A note about snowballs in Hell: According to the Washington Post, the normal high temperature for D.C. is 85 degrees at this time of year. Yesterdays high was 96. It has been that way for several days. The heat wave is supposed to continue into next week.
Question: Have you seen any stories about the way the heat wave proves that global warming is happening? We ask because of the lunacy that occurred when it snowed in D.C. this year.
As you may recall, Washingtons snowstorms produced a wave of mocking claims about the foolishness of climate change theory. All over talk radio, all over Fox, voters heard a ludicrous claim: The heavy snow means that climate change isnt really happening! Voters heard this again and again. Many voters believed it.
We can ridicule these people all we want. But many of them are voters.
For our money, our big newspapers did a very poor job responding to this perfect nonsense (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/15/10). There has been no corresponding nonsense about this weeks heat wave.
There has been no nonsense this weekand that, of course, is good. But in these well-twinned weather events, we cant help seeing the shape of American politics over the past forty years. One tribe has broadcast well-known bits of nonsense: Socialized medicine has failed wherever its been tried! The Social Security trust fund has already been spent! If we lower tax rates, we get extra revenue! In the absence of active attempts at rebuttal, such nonsense has been quite effective. Claims of this type have driven American politics, as in the past years debate about the Obama health plan.
Many people believed what they heard about that unusual snow in D.C. This week, its been very hot in D.C. Thankfully, not a word has been said.
CHIMP-ON-CHIMP CRIME (permalink): How do bands of chimps wage war?
If youre curious, you can read Nicholas Wades intriguing report from Tuesdays New York Times (click here). Or you can watch your own tribes alpha chimp as he blusters each evening on Countdown.
Our chimp can be quite a sight. On Tuesday night, you could have watched his latest Special Report, in which he blustered, pronounced and proclaimed, instructing pitiful dumb-ass Obama about why he shouldnt fire McChrystal. Our head chimp knew exactly what Obama should do. He also knew, with perfect certainty, what the political outcomes would beand he knew which camera to wheel toward as he thundered about these events.
On Tuesday, you could have watched him doing that. Or you could have seen his pitiful attempt to rebut Sharron Angle. Angle seems to favor some form of privatized Social Security. (We doubt that shes ever explained in detail.) But Angle seems to know how to talk about this potent issueand Keith Olbermann pretty much doesnt. On Tuesday night, after several teases, he named Angle worst person in the worldand he offered this hapless report about this potent issue:
OLBERMANN (6/22/10): But our winner, Nevada Tea Party Senate candidate Sharron Angle. After the profusion of evidence that she was lying when she denied she wanted to gut and privatize Social Security, she has now changed her tune slightly. She did an interview with the Human Events site, the people who brought you that headline "Liberals Hate Sarah Palin Because Shes Beautiful."
ANGLE (videotape): We need to look at personalizing the Social Security and Medicare programs, so that we can keep the government out of the lock box, keep them from raiding our retirement and raiding our health care.
OLBERMANN: Personalizing Social Security does not mean selecting your own screen saver. It means privatizing. Make people invest their Social Security earnings into the stock market, where a chunk will automatically be skimmed off the top by brokers, and the rest could vanish in, you know, the next mortgage crisis or BP Gulf disaster. And if any of that is still unclear, Ms. Angles website says, at this moment, that Social Security needs to be, quote, "transitioned out." So when she says she doesnt want to gut and privatize Social Security, shes lying. Sharron Angle, Tea Party and Lets restore the 19th Century party candidate for the senate from Nevada, todays worst person in the world.
Angle is working with talking-points which have been successful for decades. (The Social Security trust fund is just a bunch of IOUs! The money isnt thereits already been spent!) These talking-points have been quite successful, even though theyre misleading, because the right has endlessly worked to promote themand because the liberal world, sleepwalking through life, has never made any serious attempt to create a coherent rebuttal. For the record, Angle isnt lying when she uses the language of personal accounts; going back at least as far as Candidate Bush in 2000, Republicans use the language of personal accounts (not private accounts) because that language poll-tests better. (Democrats use the language of privatization because it poll-tests worse.) But no, Angles language isnt a lie. Somewhat sadly, thats the only type of ordure our head chimp knows how to throw.
Conceivably, this issue could serve Angle well in the coming campaign. She seems to know how to talk about it; major bozos on our side still dont. As a general matter, Olbermanns thunder will be pleasing to liberals, unconvincing to everyone else.
Later that evening, preening and wheeling to various cameras, Olbermann loudly instructed dumb Obama why he should keep McChrystal.
But then, our liberal channel is increasingly a joke, a route to long-term disaster. If progressives are ever going to succeed in changing American politics, we need to learn how to persuade voters in Arkansas, the state Gene Lyons discussed last weekand in Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, the states David Brooks named this week. This effort would take a good long time, but theres no other route to progressive consensus. But at our pseudo-progressive channel, the chimps are inclined to insult such voters. This approach makes for good entertainment TVand it serves the interests of Power.
(As long as the two bands of chimps keep fighting, Power will stay on top.)
Can liberals build a progressive politics? Well certainly have to do it ourselves, if its ever going to happen. Just consider what happened this week when several major mainstream columnists tried to stand and fight.
By this time, the dumbness of mainstream press corps culture almost defies belief. Consider what happened when the New York Times Charles Blow tried to say that Obama is doing a pretty good job.
Blow thought Obamas address from the Oval Office was just fine. And not only that! On balance, [Obama] is doing a good job, the columnist judgesnot perfect, but good. But you had to hunt through Blows piece to ferret these favorable judgments. This was Blows picture of the state of American politicsa picture in which he went straight to insulting psychiatric assessments about the guy he defended:
BLOW (6/19/10): On one side is Americafickle and excitable, hotheaded and prone to overreaction, easily frightened and in constant need of reassurance.
On the other side stands Obamasolid and sober, rooted in the belief that his way is the right way and in no need of alteration. Hes the emotionally maimed type who lights up when hes stroked and adored but shuts down in the face of acrimony. Other peoples anxieties are dismissed as irrational and unworthy of engagement or empathy. He seems quite comfortable with this aspect of his personality, even if few others are, and shows little desire to change it. Its the height of irony: the presumed transformative president is stymied by his own unwillingness to be transformed. He would rather sacrifice the relationship than be altered by it.
Blows portrait of America is remarkably dumb. (Is everyone fickle and excitable, hotheaded and prone to overreaction, easily frightened and in constant need of reassurance?) But his portrait of Obama defines the fallen state of the upper-end press corps. Obama is doing a good job, Blow says. But hes the emotionally maimed type, the pundit confides, making a remarkable judgmentand he goes on to offer a very unflattering portrait of Obamas psyche, without offering any examples which might help us know why he thinks such things. (When has Obama dismissed other peoples anxieties as irrational and unworthy of engagement or empathy? Blow forgets to say.) But then, this column is a pure example of the species known as Hardening Dowdism; its an almost perfect copy of Lady Dowds simpering style. (Note especially the pseudo-irony found in Blows silly word-play: The presumed transformative president is stymied by his own unwillingness to be transformed! Later: The president must accept the basic fact that he, as the agent of change, must himself be open to change!) Blow is becoming the latest Lord Dowdinpants. You know the formula! He offers dim-witted psychiatric assessments wrapped in silly word-play.
Blow, remember, was praising Obama. Richard Cohen is less impressed with the presidentbut he too turned to psychiatric assessments in Tuesdays Washington Post. According to Cohen, Obama hugely misunderstood what some people were saying when they demanded that he get angry over the gulf oil catastrophe. In this utterly ludicrous passage, Cohen explained what he meant:
COHEN (6/22/10): What these people were seeking was not an eruption of anger, not a tantrum and not a full-scale denunciation of an oil company. What they wanted instead was a sign that this catastrophe meant something to Obama, that it was not merely another problem that had crossed his deskand this time just wouldn't budge. He showed not the slightest sign in the idiom that really counts in a media agebody languagethat he gave a damn. He could see your pain, he could talk about your pain, but he gave no indication that he felt it.
One can understand. Obama's father deserted the family and afterward visited his son only once. He twice was separated from his mother, who lived in Indonesia without him. He was partially raised by his grandparentsan elderly white couple. If the president is what the shrinks call "well-defended," who can blame him? It's ironic that Oprah Winfrey was maybe Obama's most significant early backer when the man himself is so un-Oprah. He cannot emote.
Cohen made a fool of himself before turning to the pseudo-psychiatry of that second paragraph. A sensible person would assume that Cohen must be speaking ironically about body languagebut in truth, theres no sign that he is. Understand what Cohen says here: Obama had just obtained a $20 billion fund to help the victims of this disasterbut because of the presidents failed body language, Cohen couldnt spot the slightest sign that he gave a damn about them.
Whatever one thinks of Barack Obama, there you see the terminal dumbness of the mainstream press elite.
How hapless is this mainstream press? Consider this column by Colbert King, who tried to defend Obama against an ugly insultan ugly insult of the type has been quite common in the past week.
After Obama secured that escrow fund, the insults came rolling down. Joe Barton made the shakedown insult famous, but Sarah Palin had piped up several weeks before, offering an ugly insult on the June 9 Hannity. (This was the week before the escrow fund was announced.) Obama needs to call in those around him and kind of broaden his inner circle of confidants because right now it sounds like the inner circle that he has are some Chicago thugs, Palin sweetly observed. Quite rightly, Colbert King was angered by this remarkable language. Burt good lord! This is what happens when your mainstream press corps tries to create an argument:
KING (6/19/10): [W]hat would a Father's Day discussion of the nuclear family and a moral society be without bringing into the picture Mrs. Family Values herself, Sarah Palin?
The same Palin who last week said of President Obama, It sounds like the inner circle that he has are some Chicago thugs. Well, Palin knows lawbreaking, too.
Her sister-in-law, Diana Palin, half sister of the former governors husband, got a 15-month sentence this year. Burglarizing the same Alaska house three times for money to satisfy a drug habit is the kind of thing that can get you arrested. Thuggery? How about Sherry Johnston, the mother of Levi Johnston, the high school dropout who fathered Palins grandson? She was arrested and charged with selling drugs; after pleading guilty to one count with intent to deliver the drug OxyContin she was sentenced to three years.
Because of her medical condition, the woman who was once Bristol Palin's future mother-in-law was released from prison to home confinement, where she wears an ankle-monitoring device.
And the whereabouts of 19-year-old Levi on this Father's Day weekend? His bonds with the Palins were so tight, he said on TV, that Sarah and her husband, Todd, allowed Levi to live in their house with Bristol while they dated. Conservative family values?
Levi can be found on the cover of Playgirl magazine, his nude body blocked from full exposure by his strategically placed arm.
Palin knows lawbreaking too, King wrote. Did he realize that he seemed to be saying that Obama is surrounded by thugsbut that Palin has thugs around too? King went on to present a remarkable string of insults, insulting Palin about the things her distant relations have done.
Just a guess, based on knowledge of people: Many voters in Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio would be inclined to react in negative ways to insults about thugs and shakedowns. These insults might provide a route to these voters mindsa way to help these voters think twice about the people who author these insults. That said, Kings column was a classic example of the best known way to lose an argument. All over the country, his column would tend to build sympathy for Palin. Lets hope few voters read it.
Last Saturday, Blow explained that Barack Obama is emotionally maimed. King seemed to say that Obama is surrounded by thugsthough Palin has thugs around her too. A few days later, Cohen explained why Obama seems to be what the shrinks call well-defended. Translation: Over the course of the past few decades, the dumbness of the mainstream press has hardened and turned into stone.
Will this country ever have a progressive politics? If so, we liberals will have to create it. Do you see that happening on our liberal channel? Silly insults are good solid funbut will they be enough?