Breaking News: David Axelrod Doesn’t Call Us Fucking Retarded

David AxelrodOn tonight’s The Rachel Maddow Show, David Axelrod explained that everything Obama has ever done or ever will again do is just right. We actual liberals just don’t get it. We don’t understand the bigger issues that Serious Democrats understand. We don’t understand that “free” trade agreements are great because they make rich people even more rich, even though they don’t help the poor and middle class anywhere. We don’t understand that the loss of manufacturing jobs is just a sign of globalization and there is nothing we can do so we ought to be happy with those minimum wage service jobs. We don’t understand that what is good for GE, Exxon, and GM is good for America.

In other words: we don’t understand that the Republicans are right about all the economic issues.

Axelrod patiently explained that we just have to do something about Social Security because Medicare is in trouble. He also explains that, sure, he would be for raising the payroll tax cap. That ought to be part of the mix. That was his word: part. Because, you know, we have to be reasonable about this. For every dollar that a rich man pays, we need to take a dollar away from a poor man. Not doing that might, I don’t know, hurt the feelings of the Republicans. Off course, Axelrod was quick to note that a payroll tax increase will never happen. Rachel Maddow pushed back on him pretty hard; it was nice to see. And it even made Axelrod backpedal a bit.

And maybe that’s why he never got around to saying that liberals are fucking retarded. Maybe that’s why he’s not major of Chicago.

Liberals Are Not Winning

Chris HayesWhen I see a bald guy with ear rings who has clearly never been to jail, I think: prison rape fantasies. That’s what I was thinking while watching gun rights advocate and overall Republican fucktard Kevin Williamson on All In tonight. But he made a great point: the new “gun control” legislation is basically useless. This is in the context of Chris Hayes’ claim that the center of gravity of American politics is moving a bit to the left.

But even in Hayes’ theory, he notes that when it comes to economic issues—you know, the issues that affect almost everyone—there has been no progress (I’d say it is worse than that, and I’ll be discussing it tomorrow). But even when it comes to gun control, the progress is mostly illusory. And on immigration, it is perhaps worse. As I reported back in February, even if the Democrats get what they want, it will be terrible compared to the immigration law that Ronald Reagan signed.

Is this what liberalism has become? Are we so used to losing badly that standing still feels like a win? I wrote as much over the weekend. But then, I was getting at the fact that our “liberal” leaders are not really liberal and that this fact was holding us back. In this case, it’s even worse. Even if we yield all the very good evidence that the Democratic Party has abandoned the goal of working toward an equitable economy, the liberal movement is still just treading water.

I understand that liberals want to feel good about the state of the movement. I know I want to feel good about it. But I’m not willing to be deluded about it. Not only can I wait until there is something really worth celebrating, I know that we must wait. Pretending that things are going well for the liberal movement just makes us more complacent. And most important: it makes real change—Real improvement!—far less likely.

So remember that Chris Hayes! It’s okay if the rest of the MSNBC staff turn into hagiographers for Obama and the Democratic Party. But we expect more from you.

Republican Peeing Analogy

Greg SargentYou gotta love Greg Sargent: he really seems to think that it will matter that Republicans are showing themselves to be intransigent when it comes to Obama’s new Social Security cutting budget. In an article earlier today, he noted that John Boehner and Eric Cantor immediately came out with statement saying, more or less, “Well since we all agree to cut entitlements, why let the president’s wish for tax cuts stand in the way?” He also noted that Obama’s offer of entitlement cuts will probably hurt him politically.

But then he added that this doesn’t put the Republicans in the best situation, “The GOP position—revealed with fresh clarity today—is that we should only cut entitlements but not raise a penny in new revenues by getting rid of any loophole enjoyed by millionaires.” God bless Sargent, but he is being a fool.

Imagine that you are a five year old and your brother is intentionally peeing on the carpet—right in front of your parents. Whenever it happens, they punish you both equally. So you come up with a cunning plan: you’re going to get your brother to pee on the couch instead. Ah, that’ll work!Your parents never cared which of you two was peeing on the carpet. But the couch: that’s a whole new surface! Surely they’ve got to differentiate now!

Really, I think I’m going to have an aneurysm.

Is Sarcasm Dead?

Michael KellyThis is amusing. Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote an article about Michael Kelly who for less than a year was the editor of The New Republic. Chait worked under Kelly and remembers him foundly as students often remember their mentors. Kelly was apparently very protective of his young writers. But that can get a guy in trouble. Below is a scene from Shattered Glass that shows why Keely might be a hero to the writers but still lose his job. In the clip from the movie, Marty Peretz, the publisher, has made all of the writers go through their recent stories and circle all of the commas. He wants to instruct them on the proper way use commas. “He said commas should always appear in pairs.” (BTW: that’s so not true!) Kelly (played by Hank Azaria) is having none of it; he protects the writers but undoubtedly make an important enemy.

Anyway, I posted what I thought was a very amusing comment about Peretz’s pedantry:

So clarify this for me: grammar pedantry is a bad thing? No wonder I have no friends!

Unfortunately, few people saw the comment because there are almost no comments because no one knows or cares who Michael Kelly was. But one person responded to me. Now maybe I’m wrong and what he wrote is just really subtle sarcasm. But it seems pretty clear to me that he didn’t get the joke:

Why yes, yes it is.

A glance at a definition of the word can shed some light. Pay attention especially to the words “useless”, “slavish”, “undue”, and “petty” in the definitions.

If this is a joke, this guy is brilliant, because that response is the very definition of pedantic. And as such it is fantastic! Unfortunately, my experience on the internets is that people are usually as clueless as they appear at first glace.

I’d be interested to hear what any of you think.


Here’s the clip from the film:

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The Pleasure of Not Hating William Hazlitt

William HazlittJoseph Pulitzer was born on this day back in 1847. I used to have a cat named Pulitzer. So for the record, it it pronounced poo-litzer, not peu-litzer. And yes: yellow journalism and all that. But it was still better than the pretend objectivity of the modern mainstream press. Playwright Clare Boothe Luce was born in 1903. She wrote The Women, which apparently was quite the feminist statement in 1936, but now comes off as more an apologia for “boys will be boys.” Harry Morgan was born in 1915 and lived to be 96. I’m not that fond of him, but he lived in my home town so I have a bit of a soft spot for him. The astrologer Linda Goodman was born in 1925. I’m no fan of astrology, but Goodman was a wonderful, amusing writer. And the great journalist, David Halberstam was born in 1934. He was in Vietnam in 1963 and reported on the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc:

I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think … As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.

The great actor Max von Sydow of The Seventh Seal and many other films is 84 today. I think he’s got at least another ten years in him. The wonderful jazz composer Claude Bolling is 83. Author Anne Lamott is 59. Conservative pundit Juan Williams is also 59. I only bring him up because my father likes watching him on Fox News; my father thinks he is a liberal. And guitarist Brian Setzer is 54.

But the day belongs to the great essayist William Hazlitt who was born on this day back in 1778. His writing is clear and his thinking deep: two things we don’t much get from modern writers. He was also a literary critic and one of the few reasonable people writing about Shakespeare in the 18th century. I wrote a little about reading his essay, “The Pleasure of Hating.” Check him out!

Happy birthday William!

The Great Liberal Gun Policy Victory

Bushmaster Ad - Consider Your Man Card ReissuedThe New York Times (and plenty of other news outlets) has reported that we have a gun control bill that can make it through the Senate. Hoo-fucking-ray! Let’s look back on what’s happened the last 4 months. Mass murders in America every few days. About 40 gun suicides per day. About 25 gun murders per day. But we can’t talk about limits on handguns even though they are used in the overwhelming majority of gun related deaths. Let me rephrase that: it isn’t that such handgun limits would be impossible to get through Congress, it is that we can’t even talk about them. (Except for extremists like me.)

So after Sandy Hook, what do we get? The most liberal among us called for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines as well as background checks for all gun purchases. Well, right off the top the assault weapons ban was thrown away. I can’t say that I care that much. Assault weapons are, after all, just scary looking guns; what makes them most dangerous are their 30 round banana clips. But there was still hope that we might be able to limit magazine sizes to 10.

To work NRA! This floors me. Really! The main argument I heard about limiting magazines to 10 was, “Why 10? Why not 9? Why not 11?” That’s what passes for serious debate in America. The answer, of course, is that everyone thought that number was a good compromise between interfering with the fun of gun enthusiasts and protecting society from the harm from (I’ll just say it!) gun enthusiasts. Related to this tactic is the “It won’t do any good!” argument. Moderates try to placate the NRA crowd by limiting their proposals. Then the NRA comes in and (rightly) argues, “It won’t do much good.” Okay then, how about a handgun ban? Oops! I forgot, we can’t talk about that. (It might cause the NRA to explode.)

Okay, so forget the magazines. Now we are limited to background checks, which, of course, the NRA (rightly) argues would not have prevented Sandy Hook. But okay, moving on… The arguments against universal background checks are truly frustrating. We already have a background check system. But the NRA crowd is arguing that fully implementing it (eliminating loopholes) would be tyranny—tyranny, I tell you! That can only be true if the existing law is tyranny. But none of them are willing to admit that. Hey, the NRA is nuts, but even they know that argument would never fly.

So after all, it looks like the Senate will be able to pass a law that will partially reform the background check system. It will now require background checks of individual sales at gun shows. I haven’t seen the legislation (and I’m not going to wade through it anyway), so I can’t say if it allows other loopholes, like individual gun sales at bake “wink, wink” sales. Regardless, people will continue to be able to buy guns without background checks through private sellers at their homes or out of their car trunks.

There’s still one thing I don’t understand. I guess it is assumed that the House will be forced to allow a vote on this bill if the Senate passes it. But is that true? Won’t Boehner just be able to run the clock out on the bill? I know the optics would be very bad, but I hardly think it would negatively affect Boehner. But maybe the NRA crowd is satisfied. In fact, I suspect they would have been satisfied with more legislation. They knew something was coming and were just trying to limit the damage. And what they got was something more conservative than what they were in favor of only 10 years ago.

Take a moment to bask in this great liberal victory.

Obama’s Childish Budget Gambit

Obama NopeThe lady doth protest too much, methinks. Or rather the Obama administration, which is out this morning with their new entitlement cutting budget. Greg Sargent reported this morning, “The administration officials insisted yesterday that Obama does not view Chained CPI as good policy.” The thing is, I read a lot, and the only person saying that the Obama administration wants Chained-CPI and other entitlement cuts is me. I don’t know, maybe Digby is making the same point. But no one that the administration pays attention to is making that argument. Thus: they doth protest too much![1]

But it gets worse. Sargent also wrote, “Senior administration officials who briefed a number of us late yesterday repeatedly insisted that the White House will not move any further in the GOP’s direction if Republicans try to pocket the entitlement cuts while refusing to make any concessions.” I guess that is kind of reassuring, but he adds, “The officials say that without new revenues, no deal is possible.” That makes it sound like this budget is a starting position. It looks like they are offering an equal amount of spending cuts to revenue increases. But that second sentence (and the last part of the first) makes it sound like, “As long as we get something, it is okay.”

Ezra Klein had much the same thing to say this morning. He noted that there are two outcomes of this budget gambit: it leads to a deal on the Sequester or it does not. Sadly, our best hope is that it does not. The deal the president is offering might not be that bad as it stands, given that the Sequester is really bad for the economy and a lot of poor people. But it simply doesn’t work to offer up a proposal and say, “I’m meeting you half way; this is as far as I’ll go.” The proposal itself shows that the president is way more interested in a deal than the Republicans. If it does lead to a deal, the White House would have to give on the revenues to allow the Republicans to save face.

The other side of the deal is just ridiculous. Does Obama really think he can move public opinion on this issue? And if he did, would it matter? Universal background checks on gun purchases have a 90% approval rating and yet almost no Republican is for them. The word is that Obama wants to convince the Very Serious Pundits that he is reasonable and the Republicans aren’t. First, if they aren’t convinced by now, they never will be. Second, this is silly. It smacks of a child wanting to get the approval of a distracted parent. Bqhatevwr!

Paul Krugman put it much in this way, calling those the president is courting, Imaginary Grownups. He quite rightly notes that Very Serious Centrists are not grownups, “Calls for centrism and bipartisanship aren’t actual demands for specific policies—they’re an act, a posture these people take to make themselves seem noble and superior.”

So here we go. Best case scenario: Obama is trying to appeal to the supposed grownups on the Washington Post editorial page. Worse case scenario (and what I believe): Obama himself likes these policies; they make him feel “noble and superior.”

[1] In Hamlet, this phrase is not used the way we use it today. The word “protest” is more along the lines of “proclaim.” In Hamlet’s little play designed to catch Claudius (which is extremely lame, although it works in the play), the king asks the queen to stay true to him after his death. She does so. Hamlet asks his mother what she thinks and she responds, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” This is a good example of how our shared knowledge of Shakespeare improves him. This is not a memorable line at all as intended. But as reworked, it is a clever bit of psychologizing.