Ted Cruz uses machine gun to cook bacon, become president

“There are few things I enjoy more than, on weekends, cooking breakfast with the family,” Ted Cruz says at the outset of this video in which his family will not appear. “Of course, in Texas, we cook bacon a little differently than most people.” Then he wraps bacon around the barrel of a machine gun and fires it until the bacon cooks, sort of. Then, I presume, he rides a stallion through the window of the Oval Office and knocks Barack Obama out of his chair. We haven’t gotten to that part yet. But surely this guns-and-bacon viral video will clinch the presidency for Cruz, and eventually the Chinese will be our masters. Breakdown after the jump.

Continue reading

Trump a lock for GOP debate; Perry, Santorum, Jindal miss cut

Donald Trump explains an idea so obvious an idiot would agree with him.

Donald Trump explains another truth so obvious an idiot would agree with him.

The first Republican National Committee-sanctioned debate of the 2016 campaign is only three days away, but not every candidate will make the cut. Fox News announced that it would only invite the ten best-polling candidates from the field of 16, which sounds like maybe too many anyway, unless you happen to work for the Bobby Jindal campaign. “Whatever happened to the idea of freedom?” Jindal consultant Curt Anderson wrote of Fox’s plan. “Or democracy?” Soon every sentence uttered by a Republican on any subject will contain the word “freedom” and be in the past tense. Possibly coincidental to the demise of robust argument, Jindal, Lindsay Graham, and Ricks Santorum and Perry are all out of the top ten in NBC’s aggregate of the last five weeks’ polling. And Donald Trump is in the lead.

Continue reading

Friday links! Wisdom of crowds edition

Sarah Palin tries to remember the word for that feeling you get when someone else is talking.

Sarah Palin tries to remember the word for that feeling you get when someone else is talking.

Donald Trump is the Garfield of politics: fucking stupid, but in the newspaper every day. He must be great, though, because 20% of Republican-leaning voters who responded to a Quinnipiac poll said he was their guy. That puts him ahead of both the guy who stopped the teacher’s union and the bad president’s brother. Trump has been the front runner since he announced his candidacy.There must be something about him elite media dictators like myself just don’t understand—something authentic. Something real—whatever it is, it’s definitely real. Today is Friday, and we all know the wisdom of crowds, so where does that leave us? Won’t you play the fool with me?

Continue reading

New GOP chair Essman calls for fresh ideas to criticize governor with

Jeff Essmann rehearses a play about a mean state senator

Jeff Essmann and Scott Boulanger rehearse a play about a mean state senator

The Republican Party of Montana elected Jeff Essmann its party chair last month, replacing Will Deschamps after six years. Essmann was president of the senate in 2015, so this move finally unites the two branches of Montana’s state government: the Republican legislature and Republican politics.

You may remember Essmann from the most wonderful email chain in the world, in which he discussed ways to reduce the power and perhaps number of moderates in his party with then-majority leader Art Wittich (now the representative from Glendive) and then-senator Jason Priest (now convicted of partner/family abuse.) Arguably, Essmann’s struggle with moderates began when he defeated Jim Pertersen in the 2011 vote for senate president. It hit a snag this past session, when Democrats joined moderate Republicans to pass Senator Ed Buttrey’s (R–Colstrip) Medicaid expansion compromise. But now that Essmann is party chair, it appears the conservatives have won.

He has a mandate. He controls the machinations of his party and the levers of the senate. And from this catbird seat, he sent an email to the state’s Republicans calling for “examples large and small” of bureaucratic failures under Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

“It is our goal to develop a list of all these failures and begin a drumbeat of steady criticism,” he wrote, echoing the dream of ancient Greeks as they built the first democracies. You can read all about it in this weeks’ column for the Missoula Independent.

I know many of you struggle to explain why Montana politics is important to your lives—and possibly, on a causal level, it is not. But my lands, it’s entertaining. Everyone is crookeder than a dog’s hind leg and lacks the skill or the inclination to keep it secret—except for the ranchers and schoolteachers who make law 90 days every other year and take it really seriously.  The news from Helena is like a musical about trying to save the town from speculators, but without the songs. So it’s perfect. I encourage you to get hooked.

“Nothing makes us less capable of empathy than the consciousness of victimhood”

A protestor outside the Israeli embassy in Washington last July

A protestor outside the Israeli embassy in Washington last July

The bold statement in today’s headline comes from Gary Saul Morson’s essay Why Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature. You should read the whole thing, but I was particularly struck by his interpretation of Chekhov’s “Enemies.” Quoted at length:

“Enemies” describes a doctor named Kirillov, whose son has just died, comforting his grieving wife as his face displays “that subtle, almost elusive beauty of human sorrow.” We empathize with him, not only for his grief over his son, but also because of his empathy for his wife. It’s a chain of empathy, and we are its last link.

Then the wealthy Abogin arrives to beg the doctor to visit his dying wife, and the doctor, with extreme reluctance, at last recognizes he has no choice. When they finally arrive, it turns out Abogin’s wife has only feigned illness to get rid of her husband long enough to escape with her lover. As Abogin cries and opens his heart to the doctor “with perfect sincerity,” Kirillov notices the luxurious surroundings, the violoncello case that bespeaks higher cultural status, and reacts wrathfully. He shouts that he is the victim who deserves sympathy because the sacred moment of his own mourning has been ruined for nothing.

Nothing makes us less capable of empathy than consciousness of victimhood. Self-conscious victimhood leads to cruelty that calls itself righteousness and thereby generates more victims. Students who encounter this idea experience a thrill of recognition. Kirillov experiences “that profound and somewhat cynical, ugly contempt only to be found in the eyes of sorrow and indigence” when confronted with “well-nourished comfort,” and he surrenders to righteous rage.

Our ability to appreciate other people’s suffering is inversely proportional to our understanding of our own—not how much we have suffered, but how conscious we are of it. Self-pity might be the opposite of empathy.

Continue reading