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Pure, unadulterated evil

[ 135 ] February 12, 2015 |

I missed this during the superb owl of which we must never speak again, but McDonald’s current marketing gimmick is indescribably monstrous; in a remotely just or sane world everyone who approved this madness would have been fired by now, and unable to find marketing work in the future. My first reaction was to call it another entry for my “extroverts don’t understand introverts” file, but that’s grossly unfair to even the most clueless extroverts. I’d happily add a couple zeros to the cost of a McMuffin to avoid this horror. I struggle to imagine that I share a species with people who think this is a good idea. One particularly disastrous result:

 They said all I had to do is call a family member and tell them “I love you”.

The start of the f*ck up is calling my mother who knows that I had a brief history with depression and suicidal thoughts from high school bullies, the second f*ck up is starting the call with I love you.

She immediately started to freak out (mostly because I’m over 1000 miles away from her and the closest family is about 300 miles away from me) and was pretty scared that I was about to commit suicide. Over the course of the next 15 minutes I was on the phone reassuring her that I indeed wasn’t about to kill myself and make sure that she wasn’t on the next plane to arrive and come to visit. (Afterwards she also mentioned that it had given her a small asthma attack, but nothing her inhaler couldn’t handle.)

It’s always fascinating when a company becomes possessed of the notion that it can fundamentally transform itself through marketing gimmicks. I know I’m not alone in that every time I eat at McDonald’s or a similar chain, I’m quite likely to be in a foul mood. Entering such a restaurant is a de facto admission of failure. If I’d had my shit together to get to the grocery store; if I hadn’t been too lazy to cook a bowl of oatmeal this morning; if I’d planned enough time to get something better that takes a few minutes longer; if I had just a modicum of willpower to resist the temptation to eat greasy processed crap; I wouldn’t be here. And virtually every time I enter such a restaurant, I get the distinct vibe that everyone else in the building is more or less in the same boat as I (the employees, of course, are miserable for different and far more serious reasons). I would be, frankly, taken aback and a little troubled if the cashier were to so much as ask me how my day was going (which has never happened). I suppose I can see how one might reach the conclusion that desperate measure are required; unfortunately, the particular desperate measures they opted for merely demonstrate how contemptuous they are of their employees and customers, whose underpaid miserable labor and poor choices, respectively, pay their salaries.

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David Carr

[ 5 ] February 12, 2015 |



R.I.P.
   Horrible news. I’m not sure why, but this was the first piece of his that came to mind; it holds up amazingly well.

…excellent tribute from Dave Weigel.

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When People Stop Being Polite…

[ 57 ] February 12, 2015 |

Earlier this week, Francis Sempa made a go at rehabilitating the reputation of James Burnham.  I had some objections:

What’s odd about Sempa’s column is that very few try to resurrect the reputation of Vietnam hawks, the people who argued that the only problems with the war in Indochina are that the United States didn’t squander enough blood and treasure and didn’t slaughter enough Asians. America’s historical memory has struggled to flush such voices from its consciousness, and has largely succeeded. It also bears note that the National Review itselfrarely enjoys being reminded of the sort of sentiments it published during the 1950s and 1960s.

… via Hogan, Orwell on Burnham. And this is particularly on the nose:

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is
winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. If the Japanese have conquered south Asia, then they will keep south Asia for ever, if
the Germans have captured Tobruk, they will infallibly capture Cairo; if the Russians are in Berlin, it will not be long before they are in
London: and so on. This habit of mind leads also to the belief that things will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically than
they ever do in practice. The rise and fall of empires, the disappearance of cultures and religions, are expected to happen with earthquake
suddenness, and processes which have barely started are talked about as though they were already at an end. Burnham’s writings are full of
apocalyptic visions. Nations, governments, classes and social systems are constantly described as expanding, contracting, decaying, dissolving,
toppling, crashing, crumbling, crystallising, and, in general, behaving in an unstable and melodramatic way. The slowness of historical change,
the fact that any epoch always contains a great deal of the last epoch, is never sufficiently allowed for. Such a manner of thinking is bound to
lead to mistaken prophecies, because, even when it gauges the direction of events rightly, it will miscalculate their tempo. Within the space of
five years Burnham foretold the domination of Russia by Germany and of Germany by Russia. In each case he was obeying the same instinct: the
instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible. With this in mind one can criticise his
theory in a broader way.

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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.

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“There are no homosexuals doin’ homosexual things in my junk pile”

[ 17 ] February 12, 2015 |

This report on conditions on the ground in Alabama now that gay marriage is legal is not to be missed.

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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:

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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.

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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. 

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Mueller

[ 154 ] February 11, 2015 |

The conservative movement is filled with a tremendous number of horrible human beings.

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Crazy old man rants in Central Park about young black men committing 95% of all murders

[ 143 ] February 11, 2015 |

Wait, did I say in Central Park? I meant at the Aspen Institute:

Bloomberg claimed that 95 percent of murders fall into a specific category: male, minority and between the ages of 15 and 25.

Per the most recent FBI statistics, the actual percentage appears to be 22.8.

Here are a few more surprising facts, soon to be featured on various websites near you:

Becoming a plumber is on average a more lucrative career choice than graduating from Harvard College:

If a person has the option of going to Harvard or becoming a plumber, he said he would suggest thinking about the plumbing career.

“The Harvard graduate on average will never catch up to a plumber,” Bloomberg said. “Partially because the first four years — instead of spending $60,000, you make $60,000.”

Unionized New York City waitresses make $150,000 per year, while ordinary waitresses make only $50,000 to $60,000:

In New York City, where 56 million tourists visit annually, Bloomberg said the hospitality and service industries are key. Though some might say those aren’t good jobs, he claimed that a waitress in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel makes $150,000 a year because of strong union negotiations. A waitress in a decent New York restaurant will make $50,000 to $60,000 a year, he said.

Legalizing marijuana is going to significantly lower the IQs of children:

When an audience member asked the 72-year-old Bloomberg about Colorado marijuana, he responded that it was a terrible idea, one that is hurting the developing minds of children. Though he admitted to smoking a joint in the 1960s, he said the drug is more accessible and more damaging today.

“What are we going to say in 10 years when we see all these kids whose IQs are 5 and 10 points lower than they would have been?” he asked. “I couldn’t feel more strongly about it, and my girlfriend says it’s no different than alcohol. It is different than alcohol. This is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”

Also:

Bloomberg, who is now worth $36.6 billion, according to Forbes, said the poor in the U.S. need better education.

OK I quit.

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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!

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Live Music

[ 126 ] February 11, 2015 |

If you think live music sucks, the problem is probably you.

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