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« Happy Thanksgiving's Eve Open Thread | Main | Top Headline Comments (11-Gobble, gobble-2013) »
November 27, 2013

Overnight Open Thread (11-27-2013) - Gobbler's Eve Edition

It's not phoning it in if you're typing right?

A Thanksgiving Wish For All of You....

datable-beard-man-meme-generator-i-will-carve-you-up-some-of-this-delicious-turkey-i-just-made-63dc81.jpg


Act IV of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Just remember that but for an ATM receipt and a security cam image a number of innocent Duke students would be spending much of their lives in prison. And if Crystal Mangum had been imprisoned for all her lying, another man might be alive today.

And the 'Group of 88' faculty? Well since the trial they've been unpunished, uncriticized, and unrepentant over their role in railroading innocent students into prison because of their race and sex.

Quote of the Day

 Sailer's Law of Female Journalism:

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

Overworked First Grader Writes Letter to Senator

When I was a wee lad, I once wrote a 7 page mostly single-spaced letter to then new President Carter laying out all the problems in my view with the country as well as my suggestions for fixing them. I think I was inspired by the fact that he apparently was accepting advice from Amy on nuclear polices and I figured hey why not me? But he never answered. Bastard. Anyway just a few disastrous and malaise-filled years later I ended up volunteering for Reagan's 1980 campaign at the local GOP office when I was 12 - which meant I never got to actually cast a vote for him. I was a happy but odd kid.

Useful Science: A Pill That Helps Prevent Hangovers

Well if you're over 40.

glutacure

5 Incredibly Stupid Cons That Managed to Fool People

I'm off to the grocery store to buy some loose onions and maybe an apple or two for 'resale'.

Liberal Asserts Bolt-Action Guns Can't Be Used in Mass Killings

Neither Charles Whitman nor any British Army infantrymen during WWI were available for comment.

Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

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Jonah Goldberg's G-file

If you aren't already a subscriber, I highly encourage you to sign up here.

I'm excerpting the full piece for once because it's good and so you can get a sense of the whole thing. Hopefully NRO and Jonah's army of flying monkeys will be cool with this. If not, well... AVENGE ME MY BABIES!!

The Goldberg File
By Jonah Goldberg

November 22, 2013

Dear Reader (and all conservatives everywhere who apparently are still to blame for a Communist assassin in Dallas 50 years ago today),

I am growing increasingly fascinated by the world-historic craptacular face plant that is HealthCare.gov. You would think it would be the opposite. You'd think that after a month of near-constant argle-bargle and foofaraw it would lose its appeal. But it's more like watching Anchorman over and over again; every time you find something to reward the effort.

An article in Time magazine in June -- June! -- reported that Denis McDonough, the president's chief of staff, spent "two hours a day" on Obamacare implementation.

Let that sink in.

Two hours a day. In the time-based economy of the White House, that's an unfathomable fortune. Taking out my temporal currency converter, that's equivalent to getting a sit down with Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day for an entire afternoon. It's like Kathryn Lopez getting a papal visit that lasts the entire week of Easter. It'd be like me going on a road trip with Rupert Murdoch and Joss Whedon in which we taste-test every baseball-park hotdog in the United States. In short, that is what students of the inside-the-Beltway space-time continuum call "some serious quality time."

And yet, somehow, McDonough was caught off guard by the extent of HealthCare.gov's craptacularity? How is that possible? It's like going to Tokyo on a fact-finding trip and reporting back that the air quality is surprisingly poor but otherwise everything is fine -- without mentioning the three-day donnybrook between Godzilla and the Smog Monster.

Direct Information?

But even if that was an exaggeration, and McDonough wasn't spending two hours a day every day dealing with the nitty-gritty of Obamacare, it's still hard to get my head around the idea that he was totally in the dark about the problems. And if he wasn't in the dark one can only assume that the president wasn't either. The central job of any chief of staff is to control the flow of information to the president. And yet president Obama says, "I was not informed directly that the website would not be working, as the way it was supposed to."

I've been trying to think through what that means. Did McDonough stage an inscrutably Ibsenesque puppet show about the site's troubles? Maybe they played a game of telephone in the Oval Office which began with McDonough whispering in Valerie Jarrett's ear, "The website isn't going to work by October 1," but by the time the phrase worked its way around the horn, Jay Carney whispered with his school-girl giggle, "I will have cabbage in my trousers this Wednesday." Sure, everyone laughed when Obama repeated, "I will have cabbage in my trousers this Wednesday," so maybe McDonough just didn't have it in him to ruin the good time by telling him what the original phrase was? Or maybe something else is going on?

I know my Schadenfreudarama piece was a bit on the Gonzo side (which is where I will sit at the wedding when Gonzo and Camilla finally tie the knot), but I was quite serious when I was talking about President Obama's hubris. Hubris doesn't just mean overweening pride or self-confidence. It's when arrogant people believe the rules don't apply to them. And I don't mean that in the hypocritical sense. Hubris isn't hypocrisy. Aristocrats who insist the peasants must never rip off their mattress tags but think it's fine for the nobility to slumber deep in the comfort of a tag-free mattress may be hypocrites, but that's not hubris. (And since that was an incredibly dumb sentence . . . ) Nor is it hubris when liberals insist the little people shouldn't have guns, or cars, or use planes, or eat fatty food, because only the elite can be trusted to make those kinds of choices for themselves.

Hubris, at least in part, is when you think the rules of the universe really don't apply to you. Hubris is when you think you are anointed by God, Providence, the Matrix, or your own inner spark of awesomeness to the point where you think you can get out of any knotty situation just because you're you. Playing the odds is for little people.

I remember when I first looked up the word -- I was reading one of the Dune books (Shai Hulud! I loved those books). One of Frank Herbert's big ideas was the inherent tension between hubris and revelation. Take it from a guy named Jonah, it takes a lot of self-confidence and certainty to be a prophet. "Yes, hello people of Ninevah. God sent me. What? No, I don't have any paperwork on that. But you're going to have to stop all of this tomfoolery. Right now. I'm serious you guys."

In literature there are countless examples of hubris. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Dr. F thinks he can play God. In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, a different Dr. F thinks he can make a deal with the devil and not pay a price. In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Oedipus thinks he can go swimming less than a half hour after eating ("I think you need to reread that one" -- The Couch).

But I think the best example of the kind of hubris I have in mind can be found in the scene from The Other Guys where Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson think they're such super-terrific badasses they can leap from a rooftop and they'll be okay if they simply "aim for the bushes."

Which is to say there's a very fine line between self-confidence and stupid. This is a lesson most cocky children learn when they think they can take off their pants without removing their shoes first. But apparently for some people it's the sort of lesson one has to learn by taking over one sixth of the U.S. economy.

Unknown Unknowns

I know a lot of people made fun of Don Rumsfeld -- though I never really understood why -- but his saying about "unknown unknowns" is really one of the most profound and pithy distillations of a core insight to human existence we've seen in a long time.

(I can think of only two recent competitors off the top of my head right now. The first is Arthur Brooks's insight about the importance of "earned success." The other is Charles Murray's summation of what is wrong with the meritocratic elite in this country: They refuse to "preach what they practice." But those are topics for another day.)

Rumsfeld captured both the Socratic insight that a wise man knows he always has more to learn and the Chestertonian paradox of the fence. If you don't know about Chesterton's fence after years of reading this "news"letter I haven't been doing my job ("I've been meaning to ask about that. What exactly do you do?" -- The Couch). The money quote:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

Obama's Fences

The question -- which really isn't a question -- of Obama's narcissism is one of the most masticated morsels of pundit cud in the op-ed feed trough. There's no need to revisit it here. Suffice it to say, Obama thinks he's kind of a big deal.

But while the psychological term for Obama's stunning self-regard may indeed be "narcissism" I think it's really hubris, specifically the kind of hubris that comes with the blinding conviction that there are no unknown unknowns that a man of his abilities can't handle. A messianic figure doesn't need to sweat the small stuff, because messiahs by definition are immune to the small stuff.

There are now scores of quotes and anecdotes about how Obama has said to aides and allies something like "don't worry about the politics . . . I'll handle the politics." Remember when that Arkansas congressman rightly feared that the passage of Obamacare would trigger a replay of the 1994 shellacking of Democrats? Obama responded that the big difference between '94 and 2010 was "you've got me." When he was looking for a new chief of staff, he remarked that he'd make a great chief of staff. During one of the budget battles he said everything would be easier if he could do it all by himself. He's whined that Chinese autocrats have a much easier time. A couple weeks ago, Obama said that he'd fix the website himself except "I don't write code."

Right. Because if Obama knew Fortran or C++ he'd just be able to roll up his sleeves and bang that thing out. He's just that good. Remember he's a better speechwriter than his speechwriters, better policy guy than his policy guy, yada yada yada. He can cook twelve-minute brownies in seven minutes, bitches.

By the way, my favorite recent example of Obama's stunning ego-centrism came in this Fresh Air interview a friend forwarded me. Terry Gross interviewed the hosts of Key & Peele. Here's the relevant bit:

GROSS: Jordan, when you met President Obama, which I know you did, did you get some insights into how to perform him?

PEELE: I would say so, yeah. I think I walked out of there a little bit more confident with my impression, and I actually did it for him at one point. He says, you know, I do a pretty good me myself . . .

If I had my postmodern-narcissism-irony Geiger counter in the room when that happened it would explode like a phaser set to overload.

Valerie Jarrett's power is reportedly derived from the fact that she knows how Obama ticks and knows how to tell him the things he wants -- needs! -- to hear. So consider this infamous insight:

I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. . . . He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability - the extraordinary, uncanny ability - to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. . . . So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. . . . He's been bored to death his whole life. He's just too talented to do what ordinary people do.

I've met some of the smartest people in America, literally. I don't for a moment claim to be one of them, but I've been in the room with a bunch of them. Truly brilliant people aren't bored like that. They find ways to challenge themselves.

No, Obama's problem is that the only thing that really engages his full attention is . . . Barack Obama. That's why his books are about -- wait for it -- Barack Obama. When it came to his political career he was willing to do the legwork, because it was about advancing him. He loves campaigning but is bored with governing because campaigning is about him and governing is, by definition, about other people. And other people aren't interesting -- unless of course they are the ones we've been waiting for, i.e. the ones who love Barack Obama.

Back to the Website

Obama says he wasn't "directly informed" about the website's problems. But Jay Carney revealed the president was briefed in March about the McKinsey report. He was told of the "red flags," he just wasn't told how serious those red flags were. As brother Geraghty writes:

Now . . . think about it. If you're President Obama, this is your baby. This is your legacy. Draw a parallel to anything big and important that you've done in your life in the past: a big project at work, a home improvement project, writing a book, planning a wedding. This is vitally important, surpassed only by the needs of your family and your own health.

Suddenly someone informs you that something might be going wrong with this hugely important project.

Even if that person says, "don't worry, we're handling it," . . . aren't you a little concerned at that point? It doesn't trigger a bit of worry? Don't you follow up? If they say, "eh, look, it's technical," doesn't your intense concern about the project's success get you to drill down, and get into the weeds?

How do you shrug off something like that? I know the president is a busy man with a full schedule -- I can hear you chuckling about playing golf from here -- but don't you think he would have asked about those potential problems in subsequent meetings about Obamacare? Wouldn't that have nagged at him?

You'd think, yeah. But here's the thing: Obama's like the dog from the Far Side cartoon. You can talk about red flags and broken data hubs all day long and all he'll hear is "blah blah blah blah Obama blah blah blah." Having never run anything, he doesn't even know how to ask questions that any half-way decent manager would ask when it's clear the staff is screwing the pooch. It's not even clear he can tell when the staff is screwing the pooch, even when a naked staffer is standing in front of him with an extremely discomfited canine.

The Arrogance of Liberalism

This isn't just about the man, it's about his ideology. Liberalism has no respect for fences it doesn't understand. No appreciation for the law of unintended consequences. Obama doesn't have the imagination to worry about serious unknown unknowns, never mind known unknowns. When he was campaigning for the stimulus, he'd talk endlessly about "shovel-ready jobs," making it sound like only idiots and fools questioned the existence of such things. Six months later, he was the one who discovered shovel-ready jobs weren't shovel ready. Just this month he discovered that buying health insurance is complicated.

It's like the "you can keep your plan, period" lie. It's impossible to know if he really truly knew it was a lie, or if he thought it was sort of true. The important point is that he's so intellectually incurious he didn't take the time to figure it out. Days before the website went live he was still promising it would work perfectly.

And that's where the hubris comes in. No matter what the circumstance, no matter the potential downside, no matter how loudly God is laughing at his plans, Obama ignorantly strides on in his giant hamster sphere of epistemic closure, thinking that whatever happens he'll be okay, because, "you've got me" as if that will make all the difference. And it never does.

In Defense of Dallas

I've studiously avoided wading into all of the JFK stuff -- you can read what I think about him in Liberal Fascism. I just didn't have it in me to contribute to the utterly pathetic riot of thumbsuckery and babyboomer nostalgia, even when the absolutely ridiculous meme of "the tea parties killed Kennedy" started oozing up like effluvia from a clogged sewer. But Wayne Goodwyn's NPR segment on Dallas's search for redemption after the Kennedy assassination is really just outrageous. I normally like Goodwyn's stuff. But to do five minutes on how Dallas has tried to get out from under the stigma of the assassination without a single clear, declarative sentence explaining that Dallas had nothing to do with the assassination is really infuriating. Yes, there was a lot of right-wing crackpottery in the city before his assassination, but the Right didn't kill him literally, figuratively, or in any other sense. And yet, the MSM knowingly and deliberately act as if it's okay to perpetuate a clear myth as if there's some truth to it.

Various & Sundry

My thanks to everyone who came out to Boston on Wednesday night for the soirée at the Harpoon brewery (and my thanks in particular to the Harpoon gang who were not only incredibly gracious and generous but gave me free good beer). It was such a success that after more than a decade of lobbying, my idea for an NRO cross-country bus tour is finally getting a little traction. My idea is that we get some kind of John Madden tour bus and go from city to city doing little events. Tailgating here, panel discussions there. We could raffle off seats on the bus. Or, even better, we could finally fulfill my dream of making the film Convoy come to life.

By the way, there will be no G-File next week as I will be on family time, though I won't be twerking my turkey.

I will be on Special Report this evening -- my last scheduled appearance in November.

I can't personally send G-Files to people who didn't get them for two reasons. 1) It is a huge pain. 2) It creates some technical problems that only exacerbate the issue. So please save this for future reference. If you don't get the G-File, check your spam folders. But if you just aren't getting it -- and you've definitely signed up -- please send a (polite) request to nationalreview@reply.nationalreview.com. Thanks!

My column today is on how both parties are lagging behind the times and how the public is getting its expectations ahead of reality.

Speaking of expectations, I know it's often meant to be flattering, but I really bristle when readers tell me how they'd prefer it if my columns were funnier or more like the Schadenfreudarama piece (a common complaint today). I am not a humorist. I don't want to be a humorist. The last time I was getting a reputation as a humorist, I stopped writing funny almost entirely for several years. The quickest way to get me to never write jocular G-Files or jocular anything else is to tell me I have to.

Yesterday, the folks at Fox asked me to come on at 1:00 to talk about the new Henry Chao website memo. I said sure, but I'll have to come straight from the airport as I was just getting back from Boston. On the flight, I read up on the latest website stuff. I raced to the Fox bureau. When I got in the chair at the studio, someone says in my ear "Jonah, Senator Thune couldn't make it so we're going to need you to explain the nuclear option and Harry Reid's decision." Such are the perils of live TV when there's breaking news. But, the reason I bring it up is that the only thing that came to mind, at least at first, was Charlton Heston at the end of The Planet of the Apes. Which is what I blurted out on TV, more or less. I said something like "I feel like quoting Charlton Heston, 'You maniacs! You blew it up!'" I think I buttered the line, alas. ("Again, I ask: What is it you do exactly?" -- The Couch.)

Still it could have been worse. I could be in a kimono being chased by a komodo dragon.

Teh Tweet!

Le AoSHQ groupe de Yahoo. Ooh la la!

Tonight's post brought to you by air defense:

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Notice: Posted by permission of AceCorp LLC. Please e-mail overnight open thread tips to maetenloch at gmail. Otherwise send tips to Ace.

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