Anderson Cooper and Bunny Sex

Alex CastellanosI haven’t enjoyed a Republican this much for a long time. In the video below, Alex Castellanos tries to explain Ted Cruz to Anderson Cooper. It has something to do with the snowshoe hare, which apparently has such a good time fucking (TV safe: bunny sex) that it creates a population explosion. I think what Castellanos is getting at is that Ted Cruz is having such fun basking in the limelight that he doesn’t care if his behavior destroys his tribe. It’s a reasonable analogy I think—especially coming from a Republican.

What’s great about it is that Anderson Cooper does not deal well with it. He is obviously very uncomfortable. It goes right along with my general opinion of such media personalities (eg Rachel Maddow) that they are little scouts who have lived very sheltered and boring lives. I mean, what’s the problem with talking about animals having sex? This is part of the problem with trying to make all media “kid friendly.” It turns our whole society into a bunch of children who can’t discuss the world as it actually is.

This is about 4 minutes long, but it is quite amusing. Watching Anderson Cooper squirm is delicious:

Partisan Hacks at National Review

Wayne StegerGregory Koger at Washington Monthly alerted me to the fact that conservatives might be deficit hypocrites. That’s sarcasm; of course they’re hypocrites. We all are to one extent or another. But it does seem that conservatives rate a lot higher on the scale.

DePaul University political scientist Wayne Steger decided to do a little study. He looked at the National Review over the last two decades and measured how often certain words and phrases were used. And what do you know: when Democrats are in the White House, the budget deficit is much more important to them. The best example of this is the use of the phrase “balanced budget” since 1994. Here we go:

National Review Balanced Budget Mentions

I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the National Review wasn’t much interested in a balanced budget when Bush I was in office. But its interest went steadily up during Clinton’s term, until, you know, he actually balanced the budget. But okay, maybe that’s just an indication of the fact that there was a lot of interest and excitement about balancing the budget at that time.

The problem with this theory is that once Bush II gets into office and the budget deficit comes back and gets worse and worse, the National Review shows no interest in it at all. Even in 2008, when the financial crisis causes the budget deficit to explode, our conservative friends find it of no interest whatsoever. It is only once a Democrat is back in the White House that their interest goes up. And as the deficit has gone down year after year, their interest in a “balanced budget” has only grown.

Do we liberals do this? Of course! But I find it highly unlikely that such gross partisanship could be found in The Nation. The conservative intellectual establishment has been reduced to little more than a cabal of partisan hacks.

The Importance of Being Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Oscar WildeOn this day in 1758, the great lexicographer Noah Webster was born. He is best known for the dictionary he started that eventually became the excellent modern Merriam-Webster Dictionary. But he really should be known as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Most people today don’t understand just how screwed up spelling was a couple of hundred years ago. In fact, if you go back to Shakespeare’s time, it is almost impossible read. Everyone had their own spellings that were based upon how the words sounded to them. And then the same writer didn’t spell things the same. Christopher Marlowe wrote his last name with at least a dozen different spellings. So Webster and others were very concerned about standardizing spelling. And in this context, he created a hugely popular Speller that was used to teach American children for five decades. But as Wikipedia notes, it was “entirely secular by design.” And it really helped to create an American identity that was secular. So if the fundamentalists want to blame someone for our relatively secular society, they should stop ranting about Madison and Paine and start ranting about Webster. As a matter of fact, they could become “spelling deniers.” All those secular spelling rules! God doesn’t want us to speak English anyway. Greek is the language of God! Or rather: Ελληνικός!

The great playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in 1888. When I was younger, I loved him. He was so serious. Now, it is kind of hard to take, but I still admire the work. The thing about him is that he perfected realism in American theater. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think we would have had Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller or even Edward Albee. He did occasionally write comedies, most successfully Ah, Wilderness! which is still performed. You can look it up; it’s hard to find a good scene. Woody Allen he wasn’t.

Other birthdays: Baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679); photographer Paul Strand (1890); futurist painter Primo Conti (1900); singer Nico (1938); actor Angela Lansbury (88); actor Barry Corbin (73); retiring actor Suzanne Somers (65); film director David Zucker (66); actor Tim Robbins (55); and musician John Mayer (36).

The day, however, belongs to the great writer Oscar Wilde who was born on this day in 1854. Look, I could tell you that I love his books and plays. And I do! The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest are both great. And I could tell you that I love his epigrams. And I do! “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go,” is brilliant. But mostly, I love him because he was an oppressed minority that the society still wanted to bleed dry. Now, of course, we are so much more evolved! Now we only oppress people that ought to be oppressed! Oscar Wilde is a great reminder to all of us to think about who we thoughtlessly oppress each day. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Happy birthday Oscar Wilde!

Fox News Fails to Bum Me Out

Bill O'ReillyIf I could be anywhere later tonight, it would be out drinking with John Boehner after the vote. It’s congenital: I’d always rather hang out with the losers. But in his case, there would be special benefits. First, I would ask him about the tanning. Look: it’s just us. The color is kind of weird. I’m just saying. I admit it: I’m a bit too focused on his tanning habits. Second, I would ask him about what went wrong in the government shutdown battle. I think I would say something like this, “I never wanted the fucking shutdown in the first place!” In my fantasy bar scene, Boehner is foul mouthed. “Even still, I had a lot of good ideas. But those mother fucking Tea Party assholes screwed me at every turn!” And do you know what I would say? “You are absolutely right! But I’d still stop the tanning.”

What all this means is that I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable losing than winning. It just feels weird—even weirder than John Boehner’s tan. So as a result of my discomfort, I turned on Fox News and watched Bill O’Reilly’s show The Factor. It wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. For one thing, since there was breaking news, it wasn’t a usual show. In particular, it looked like Dennis Miller got bumped. That was very sad. Dennis Miller was almost unwatchable when I agreed with him. Now I can’t watch him without shouting at the television. He is yet another person who brings out my latent Tourette’s.

That doesn’t mean that I was completely let down. The narrative of Fox News tonight was that this wasn’t a loss for the Republican Party. Everyone lost! Bret Baier was there to do the “straight news” and he nailed it. In the tradition of the network’s “fair and balanced” approach to the news, he pointed out that President Obama’s approval rated had plummeted to 37%. For most viewers, this has to have been encouraging. They must have thought, “Obama lost!” Unfortunately for me, I knew this was a poll outlier. It is by far the lowest recent poll according to Real Clear Politics. In fact, if you look at the time series, you will see that Obama’s approval is down over the last six months, but it really hasn’t gotten significantly worse since the government shutdown.

Bill O’Reilly, of course, spent the whole time pushing the idea that this just wasn’t especially bad for the Republicans. Remember, this is the “no spin zone” and yet it seemed to be nothing but spin today. After complaining that everyone was saying the Republicans “got their butt kicked,” he said, “Everyone got their butt kicked!” Well, in a technical sense, I guess that’s true. Obama and the Democrats have seen their approval go down a bit. But it is nothing like the Republicans who now have their approval in multiple polls averaging around the mid-20s.

So once again, I was let down by my intelligence and all that pesky knowledge that I’m always picking up. But over time, I came to enjoy the feeling of winning. I could get used to it. Just like some day I will be used to John Boehner’s orange tan.

What’s With “Democrat Party”?

RudeOne of the rudest things that people do is call other people by names they don’t like. In general, this is the kind of thing one generally only sees on grammar school yards. But there is one other area where it is common and the maturity level is similar. Conservatives love to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party.” It’s nothing but a childish stunt that I think they believe makes them look cool. There is no doubt that the use of the phrase is a signifier, very much like mispronouncing the word “nuclear.” But it is more than just that.

To me, it speaks volumes about what the modern Republican Party is all about. It doesn’t much believe in anything except that its constituencies should be kept relatively happy and that Democrats are doody heads. So coming from some idiotic Representative like Louie Gohmert is just par for the course. I really don’t care. The Republican Party is run by a bunch of extremists with the maturity of a first grader. There are bigger problems than their linguistic tics.

The problem is that even the supposedly respectable aspects of the conservative movement behave the same way. Ed Kilgore linked to an article at Heritage Action. It says, “According to some reports, the Senate will reveal its plan this morning, and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated he will take up the Senate plan and allow it to pass with Democrat votes.” In that context—in print—it really comes off differently, doesn’t it? It doesn’t come of as petulant the way it does when spoken. It just comes off as illiterate.

According to Wikipedia, the first use of the term was back in 1940. It seems that some Republicans didn’t like the idea that people might assume the Democratic Party was the party of democracy. This doesn’t make any sense. Our country is also a Republic. But I know from my own experience that conservatives do indeed worry about that. It also goes along with the generally poor attitude that conservatives have toward democracy itself. Most of them are not all that keen on it. In fact, according to Safire’s New Political Dictionary, the Democratic Party was named by the Federalists as a derogatory name. The Federalists, like the Republican Party now, were the conservative (you might say aristocratic) party.

Back in 2006, Ruth Marcus wrote, One Syllable of Civility. In it, she says that if then President Bush wanted Washington to be more civil, he might start by saying “Democratic Party” rather than “Democrat Party.” I don’t recall him changing his usage, but he did make a joke about it. It’s interesting that even at the height of Republican power, they couldn’t stop their little dig at Democrats—even from the Republican president himself.

What I think all this means is that the Republican Party is very much like a cult. The people in it are very insecure. Just like fundamentalist Christians, they worry about seeing any information that might erode their faith in the party line. And part of that mentality is signaling to each other that they are part of the clan. And if they can also put down the other side, so much the better. That’s what they get from “Democrat Party.” And this is even what we get from the “political arm” (not that you can tell the difference) of their biggest think tank.

Maria Bamford’s Publicist Responded!

I wonder if this puts me within six degrees of Kevin Bacon?

Hi Andrea,

Yes, you may send non-lethal mail to Maria at:

Maria Bamford
c/o Omnipop Talent Group
4605 Lankershim Blvd.
Suite 201
Toluca Lake, CA 91602

Best,
Jess

Jess Guinivan
VP, Publicity
Omnipop Talent Group
www.omnipop.com

Texas Paper Regrets Cruz Endorsement

Ted CruzThe Houston Chronicle has published an editorial saying that they regret endorsing Ted Cruz for Senate in 2012. And look, I do feel a certain amount of schadenfreude about it. But the article is more a call for what passes for moderation in politics, Why We Miss Kay Bailey Hutchison. Well, the Chronicle could have endorsed Paul Sadler, the Democrat running against Cruz last year. Given his history in the Texas legislature, he is definitely the kind of guy who the paper claims it wants representing Texas. So why didn’t they support Sadler?

If you read their original endorsement (Which they did not link to!) they say they are not endorsing Sadler because he can’t win. Really! Go read it yourself. But they say lots of nice things about him. Most of their endorsement is a love letter to Hutchison, who they quote as saying, “[Ted Cruz is] going to have to choose early between being loyal to Jim DeMint and Mike Lee and the needs of the people of Texas.” Well, he clearly has made his choice, and it isn’t Texas. This should have come as no surprise to anyone at the Houston Chronicle.

But what is it about Kay Bailey Hutchison? Was she really a crossing isles, practical “Let’s get things done!” politician? No, not really. Certainly she was better than Ted Cruz. But consider how she dealt with the financial crisis. While George Bush Jr was president, she voted in favor of TARP—the huge bank bailout. But once Obama was in office, she voted against the Stimulus. She even wrote a Townhall apologia for the vote. Her argument was that some economists believe that government stimulus in 1933 made the Great Depression worse. Thus, stimulus was just going to make things worse in 2009. Well, first, you have to dig pretty deep to find economists who think the stimulus made the Depression worse. Second, like all of her Republican colleagues, she was jut looking for an excuse to thumb her nose at the new Democratic president. Bipartisanship, my ass!

So the Houston Chronicle can regret all they want that Ted Cruz is the junior Texas Senator. But it is institutions just like itself that have allowed the Republican Party to go off the rails. Ted Cruz is the newest model. Kay Bailey Hutchison was the previous model. I’m sure that in 20 years, the Chronicle will be singing the praises of Ted Cruz as though he is the very definition of a Good Senator, but that new guy (Ted Cruz V. 2.0) is a total disappointment.

All of this gets to my constant problem with the press in this country. If they really did appreciate the days when Lloyd Bentsen was a titan in the Senate, then they would be supporting people like Paul Sadler. But instead, they cheer on the ever harder right turn of the nation’s politics (but not people). And they would never do that on the left. If Dennis Kucinich had been running for Senate in Texas, they would have called foul. Liberal extremist, no way! Conservative extremist, hope for the best! And I have no doubt at all that the Houston Chronicle will support Ted Cruz in 2018. And most likely, they will say the same thing about his Democratic candidate. Why? “Because of a simple lack of interest and support from his own party.” Yeah, that’s a reason to support a right wing extremist and narcissist who would destroy the world if it gave him a small advantage.

Endorse in haste; regret in leisure you bastards.

Update (16 October 2013 2:04 pm)

Abby Rapoport has a great article at The American Prospect, What Explains Ted Cruz? Her answer is simple, “Texas, for starters.” She notes that in Texas right now, the Republican Party pretty much is the Tea Party. And in that context, Ted Cruz is a hero. Outside that context, the situation is at best unclear. But here’s the thing. In ten years at most, not even Texas will be a safe place for Ted Cruz. The Tea Party folk are not wrong that this is their last chance to “save” their country. It is slipping out of their grasp very fast.

Erickson’s Plan for a Democratic House

Erick EricksonErick Erickson is angry. I know what you’re thinking, but it has nothing to do with his frozen pig-face. He’s angry because the Republicans are caving. And even more than that, he’s angry at Mitch McConnell for not being smart. Early this morning, he wrote, “Reid used the Senate’s rules to toss aside numerous proposals from the House while McConnell looked on not knowing how to fight back.” It isn’t that McConnell didn’t know how to fight back. He didn’t have any options. Would it be fair to say that Nancy Pelosi didn’t know how to fight back against John Boehner? It sucks being in the minority.

But more to the point, Erickson is showing himself to be a perfect example of what’s wrong with the bitter enders. Think of an action film at the end of the third act. The hero looks beaten. He is surrounded by bad guys. But he struggles to his feet. He makes a clever remark like, “Now that I’ve had a little rest…” And then he defeats the bad guys. Roll titles.

That’s great in a movie, but that’s not how it works in real life. In real life, the party that has more power wins in almost all cases. Take the Civil War for example. Through pluck and strong leadership, the Confederates managed to do okay at the start of the war. But over time the enormous advantages the Union had in terms of men and money decimated the Confederacy. The same thing has taken place in Washington this month.

The Republicans control one-third of the negotiating units. And their control of that unit is not strong. The only real advantage is that John Boehner is Speaker of the House and so he can control what bills get votes. He seems to have only the slightest amount of control of how his own caucus votes. From the beginning of this fiasco, majorities in both houses of Congress wanted to end this fight—it was preordained. The only question was how much harm the Republicans would do to themselves. In that regard, they’ve been stunningly successful: they’ve maximized the harm they’ve done to themselves over the last two weeks.

But Erickson is angry. And I can see why. What the Republicans have done is the worst possible thing. If you aren’t willing to go all the way, don’t start. But it should have been obvious to the Erickson crowd that it was at most 20% of the House Republican Caucus who were willing to do that. There are a lot of Republicans who have to worry about electoral attacks from the left as well as the right. And I would go so far as to say that there are Republicans who actually think that they should be serving the public rather than extorting unpopular concessions.

The problem is bigger than even this, though. Erickson has sent mixed messages. He’s been all in favor of shutting down the government. But he wanted the Debt Ceiling raised. In fact, he was downright hysterical about it. (To be honest: when is Erickson not hysterical about anything?) But that just shows the ridiculousness of the government shutdown. Yes, the Debt Ceiling was a fairly hard deadline that would have caused economic damage that the Republicans would have been blamed for. But the government shutdown was hurting the economy more and more each day. Eventually, it would have lead to a crisis.

So Erick Erickson argument has been, “Take a hostage, but not a really good one, and don’t be too serious about it!” I don’t doubt that if this shutdown had gone on for another month, Erickson would have been part of the chorus yelling uncle. You can’t be reasonable while pursuing an unreasonable strategy. But I guess it is easy for a pundit like him. He isn’t held responsible. So now he can call for voting all the bums out. And I’m happy to let him try, because when the incumbent loses in the Republican primary it is more likely that the Democrat will win in the general election. And that’s because the incumbent loses to someone more like Erick Erickson.

The Power of False Lessons

Ballot BoxAll indications are now that the the current government shutdown and Debt Ceiling crises will be over shortly. At least they will for three months when the whole thing starts over. The Republicans have been chastened. It seems the Abba Eban’s comment applies especially well to the House Republicans, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.”

Yesterday was fascinating. Boehner kept trying to find a bill he could pass that might lead to some face saving in this debacle. And you have to give the man credit. His ideas weren’t bad. But he was constrained by his caucus. Unfortunately for him, a large block of the Republican House members were only willing to accept total victory. But they don’t have the power to achieve that and so the only other option was total defeat. And that’s what it looks like we have today.

Of course, this is not how the Republicans will spin the deal. I suspect that Boehner will make a two-pronged (and contradictory) argument. First, he will say that he got Obama to negotiate and as a result they got the very important concession of income verification on the Obamacare exchanges. Second, he will say that Obama played unfair and that if the president cared about democracy, Obama would have given the Republicans all the things they requested—well, most, because Boehner is nothing if not reasonable. And the la-hand of the Freeeeee! And the hoooome, of thhhhhe, braaaave!

But what of the bitter enders? Have they learned their lesson? They haven’t. And they never will. The only way to get rid of this very dangerous element in Congress is to vote them out and replace them with more reasonable people. People who operate based upon faith will not respond to facts. When apocalyptic predictions turn out to be wrong, believers just rationalize them. In the case of the congressional bitter enders, they will likely just blame their leadership for not holding on until, well, the bitter end.

This is, however, a teachable moment. The Republicans did poorly at the polls after the 1995 government shutdown and many came away thinking the two were correlated. In fact, the correlation was fairly weak. But it’s all about perceptions. And if the Republicans do poorly at the polls next year, they too will likely perceive a correlation. Now we already know that shutdown or no, the Democrats are likely to do reasonably well next year. But a false connection in the minds of politicians and reporters could actually push the Republicans to behave more like a normal political party. And it wouldn’t hurt if they had fewer seats in Congress.

Election day is 4 November 2014. Mark your calendars!

Update (16 October 2013 3:24 pm)

Well, we got Boehner’s official statement. It was not the place for the full “Obama was mean to us” but it is implicit in “the legislative coalition the president has relied upon.” Overall, it is very weepy. As usual. I would feel sorry for him but I’m prejudiced against orange skinned people. Here is the statement, annotated by me:

The House has fought with everything it has [insanity] to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations [which he has begged to do over and over again but John Boehner has refused to do for the last 9 months] aimed at addressing our country’s debt [which is completely manageable but conservatives use it to push unpopular policies they want for different reasons] and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. [I guess he is implying something about the need to screw congressional staff.] That fight will continue. [That is, “I give up.”] But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. [That is, “We give up.”] In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington [because what the Republicans did is what they always do: stuff that the American people hate] to raise taxes again on the American people [just on the rich like before, but he won’t tell you that] and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act [which Republicans don’t like as much as Democrats] without replacing them with better spending cuts [ones only Republicans like]. With our nation’s economy still struggling under years of the president’s policies [which have made things marginally better, following the Great Recession which somehow didn’t happen under George Bush Jr], raising taxes is not a viable option [because they are only interested in screwing the poor]. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law [given the law hasn’t really started, I don’t see how it can be a train wreck] will continue. [That is, “I give up.”] We will rely on aggressive oversight [That is, “We will do everything in our power to fuck up the law because we don’t like it.”] that highlights the law’s massive flaws [if you ask them, they’ll talk about the website] and smart, targeted strikes [the kind they have been incapable of up until now] that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon [AKA: the Democratic Party, which he is apparently mad at for being functioning unlike his own party] to force his health care law on the American people. [Because the American people spoke loud and clear by not electing Romney?]