Right Thinking From The Left Coast
If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taibbi’s Tea

About a year ago, Megan McArdle wrote this about trendy rolling stone journalist Matt Taibbi’s attempts to pin our financial mess on rich bankers:

What I think, sadly, is that Matt Taibbi is becoming the Sarah Palin of journalism.  He seems to deliberately eschew understanding his subjects, because only corrupt, pointy-headed financial journalists who have been co-opted by the system do that.  And Matt Taibbi is here to save you from those pointy headed elites.

Taibbi is a gifted narrative journalist, whose verbal talents I greatly admire.  But financial meltdowns don’t offer villains, for the simple reason that no one person or even one group is powerful enough to take down a whole system.  Confronted with this, Taibbi doesn’t back away from the narrative form, or apply it to smaller questions where it is more appropriate, as William Cohan did in House of Cards.  Instead, he grabs whoever’s nearest to hand and builds them up into a gigantic straw villian, which he proceeds to bash with a handful of recently acquired technical terms that he clearly doesn’t quite understand.  It’s not that everything he says is wrong, but the bits that are true aren’t interesting, and the bits that are interesting aren’t true.  The whole thing dissolves into the kind of conspiracy theory he so ably lampooned in The Great Derangement.  The result is something that’s not even wrong.  It’s just incoherent.

The post is worth a read.  But I’m reminded of it because today Taibbi has an article in Rolling Stone analyzing the Tea Parties ("the dingbat revolution” as he calls it) which is one of the most condescending sneering political pieces I have ever read.  Buried within it is a legitimate point—that the disorganized nature of the Tea Parties puts them in danger of simply being co-opted by the Republican Party.  He makes a good point about Rand Paul now toeing the GOP line on the issues.  But that point quickly vanishes beneath an ocean of insults, snide remarks and broad brush generalizations.

He starts out by going in on Sarah Palin.  But as I have noted about a million times, Sarah Palin is not the Tea Party.  Again, I refer to the Rauch article about how unorganized the Tea Partiers are.  And that’s just the first paragraph.  He also claims the tea parties started with Rick Santelli’s CNN rant (they didn’t), they they a product of Freedomworks and the eeevil Koch Brothers (they’re not) and the fundamentalist tinge to the Kentucky GOP represents the entire nation (it doesn’t).  This is fairly typical:

It’s not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It’s just that they’re shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid. I hear this theme over and over — as I do on a recent trip to northern Kentucky, where I decide to stick on a Rand Paul button and sit in on a Tea Party event at a local amusement park. Before long, a group of about a half-dozen Tea Partiers begin speculating about how Obamacare will force emergency-room doctors to consult “death panels” that will evaluate your worth as a human being before deciding to treat you.

You know, I’m not a big-time journalist, but I have spoken to numerous members of Tea Parties. The subject of race rarely comes up.  The subject of our impending bankruptcy is what I hear about—over and over and over again.  Massive government is THE issue.  You will find Religious Right loons, you will find anti-abortion zealots, you will find anti-immigration types, you will find nutbag libertarians like me.  Hell, you’ll probably even find saucer people. If that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll find it.  But the over-arching concern, the unifying theme, is the explosion of government spending and the danger of long-term debt.  Maybe they aren’t serious about it—willing to countenance tax hikes or cuts to Medicare and defense.  But that is the issue.

Another quote, based on his visit to the ridiculous Discovery Museum:

The Tea Party is many things at once, but one way or another, it almost always comes back to a campaign against that unsafe urban hellscape of godless liberalism we call our modern world.

No, it’s a campaign against the bankrupt, government-controlled world that we fear lies in our future.

He also ignores one very very critical point in all this: the general public does not trust the Republicans.  They have not, as he claims, forgotten what happened to them ten seconds ago.  They simply have no alternative if they are to break the Democrats’ hold on power.  They thumped the Republicans twice, now they are prepared to thump the Democrats. And they’ll thump the Republicans again if they get into power and start racking up debt again.  The voter may be an angry man with a 2x4 in his hand. But at the moment, he’s using to beat anything that moves—Republican or Democrat.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/30/10 at 08:05 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Cato Rates the Guvs

The Cato Institute has put out their periodic rating of the nation’s governors. They are evaluated on their spending and taxing records.  This has to be one of the first things considered when we’re talking about governors moving into the White House.

There’s some encouraging signs on this.  Four governors receive an “A” rating—Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty and Joe Manchin.  Pawlenty and Jindal have higher aspirations.  Sanford did until he went hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  Manchin is a popular Democratic governor but has little chance at national office.

In the B’s, you get an even split of Republicans and Democrats.  But the Democrats on the list are mostly from fairly conservative states (Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, Missouri, New Mexico).  Presidential aspirants Ricky Perry and Mitch Daniels show up here, as does—to my utter shock—Democrat Martin O’Malley.  I did not have a favorable impression of him when he was the Mayor of Baltimore. 

Now we get to the bottom of the list.  Can you guess which party is heavily represented in the D’s and F’s?  Of the 18 governors who get D’s and F’s, all but four are democrats.  And those four Republicans? Charlie Crist gets D but I somehow doubt that asshole will stop bragging about his earlier high ranking from Cato.  Arnie gets a D but I think that’s the best he could do given the shit sandwich he was handed. Jan Brewer gets a D, which is probably why Her Inarticulateness is making such a big deal about illegal immigration at at time when both illegal immigration and crime are trending way down.  Jodi Bell of Connecticut is the only Republican with an F.

Sarah Palin is not rated, partially because she quit halfway through her tenure and partly because Alaska isn’t a normal state.  It’s more of a nationalized oil company.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/30/10 at 09:48 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

CNN still pretening ACORN wasn’t caught in illegal activities, and that they are objective.

It seems the left, doubly so the MSM, is still hard at work trying to pretend that ACORN wasn’t caught red handed enabling criminal activity, but smeared by some dude pretending to be a pimp, and this new article about how clever one of their own was to avoid said fake pimp, sets new levels for “Teh stupid”. It’s deep.

O’Keefe is best known for making a series of undercover videos inside ACORN offices around the country in 2009. The 40-year-old liberal group was crippled by scandal after O’Keefe and fellow activist Hannah Giles allegedly solicited advice from ACORN workers on setting up a brothel and evading taxes. The videos led to some of the employees being fired and contributed to the disbanding of ACORN, which advocated for low- and middle-income and worked to register voters. But prosecutors in New York and California eventually found no evidence of wrongdoing by the group, and the California probe found the videos had been heavily and selectively edited.

Get it? The damned “fake pimp” didn’t really catch them doing anything bad, he just bamboozled people into thinking there was criminal behavior and ginned up a scandal! It’s not like ACORN really was caught red handed doing anything bad either. See, all the nice people at ACORN really do is help people get low and middle income housing and register voters! 

Posted by AlexinCT on 09/30/10 at 07:59 AM in Deep Thoughts   Left Wing Idiocy   The Press Machine  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Dude! The case of revenge served cold steaming, gone astray?

The article doesn’t say why he did it, but it is a clear case of dumping in the wrong car, as one can clearly see.

Leaving work late the night of March 11, the car’s owner reported finding Purifoy in the back seat of his Honda Civic, pulling up his underwear. “This is your car?” Purifoy said before bolting the scene, according to documents filed in court. “I thought this was Desiree’s car.” “I’ve been in this office three years now,” Heitz said Tuesday. “It’s the first case where I’ve seen something like that happen ... It’s an unusual case, to say the least.”

I am sure we have all had a spat with our significant other, but this kind of get even tactic simply never crossed my mind. You have to admit it is kind of whack, though.

Posted by AlexinCT on 09/30/10 at 07:48 AM in Deep Thoughts   Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UAW’s Face Effectively Spited
by

I saw this on Mish’s blog a couple days ago, and I still can’t believe it--I mean, how often do you see people in the midst of a depression deliberately vote themselves out of work?

General Motors autoworkers have rejected the contract offer from JD Norman Industries to continue operating an Indianapolis stamping plant, said Maurice Davison, a UAW official in Indianapolis.

According to retired GM autoworker Gregg Shotwell, publisher of the UAW dissident newsletter Live Bait & Ammo, the final tally included 457 “no” and 96 “yes” votes.

The rejection means that General Motors will proceed with plans to remove machinery and close the plant in 2011, Davison said.

The plant employs 650 workers.

Here were part of the proposed terms, cited in another article at the link:

The new contract would include a lower base wage of $15.50 per hour, down from $29 per hour, and pare the wage for skilled trades workers to $24 per hour from about $33.

Autoworkers who stay with JD Norman would receive lump sum bonuses, in some cases up to $35,000 over two years, and retain the right to transfer to open GM plants. They could keep the bonus if they did transfer.

Now, for most skilled workers, obviously this is a huge fucking pay cut, and if you have a mortgage, $15.50 an hour probably ain’t going to cut it unless you were saving a chunk of your income beforehand (Yeah, I know, stop laughing).  However, rejecting the deal should be done under the presumption that the jobs would be available at some point down the road.

Here is something rather interesting, from the Indy Star:

Some workers apparently thought the Chicago-area manufacturer might respond with an offer for higher wages later this fall if the proposal for a pay cut of almost 50 percent was rejected Monday, said Maurice “Mo” Davison, executive director of UAW Region 3.

But the entrepreneur left no doubt he decided to walk away, Davison said, noting Norman told him Monday afternoon that his “negotiations are done” with GM and the UAW.

JD Norman Industries, based in Addison, Ill., had emerged as the only potential buyer after GM said it would close the 80-year-old plant to shed excess capacity if no sale took place.

In other words, the UAW had no leverage at all here--GM was bound and determined to close the plant, a corporation stepped in to try and keep it running, and the union played a game of chicken in which they had no real threat because they simply assumed JD Norman would cough up more money “just because.” It’s this kind of thinking--that money somehow just magically appears when you need it--that’s become de rigeur ever since the original wolf in Santa clothing, FDR, promised people a bunch of free shit that other people would pay for.  Eventually, people start taking for granted that some sugar daddy, usually the government, is going to step in like fucking Superman.

These union workers just got a real dose of the New Normal--that the party’s over, and no one’s obligated to save their ass.  They better pray to whatever gods they worship that the current 99 weeks of welfare holds up, because they’re going to be on the street eventually offering handjobs for food when it finally comes to a halt.

Posted by on 09/29/10 at 08:23 PM in • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Religion Quiz

The topic de jour:

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not.  I have frequently found that even very religious people don’t know what’s in their own bible, least of all anyone else’s.  People talk about the Bible being the unimpeachable word of God and then are shocked when it has things like the levirate duty.  I’m not sure WHAT IT ALL MEANS.  But I thought it was an interesting result.

You can take a short version here. The only I missed was the last one. The quiz is not difficult.  The questions are less “What two people in the Bible never died?” than “Who started the Protestant Reformation?”.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/29/10 at 07:16 PM in Religion and Sky Pixies  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Crist and the Kooks

Always remember, friends, it’s only Right Wing politicians who indulge anti-science kooks.  Moderates like Charlie Crist are devoted to real science and would never ... I’m sorry, JREF?

Coming from anyone else, the blustery email threat might be easily dismissed. But “Dr. Gary,” as Kompothecras is known, is the self-styled “Rainmaker,” a Sarasota chiropractor who has raised more than $1 million over the years for Senate candidate and soon-to-be ex-governor Charlie Crist.

So it’s bound to turn heads when the man known to occasionally lend his private jet to the governor uses his political clout to try to bully Florida health officials into turning over scores of the state’s sealed immunization records. Especially when they’re for a father-son team, Dr. Mark and David Geier, infamous for injecting autistic children with Lupron, a drug used to chemically castrate prostate cancer patients and pedophiles.

The amazing Orac has the rundown here on Kompothecras and the Geiers, who are vaccine conspiracy theorists of the first order and quacks of the zeroth order.  Kompothecras not only supports this vaccine nonsense—which has recently claimed the lives of nine California children in an outbreak of whooping cough; he wants the state to turn privacy laws and HIPAA inside out to support more pseudo-scientific research.  And according to the article, Crist is pressuring officials to give in.

(The latter claim is anonymously sourced. But given Crist’s record of spinelessly caving in whenever it gives him a political advantage, it sounds imminently plausible.  Crist has no principles to violate.)

Florida’s Biggest Sore Loser should be ashamed to even know, let alone take sacks of money from someone like Kompothecras.  I worry about the anti-science attitudes of many Republicans.  But that’s peanuts compared to someone who is openly sympathetic to one of the biggest public health scandals of our time—the false and dangerous assertion that vaccines cause autism.  This is yet one more reason—as if we needed another—to hope that Crist goes down in flames this November.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/29/10 at 05:47 PM in Elections   Election 2010  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grayson Desperate

How desperate is Alan Grayson?  So desperate, he’s resorting to the kind of tricks his buddy Michael Moore like to play—carefully editing reality:

We thought Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida reached a low point when he falsely accused his opponent of being a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, and of not loving his country. But now Grayson has lowered the bar even further. He’s using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said.

In a new ad, Grayson accuses his Republican opponent Daniel Webster of being a religious fanatic and dubs him “Taliban Dan.” But to make his case, Grayson manipulates a video clip to make it appear Webster was commanding wives to submit to their husbands, quoting a passage in the Bible. Four times, the ad shows Webster saying wives should submit to their husbands. In fact, Webster was cautioning husbands to avoid taking that passage as their own. The unedited quote is: “Don’t pick the ones [Bible verses] that say, ‘She should submit to me.’ ”

Webster was actually telling men to observe the biblical verse about giving themselves to their wives, as Christ gave himself to the church.  Grayson also claims Webster wanted women to stay in abusive marriages.  This is a semi-truth: Webster favored allowing people to opt for “covenant marriages” which only be broken in cases of adultery.  But “opt” is the key word there; it would not have applied to all marriages.

If you want to criticize Webster, that’s fine.  For example, he’s endorsed the recent Republican platform to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest or severe congenital disorder.  But this is bullshit.  And the sign of a man who is desperate to hold onto power.

It’s OK, Mr. Grayson.  You’ll always have a home on Michael Moore’s stupid blog.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/28/10 at 08:10 PM in Elections   Election 2010  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Right To Kill

This is one of those rare times when I think we ought to take Glenn Greenwald seriously:

At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That’s not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”:  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

I can maybe understand how an American President might order a US citizen to be assassinated.  I think of the Cold War and what we might have done had a high-level agent defected to the Soviet Union.  But the criteria for killing a US citizen outside of a battlefield needs to be set pretty high.  It needs to be a last resort, if capturing or extraditing them is impossible and their continued presence is a clear and massive danger to US security.

Obama is now claiming not only to have this power, but to have no check whatsoever on it.  Again, think outside of this specific circumstance.  He is claiming that any America overseas can be killed at any time by his own government and we just have to trust that it was necessary.  This is a step too far even for some Bush people (as Greenwald quotes).

If you believe the President has this power, you believe the President pretty much has any power.  And you also ignore the plain language of the Constitution, which was written specifically to prevent our government from doing this:

No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court

It would be one thing to try this guy in absentia with proper precautions to keep classified information from leaking.  It’s another thing entirely for the executive branch to declare him an open target and never have to justify it.  Balko:

If there’s more tyrannical power a president could possibly claim than the power to execute the citizens of his country at his sole discretion, with no oversight, no due process, and no ability for anyone to question the execution even after the fact . . . I can’t think of it.

This an utter disgrace.  And if either the Right or the Left were serious about both liberty and adherence to the Constitution, they would be going ape-shit about it.  It should not matter to the Left that it’s “our guy” doing this.  It shouldn’t matter to the Right that Awalki is a supposed terrorist.  This is wrong.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/27/10 at 04:28 PM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Different name, same scams….

So they changed their name, but they didn’t change their tactics and scams, as this piece on the organization formerly known as ACORN points out:

An official report released this week says an ACORN offshoot group cannot properly account for how it has spent millions of federal dollars and recommends that the group repay the government and be put on standby mode until it cleans up its act.

The report from the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development reviewed how ACORN Housing Corporation—now called Affordable Housing Centers of America—has spent federal grant money over the past two decades. The report described the group’s book-keeping as “problematic and unsupported,” and claimed that more than $65,000 in “ineligible” salary expenses were charged to a federal grant last year, including costs for six employees after they were terminated.

The report said more than $19 million from HUD went to the organization since 1995, and that about 80 percent of the $3.25 million received between 2008 and 2009 went toward salaries.

“For continued approval as a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and for future awards consideration, AHC must bring its operations into full compliance with applicable laws,” the IG report said, recommending that it be placed on “inactive” status by the federal housing department.

At the heart of the dispute is the fact that some terrible accounting has been going on here, and that the tax payers are footing the bill for whatever ACORn, or whatever it is called now, did with the cash. I wouldn’t be surprised the cash was used in some illegal activity though. Do I have proof that the money was scammed or used in voter scams, for exmple? Nothing other than the fact this is SOP for ACORN, no. But when you see a crack addict acting like they are on a bender and offering to suck your “you know what” for some crack, you have to admit you are going to suspect the guy needs a fix, right? Same when you see ACORN, or whatever your new name is, and misused or misplaced cash.

Am I being harsh? Who cares? These are crooks, whatever the name, and I will continue to treat them as such.

Posted by AlexinCT on 09/27/10 at 09:11 AM in Left Wing Idiocy   Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Money is For Nothing and the Cafe For Free

Tipped by Cafe Hayek, I come across this exercise in dumb-ass reporting from Caracas:

Tucked into a corner on Plaza Bolívar is Café Venezuela, part of a chain of open-air restaurants established by the government this year. The cafe serves Venezuela-grown coffee and Venezuelan snacks like cassava bread at so-called solidarity prices, half or less than what customers would pay elsewhere.

Ideology is also on the menu. The cafes were created by Comerso, a state holding company for socialist enterprises, which also manages stores that sell everything from subsidized arepas, the crispy corn cakes that are the staple of the Venezuelan diet, to inexpensive Chinese cars. The branch in Plaza Bolívar replaced a clothing store that once occupied the same spot and was expropriated live on television by Mr. Chávez

...

The prices are intended to offer a respite from the country’s rampant inflation and may help deflect heat from a recent scandal in the government’s food-distribution network in which thousands of tons of imported food were found rotting in ports.

As Don Boudreaux points out at Cafe Hayek—which must count as some sort of anti-matter to Cafe Venezuela—the cheap coffee is the reason inflation is rampant in Venezuela.  The funds for that coffee have to come from somewhere and they are likely coming from printing money.  As P.J. O’Rourke always said, the law of supply and demand tells us what happens when you set the price of something below market value.  Pretty soon, you run out of it.

It gets better.  The NYT, not content to uncritically report on the cafes, interviews a couple of ... well, back in the 80’s, they were called Sandalistas—stupid people from the US who went to Nicaragua to support the brutal Sandanista regime.  Apparently, America is plum out of stupid people, so these are cheap Italian knock-offs.

“We’re Chavistas, too, of course,” said Maria Consuelo Togni, 66, who was bedecked in gold jewelry, adding that most of the members of her family were “escuálidos,” or squalid ones, the term commonly used to deride the president’s critics. She said she and her husband, Ettore Togni, an Italian immigrant, frequented the cafe to absorb the atmosphere and relax.

“People say the crime in Caracas is bad, but clearly they don’t know what Rome was like in the ’70s when we lived there and the city was terrorized by thieves and the Red Brigades,” she said.

Mr. Togni, 74, a retired economist in a blazer and a tie, said that Caracas still had its share of problems but that life had improved under Mr. Chávez. He attributed his support to the care he recently received at a clinic here run by Cuban doctors.

“The Cuban physician treated me like a human being, and I was impressed by that civility and professionalism,” he said.

I’ll wait while you bury the desire to punch these moronic seniors in the face.  Yes, socialism can be nice when you’re rich and it keeps the masses down.  But it’s not so nice for the masses when Venezuela is more violent than Iraq and most people wind up getting terrible healthcare from the government, as noted in the next interview with a woman who couldn’t get care for her 12-year-old daughter.

You have to feel sorry for leftist bastions like the NYT.  Communism has become such a joke that even Fidel Castro is admitting it doesn’t work.  Hugo and Lil’ Kim are all they’ve got left.  They can’t get into North Korea, but Hugo is more than happy to let reporters wander around his country and talk about the spirit of the cafes.

I realize this is just a breezy slice of life piece from the NYT, but I have a raw nerve where pieces like this are concerned.  News outlets frequently do “ain’t it cute” stories like this about communists and their sympathizers, usually complete with framed pictures of murderers like Chavez, Castro, Che, Mao and/or Stalin.

I don’t think it’s funny or cute.  People in Venezuela are dying.  Their economy is crumbling despite sitting on one of the largest troves of natural resources in the world.  Any reporting on these cafes that does not expose them for the horrible economy-crushing joke that they are deserves all the scorn it can get.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/26/10 at 04:41 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, September 24, 2010

Update on the UK Coalition

Who would have thought that a Tory-Lib Dem coalition would produce this:

One hundred and seventy-seven taxpayer-funded bodies are to be abolished under Coalition plans seen by The Daily Telegraph.

A further 94 are still under threat of being scrapped, four will be privatised and 129 will be merged, according to a Cabinet Office list compiled this week, while 350 other bodies have won a reprieve.

The list discloses for the first time the extent of David Cameron’s plans for the “bonfire of the quangos”, designed to save the taxpayer billions of pounds. Thousands of jobs will go as part of the reforms.

Under the Labour Party, the number of quasi-non-governmental organizations soared to over a thousand, with over 100,000 employees and 65 billion pounds of expense.  The coalition has already dumped 80 of them.  If they go all the way, that means 40% of these bodies would be abolished within the first year or so of the Coalition.  And almost all of them will claim that they serve some legitimate purpose and help the greater British public.  None of them will admit to being useless or redundant.

This is what budget cuts look like, my friends.  Get familiar with it.  One day, it will have to come here.  The question is whether it will be before or after we drive into a fiscal brick wall.

While I am not happy with the UK government’s plan to have paychecks funneled through government for taxation (see Alex’s earlier post), I am really liking the coalition in the UK in most other respects.  National ID cards are being dumped, the surveillance state is being rolled back, civil liberties are on the mend and the government is serious about cutting spending (although rumors that they plan to gut science budgets are bit alarming).  The GOP isn’t where the Tories are, yet.  But there’s hope.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/24/10 at 06:38 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Kos Doubles Down

Daily Kos defends his comparison of American conservatives to the Taliban in a post that somehow manages to be both dumber and more offensive than his stupid book:

But look what I wrote, and what Serwer highlights—the American Taliban and Islamic jihadists share a litany of mores, values, and tactics. The only valid counterargument would be that they don’t share that litany of mores, values and tactics.

On the issue of homosexuality, there is undisputedly a shared hostility toward gays and lesbians. HOW they express that hostility is a function of our respective societies. In the Arab world, anti-gay sentiment is more freely expressed. In this country, the American Taliban is constrained by our legal and cultural norms (like the leader of the Montana tea party crowd found out).

But the core value remains—the belief that homosexuality is a perversion that shouldn’t be tolerated by society. It’s shared. Both sides have it. So to pretend the American Taliban doesn’t share that value, merely because they go to jail when they string up their Matthew Shepperd’s, is to wear blinders as to the true motivations and goals of our homegrown extremists. Right-wing reactionaries will always push to the limits created by their respective societies. We certainly know what our right-wing extremists will do when given the chance. We don’t even have to go that far back in our history to see it in action:

You know, I’ve been to a number of right-wing events and have yet to see anyone “stringing up their Matthew Shepperd’s”.  The use of that comparison is massively offensive because there was, in no way, a political aspect of Shepperd’s murder, which was condemned by everyone except the Westboro Baptist Church.  There was some debate about hate crime laws.  But there are valid reasons to oppose hate crime laws—that they are really thought crime laws—that have nothing to do with hating gays.

Moreover, Kos’s basic premise is faulty here.  His logic is that conservatives and the Taliban share “mores, values and tactics”.  First of all, as he himself acknowledges, they don’t share tactics.  He thinks this is only because our system of government holds them back; ignoring that the same system jailed and punished gays for centuries.  Apparently, if it weren’t for our laws, Newt Gingrich would be rampaging through Dupont Circle, burning gays at the stake. That’s a fairly dim view of human nature.  But not unexpected from someone who thinks the Republicans are also secret racists.

But the “mores and values” thing is a bigger problem.  His argument is that since conservatives think homosexuality is immoral and the Taliban thinks so, that makes them equivalent.  But that’s bullshit.  Many liberals share “mores and values” with ecoterrorists.  Does that make them equivalent?  Many share “mores and values” with various communist dictators who think they are doing everything that’s right for “the people”.  Does that make them equivalent?  Kos and the liberals have spent the last couple of months defending American Muslims and assuring us, on the Ground Zero Mosque question, that moderate Muslims do not share the Taliban’s values.  But moderate Muslims do share “mores and values” with the Taliban.  In fact, they draw their inspiration from the same book. Many moderate Muslims have traditional views of gender roles and prefer women to wear headscarves.  They do not eat pork or drink alcohol and they take a dim view of homosexuality.  Where they differ is in degree and on the subject of oppressing and terrorizing the non-Muslim world.

Religion is a well from which people can draw many things—extremism or moderation, oppression or tolerance, ignorance or wisdom.  Kos thinks that because the Taliban and the conservatives draw from similar wells, that makes them equal.  But that’s garbage.  The well isn’t the problem; the people drawing from it are.

It’s good for people to have strong moral views.  Where it becomes dangerous is when they want those moral views enforced by law.  And where it becomes really dangerous is when they want them enforced with the gun and the rope.  Kos wouldn’t dream of saying that moderate Muslims (or orthodox Jews or Mormons) are like the Taliban because some of their moral views overlap.  But it becomes acceptable when talking about conservative Christians.

Then there’s this:

The American Taliban also seeks to subvert democracy—not by cutting off fingers, but by caging and other voter suppression efforts. So what if the method is different? The end goal is the same—to subvert the democratic will of the people in order to impose their regressive mores on the rest of us.

These would be the mythical “voter suppression” efforts that Michael Moore has been harping on for years and that the Left has yet to present any real evidence in support of.  The only argument they can make is that bans on letting felons vote “subverts democracy”.  Because the one thing democracy needs is more criminals in control.  The argument that we have too many people in prison has some weight.  But again, we are a nation of laws.  People aren’t put in prison for no reason.  If you don’t like the drugs laws, change them.

And once again, we get the “tactics don’t matter” line that allows Kos to make this odious comparison.  But tactics are everything!  Tactics—which most people call “politics”—is how we resolve issues peacefully instead of violently.  Intentions and sub-conscious desire means nothing; process is everything.

(I do share one concern with Kos—the erosion of civil liberties during the War on Terror.  Once those go, they’re gone.  We should never trust government with our freedom.  But then again, Obama has been pursuing those violations with equal enthusiasm.  And it’s much easier to control and oppress people’s civil liberties when you also control their retirement, their education, their healthcare and their job.)

Then there’s this stretch:

But ultimately, the “direct comparison” argument is a straw man. The issue here is of clear shared values—hatred for gays, opposition to women equality, the creation of an ideological bubble to keep out facts and science, bizarre sex hangups, and a propensity to resort to violence.

I could just as easily say that the Left and violent Marxist guerrillas share the same values—hatred of wealth, opposition to economic liberty, worship of the state.  The creation of an ideological bubble?  Have you seen the composition of Obama’s cabinet?  Or been on a college campus lately?

For the “propensity to resort to violence”, he goes to the recent surge in firearms purchases and a spate of supposed “right wing” violence.  But the latter, as we have shown numerous times, is wildly exaggerated while the former has more to do with the fear that new gun controls laws will be imposed.  The Left Wing has been beating this violence drum ever since Obama was elected, even trying to cast the supposed murder of a census worker and the attack on the Discovery Channel as expressions of Right Wing hate.  They tried to make the “Oath Keepers” into a violent group, ignoring that the group was simply promising to refuse to enforce oppressive laws.  Where is this surge of Right Wing violence?  It exists only in the minds of such as Kos.  The Tea Party isn’t calling for a revolution.  They’re voting.  But, to the likes of Kos, every right wing vote is really an act of violence.

(As an aside, the liberals really need to get it through their heads that there really isn’t a conservative “movement” as such.  Last week, I linked up Jonathan Rauch’s article about how disorganized the Tea Party really is.  The Tea Party represents a broad spectrum of ideological views only vaguely unified by their opposition to big government.  Yes, there are some crazy Right Wing religious nuts in the movement.  But there are a lot more who aren’t in that wagon.  And the issue of gays has really not come up at all, except in passing.  Vast majorities of conservatives support a repeal of DADT—despite this week’s fiasco—and even the likes of Glenn Beck are moderating on the subject of gay marriage.

Conservatives are leery of societal change, in general, because we understand that maintaining a society is more important than “fixing it”.  We’re nervous about making big changes to a system that works, however imperfectly.  But we do come around—as we have on women’s rights, civil rights and a number of gay issues.  That the Republican leadership is still in anti-gay mode is yet another illustration of how out of touch they are with the electorate.  But then again, the Democractic leadership has almost identical positions on the issues.)

As I’ve said many times, attempts to probe the underlying psychology of politicians is stupid.  I’ve attacked the amateur psychologists who are trying to get into Obama’s head.  And I’ll attack the armchair Freudians who try to get into the GOP’s.  Who cares what they’re thinking?  Who knows that they think it all?  What matters is what the do.  Oppose that and leave the historical comparisons to pot-smoking poli-sci majors.

This is not a serious commentary on American politics.  This is simply a desperate attempt to smear a political opponent.  It is an attempt to terrorize and motivate the liberal base because their party is on the verge of a political catastrophe.  Kos really thought that he had changed the game—that the Nutroots had opened the door to a permanent liberal government.  Now that this isn’t happening, now that his beloved Democratic party is on the verge of getting swept out, he’s losing it.  He can’t believe that liberals are losing in the arena of ideas.  It has to be something—anything—besides the fundamental conservative nature of the American public.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/24/10 at 07:33 AM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pledge To Nothing

The GOP released their “Pledge to America” yesterday.  Full text is here.

Once you get past the frilly language and bastardized excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, there are parts to like, such as requiring every bill to identify its Constitutional authority, reforming Fannie/Freddie and requiring Congressional approval of big regulations.  There are parts that have no chance in hell while Obama is in the White House, such as repealing healthcare reform.  There’s stuff that’s already being done, such as sanctions on Iran.  And there are parts that should be in but aren’t, such as a commitment to free trade, an overhaul of the tax system and emphasizing major medical coverage as a way to fix health care.

There’s some bad stuff, too.  As I feared, the want to eliminate the insurance mandate but keep the pre-existing coverage provisions.  This is a recipe for disaster.  And there’s the usual screaming hysteria over trying terror suspects.  I guess I should be relieved that they didn’t put “restore torture” as a provision.

But the fiscal side—the most important side—is pure hokum.

The second section of the pledge promises budget restraint. Domestic discretionary spending would be cut back to “pre-bailout, pre-stimulus” levels, and then its growth would be capped — generating hundreds of billions in savings. The legislative budget, which has grown unjustifiably in recent years, would also be pruned back: Republicans know they cannot cut spending elsewhere if they will not cut spending on themselves. TARP would be ended, as would the federal entanglement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A federal hiring freeze would be instituted. And Congress would make “a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”

NRO does not mention that the pledge specifically exempts Medicare, Social Security and defense spending while promising to extend the Bush tax cuts.  Even worse, they promise to reverse Obama’s planned Medicare cuts, adding half a trillion to the budget.  Now I don’t expect the GOP, on the verge of an electoral victory, to announce they will make unpopular cuts.  But I’m very concerned that this indicates they still don’t fucking get it.  Rolling back discretionary spending to “pre-stimulus, pre-TARP” levels is already happening as those two programs expire.  Are they going to cut education?  Or highway funding?  Or farm subsidies?  They never did before.  I suspect they’ll cut foreign aide and science funding and call it quits.

This is pablum.  It’s a market-tested, focus-group approved grab bag of phrases and buzzwords.  It doesn’t propose anything new or interesting.  The only affect it has on me is to raise my concern that the GOP, once in office, will go back to their bad habits.  I guess that’s an improvement over Obama and a Democratic Congress.  But Obama and a Congress consisting entirely of hamsters would be an improvement on that.  We need something better and bolder if we’re to get out of this mess.

(More from the indispensable Nick Gillespie here, although I disagree with him on the Contract With America.  Not many voters knew about it, but not many have to know to have an impact on an election.)

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/23/10 at 08:44 AM in Elections   Election 2010  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Cactus In Chief

Nothing serious here from the Onion.  It just cracked me up:

According to a poll released Tuesday, nearly 20 percent of U.S. citizens now believe Barack Obama is a cactus, the most Americans to identify the president as a water- retaining desert plant since he took office.

The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found a sharp rise in the number of Americans who say they firmly believe Obama was either born a cactus, became a cactus during his youth, or has questionable links to the Cactaceae family.

“We asked people of varying races, ages, and backgrounds the same question: ‘What is President Barack Obama?’” Pew spokeswoman Jodi Miller told reporters. “And a fifth of them responded, ‘A cactus.’”

According to the poll, Obama has lost favor among many voters who supported his candidacy in 2008 but have since come to doubt he is a mammal. While these Americans concede Obama may not specifically be a cactus, most believe he is a plant of some kind, with 18 percent saying the president is a ficus, 37 percent believing him to be a grain such as wheat or millet, and 12 percent convinced he is an old-growth forest in Northern California.

You know that if Research 2000/Daily Kos said this, it would be taken as gospel.

Personally, I always pegged Obama as a laburnum.  Decorative, but dangerous:

All parts of the plant are poisonous and can be lethal if consumed in excess. Symptoms of laburnum poisoning may include intense sleepiness, vomiting, convulsive movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. In some cases, diarrhea is very severe and at times the convulsions are markedly tetanic.

Foaming at the mouth, wild eyes, vomiting and shitting your pants.  Yeah, that’s about the reaction he induces in a lot of us.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 09/23/10 at 08:33 AM in Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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