Matt Taibbi Acts Like a Man

Matt TaibbiIt’s true. I want to be Chris Hayes’ father. On good days (like today), I want to be Ezra Klein’s foster dad. But never have I admitted to having a man crush—until today. There are men who I think are ideals of male perfection: George Clooney and Antonio Banderas come to mind. I’d like to look like them. But if I could be someone, there would be only one possiblity: Matt Taibbi.

There are lots of things I could say about him. He’s an attractive guy—at least, more attractive than me, and that’s all that matters. And he’s smart and funny—although I won’t go so far as to say more than me. But the thing is that he’s a good package: he has it all, as far as I can tell. But the main thing is that he’s a real man without being (1) stupid and (2) an asshole.

Yesterday, he wrote an great article over at Rolling Stone: Goldman Non-Prosecution: AG Eric Holder Has No Balls. And it is here that we see Taibbi’s manliness on display. There are times when you need a man to stand up and say, “This guy’s bad!” And in the case of Eric Holder and the whole Obama “we’re too nice to hold the people who destroyed our economy accountable” gaggle, this is far past overdue:

Last year I spent a lot of time and energy jabbering and gesticulating in public about what seemed to me the most obviously prosecutable offenses detailed in the report—the seemingly blatant perjury before congress of Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives, and the almost comically long list of frauds committed by the company in its desperate effort to unload its crappy “cats and dogs” mortgage-backed inventory.

In the notorious Hudson transaction, for instance, Goldman claimed, in writing, that it was fully “aligned” with the interests of its client, Morgan Stanley, because it owned a $6 million slice of the deal. What Goldman left out is that it had a $2 billion short position against the same deal.

If that isn’t fraud, Mr. Holder, just what exactly is fraud?

Did you catch that? Taibbi isn’t just angry; he cares. It matters that this great injustice has been done and that those in power stand by and do nothing. This is what men do at their best. Sure, they can be judgmental and generally pains in all our asses. But they can also make us better in a way that people like Holder and Obama (And I!) cannot.

When it comes to these banksters, as well as the torturers of the Bush administration, we need more people like Matt Taibbi and with more power. When it comes to using the power of the government to go after the weak, every administration is on board. But when it comes to the powerful, as Taibbi notes, they have no balls:

That’s how law works on Wall Street. The bank walks into the room with the sordid activity, and the law firm’s partners huddle up and whip their associates—for hundreds and hundreds of billable hours straight, if necessary—until a way is found to call stealing or tax evasion or accounting fraud or whatever legal.

That’s the way it should work on the prosecutorial side, too. You should start with a simple moral premise—this group of crooks ripped off X group of victims for fifty million dollars—and then you should bury yourself in law books until you find a way to put them all in jail. If Linklaters gets paid to be creative, well, Mr. Holder, we’re paying you to be creative, too.

Again, though, Holder didn’t need to be creative in the Goldman case. Levin gift-wrapped the whole thing for him. He could have had a dozen easy convictions just on the evidence in that report, and if he had been creative, if he had used his vast power to roll up the guilty and flip them into more revelations, then he’d have had enough cases to last the AG’s office the next decade.

But the Holders of the world do not want to be creative when the targets are politically influential rich people. Instead, they use their creativity against Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, immigrant housekeepers, and guys who knock over liquor stores. They like to flex muscles against bank robbers, celebrity tax evaders (we can’t have Wesley Snipes on the loose!), truck hijackers, and drug dealers. As Gene Wilder would say, “You know—morons.”

Holder’s non-decision on Goldman is more than unsurprising. It amounts to an official announcement that the government is no longer in the business [of] prosecuting smart criminals. It’s pathetic. The one thing you pay any lawyer to have is balls, and our nation’s top attorney has none.

I hope Matt Taibbi runs for office soon. I want to work for that campaign!

Update (16 August 2012 8:15 pm)

In 2005, Matt Taibbi got in a lot of trouble for publishing The 52 Funniest Things About The Upcoming Death of The Pope. Here are my favorites:

32.Priest who administers last rites to Pope excitedly calls mother afterward to tell her how well it went.

30.Michael Jackson too broke to buy Pope’s bones.

28.Bears everywhere shitting in woods.

23.Doctors examining the body discover that the Pope was not only a woman, but also Hitler.

22.Mankind scrambles to choose new leader of inflexible, sexually morbid institutional anachronism; heretofore anonymous bureaucrat will instantly be celebrated as world’s holiest man as he travels to AIDS-stricken Africa to denounce the use of condoms. [Not funny; just true.]

21.Telltale white smoke emitting from Vatican chimneys announces a) choice of new Pope, and b) the fiery death of the 5000 back issues of Manscape and Hung Inches that had accumulated in the Vatican lobby.

11.Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal

I feel good in that I think Matt Taibbi is even more wonderful and bad because I laughed so much at the Pope’s death. With this in mind, here is the list of his riff on dead Pope in a box:

41.Humming old Polish folk song in there. That kills three minutes.

39.Can’t move. Can’t reach penis.

38.Somebody taking my job. My job!

37.Getting a little stuffy.

36.Naming all the different types of fish. Flounder, halibut, perch, goldfish, basking shark…no, do the sharks separately…really stuffy in here, gar, swordfish, manta ray, eels… No, don’t think about eels. Eels are scary. Boy, is it dark in here. Four minutes gone by.

12.Sequoia, birch, maple, willow, palm, oak, pine, fir, mapleNo, wait, I said maple already…

10.You dirty rat. You dirty, double-crossing rat… Proxima estacion: Tibidabo. Tenga cuidado de las puertas deslizantes… It means woods and blanche means white, so the two together mean white woods… L’tat c’est moi! Don’t think about eels, don’t think about eels…


Daniel Dennett has popularized this new word deepity.

Here’s another common dodge—not a dodge, a common response: “What God is, is a concept; it’s a concept in people’s minds; it’s a concept that enriches their spirits and inspires them.” If you believe this, you’re definitely an atheist. God is not a concept; the concept of God is a concept. A cup of coffee is not a concept; the concept of a cup of coffee is a concept. Elementary philosophy.

I have a term for this: it’s called a deepity. A friend of mine, when his teenage daughter many years ago—a nice smart alec girl—and dad was in the habit of uttering pronouncements at the dinner table (an MIT professor) and one day he issued forth one of these wise tidbits, and his daughter said, “Wow! Dad said a deepity.” He told me about that and I thought the term was just so great that I would appropriate it.

So what’s a deepity? A deepity is an apparently profound observation that is ambiguous. And I mean that quite literally. It has two readings. On one meaning, it’s obviously false, but if it were true, it would be very important. And on the other, it’s trivially true. And so when you hear it, you sort of see, “Oh, I think that’s true!” It is. It’s trivially true. Or at the same time, “Woa!” That’s a deepity.

I want to give you one of my favorite examples of a deepity. When I teach this concept to my students. Are you ready? Everybody sitting down?

“Love is just a word.”

Oh, wow! Love is just a word! Think about it. Whatever love is, it isn’t a word. You can’t find love in the dictionary. Put the quotation marks around it—we philosophers are sticklers about this; it’s called a use-mention error—and you get “love” is just a word. That’s true and it’s trivially true. “Cheeseburger” is just a word. “Word” is just a word. So that’s a deepity.

Now, the idea that God is a concept is another great deepity.

“Deepity” is just a word.

The Entitlement Class

This video will go viral if it hasn’t already. Natalie Morales asks about releasing more tax returns and Ann Romney almost jumps out of her seat and attacks the reporter. She is clearly angry, but I don’t think this is the most important thing:

What comes across most clearly is Ann Romney’s sense of entitlement. She’s rich! She’s above suspicion! Her husband is above suspicion because she says so!

Sometimes I’m glad that I’m not rich or powerful. If I were, I would have to work really hard to not be a total dick. You just don’t come upon many rich people who think they are lucky to be rich. It is because they are smart (a gift) and hard working (a gift) and moral (a gift if it’s true). Mitt Romney deserves his quarter billion dollars! This is because he is 1000 times as smart and 1000 times as hard working and 1000 times as moral as the average American. He must be because he has 1000 times as much money. (We think.)

What is most pernicious about Ayn Rand’s philosophy is not that it is wrong; the most pernicious thing is that it tells those people who are the biggest dicks that they aren’t dicks. Only a sociopath would tell the schoolyard bully that the only thing wrong with him is that he isn’t beating up enough kids.

Ann Romney looks like she is at the end of her rope. She is the one who asks the questions, not the one who answers them!