Friday links! Willing to do what others will not edition

Julius Caesar wrote that out of any 100 soldiers, ten will be utterly fearless, ten will panic and become useless at the first clash of swords, and 80 could go either way. Success in battle, says Caesar, depends on those 80 percent. At the risk of both paraphrasing one of history’s greatest generals and underestimating the value of numbers, victory belongs to those willing to do what others will not. This week’s link roundup is chock full of people who have not necessarily succeeded because of the merit of what they are doing. In many cases, they’re getting what they want in spite of that. But they’re doing things that their competitors won’t try, or that our various forebears and lawgivers just sort of assumed nobody would do. They’re the bold pioneers in the field of human decency, striking out into frontier lands of douche, and they are handsomely rewarded. The rest of us can chastise them for it, sure, but our disapproval will be ever undermined by our jealousy. Sort of.

First, the almost-reasonable. Senator John D. Rockefeller XIII, Lord of the Exchequer and Censor of Poetry and Dramatic Arts (also D–NY) recently chaired a Commerce Committee meeting on whether so-called “mini med” policies count as health insurance. Particularly at issue are the policies McDonald’s offers to its hourly workers. Fry jockeys are currently allowed to choose from four health insurance packages, only one of which offers comprehensive coverage, at a rate of $7,000 per year. The other three are “mini meds” with annual benefit ceilings of $2,000, $5,000 and $10,000, respectively. Exactly which McDonald’s employees would choose to pay $710 a year to cover two grand worth of risk is unclear, but the answer is definitely not “executives and management.” Those guys get an entirely different schedule of benefits packages, with sliding rates that start below what the hourlies pay for mini med plans, and with no cap on benefits. It’s almost as if the executive structure of the McDonald’s corporation regarded itself and its hourly workers as fundamentally different classes of people.

You shouldn’t push the disenfranchised too much, though, because eventually they’ll quit your franchise and go to work deliberately messing up your eyeglasses order. That’s the perverse business model of, an online reseller of fashion eyeglasses and their clever southeast asian replicants that has discovered that bad online reviews dramatically increase its Google ranking. The Times article is eight pages of riveting customer-service horror, most of it detailing the gratuitously infuriating business practices of Vitaly Borker, which are too amazingly awful to fully describe here. You can get a taste from this sample customer service email, though: “Close the dispute with the credit card company if you know whats good for you. Do the right thing and everyone goes away. I AM WATCHING YOU!” Borker is making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year like that. The article doesn’t say specifically, but I assume he also stands right in the door on the F train.

Frankly, though, Vitaly Borker doesn’t see the big picture. The real money isn’t in stonewalling Chelsea yuppies to get $400 for a pair of fake eyeglasses—it’s in stonewalling Democratic senators to get $700 billion in tax cuts for millionaires. The GOP has announced that it will block all remaining legislation in the Senate until Democrats approve an extension of the Bush tax cuts for households making more than $250,000 a year. This is exactly the sort of blatant gamesmanship, running counter to the national interest for the sake of a slim and unsympathetic portion of the population, that Democrats have been waiting for. Finally, they can force the Republican Party to expose its naked servitude to the rich on a national stage. Even if it is after the midterms, the Dems will surely seize their last opportunity to call the GOP’s two-year running bluff.

But first they need to wait for their mothers to fly out to Washington and wipe their tear stains off their limp dicks. The Times reports that, in a brilliant counterstrike, the Obama administration has announced it will hold out for an extension of unemployment assistance as a condition of its extension of tax cuts for millionaires. So yeah, the smallest minority caucus in decades gets everything it wants, but it has to agree to a minor concession that it successfully stonewalled nine months ago. Except they don’t really have to agree to that, either. Senate Republicans have given no signal that they will accept the White House’s proposal, and why should they? As the Times put it, “the sense within both parties was that Democrats were essentially negotiating the terms of their major retreat on an issue that they once considered a slam-dunk on both substantive and political levels.”

At least we still have our bitterness to sustain us. Now that the Democrats have signaled their willingness to let the Republican Party dictate all actions of the legislative branch until such time as they can get even more seats in it, there’s nothing left on the Senate agenda but lamentation. They’re still the best in the business when it comes to that, though. Check out Bernie Sanders, saying what we were all thinking and maybe should have done something about in February, 2008:


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