Friday links! Reality gap edition

It’s Friday, which means we’ve come to the end of Week Two of the cessation of American liberty. I don’t want to jinx what has thus far been a remarkably low-key totalizing of government control, but I’m kind of disappointed. I guess I expected to be working in a salt mine by now, or at least be typing this with a brown-shirted ACORN volunteer reading over my shoulder. Where’s my unsupportable tax burden? Where’s my own personal bureaucrat to accompany me to the grocery store and make sure I don’t exercise my right to choose? It’s almost as if the dire predictions of half the country were based on an entirely different reality—one that threatened to come crashing into our dimension, but at the last moment got sick and decided to stay in the astral plane. This week’s link roundup is loosely dedicated to that alternate universe, where the federal government is still trying to put radios in our brains, the country longs for a second chance to vote for McCain-Palin, and all manner of useless celebrities influence our daily lives. Won’t you join me for a glimpse of the world that never was, population: half of us?

Slate battles its progressive slide into post-health care irrelevance with this article detailing the four most egregious lies currently circulating about health care reform. Yes, people are still making stuff up about it, and yes, thousands of Americans believe that federal law now allows the US government to implant a microchip in your skull. Timothy Noah points out that the latest trend in health care reform rumormongering is to cite specific pages of the bill, as Jason Mattera did when he demanded that Al Franken explain why the government has set aside $7 billion for the construction of jungle gyms. Of course, the jungle gyms Mattera attributed to page 1,184 appear nowhere in any draft of the passed or unpassed health care bills, but it sounds true, doesn’t it? I mean, as long as you don’t actually look it up? It’s this kind of unswerving instinct for the semblance of truth that recently won Mattera the editorship of Human Events.

We make our own truth, as Kant said. Meghan McCain continued to prove herself a real Kant this week, describing Sarah Palin’s appearance with John McCain as part of his Senate reelection campaign was “an energizing glimpse of the future of conservative politics.” Me-Mac is apparently unperturbed by that future’s uncanny resemblance to the recent past—a past in which Americans voted against that energizing glimpse by the largest margin in 20 years. In Meghan’s version of reality, Palin is a fondly-remembered asset to her father’s 2008 campaign, who excited the majority of the electorate rather than scaring the crap out of it. “Much like my father’s campaign workers,” Me-Mac writes, “I experienced a weird disconnect this weekend, thinking that so many things have changed in the past 18 months and then again so many things have not.” Never has one sentence told us so much while saying so little. Winner, two-sentence division: “I think people got excited because in my father and Sarah Palin they see the best of both Republican worlds. And they still love what they see.”

While Meghan McCain celebrates the country’s continued love affair with her father, the reality-based community is on to futures that might actually be. With this weeks’ analysis of two different paths for financial reform, Paul Krugman once again proves that he’s at his best when he’s discussing wonky economic policy. Krugman points out that limiting the size of banks—to avoid the kind of “too big to fail” problem posed by Citigroup and AIG in 2008—won’t necessarily stave off large-scale collapse, as the chain of failures among small banks during the Great Depression demonstrates. According to Krugman, the banking crisis of two years ago was one of leverage, not scale, and limiting the size of institutions without making rules about how they administer their capital will only ensure a more even distribution of irresponsibility. Of course, this sort of reasonable deliberation may prove academic, since Republican opposition to financial reform currently seems just as obstinate as their refusal to do anything about health care. See you in a year, assholes.

When reality fails us, we fortunately still have the internet to provide us with a world that is, if not truthful, at least mildly entertaining. Rosa DeLaura Is A Fucking Hipster speculates that the congresswoman from Connecticut is living a life of Williamsburg-style consumer debauchery, and reminds us that photo captioning is an art on a par with the composition of haiku. Meanwhile, the 2010 Time 100 poll at least briefly showed us a universe in which UFC president Dana White is the most influential person in the world. He’s since fallen in the rankings to Conan O’Brien, Kim Yu-Na and Lady Gaga, suggesting once again that you must never ask a large sampling of the American people about anything if you don’t want to fall into a clinical depression. Surely, a South Korean figure skater does not actually wield more influence than the President of the United States. If we accept that reasonable proposition, though, we are forced to ask a mildly disturbing question: What is the difference between influencing people and having people report that you influence them? Better yet, what is the difference between actual perceived influence and the perceived influence measured by a nationwide poll? Can the poll, once readers of Time perceive its existence, alter real levels of perceived influence? Do you have a headache yet?

Questions like these make us long for the comforting simplicity of a good prank. Angered by the recent closure of the local Macy’s and Smurfit—and by the bonuses that executives of those corporations awarded themselves after laying off hundreds of workers—Missoula pranksters announced a phony farewell concert featuring the Dave Matthews Band, Governor Brian Schweitzer and a $5,000 cash drop. In addition to being kind of awesome in a kind of dickish way, this sort of thing is apparently legal, thanks to the magic words “events subject to change or cancellation.” In that spirit, Combat! blog would like to announce a thank you event for our readers this weekend, which will feature a series of lectures on cap-and-trade delivered by bears and me playing mumbletypeg with Glenn Beck. Events subject to change or cancellation.

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  1. The rules of mumblety-peg state that a player automatically wins if he sticks the knife in his own foot. So, you should forfeit your match with Mr. Beck by sticking the knife in his eye. He automatically wins, but then the rest of us win, too.

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