Pondering the Imponderable
February 14, 2010

It’s an utter mystery to me why George Will is considered such a deep, serious thinker when he’s capable of churning out a column like this. Is it the bow tie?

The gist of it is that Democrats have some sort of deep, ideological commitment to making sure that people are as dependent on government as possible; essentially, that the party’s end goal is a nation of developmentally stunted children who can’t imagine a life not spent perpetually sucking at the teat of the nanny state. What he never explains is why they might see this as a desirable objective. Some deep down desire to live in a Huxleyesque nightmare?

There might be something interesting in Will’s thesis, but he seems intent on keeping it superficial. Why try to understand where your political/philosophical opponents are coming from when you can bend everything they do to your main point by taking the least charitable interpretation possible of their each and every move? Why, for example, assume that liberals supported an SCHIP expansion because making sure as many children are insured as possible is itself a good when it’s so much more convenient to speculate that SCHIP supporters just wanted to “swell the number of people who grow up assuming that dependency on government health care is normal?” Only in George Will’s tweedy headspace could getting health insurance to minors be interpreted as one step in a giant Soviet master plot.

If Will really wants to be taken seriously, perhaps he could stop ascribing spooky motives to the left and instead focus on their actual proposals. If he has alternatives, he should offer them up. But what he’s doing here is taking this tired old “government expansion is always automatically bad” nonsense and dressing up the associated ad hominem attacks in subtler, less inflammatory and more academic rhetoric that sets him apart from Ann Coulter.

Extreme Conflict For the Deeply Conflict Averse
February 6, 2010

I have to say, I feel Jon Stewart’s pain, albeit on a much smaller scale. Sure, I don’t command an audience of millions (or even, uh, dozens), and the Huffington Post will never, ever, run an article the entire point of which is just reporting something I said somewhere to someone else in public (they have much bigger journalistic endeavors to attend to, like reporting on which reality show personality I’ve never heard of is excited for the Super Bowl), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have first-hand experience with the blogosphere’s issues with conflict inflation.

I guess the idea is that conflict is exciting. Wild-eyed bloggers choking back rage-induced bile are much more interesting than slightly rumpled dudes overdoing the sarcasm a little bit because they can. Plus, the former is easier to write about–and much more prone to colorful imagery–than attempts to move past the tone and grapple with the substance. So you bloggers, writers and commenters trying to track online debates are subject to the same kind of pressures that campaign journalists are: the horse race is easier and sexier than the subtext.

On one level, it’s sort of frustrating to see debates about ideas sink into people taking issue with each others’ tone, or slapping each other on the back for how well they destroyed someone, because that’s a much less interesting conversation. But beyond that, you end up with a skewed perception of the motives, or at least the emotional states, of the people involved. When you write that someone “eviscerated,” that tends to invoke the image of that person in the throes of a murderous fugue. And it’s a particular shame when that sort of thing happens and the other party in the debate actually believes it.

In defense of Carly Fiorina
September 16, 2008

The CEO of Hewlett Packard and the POTUS require very different knowledge bases, so it’s not unreasonable to say that a person might be qualified to be one and not the other. For example, the CEO of HP doesn’t need to be well-versed in foreign policy, where as the president does. And Alaska is sort of close to Russia!

No grapes for Richard Cohen
September 16, 2008

Sure, to borrow a phrase from Josh Marshall, he’s off the tire swing, but I’m going to resist the urge to pat him on the head for today’s column. Coming around to a dim awareness of reality is good, but when you package it in the same silly platitudes that we’ve come to know and love from you, then it makes us wonder how much you’ve actually learned.

McCain has turned ugly. His dishonesty would be unacceptable in any politician, but McCain has always set his own bar higher than most. He has contempt for most of his colleagues for that very reason: They lie. He tells the truth. He internalizes the code of the McCains — his grandfather, his father: both admirals of the shining sea. He serves his country differently, that’s all — but just as honorably. No more, though.

What I want out of this election isn’t for the pundits to acknowledge McCain’s lies – that’s a side effect of what I really want, which is columnists and commentators who actually have a sense of perspective and are capable of rational thought. I mean, that should be a prerequisite for the job, right? So far, the response we’ve been hearing from the press about McCain’s myriad falsehoods has seemed more about the way McCain has personally affronted them through his open contempt than a newfound love for actual journalism. Unless that congeals until anything more substantive, I’m going to hold off on the champagne.

Breaking: Mediocre sketch comedy show dismissive of substance
September 15, 2008

I think Tina Fey can be amazing when utilized properly, but her turn as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live was only hilarious in comparison to that show’s usual offering of bleak un-comedy. It made me crack a smile, but it was no The Daily Show.

You know what is hilarious, though? McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina’s response.

“I think that continues the line of argument that is disrespectful in the extreme and yes, I would say, sexist, in the sense that just because Sarah Palin has different views than Hillary Clinton does not mean that she lacks substance.”

Suggesting that some women have substance and others do not = sexism. Because all good feminists know that female politicians are completely interchangeable, and you should just vote for them regardless of what they say or do.

I’m really glad we have the McCain campaign around to explain what sexism is and isn’t.

Olbermann would reward her with a grape
September 15, 2008

This is what the kids call a “doth protest too much” moment.

Any journalist who actually decides to hold a McCain surrogate accountable for the campaign’s numerous lies deserves some kudos, but that point at the beginning where Megyn Kelly says, “I want to hold you accountable for what McCain is doing” as if this is some kind of novel idea reminded me of the last time she showed up on this blog.

But if Kelly has, in fact, discovered the wonders of journalism, then all is forgiven. The same goes for any other hack who wants to tentatively dip his or her toes into the integrity pool.

Sarah Palin: Not Particularly Smart
September 11, 2008

This is pretty amazing:

“Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

“In what respect, Charlie?”

“The Bush … Well, what do you interpret it to be?”

“His worldview.”

I really wish Charlie Gibson had asked her if she knew what the Bush doctrine is. Or maybe if he had asked, “Wait a minute, are you seriously running for vice president?” Or maybe just laughed in her face hysterically until he started crying because a major party vice presidential candidate doesn’t know what the doctrine that’s defined the past seven fucking years of foreign policy is.

Admirably, Palin at least managed to get through this whole exchange without suggesting we go to war with another nuclear power.

“Lipstick on a pig.”
September 10, 2008

Now that we’ve observed the strategies of the two candidates in action, it’s pretty easy to see the exact point of wild divergence:

Barack Obama is running his presidential campaign on the fundamental assumption that, as he puts it, “Americans aren’t stupid.”

John McCain, on the other hand, is gambling everything on Americans being really, really, really fucking stupid.

Either way, America’s going to end up with the president she deserves at the end of this.

“A poor attempt of humor.”
September 7, 2008

The doucheknobbery of Carl Cameron is something of a wonder to behold. If you watch Fox News – and I know all of you do – you’ll notice that the organization is basically split up into two camps. Think of them as the “trolls” and the “ogres.” The “ogres” are the nakedly aggressive partisan hacks like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Their job is to relentlessly attack liberals, and if they make some shit up along the way, well, we expect that of them. They’re basically talking, bipedal (and ostensibly sentient) spam emails from your crazy right-wing grandma.

The trolls are a little bit more insidious. Those are the guys, who, like Brit Hume, actually have some journalistic pretensions. They impart the same information and blatant falsehoods as O’Reilly and Hannity, but they do it cloaked in the magical robe of balance and objectivity. They lie too, but like bringing a poisoned sword to a duel, their lying is outside the bounds of the contest as defined. We expect wingnut hacks to be full of shit, but only when that’s part of their public persona.

Carl Cameron is a troll. A cheap Republican backbiter disguised as a low-rent Anderson Cooper wannabe. And it’s worth noting that in any media institution that took “journalism” or “truth” as anything more seriously than a clever way of branding propaganda, calling a blatant lie a “poor attempt at humor” would not protect Cameron from getting unceremoniously shitcanned and sent to labor at his new job in NewsMax purgatory.

More MSNBC Intramural Wrassling
September 4, 2008

Via Ben Smith.

I really hope that some MSNBC exec is watching this right now going, “Wait, we’ve got Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and Mika Brzeznski. Can we just fire the rest of these unprofessional idiots?”

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