Holiday Deaths: Kim Jong Il, Payroll Tax Deal, Newt's Frontrunner Status

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NEW YORK—Well it was a rough weekend for the living. As the Internet continued grieving Friday's death ofChristopher Hitchens, it lost yet another one of its beloved icons last night, as Dear Leader Kim Jong-il succumbed to a heart attack that was deftly spun by his handlers as a case of "train fatigue." Let all those jerks who use their mobiles in the quiet car be on notice: your intransigence is deadly.


Um, so this is the bro who's succeeding him: "In August 1998, as famine reached a terrible climax in North Korea, the destitute Asian nation enrolled a shy teenager in a Swiss state school. He arrived with a fake name, a collection of genuine, top-of-the-line Nike sneakers and a passion for American basketball."

Meanwhile, a man who left behind neither a calamitously reckless oeuvre excused and exalted by enthusiastic apologists for its fashionable atheism and "rapier wit" or a popular Tumblr blog chronicling him looking at things also passed away this weekend, though you'd have been hard pressed to find much mourning on the internet for Vaclav Havel.

Elsewhere, the last U.S. military convoy exited Iraq over the weekend, and Spencer Ackerman noted the poignancy of watching the war's close from an aerial drone's video feed. Not to be missed: the Washington Post profiled the last US fatality of the war, Army Specialist David Hickman, hauntingly invoking John Kerry's words from forty years ago: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

The Times profiles Mitt Romney's really truly extravagant wealth today in a lengthy exposé of the cushy retirement deal he struck with Bain. This should all play very well with the plan Paul Begala laid out in an interview with Greg Sargent to go after Romney as "as a symbol of the predatory, unfettered capitalism that landed us in our economic crisis."

Oh, so the payroll tax cut is dead again, in what TPM's Brian Beutler is calling "the make-or-break moment for Boehner’s speakership that everyone expected all year." We couldn't help but laugh during yesterday's Giants game—both at our home team's second loss this year to the lesser Redskins and also at ExxonMobil's timely reintroduction of its commercial extolling the virtues of tar sands.

Nothing makes sense in Iowa anymore, where Ron Paul has now taken the lead according to Public Policy Polling. Gingrich has plunged thirteen points in the head-to-head and 32 points in favorability. Ron Paul, the last man standing among the not-Mitt candidates, must really be resonating in Iowa what with his courageous pledge to restore everyone's right to drink unpasteurized milk. Which... sure?

This is all a very welcome development, we should all, becuase for the love of god if we have to hear Newt Gingrich compare himself to Abraham Lincoln one more time we're going to subpoena some Supreme Court justices ourselves just to go revoke Newt's First Amendment protections.

Speaking of Iowa, do read this Nation piece from Ben Adler, a good reminder of how fundamentally anti-democratic these celebrated First In The Nation Caucuses really are.

And we leave you today with this: a wonderful new way to lose all your money! [READ MORE AT THE GIFZETTE.]

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