s political career flames out, so she was a prophet!  But that obviously won’t get off the ground.  First of all, there’s the Mickey Kaus problem — you don’t get credit for predicting 12 of the last 1 Democratic scandals.  When you say the same thing about every Democrat who might be president you’re bound to be right eventually, but that doesn’t prove that you had the goods at the time.  But this is actually unfair to Kaus — he did, at least, prove to be right about a specific bad act by Edwards, even if he just got lucky.  Dowd’s Breck Girl columns about Edwards weren’t using the slurs as a metaphor for some larger problem she went on to explain.  She didn’t say he was adulterous or provide evidence that he wasn’t really a liberal – her argument was that Edwards got expensive haircuts and was therefore a chick like all other male Democratic politicians.  How this makes her prescient about his destroying his political career with an affair with a woman is…unclear.  Incidentally, while I wasn’t an Edwards supporter I’ve never understood how his affair exposed his political views as “phony.”  He never held elected office again, and if being a bad spouse means you can’t be a progressive LBJ and FDR were “phonies” too.

And finally, let’s end with this column, which never got enough attention:

In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband’s side — the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role model for the blue states.

While Elizabeth Edwards gazes up at John from the front row of his events here, while Jane Gephardt cheerfully endures her husband’s ”Dick and Jane” jokes, while Teresa Heinz Kerry jets around for ”conversations” with caucusgoers — yesterday she was at the Moo Moo Cafe in Keokuk at the southernmost tip of the state — Judith Steinberg has shunned the role of helpmeet.

Many women cheered Judy Steinberg as a relief and a breakthrough. Why should she have to feign subservience in 2003, or compromise as Hillary Rodham and Teresa Heinz did when they took their husbands’ names? But many political analysts said that just as the remote technocrat Michael Dukakis needed Kitty around to warm him up, the emotionally chilly Howard Dean could benefit from the presence of someone who could illuminate his softer side. So far he has generated a lot of heat but little warmth.

And at a moment when he’s under attack by Democratic rivals for reinventing his political persona and shifting positions, he could use a character witness on the road to vouch for his core values.

Leave aside the…actually, no, let’s not leave aside the grotesque, sneering sexism here, which is all too typical. But also note that none of this is even colorably relevant to the presidential campaign. How Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean dresses tells us nothing substantive about Howard Dean, it tells us nothing of any public interest about Howard Dean as an individual, and the idea that people vote based on how the spouses of candidates dress is beyond nutty. The prose is terrible, the content is terrible, and as with Friedman one reinforces the other so that they’re virtually inseparable.  It’s not just sexism; it’s vapid know-nothingism. It’s remarkable that she still occupies the same editorial real estate a decade later.

With A Hateful Whimper

[ 63 ] February 12, 2015 |

Roy Moore’s George Wallace homage is more pathetic than anything else.

However!  This blog always believes in being fair-and-balanced, so let’s get an alternative perspective from Ed Whelan:

Consider this hypothetical: In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling, a federal district court, applying the principle of Dred Scott, enjoins a northern state from enforcing a law providing that a slave who is voluntarily taken by his master into the state thereby becomes free. Must state officials comply with the injunction?

If your answer to the question is no (or maybe not), then you agree (or might agree) with Moore that state officials have a right to resist federal orders they regard as constitutionally unsound (even as you of course might disagree about his application of that principle).

Now assume that the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s order. Must state officials then comply with the injunction?

If your answer to the question is no or maybe not, then you’ve gone further than Moore has yet gone.

I take the uselessness and laziness of the analogy to be self-evident. A moral evil on the scale of human bondage justifies actions than might not be justifiable in other contexts. You can plausibly argue that John Brown’s terrorism was morally justified. This doesn’t really mean anything unless you want to argue that giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples is morally comparable to treating human beings as chattel.

Let’s try to make these hypotheticals a little more useful, shall we?  If state officials can nullify any federal court decision they disagree with, surely the case is even stronger for members of coordinate federal branches.  So:

Hack of the Day

[ 35 ] February 12, 2015 |

Laurence Silberman. 

He’s pretty standard-issue post-Ford Republican jurist, which might help to explain why the ACA troofers have a better chance of succeeding at the Supreme Court than not. I mean, if “you ignore the committees that were actually permitted to investigate him, then he was cleared” is an argument you’re willing to make in public, “Congress established a federal backstop that was designed to fail because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!” is nothing.

Obama Will Never Be More Right About Anything

[ 170 ] February 11, 2015 |

I can’t imagine why he doesn’t think “all Democratic men are women, all Democratic women are men” represents a profound insight. 

BREAKING! Key Claim of ACA Troofers Remains Abject Nonsense

[ 48 ] February 11, 2015 |

One of the favorite claims of ACA troofers — a means of straddling the “card says Moops!” and “the Moops invaded Spain” versions — is an assertion that every member of Congress assumed that every state would set up its own exchange by the deadline.  This argument is, first of all, ludicrously implausible on its face — if you never considered the possibility that a state would fail to set up an exchange, why would you establish a federal backstop that was designed to fail rather than just not establish a federal backstop at all?  The “evidence” for this claim doesn’t even rise to the level of being threadbare — a single bare assertion that was obviously an unfounded assumption (unless you think Robert Pear contemporaneously interviewed every member of Congress and asked whether or not they expected all 50 states to establish a workable exchange by 2014 but didn’t bother to include any quotes after going through all that work.)*      It is also, as we know, demonstrably false — legislators were aware that red states were likely to obstruct the operation of the law.

Additional evidence is superfluous at this point, but it’s worth citing anyway.  Jon Cohn’s January 2010 email interview with a key adviser to Ted Kennedy and the HELP committee makes it additionally clear that Congress was well aware that some states would refuse to set up exchanges, and established the federal backstop in response:

Confronted with arguments that Congress would never have passed a statute that might undermine itself, Cannon and other supporters of the King lawsuit have argued that the exchange provision was supposed to work just like the law’s Medicaid provision. In other words, the exchange tax credits would be like something out of “The Godfather“: an offer that states simply couldn’t refuse. In this telling, Obamacare’s authors supposedly never anticipated that states would turn down the tax credits.

“Congress did try to coerce states with the loss of billions of dollars of federal Medicaid grants,” Cannon and his frequent collaborator, Case Western University law Professor Jonathan Adler, wrote at the website of the journal Health Affairs in 2012. “It stands to reason that the same Congress would do the same thing with regard to tax credits and Exchanges.” Cannon and Adler made a similar argument in a 2013 paper they wrote for the journal Health Matrix: “Having created an enormous incentive for states to establish Exchanges, it likely never occurred to some of the Act’s authors that states would refuse.”

But it did occur to McDonough, from the look of things. In the email copied above, he draws an explicit contrast between Medicaid (which, he thinks, states would never realistically turn down) and the exchanges (which, he concedes, they might).

To Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who worked on two amicus briefs opposing the lawsuit, that contrast is telling. “[McDonough] knew full well Congress couldn’t force the states to participate in Medicaid,” Bagley told me. “What he meant was that the stakes were too high for that to be a realistic option. But the very next thing he says is that opting out of the exchanges was a realistic option. On the plaintiffs’ theory, how could that possibly be? Just as no state could have been expected to opt out of Medicaid, so too no state could have been expected to opt out of the exchanges if billions of dollars were on the line.”

“If the plaintiffs were right,” Bagley went on, “McDonough would’ve said ‘no’ to both questions. The fact that he didn’t is powerful evidence that Congress never meant to threaten the states into establishing exchanges.”

So the email actually further disproves two totems of troofer dogma — that no legislator considered the possibility that states would fail to establish exchanges, and that Congress wanted the backstop to work like the Medicaid expansion (even though it’s blindingly obvious from the text of the statute that it did not.)

In conclusion, if the Supreme Court sides with the troofers Charles is being unfair to Roger Taney here.

*One of the many, many risible elements of bad faith in troofer arguments is their highly selective nihilism about the possibility of making reasonable judgments about what Congress is trying to accomplish.  Congress uses a common technique of cooperative federalism and establishes a federal backstop to protect citizens against a failure by a state government to cooperate with a regulatory program?  We can’t possibly have the slightest idea of what Congress was trying to do!  A reporter makes an assertion, plainly inconsistent with the statutory scheme, that he knows the subjective expectations of each and every member of Congress?  This can clearly be accepted as gospel truth without a hint of skepticism!

Is it Logically Impossible For Wingnut Lawsuits to Have Bad Consequences?

[ 54 ] February 10, 2015 |

David Catron asserts that critics of ACA trooferism are being hysterical:

Now, they have resorted to claims so wild that even progressives will have trouble taking them seriously. Think Progress, for example, published a screed last week with the following title: “How King v. Burwell Threatens the Lives of Millions of Children.”

And DNC mouthpieces like Think Progress are by no means the only purveyors of such balderdash. The nominally independent Slate warns that “9,800 additional Americans will die each year” if the Court rules against the Obama administration. Even relatively respectable publications have joined this chorus. The Hill posted a story last Friday titled, “King v. Burwell will decide the Fate of Millions,” whose author solemnly warns that “the wrong outcome” would put “American lives in peril” and “erode some of the largest coverage expansions in decades.”

At this point, one might expect a rebuttal of these factual claims. Some kind of argument, perhaps, explaining why the troofer reading of the ACA doesn’t threaten CHIP or how being denied access to medical care doesn’t actually have bad consequences for one’s health. But he’s got nothing; he just moves on. There are just some words like “screed” and “balderdash” and “nominally independent,” accusing people who make factual arguments about the consequences of the latest anti-ACA lawsuit of being biased without even beginning to explain why they’re wrong. The logic seems to be something like this: 1)the consequences of 5 members of the Supreme Court buying the arguments of the ACA troofers would be monstrous; 2)we’re not monsters; 3)ergo, they must be inaccurate. Sorry, but if the shoe fits…

Extending knowledge, improving the human condition, searching for truth — these are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business.

[ 40 ] February 10, 2015 |

Sadly, this kind of thing will probably improve Walker’s chance of getting the nomination. 

The Unprecedented Obstructionism of Barack Obama

[ 116 ] February 9, 2015 |

Neo – neocon is outraged that Barack Obama would use his phony-baloney “clearly assigned constitutional powers” in ways that reflect his policy preferences — almost as if he was elected or something.  And never before has a president showed such contempt for democracy on so many occasions!

Historically, most presidents have saved their vetoes for the issues that matter most to them, because they have been afraid to challenge what appears to be the will of the majority of the people too many times. But Obama has no such hesitations. The last time he cared about the will of the people was on November 6, 2012.

Yes, back in the day presidents were very cautious about using the veto power, but under Barack Obama it’s nothing but reckless tyranny.  Assuming that Obama vetoes the Keystone Pipeline, consider this remarkable record of indiscriminate vetoes in historical context:

Obama: 3 (5, pro-rated to a full two terms)

George W. Bush: 12

Ronald Reagan: 78

Gerald Ford: 66 (in less than 3 full years!)

Richard Nixon: 43 (less than 2 full terms)

Dwight Eisenhower: 181

Calvin Coolidge: 50 (less than 2 full terms)

Teddy Roosevelt: 82

Grover Cleveland: 584

As you can see, the data is clear.  Obama’s lawlessness and obstructionism are unparallelled.   The veto used to be a very rare event, but now it’s ubiquitous.  I think we can all agree as well that Neo- neocon’s assumption that vetoes are somehow illegitimate and undemocratic is every bit as sound as her history.

So this line of argument is really going to be a thing.  I assume the next step is to argue that Obama and Biden are defying the will of the voters by refusing to resign.


“But look at that hang-dog expression. He’s learned his lesson. Let’s get him a present!”

[ 36 ] February 9, 2015 |

Speaking of the fallacies inherent in paying attention to motives rather than results, much of the mainstream media’s ongoing ridiculous treatment of Paul Ryan is a classic case in point.  “I think it’s outrageous for Ryan to attack Obama on income inequality, given this extensive evidence that Ryan has devoted his entire political career to the massive upward redistribution of wealth.”    “But he did a Meet the Press interview at a bookstore, the kind that might be visited by pointy-headed, coffee-drinking urban liberals!”   Oh well, then.

It probably goes without saying that Weisman goes on to talk about all the bipartisan grand bargains Ryan might be able to get through Congress.  High Broderism never dies.

Lessons From Vaccine Trooferism

[ 75 ] February 9, 2015 |

A couple of really excellent comments in djw’s vaccines thread. First, from longtime friend of LGM gmack:

The phenomenon you point to also highlights the collapse of any faith in collective or social life. The anti-vaxxers conceive of their position purely as a private lifestyle choice. They want to make their child “pure” and “uncontaminated,” and their means of doing so is the practice of virtuous consumption. So we deal with the very many toxic dimensions of modern life not through any concerted action, but simply by buying “organic” or “chemical-free” products (and then, by not putting “artificial chemicals” in our children in the form of vaccines. The logic here is straightforwardly akin to the predominant corporate attitudes of our day: The anti-vaxxers are trying to privatize profit (their pure and uncontaminated child) and socialize the risk (the outbreak of an epidemic is someone else’s problem). Hence that doctor’s comment that he doesn’t care if his refusal to “put chemicals in his children” leads to the death of other children. So I want to leave aside, for a moment, the idiocy and anti-scientific dimension of the anti-vaxxer position; what’s also interesting (to me) is its refusal to entertain any notion of community, of the realization that things like immunity or a “chemical free environment” must be understood as a shared space that can only be the product of a social and collective activity.

Thatcher was a prophet, and not in a good way.

And second, from stepped pyramids:

To my eternal shame, my dad fell for that routine when fluoride was on the ballot here in Portland. In fact, my whole damn family other than me was opposed. These are otherwise fairly rational, intelligent left-liberals who would identify themselves as wanting policy to be driven by good science.

To be fair, none of them explicitly endorsed the “no CHEMICALS in my WATER” campaign. The arguments tended along the lines of “instead of spending all this money to make [murky, underdescribed industrial interests] profits, why don’t we spend it on universal dental care for children?” The fact that it was not an either-or choice, or that you can’t pay for universal dental care with the budget of a fluoridation program, did not sway any opinions.

There’s got to be a term for the phenomenon where people think they’re being perceptive and intelligent by asking “cui bono?” but are actually being foolish.

There’s actually very important good points here. The “presenting an irrelevant alternative” routine has been used to argue against progressive change for time out of mind. Although at least it wasn’t successful at the time, the attacks on the ACA from both left and center are a classic example of the fallacy — why pass the ACA instead of government-provided Cadillac health care plans for all/Democratic control of Congress in 2011 and 3% unemployment instead? The objection is not always irrelevant — sometimes there are real tradeoffs or questions of priorities. But the objection is pernicious when there’s no actual chance that if policy A is rejected allegedly superior policy B will be implemented, which is much more common.

The “cui bono” point is also a good one. Again, it’s not that it’s never a good question — there’s a lot of venality and self-dealing in politics, and it’s often important to understand it.  But it’s also true that people tend to place way too much emphasis on motives in politics. This frequently drove me crazy during the Iraq War. The most obvious example is the time Michael Moore wasted in Fahrenheit 9/11 with the silly crap about the pipeline. But that’s just an illustration; in general, Iraq War opponents tended to waste far too much time talking about Halliburton or Iraqi oil reserves. Obviously, there was a lot of cynicism and some self-interest among the proponents of the Iraq War. But, ultimately, it’s beside the point. The Iraq War was a horrible, horrible idea whether its proponents wanted to make money or sincerely believed that Iraq would be a conservertarian paradise if Saddam was deposed and/or that Saddam’s balsa wood drones of terror would unleash atomic doom on Salt Lake City if we didn’t invade. The Koch brothers don’t stand to realize any material gains when their groups stop states from expanding Medicaid, but the poor people who consequently die because of it will be just as dead as if every dime the of the rejected federal money went right into David Koch’s pockets.  (And, on the other side, even the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil Rights Act involved cold political calculation as well as high principle. Observing that a public official is not pure of motive is very rarely of any actual relevance to the merits.)

And at least Moore reached the right conclusion about the war. Sometimes, a misplaced cui bono (a cui boner?) causes you to make really stupid political judgments on the merits, as is the case here.

Owner of .200 Team Attacks Fan

[ 11 ] February 9, 2015 |

The “respectfully” is my favorite part.

Let Trooferism Work For You!

[ 32 ] February 7, 2015 |

It’s too bad that Chipper recanted so quickly. He could have gotten a gig writing legal briefs for CATO…

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