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God forbid someone in journalism would take a moment to correct blatant falsehoods that drip out of the mouth of lying liars:

A Boehner aide said Thursday that the speaker “has always said the United States will not default on its debt, so that’s not news,” and Boehner said Friday that “I don’t believe we should default on our debt.”

However, he then repeated his longstanding contention that government spending must be cut so that the nation doesn’t continue to rack up budget deficits.

It’s not like this is a hard lie to spot.  Even if your reading skills such, there are pretty graphs!


See that red area?  I wonder who was at the helm of reckless Bush spending during some of those years?

Oh, I know!  John Boehner!

Boehner previously served as the House Minority Leader from 2007 until 2011, and House Majority Leader from 2006 until 2007.

Yes, the quote above isn’t technically a lie because we are still in deficit mode.  But the clear implication is that all this crazy Democrat spending is pushing deficits higher and higher, which is untrue.

Alyssa Rosenberg’s critique of the final episode of Breaking Bad is one I don’t entirely agree with (there will be spoilers, if this bothers you):

Technically, these ideals can go together if a creator has a strong vision and is willing to try to nudge viewers towards it. Sean and I talked a great deal about the way David Chase’s conversation with fans of The Sopranos seemed to be a clearer one than Vince Gilligan’s dialogue with Breaking Bad fans. For Chase, there was a wrong way to watch his show, and he tried over and over again to make that clear, whether he was giving Tony selfish fits of pique, having him menace and humiliate Carmela, or through the in-show conceit of the mob slasher movie Cleaver, which held up an uncomfortable mirror to both Tony himself and to fans who wanted to believe they were watching more than mob action pornography (of course, there were fans who didn’t care that they were watching that).

The final run of Breaking Bad, by contrast, seems to suggest that there’s no wrong way to interpret the ending: there’s something there for people who think Walt’s a misogynist, who think Walt’s a hero, who think that Walt’s a failed man who really cares about his family, who think he was never fully appreciated by his ungrateful wife and son, who are really in it for the machine gun contraptions and train robberies. Gilligan’s statements after the fact, in which he’s said both that Walt isn’t actually redeemable and that Walt went out as a man, are equally intended to keep the show pleasurable to everyone on whichever terms they choose to see it.

This makes me ask a question: what is the point of a series finale? It has to be to wrap up the narrative as elegantly and entertainingly as possible. Expecting the show to in some way settle a debate among fans and viewers seems like an odd, meta expectation, and it sounds uncomfortably like trying to dictate the conversation about the art itself, which is something I find to be quite irritating (and ultimately pointless). I’m not bothered by people who choose to see Walt as some kind of badass who wins in the end, as to have that interpretation you have to ignore numerous narrative details, not the least of which is Cranston’s performance in the final episode, which is so affectless, so morally defeated, that it suggests Walt has essentially accepted what he’s done and why and that it’s broken him, with only his darkest impulses able to propel him along. It’s not Vince Gilligan’s job to tell people how to watch the show or how to view the characters, outside of the narrative choices made by himself and the creative team–indeed, this kind of thinking infantilizes so much of American television and film. It’s not the final scene from Psycho, where Norman Bates’s condition is explained and safely rationalized away. To be honest, Breaking Bad has gone in this direction a bit more than I would have liked (how many times has a character offhandedly called Walt a devil?), but mostly it plays it without trying to dictate how the viewer is supposed to engage.

Then again, I see the ending for the series as nearly perfect. On the one hand, it’s hard to deny that Walt would see it as a victory based on his mental state in the final episode. He defeats the people he wants to defeat, finds a credible way of getting his money to his son, gets one last moment with his family and avoids the humiliation of a trial, imprisonment, and all the rest. But in reality, he’s lost and lost big. Living is agony to Walt, clearly, at this point in the series. He has taken no lessons, has not grown from the experience, hasn’t even fully grappled with the implications of his actions. He’s accepted what he’s done, and more importantly why he’s done it, but has essentially surrendered to what he is. He goes out on a massive amount of self-delusion, which is pretty much the show in a nutshell: Walt initially deludes himself into thinking that he can slip on and slip off the Heisenberg persona like a mask, only by the end of the series it’s Heisenberg that’s taken over, and Walt himself is merely a mask, as exemplified by his hair growing back. He shaved it just as the Heisenberg persona was becoming ascendant in his personality, lest we forget, almost like a physical way of drawing the distinction between the dual halves of his personality. By the end, there’s no line to be drawn. This is the ultimate tragic defeat of Breaking Bad IMO, as the thing he tried to avoid most of all happens to him. That people ignore pertinent details to construct their own, imaginary Walt out of a selective reading of the show is not a problem with the show, and in any event would be impossible to change anyway.

I know you might draw the conclusion that I’m off when the government’s off because I haven’t put anything out there over the past few days. Not true! Just been busy with lots of non-politics things and feeling a bit tired.

However, I will say this. The widespread reports that Boehner only cares about what the 30 most crazy reps think reminds me of the old 59-41 Senate minority meme days a few years ago, I guess this one would be 30-405 House majority, right?

Also, Chait is good at unpacking what’s going on with all this as usual, noting that the establishment is bearish on a shutdown but bullish on a debt ceiling crisis. Basically because shutting down the government brought them a lot of trouble last time they tried it, but fooling with the debt ceiling brought them a lot of good. I realize a lot of people were turned off when I spent an enormous amount of time before and after the last debt ceiling crisis just hammering the Administration, but in retrospect even I didn’t realize how much poisoned fruit this particular tree would shed. In any event, the Republican brain is fascinating is it not? As far as learning goes it’s little better than a lab rat: it can learn not to step on the aluminum strip that zaps it, it can learn to press the button that gives it food, but not much more. No higher reasoning faculties are evident at this point in the experiment, though our merry team of researchers is forever on the case.

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I wonder how Republicans interpret the Necromonger way: “You keep what you kill.” (image h/t BJ)

In other news, President Furian Riddick Obama had this to say about the Head Nihilists In Charge:

President Obama placed blame for a government shutdown squarely with the GOP on Tuesday, labeling the cessation in government business a “Republican shutdown” that threatens to damage the economy.

“This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. But I want every American to understand why it did happen,” Obama said during remarks in the Rose Garden. “They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.”

See Chait and Scheiber for informed takes on the Boehner “give us everything we want and we’ll not destroy the economy” plan. Obviously Republicans would be insane to think they could get all of this stuff, however, I’m not sure they’re insane for proposing it. After all, while I believe the president when he says that he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling this time, it’s worth noting that Obama has virtually no credibility when it comes to think kind of threat. Obama has negotiated when it was unnecessary to do so (remember the “fiscal cliff”? or the health care reform Gang of Six?). He’s has negotiated when he expressly said he wouldn’t do so, like during the last debt ceiling dispute. During that dispute he constantly drew the proverbial “lines in the sand” that were abandoned almost immediately, further proving that bluffing is his primary modus operandi. He’s negotiated when he had nothing to gain from it. The simple fact is that the Administration of Barack Obama just really loves negotiating! I think this is partly out of pragmatism and partly out of principle. The principle part has to do with Obama’s governing strategy, which best I can tell goes a little something like this:

  1. Work aggressively to get bipartisan support on big, important bills. Even to the point of making showy, unilateral concessions as shows of good faith.
  2. Keep repeating step 1 until bipartisan working agreements are simply the natural way of doing business in Washington.

In the end, under this philosophy, you get back much more than you give up to establish good faith through the passing of the initial bills. So you aggressively court Republicans on the stimulus, then on health care, and maybe then they assent to a grand bargain! There’s a logic to this, though if you’re dealing with people who simply want to humiliate and defeat you, it just looks like you’re an incompetent negotiator. Which is exactly what has happened to Obama.

The pragmatism aspect I think Yglesias is right on:

They think the Fed’s current approach gives fiscal policy room to boost the economy, but that Congress needs to actually seize that room and increase short-term government spending to boost the economy. A second level is that though sequestration has protected key transfer programs from cuts, it has not protected programs that Team Obama views as critical to long-term economic growth. Education is being cut. Scientific research is being cut. America is devouring its seed corn. Third, they think that long-term spending on Social Security and Medicare must not increase by as much as is currently projected. Obama’s view—as a political concept—has always been that cutting these programs is a “concession” that Democrats should swallow in exchange for Republicans agreeing to higher taxes. But in fact his economic team believes on the merits that these programs ought to be trimmed—they simply know that there’s no way a Democratic president or Senate is going to agree to that outside the context of some larger deal. […]

Under the circumstances this makes the economic policy team very eager to see some kind of deal done, and loath to pass up an opportunity—even a small one—to reach some kind of agreement.

Admittedly, that’s not what’s on the table at the moment. But Republicans will look over and see a president whose brand and personal identity are built on constant negotiating. They’ll see a history of Obama negotiating when he logically should not have. They’ll see an economic team that favors constant negotiating. Why wouldn’t they take a chance to see if Obama will actually negotiate this time? It’s irresponsible, of course, but not really illogical or insane, and in a way brilliant since they’ve made Obama act against his own well-established personal brand. I take the president at his word that he will not play that game again, unfortunately, his word is worth nothing since what other people believe about him matters more in this kind of standoff. Credibility is a typically term that hawks use basically as a way to argue for constantly fighting more wars, and its meaning has been terribly twisted, but in this case it matters that Obama has almost no track record in refusing to negotiate over something pertaining to the economy. Republicans strongly believe he will. The media (George Stephanopolous among others) has been fairly shocked that he says he won’t and seems to mean it. Given that this kind of conflict doesn’t fit naturally into the sorts of stories that the mainstream media likes to tell, it’s hard to see how it doesn’t go to its default of “both sides are guilty” as things get apocalyptic. Again, it’s not really fair to blame Obama for what other people do and think, but some part of me thinks that if he had outright refused to trust Boehner in 2011, or if he’d gone for the jugular last year over the “fiscal cliff” rather than accepting a milquetoast compromise, he’d be better able to pull off this whole “not negotiating” position better.

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Today, the last Richard Nixon-appointed federal judge leaves active service. That’s right. Today. Just a reminder of how long a president’s impact can be felt through the judiciary.

Admittedly, on a district level, the consequences are fairly muted since trial judges are heavily constrained by precedent by higher courts. But for higher courts it doesn’t make a whole ton of sense to keep the same system going that was introduced 220-odd years ago. My personal preference would be an 18-year term for Supreme Court justices, staggered so that one comes up every two years. So, essentially, a two-term president will have appointed four of the nine justices by the time he/she leaves office, and possibly more if someone dies or retires. This seems about fair to me, all things considered.  There are objections to this I’m sure, but I reckon it would work out better than the current system of nominating young people without a paper trail in hopes that they’ll serve for four decades, stonewalling any attempt to figure out their actual views on anything, having Potemkin confirmation hearings that exist mainly to provide senators with an excuse to grandstand, etc.

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It’s a shame that jandrewedits appears to be out of business. I rewatched their work recently and much of it is great (and some of it is stupid), but then there’s this absolutely awesome reimagining of the Worf painstick scene:

And the silly Mark Twain Cartoon from “Time’s Arrow” has never been better used than here:

Worth looking at the entirety of their work if you enjoy these.