American culture is such a particolored cavalcade of weird shit right now that it’s sometimes hard to believe in the standards of realism. Consider, for a moment, that the most vibrant movement currently afoot in our national politics believes that the first black president is a second Hitler, and that Hitler himself was a socialist. Or ponder the knowledge that, having failed to block health care reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster, Republican congressmen have begun to attack financial reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster. It’s as if a promising but unpracticed undergraduate creative writing student were currently writing the narrative of American politics, with all the characters acting too closely to type and an increasing number of surreal flourishes to distract us as the plot fails to cohere. In other words, it all seems kind of made up. In preparation for a weekend that will doubtless conform to natural realism more faithfully than we’d like, this Friday’s link roundup is devoted to stories that our too good to be true, arranged in order of decreasing plausibility. That their truth seems to diminish in as their goodness mounts is surely commentary on something, but it’s probably better if we don’t think about what. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the descent into an entirely fictionalized culture, built for our amusement with the lineaments of the real.
Shortly before being lit on fire and hurled through a plate glass window, Ben Gabriel sent me this link to OpenSecrets’s report on Representative Joseph Cao (R-LA,) who has requested $800,000 worth of federal earmarks for a nonprofit hospital in New Orleans. It just so happens that the president and CEO of that hospital have both donated money to Cao since his election in 2008, despite Cao’s being the only House Republican to have voted in favor of health care reform. That legislative package isn’t normally popular with hospital CEOs, but you know what is? Getting an 800-to-1 return on your thousand dollar campaign investment contribution. That’s what Ochsner Health System CEO Patrick Quinlan gave Cao in November, though the congressman’s office says that “There was absolutely no quid pro quo relationship between the contributions and the earmark requests.” And thus does a millennia-old problem of philosophy yawn beneath us.
Health care reform is yesterday’s news, though. That was 2009 politics: divisive, dishonest, and ultimately enervating. The American people are ready to move on to issues we can all agree upon, like financial reform. Nobody wants another bailout, and that seems like a logical starting point for reaching some sort of biparti—god dammit. Senate debate on financial reform almost started yesterday, before it was blocked by Mitch McConnell, who said Democrats hadn’t given negotiations enough time. Sound familiar? McConnell has repeatedly claimed that Democratic regulatory initiatives will institutionalize bailouts, a claim that apparently stems from a provision that would create a fund for the orderly liquidation of failed banks. Of course, a liquidation is pretty much the opposite of a bailout, and the widespread dissemination of a strategy memo suggesting that the bill can be defeated by linking it to bailouts “no matter what it says” have led senate Republicans to back off from that strategy. Instead, they’ve begun arguing that the bill will affect dentists, optometrists, and other small-scale care providers who let their clients pay over time. That doesn’t seem to be true, either, but Republicans insist that their Democrat counterparts prove it. “That’s really what this debate is all about,” said McConnell. “It’s about proving to my constituents and to the rest of the country that we actually do what we say we’re going to do around here.” Once Senate Democrats can prove that all laws made by the United States Congress will be enforced as written, Mr. McConnell will be happy to debate.
Are you angry yet? Are you also an extremely well-known voiceover actor? If so, I urge you to take a walk before you do anything rash. Lance Baxter, better known as DC Douglas and even better known as the invisible spokesman in various GEICO commercials, apparently used his famous voice to leave a message on the answering machine at FreedomWorks asking how many of the organization’s members were “mentally retarded” and demanding to know what they were going to do once a Tea Party member “killed someone.” Mad props to everyone’s favorite Meghan Gallagher for the link. FreedomWorks, uh, figured out who it was, and GEICO has since fired Baxter. Be sure to which the video that accompanies the story, in order to A) hear Baxter’s voicemail read aloud, which is hilarious, and B) hear an unidentified Fox anchor claim that “the Tea Party movement is no longer just a movement; it’s actually mainstream America.” Vague, unsourced statistics ensue.
It’s not like you can just go on Fox News and say whatever, though:
That’s former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson, and it’s only a matter of time before she and Kelsey Grammer run into each other at a cocktail party. I’ve watched this video a couple of times now, and I still can’t tell if she’s putting us on or what. Her repeated references to the lessons she’s learned watching Glenn Beck suggest that she’s trying to execute some kind of satire, but her earlier remarks that Barack Obama has a lot in common with the Antichrist make me question her sense of irony. One thing is certain, though: she captured our hearts in UHF.
Those of us who spend hours staring at our computer screens vainly trying to discern between sincerity and satire did get a little help yesterday. Trey Parker and Matt Stone announced yesterday that the excessive bleeping in Wednesday’s South Park—in which all instances of the word “Mohammed” were bleeped, and Kyle’s closing remarks about “intimidation and fear” were heavily redacted—was in fact the work of Comedy Central and not a deliberate parody of censorship. So, to recap, you can’t talk about Mohammed in your comedy show, and you also can’t talk about how we shouldn’t use intimidation to tell other people what they can talk about in their comedy shows. But don’t worry, you guys: we’re not going to let the terrorists win.
It’s times like this when I need to look at a graph. Courtesy of Ben Fowlkes via Tyler Gilman, here’s a chart that correlates political orientation with likelihood to vote by favorite sport. It is maybe the most awesome thing I’ve seen all week. Surprising? College football skews significantly more Republican than the NFL, although that makes sense when you consider the absence of pro franchises from less populated areas. Not surprising? The WNBA turns out to be pretty liberal, despite Michael Steele’s efforts to reach out to the black lesbian demographic. Think about it.