L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron HubbardIt’s the birthday of a couple of conservatives I find repellent: Charles Krauthammer (63) and Jamie Dimon (57). And yes, I know Dimon is a Democrat, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a conservative. As I write about a lot: the democratic party is not liberal; America does not have a liberal party. I would be happy if either of these guys died, but I’d be more happy if it were Dimon.

It is also Neil Sedaka 74th birthday. I never stop being amazed that he isn’t gay. And the Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee is 92.

But today is a big day because L. Ron Hubbard was born 102 years ago! Now he was a total hack. I’m not talking about Scientology, here; I haven’t read Dianetics or any of its successors. But I do think this video is pretty cool. It must have happened:

Lesson from the 47% Video

Romney - No We Can't - NopeScott Prouty was on The Ed Show tonight. He’s the guy who shot the embarrassing Romney 47% video. Based on the interview, I think there are a whole lot of lesson from the video:

1. Schmooze with the help!

Prouty tells the story of working an event where Bill Clinton was speaking. After the event, Clinton glad handed with the staff. That’s so Clinton! It reminds me of the line in Primary Colors, “This son of a bitch actually likes these people!” But here’s the thing: that is why Prouty brought his camera to the event; he thought Romney might stay for pictures with the staff. The lucky fool!

I was in grad school during Bill Clinton. I knew Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was not exactly a friend of mine. Governor, you’re no Bill Clinton.

Romney reminds me of the main character in Local Hero who is proud of being able to to close deals without human contact. “I’m more of a telex man.” He isn’t the kind of guy who meets with the help. That was very clear during the campaign: Romney is a wholesale politician, not a retail one.

One thing that Romney said about all those “takers” in the nation: he was right. In general, the poor will not vote for the Republican candidate. It isn’t for the reasons that Romney and Ryan think, of course. It is because the average Walmart employee who needs to depend upon food stamps and medicaid for his children knows that the Republican Party is not only not working for him, it is actively working against him; it hates him; it wants to destroy him. So Mitt Romney was right when he said it wasn’t his job to get their votes. He was right that they weren’t going to vote for him. But he is completely wrong to assume it was because he wasn’t going to give them free stuff. (Although: what free stuff did Romney have to give after all of the gifts he was offering to the rich?)

All of this just highlights what I’ve long said: the 47% video didn’t affect the presidential election much at all. The reason it went viral was that it showed what people already knew about Mitt Romney. Regardless of the pretty words, Romney was a plutocrat. You could just hear it when he sang “America the Beautiful”:

Fantasy in Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir DogsEvery day, You Tube sends me a collection of videos that I might like to watch, and they are usually right although I rarely take the time to watch them. Anyway, today they sent me the “Light a Virgin” scene from Reservoir Dogs. I had just been talking to Will about that scene and how I had read that when Tarantino met Madonna, she told him that his theory on the song was not correct. So I watched it.

It is an interesting scene, but what really stood out to me was how ridiculous the scene was in the context of the whole movie. The gang all dress in the same clothes: black suits, white shirts, and black ties. Why would they do that? It makes them stand out. It would make a get away harder, especially if (as is the case in the film) the police show up.

But it’s worse than that. Why would they all go to a diner before the robbery, dressed in their very memorable outfits? Even if their heist went off without a glitch, the store employees would remember that they all wore black suits, white shirts, and black ties. The TV news would alert their viewers to report any men seen that day in black suits, white shirts, and black ties. And at least some people at the diner would report, “Yeah, there were six guys dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black ties.”

What’s more: it isn’t just those six guys. The mastermind and his son were there with them. All the other guys might be from out of town, but those two aren’t. In fact, those two are established in the film as being known organized crime figures. But they’re careful, see. At least they were careful until that day.

I understand that it is all about style. Having all the guys dress the same looks cool. (I’ve always thought Tarantino took the idea from another film—it seems very Hong Kong action.) And I understand that the opening scene is great with lots of the dialog that Tarantino is known for. But it isn’t realistic, although many people thought it was at the time. There is a direct line from Reservoir Dogs to the pure fantasy of Django Unchained.

Afterword

Speaking of well-dressed criminals, I just remembered Chow Yun-Fat pulling off his tie at the end of The Killer to use as a tourniquet. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. By the way, The Killer is a great film.

Tax and Entitlement “Reform”

Greg SargentThis afternoon, Greg Sargent wrote, Republicans Say They Want Entitlement Cuts. But They Want Dems to Own Them. In it, he shows that all this Republican talk about entitlement reform is just a way for them to trick Democrats into owning Medicare and Social Security cuts so that they can campaign against them in 2014 and 2016. As usual Sargent is dead on. What would be really surprising is if Obama does not fall into that trap.

But Sargent—a good, strong liberal—makes a mistake in how he writes about the issue. Word is that Republicans will accept a small tax increase if the Democrats make a big show of owning large entitlement cuts. The Republicans will finesse the coverage of such a tax increase by calling it “tax reform.” And that is just how Sargent writes it: he puts “tax reform” in quotes, because it is a euphemism. But he has no problem writing a sentences like this, “Dems would have no choice but to offer up significant entitlement reforms.” Do you see it? He writes as though “entitlement reforms” is what it claims to be.

When people talk about “entitlement reforms” what they mean is “entitlement cuts.” Using the former phrase is just a way to hide what is really going on. Everyone loves reforms: they make things better! But no one likes cuts: they make people poorer. As a result, I always bristle when I see the phrase “entitlement reform.” But mostly, I don’t see it right next to “tax reform.”

There are so many ways that we fight our liberal battles on conservative turf. And I admit: this is perhaps a minor one. But we are forever talking about issues through a conservative prism. Sargent uses scare quotes around “tax reform” because he is specifically talking about how conservatives will spin tax increases. But the fact that he even uses “entitlement reform” (with or without scare quotes) shows that he has accepted the conservative framing of the issue. And that’s no good.

Paul Ryan Loses His “Seriousness”

Paul Ryan - Reagan 2.0Suddenly, Paul Ryan has lost his Seriousness. What happened?

In an otherwise repellent editorial, the Washington Post (Fox on 15th) notes something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. Over half of the cuts in the budget come from Ryan’s proposed half repeal of Obamacare. He gets $1.8 trillion dollars by cutting everything the program does. And then he gets an additional $700 billion dollars from interest savings. That makes $2.5 trillion cut from the budget due to the pseudo-repeal of Obamacare. There is also a bit more than $100 billion in extra taxes, which brings the total to $2.6 trillion. That’s 57% of the savings.

As usual, there is nothing to Paul Ryan’s budget. And that’s to be expected. I assume that in his mind, he is very clear on what he wants to do: he wants to screw the poor, sick, and elderly. But he isn’t willing to lose his seat in the House by letting his constituency know what he really thinks. Thus, he gets his cuts from voucherizing Medicare, block granting Medicaid, and “repealing” Obamacare. He isn’t even brave enough to suggest cutting Social Security.

This new budget seems to be getting a lukewarm reception from the pundit class. Liberals hate it, of course. But Forbes discusses how many conservatives are having a hard time with it. Even Rush Limbaugh is icy towards it. And as noted above, the Washington Post is none too happy about it, even as they spend much time talking about how balancing the budget is just the greatest thing since Wonder invented sliced bread.

It is interesting that Ryan’s budget is now toxic. It is in no way less ridiculous than his two previous budgets, which lead to his receiving awards. Why the change? After all, I don’t hear anyone admitting that they were wrong before. But I think the Washington Post editorial explains it.

The editorial divides Ryan’s budget into three parts: the good, the bad, and the “ain’t gonna happen.” The “good” is just Ryan’s idea of using “fair value” accounting for student loans and housing credits. I don’t know much about accounting, but you can see what this change will do: make life more expensive for the poor and middle classes. And this is where the Post is cheering along Ryan. The “ain’t gonna happen” is just Obamacare.

Where the Post shows its true colors is in the “bad” section.” They are all for turning Medicare into a voucher program. The problem with Ryan’s plan is that it doesn’t do it for ten years. Just think of all the people we could get rid of if he started depriving seniors of medical care right now! They are also upset that Ryan isn’t touching Social Security. The horror!

The reason that centrists loved Ryan before was that his budget was cruel. The reason they hate it now is that it isn’t cruel enough. When Ryan was pitching a balanced budget in 30 years, it was fine to not start inflicting severe punishment on the poor for a decade or so. But now that Ryan is pitching a balanced budget in 10 years, that punishment has to come now. So Paul Ryan is only considered Serious as long as he is able to credibly claim that he really is for hurting the citizenry. This is the same reason that centrists never even consider The People’s Budget; it may balance the budget, but it isn’t Serious because it doesn’t hurt the poor.