Matt Yglesias Pretends to Be Intellectual

Matt YglesiasIf there is one thing I can spot from 3000 miles away it is intellectual pretense. Why? Because I am the fucking intellectual pretense master! And if I am willing to call myself on it, you can bet that I’m going to call that twitter happy mother fucker Matt Yglesias on his!

Yglesias starts an otherwise interesting article (Not that I agree with him!) with this sentence: “Mitt Romney’s decision to use Sesame Street’s Big Bird character as a synecdoche for cutting funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting…”

Synecdoche? Really? Let me be blunt: I’m sure Yglesias had never even heard the word until he saw Synecdoche, New York. And there is nothing (Nada! Rien! Nichts!) that is more intellectually pretentious than repeating something you got from a movie!

But it’s worse that this. Yglesias clearly either didn’t look up the word or didn’t understand the definition. I understand this. “Synecdoche” is a hard word. But this is why those of us who try to push past our intellectual pretense into something actually intellectual are so tired all the time. This clearly does not apply to Yglesias who manages to write 7-10 articles and 50-100 tweets every day. (The man clearly needs a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or a dog.)

Anyway, back to my point: Big Bird is not a synecdoche of PBS funding. Big Bird is not even a synecdoche of Sesame Street! The idea behind the word “synecdoche” is the representation of the part for the whole. So we could use the muppets as a short hand for Sesame Street. We could say, “I don’t want to see the muppets out of work.” That would be a clever way to say, “I don’t want to see Sesame Street defunded.” Big Bird is a specific example, but he is not a class of things that make up Sesame Street. What Yglesias meant to use was something like “exemplar” or “representative.” But instead, he used “synecdoche” because, hey, all hip people are into Charlie Kaufman.

There is another reason why I don’t like Yglesias’ use of this word: almost no one knows it. And of those who do, 99 out of 100 know it because of the film. And that’s just fucked up.

Death to Pagination and Wives Who Don’t Love Fowler

PaginationIf I could have a beer with anyone on the internet, tonight it would be Farhad Manjoo. I know what you’re thinking, “You mean that guy who says he divorced his wife because she puts two spaces after the end of a sentence?” Yep. He’s my kind of guy!

Don’t pooh-pooh this behavior. If I could choose between world peace & justice and having everyone properly typeset their em-dashes, it would be the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of peace & justice. It is just that I believe if we could just get this em-dash issue squared away, peace & justice would naturally come.

Earlier this week, when the little minds were fretting over the upcoming presidential debate, Majoo was addressing a far more important issue: article pagination on websites. You see, most websites break up long articles onto multiple pages. They do this primarily to support their ad revenue. But I noticed this habit long before ads, so I tend to think it is also about giving articles gravitas. “See how important this article is: you have to click to continue!”

I don’t think Manjoo got to the heart of what is really bad about web pagination. He did in a general sense, but he didn’t get to the core of why people like me really hate having to click to continue. And this is not just a problem of the standard article break up that Manjoo is talking about; it is even more common (and thus annoying) with the dreaded “Below the fold” link. Below the fold? What fold? What is the matter with you people?!

The problem with pagination is that it slows everything down. It isn’t the clicking or even the time it takes to load the main page elements. What really slows everything down is the ads. Clearly the ad servers are overworked. Because it doesn’t matter whether you go to New York Magazine or Daily KOS, the page will load and you will wait around for the ads to work their magic. Each day, Crooks & Liars has a blog roundup. I now open another browser tab and copy the links into it, rather than click back and wait for Crooks & Liars to reload all of its ads.

This is what makes pagination in a book different from pagination on a website: delay. Of course, there are other reasons as Farhad Manjoo discusses. The main one is just that it isn’t necessary. People know how to scroll! So just display your content and let us work with it!

Other than this minor augmentation, I am pretty much in agreement with him about all issues typographic. On the issue of wives, I’m perhaps more particular. Not only do I think it is all right to divorce a spouse for a preference for pagination or putting two spaces after a sentence, I would divorce a wife who doesn’t think H. W. Fowler is a hunka hunka burning love.

Stop Krausing Yourself! You Look Great.

You're Beautiful

CAMBRIDGE, MA—A team of considerate, emotionally available researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Monday the results of a study indicating that in a random sampling of five women, not even one has any idea how beautiful she actually is. “In clinical trials, we discovered 100 percent of test subjects were virtually oblivious to the fact that they are and always have been thoughtful, intelligent, and truly gorgeous, inside and out,” sensitive scientist Sidney Kaplan said of the four-year, $30 million study aimed at showing women what they just can’t seem to see for themselves. “Perhaps even more alarming, we found that 87 percent of women felt it was their job to try to make themselves into someone they aren’t, instead of looking in the mirror and rejoicing at what they had already become. And trust me, what they had already become is perfect.” The receptive and caring authors of the study said their work would be published in the forthcoming issue of Nature and available to women “anytime they need to hear it.”

Please Get This Woman a Burka

Warning: The following commentary, and blatant example of internet bullying, may be offensive to some readers (specifically, Kenneth W. Krause).

In a recent e-mail to news anchor Jennifer Livingston, Kenneth W. Krause stalwartly addressed Jennifer’s outrageous obesity and calling on her to be a better example for impressionable young girls who watch the early morning news – girls, I assume, like Krause’s own pudgeball daughter. What father wouldn’t try to spare his little girl from the nightmare of body fat? Like Olive’s dad in Little Miss Sunshine, Krause just wants girls to keep in mind the ancient adage: a moment on the lips, forever on the hips.

To stand up to the elephant on the TV takes a man of some kind of character. His thoughtful attempt to expose the grotesque error of Jennifer’s lifestyle was the sort of humanitarian gesture that would make Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh harden up with pride. Mister Krause, with his huge, socially-stunted balls, went so far as to call her out for choosing to maintain the disgusting habit of chewing tobacco – I mean the disgusting habit of being an affront to the universal idea of female beauty. And in the public eye too!

Behind her brave facade, Jennifer must certainly have been cut to the quick by Mister Krause’s words: seeking his approval is the only reason she gets out of bed every morning. Why else does any woman go on living if not to forage in the brutal wilderness of our society for even a meager compliment? If just one person you pass on the street finds you unattractive, you might as well stay inside and become a snarky blogger. I shudder to think that the guy behind the counter at Arby’s might look at me and think, “If she lost a few of pounds and combed her hair, I might hit that.”

Fortunately, “there’s no accounting for taste” is also true. Even I might be considered alluring, depending on the lighting and whether the beholder is wearing his glasses. Personally, I don’t see myself as beautiful or sexy. My husband tells me I’m beautiful and I believe him because there are no other women in the room.

I can only imagine the sort of Adonis Mister Krause must certainly be. I mean, people in glass houses… am I right? He was probably born an average-looking kind of guy before he was transformed into the god of all things beautiful. I’ve found an artist’s rendition of what Mister Krause may have looked like before becoming the guiding light of pulchritude:

Kenneth W. Krause

The Mitt Romney Show with Guest Stars Obama and Lehrer!

Mitt Romney - NopeDid you see the Mitt Romney Show last night? It was great! Romney spun a lot of tall tales and made all kinds of promises to good little American citizens. It might not have been such a good show had Romney’s co-stars Barack Obama and Jim Lehrer not been so passive. Luckily, many people in the press are today doing what would normally have been done last night, if the Mitt Romney Show had been something else like, say, a presidential debate.

One of the best discussions of Romney’s tall tales is by Jonathan Cohn over at The New Republic, The Four Most Misleading Moments in Romney’s Debate Performance. Cohn isn’t actually talking about “moments” in the debate; he’s talking about the debate itself. His four moments are pretty general and took up most of Romney’s 38 minutes: taxes; the deficit and spending cuts; medicare; and healthcare and pre-existing conditions.

I’ve written about most of this before, so I’m not going to go into right now. Nor am I going to quote from his effort to set the record straight. Read the whole article—it’s worth it. What I found most interesting was that Cohn ends the article with the exasperation that I seem to feel all the time these days:

As part of its post-debate analysis, ABC News asked correspondent Jonathan Karl to play the role of fact-checker. He picked out one statement from each side and rated it “mostly false.” But the Obama statement Karl picked was the description of Romney’s tax plan as costing $5 trillion—a figure, again, that comes straight from the Tax Policy Center. That’s not “mostly false.” If anything, it’s “mostly true.” Then Karl talked about Romney’s pre-existing condition promise, which really is “mostly false.” Sigh.

I would add only that given the back and forth on this question, Romney’s claim is “Pants on fire!”

Another excellent article is Igor Volsky in Think Progress, At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes. He’s just being nice, of course. By “myths” he means “lies.” It is hard to know what to quote here. I recommend clicking over and reading the whole thing.

I did like this statement that puts some numbers to “block granting” that Republicans think is a panacea:

“I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.” Sending federal Medicaid funding to the states in the form of a block grant would significantly reduce federal spending for Medicaid because the grant would not keep up with projected health care costs. A CBO estimate of a very similar proposal from Paul Ryan found that federal spending would be “35 percent lower in 2022 and 49 percent lower in 2030 than current projected federal spending” and as a result “states would face significant challenges in achieving sufficient cost savings through efficiencies to mitigate the loss of federal funding.” “To maintain current service levels in the Medicaid program, states would probably need to consider additional changes, such as reducing their spending on other programs or raising additional revenues,” the CBO found.

And this is, of course, why Republicans push block granting. It is a way to “starve the beast.” This is one of the reasons that Republicans aggravate me so much: they talk around what they believe. I don’t blame them, though; they have no choice; their ideas are toxic.

It’s too bad the Democratic Party doesn’t have a leader who point out these things in real time. And as for Lehrer, maybe we could use a moderator who is a little younger and plugged in?

Voter Suppression New Mexico

Let People VoteIt is hard to get excited about voter suppression efforts. After all, it is much the same as screaming, “Republicans exist!” But here is another example, and frankly, I am shocked at how endless the endeavor is. I know: the Republicans don’t have a real popular base. They explicitly do the bidding of the 1% (and even more: the 0.01%) and get roughly half the country to vote for them on issues like abortion and gay marriage—issues they do little about other than the stock the courts (which may be enough).

This particular voter suppression effort is of the Republican “Poll Challenger Training.” You will get a taste of it in the video below which was recorder undercover by ProgressNow New Mexico. But it is deeper than this. As the article discusses, this isn’t just a case of a volunteer being over-zealous or under informed. The disinformation comes from the Republican pamphlet.

At my core, I believe people do what they think is right. I’m sure that Pat Morlen really believes that voter fraud is a big problem. She probably watches Fox News where one can be forgiven from thinking that the only reason Obama is President is because ACORN stole the election. But you would think that the party organ would at least get the facts right in their publications. This is what comes from allowing the crazies on the inside: eventually, crazy seems sane.

Romney Campaign Walks Back “Moderation”

Romney CaresThis is brilliant. While all the pundits can’t get enough of how Romney transformed himself, the Romney campaign is quietly going back on all of his “moderation.” You may recall that Romney claimed that his healthcare plan would cover people with pre-existing conditions. Obama countered that this wasn’t part of his plan—all he was doing was keeping the pre-ACA law that said as long as you keep continuous coverage, insurance companies cannot drop you. Romney claimed this wasn’t the truth and that his plan did cover the 89 million people with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t get coverage. This was part of Romney’s Santa Claus act where anything popular: it’s in there!

And then the debate ended and Romney’s people had to “clarify.” That’s Republican for “correct a lie.” Talking Points Memo reports that Romney’s top adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said:

With respect to pre-existing conditions, what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage.

This is exactly what Obama said. Romney has no plan.

Will this matter? Probably not. Content doesn’t matter. Romney was aggressive and he “moderated” his position (In public anyway!) so he won. But despite all the claims to the contrary, Romney is the same as he ever was. And Obama lost the debate by allowing him to spout his endless parade of lies without counter.

Update (4 October 2012 9:13 am)

Josh Barro—who I’ve had no lack of bad things to say about—has an excellent discussion of the debate. He notes the main problem:

Obama needed to keep up that attack all night, and he could have. Whenever the president discussed an aspect of his policies that was popular, Romney said he supported that, too. Romney said he likes the good parts of Obamacare and the good parts of Dodd-Frank. Whenever Obama raised a negative aspect of Romney’s tax plan, Romney simply insisted that his plan just isn’t so.

In other words, Romney was shaking the etch-a-sketch. He was vulnerable to the critique that he is changing his views to match audience desires and therefore can’t be trusted. But Obama mostly failed to make that point.

There is one big silver lining for Obama: The debates usually don’t do a lot to change how people vote. When they do matter, as with Gerald Ford in 1976, it’s usually because of a major blunder, not a broadly weak performance. Obama did himself no favors tonight, but his weakness probably had little impact on the number of votes he will receive.

Update (4 October 2012 9:32 am)

Jonathan Chait discusses another of Romney’s lies: he won’t lower taxes on the rich.

None of these studies back up Romney’s claim that he won’t reduce taxes on the rich. They confirm that he will reduce taxes on the rich. They merely suggest that he could make up the revenue some other way than taxing the middle class or increasing the deficit—that the economic growth will help the tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves, or that some of the lost revenue can be made up for by cutting off subsidies for the uninsured. Romney flat-out misstated his position.

I haven’t see an explicit walk back from his campaign, but his plan has not changed. Chait goes on to make a very keen observation of why Obama did so poorly:

Romney won the debate in no small part because he adopted a policy of simply lying about his policies. Probably the best way to understand Obama’s listless performance is that he was prepared to debate the claims Romney has been making for the entire campaign, and Romney switched up and started making different and utterly bogus ones. Obama, perhaps, was not prepared for that, and he certainly didn’t think quickly enough on his feet to adjust to it.

Update (4 October 2012 10:54 am)

Think Progress has even more walks back from the Romney campaign:

From Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal: The Hidden History of Change in the Obama Era:

ICYMI: Romney campaign told me (after my tweet-rants) Mitt didn’t mean to say half the #stimulus-funded green firms failed. Probably <1% so far.

Grunwald estimates that less than 1 percent of green firms have gone bad in terms of dollar value.

Romney also singled out Tesla Motors, which designs and manufactures electric vehicles, and received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy. Last night, he quipped, “I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?” But the company is not a loser. “Founder Elon Musk says it will accelerate its payment of the principal in the spring—and the Department of Energy isn’t complaining it’s not getting its money back.” Romney, unfortunately, has turned to rooting against an American company in his effort to unseat Obama.

Republicans hate America.

Update (4 October 2012 11:03 am)

More from Kevin Drum.