Oh good, we’re doing this


"At age fifty," Orwell wrote in his notebooks, "every man has the face he deserves."

Despite continued objections that it is not nineteen goddamn fifty-five, Rep. Peter King (R–NY) convened Congressional hearings today on the “radicalization of Muslim Americans.” King is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, which is why he considers it his obligation to respond to “repeated and urgent warnings which the Obama administration has been making in recent months.” Of course, the White House has been making those warnings about radicalization of libertarian separatists, white supremacists and other ultra right-wing groups, but we all know what religion terrorists are. “I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward, and they will,” King told Politico. “To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee to protect America from a terrorist attack.” Ah, yes—political correctness is why you don’t launch a congressional inquiry into whether Americans of a particular religion are doing enough to fight terrorism. At least we’re not being craven.

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Good night, sweet prince

In a blow to snide remarkers everywhere, Michael Steele is no longer chairman of the Republican National Committee. He has been replaced by a man named Reince Priebus, who certainly sounds amusing, but seems unlikely to go on television and talk about how he’s so street that sometimes he wears a hat backwards without even thinking about it.* We are not likely to see another Michael Steele. That’s kind of ironic, because there are already two of him. As Ben al-Fowlkes and the Huffington Post recently pointed out to me, the story “Michael Steele loses RNC chairmanship” threatens to be eclipsed, in our minds if not in our lives, by the story “Daily Show retires Michael Steele puppet.” Video after the jump.

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The Senator from K-Y: Jim Bunning effs America right in the A

Bunning describes to his grandchildren the opportunity to serve his country that got away.

Senator Jim Bunning (R–KY, net worth $607,000*) continued his objection to a 30-day extension in federal unemployment benefits and highway funding reimbursements today, after successfully stopping the bill on a point of parliamentary procedure Thursday. Yesterday morning, two thousand federal transportation workers were furloughed without pay, thanks to Bunning’s insistence that a specific funding source be identified for the $10 billion bill and, presumably, the rest of the $3.8 trillion federal budget. On a more personal level, my father had his last day of work on Monday, having opted not to retire on Friday so that he would be eligible for COBRA health insurance through the end of March. That program, too, has been suspended, and now my father does not have health insurance because a Hall of Fame pitcher from Kentucky has taken it upon himself to end the welfare state. Bunning repeatedly affirmed his objection even as Democratic senators pointed out unemployment numbers in Kentucky, expressed their dismay at being kept up late, and generally employed the means by which an old man is made to feel shame. While Bunning was overheard swearing and complaining that he’d been “ambushed,” he held to his resolve, and the bill could not come to a vote. Which brings us to where we are now.

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Daily Show articulates Tea Party platform exactly

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Highway to Health – Last Tea Party Protest of the Year
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The video above is from last night’s Daily Show, in which John Stewart assesses the final Tea Party protest of the year. First of all, I think it’s high time we acknowledged that the Daily Show pretty much performs all the functions of Combat! blog, plus a bunch of other stuff, and does all of it better. They are the Facebook to my Twitter. Second of all, after months and thousands upon thousands of words speculating on just what it is that the various Tea Party protestors have in common, John Steward has pinned down the species in one four-minute video segment. In so doing, he also assembles a pretty good list of differences between them and an actual political party. To wit:

1) They confuse goals with policy. At the 2:01 mark, Rick Scott says “we” don’t want more government or increased spending; we just want lower health care costs and more coverage. I agree that it’s a terrific idea, but I’m interested to see letter B in his outline. The chant “kill the bill” is a comical instance of how not just policy-free but anti-policy the Tea Party movement is. The Tea Partiers don’t have their own bill or even a vague plan for how to address health care reform, but dammit, they’re against everything that has been done so far. When they’re not out in force specifically to fight health care reform, the most common complaint of Tea Party activists is that taxes and spending are both too high. But what specific spending do the Tea Partiers suggest we cut? By now, we’ve all seen the video where the fat lady thinks for  a few seconds before saying, “All of it.” Low taxes, a strong economy, unshakeable national security and an unobtrusive government aren’t positions; they’re values. That they’re values we all share makes passing them off as an agenda even more insipid.

2) They’re outraged at stuff that hasn’t happened yet. Since Barack Obama took office and the Tea Party movement miraculously coalesced out of nowhere/Fox News studios, no changes have been made to federal gun laws, tax structures or abortion statutes. Yet the Tea Party is animated by a sense of urgent panic over these issues. Granted, President Obama probably will raise the marginal tax rate and re-ban private ownership of assault weapons, but he hasn’t yet, just like he hasn’t converted the country to socialism or changed one whit of the landscape that Tea Partiers suddenly find so terrifying after the Bush administration. When Laura Ingraham says “First they came for the rich…” she’s either lying or describing her sophomore year in college.

3) They have no sense of historical perspective. And about Laura Ingraham’s little homily: it’s a good thing Eli Wiesel wasn’t at that anti-health care reform rally. For all their fixation on history, the Tea Party seems to have very little sense of how the lives of a bunch of mallwalkers in middle America might differ from those of colonists in eighteenth-century Boston, or Jews in 1930s Germany, or political dissidents in Maoist China. Now matter how much Congress jacks up the marginal tax rate, no one is going to be sent to a forced labor camp. The inability to distinguish between real tyranny and not getting your way is a hallmark of childhood, not of representative democracy in a post-industrial superpower.

4) They’re fundamentally anti-intellectual. “We cannot let the pen be mightier than the sword.” I’m sure that was taken out of context, but I would like to take this opportunity to personally offer to meet with this fat man and explain to him the benefits of a discourse based on rhetoric rather than capacity for extended physical violence. Does the Tea Party really believe that we as a nation should think less and act more? Probably, which is why they give me the fuckin’ creeps.

As of Monday, Fox News is not a news organization

Simple, unvarnished facts, people. You decide.

Simple, unvarnished facts, people. You decide.

When the White House first announced that it would be treating Fox News as an opinion outlet rather than as an objective news organization, it raised a lot of thorny questions. How, exactly, do you define objectivity? High school journalism textbooks are full of charts and bulleted lists, non of which mix serif and sans serif fonts, but any regular reader of the New York Times knows there’s objective and there’s objective, and never the twain shall meet. The problem is that bias is usually a sin of omission; what slants a story is not what you say, but what you don’t. When your annual Christmas card reports that I threw up at your wedding, that’s bias, because it neglects to mention that I also made a very nice toast. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to prove that your Christmas cards display a consistent anti-Brooks bias, though, because one can’t really prove a negative. Sure, you didn’t mention my toast, but you didn’t mention what color jacket your uncle was wearing, either, or what the temperature was, or which year the Inca empire experienced its first flu epidemic. Bias is usually absence, and the scope of absence is, by definition, infinite. Every once in a while, though, somebody straight-up lies. Fox News did it last week, and the public outcry has been far less that it should be. Video after the jump.

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