Can we talk about this Simpsons gag from 20 years ago?

The scene above is from the “Last Exit to Springfield” episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer becomes head of his union and negotiates a new contract with Mr. Burns on sheer strength of idiocy. Dorks will remember it as episode 9F15 of season four, which my college roommates and I remember as the Era of Big Pupils. This model style roughly coincides with Conan O’Brien’s tenure on the show and, probably not by coincidence, some of its most surreal gags. For example: On a tour of his mansion, Mr. Burns shows Homer a thousand monkeys typing on a thousand typewriters, who will soon produce “the greatest novel known to mankind.” He checks one monkey’s progress. “‘It was the best of times,” he reads, “it was the blurst of times?’ You stupid monkey!” That was your last chance to enjoy this joke, because I’d like to talk about why it’s so funny.

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Citigroup takes fall for rollback of Dodd-Frank

Mime Elizabeth Warren fights back against Big Box.

Mime Elizabeth Warren fights back against Big Box.

Let’s start with the good news: Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will avert government shutdown, ensure that schoolchildren are getting enough salt, and free cattle farmers from greenhouse gas regulations. I guess the good news stopped with the first clause in that list, but still—soluble government! It does come at a cost, though. Remember the financial collapse triggered by an unstable derivatives market that required a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to correct? Trick question: we never corrected it. But banks are doing pretty well now, so they’re ready to leverage themselves into risky derivative trades again, and could they please do it with federal deposit insurance? Granted! Thus a key provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations is rolled back, and Congress recreates the conditions that preceded the worst economic collapse in three generations—falling gas prices and all.

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Close Reading: Cheney defends “enhanced interrogation”

Yeah, see?

Yeah, see?

This weekend, former Vice President and possible war criminal Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press to discuss his reaction to the CIA torture report. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t like it. Cheney insisted that waterboarding and other practices were not torture, and said of the events described in the report that he’d “do it again in a minute.” He meant he’d order someone he’d never met to do it again in a minute, but whatever. The important thing is that what Bush and Cheney told the CIA to do, which we’re just finding out about now in an alarming declassified report, was great for America and definitely not torture. I quote:

Torture is what the Al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11. There is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation.

And that, dear friends, is the subject of today’s Close Reading.

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Friday links! Nevermore inside Michele Bachmann’s head edition

Rep. Michele Bachmman (R-MN) retires from Congress to devour her mate.

Rep. Michele Bachmman (R-MN) retires from Congress to devour her mate.

Beloved hilarious Representative Michele Bachmann has retired from Congress, ending or at least suspending one of Combat! blog’s longest-running categories. Her last official act appears to have been to urge President Obama to bomb Iran at the White House Christmas party. Earlier this week, she delivered a farewell speech in which she attributed America’s economic success to the Ten Commandments. Quote:

It could be no coincidence that this nation, knowing and enjoying the heights of such great happiness and such great prosperity, that it could be built upon that foundation of the Ten Commandments and by the law given by the God in whom we trust.

Can you believe she only legislated for eight years? Today is Friday, and even those most deeply committed to just sayin’ stuff must fall silent sometime. Won’t you keep the flame burning with me?

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Montana Republicans experiment with two-party government

Consarn those public schools!

Consarn those public schools!

Not long ago, Majority Leader Austin Knudsen (R–Folksville) announced committee assignments for the Montana State House. Seniority did not rule the day. Two freshman representatives, Jeff Essmann of Billings and Art Wittich of Belgrade, became heads of the Human Services and State Administration committees, respectively. Sarah Lazsloffy, daughter of Montana Family Foundation president Jeff Laszloffy and Helena’s youngest legislator, leapfrogged senior colleagues to chair the Education Committee. Besides their unexpected rise to power, what these representatives have in common is their loyalty to the conservative faction of the Montana GOP. You might remember this schism from the 2013 session, when moderate Republicans joined Democrats to vote down Knudsen’s proposal to use public funds to finance private schools. You might also remember the leaked email chain in which Essman, Wittich and alleged partner/family member abuser Jason Priest hatched a plan to “purge” said moderates from the Republican Party. Montana politics is awesome, and you can read all about it in my column for this week’s Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, an alarming number of which involve close cooperation between government and industry, as well as police brutality. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.