Blogging takes time. On some days, depending on the topic and amount of research required, it can take quite a bit of time. My task would be a lot easier and would take much less time if I just made shit up when supporting facts were required. And it would be even easier than that if I did away altogether with the need for facts, asserting that everything I say is true because I say it is.

How convenient would that be? I'd do almost no work at all while critics and readers would have to do copious work to correct and disprove all of my bullshit by citing facts. Such is the life of being a conservative pundit: spend a few minutes ranting off the top of one's head and then hit the golf course, leaving others to clean up the mess. This is the running battle that the left- and right-wing political classes have been fighting for two decades. Being left-of-center in America consists of little more than expending time and energy correcting widely-held misconceptions based on things Republicans make up or, less cynically, believe is true but isn't. It's a battle that can never be won. They will simply make up more crap. Why? Because they derive benefit from doing so and it's free. Hot air is a public good, and unfortunately for those who have to deal with its consequences it is virtually inexhaustible.

It took the House GOP about 90 minutes of strategizing to settle on a unified message based on half-truths, distortions, and fabrications about the stimulus legislation. Conversely, it took the Democrats two weeks and untold time, effort, and money to respond – an effort in which they were only partially successful. It took Ann Coulter five minutes to spout off a paragraph in her new screed about how the Council of Conservative Citizens is unfairly maligned as a racist group. In response it took one or more people at the Southern Poverty Law Center a couple days to collect and present the reams of evidence disproving her claim. The two ideologies live in separate worlds. In one world, facts, logic, and evidence make things true or false. In the other, saying something loudly enough and believing it's true makes it so.

The right loves to exploit this imbalance. They know that every 10 seconds they spend making shit up results in a few hours of work undoing the damage. They understand that even when their nonsense is disproven at great cost by their political opponents, some appreciable segment of the population will continue to believe it anyway. It's a win-win-win: liberals are forever occupied with the Sisyphean task of rolling a boulder of pure bullshit up a steep hill, the GOP doesn't have to put any effort into its agenda, and some voters even buy the nonsense to boot. The talk radio crowd are limited only by their imaginations whereas the rest of us are saddled with the burden of making sense, which is quite a bit more difficult than flapping one's gums and making sound.


Looking for mild winters, affordable living, and low odds of being bothered by neighbors? Lehigh Acres, Florida may be right for you! It's also the poster child, the mascot, for the collapse of the American housing market.

Lehigh Acres began as a tax shelter for a man who made a fortune killing cockroaches. An unincorporated, empty parcel of land on the outskirts of Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres was sparsely developed until 2000. Between 2000 and 2006, however, the number of houses in the community doubled. Units literally could not be built fast enough as prospective suburbanites/retirees fought crowds of speculators and wannabe house-flippers for the privilege of ownership. Prices skyrocketed. By late 2005 the median home price in the area was $322,000.

Now? $106,000. And falling rapidly. $50 and a pulse are all the down payment required these days, although a psychological evaluation should probably be a prerequisite too.

Photos: Sharyn Robbins

What happened? Like anywhere else, the unsustainability of the Irrational Exuberance in buying brought the party to a swift conclusion. Oversupply sent prices into a downward spiral. Retirees on fixed incomes quickly found themselves underwater, and many of the area's new residents saw the jobs and "growth" disappear. Homes were foreclosed by the hundreds, many of which were occupied by drug dealers looking for abandoned buildings to convert into meth labs. There are no jobs, no corporate tax base, and no hope for improvement. There are thousands of abandoned, shitty houses in an area already stuffed to the gunwales with slipshod new construction.

Lehigh Acres is like a theme park for the Bush years and the unregulated housing boom, what the Hooverville was to the Great Depression. It should stand as a monument to what happens whenever cookie cutter developers rush toward an open parcel of land near an already over-developed urban area, slapping together flimsy aluminum siding ranches which will be lucky to withstand a strong breeze. Speculators ride into town on a trail of slime, doubling or tripling prices in just a few years irrespective of the fact that A) the assets in question are complete pieces of shit and B) there are thousands of them. This in turn brings even more builders, building even faster and flimsier in order to cash in on the artificial boom. The buyers fall into two categories: those who aren't bright enough to figure out that supply wildly exceeds demand and the speculators who will be long gone when the scheme collapses on the poor suckers who bought at the height of the idiocy.


Here's a good but certainly not brief piece of afternoon reading: "Conservatism is Dead: an intellectual autopsy of the movement" from Sam Tanenhaus in the pages of The New Republic. It's an analysis, free of hubris or gloating, of the events and mistakes that have brought the conservative movement to straits more dire than its remaining elected officials are willing to admit or liberals will allow themselves to believe.


(note: primer on the FJM can be found here)

Proving just how far being born of the right person can go in the insular circle-jerk that is the right-wing media, one of Newt Gingrich's spawn has carved out a neat side career as a commentator of last resort. Jackie Gingrich "focuses on current events and political issues from a mom's perspective" in her weekly musings and is a serial filler guest on Fox News: her bio notes that she has appeared on the Mike Huckabee Show, Geraldo At Large, Fox and Friends, and Fox News (i.e., Fox News, Fox News, Fox News, and Fox News). Since there isn't a conservative columnist intelligent or original enough to do anything except piss and moan about the stimulus bill this week, I was like a kid in a candy store. More accurately, I was like an adult who loves dipshits in Crazy Pete's Dipshit Emporium and Go-Kart Track. Standing before the sea of detritus, I plunged in a gloved hand and pulled forth the greatest abomination: Gingrich's "The Best-Case Scenario."

Curious to learn about the future? Me too. Let's go.

This week marks the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Lincoln, one of our most revered presidents, was born in rural Kentucky and raised in Illinois. He is often held up as an example of how individual effort determines a person’s course in life.

He also is often held up as an example and mascot by the Republican Party. Let's play along and pretend that Lincoln, if alive today, would associate himself with that trainwreck.

While many people in his time might have viewed the education that he embraced as a waste of time, Lincoln spent every possible minute reading books. There are stories of how he would walk for hours to borrow or return a book.

Historians are unable to pinpoint exactly when this became grounds for exclusion from the GOP. But seriously, I'm sure Lincoln, Lindsey Graham, and James Inhofe would have lots to talk about. They could compare critical readings of the poetry of William Knox or Robert Burns, which was the deceased President's favorite pleasure reading. Abraham Lincoln: Private Life also notes his fondness of Poe, a drug addict who banged his 13 year-old cousin. Come to think of it, Poe would have made a decent Republican State Legislator in the deep south today.

Lincoln worked constantly. His law partner, William H. Herndon, noted in “Life of Lincoln” that “his ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.” Sustained individual effort, always working, is a far cry from where we are today.

I hope there's a cloying, oversimplified lesson we can learn from his example.

In his New York Times op-ed column “Failure to Rise,” Paul Krugman writes “America just isn’t rising to the greatest economic challenge in 70 years.” Krugman’s point is that “$800 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, isn’t nearly enough.” Krugman wants more government intervention. He calls for more, more, more, from Washington, and concludes with a warning, “There’s still time to turn this around. But Mr. Obama has to be stronger looking forward. Otherwise, the verdict on this crisis might be that no, we can’t.”

I think we started a different column here. Cut-and-paste error, perhaps? In any case, I'm anxious to see how rapidly Mr. Krugman's PhD, 30 years of experience as an economist (including working for Reagan), and Nobel Prize wither under the Down Home, Main Street Wisdom of the Average Mom who just Happens to be related to a wealthy politico.

His approach put responsibility for the economy into the lap of the government. From his perspective, it appears as if the government has total control, and what it does will, in the end, determine what happens.

No, that's not even close to what he's saying. But then again, I never did understand Down Home, Main Street Wisdom! Maybe I need to have some cornbread and banjo music as I read. Something to make my reading environment more…folksy.

If we believed this, all individual effort would stop, we would no longer try to improve ourselves

Wow, we were speeding down Predictable Lane and took a quick right turn on Retarded. Hang on! I know this makes no sense, but hang on.

our nation would suffer from what Dr. Martin Seligman, the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, calls “learned helplessness.”

Learned Helplessness as a psychological theory doesn't apply here – not even a little – but since Wikipedia doesn't explain it very well I guess this is all we'll get from Jackie.

(David Brooks quote filler omitted) This past week’s conversations have reflected the growing belief among conservatives that the Obama administration’s policies are moving us toward a period of nationalism and government control that at some point will leave us looking like the British did more than three decades ago.

First of all, conservatives came to this conclusion about Obama 12 months ago. In fact, they came to this conclusion 50 years ago and they just update the name. Second of all, "this past week's conversations" lets us know that the best part of Conservative Commentary is about to rear its misshapen head: the Columnist Making Profound Conclusions Based on Some People He/She Talked To.

This past week, I was e-mailed a link to a video clip of Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York.

You know, people who fancy themselves Real Columnists don't admit that their research and ideas come from forwarded chain emails.

“And let me say this to all of the chattering class, that so much focuses on those little, tiny, yes porky amendments, the American People really don’t care,” he said during a debate on the stimulus bill.

Well, that sounds about right. I've already been among the chorus of people who have pointed out that if this works, nobody is going to give a flying shit what was in the bill. The 30 Republicans who will be left in the Senate in that event will be appropriately critical, though.

My son Robert, who was standing by the computer and overheard Schumer, corrected him with “The American people DO care.” If a seven-year-old understands that the American people care, well then there is hope.

When pressed for details, Jackie Gingrich's Fucking Seven Year Old stated that his conclusion is based on a multi-year panel study of a broad sample of American adults aged 18-64. Tune in next week for another column based on the wisdom of a second-grader. Enjoy them while you can, though, because this kid is going to be a highly-paid Republican operative within six months given his preternatural understanding of public opinion and politics. This might explain why the upcoming Palin 2012 campaign will take such a curiously strong stance against Megatron.

The best-case scenario is one in which Americans decide that they do care, that they are optimistic, that they can change their lives, try something different and create their own future.

Make your own future, you lazy bastards. The world is just full of opportunity! If you can't find ways to make money in this economy (home demolition expert? suicide hotline counselor? rogue superhero named Forecloser?) then you deserve your lot in life.

This would require they understand how current policies would affect the future

And anyone who fails this requirement becomes a conservative pundit.

and act to stop them

So, to recap: it is imperative to accept Jackie Gingrich's Expert Opinion of what havoc these policies will cause and then stop them. Well, we've tried it the Democrats' way for about 3 weeks. It is time to stop them and give beleaguered conservatism a shot.

My mother told me yesterday that her ladies investment club members grappled with how to respond to the uncertainty.

Don't tell me you didn't see at least one more relative being quoted in this pile-of-shit column. We had the seven year-old, who took a break from playing with Legos to dissertate on public opinion, and now we have her elderly mother, who for no reason whatsoever I am going to assume shits her pants intermittently, explosively, and without prior warning.

The members were trying to determine whether to continue to make monthly contributions to their investment fund or to stop payments until some time in the future, when the crisis has eased. She recommended they continue.

This is fuckin' fascinating, Jackie. its level of fascinatingness exceeded only by its relevance. If Mother said so that's enough for me. When an expert like the woman Newt Gingrich divorced speaks, you listen.

“Right now,” she told them, “someone who has been laid off of work is in their basement inventing the next big thing. I believe in the American people.”

Good luck with that! Rock-solid investment advice, straight from the top.

My hope is that there are lots of people in their basements inventing, and not on their computers answering offers to help them get their portion of the stimulus package.

Everything good is invented in a basement. This is one of the rules governing the universe of Republican Fantasy America from 1951. Norman Rockwell characters everywhere, heading down to the Town Square to have an old-fashioned fountain Coke before heading back to their basement laboratories.

As a side note, people with computers do not invent things.

The cure for the British disease of the 1970’s was Margaret Thatcher. “We want to work with the grain of human nature, helping people to help themselves – and others,” noted the 1979 British Conservative Manifesto.

Well, Maggie's free these days. Maybe we can press her into service again, assuming for a moment that the economic malaise of the 1970s was in any way similar to the current one. I'll give Jackie a pass on the ludicrous assumption that Thatcherism cured anything except Britain's chronically low unemployment rate, which tripled during the Thatcher years.

“This is the way to restore that self reliance and self confidence which are the basis for personal responsibility and national success.”

The 28% of British children who were in poverty (a fivefold increase) when Maggie departed just didn't grasp the idea of personal responsibility, I guess.

If we really want to honor the great presidents of our nation,

I don't! I want to emulate random members of Jackie Gingrich's family.

let’s each of us emulate them by becoming little individual engines that know no rest, working toward personal responsibility and national success.

Good show, Jackie. Good show. Now. After this lecture I'm dying to know; what do you produce, Jackie? What is your contribution to our national success? Writing ridiculous shit like this? Or are you just using this as cover while you create the Next Big Thing in your elaborate basement Inventorium? Perhaps Jackie is just one more member of that enormous American "business" class who are so good at telling other people what to do that they don't need to do anything themselves.


While the election and especially the nominating process are likely far from your thoughts these days, take 30 minutes to read Roger Simon's "Relentless." It describes in detail exactly how dysfunctional the Hillary Clinton campaign was and exactly how the Obama team outsmarted them and eventually left Clinton 08 on the ash heap of history.

This is the assigned reading for my class on Tuesday. I had forgotten how good it is until I re-read it on Friday.


I am not sure I can make it three more weeks until Watchmen is released. I know that I'm supposed to be jaded and getting ready to indignantly complain about all the ways in which the film adaptation insults the novel, but I'm really looking forward to it.

The big red flag, of course, is having Zack "300" Snyder direct it. This is a cause for tremendous skepticism. The trailers, in fact, depict an alarming amount of slow-motion (as did about 97% of the running time for 300). Directors who make a living solely directing action and horror films are rarely able to make good films of any kind. Apparently nothing has been learned from the stark differences between Joel Schumaker Batman vs the Christopher Nolan version. To be fair, Darren Aronofsky was signed to direct this in 2004 and backed out, but I'm not sure why they had to make the leap from him to Mr. 300.

The second obstacle is the fact that, when I first read this story as a younger man and when I re-read it today, it strikes me as essentially unfilmable – especially the Dr. Manhattan sequences and their time-has-no-meaning narration jumping among past, present, and future. I know that the screenplay makes some changes to the ending, to great wailing and gnashing of teeth from fanboys everywhere. Frankly I found (find) the ending neither confusing enough to require clarification nor good enough to get upset about changes. Let's face it, as much as people heap praise on the novel, the idea of three major characters (spoiler) deciding within a span of three panels to keep quiet about the plot is lame. Nobody wanted to think it over? To argue about it? To digest this whole scheme that had just been laid before them? They just say "Yeah, I guess you're right, I'm in!?" Come on. So I think the ending was flawed enough that I don't care that the film intends to make some changes.

Bracing for this to be bad, hoping it's as good as the novel deserves. Basically if they nail Rorschach the movie will be fine. Other characters get more ink in the story and play a bigger role in its climax, but Rorschach is the key. Having confirmed that the "I'm not in here with you, you're in here with me" scene is included I'm not sure how I can be disappointed. It would be unfair to say that there was a time in my early 20s when I wanted to be Rorschach because let's be honest, I kinda still do.


When people depend on subsistence agriculture for survival, as was common historically and sadly remains so in some parts of the world, the prospect of starving to death is never far away. Forces beyond anyone's control can ruin the year's crop and, well, there is no safety net. When the crops fail, no one eats. This puts people in a desperate situation. Do they roll the dice on being able to survive (somehow) until the next spring or do they devastate their prospects for long-term survival in order to make it through the day? Starving people inevitably mortgage the future. They kill the draft animals, giving themselves something to eat tomorrow but no way to plow the fields in the spring. It doesn't make sense, but people get to a point at which the future ceases to be a meaningful concept. There is no future. There is one objective: make it through today. Nothing else even enters the picture. Not coincidentally, the human body reacts to starvation the exact same way, digesting its own muscles to stay alive for a few more days.

While the nation and Congress were suitably distracted by the financial stimulus legislation, General Motors rapidly accelerated the process of digesting itself. Americans are numb to the loss of manufacturing jobs at this point – every day, another 10 or 15 thousand jobs. For GM the loss of blue collar workers is seen as survivable, even prudent, because labor can be replaced by machinery or Brazilians. Now they are slicing 10,000 salaried "white collar" jobs and demanding a 10% paycut for those who remain. These are the engineers who design their cars and the money people who are supposed to be devising some miraculous plan to save them. Sure, it may be only 10,000 people (pretend that's not a lot) but the ~60,000 who remain are now looking over their shoulders, waiting to be cherry-picked by the foreign automakers, and assuming that insolvency and door-shuttering are coming any minute.

Here's what baffles me: does the auto industry (never forget that Chrysler and Ford are little better off than the General) actually think this is a good strategy? That they can "cost cut" their way to viability and financial strength? Or, conversely, are these simply the actions of a desperate and starving group of people whose time horizons no longer extend beyond the current day? Given how clueless they've been for fifty years I fear that the company really believes that if they chop enough salary they'll start making money again. Why should we expect that they'd stop being dumb now?

Whether we're talking about GM, your employer, or the entire nation, the absolute worst thing to do in a situation like this is mortgage the future. To stop spending on education, training, product development, advertising (which GM has already gutted), and infrastructure is counterproductive at best. It offers next to no benefits in the short term (how much will trimming a bit of payroll really help a company so far underwater?) while crippling the odds of things getting any better in the future. More importantly, how will the industry be able to continue asking for bailout funds? In other words, what exactly is Congress bailing out at this point? The blue collar jobs are largely gone. If the white collar jobs are going to follow them down the drain, well…to quote the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, "What the fuck, man?"

This is looking more and more like a death watch. Now that the stimulus has been passed it won't be long before the Little Three visit Washington again. Unless Congress writes a blank check, GM might not last the month.


In any line of work there are certain signs that one has hit rock bottom in a professional sense. For a lawyer, it's getting disbarred or working as an ambulance chaser. For a classically-trained ballet dancer it might be stripping in a club located behind a dog track (which is in turn located behind a rendering plant). For an actor, appearing in straight-to-DVD horror films or anything starring Pauly Shore.

I often wonder what the equivalent is for an academic. Being an adjunct (i.e., a temp professor)? Some people swear they enjoy it. Teaching at an online-only "college" like University of Phoenix? Maybe. Being a grad student for 15 years? All of these things are pretty bad. But I think the true moment at which the average Professor sits back and says, "Oh my God, what the hell happened to my life?" involves having a serious panel discussion with Joe the Plumber and Michelle Malkin.

Not pictured: dignity

Glenn Reynolds, aside from being almost comically immune to facts and offering the level of insight available from the average 19 year old College Republican, seems so shallow that he unable to feel self-conscious. The idea that he has any shame whatsoever is as ridiculous as his attempts at wit. If he subscribes to any logic deeper than "Look at all the money I have! I must be awesome!" it would be shocking. But any other professor (regardless of field) with a tiny shred of dignity would take a look at himself engaged in a roundtable with an unemployed plumber and a psychotic skeleton and do the only honorable thing: stand up, bow to the audience of bedwetters and abortion clinic bombers, and commit seppuku with a Cato Institute letter opener, withdrawing it at the last moment to spray the webcam with his entrails.

Can we really expect more of the man who linked Timothy McVeigh to Sadaam Hussein? Who claimed that comparing Guantanamo Bay to a gulag crippled Amnesty International's credibility and helped the Bush administration? Who thought Gitmo and Daytona Beach spring break had some things in common? Who thinks most of his readers are so stupid that they won't notice how often he reverses himself and how 99% of what he says either distorts facts or is flat-out wrong? Who exists for no reason other than to put the illusory stamp of intellectual legitimacy ("Wow, he's a professor! His opinion on foreign policy carries much more weight!") on what is nothing but histrionic, blind partisanship and regurgitation of the daily talking points from the bowels of the Free Republic forums and tar-paper shacks in the Bitterroots?

Believe it or not, yes, I'd have expected a little more from him. A little more than this. I'd like to think that there are some depths to which he wouldn't sink, some point at which he'd say "OK, I'm not going to interview a fucking unlicensed plumber" in the same way that a self-respecting actor would draw the line at starring in Baby Geniuses 4. I was wrong. Congratulations, Professor Glenn Reynolds. You officially have no shame, no self-respect, and no dignity. Surely this makes him a more attractive commodity to the ratings-hungry media, though. This guy will officially do anything! Paint him up in blackface. Have him debate a kodiak bear. Hire him to officiate competitive eating contests. Film his segments from the center ring of a circus. Book him at a bunch of county fairs. I guess that feeling ashamed requires being smart enough to understand how stupid one looks, a mental burden of which Glenn is obviously and gloriously free.


One of the most frustrating aspects of being an elected official has to be the fact that the American public simply has no earthly idea what it wants or, conversely, that it wants something that makes absolutely no sense. Imagine being the chef at a restaurant with a ridiculously vague menu ("Something kinda Asian with some sort of meat in it") and diners who make requests divorced from all rules of logic ("I want something vegan but full of pork – kosher pork"). Now imagine that the diners can fire you whenever they feel that their eminently reasonable desires are not being addressed.

The classic dilemma in American politics is that voters want more government services coupled with lower (or preferably no) taxes. They want unlimited rights combined with total security. Free trade and job security. Deregulation and effective regulation. In short, they want all sorts of things that make no sense together. The new President, if his actions during the recent economic stimulus debate are any indication, responds to these unrealistic expectations in a manner that virtually guarantees his failure.

Many politicians make the fatal error of taking seriously public calls for cooperation or bipartisanship. Yes, opinion polls indicate that bipartisanship is popular. Name a vague positive term that doesn't poll well. What if we polled the public and asked if they like politeness? Happiness? Prosperity? Justice? Elected officials who are the bestest of friends and go on group camping trips together? Of course the public is going to respond overwhelmingly in favor of a ludicrous question about whether it wants to see the two major parties cooperate and get along.

What is misleading about this line of questioning is the failure to place it in context of the public's dozens of other competing and contradictory wants. Sure, everyone wants "bipartisanship." But how much do they want it? Do they want it more than they want tax cuts? Is it important enough that they're willing to see Congress gridlocked to preserve it? Enough that they're willing to have Congress churn out mediocre, watered-down legislation that is little more than a monument to appeasement and committee thinking?

Yes, the desire to play nice is inversely related to Congressional productivity and the effectiveness of legislation. If you don't understand why, try this: invite 75 people to your house and order pizza. Give everyone in the room an equal vote and unlimited input on the choice of pizza toppings. Ensure that nobody takes control of the process and says "OK, here's what we're gonna do." What happens? Well, first it will take days to make a decision – long past the point at which everyone started to starve. More importantly, the end result, the Pizza that Attempts to Please Everyone, will of course please no one. The group will either revert to the lowest common denominator, the pizza that offends no one (i.e. plain, with no toppings), or it will end up ordering the Omnibus Pizza with 75 different toppings. Either result will be a tremendous disappointment, leaving many to wonder "If this is the shit we end up with, why bother ordering pizza?"

As Paul Krugman notes, President Obama's desire to be a "centrist" or Mr. Bipartisanship is going to mortally wound his administration in a hurry if he does not learn to curb it. Yes, people want bipartisanship. But they also want Congress to get things done, and moreover they want said things to be effective solutions to real problems. Nobody loves bipartisanship so much that he or she is willing to endure a $700 billion piece of legislation that attempted to please everyone and hence accomplishes nothing. He needs to rapidly distance himself from the saccharine campaign rhetoric, the let's-all-get-along stuff which he believes the public genuinely wants. In reality the President has a single job: get shit done. He is going to bear responsibility for whatever happens anyway. The buck stops here, remember. In a couple of years the public will not give a flying crap whether or not President Obama reached out and worked with members of the other party in crafting legislation. They will, conversely, care about why the stimulus package spent a metric pantload of money but didn't accomplish a damn thing. It is never going to be acceptable to claim, "Well, the stimulus sucked but we all got along really well and played nice while we created it, and that's all that matters!"

No, it doesn't matter. Regardless of how many opinion polls indicate that the public wants to see everyone play nice, it will never be more important than productivity and, more importantly, success. It will be far better to craft a piece of legislation that works while telling the GOP to blow it out its collective ass than to be nice and end up with garbage. If the bill succeeds in alleviating the crisis, the overwhelming majority of the public will be too pleased to give a shit that Obama had to be mean to Richard Shelby in order to get it passed. And if it fails, the public will hardly remember or care that the bill's passage involved a heartwarming display of bipartisan cooperation.