You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

May 23, 2013

Michael Kinsley Can't Recall Michael Kinsley's Words of Wisdom

This is one of the key things everyone should understand about politics, by a great writer named Michael Kinsley in 2008:

When you hear the presidential candidates carrying on about democracy and freedom, do you ever wonder what they would be saying if they had been born into societies with different values? What if Mitt Romney had come to adulthood in Nazi Germany? What if Hillary Clinton had gone to Moscow State University and married a promising young apparatchik? What if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, like his father, where even now people are slaughtering one another over a crooked election? Which of them would be the courageous dissidents, risking their lives for the values they talk about freely—in every sense—on the campaign trail? And which would be playing the universal human power game under the local rules, whatever they happened to be?

Without naming names, I believe that most of them would be playing the game. What motivates most politicians, especially those running for President, is closer to your classic will-to-power than to a deep desire to reform the health-care system.

This is some dumbass thing advocating budget cuts aimed at the middle class, by some dumbass named Michael Kinsley in 2013:

…[Paul Krugman] considers briefly, but seriously, that [my] problem might be simple “sadism,” but retreats from that daring charge to an only slightly more plausible conspiracy theory: that austerians don’t want the economy to recover until they’ve had the chance to use bad times as an opportunity to shred the social safety net. Either that or a psychological variant: they need bad times to continue in order to justify their status and their speaking fees. Amidst these far-fetched possibilities, let me propose one more: maybe austerians really, sincerely want what’s best for America and the world, and really believe that theirs is the better path than Krugman’s. Maybe austerians—poor, deluded creatures that we are—actually think that their path will result in less pain, not more.

How is it possible that Kinsley could write both of these things?* My theory – which has never been successfully disproven – is that there is an anvil in Washington, D.C., and all prominent American pundits are required to have it dropped on their heads once every six months. Kinsley actually has sustained less brain damage than most of them.

*In theory, there's no contradiction between the two things Kinsley wrote. As he says, powerful people are all motivated by "your classic will-to-power," rather than a burning desire to improve the general welfare of their nation. But human beings, including powerful ones, also have a need to believe that they're good. So all powerful people persuade themselves that they are motivated by a burning desire to serve their nation.

For instance, Saddam Hussein saw himself as Iraq's greatest patriot. He sincerely believed that him being in power was best for Iraq, and the occasional torture and massacres and genocides that that required would result in – as Kinsley puts it – "less pain, not more."

So sure, the austerians sincerely believe that slashing Social Security and Medicare – which will coincidentally mean they can pay lower taxes and be more powerful, since other Americans will be more desperate – is sadly necessary.

But obviously this isn't the point Kinsley is making. Despite what he wrote five years ago, he somehow believes the sincerity of the austerians has some significance. It's like someone saying that Saddam sincerely believed that dropping sarin gas on Hallabja was the best for Iraq. Of course he did. Who the fuck cares?

P.S. I don't want my praise for Michael Kinsley in the first sentence to distract anyone from the fact that he is a truly terrible person.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at May 23, 2013 02:14 AM

I heard Krugman speak in person a few years ago - since then he has either gotten a lot less wishy-washy, or the crimes against humanity of the MICFiC have gotten more obvious - or it could be both, of course.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 23, 2013 12:13 PM

Gotta BELIEVE in yer product, every salesman knows that. Gotta be WILLING to eat a forkful of that horseshit so's the folks will KNOW it tastes good and is good for YOU.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 23, 2013 03:02 PM

Or perhaps what Kinsley meant was this:

"What motivates politicians, especially those running for President, is closer to your classic will-to-power than to a deep desire to reform the health-care system -- unless, of course, they agree with me, in which case they sincerely want what's best for America and the world.

Posted by: bobs at May 23, 2013 07:52 PM

I have some trouble believing that Michael Kinsley is a "truly terrible person." Deluded by the "sincerity" pretensions of the right-wing ideologues who now style themselves austerians, but he is, sadly, in good company, e.g., the Washington Post editorial staff who somehow believe that being "fair" to the GOP means drinking a good deal of their Kool-Aid. Your point about Saddam is well-taken. Would we in America not be better off if HE were still in power, keeping the sectarians under firm, ruthless control? So unfortunate that Bush II made it personal.

Posted by: Ralph Hitchens at May 24, 2013 09:48 AM

Ralph Hitchens: America better off? Look at whom&what WE elect, how WE blindly follow. No power structure in some other country is going to change/fix that. One can be damn sure MORE IRAQIS would be alive today with much of their infrastructure STILL intact, although worn out.(considering NO WMD's)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 24, 2013 11:26 AM

"Of course he did. Who the fuck cares?"

Now that's good writing.

Posted by: N E at May 24, 2013 05:49 PM

In my comment on 9/9/08/2:10pm I neglected to add, "crappy building regulations".

Say, isn't that, "We cut back on the inspections and pass the savings along to you." America's new motto, America's new order of business?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 25, 2013 01:30 PM

typo---should be 11/9/08

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 26, 2013 09:58 AM

Who will inspect the food? But The Cook, of course!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 27, 2013 11:27 AM

I was standing in back of the horse trailer, just opening the door for Ole Bucky, when my girl friend at the time, Sue said something.I turn to answer her. Next thing ya know, I come to and its 18 years later and I'm in Wyoming. So I guess I could be classed as "brain dead".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 29, 2013 01:25 PM

bradley manning's trial starts next week

i gave money to his defense fund a while ago, and i plan to do so again

it might do some good for somebody, somewhere

may all potentially sentient beings be well, happy, and at peace

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at May 29, 2013 05:28 PM