Tuesday, June 29

It's "You Broke It You Bought It", Not "You Broke It, So You're Just The Guy To Design An Unbreakable Version For Us".

Ross Douthat, "One Way Out". June 27

OKAY, Stop Me When the Barrel's Out of Fish:
Here is the grim paradox of America’s involvement in Afghanistan: The darker things get and the more setbacks we suffer, the better the odds that we’ll be staying there indefinitely.

Quagmire! Quagmire! Quagmire!

Look, Ross-boy: I don't need the utter failure of your ideas under real-world conditions to score easy political points off you and your ilk, though thanks for all the opportunities. Simple observation, simple motherfucking common sense, and a glance at either of your columnist head shots is enough to tell us neither you nor Brooks has any business advising us on Afghanistan.

Our point, instead, is this: maybe you should shut th' fuck up about grim paradoxes and dark setbacks, since you and more than 80% of your fellow citizens thought the war was such a great idea back in '01 that we didn't need to spoil the rollout by waiting for market research to come in. Maybe that's your column, Ross. For the next nine years. Write about what you know. That's something the next generation could learn from.
Not the way we’re there today, with 90,000 American troops in-theater and an assortment of NATO allies fighting alongside.

Of course not. They know better.
But if the current counterinsurgency campaign collapses, it almost guarantees that some kind of American military presence will be propping up some sort of Afghan state in 2020 and beyond. Failure promises to trap us; success is our only ticket out.

Look, kiddo, the only reason there is an insurgency in Afghanistan is our military presence created it. And, needless to say, we weren't prepared for one, first because we can't imagine anyone else in the world seeing things differently than some cloistered sinecure at The Atlantic. Because, y'know, New York New York. You've made it there. USA! Just the World's Jolly Copper, having an apple on the arm, maybe, but everybody knows he's there for our protection, right? Our Cause, like our Operation, was Just. Right again? Only criminals could oppose us, so everyone who opposes us is a criminal.
Why? Because of

Hold up, Clausewitz. We don't need you to explain why Success is our only chance of winning. We need you to explain what, exactly, we win if we get there.
three considerations. First, the memory of 9/11, which ensures that any American president will be loath to preside over the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul.

Well, y'know, maybe you Official Keepers of The Memory of 9/11 could try to recall that original rationale of the thing was to get bin-Laden and his three-dozen #2 men. And that Your Boy in the White House had seven years and unlimited black budgets to catch him, and failed. (I'm sorry. I know The Memory of 9/11 isn't suppose to evoke anything unpleasant.) In theory, anyway, if The Taliban had just handed over al-Qaeda before sundown, the way we demanded, we wouldn't have given a shit about how they treated their women. Or no more than we give about how our corporations and health care systems treat ours.

Of course The Memory of 9/11 has fuck-all to do with it, anyway; the reason no American president--and particularly a Democratic one--will not simply eliminate a costly and worthless mission in Afghanistan is that people like you would try him for treason.
Second, the continued presence of Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, which makes it difficult for any American president to contemplate giving up the base for counterterrorism operations that Afghanistan affords.

One: you don't know al-Qaeda from Quinoa, the Mayan Grain of Death™. You don't know who's in Waziristan, what they think, what they want, nor what they're capable of. You spout "base of counterterrorism operations" the way a preacher might say "guardians of moral rectitude". Not because it means a goddam thing; because it reflects your Faith. Our counterterrorism methods will be our counterterrorism methods, and they will either work, or they won't. They do not depend on our continued military presence in Afghanistan, or if they do, please explain how.

Two: if we--that is, the administration you backed without reservation--hadn't been in such a goddam hurry to exercise cowboy diplomacy and win the dick contest with its daddy administration, we could have exerted real pressure on Pakistan (and the Taliban, for that matter) instead of threatening to come in and kick everyone's ass. Would the Taliban have given up bin-Laden once we peeled off enough million-dollar bills? Would Musharraf had been willing to exert real pressure on the Badlands? We'll never know. What we do know is that your fucking method didn't work, had about zero chance of working, and was only a pretext for sending in the bombers. It's not like we could have known the region was volatile ahead of time, right? And what th' hell's a few metric tons of fissionable material and technological upgrades handed over to a non-NPT signatory like India because we had to even things out? It's not like increasing the amount of nuclear fuel in the region could ever come back to haunt us.

Finally: y'know, Ross, I don't particularly care for the Taliban. In fact, I was making my objections known back when they were just subjugating women and destroying world heritage sites, the sort of shit you couldn't care less about. But then, I'm not really partial to Pakistan, either. Or India, or China, Myanmar, Russia, France, the British Royal Family, or the New England Patriots. Hell, that Dalai Lama guy's on my last nerve. I just don't imagine--since I pretty much see it close up everyday--that the United States has the fucking answers, the capability of finding the answers, the political will to put those answers in place over the objections of Mitch McConnell or Glenn Beck, nor the ability to do so even if it did. And I think the record going back sixty years now is pretty clearly on my side.

You wanna prove me wrong, go ahead. But take my advice. Sneak up on it slowly. Try being right about one thing first.

Monday, June 28

Wish I'd Said That, Vol. MMMDCCXLIII

ROGER Ebert, via Wonkette:
Supreme Court sides with squirrel hunters and drug gangs against cops and innocent bystanders.

Friday, June 25

Friday Olio: The Dextromethorphan Edition

• Maybe You Could Just Stop Lying: My guess is that the relative calm on the Right over the McChrystal McFiring has much to do with the injection of Warrior Saint "Faintin' Dave" Petraeus into the story, who cannot and will not be opposed by Congressional Republicans (and while we're thinking of it, couldn't we solve many of the worst aspects of hyperpartisanship in this country by assuaging the Big Daddy anxieties of the Right? Like the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of every other Dalai Lama, couldn't we just bruit it about that the President is George Washington, George Mason, or George S. Patton?), and more than a little to do with the fact that the savvier among them don't want that stinking albatross back around their own necks. Most of the What Passes for Sane voices from that direction have allowed as how McChrystal had to go, even though Obama hasn't nuked the Taliban the way George W. Bush did, or would've by now, certainly. But then, God help me, there's Lt. Col. Brooks, who thinks the real problem is, y'know, Vietnam, and the Culture of Small People Thinking They Need To Know Details An' Stuff:
But McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

McChrystal graduated from West Point in 1976. Which means that over his entire fucking career he's somehow missed his employer's overarching concern with how it's portrayed in The Media, from the Powell Doctrine to the embedding of compliant photo-op seekers and happy little stovepipers. Just one of those unfortunate things that the guy earns four stars but misses all those memos.

(Say the same for Looey Bird Brooks: all those weekend philosophy confabs fine-tuning the details of Man's Basic Imperfectability, and, somehow, still, no one who rises to the Top can be an asshole. How convenient.)

• Maybe You Could Just Stop Lying To Yourself: Christ, speaking of military geniuses, faux-Classicist Victor Davis Tiberius Molliculus Hanson lectures the President on the swift retribution accorded "overweening arrogance"?

• Maybe You Could Just Stop: Jonah Goldberg:
Head to the local big-box electronics store and buy yourself: a Panasonic home theater system ($500), an Insignia 50-inch plasma HDTV ($700), an Apple 8GB iPod Touch ($175), a Sony 3-D Blu-ray disc player ($219), a Sony 300-CD changer ($209), a Garmin portable GPS ($139), a Sony 14.1-megapixel digital camera ($200), a Dell Inspiron laptop computer ($450), and a TiVo high-definition digital video recorder ($300)….

The average American worker needs to work 152 hours to earn that much money.

In 1964, however, the average American worker could buy one pricey stereo from Radio Shack after working 152 hours. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Mark Perry, a University of Michigan economist, crunched the numbers.

And again, the really big difference between Now and Then is that nowadays a large percentage of illiterates can read.

• Maybe You Should Just Turn Off The Teevee and Get Some Rest: Bad enough that for the entire blessed week what non-weather-related news could be squeezed into the scant ninety minutes the locals give themselves each evening included a daily mantra that Congress had not voted to extend unemployment benefits. (We should note here that for local teleprompter readers Unemployment is generally considered One of Those Things Everyone Agrees Is Bad, despite the positive effect it has on the Domestic Help market.) And this mis-direction of blame by metonym was compounded, Wednesday, by someone sticking a microphone in front of the corpse of Kindly Grampa Lugar, so he could assure everyone that the Tricky Budgetary Questions involved (no need for you folks to interrupt the milkin' for details!) would surely be solved so that "Congress" could do the Right Thing. This, of course, came about sixteen hours before he and his "Democratic" colleague Evan Bayh voted Nay. Despite what I've said about David Brooks, as a practical matter we really do need to hold people in the higher income brackets to a much lower standard, and it's not like you're supposed to believe these people really care about unemployment unless it's their own, anymore than we're supposed to believe they'd feel some professional obligation to inform the Increasingly Unwashed that it was in fact their Gilt Masters in the Imperial Senate who were cutting off the bologna money, lest we have to mothball a carrier or something important.

But then there was a 5.0 quake in someplace called "Canada", and the tremors were felt in Indiana, which was news, but needed to be handed over to the Channel 8 Chief Meteorologist for the technical explanations an' stuff. And he reported that the last quake to be felt here was a 5.4. "So only a little stronger," he said.

Right. Assuming you think fourfold is "only a little". It's a logarithmic scale. We might compare earlier in the week, when our two-decimal-point advantage over Ohio's unemployment rate was (again) evidence of Mitch Daniels' enormous economic brainpower.

Thursday, June 24


Ross Douthat Blog™ "Did 'Jaws' and 'Star Wars' Ruin Hollywood?" And Does the Times Stylebook Really Call For Titles To Be Put In Quotes? June 22

I HAVE a cold, which is currently taking some Viral Baedeker of the charming but less-visited off-season attractions ("The mandible offers adventurous Picomaviridae an opportunity to view the rare Third Molar close up") its host has to offer. I don't think I've ever had a cold in the summer before. The novelty wears off quicker than you might imagine, and downing NyQuil shots in the heat is like drinking Port in the tropics.

Wingnuts haven't helped matters, not that they ever do. One is reminded, particularly reading that Brooks thing Tuesday, that they are never so obnoxious as when they imagine themselves in the ascendant, which they attribute to God and Middle America being resolutely behind them. (Nor did the fact that I'm presently too weak to grab the remote from my Poor Wife, nor run from the results as she switches to Channel 13 Eyewitness News for thirty seconds, just long enough for me to hear the male hairdo introduce the story of a threatened lawsuit over McDonald's Happy Meals by the Center for Science in the Public Interest thus:
The so-called Food Police...

"Excuse me? Could I get this with extra Blatant? And substitute Corporate Bukkake Whore for the Deep-Fried Crisco Sticks?" Sheesh, somebody wrote that, before the natural-born shill behind the desk read it sounded it out phonetically. Though it might be that 13 is Dennis Miller's last stop in showbiz.) You'll note, too, that the obnoxiousness and the delusion of ascendency are near simultaneous; that Ho ho! Back from the Dead! shit began when the Obama administration failed to get health care legislation before the 2009 summer recess, and it's continued with every Town Hall meeting gone viral, and every Teabagging event that drew 200. Compare just how long it took for any of 'em to admit they had a problem in Iraq, in New Orleans, or with Bush II in general, and just how much virtual ink was spilled confronting that.

Anyway, I had plenty of good reasons not to open the Times but I did anyway. McChrystal McKabuki? Seven stories, and three Opinions? Pass. Max Boot didn't think he should be fired. That alone is enough for every American to support, or at least consider, summary execution, of McChrystal and whomever books freelancers for the Op-Ed pages. Matt Bai, given space above the e-fold to demonstrate--unwittingly, apparently--that the supposedly smartest Bush Brother is a nitwit? Didn't we know this already? Are our lives not busy enough?

And a glance at the Opinion Corner catches a tease for Douthat's "blog", and in the Cherry Haze of an early-morning Dextromethorphan buzz I briefly hallucinate the possibility of an original thought from Linkmaster Ross.

Insert Reefer Madness laugh.

So far as I can tell, the impetus for all this is that the Summer Blockbuster Season has disappointed some middle-aged white guys (John Podhoretz and David Edelstein, to use the two examples Douthat links) who used to be the target audience for such shenanigans. Enough so that they've become retro-nostalgic for a Golden Age that was over before either could get into an R-rated movie. And they blame this on the concept of the Summer Blockbuster, as ushered in by Jaws (Podhoretz) and not-Jaws Star Wars (Edelstein).

It's a common-enough argument--I've used it plenty myself--though I have to question, yet again, how "conservatives" such as J-Pod manage at one and the same time to be Profit's harlot and Art's chaste handmaiden.

But I think there's something missed in not having lived through it, or not as an adult whose intelligence could be insulted. I'd say, for example, that Edelstein has to be watching Jaws through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old to call it the Best Anything ever made, but I'd agree with him that it didn't usher in the modern Summer Blockbuster. At the time it felt more like a one-off; popular movie made from a popular trash novel. So was Valley of the Dolls. It was when the damn thing started spawning sequels, and people flocked to those, that the real danger became clear, but by then it was Too Late. And, hey, I'd like to think that Podhoretz is onto something there, even if he's slightly off, but only the oldest Boomers were out of their teens when Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate hit the screen. Italian neo-realism, the Nouvelle Vague, and post-war Japanese film all found an audience here before Boomers were out of grade school. It's the rise of the Blockbuster which is the aberration, or was before it went on for thirty-five years and no abatement in sight.

Nor did it happen in a vacuum. It coincides with the rise of Happy Talk news, People magazine, Good Morning America, of Disco and Anthem Rock. It heralds the coming of the New (Carter) Democrat and the already withered Reagan Republican, the transition from Elvis to Elvis impersonator. They dumbed down game shows, fer chrissakes, so that none a' your fancy book-larnin' got in the way. Astute moves, swing of the pendulum, faddishness run amok, or fiendish Straussian cabal; it happened.

And I spent ten years expecting it to swing back, particularly, say, for some bright-boy at the nets to counter-program Baba Wawturs Pweesents Suhlebwuty Gossip an' Headwines with someone reading real news in English. Never happened. At some point I decided you can only worry about your own reading list, anyway.

So I don't blame Jaws and Star Wars, or not really; they're just the pustules the thing broke out in. It would'a been something else otherwise. The bigger question, I think, is this: Podhoretz imagines the Golden Age as the result of executives recognizing the boomer insistence on more complex fare. How is it no one's decided to give that another whirl in two generations since?

Tuesday, June 22

Boy, Everyone Is Stupid But Me

David Brooks, "Faustus Makes a Deal". June 21

THIS week is already notable for two things, three if you count the ceaseless terrible thunderstorms and flooding rains I hope Jim Inhofe's family is now standing under in open fields with their mouths open: I have a miserable fucking cold, fer chrissakes, and everywhere I turn I wind up defending "liberals", which includes--let's makes that "means"--the sort of dishwater Centrists I'd as soon see hanged.
It was the winter of 2007. Dr. Faustus, the famous left-wing philologist, was sitting in a coffee shop in despair over the Bush-Cheney regime and the future of his country.

Suddenly, Mephistopheles, who happened to be the provost at his college, appeared, sipping a double mocha frappuccino. He sat down next to Dr. Faustus and casually asked him if he would like to be granted any five wishes in exchange for his immortal soul.

Ho ho! "double mocha frappuccino". Bet several of Dave's old Weekly Standard colleagues had to replace their keyboards this morning.
This was Dr. Faustus’s chance to do something grand for his country. He would lose his soul, but if he chose wisely, he could make the United States a bastion of liberalism forevermore.

Now, for one: by the winter of 2007--let's assume, arguendo, that what is intended is the first ten weeks of the year, not the final ten days--Democrats (aka "The Left-Wing") had just taken control of both houses of Congress as a response to the bedlam six years of de jure Republican control had made of the previous thirty years of de facto Republican control. This is the sort of thing you can look up.

I distinctly remember at the time that "liberal" and "progressive" bloggers (aka "The Left-Wing") found in this circumstance reason for something between shining hope for the future and unbridled synchronic triumphalism. It signaled the ascension of Markos Moulitsas and The Netroots Orchestra. And I remember it distinctly, because it convinced me that all of 'em have a much better supply of psychotropics than I've got.

So I'm not really sure why The Left-Wing would've been interested in making Faustian bargains at that point. And if you mean the end of 2007, well, there was an even greater national confidence that not even the Democratic party was likely to lose the White House with the sorts of advantages the Republican party had passed out during the second Bush/Cheney administration, though certain columnists felt that Rudy Giuliani might still prove a formidable foe. Now, maybe it's the case that Brooks means the actual Left-Wing, properly described, but grading its fortunes on how Democrats are doing in the polls is like assessing the Confederacy's chances by looking at NASCAR's teevee ratings, and imagining that 2% of the population really believes that 49% is going to suddenly sign on for Socialism just because their pockets were picked again--speaking personally, news that Bernie Madoff had gotten punched in the joint exceeded my expectations by a full one-third; hell, half of that was Madoff being in the joint in the first place--just vastly underrates both the experience and the intelligence of your opponent. Many of us lived through the Reagan administration, Dave. We know in our fucking marrow that Americans will never get the point.

So we conclude that by The Left Wing Brooks means that convenient amalgam of everyone in America who thinks economic rapaciousness should be tempered to some degree, with Ward Churchill as their acknowledged spokesman. And this would be the same David Brooks who, a while back--possibly in the winter of 2007--took umbrage at the fact that people treated "conservatives" as though they came in fewer than 31 flavors.

Here's the Bargain the monolithic Left jumped at:

• "[T]he nation to be hurled into an economic crisis caused by Wall Street greed and recklessness. This will discredit free-market fundamentalism once and for all.”

• "[T]he smartest Democratic politician in the land [made] president.”

• "[A] political climate so he can immediately enact an $800 billion spending package. [Which] will avert economic collapse and show the American people how effective government can be."

• "[P]ass a universal health care law. This will show a grateful nation that government can provide basic security.”

• "Just to be sure, I would like a multinational oil company to cause the biggest environmental disaster in American history. This will completely discredit corporate America and remind people why they need strong regulations and global warming legislation.”
And, indeed, everything Dr. Faustus wished for came to pass. Yet he watched events unfold with growing horror. Not in 70 years had there been a sequence of events so perfectly designed to fortify liberalism. Yet the country wasn’t swinging to the left; it was swinging to the right!

Allrighty, then. Q-E-Fucking-D.

So, first, we say the same thing to you, Dave, we told your son Ross yesterday: call us when you're ready to govern, m'kay? And not when you're ready to complain about government, because the phone would never stop ringing, and we already got the message in 1981.

Then, we'd appreciate another jingle when rabid Republicanism solves any of those problems, or even lessens their real-world and/or domestic political impact.

You won't need to tell us when you've actually won an election or two. We'll hear about it. Hell, Indiana Republicans are already lining up the Indy-to-D.C. Daniels Triumph of the Brain Parade. But what you can do is tell us what you personally stand to benefit from in all this Teabagger shit. The St. Reagan administration quadrupled the Debt, engendered the worst post-war recession to its time and the biggest bailout (and still the most scandalous). The Bush I administration had an even bigger recession and a worse jobs creation record. Bush II. We don't even need to say anything else. The Gingrich Revolution--wait, I know I wrote down its accomplishment somewhere, since I never can remember it. Th' fuck can you possibly even hope for, at this late date, in another Republican victory, aside from another opportunity for a long-distance nose-thumbing at those dirty, lunch-money-swiping, Main Line hippies who shoved you in a locker in 1978?

I'd note that it takes a lot of nerve for someone who's backed disaster after disaster caused by the pure application of his and his party's "principles" to start slinging Faust around, but it doesn't take any nerve at all. That's why we keep hearing about it. On the other hand, if the mushy middlers who control the Democratic party had exhibited some, those disasters would a permanent brand on your back, where they belong. But go on, y'know; keep tempting fate, and keep insisting that Middle America will never catch on. Hell, it's worked perfectly so far.

Monday, June 21

Shut Up, He (Tried To) Explain

Ross Douthat, "The Agony of the Liberals". June 21

THIS started for me at the Race Day Soirée we attend, when my neighbor, the dyed-in-the-wool-headed "conservative" "libertarian" with the framed Reagan/Bush reelection campaign poster in his garage, the one who left his Bush/Cheney 2000 yard sign up until after the Inauguration, asked my Poor Wife and I what we read of the Sunday Times he so kindly tosses over the fence for us when he's finished. He added how much he was enjoying the fact that "now even the Times" was "giving Obama a hard time" which he found "pretty funny".

Reader, I'm a tolerant man, philosophically, and only philosophically. I resist the urge to treat every "conservative", "libertarian" or no, as though he were a largely unexamined bundle of Christian morality tales for Children, stultifying nationalism that takes itself for patriotism, self-aggrandizement, barely-contained racism, FOX News rejoinders, and some self-fulfilling half-assed notions of the law, the Constitution, and US history which cannot withstand the slightest scrutiny, simply because that adequately describes every last one I've ever met. Aside from the outright clinical cases.

I mean, there must be some, right? You'd think the Times could find one, or even two.

Let's just go back to that statement for a moment. This comes from a guy who reads the Week in Review every Sunday, or at least folds the pages back. So he's had the theoretical ability, at least, to read That Dowd Woman since Senator Obama announced his candidacy; he might've noted the forced and belated apology for Judith Miller launching the Iraq War; if it was his habit back before they moved next door he could've read the Gore-sliming of MoDo and Frank Rich, and the factual Gore-sliming of Kit Seelye, and, before that, the comic fiction of Jeff Gerth. Yet, somehow, the Times is both epitome and pinnacle of Liberalism, and the fact that even they now criticize the President is proof positive that he's the worst failure in history, and everyone admits it.

He's fifty, my neighbor, meaning, if you'd care to do the math, prime Reagantot, David-Brooks-Without-the-Road-to-Damascus-Moment, no chance in hell he'd've been conscripted to put his warlust into practice; his natural inclination toward Regional Sales was reinforced during his sexual peak--and the most-likely-simultaneous peak of his indifferent political awareness--by the whole Morning in America crap pile. Meaning that between the Age of Majority and the time last year his teenaged daughter decided she was a Democrat, the only substantive political debates he's either entered into, or deigned to witness, were the imaginary sort that leaves one's opponents bawling like the little girls they are. And it's at least even money an erection was involved, at least metaphorically.

Dude, you been talking to yourself for thirty years! Which means I'm not quite certain what to make of Douthat, who apparently has been talking to himself since before he could talk:
They doubted him during the health care debate. They second-guessed his Afghanistan policy. They’ve fretted over his coziness with Wall Street and his comfort with executive power.

But now is the summer of their discontent. From MSNBC to “The Daily Show,” from The Huffington Post to the halls of Congress, movement liberals have had just about enough of Barack Obama.

Y'know, Ross, this reminds me: every time I read you I'm tempted to ask if 1) you play poker, and 2) what a seat costs. 'Cos son, that's a Tell a man could back a Brinks truck inta.

Let's just forget that notion of "movement" liberalism--aside from the cartoonish MSNBC, in Cartoon Land, there is no such thing--as well as the idea that Barack Obama is a paragon of Liberalism. He's a fucking Centrist. How much plainer could he have made that from Day One? How many times does it have to be diagrammed for you? Who d'ya think all those people will be voting for in 2012? Let's concentrate for a moment on George W. Bush.

Yeah, I know: another Liberal changing the subject. I'm not, and I'm not, but just fucking listen to an argument that isn't either your own, or safely corruptible, for once.

Let's focus on two major disasters of the Bush administration: Domestic, and Foreign. Worst economic record since the War, worst spending since the War, worst wars since the (Vietnam) war, and worst two wars ever. Toss in Katrina, since you're intent on comparing a slow-motion natural disaster greatly compounded by an ideological objection to doing anything about it--or, perhaps more precisely, to doing anything for those people--with a massive man-made ecological disaster which is directly attributable to 1) this country's self-centered consumption mania, which has been egged on by the Republican party especially, and 2) the cult of corporatism, ditto, though most Democrats show up for regular worship there, too, or have since George McGovern nearly toppled Western civilization.

So, tell me, Ross, where were the fucking objections from "conservatives" while those were going on? Please; not the six or seven editorialists who sorta kinda cautioned about soaring deficits, then wholeheartedly backed two blank-check wars. You're the guys who're so opposed to debt, but you're always finding reasons to excuse it when you're in power. We had a week of public denial about the non-response to Katrina before anyone on the Right allowed as how the problem went deeper than the genetic aquaphobia of your average African. Y'all still love those little military adventures, despite the fact that it's been five years since either one could be remotely defended as sane or successful or serving some national purpose.

So, y'know, just fucking spare us the "even the liberal MSNBC" routine as a mark of "liberal" discombobulation. The most substantive criticism of the Obama administration has come from Glenn Greenwald, and that's since the election, back when your side was consumed with Messiah complexes and hatching Birther conspiracies. A lot of us would be happy to make common cause with y'all when possible, provided you ever decide to stop being batshit crazy.

Consider, instead, what it means that such criticism is never heard in your party until it's too late. Consider what that's meant, and what it's gotten you.

Friday, June 18

What A Difference A Day Four Years Makes

SHORTER David Brooks: In a remarkable post-Katrina turnaround, Louisiana state officials are now fonts of wisdom, exemplars of preparedness, and paragons of truth!

You didn't think he could write a Shorter and just leave it at that, did you?

Compare Samuel Langhorn "Sam" Clemens, who once noted how astonished he was, at age 19, to reflect on how much wisdom his father had gained in just three years; note that your modern "conservative" has rejected the notion of linear Time, despite having pretty much skipped all scientific progress (and economic evidence) of the 19th century. The great Jean Piaget observed that by age three children have already rejected the physics of Aristotle, so I suppose it's entirely possible that there's some intuitive wisdom at the heart of the modern "conservative's" ability to treat contradictory evidence as though it never occurred. Then again, to my knowledge, Piaget never compared a child's ability to bullshit with that of the average columnist/political pundit.

• Of course Brooks didn't let George W. Bush off unscathed--this is the difference between being a full-time mouthpiece and having a covert career as one--but he did so in a roundabout fashion which treated Bush's failure as old news, and How the Sadly Misunderstood Republican Party Rebrands as the central question. 2005 was a pretty good year for that sort of thing; it was also his approach to Iraq.

• Connoisseurs of internet idiocy and Lamar Alexander's Jes' Folks impressions will no doubt enjoy the opener from Brooks' September 8, 2005 tree killer:
As a colleague of mine says, every crisis is an opportunity.

The opportunity in that instance being for majority Republicans to remake the modern American urban landscape in their image, specifically by moving the Coloreds into middle-class neighborhoods. (Such is the reality of Compromise that what Brooks' party decided to do instead was to drown what was left of the middle class, so every neighborhood looked the same and the Poor would relax a little, and maybe turn that goddam music down.)

• How interesting, then, that the man-made disasters of financial system meltdown, exponentially-overpriced health care, and environmental enormity are mere opportunities to explain that Government can't fix anything and shouldn't try, although being Government, and under Democratic control (for now), it no doubt will.

• And that the Public, which was so convinced by 2005 that politics required a fundamental change, now clambers for a spot behind Bobby Jindal, and all those other knowledgeable locals who just four months ago were the unreconstructed pimps of offshore drilling. *


* Though not the only ones, of course.

Thursday, June 17

Walking Tall: Happily Ever After

Andrew Ferguson, "Ride Along With Mitch: Can the astonishing popularity of Indiana's penny-pinching governor carry him to the White House in 2012?" Six volumes. June 14
When the oppo researchers and the national press do get around to opening up Daniels’s life for inspection, they will find a few embarrassments. One is his arrest in 1970 for marijuana possession when he was a student at Princeton. He spent two nights in jail and paid a $350 fine, and later wrote about the bust in a column for the Star in 1989.
WHICH of course by now serves his purposes, cost-free: the Faithful love nothing so much as the Sinner Redeemed an' Testifying, and the libertarians--I'm sorry, the even more Faithful--admire the fact that he was caught dealing. Meanwhile, we'd like to point out that within two years he was working for Dick Lugar, which goes on his resumé with pride, further proof that our priorities as a nation are severely screwed up, and have been for forty years minimum.
More painfully, he and his wife Cheri divorced in 1994. She moved to California, leaving Daniels with the four daughters, aged 8 to 14, and married a doctor. She divorced again and moved back to Indiana. She and Mitch remarried in 1997.

Cheri has never spoken about this publicly, and from what I can tell it’s been mentioned in print only twice. Daniels’s only comment was to the Indianapolis Star in 2004: “If you like happy endings, you’ll love our story.”
People who enjoyed The Mitch and Cheri Story may also like: Diana: The People's Princess; Creepy Co-Enablers and the Public That Can't See Through Them; and The Big Book of Combovers.

Or just luxuriate in the tale from 2001: Lovebirds Mitch and Cheri are nesting in Washington, D.C., and Some Gated Community, Hamilton County, Indiana, respectively, when the anthrax bomber strikes. Cheri Daniels calls 911 in a panic, because she's received a bulging envelope in the mail which is leaking white powder faster'n Kelsey Grammar. Turns out, the Boys at the Crime Lab say, to be talcum powder. Despite this being, y'know, the height of Total Fucking Panicky Time in America, and this being the personal dwelling of a Cabinet official, the investigation is pretty much done before the responding officers leave. Mitch does not vow to quit his job and hunt down the perp, by motorcycle, for however long it takes. So if you view Miss Havisham as a role model, you'll love their story, too.

Wednesday, June 16

Walking Tall, Vol. XXI

Andrew Ferguson, "Ride Along With Mitch: Can the astonishing popularity of Indiana's penny-pinching governor carry him to the White House in 2012?" Six volumes. June 14

WHEREIN Philosophy is something you can't argue with:
In Indiana, as elsewhere, schools have been typically funded by local property taxes, which local officials could raise to match their budgets, by increasing either rates or assessments. Consolidation took that option away from them. Under Daniels, home property taxes have been cut drastically—by one third in most cases—and are now capped at one percent.

“Property taxation is the most pernicious taxation there is,” he said. “Where else in life can you just decide how much you want to spend and then just dial up the rates to get enough revenue to pay for it? Elsewhere in life, you figure out how much money you have and fit your budget to that. If you’ve got less to spend, well, you’ve got less to spend.”

I was stuck at a red light the other afternoon behind a guy with a "This is my Peace Symbol" bumpersticker--the graphic was a reticle, perhaps better known as "crosshairs"--a few inches above his In God We Trust license plate.

Okay, so I read a little into that, and those plates--they're the sort of thing Daniels thinks the government should be doing with the dollars it seizes--aren't Christian, but merely a tribute to Our Selectively Semitic Heritage. It's perfectly possible to be a monotheist and routinely solve problems at 900-1200 meters. It's just that, well, there's Philosophy, and there's the things that Philosophy is used to justify, and somehow we refuse to acknowledge both at once, preferring to tout our own, while pointing out the shortcomings of others.
He treats waste in government as a moral offense. “Government isn’t a business, and it shouldn’t be run as a business,” he said. “But it can be more like business. It has a lot to learn from businessmen.” Government operates without the market pressures that produce efficiency and increase quality. The challenge for government leaders is to produce those pressures to economize internally, through an act of will. “Never take a dollar from a free citizen through the coercion of taxation without a very legitimate purpose,” he said in an interview last year. “We have a solemn duty to spend that dollar as carefully as possible, because when we took it we diminished that person’s freedom.” When you put it like that, overspending by government seems un-American.

No, Andrew; when you put it like that government seems un-American. After you've declared that Taxation=coercive seizure, how do you justify taxes at all?

Is this the root cause, or just a symptom, of the modern rhetorical syndrome which requires the hearer to fill in any pertinent information the speaker can't be bothered with? (Watch the nightly news, your choice of network, or any half-hour chunk of CNN. Count the number of stories where you come away knowing less about it than when you went in. Note how many times language is used to convey to you the emotion you're supposed to take away, or the emotion you're already supposed to have, rather than the information that's supposed to be at the heart of the thing. It dates to Nixon's assault on the Press, and the Press' hasty retreat into Happy Talk once it took fire.)

Of course with Daniels this isn't just sloppiness; he's even older than I am, he remembers all this stuff, it's just that he was on the other side, and instead of reviling it these past decades he's been honing his skill. The blank we're supposed to fill in here is that Taxes are Confiscation, Unless They're Going for Something Mitch Daniels Supports. Meaning, at least to someone educated in the previous century, that the proper question for debate is "So fucking what?" Is this supposed to close off discussion or something? It's "seizure" when our "overlords" address skyrocketing health care costs, but it's the proper function of government when we spend a trillion dollars, or, off the top of my head, roughly a trillion dollars more than Mitch "OMB" Daniels predicted it would cost, to overthrow a tin-horn strongman in Iraq because none of the top Bush administration officials could get laid in high school?

Suppose we simply agree, arguendo, that Defense is the only legitimate communal function of a Randian Superparadise. That settles the argument? It's not seizure when you build eight more carriers than you need? Where are the weapons systems Big Brain Mitch has called for us to eliminate? What did we eliminate when he was at OMB? (The Bush administration cancelled three--the Crusader artillery system, the Comanche reconnaissance helicopter, and the Navy Area Missile Defense system--in its first four years, for a net savings of…zero. We spent the money on other Bright Shiny Penis Replacements.)

So if we divide both sides of the equation by What We Buy we get…zero. Tax=Seizure. Or divide by Tax and we get Shit You Approve Of vs. Shit I Approve Of. I understand why the argument doesn't get treated that way at The Weekly Standard, but what about elsewhere? Over the past thirty years the Federal Government didn't shrink during Republican administrations and expand during Democratic; still, the argument gets phrased as Wanton Spending Democrats vs. Good, Practical Republican Stewards of The Public's Money Who Are Sadly Required To Spend Sixty Cents of Every Dollar On The Defense Industry, And Who Are Really, Really Certain That The Invisible Hand Will Take Care Of Any Future Problems If We Just Let It. And not only are both those premises demonstrably False, but it's not even the way Republicans act when they get the chance.
When Daniels took office, in 2004, the state faced a $200 million deficit

Are we back to using the original number now, Andrew, or did you get some out-of-date figures? Damn thing had ballooned to $500 million just before the 2008 election.
and hadn’t balanced its budget in seven years.

Though, again, it had; it just hadn't bothered (or obsessed with, for partisan political purposes) squaring all accounts at the end of every fiscal year. Really, again, it's fucking Indiana; it's not like we pass out free Government Jumbo Tenderloins and heroin to all unwed mothers. It's not like the one real constant over the past twenty years hasn't been that every budget deal has to win the approval of a state senate which is two-thirds Republican. The first Bush II recession (Mitch Daniels, Enormous OMB Brain-director; see, I can play that game, too) hit Indiana particularly hard, and, like everywhere, was particularly long-lived, unless your source of income was buying and selling derivatives, or providing secondary-market armoring for US military vehicles. We could have "solved" it the way we had for seven years previous, without, y'know, declaring State Bankruptcy or having a huge Statehouse Yard Sale; that is, we could have squeezed some here, cut some there, raised this tax or that fee, amortized some expenses, and fudged some others. Not pretty, but lawmaking never is. Instead we elected a guy who wanted to use Big Brained Budget Balancer on the logo for his next two campaigns, and we gave the GOPers a majority in the House to match the Senate, and they turned the whole thing into one big Republican PR Fest, which is precisely where we are today. They took the Debits column, sliced it to match the Income column, and declared Mitch Daniels a genius. Nothing to it, provided you have the political power, the political will, and the temerity to assume it won't blow up on your watch, or if it does you'll be able to finesse it, given that your base consists of backwoods RV gawkers with atrocious eating habits.

And yet "cut here, squeeze there, raise some taxes, and pass other expenses down the line" is precisely what we did, while giving it a spiffy new wrapper that tested well with the vital Don't Know No Better demo.

Let's say you are among Indiana's 10% (counted) unemployed. Wait, better yet, let's say you're a Heroic Indiana Jobs Creating Entrepreneur, not like Mitch Daniels. Your business drops off 30% in the present economy. Do you take a list of everything you spend money on and cut it all by 30%, thereby solving the problem and becoming Profitable again? Well, if you cut your hours by 30%, you might lose even more business. You cut employee hours 30% your customers might not get the personal attention they crave and shop elsewhere. You're not going to dim the lights 30%, or switch off the AC for two-and-a-half hours every day. You're going to look at all your options and make informed decisions. You're not going to destroy your business to save it. You're not going to pawn your wife's jewelry, or her Toll Road, without getting her permission first, and when you do, you're not going to spend that money on more jewelry and more Toll Roads. This is yet another way business is different from government.

Oh, and if you do, you're not going to be able to convince some guy at the Weekly Standard that you're actually open longer now, and that at 95% it's still 20% cooler inside than it is in Michigan stores. Unless, of course, he's desperate for a candidate who talks shit because he needs to, not because it's all he has for brains.

Tuesday, June 15

Walking Tall, Part 2

Andrew Ferguson, "Ride Along With Mitch: Can the astonishing popularity of Indiana's penny-pinching governor carry him to the White House in 2012?" Six volumes. June 14

IF we're through lying about Daniels' height, it must be time to start lying about his record.

Which, of course, is the point of the exercise, so let's repeat: it's no surprise, and no big deal, that he lied about his Presidential aspirations, nor that he continues to ("reluctantly talked into leaving the door open", like he's fucking Eisenhower or something). What is of note is the way lying about his record has been at the service of the ambitions he denied, and how, ultimately, when the choice came to fuck Hoosiers over or admit the failure of his Magic Economic Formula, well, you can finish that sentence.
North Central gleamed. A glass elevator stood in the polished foyer, and a ramp curved up to a balcony where one wall was devoted to the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame. A picture of Daniels—straight A student, president of the student council, delegate to the national Boys State convention in 1967—has pride of place, next to a photo of BabyFace, the music producer who has evidently been forgiven for discovering Paula Abdul. Later I remarked to Daniels how the schools I’d seen in Indiana all had the same gleam and polish: immaculate athletic fields, vast cafeterias, swimming pools.

“Yeah,” he said, “it’s a problem.”

Okay, it's Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, not BabyFace, like he's a website specializing in infant photography, and he probably has some regrets, as we all do, but they don't include "discovering" Paula Abdul or flushing away a billion Hoosier tax dollars in a social services privatization boondoggle.

As for North Central, it's what's known locally as a "county" school, meaning it was built in an area which was outside the city limits at the time, back before the Lugar administration annexed the land and harvested the white votes. It serves the wealthiest district in the city. Its growth was more Post-war Housing Boom than White Flight, but, of course, thanks to Dick Lugar it was allowed to expand unimpeded by any obligation--beyond the ethical, which can be discounted--to share its property-tax receipts with any of the students in other areas of the city it so recently had joined, a situation which still obtains today. Prior to its completion in 1956--just a dozen years before it became part of Indianapolis--its school-aged residents had been educated in the Indianapolis Public School system. Gratis. Just in case you enjoy irony an' stuff.

Ferguson, then, could have travelled ten minutes to the south and had the gleam, and the pool, and the glass elevators, and the mote removed from his eye, by visiting some schools more appropriately reflecting their charges' station in life.
I’d meant to flatter him but he sounded appalled.

“When we were first campaigning, I started to notice, we’d drive through these rural counties, these very poor counties, and we’d drive up over a hill and on the other side you’d see a brand-new high school that looked like Frank Lloyd Wright had just been there.

1) Couldn't have been Wright if they were still standing. 2) Governor, you couldn't pick Frank Lloyd Wright out of a lineup that included Le Corbusier, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and the Mormon Tabernacle.
Enormous gold-plated buildings. It turned out we had higher capital expenditures for educational construction per square foot than any other state. There’d be a bond issue and then the architects and contractors would run amok, spending money on things that had nothing to do with academics. I understand why it happens. The school board likes it because they get to play designer for a year. But we couldn’t afford it.”

Y'know, at first blush this doesn't seem like the Smaller Government Republican/Randian Snake Oil Pitchman game in a nutshell. There's much to agree with there, even if you suspect, as I do, that that "highest construction costs in the nation" routine comes from the Ronald Wilson Reagan Institute of Tree-Engendered Pollution Statistics. But let's scrape away some of that gold plating.

The main reason one sees these Prairie Palaces standing in the place of the Little Red Schoolhouse of Daniels' imaginary youth is that over the past forty-fifty years rural districts have consolidated. That gold wasn't forcibly extracted from the remaining teeth of Farmer Bob and Trailer Park Tessie by the King's hated publicans. It's spread over a wide area. And this is fucking Indiana, where Republicans have held the purse strings since Oliver P. Morton, interrupted only by the occasional Not Quite Republican, such as Evan Bayh. The expense of those schools was approved by local school boards, whose members were elected and whose meetings were public, and paid for almost exclusively by local property tax levies. That changed when Daniels and his bunch overran the Statehouse in 2004, and took over the bulk of education funding.

Which, again, we're not saying is a Bad Thing of itself, but we'd prefer it be done with an eye to, I dunno, equalizing educational opportunity, not squeezing evil teachers' unions. It's just that RV Mitch wasn't touring vast stretches of Appalachia dotted with Little Xanadus; what he saw, at most, was the sort of local pride that people took in their schools, and the sort of construction projects their elected representatives--who're much more assessable to taxpayers than their six-week-a-year state reps--approved. Even if the lot of 'em did figure all those Negro children in the jungles of Indy didn't really require computers, air conditioning, or textbooks from the current century, just reasonably comfortable footwear.

So this routine is really about Mitch Knows Best, not freedom from tyrannical tribute. And, in the event, the combination of that Bush II economy he'd overseen, and the property tax system he and his Republican legislature refused to fix in advance, then claimed credit for plugging with shredded tires and defaced golf balls, would see to it that by his second term no one had any money to spend on schools at all, vaulting us to 45th in construction costs, or something. I have no idea, but if he can make shit up so can I.
School funding increased every year under Daniels before the recession, and since the downturn, when most areas of state government have seen cuts of 25 percent or more, education has been reduced by only 2 percent.

Fuck it, can we just rename Reagan Intergalactic Airport for him right now? This is pure unbridled fucking malarky. Old enough to remember Reagan? "Revenue enhancement?" "He didn't cut social programs, he just reduced the rate of increase?" There's yer template.

Let's us go back to 2004, and Daniels' Chip on His Shoulder Across the Hinterlands RV Tour. In order to be elected savior, Mitch needed something he could save us from. Enter the Deficit.

The state didn't have a Deficit. Well, it did, but it didn't. It had, Republican and Near-Republican, sometimes balanced its books by shifting accounts one year to the next. In good times it ran a surplus [what, when inherited by the Bush II White House (Mitch Daniels, Big Economic Bureaucratic Brain), was referred to as "taxpayer money ruthlessly seized by Big Government and held for its own purposes", and which, when one could briefly be attributed to Indiana (Mitch Daniels, Big Economic Executive Brain), was referred to by that same group as "proof positive of superior understanding and penny-pinching preparedness"], and in bad it paid it down. Suddenly in 2004 we had a half-billion dollar debt no one--not even the perpetual Republican majority in the state Senate--had bothered to tell us about. We elect The Brain, and after the brief moment it takes to explain to him that his proposed one-year tax surcharge on incomes over $100,000 designed to reduce the Deficit won't be necessary unless he'd like to be found floating in the White River, which, even if you're alive isn't much of a deal, he and the Republican General Assembly meet for two months and the whole thing disappears.

To my knowledge no one has ever explained how this was accomplished. For that matter, no one's ever explained why anyone should believe it was accomplished. One thing, though, is certain: in 2005 the Indiana General Assembly, with the guidance of The Guy Who'd Wrecked the Economy for the Beloved George W. Bush, cut the public education budget for a two year period. Yes, education spending increased, on paper, but it did so while eliminating funding for certain expenditures which had to that point been guaranteed. So that, say, if you've gotten an automatic 5% raise every year for ten years, and suddenly your boss comes to you two months before the increase is due, and says he's not making enough money because he thought the War in Iraq would cost only about sixty bucks, so now your increase will be 2%, he can still claim to have enhanced your revenue. And you can claim he's a lying sack.

The cuts hit the state's largest, urban school districts hardest. After Democrats retook the House in 2006 school funding was increased; but once Daniels was safely reelected he torpedoed the budget process after an agreement in principle had been reached, forcing a Special Session Farmer Zeb and Laid-off Linda were only too happy to foot the gold-plated bill for, whose sole intent was to gut the agreed-upon educational increase.

Reduced only 2%! says our Andrew, without noting--for some reason--there was a 1% increase in 2009, due to an influx of Socialist Obama Bucks.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Senate Permanent Republican Committee on Per Diem Costs While The Legislature Is Not In Session jawboned state universities into reducing the increases in tuition they'd proposed in response to the cuts--more severe for them than secondary education--if, by "jawboning" you mean "threatened to never approve a single building request again times infinity, until the Rapture". Local districts making forced wholesale cuts in education budgets in, really, the only place they can (or so Republicans keep insisting when it's private-sector layoffs)--that is, the labor force, which, by the way, is made up of teachers--has been met by Mitch and his henchdirector of public education, Tony Bennett, shaking their heads sadly and suggesting that administrators be cut first. Like that's the way the Perfect Market works in any other area of life.

This then, friends, is the Penny-Pincher's Miracle: a guy living in a ~$4 million home in a gated community paid for with tax receipts and whatever he found lying around loose, tells you he's cutting your budget to suit his notion of your Place. Then he informs you that where he's cutting it is none of your backwoods, illiterate, last century goddam business. This is known as "conservatism". Hell, it's known in some circles as "the Republicans best hope". To save themselves from Republicans.

Monday, June 14


DO get over to World O'Crap and help out the loveliest couple on the internets if you can. Thanks.

Sunday, June 13

Walking Tall, Part 1

Andrew Ferguson, "Ride Along with Mitch: Can the astonishing popularity of Indiana's penny-pinching governor carry him to the White House in 2012?" Six volumes. June 14

WE'VE got a long slog ahead of us, but a journey of a thousand miles--even one that begins and ends in the same stinking slough where you began, the one some huckster named Kristol you are beginning to suspect is the same one indicted for fraud just last week is trying to sell you as prime real estate--should start under your feet, not with a single step; Alan Watts says this is both a permissible translation and the reasonable one: not "hurry up and do something, you've got a long trip ahead of you," but ""figure out which way you're going first".

The earth- or blogosphere-shaking pull quote from this, the umpteenth attempt to kickstart the doomed Daniels 2012 campaign--I think he's doomed, but if not then we are--has The Bantam Menace calling for a truce in the Culture War. Forgive me if, at the top, I betray a slight tendency to disbelieve anything the man says, but what I'd really like to see, what these people can do tomorrow, if they'd like to, is self-styled "conservative" intellectual journals losing the fucking walking goddam ads for a George Pataki PAC jammed onto the middle of every page like an ugly tattoo. Isn't Reading a traditional, Judeo-Christian, "conservative" virtue? As in, you start reading with the first word, and move on through to the last, without seeing George Pataki, who has nothing whatsoever to do with this story, nor any other--every two minutes? I can't say my study's been exhaustive, but I don't recall Edmund Burke doing a lot of product placement, nor sneaking personal endorsements for Croft & Tewsberry Wig Powder, or proprietary pox palliatives, into his Parliament speeches. And it's 8600 words plus; I'd really like to get on with it, instead of having it divided into thirteen pages, or roughly 2/3 of Ross Douthat's weekly production per. You really need page views that bad?

We'll get started in a minute, promise. But, look, Andrew, Astonish means "thunderstruck" or "mazed". And, indeed, this is one way to describe my personal reaction to Daniels' popularity ("suspicious" is another). But you mean something like "greatly surprising", which is acceptable from a usage standpoint--as the waterlogged and fish-nibbled corpse of a yeoman term lost in a sea of advertising hyperbole, hauled in without its pants--but then it isn't true. He's the Republican governor of a still-solid Republican state. It's Clear Blue Sky, not statewide thunderstorm activity events. What was George W. Bush's approval rating among Republicans the day he left office as the Worst President Ever? The Republican rank-and-file approves anything in Republican clothing, provided it hasn't been caught with a dead hooker or live preteen boy. Mark Souder resigned out of embarrassment, and because Choirboy Pence was on his ass, you should pardon the expression; not because he was in any danger of not being reelected. Richard Lugar is the most popular Hoosier politician of All Time, and the only thing he's done for Indiana in thirty-three years is get his wife off our highways.

Of course you don't want to say "Daniels' Surprising Popularity", since the reason for the surprising part is not that it exists, if it does, but that it's been bestowed on a loathsome toad, a contemptuous, miniaturized elitist in an Aw Shucks state, which actually was on to him in the beginning, back when he was remarkably unpopular. So you choose "astonishing" the way a self-conscious lad might stuff a zucchini in his jockstrap. Daniels popularity "soared", if it did, at the precise moment when he was able to use an immense war chest (containing Republican heavy hitter and corporate quids pro quo, not Frank and Ethel's egg money) to begin saturation bombing of the airwaves a month before a primary where he wasn't challenged, and continuing through November. Those ads lied about his economic record. In fairness, they had to. He then trounced a woman with an execrable track record, who'd only managed to win the primary by going negative, after which she couldn't repair the damage or get Evan Bayh to remember her name. The astonishing thing about 2008, lest we forget, is that the Republican brand was so degraded that Barack Hussein Obama carried the state, not that shit still floats.

When Mitch Daniels ran for governor of Indiana in 2004, a friend and videographer got the idea of filming the candidate in vidéo vérité style as he traveled around the state in his Indiana-made RV. In both his campaigns for governor—in 2004, when he won a close race, and in 2008, when he won reelection against the Obama tide in an 18-point landslide—Daniels visited each of Indiana’s 92 counties at least three times, appearing in places that hadn’t seen a statewide candidate in generations, or ever. If he wasn’t riding the RV, he came to town on his custom-built Harley Davidson, a solitary aide trailing behind.

Pausing every so often to cut some brush. Look, let's just get this out of the way. The man's a colorless gnome with a mean streak, and his entire career consists of suckling at the government teat, except for the decade when the Hudson Institute, then Eli Lilly, hired him because of his experience suckling at the government teat. There is no fucking way any impartial, or even partly-sighted, Hoosier observer sees Mitch Daniels as Jes' Folks, as someone who'd ride in an RV, tour in an RV, be caught dead in an RV, or allow one to be parked in his neighborhood, unless he was getting something out of it. This is cornball crap Mitch Daniels has done to get elected, and one look at his face and everyone's in on the secret. Do not try to tell someone who's witnessed six years of this any different. In a state where electricity did not still qualify as a marvel for one-quarter of the population, Daniels performance in 2004 would have been classified as Astonishingly Condescending. Daniels at the Indiana State Fair, forced to chomp a boiled ear of corn while rubbing elbows with the toothless, the shirtless, and the excessively solarized was like watching the audition tape of the guy who ran second to Tony Shalhoub for the role of Monk. He had the look of a man whose blind date smelled like dirty socks. Couldn't hide it. Not even close. The only reason he managed to get elected is that most Hoosiers are too polite to've bent down low enough to peer at his expression. And don't even start with the motorcycle thing.
He insisted on spending every night on the road in the home of a local family. Nearly all the families were strangers to him. He slept in guest rooms, family rooms, dens, and children’s bedrooms, on bunks and foldout couches, with pictures of pop stars staring from the walls and an occasional Disney mobile dangling overhead, proving to the people of his state that he could sleep anywhere.
By the way, this is about how condescending Daniels is when he tells the story. And it's always sold as a knee-slapper the equal of Earl Butz' crowning achievement. Which, come to think of it, it is. Mitch Daniels actually walked among these hicks! That's how bad he wanted the opportunity to straighten out their economy!
He was bit by a pig

Look, Andy--can I call you Andy?--if you wanna prove you've been to Indiana it's "He was bit by a pig, and I seen it."
and, later, a farm dog.

Roughly coinciding with the local legend of a 3'2" wolf-like creature that walks on two legs, and, when the moon is full, swipes the wallets of unsuspecting travelers. They say you can recognize him by the pentagram on his left palm. And the comb-over.
He paid special attention to the quality of pork tenderloin sandwiches he found in the local bars and diners. Pork tenderloin sandwiches, the size of a platter, are unavoidable in Indiana, no matter how hard you try, and Daniels made it clear he didn’t want to try. Food became a theme of the campaign. The best dessert he’d discovered, he said, was a Snickers Bar dunked in pancake batter and, this being Indiana, deep-fried.

Just for the record: there's no way I'd defend the chain restaurant, fried catfish, and sausage gravy cuisine of my home state, though if anyone but Ferguson shows up I'll be glad to make you a breaded pork tenderloin that'll make you weep. But th' fuck gives Andrew Ferguson the right to sneer at it? Where's his goddam cookbook? Better yet, sneer all you want, asshole, but never pretend to speak for Middle American values, or "explain" Indiana politics. There's a deal we could all live with. Meantime, if'n you knew what you were talking about, you'd know "Deep Fried Fucking Abomination" is a sort of state fair/carnival food concessionaire version of bungee jumping, except they have to think up a new one every year, and Indiana doesn't get it until the second go-round. Deep fried Snickers bar is about as regional as Red Lobster.
His telegenic appeal is highly unlikely. He’s 5′7″.
On wheels, maybe.

His pale coloring is set off by his reddish gray hair, and the day is fast approaching when the combover will no longer be able to work its magic.

And that day is: July 20, 1977.
He favors pressed sport shirts and sharply creased Dockers, public-golf-course casual.

I'm not an expert in golf course attire, so let's just say this: if Mitch Daniels has ever played a public course in his life the term "Fundraiser" was attached. If what Mitch Daniels "favors" leads the knowledgeable student of such things to think "public course" then the scam is working, at least somewhat. Unlike that comb-over.
his manner is just awkward enough to make you wonder, when you talk to him, if you’re making him nervous.

See, this is why you can't breeze in here and act like you know what's what (not that that was your purpose). Shoulda seen him in his first term. It took his image doctors eighteen months to get him to feign that awkwardness around lesser mortals, which, in Mitch's case, is everybody.

That "social awkwardness" is like the hitch in the speech of a life-long stutterer who's learned to navigate his difficulties while searching for a synonym he can handle; it's Mitch's way of not blurting out anything psychically revealing. His natural inclination is to let you know in no uncertain terms how insignificant you are by comparison. We in the Hoosier state watched while his handlers constructed the thing. And the mask still slips some times. (Dogs always know people better than people do, by the way.)
He is everywhere in the news all the time; when I visited Indiana last month, his picture appeared on the front page of the Indianapolis Star, above the fold, on two of the four days I was there.

Congratulations, Ferguson. You just got a Racist Beacon editor fired for missing two days.
He is at once so visible and so self-effacing

that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans—notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president —seem to like that.

That, and/or anything else that puts more money in their pockets. Daniels is a country-club Republican's imaginary hedge against Sarah Palin. Guaranteed to be as flexible as Bush--a few months back he was practically the only voice in the country complaining about the unfair treatment Toyota was getting--but with the ability to form complete sentences, and the requisite Randian derangement. 'Course the fact of the matter is that Mitch knows, the guy who shaves him in the morning knows, that he's not going to be President. He knows it's going to a lot tougher to hoodwink a national audience about his Indiana "miracle"; he knows what sort of a campaigner his wife makes.

Daniels insisted at the time that 2008 would be his last campaign. He's not the first nor only politician to lie about such things; it's probably the rule, not the exception. The simple fact, though, is that in 2008 he recognized how long the odds were: he's not an attractive candidate. He's churlish. His Indiana record as trumpeted in the local press and picked up by the national is a sham, a transparent PR reminiscent of Reagan's, because that's what it was modeled on. Like Reagan's, it relies on people proclaiming Whatever Happens as the greatest possible outcome, and due entirely to the application of infallible Randian principles. And, like Reagan's, the reality is both short and long-term disaster.

Finally, and like Reagan, the actual results mean nothing whatsoever to his mouthpieces, who prefer lower growth rates, declining wages, higher unemployment, poorer job creation, and painful boom-and-bust cycles controlled by members of the Randian Brotherhood to better results from someone else. (As would the rest of us, if we were Enlightened.) Y'know, I live in Indiana. It's not like I expect the shade of Eugene V. Debs to win an election hereabouts. As I've mentioned before on those rare instances when his name comes up (modest, self-effacing man!), I didn't view the 2004 election of Mitch Daniels as a great tragedy, although the campaign had gleefully roughed up Joe Kiernan, a real real Hoosier, war hero, and competent administrator. Oddly, for such a resoundingly Red state, Indiana Republicans are not all unbending religious maniacs. It's just the vast majority. And right off the bat Daniels pulled his "one-year surtax to reduce the deficit" routine, which I thought was evidence of potential open-mindedness, even though the wailing about state debt was contrived. That proposal, of course, lasted all of twelve hours, before Republican donors taught Mitch the facts of life. Next thing you knew he was calling minority Democrats in the General Assembly "car bombers" and going full-metal Gipper on the wasteful spending of previous (Democratic) administrations which had led us to the worst budget mess in history. That's the Mitch Daniels the public needs to be introduced to if he's really intending to climb on the national stage.

But politics is yet to come. For now let's just note that his policies haven't been reported any more accurately than his height, or the mesmerizing effect of his hairstyling.

Friday, June 11

Six: Have You Stopped Economically Oppressing Your Feminist Life Partner?

Daniel B. Klein, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics." June 8

OH, great, another Daniels hagiography in the wingnut press, this one in six volumes, so that I spent ten minutes cutting and pasting the thing so I could read it without having George Pataki and an amusing caricature of Barack Obama (he has big ears!) stare at me, before I realized that the little smear there at the top was a printer icon, and it was possible to grab the whole thing at once. This did, sadly, mean an end to the snippets I was catching while doing it page by page, but then even in Indiana we know you don't just tuck into a fancy cruise ship buffet as if it were a communal tureen of boarding house hash. I'll be tasting the damned thing all weekend, at least.

Today let's get to that Daniel B. Klein/ Zeljka Buturovic "study", which promises to answer once and for all the eternal questions 1) "Who is more likely to agree with bald declarations of libertarian economic 'truth': libertarians, or dirty hippies?" and 2) "In a bad economy, how many nickels do you need to get Zogby to add its name to any piece of crap floating by?" Though the second one had pretty much already been answered to most people's satisfaction.

Here, for the record, are the eight "questions" "posed" by the "researchers", coupled with the unenlightened response, and which I considered just making my entire post:

1. Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

2. Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

3. Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

4. Rent control leads to housing shortages.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

5. A company with the largest market share is a monopoly.
• Unenlightened: Agree

6. Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited.
• Unenlightened: Agree

7. Free trade leads to unemployment.
• Unenlightened: Agree

8. Minimum wage laws raise unemployment.
• Unenlightened: Disagree

[mystery bullets in original]

So we all see the game, here, like it wasn't made explicit by that steaming Opinion Journal pile, or by the use of "Unenlightened" to designate "wrong" answers. For that matter, so far as we can tell, Economics is the only academic discipline which regularly spends half its time proving that everybody else is an idiot, including the rest of Academia. Which leads us to conclude that there were a lot more Dirty Hippies swiping a lot more lunch money in the 1980s than previously imagined.

No, I might've just done that little strangled chortle I usually do when reading the Journal's Fluoridation page before moving on, had I not clicked on over to the .pdf file and found what is quite possibly the sloppiest goddam thing anyone with an academic position to maintain ever put his name on, unless that position was "RA" and he'd stayed up all night faking a paper due the next morning. Honest to fucking God:

• The thing is "published" by Klein's own Econ Journal Watch, an "electronic triennial", apparently because all the big electronic fortnightlies are controlled by Big Academia.

• It, and we quote here, was designed by the first author of the paper, Zeljka Buturovic, who holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and is currently a Research Associate at Zogby International, and whose "motivation in designing the survey grew out of her dissatisfaction with previous surveys treating economic understanding. She regarded many questions on previous surveys to be either too narrowly factual, too dry in a textbook way, and too removed from policy context, or, alternatively, too general in eliciting policy judgments apart from specific economic consequences."

• The preceding is particularly interesting, not just in that someone with an Ivy League Ph.D in Phrenology--sorry, Psychology--and a job with Zogby can't manage to write survey questions that aren't designed to prove what she already believes, but for this:
We have omitted 8 of the economic questions in that format because they are not as useful in gauging economic enlightenment, either because the question is too vague or too narrowly factual, or because the enlightened answer is too uncertain or arguable.

Eight out of sixteen get tossed for being too vague or too narrow, in a study which grew out of dissatisfaction with the "too narrowly factual" questions of previous surveys? Gentleman's C, then.

• We can't get through the goddam introduction before the authors're forced to list four "Caveats" about the study (which--you're sitting down, right?--they will then use as reason to pat themselves on the back for their brutally honest self-criticism):
Caveat 1 of 4: Some will take exception to our take on the eight questions, particularly the one about minimum wage laws….Some will even say that, because of monoposony or coordination problems, minimum wages increase employment, but we judge such arguments to be of dubious plausibility and significance. We think that the basic logic asked by the question is revealed by carrying it to a minimum wage of, say, $20. Unemployment would go up a lot.

Mind you, if you answer "incorrectly" based on a more complex understanding of the problem" you're still Unenlightened. (Gee, what if it went up to a millionty dollars an hour? There'd be almost no jobs, but if you got one you could retire after twenty minutes! Then again, what do I know? I didn't even rate a fucking self-described category in the thing.)
Caveat 2 of 4: We acknowledge a shortcoming about the set of economic questions used here, and a corresponding reservation. None of the questions challenge the economic foibles specifically of “conservatives,” nor of “libertarians,” as compared to those of “liberals”/“progressives.”

There, there. Don't be so hard on yourselves. You couldn't have known.
Caveat 3 of 4: Even if one accepts that our handling of each of the eight economic questions tracks economic enlightenment, the set represents a baseline rather than the heights of economic wisdom. In other words, the most econ- omically enlightened mind would score no better than a solidly sensible mind on the eight questions, as they would both ace the 8-question exam. Yet presumably almost all of the most economically enlightened minds in the United States have all gone to college.

In other words, all the Idiots your survey found might actually be Super Geniuses, and you have no way of knowing. (By the way, that "1 of 4, 3 of 4" thing is in the original, even though presumably almost all of the most Redundancy-enlightened minds in the United States have all graduated from high school.)
Caveat 4 of 4: In commenting on this paper in draft, Bryan Caplan suggested that there is a strong reason to suspect that, among less schooled people, those more economically enlightened would be more likely to complete the survey.

Well, again, you weren't going to stop at that late point and, I dunno, think about it, or something? Not when a Ph.D in Graphology--I mean Psychology, of course--who fucking works for Zogby had approved the foolproof protocol of inviting randomly selected participants to a one-shot online link where they could answer the questions and self-identify as "Progressive","Liberal", "Conservative", "Very Conservative", "Deluxely Conservative", or "Libertarian".

I mean, really, after you designed the fucking thing there was no more reason to even concern yourself with accuracy, was there?

Y'know, assuming you had actually lifted a finger to assure your results, the thing that would be troubling me now--okay, not much--is that a number of Americans who describe themselves as "Liberal" or "Progressive" didn't fucking catch on to your slanted little survey by Question 2.

• Minor point, but still troubling: how is it that a Professor of Economics and Editor of the premier electronic triennial on the World Wide Web can't come up with a headshot

that doesn't have a blonde, or a blonde wig, or a treasured childhood Wookie doll halfway cropped out of it?

And all just so some loadpants could board the Opinion Journal short bus long enough to say "Liberals are Retarded!" Well, revealing fucking survey, Doc. I'll say that for you.

Wednesday, June 9

Three More Holes In The Atmosphere

Matt Yglesias-Mercouri,"Why Is Paying Effective Teachers More A Form of 'Teacher-Bashing'?" June 7
One tic I really don’t understand is the practice of referring to performance pay plans for K-12 teachers as “teacher-bashing”. If I proposed putting all the professors at the University of California on a flat salary schedule based on years on the job, would people deem that a “pro-professor” proposal? Why? What’s of interest, salary-wise, to teachers in the aggregate is how much overall money is spent on teacher compensation.

I've admitted, here and there, that I voluntarily subjected myself to the first Star Wars flicker, complete with appropriately plastic Mall Cinema ambience, the smell of two-week-old "popcorn" reheated and topped with petrochemicals, and a crowded house of children and "adults" stomping and clapping and booing and hissing like their grandparents did for William S. Hart (it's different now, okay? As in "the people who were actually children at the time have so thoroughly adopted the parti-colored and sugar-drenched breakfast cereal of popular culture that juvenalia is in their marrow"; succeeding generationlets had no chance whatsoever. We accept and move on. But at the time we were convinced the entire exercise was a sort of mass hypnosis with a disturbingly political twist we only later came to identify as libertarian: the sort of easy psilocybin of special effects--no worries that you won't come back from this Trip, Mr. and Mrs. Middle America!--and the fact that the Good Guys won this one, like they should, like you knew they would, and in contradistinction to everything America Herself had her grubby mitts on at the time, and most everything since). And that I did so for the sake of the bible college student with the Amazonian physique and hypocritical taste and talent for premarital sex who sat to my right. It was a summer thing, as it most certainly had to be; she was up from Tennessee staying with her sister and brother-in-law. A months later we took advantage of their weekend absence to spend a night together at their place. On their return a concerned neighbor reported to Sis that my car had been parked in the driveway way past any other explanation, and my Amazon died of embarrassment.

What I don't think I've admitted is that I read the first twenty-five pages of The Fountainhead for approximately the same reason, with the same reaction most sane people who've undergone the experience while still young enough to excuse it report: five pages of thinking, "Hey, she's onto something," followed by a ten-page recognition that her crappy writing is not doing that Something any favors, followed by the distinct aroma of snake oil quickly becoming overpowering. My young darling at the time, a fellow highschooler who had, unbeknownst to me, already revealed as much of her dewy charms as I would ever be allowed, had pressed the thing into my hands between classes. I told her it sucked, even if she didn't, and that, as they say, was that. My best friend--I swear this is true--had a underclass coed walk up to him in the hall one afternoon as we were leaving and give him a copy of Justine. There's no way sexting has improved on that.

What's Yglesias' excuse? Missing what trades unions have done for this country, on the grounds that one is well-born enough to start off as an heroic Randian middle-management cog, is like missing the real struggle over Civil Rights on the grounds that one bought a book of Martin Luther King stamps. Let's just note--shits and grins--a couple of distinctions between the public school teacher and the tweedy professor, shall we? Professors don't roam the hallways between classes making sure everyone gets to where he's supposed to be without being stuffed in a locker, or shivved. They don't chaperone their young charges' prescription meds, or their apparel, or even their attendance. Secondary education is a shared occupation, inside and outside the classroom. My Poor Wife began last school year writing quick lesson plans for the classes of a new teacher whose health problems had worsened suddenly, a practice which would continue on and off for the entire year. Not because her feather-bedding contract required her to; she'd already agreed to teach an extra class per day. And certainly not because she was paid extra to do so. Because she is an adult (and experienced, Klein), and because all teachers are responsible for all the students in school. If the prof--sorry, I mean if the TA--next door doesn't show for ten minutes everybody leaves, or starts sexting, or something. The guy next door doesn't even look in.
When you talk to teachers, in my experience they generally believe that the work they’re doing is important, that doing a good job makes a difference, and that the very best teachers are having unusually large impacts on their students’ lives.

Where? On camera? In the street? At cocktail parties or oxygen bars? Riding in the cabs they drive part time? Where'd you elicit the platitudes, Matt?

This is what's been said to me, several times, and not by my Poor Wife, who's too damn saintly: when they start paying someone teaching Math, or Physics, or for "Meritorious service in helping students cheat on standardized tests" more than me, that's the day that person gets no more of my help. Not watching her class, or taking his lunchroom duty, or helping with lesson plans. Nothing. If it's gonna be a free-for-all then it'll be a real free-for-all.

And we can add to that the fact that shared workplace effort so often seems invisible to people who've been Wi-fying it in all their working lives.

Ezra Klein, "The problem of 'first-hired, last-fired' ". June 7
Even putting aside things like work rules and union contracts, layoffs are hard. You've got to be a cold soul to call someone you've known for years into your office and wreck their economic stability, their daily routine, their sense of self-worth. And so in good times, there are probably fewer layoffs then there should be. People try to manage employees who aren't carrying their weight rather than go through the rigmarole of firing them.

In that way, there can be a benefit to tight times when layoffs become unavoidable. They allow businesses to shed bad employees who should've been let go years earlier. But as Seyward Darby notes, this doesn't happen in most school systems. There, they follow a "first-hired, last-fired" rule, where the newest employees get kicked out first. The absence of discretion ensures that there's no silver-lining at all.

First, it's only fair to warn you I'm reporting this, so if you and Yglesias both put this imaginary cab ride on your expense tabs you might wanna get the story straight.

Second, and maybe all America should be listening: this pretense that such things exist in a vacuum, and so can be cut from the herd, as it were, and killed and et, has done none of us any good. See, for example, what you and Matt "figured out" about the Iraq war before it began.

Okay, I can only speak for Indianapolis, and Indiana generally, but it doesn't exactly work like that. Seniority only counts intra-discipline. We don't layoff physics or gym teachers with five years' experience and replace them with kindergarden teachers with fourteen. And--as always, as always, Klein! You hear me?--those Middle Management Heroes of yours have a certain amount of "flexibility" they can use to screw with peoples' rights. And do. And usually for petty personal reasons, like the rest of the race, and not the higher dictates of Excellence.

And, y'know, it's not visible--again--from your aerie, but union rules are real-world rules. In Indianapolis, at least, new teachers can pretty much be fired at will for their first two years. (Not that it's often done; generally people are given a chance to improve, which is only sensible. Interesting, though, that this gets chalked up to "trying to manage people rather than go through rigamarole"--oh, the poor Middle Manager, beset by a world of stupid rules!--rather than "poor fucking management technique" which ought to lead to wholesale firing of the classes Klein and Yglesias identify with.) One-third of all new teachers leave within three years, and half within five. Once you've decided to rely on them for your staffing you are committing public education to Excellence through Neophytism.

And make no mistake about that. Once you remove protection for the most experienced teachers they'll be the first on the chopping block, and with no more concern for "merit" than you claim that cabbie told you about this weekend. They'll be cut because they're paid more. They're paid more because they've survived the tests of time. On what fucking libertarian planet don't things work this way? And th' fuck shouldn't they? It's how we run the goddam military, Ezra, the only difference being that generations of its poor test results are routinely ignored.

God, do you really imagine that the more power we give petty tyrants, the more we turn schools into personal fiefdoms, the better, more dedicated everyone becomes? Grab a towel, son, and get to work behind those ears. This flippin' mythology of the excellent teaching corps buried underneath a bunch of feather-bedding oldsters--like the myth of thousands of technically-skilled experts who'd love to teach high school math to Poor Children, if only they didn't have to get a degree to do so--is really not one you want to find out in two years' time you were wrong about. It's not like this is just a little war or something.

Sabrina Tavernise and Michael Slackman, "Turkey Goes From Pliable Ally to Thorn for U.S." June 8
Turkey’s shifting foreign policy is making its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a hero to the Arab world, and is openly challenging the way the United States manages its two most pressing issues in the region, Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

Proving, once again--like we needed it--that nothing changes these fucks' tune about "spreading democracy" faster than somebody actually practicing it.

Tuesday, June 8


FIRST: What Mencken said.

Second: I spent eight years in itchy discomfort because, on top of everything else, including much, much worse, Helen Thomas and Gentleman Farmer Sam Donaldson were the designated spokespersons for The Liberal Media during the Reagan excrescence. Thomas may be a good reporter, but the simple fact is that that's like being the top safety advisor at BP. The Gaggle's been owned since 1981, and at best she gave it some sort of credibility on Bizarro World. This is the period when our politics got taken over by "personalities"--beginning with Reagan, moving on to Tip O'Neill, Jerry Brown, Newt Gingrich, and George Will's bowtie--and you know where that got us. She shoulda got while the getting' was good. Goes for the rest of 'em, too.

(And maybe I'm the only one, but goddam if I don't hate the sort of place that has some legendary waitress or cashier who's been there for forty years and can't be bothered to refill your coffee or ring up your bill because she's been there for forty years, and is a legend, and so can pretty much spend her time doing nothing without fear of firing or reprimand, unless she criticizes Israel. Did Helen Thomas inspire any Gaggler to transcend stenography? Or did she inspire a lot of young careerists to a stagy combativeness except when the heat was on? You tell me.)

But, still: Jonah Goldberg has a job. Pat Buchanan has a job. Glenn Beck says worse shit than that in his sleep. Oh, they're not reporters? Monica Crowley has a job. Bernie Goldberg has one. David "Pimping Chelsea Clinton" Shuster had to make a non-apology apology and was suspended for a week. Mike Allen and Andrea Mitchell pimped the White House Vandalism story despite it being, y'know, utter bullshit.

And how long did Judy Miller keep her job at the Times again?