KEITH AND JANEANES TRIBAL VENTURE! Keith the Plumber helps us enter the world of the pseudo-lib tribe: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2009
One cheer for the Times: For at least two weeks, dispute about the stimulus package has revolved around the issue of expanded unemployment benefits. This was a central topic on last Sundays talk shows, for exampleeven though the money involved represents less than one percent of the total stimulus package.
This morning, the New York Times finally offered a news report on this seminal topic. (As far as we know, the Washington Post has attempted no such report.) But then, your mainstream press corps doesnt do policy, as weve noted in the past. And when they do, they tend to do it badly. Sadly, we can muster only one cheer for this mornings report.
Whats wrong with the Times report, penned by Michael Luo? (Headline: Jobless Angry At Possibility Of Losing Out On Benefits) Whats wrong is Luos focus. As that headline indicates, he focuses on the anger felt by unemployed people in certain statesstates which may refuse some of the federal funds offered in the stimulus package. But Luo makes little attempt to explain the policy disputes which lie at the heart of this case.
Angry citizens are liberally quoted. But the governors who may reject these funds are quoted only once. Complaints about this part of the stimulus package were widely expressed on last Sundays shows. But this passage represents Luos total attempt to explain this much-bruited dispute:
Thats it. In the rest of Luos report, he focuses on the anger of workers who may not get benefits. (For the record, none of them would have been eligible for unemployment compensation in their states in the past.) Thats a legitimate story, too. But Luo makes almost no attempt to sort through the underlying policy dispute, which seems to be somewhat complex. Here, for example, is some of what was said on Sundays Meet the Press. David Gregory spoke with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, the pseudo-liberal worlds new version of Dan Quayle:
Whos more right about this particular matter, Jindal or Landrieu? We think youd be nuts to put blind faith in either one. But we ourselves have no idea. You see, we read the Post and the Times.
In part, this is a policy dispute about the appropriate reach of unemployment compensation. On Fox News Sunday, dueling Republican governors adopted different stances on this matter. South Carolinas Mark Sanford said this: We can't pay for the benefits already in the [South Carolina unemployment] program, but to get the stimulus money, we've got to increase the program's size and scale. Minnesotas Tim Pawlenty had a different focus: In the unemployment area...most of the enhancements that the federal government is requiring the states to undertake on this bill we did years ago. So it doesn't impinge us or hurt us in that regard in Minnesota. In part, this represents a cultural difference between richer and poorer states; in part, Minnesotans can more easily provide such benefits than their barefoot southern cousins. But if we read Tuesdays New York Times editorial correctly, only 19 states are fully eligible, at the present time, for the stimulus plans unemployment money. The majority of states will have to have to change their existing laws to qualify for all the dough.
The guidelines in the stimulus package may represent desirable policy (to the extent that a state can afford them). But if we read that editorial correctly, most states have not adopted all these guidelines in the past. Despite such facts, the editors quickly adopted a tired old stance; they instantly turned this dispute into a jeremiad about motives and characterone in which their own motives and their own character turn out to be near-divine. Sadly, this editorial boards work has grown more dim since Andrew Rosenthal replaced Gail Collins at its head. This instant approach is remarkably dimbut its also quite typical:
Typicaland rather pathetic. Before the editors make any attempt to explain this dispute, they turn your attention directly to motive, telling you that Jindal and Sanford are engaged in little more than political posturing! And by the way: Would you realize, from that opening paragraph, that those many other states are, in reality, less than half the total? Again: If we read this editorial correctly, only 19 states are currently eligible for all the unemployment money in the stimulus package. It seems to us that youre getting played right in that opening paragraph.
The Times is certainly free to judge that the new provisions required by the stimulus package represent positive changes. But its very typicaland very stupidto start by trashing the motives of those who may not agree with that view. (And again: Most states have not adopted all those provisions, left on their own. Their brilliance cant be self-evident.) But then, this is the upper-end mainstream pressand the mainstream press corps doesnt do policy. The press is good at composing one-sided novels built around themes of motive and character. But, alas, its very weak when it comes to the boredom of policy. Typically, they will state which policy they preferthen name-call those who differ. Thats just what the Times has done here.
One final point. Dont underestimate the extent to which this reflects a key component of High Manhattan Pseudo-Liberalism. High Manhattan Pseudo-Liberals love looking some on those southern white crackers. Its a very typical part of New York Times editorial writing. Did it affect the corps treatment of Clinton and Gore? Rubes, please! Of course it did!
In Fools for Scandal, Gene Lyons described the sneering disdain the mainstream press corps brought to Arkansas at the start of the Clinton era. But then, Fools for Scandal is the book on which the career liberal world took a pass.
For the past several weeks, weve been hoping to see a report on the unemployment dispute. Luos attempt is very weak. One cheer today for the great New York Times! The Post still hasnt bothered.
Breslin and Rich knew crackers: The northern press corps, Yankee and Irish, is often driven by condescension toward those rube southern whites. Remember the astounding piece in which Jimmy Breslin dismissed Candidate Gore as a typical southern bigot? (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/08.) Its hard to get much dumber than that. But We Irish try.
Then there was the king, Frank Rich, still trashing Goreto the brilliant Don Imuseven after Gores film, An Inconvenient Truth, hit theaters in 2006! (Its like at the high end of those good-for-you movies that you used to have to watch in high school, this consummate idiot said.) Needless to say, Rich could see that this insincere film was just a clever tool in Gores upcoming run for the White House. Looking back today, we had to laugh at this stupid remark, offered live on the air to the pisspitiful Imus:
Good God. He found it odd that reviewers had focused on the climate change stuff! We wont even attempt to capture how cosmically stupid that was. But Rich had always gone after Gore for his troubling southern ways. During Campaign 2000, he invented controversies in which Gore was said to be pimping that troublesome old-time religion. And in his Times column about Gores film, he wailed and moaned about the way Gore mentioned the rifle he had owned, as a child, on his familys Tennessee farm. Richs analysis? In this fleeting comment, we are reminded that Mr. Gore is not a rigid blue-state N.R.A. foe. Once again, Rich could tell that Gore had making this fleeting remark to serve his political image.
Its hard to get much dumber than that, but Frankly, Rich frequently tries. And yeshis tortured obsession with guns and religion did reflect High Manhattan Regional Condescension. People! Why did reviewers stress climate change when they could have railed at the fact that Gore, as a child, owned a gun?
KEITH AND JANEANES TRIBAL VENTURE: This may have been the dumbest two weeks weve seen in eleven years at this post. Its also the week in which the pseudo-liberal world made an important announcement. Officially, were just as dumb as the other tribe has always been! Or, to phrase it another way: We all have bright blue scrotums now!
Well return to those bright blue parts at the end of this post. But first, lets consider last evenings unwatchable Countdown.
Could last nights program have been any dumber? But first, to help us answer that question, lets consider a bit of reaction to Bill Kristols op-ed piece.
Kristols piece appeared in yesterdays Post. Predictable yelping quickly occurred because the vile fellow said this:
When we read Kristols column, we thought two things. First: We wished that liberals and Democrats had taken this advice in 2001 and 2002. Second: We felt fairly sure that pseudo-liberals would howl about Kristols bad character. And sure enough! Jonathan Chait was soon complaining about Kristols disingenuous ways.
Before proceeding, lets say it again: We wish Democrats had gone after Bush in this way. How about youdo you agree? Because one of Chaits commenters did:
Duh. We agreed with every word. But another Chait reader felt deep outrage at these troubling remarks:
And there you see the bright blue essence of human tribal thinking, dating back to the antique days when we first crawled out on the land. To Commenter 2, it was automatic! His tribe was driven by principled opposition. The other tribe was engaged in nothing more than a naked ploy, driven by political interests. By definition, our tribe is high-minded. The other tribe is not.
There you see the tribal instinct which drives the human race. A commenter tried to push back:
Poor fool! Hed asked the members of his tribe to imagine belonging to the other! And in th world of tribal striving, suggestions like that must not stand! Another reader expressed the thinking now seen all through pseudo-lib land:
When my tribe acts, it does so on principle. Their tribe is cynical, the commenter cynically said.
To what extent is Kristol sincere in his political beliefs? Here at THE HOWLER, we have no idea. (Weve chatted with him once or twice.) But quite miraculously, others do knowand theyve acted on their brilliant certainty all through the past several weeks.
They said that Shelby made treasonous commentsalthough they werent sure what hed said. (Olbermann opened with this Monday night.)
They promoted the claim that Bobby Jindal had liedalthough their attempts at analysis were so pitifully weak that we politely averted our eyes. (Olbermann opened with this Wednesday night. At Politico, they just keep bungling this topic forward. , read the ongoing updates.)
They said that John Gibson had pimped that blue scrotumand they covered up hard for The Huffington Post. But first, lets look at what they did on the brainless show Countdown last night.
In his first two segments, Olbermann did what he now considers hard news. His first segment focused on Joe the Plumber; in his second segment, Robert Reich was allowed to pimp the brilliance of Obamas new budget. Signing off, his host said this:
Keith thanked Reich for all his insightand then, it was on to a talented ape! But then, youre seldom far from absolute nonsense as Countdown continues its downward spiral. And Olbermann topped even himself with the tribal follies that followed.
Try to forget his closing segment. It was spent with comedian Aisha Tyler, who had been brought on the program to ridicule Bobby Jindal. Tyler seems like a very pleasant personbut she has about as much business limning politics as we have running the space shuttle program. Soon, Olbermann was asking Tyler about Jindal and Kenneth the Page:
Youd almost think that it would be hard to get much dumber than that. But Olbermann had already spent his entire third segment with another comedian, Janeane Garofalo. Garofalo had been asked to discuss Rush Limbaughs 37 percent approval rate among women. And while Garofalos segment was stunningly foolish, it was also so instructive that were going to post it in full, even though it was gruesomely long.
Basic background: Tribal thinking has driven the race since the race crawled out on the land. Our tribes the good tribe and their tribe is bad! Long ago, such tribal instincts were tied to survival. Today, though, such reptilian instincts are, on the whole, dead-dog dumb. But weak-minded people love to think it: We are the very good tribe; their tribe is really quite evil. We wouldnt know how to edit this messbut this is the pseudo-liberal brain on reptile-grade dumb. Bright blue scrotums to follow:
You can watch the tape of this cosmic inanity at the Countdown site (just click here). But there you see, in a way we could never invent, the essence of tribal, reptilian thinking. Well only say this: Quite plainly, Garofalo wasnt joking. Its fairly clear that she really believes the various things she said:
It would be hard to imagine a better example of tribal thinking. Over and over, Garofalo said it, sometimes in English: People that cleave unto the conservative message or to the modern-day Republican party, there is something wrong with them. And of course, some readers will agree with that. To the extent that we think that way, we are Olbermanns target audience. He is paid $5 million per year to attract our eyes to a screen.
But then, Olbermann is now running the rubes in truly remarkable ways. Just this week, he led Mondays program with that report about Shelbyalthough he simply didnt know what Shelby had actually said. He led Wednesdays program with accusations that Jindal had liedalthough he plainly didnt know if that was accurate either. Last night, he asked a nutcase to ramble, at length, about the psyches of millions of fellow citizens. Then, he turned to Aisha Tylerl she proceeded to dumb you ceaselessly down, talking about Gomer Pyle.
Well only say this: This is what the other side did, all throughout the 1990s. They invented endless tales about the ways the deeply vile Clinton and Gore had lied. If the facts werent there, they invented some facts. When required to fake it, they did. Like Pogo, weve now met the enemy. But there are two differences now:
First, Republicans created distractions and lies about character because the public prefers Democratic positions on most major issues. (Has done so since the rise of Clinton.) Republicans change the subject for tactical reasons. We do it because were so honkingly dumbbecause we enjoy the stupidity.
But the second difference is even more striking. Obama fans play these tribal games even though they contradict the essence of Obama! From that very first speech in 2004, Obama has risen by telling the world that we arent two different red and blue nations. Hacks like Olbermann rush on the air to challenge the gentlemans essence.
Its hardvery hardto be as stupid as Olbermann and Garofalo were last night. (Wed like to think the lady was drunk, but she seemed quite lucid. Keith plays the fool every night.) By the way, note to Janeane: Following you on last nights show, the very pleasant Tyler said this. Because it made so little sense, the question seemed to be planned:
Huh! Tyler, whos black, has two Republican delegates in her family. Luckily, Garofalo had already explained their psychiatric derangement. Tylers kin are mentally ill, struggling with Stockholm Syndrome.
What did Tyler think of that? Olbermann, a highly-paid gong-show host, knew that he mustnt ask.
About that bright blue scrotum: This morning, we finally got the total dope about the bright blue scrotum flap. The very capable David Zurawik penned the report in the Baltimore Sun. The nonsense began right here in Baltimore, at WBAL-TV. For years, we did humorous morning news reports on the radio side.
You wont hear much about this story on the liberal web.
Long story short: The Huffington Post made a rather foolish mistake, driven in part by tribal belief. (They got conned into posting an accusation against Foxs John Gibsonan accusation which was wholly inaccurate.) But then, Kewl Kid tribalism has come to rule large parts of the pseudo-liberal world. For the most instructive part of this story, just look at this post by Steve Benen.
Benens main idea is clear: The error, made by The Huffington Post, was really John Gibsons fault. This is standard tribal thinking, of course: If my tribe did something wrong to your tribe, then surely your tribe made us do it! But whats the funniest thing in Benens post? Note how hard he worked to avoid saying who actually made the mistake! There was an unfortunate incident this week, he beganbut he forgot to say that this unfortunate incident involved The Huffington Post! Gibson was justifiably furious, Benen said, and those who'd published the story ran retractions and apologies. But once again, he forgot to say who had published the story! Who had been forced to run that retraction? Benen forgot to say!
Theres a word for that: Piss-pitiful. But the pseudo-liberal world is now run by just this type of fellow. Arianna is very bigand these fellows want in on the action.
Fellows like this will kill your nations soul. Their type ran and hid in the 1990s, when power was aiming its bogus tales at Big Major Dems. Now that power is running the other way, the bold fellows want to help. Olbermanns conduct this week was familiar. In the 90s, this kind of conduct was constantly aimed at Big Dems.
By the way, heres part of what a lady gave us back in those bad old days:
In fact, Gore always was pro-choice, although Bradley and his Clinton-loathing pals worked very hard to spin different. And no, Gore hadnt claimed that he lived on a farm. But so what? In those days, power loathed the Clintons, and power therefore turned against Gore. Arianna was aligned with power, just as shes aligned now.
The previous fall, it had been even dumber. Everyone had been mocking Gores deeply disturbing three-button suitsso Arianna sewed on a fourth button! His clothing isnt very American, this high-minded liberal star said:
Thank the lord for marvelous stories, of the kind Olbermann pimps.
The tribes inanity doesnt change; the targets of its inanity have. And Benen seemed to understand how tribal loyalty works. The Huffington Post made a foolish mistake, as everyone does at some point in time. But Benen forgot to mention its name! Hey rubes! Have you even heard?What will Professor Black do? This analysis by Duncan Black was wrong. You see, he used preliminary, day-before listings; such listings are frequently wrong/incomplete. Anyone would know to avoid thisbut Professor Black seems to enjoy running rubes. Professor Black was wrong last week. What will Professor Black do?
Accurate count? Nine Reps, nine Dems. Of those 18 spots, twelve went to people who supported the stimulus plan. (Three of the 9 Rep spots went to Crist/Schwarzenegger.)