January 30, 2014

Emergency Thursday Open Thread [Y-not]
— Open Blogger

Sooo... here's a fresh thread for you to enjoy until the Ewok wakes up. I assume putting this up will result in immediate stompening!

It's snowing here today, which is great for Utah (although bad for the plans I had today). Here's something funny below the jump: more...

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Top Headline Comments 1-30-14
— Gabriel Malor

Happy Thursday.

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— Ace

Before getting into that, here's a p-shop that Jay Caruso made to goof on NBC Political Director Mark Murray and his absurd claim that Obama's struggles were just like Cory Rehmburg's.

More such mockery at the Federalist. Not exactly related, but they also caught Buzzfeed Capitol Hill reporter Kate Nocera squeeing something ridiculous about the Imperial Pomp of the State of the Union.


Every. Important. Person in the country. Well I have thought about it, and I agree, that thought is insane.

MSNBC is catching more grief for their "rightwingers hate biracial families and Cheerios" tweet. The Washington Post's Eric Wemple, who I take to be progressive-leaning based on his posts, is pretty rough on MSNBC.

He points out something important: This wasn't just an errant tweet. Just as Mark Murray's absurd tweet, comparing Obama to a ten-tour, severely wounded veteran, was itself just a shortened version of a longer, more considered article, so too was this tweet actually taken from an MSNBC "news" article, quoted below:


So that's an MSNBC writer, not dashing off a barely-considered tweet, but writing an article for publication, considering his words, submitting it to an editor, and that editor giving it the thumb's up for posting.

Wemple notices that MSNBC is doing a lot of apologizing lately, because they're crossing the line an awful lot. But rather than recognize their problem, they simply continue tossing the same crude chum into the water, and then saying "Ooh sorry we didn't mean that" each time.

At what point does Serial Contrition, with no effort to modify one's egregious behavior, simply become... enabling, as Wemple terms it? That MSNBC has adopted the attitude that they can be a divisive, petty, crude, and Jerry Springer as they like, because they'll just issue an apology in a couple of days?


The tweet in question isn’t clever, helpful or fair. It’s a divisive piece of taunting nastiness driven by a worldview that MSNBC personalities have surfaced with great regularity in recent memory, always followed by excellent apologies. After then-MSNBC host Martin Bashir suggested that Sarah Palin be subjected to an excrement-related punishment visited upon slaves, he said, “My words were wholly unacceptable,” among other very contrite things. After short-lived MSNBC host Alec Baldwin allegedly shouted down a paparazzo with homophobic language, he said, “I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have — and for that I am deeply sorry.” After host Melissa Harris-Perry presided over a segment that mocked Mitt Romney’s family over a photo featuring his adopted African-American grandson, the host said, among other things, “So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly.”

And now this Cheerios thing. The string of offenses raises doubts about Wolffe’s claim that the tweet from last night doesn’t reflect “who we are at msnbc.” Rather, the tweet appears to a careful observer to define precisely what MSNBC is becoming: A place that offends and apologizes with equal vigor.

The Erik Wemple Blog supports media organizations that muster strong apologies. Too often, mistakes are followed by stonewalling and a failure to repent. Apologies can be an important measure of accountability. Yet this string of meae culpae suggests that the apology may be morphing into an enabling device for the network’s tendentious and divisive attitudes. Sometimes a bad tweet represents the errant and unrepresentative thoughts of some employee managing the social-media accounts. And sometimes it represents institutional morays [sic] and prejudices.

It's not "morays," which are eels, but mores. But otherwise, all solid.

So, why is what I assume is a progressive taking MSNBC into the woodshed?

Why does anyone on the right take anyone on the right to the woodshed?

Because MSNBC is embarrassing progressives, particularly progressive journalists, who still wish to pretend that they are offering unbiased reportage and non-partisan analysis on current affairs.

MSNBC will not permit them to cling to that vanity. MSNBC will not allow them that pretense.

MSNBC is basically your drunk, crude, arrested-deveolopment man-child friend who still acts like he's 18 even though you, and he, have all turned 35. You invite him to a dinner party, hoping, for once, that he will behave as an adult. You wish to behave as an adult yourself. You'd like a nice dinner party, where people sort of slightly put on airs a bit (what we used to call "behaving properly") and attempt to be a little more refined, and witty, and cosmopolitan than they really are in their daily lives.

But your friend won't have that. He insists on insists on puncturing everyone's vanities and bringing them down to his level by putting on a show of crudeness, boorishness, and general jackassery.

That's MSNBC. Many progressive reporters would like to think of themselves as somewhat elevated. MSNBC will not allow them that. MSNBC will give them no place to hide. MSNBC will allow them no cover, not even an inch of it.

In a way, MSNBC is conservatives' best friend: We attempt to puncture the smug illusions that progressive media types have about themselves, but only MSNBC is really doing so.

And so MSNBC tells progressive reporters: This is what you really are. This is not what you wish to be, or what you pretend to be; this is what you really are, down deep, past the veneer of pretense and posturing. In your gut, you're just low, crude, unthinking partisan animals.

Just.

Like.

Us.

It is then with conflict that I greet the RNC's declaration that they are urging a conservative boycott of MSNBC (of appearing on the network; no conservative watches the channel, of course).

Why boycott them? Why not just appear on MSNBC and interrogate their ultrapartisan goons about their ridiculous, crude ethos and juvenile view of the world?

If MSNBC wants to let its Freak Flag fly -- and, by doing so, reveal the only-slightly hidden Freak Flags of the rest of the leftwing media-- should we not encourage them?

MSNBC presents a challenge to the rest of the leftwing media. And they, like your drunk, rowdy, Peter Pan friend, have something of a point: There is a certain honesty in crudeness and stupidity. We are, at root, crude and stupid. It is only by effort -- by counterfeiting ourselves -- we rise above our crude and stupid urges.

MSNBC challenges the rest of the progressive media to accept this fact. The fact that the rest of the progressive media hides its partisan id slightly better is not to the progressive media's credit, but rather to its shame.

The real face of the progressive movement is not Anderson Cooper's affable, bland urbanity.

The real face of the progressive movement is Ed Shultz, and Martin Bashir, and Lawrence O'Donnell, and Chris Matthews, and Melissa Harris-Perry, and Alec Baldwin, and Rachel Maddow queening over all of the lesser progressives.

If they are embarrassing the rest of the leftwing media -- and I have no doubt that they are -- should we not be firm in our calls to Let MSNBC Be MSNBC?

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January 29, 2014

Overnight Open Thread (1-29-2014)
— Maetenloch

Is Straw Buying a Gun Actually Legal?

Well I always just assumed not since there's a question about it right on the ATF form 4473 and answering yes to buying a gun intended for someone else (a 'straw purchase') will get your transaction refused at a minimum and might result in your prosecution.

atf4473_snip

But there's a case now before the Supreme Court, Abramski v. United States, that questions whether or not 'straw purchases' really are illegal based on the 2009 arrest of Bruce Abramski for buying a Glock 19 and then immediately selling it to his uncle.

Bruce Abramski is a former cop who is legally allowed to buy firearms. His uncle Angel Alvarez, can also legally buy firearms.  Abramski purchased a Glock 19 pistol from a dealer using his law enforcement discount to get a better price, then sold the gun to his uncle. Both transfers-from the Virginia FFL to Abramski, then from Abramski through another FFL to Alvarez in Pennsylvania-followed the law.

The ATF then charged Abramski for perjuring himself on the ATF's form 4473 for saying he was the "actual buyer.

But it turns out that the ATF basically decided on their own that 'straw purchasing' must be illegal and added the above question to the 4473 form back in 1995 and started enforcing it as a law. But no where in any federal statute is there a reference to straw purchases much less a prohibition against them. Even the ATF admits that they're off in penumbra-land when it comes to this rule:

The assistant to the solicitor general, Joseph Palmore, admitted to the court that the ATF was "interpreting" the will of Congress when it added the "actual buyer" question in 1995 on the background form.

And during oral arguments before the court both Roberts and Scalia were highly skeptical of the government's arguments that the 1968 GCA somehow implies that straw purchases are illegal without ever actually mentioning them.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to side with the plaintiff's position that the ATF had overstepped into trying to create criminal law. Referring to the Gun Control Act, the chief justice said, "This language is fought over tooth and nail by people on the gun-control side and the gun-ownership side."

He called it "very problematic" for the government to cite going after law abiding people who resell firearms as a purpose of the law since "there are no words in the statute that have anything to do with straw purchasers."

There's interpreting the will of Congress by government agencies and then there's just making up laws you'd like to enforce. In a reasonable country this kind of overreach would be quickly struck down.

We're in the Best of Hands

And only a heart beat away from President Joe Biden.

biden_sotu

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Odds and Ends Open Thread
— Ace

Well, for one thing, if you've ever thought, "Gee, I sure wish Mr. Paul Ryan would come over here and sodomize the hate out of me," have I got great news for you.

Oh, and Reince Priebus will be joining in as well. You lucky ducky.

Virtually everyone in politics understands that amnesty is a terrible thing for the GOP except the actual GOP.

Wendy Davis calls herself "The Wrong Texas Gal." She actually said that. (Well, she didn't mean that, but she said it.)

Speaking of sleeping around, one third of all people have "revenge sex" or rebound sex after a break-up.

Sounds low.

It's difficult to explain exactly why the Washington Post refused Ezra Klein's request for $10,000,000 per year to run a new explanojournalism website. Well, it's not that difficult -- Wonkblog got less hits than this blog, and we didn't have the Washington Post feeding us traffic.

MSNBC has gone full... well, MSNBC has gone full MSNBC.


And uh... I know there are some fans of the ancient, never-quite-as-funny-as-you-wanted-it-to-be sketch comedy show The State. So I'll link this... even though it's kind of sad to see people you used to think were funny trying to be funny and not being funny.

Most of the cast reunited on The Nerdist, whatever that is. I guess a Nerdy Game Show. (Oh, correction: It's called @midnight, hosted by @theNerdist. Yeah I don't really care about the Nerdist.)
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More Goofing on NBC Political Director and Obama SuperFan #1 Mark Murray
— Ace






O HAI...!

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January 30, 2014

January 29, 2014

NBC's Political Director: When You Think About It, The Story of the Veteran Soldier Who Did Ten Tours of Duty and Was Badly Injured Defending This Nation and Who Now Spends Every Day in Painful Physical Rehabilitation Is Kind of Obama's Story, Isn't it?
— Ace

Dude, you nailed it!!!

Obama is indeed like this multiply-wounded, multiply-decorated hero. For both men, nothing has "come easy." I mean, when Bill Ayers took a shine to Obama and gave him a high-dollar paper-pushing sinecure at his charity, that was hard. Like getting shot to pieces, and having a roadside bomb blow molten shrapnel into his brain.

And when Bill Ayers plugged him into his own radical network of aging, wealthy hippies and started Obama's political career from his living room, that was tough sledding. Like having to re-learn how to use your limbs and learn to read and speak again.

And when Bill Ayers wrote Obama's book for him... well, that was like winning the Silver Star.

This is egregious. This is girlish fanboism at its most pubescent (and putrescent).

This is NBC's political director -- not a DKos Diarist.


Former White House speechwriter Jon Favreau -- who recently documented the travail of the "grueling" process of writing the State of the Union speech (the president puts in "back to back 2am nights" rewriting someone else's words!!-- oh my gosh, oh my goodness!) -- heartily agreed.


My first thought was rather about the soldier himself, but I suppose different people have different agendas.

Mollie Hemmingway writes about this and notes something special. You can't excuse this Bieberesque infantile homoerotic obsession as just being a factor of Twitter's compressed and slapdash format.

Nope! When Mark Murray (NBC Political Director) had the opportunity to use as many words as are necessary to convey the full and complete character of his thoughts -- that is, when he was writing NBC's "First Read" column -- he said the same thing.

Except, even more embarrassingly.

*** “America has never come easy”: Last night’s speech also ended on an emotional -- and upbeat -- note when Obama recognized Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who was almost killed in Afghanistan and continues to recuperate from a brain injury. “My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy,” the president said. “Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble, we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.” That story could also apply to Obama himself: Nothing in his seven years on the national political stage (2007-2014) has come easy. The 2008 race for the Democratic nomination. Even that general election. The health-care law. The re-election campaign. And now the president’s current situation in which he finds himself bloodied and bruised after the botched health-care rollout. Perseverance is an important quality for any president. Bill Clinton was usually able to talk his way out of sticky situations. But Obama’s M.O. is to grind it out. That, more than anything else, was the message he wanted to send last night -- both he and the country are grinding it out.

Ah yes. The "glitchy" website and political fallout from incompetence. Just like getting nearly killed by an IED.

In this analogy, wouldn't Obama be more like the IED itself rather than the victim of the IED?

And, just like Cory Rehmsburg, learning to overcome a serious brain injury, Obama is a real "grinder." I mean, he puts in back to back 2am nights once per year, rewriting someone else's words into his own voice.

It's "grueling," I tell you. In a way, isn't the story of Anne Frank really Obama's story, too?

After all, neither could smoke in their own home. Think about it.

Egregious. Just egregious.

Murray is now doubling down on throne-sniffing.

We were not comparing Remsburg’s story directly to Obama, who in a way has lived a charmed life (especially before becoming president),” Murray said. “But we were talking about the story of perseverance – and that does apply to Obama. Stumbling, making mistakes, and getting up from defeat. That is the story that we said could apply to Obama.”

mark-murray.jpg
You can see the lines of perseverance,
and the rejuvenating aloe-and-saffron-oil beauty masks,
etched into his weathered face


“Just talking about the story of perseverance,” when asked specifically about his linking Obama being politically “bloodied and bruised” to Remsburg’s real wounds. “And no doubt, the president and his supporters see the story of perseverance as the lesson of the Obama presidency, if it is to be successful.”

Thanks to @rdbrewer4.

The New Class

No one has ever struggled like us, scrabbling and clawing our way all the way from going-nowhere pit of the upper middle class to the exalted lowest rungs of the upper class.

We like ourselves a whole heck of a lot. more...

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Oh, By the Way, France's Biggest Power Couple Is Splitsville
— Ace

I know interest in this is limited, but just to update the story I mentioned a couple of weeks back, l'affaire Closer (so called because the French celebrities-and-scandals glossy Closer broke the story) has come to an end.

Saturday night, French President François Hollande announced -- singly, not jointly -- that Valerie Trierweiller would no longer be the First Lady of France.

Bill Clinton sent him a congratulatory email. Not really, but you must know he thought about it.

The president announced this Saturday the end of "his shared live" with Valèrie Trierweiler. The former first lady had expressed all of "her gratitude" to the personnel of the Elysée [the presidential palace] on Twitter.

She had been the "woman of his life." It was as such that François Hollande described Valérie Trierweiler in an interview in the magazine Gala in 2010. He regretted not having added "as of the moment," out of respect to Ségolène Royal, with whom he has four children. [That is, he wished he had said "as of now" so as not to slight his ex-girlfriend who was also the mother of his four children.] François Hollande announced this Saturday night to AFP the break-up with the First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, after eight years together.

...

The break-up of the presidential couple had been expected after the revelation by the celebrity magazine Closer of photos that revealed the liaison of Francçois Hollande and the actress Julie Gayet. According to the report of the Journal this Sunday, François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler, who spent these last few days in the presidential residence of Laterne, at Verseilles, near Paris, had worked out Thursday, during lunch, the details of their separation.

For a country that supposedly got rid of their aristocracy and committed themselves to equality, France sure does seem to have a lot of presidential palaces and presidential residences (in former royal palaces).

For the first time, the former first lady must live in her apartment in the fifteenth arrondisement [district], added the magazine. Valérie Trierweiler left Sunday as a simple citizen for Bombay, on a humanitarian mission organized by the NGO Act Against Hunger.

Okay I'll spare you the rest. She's given a few interviews about turning the page and such, and she says she's eager to go to India on her anti-hunger tour as a simple citizen, rather than as a journalist (as when she first went to India) or the first lady (as on her second trip).

There's a certain kind of idiot who despises people he doesn't know based on stereotypes. He only knows these stereotypes because he's ignorant.

On the other hand, there's another kind of idiot who praises people he knows nothing about based on stereotypes. He, too, only knows these stereotypes, because he's ignorant.

I'm speaking of Bill Maher here. One of Bill Maher's stupidities consists of claiming all sorts of stupid shit about Europeans -- about whom he knows little, except that they're not Americans, and he hates Americans. So he claims, for example, that America could be a European country, but for the 100 million "stupid people" in America. He claims, apparently seriously, that Europe has very few "stupid people."

At any rate, Bill Maher will almost certainly make a crack about the elevated attitude of the French to this affair, and how they don't care about it, and how that's so awesome.

In fact, the French papers have had saturation coverage of this tawdry episode for three weeks. There is a video -- I tried to re-find it, but couldn't -- of Valèrie Trierweiler's car absolutely besieged by papparazzi, so crowded by photographers the car could not move, being strobed by dozens and dozens of camera-flashes as she was essentially held prisoner by celebrity photographers.

It was a mob scene. I think she was just driving to her apartment (for the first time in ages).

But Bill Maher doesn't know this, and so his ignorance will permit him to say all sorts of ridiculous things, like "This is the difference between Europeans and Americans, they don't care about things like this."

And his ignorant audience will applaud these things, because they're even more ignorant.


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The Left Talks a Great Deal About the Evils of Income Inequality, But Is Very Happy to Perpetuate a Regime of Social Inequality
— Ace

Mickey Kaus has been writing about the Great Unmentionable in progressive circles, Social Inequality, for a long, long time, since at least the mid 1980s, turning his observations into a book, 1992's The End of Equality.

He wrote about the subject a few days ago at theWall Street Journal, in preparation for Obama's new declaration of War on Income Inequality.

The problem with the Democrats' new war on inequality ("the defining challenge of our time," says President Obama ) is that there are two kinds of growing inequality—and the Democrats are attacking the wrong one.

...

Harsh Truth No. 2: If it's not enough for everyone to work hard—if you now have to be smart enough to learn—only some people will make that jump.

When we think honestly about why we really hate growing inequality, I suspect it won't boil down to economics but to sentiments. No, we don't want to "punish success"—the typical Democratic disclaimer. But we do want to make sure the rich don't start feeling they're better than the rest of us—a peril dramatized, most recently, in the "Wolf of Wall Street" and its seemingly endless scenes of humiliation and rank-pulling.

"Whether we come from poverty or wealth," President Reagan said, "we are all equal in the eyes of God. But as Americans that is not enough. We must be equal in the eyes of each other." Worry about this social equality lies at the root of our worry about economic equality.

Social equality—"equality of respect," as economist Noah Smith puts it—is harder to measure than money inequality. But the good news is that if social equality is what we're after, there may be ways to achieve it that don't involve a doomed crusade to reverse the tides of purely economic inequality. As Reagan's quote suggests, achieving a rough social equality in the midst of vivid economic contrast has been something America's historically been good at, at least until recently.

I don't love his policy prescriptions on this score (making most welfare like Social Security an entitlement, to be received without shame or stigma, re-instituting the social-mixer and social-leveler of the general draft for all able-bodied men). But his point is interesting.

Social inequality -- that is, strong caste and class identification, and disparagement of all other (or "lesser," in the eyes of the class-obsessed person) castes and classes -- has gotten more pronounced over the past ten years.

It is weaponized for politics. Sarah Palin quite plainly is not dismissed by the New Class merely because they disagree with her beliefs. Their disdain has a nasty personal edge to it -- they disapprove of her and the class she hails from. The New Class is not to content itself with disparaging Palin. They actively wish to include millions of Americans they've never even met inside the broad circle of their angry, arrogant disdain. The fact that they are not just attacking Palin but attacking millions of other people is not a bug, but a feature. The additional casualties of the attack are not regrettable collateral damage, but rather bonus damage to be celebrated.

I've been interested in how class distinctions form and mutate for a while now. It's not true that class arises only from income levels, of course. That never has been true. I'm not even sure that class distinctions arise chiefly from income disparity. They instead arise from educational and social disparity -- with class-conscious people exaggerating the differences between themselves (the elevated) and the rest (the base) in order to supply themselves with an argument for the proposition most important to the class-conscious: I'm Better. (And of course the corollary: They're Worse.)

Our current class distinctions are similar to those in Victorian England:

[A] Bank of England clerk would be a member of the middle/professional class, despite the fact that what he did all day was hand-write numbers into ledgers and do simple arithmetic and some filing work and the like, whereas, say, a carpenter actually did real thinking, real planning, at his job, with elements of real creativity.

And yet it was the Bank of England clerk who was considered a "mind" worker and the carpenter merely a hand-laborer.

Now, of course, there were plenty of middle/professional class people who did work with their minds -- doctors, theologians, professionals, lawyers, nurses and so forth -- but there were an awful lot of such people who didn't, or only did to a trivial degree, and of course there were plenty of working-class people who didn't work much with their minds at all. Low-level factory workers, ditch-diggers, etc.

So there was an element of truth to the mind/hand distinction -- but it was a relatively small element of truth, more disproven by contrary example than confirmed by rule.

And even in terms of wages -- this I thought was interesting -- there really was no distinction between them, except that the working class person usually made a little more money than the average member of the middle/professional class. Sure, what we'd call true professionals made more, but not a huge amount more, and, at any rate, there were comparatively few of those compared to the large number of clerks and such.

Yet, despite there being no genuine distinction between them to demonstrate that one class was "higher" than the other, the distinction nevertheless took root, and middle class girls would marry middle class boys and working class girls working class boys. Which is the real test of a true, defined class -- do they mix enough to intermarry? If not, they're pretty well defined classes. Which is sort of one of the criteria used to determine whether one animal is merely a different variety than another or a whole different species. Can they mate?

At any rate, that distinction has obviously persisted, even in America, with the ingrained sort of idea that a low-level associate producer making crap money and rote choices on an MSNBC daytime talk show was somehow "above" someone making real command decisions in his occupation, like a plumber. And this sort of idea is very important to that low-level producer at MSNBC, because by thinking this way, he puts himself in the league of doctors and engineers.


I quote this as an introduction to another great Matthew Continetti article, Love in the Time of Obama, about two paragons of the New Class, MSNBC bomb-thrower Alex Wagner and Obama chef Sam Kass marrying each other.

This is really a Read the Whole Thing thing, because you can't really grasp the whole without seeing all the details. But I'll quote Continenti beginning to lay out his argument that a truly aristocratic New Class is not merely forming in America, but in fact formed decades earlier (see Bill Ayers' quick career recovery from a youthful dalliance in terrorism and bombing) and is now in its second or third self-perpetuating generation.

The first time he saw her from a distance. She was a reporter, observing his workplace from the outside. He was struck by her good looks, her energy. He mentioned her to a friend, who told him she was out of his league. But he persisted. His friend brought him to a party where he found an opportunity to strike up a conversation with her. One thing led to another. He took her to drinks. She mentioned she liked baseball, rooted for the Washington Nationals. They had that in common. So for their next date he took her to play catch. In Nationals Park. When it was closed to the public.

Not an ordinary love story. But then these are not ordinary lovers. He is Sam Kass, executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move health initiative, senior policy adviser for nutrition policy, and food initiative coordinator in Barack Obama’s White House. She is Alex Wagner, host of “Now with Alex Wagner” on MSNBC, weekdays at 4 p.m. Kass’s friend is Richard Wolffe, the executive editor of MSNBC.com, a political analyst for MSNBC, and the author of Renegade: The Making of the President, Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House, and The Message: The Reselling of President Obama. The shindig where the couple started talking was MSNBC’s annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner after-party, the invitation-only event where Rachel Maddow mixes cocktails to demonstrate her working girl credentials. The bar where Kass and Wagner had drinks was Monkey Bar, in midtown Manhattan, where you can pair a $17 glass of Sauvignon Blanc with a $26 organic chicken paillard. They are planning a summer wedding.

I learned all of these details in the February issue of Vogue, in an article with this stammering headline: “The Talk of the Town: Alex Wagner and Sam Kass—Politics’ It Couple.” The article was written by Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group. According to his biography on the Leigh Speakers Bureau website, Weisberg is “one of America’s most prominent writers on politics and policy,” which pretty much says it all about the state of American writing on politics and policy.

Weisberg was last spotted in the pages of the New York Times Book Review, screaming at Roger Ailes to get off his lawn. For two decades, Weisberg and his wife have owned a weekend house in Garrison, N.Y., which they love “for its scenic beauty, its peace and quiet, and its old-fashioned sense of community … it’s a refuge from the pace of city life, a place with an easygoing mix of lifestyles and a widely shared ethos about preserving what makes it special.” Putnam County, where Garrison is located, is 94 percent white and has a median income of $95,000. Then Ailes showed up and ruined the place.

A similar insularity and self-satisfaction, a stubborn refusal to ascribe rationality or good faith to those outside the circle of friendship, can be found in Weisberg’s article in Vogue. The pages of Democratic donor Anna Wintour’s magazine provide him sturdy journalistic ground. Unlike his Times review, or indeed the book in the Times he was reviewing, Weisberg in Vogue actually had access to his subjects. And such access: a perfume of casual friendliness, of smarmy knowingness, sticks to these glossy pages, making them indistinguishable from an ad for Quelques Fluers. Weisberg likes these people. He finds them intelligent, accomplished, sophisticated, current, fashionable, tasteful, humble. “I’ve been a guest several times” on Wagner’s show, he tells us in an aside, but it’s not like he wants to be invited back or anything. “On good days, the conversation just clicks.” Conversation does click when no one disagrees, when no one is disagreeable. Click is a good word to describe the old “Now,” where five liberals sat around a table attempting to out-snark each other.

Click may be a good word for the show, but “clique” is a better one for the world described in Vogue.

You will not be surprised to learn that Alex Wagner, who is praised for making it on her own, in fact made it because of her family connections and then the celebrity connections her family connections afforded her (she was George Clooney's assistant at one time, for example).

In case you're not fully on-board with Continenti's thesis of a self-perpetuating, reinforced-by-marriage-within-the-class New Aristocracy, you can read this James Pethokoukis piece on the steep decline of high-status people marrying relatively low-status ones, what Pethokoukis calls "Cinderella Marriages."

He notes this is a reason for increasing income inequality -- after all, a lower-middle-class pretty girl who marries a richer, higher-class man will experience significant income mobility (and so too, to a lesser extent, will her family members, who will suddenly be in possession of very useful set of family connections).

But it's also, of course, primarily a strong reinforcement of class inequality. Only true equals can form a stable marriage, after all. And in earlier times, it was not so remarkable that a higher-income, higher-status man might find a lower-status, lower-income woman to be an equal.

But not so much anymore.

Alex Wagner, I'm sure, will be cheerleading her little heart out for Obama's heroic efforts to reduce income inequality... while remaining silent about the increasing class inequality that propelled her from "Assistant" to "TV Personality" to "Celebrity Bride" in just a few short years.

And it's important to note that this isn't just about politics for Wagner, or any other members of the New Class. It is standard human behavior to exploit one's competitive advantages to the fullest, while simultaneously working to undermine or reduce one's rivals' competitive advantages. People like Alex Wagner are filthy rich in social capital, but only very very comfortable when it comes to income. I mean, they just barely crack the lower levels of the upper class. They're not really rich, you know. (One wag noted that the media defines unnecessary wealth (which should be subject to confiscatory tax rates) as "one dollar more than a double-income marital team with top jobs in the media field could conceivably earn by age 45.")

Other people are richer in income, which gives them certain advantages-- the houses, the Caribbean getaways, the corporate jets (hey... they talk a lot about those!). The New Class doesn't like the truly wealthy having those advantages -- they want all advantages to come from educational and social capital, you know, the thing they have -- and so seek to reduce the rich's income while, noticeably, never so much as acknowledging about their own very significant, unfair competitive advantages.

Why, it's totally unfair that some rumpled-and-déclassé - hedge fund manager should be able to just swagger his way past the line at Nobu and get a table immediately, just because he's so rich and spends a ton.

That sort of privilege should be restricted to the truly worthy -- you know, people on TV, people that Vogue writes about. People that Jacob Weisberg is friends with and finds fashionable.


Posted by: Ace at 10:47 AM | Comments (424)
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Putting Gallup's State of the State Release in Perspective
— CAC

A lot of people have been excited/burned/outraged/delighted/disappointed/overly-reliant/overly-dismissive of Gallup over the last few years. They certainly deserved the burn over blowing the Presidential election. So can we get any useful information out of this year's State-of-the-States release? Yes- if you acknowledge their bias, and watch how each state has moved, you can see how certain Senators up for this cycle are barely treading water against a growing partisan current. Let me show you what I mean. more...

Posted by: CAC at 12:05 PM | Comments (181)
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Fox Doubles MSNBC's Ratings, Quadruples CNN's
— Ace

CNN is faring badly.

umbers compiled by Nielsen Media Research show that Fox News is towering over the competition. Its total viewership surpassed CNN and MSNBC combined, with the gap increasing even further during prime time. Fox even surpassed its own record, coming up 6 percent in prime time viewers from this time last year. It’s great news for the cable network, which saw a slight decline in 2013 but now appears poised to regain that ground and more.

The big story, however, is CNN’s precipitous drop in viewership. While MSNBC slowly bled viewers between last January and now, CNN hemorrhaged an astonishing 29 percent of its total viewers. And its prime time numbers are utterly abysmal, with 41 percent of its audience jumping ship in the space of just 12 months.

CNN will probably take from their precipitous decline that people are stupid, and that's why they watch Fox and not CNN. (And why they watch MSNBC and not CNN.)

That's the wrong take. People are in fact largely pretty stupid, but, as regards CNN's ratings health, they're not stupid enough.

It is true that Fox news has a partisan Republican and ideological conservative tilt. I think that's excusable because Fox's raison d'etre is to serve as a counterbalance to the relentless, ubiquitous partisan Democrat and ideological progressive tilt of all the other media (except for upstarts, like The Blaze).

And CNN would be right to think that MSNBC's viewers are stupid and crude, demanding constant partisan outrage fixes and ideological validation, like monkeys habituated to a cocaine drip.

But CNN is very nearly as biased to the left as MSNBC. CNN just uses the old model of media bias, one of implausible deniability. The denial of leftwing bias isn't plausible, but they're going to deny it nevertheless.

CNN would like to position itself as the smart, fact-based, probing news alternative to more demanding news consumers.

But they don't actually do the work necessary to be that. They pantomime their positioning. They offer less hot partisan hype than MSNBC. But scratch just a millimeter deep into Nonpartisan Real News paintjob and you find CNN loaded with all the same bias as MSNBC. They just convey it more subtly.

There probably is an audience for a straight-news, no bias news network. As the market fragments into smaller pieces, different approaches will attract different cohorts and wind up being profitable.

But CNN will never be able to attract such an audience when it continues to be "MSNBC with 50% less overt conservative-bashing and 90% less poop talk."

If CNN wishes to survive, it has to create a unique brand for itself and appeal strongly to an audience (even if that audience is fated to be smaller than MSNBC's and Fox's).

Simply being MSNBC's Somewhat-Better-Behaved-Big-Brother is not sufficiently unique.

On the other hand, if they confessed that Fox has a pretty good point as far as implicit and explicit bias, and sought to eliminate that without taking the next step of adding in Fox's own implicit and explicit bias, they might have a product that people would actually like.

But they won't. Their bias is too important to them. People don't go into the news business to make profits or report, neutrally, on the news. They go into the news business specifically to change minds, and specifically they want to change the minds of conservatives and independents towards the progressive viewpoint.

That's the fun part of the job, the satisfying part. The part that makes up for the fact that most people in the news media don't make a great deal of money, and also, by the way, don't hire many minorities.

I just thought I'd mention that.

Posted by: Ace at 09:22 AM | Comments (369)
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Ron Fournier on the State of the Union: "Diminished Leader... Americans May Have Already Tuned Out Barack Obama"
— Ace

He actually says "Good Speech, Modest Agenda," then the rest of it.

He's a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who's been increasing disappointed by Obama the past couple of years. So his feeling may be taken at least as partially representative of the Disappointed Democrats bloc.

Is that all there is?

In what may be his last, best chance to revive a presidency that has fallen far short of its promise, Barack Obama unveiled his 2014 agenda Tuesday night: small-bore executive orders, studies, summits, and legislation, long-seasoned and stalled. "America does not stand still," he said, "and neither will I."

He focused on the era's seminal issue, loss of social mobility and income equality in a post-industrial, global economy. "The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by—let alone get ahead," Obama said to a joint session of Congress attending his annual State of the Union address.

Another cold, hard fact: Obama may not have the skill, the will, or the time to do much about it.

Another cold, hard fact Fournier omits: Income inequality has increased at a torrid pace under the Redistributor In Chief.

It was a good speech about a modest agenda delivered by a diminished leader, a man who famously promised to reject the politics of "small things" and aim big—to change the culture of Washington, to restore the public's faith in government, and to tackle enduring national problems with bold solutions. The night he sealed the Democratic nomination in 2008, candidate Obama looked forward to a day when future generations might say "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Tuesday night was no such moment.

It was, instead, a moment in miniature: an executive order to raise the minimum wage for future federal contractors, and another to create "starter" retirement accounts; summits on long-term unemployment and working families; and scores of promises to "continue" existing administration programs.

"What I offer tonight," he said, "is a set of concrete, practical proposals." Oh, such a far cry from "an audacity to hope."

...

He turns to a recent gushing biographical piece cum interview that ran in the New Yorker.

He also told Remnick that people are looking for "other flavors ... somebody else out there who can give me that spark of inspiration or excitement." He's right, and you had to wonder during the State of the Union address whether Obama's time had passed ... whether even a great address could move the needle ... whether they've tuned him out.

That's an immature impulse, of course. People really ought to not seek too much meaning or "inspiration or excitement" in politicians, political parties, or political 5 point plans. That's kind of Dummy Stuff, isn't it?

But Obama, more than any President I can think of, is all about that and little else.

Fournier turns to various polls, including those that show that a majority of Americans now call Obama a weak leader.

...

Democratic operative Chris Lehane, another veteran of the Clinton White House, said, "It will require disciplined execution to succeed."

That's the problem: Obama has not executed; he has not found a way to overcome his era's obstacles and fulfill his potential for greatness. It may be too late to learn how.

I can't weigh in on whether it was a "good speech." I strongly doubt that. But I didn't watch. At 1:30 am or so I went to bed and turned on the TV and the speech was replaying on Fox. I heard Obama say something -- I forget what, but he used his Stage Whisper fake drama voice -- and I cursed "F*** you" at the TV.

I brushed my teeth and didn't hear much more than I had the first time. When I came back out, he said something else clingy, desperate, and false, and again I said "F*** you," then I turned him off my TV and watched something else for twenty minutes.

So that's what I got out of it.

On the other hand, alleged GOP strategist and CNN gadfly Alex Castellantos got a lot more out of it.

“I think I’ve said before that a speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex,” Castellanos told a CNN panel after the State of the Union Tuesday night. “The worst there ever was is still excellent.”

Posted by: Ace at 08:34 AM | Comments (327)
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House Passes Bloated Farm Bill After Caving On Conservative Reforms
— DrewM

Instead of cutting 5% from the ever doubling "food stamp" program it "cuts" 1% but efforts to separate farm subsidies and "food stamp" spending failed when the GOP caved in conference with the Senate.

Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with 63 GOP "no" votes. But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting against.

...

A majority of the spending in the bill is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), informally called the food stamp program, and much of the Democratic opposition came from members who opposed the $8 billion cut to the program. The original House proposal would have cut $39 billion from food stamps, while the Senate-passed bill called for a $4 billion cut.

One of the reasons I put "cut" in quotes in the lead to the post is the mechanism that leads to the reductions might not actually happen.

The bill finds $8.6 billion in savings by requiring households to receive at least $20 per year in home heating assistance before they automatically qualify for food stamps, instead of the $1 threshold now in place in some states.

If that report is correct, just because someone isn't "automatically" qualified for food stamps doesn't mean there aren't other ways they qualify. Anyone want to bet these "cuts" never actually happen?

While the bill passed with a majority of the majority (most Republicans are always good with more spending), conservatives aren't happy.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., raised the concern Tuesday in a closed-door conference meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee. The House passed agriculture legislation that split what he called the “unholy alliance” of agriculture and nutrition policy, namely the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps.

When the bill came back from conference with the Senate, however, the two sections were fused again. Rather than cutting $40 billion from SNAP, it slashes $8 billion, leading some House members to think something similar could happen with an immigration overhaul, even if they pass the piecemeal bills leadership is considering.

“It was something Republicans, not just conservatives, could have hung their hat on. We could have accepted a lot of crap if we preserved that separation,” Mulvaney said after the meeting. “If the new normal is going to be that we pass really good House bills but get killed in conference, I think it does raise legitimate questions about whether or not we should go to conference” on immigration.

The reason conservatives want to separate food stamps and farm subsidies is to make it easier to cut both. Bundling them together was a bi-paristan idea.

Some say if SNAP is separated from the farm bill, the House would still pass the remaining titles, albeit with amendments and spending sacrifices. But former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman disagrees. The coalitions between farm and food groups developed beginning with the late Sen. George McGovern and former Sen. Bob Dole in the 1970s "have been in large part responsible for the health of both farm and nutrition legislation," Glickman told Agri-Pulse.

Dole wrote in a Washington Post editorial on McGovern's passing that "we would both come to understand that our most important commonality the one that would unite us during and after our service on Capitol Hill was our shared desire to eliminate hunger in this country and around the world."

The best conservatives can hope for is there's some good (opposition to immigration reform efforts) to come out this business as usual mess the GOP has once again agreed to.

Anyone want to bet on that?

Posted by: DrewM at 07:33 AM | Comments (279)
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Top Headline Comments 1-29-14
— Gabriel Malor

HUMP DAAAAAY, YEAAAH.

I didn't actually watch the State of the Union speech or the GOP responses last night. so I'll be spending a bit of today playing catch-up, I guess. Honestly, that guy has exhausted my interest. I have heard from a couple folks already that the GOP responses (all four!) did not satisfy.

The guy who tricked his 7-months pregnant girlfriend into taking an abortion pill was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.

Virgin Galactic has banned Chinese tourists from its space flights over espionage concerns.

Disney's decision to pull ABC's shows from Hulu and make them available only on Hulu Plus or for free on the website after a week appears to be backfiring. They're just training people to find and download their shows from copyright infringers.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 01:42 AM | Comments (277)
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January 28, 2014

Overnight Open Thread (1-28-2014)
— Maetenloch

Quote of the Day

"When you have an efficient government, you have a dictatorship."

-- Harry S. Truman

The American Dream is Dead in the South?

Well that's what a recent article by Matthew O’Brien in Atlantic Monthly seems to claim.

Included in the article is a chart showing the percentage of people whose parents were the bottom 20% of income who made it into the upper 20%. When you look at the vast sea of red in the lower left it paints a pretty dismal picture of Dixie which appears to have about the same economic mobility as feudal Europe.

Economics_Map

But this map doesn't correspond at all to the places that people are currently moving to to get a better life. And Stacy McCain calls bullshit on it. His primary rebuttal: West Virginia- the glory land of economic advancement?! No fucking way.

Why does rural Arkansas look like a beacon of upward mobility, while the bustling economies of Atlanta and Charlotte produce no such effect?

Most of all, why does the map referenced by O'Brien show that impoverished Appalachia offers more opportunity for advancement than any of the more prosperous surrounding flatlands?

To use a social science term: Your data is obviously fucked up.

And when people looked into the study they found it uses a strange way of determining economic advancement. Basically they looked at the mean family income levels of kids when they were in high school and then later the children's family income when they were 30 years old. Not too many people are in the top 20% of income levels at 30 even if they're doing very well. And I hope they adjusted the income levels for local costs of living but I wouldn't bet on it.

Also Who Gets More Federal 'Welfare'- Red or Blue States?

Short answer: Blue states by far.

more...

Posted by: Maetenloch at 05:55 PM | Comments (571)
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TFG Gives Another SOTU
— Ace

Not really an open thread because the Star Wars thread, below, is really intended for that purpose.

If you care -- and I don't, that's why I just can't do this -- Allah wrote some crap about this abortion, and Jim Geraghty wrote about the SOTU as DC's F*** You to the rest of the country.

Posted by: Ace at 03:08 PM | Comments (1551)
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For Some Reason, GOP Determined to Thwart Its Base and Pass Some Kind of Limited Amnesty
— Ace

Sometimes a Sudden Betrayal has been telegraphed for so very long one begins to long for the Betrayal to finally just happen.

I guess the GOP is counting on that.

From the New York Times:

The principles say that Republicans do not support a “special path to citizenship,” but make an exception for the “Dreamers,” the immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, quoting a 2013 speech by Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader. “One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents,” Mr. Cantor said at the time. “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.”

Is there a great public demand for Immigration Reform Now? Allah, citing a new Pew poll, thinks not:

Immigration is now 16th on the list of Americans’ top 20 policy priorities. Just 41 percent said it’s a top priority this year — exactly the same percentage who said so five years ago. There’s a lot of interest in this topic among professional politicians because of the changing electorate, but among the public itself, there’s no movement.

Even one of the biggest RINO's on the planet -- MSNBC's pet RINO Joe Scarborough -- thinks this is all a bad political idea.

More than the substance of the Immigration matter itself is the anger over the underlying question: Who controls the GOP? The actual people who make it up and vote it into office, or the establishment figures being paid to staff it and their big-dollar donors, such as the corporate/business cartel?

It's pretty clear it's the latter.

And the GOP is fairly brazen about making this as clear as possible.

When it would really be in their best interests to hide it a little better.

Posted by: Ace at 01:29 PM | Comments (271)
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NBC Foreign Affairs Editor Andrew Mitchell: Iran Was "More or Less an American Ally" Before Bush Ruined It All With His Axis of Evil Speech
— Ace

"When I heard those words, I called the control room and said this was a big deal."

I am tempted to make a gendered observation about how Andrea Mitchell manages to persist -- nay, flourish -- without a speck of aptitude for her job.

But that would be gendered of me. ()nly because I am not myself a progressive; progressives can make gendered attacks all day long without worry.)

Do not blame on gender what can be more easily explained by lead paint or repeated blows to the head by an ugly stick.

more...

Posted by: Ace at 02:14 PM | Comments (260)
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