Friday, February 27, 2009

Assumptions of Class Warfare

Conservative blogger Donald Douglas has now posted a "rebuttal" to my reply on why conservatives are wrong to attack Obama for class warfare.  And needless to say, it's so underwhelming that I had to yet again put "rebuttal" in quotes, as he didn't actually address anything I wrote.

As Donald explained in a comment to me, he felt no need to explain why Obama's tax plan is class warfare because it's already assumed to be the case.  But of course, that's not how arguments work.  If I explain why Position A is wrong and someone wants to refute my argument, they don't just get to say "Position A is correct because I assume that Position A is correct."  That's just lame and a complete embarrassment to online debates.

Not that we can't have assumptions in arguments, but this is the KEY assumption.  This is the primary assumption that I was attacking in my original post.  Yet Donald has now used it twice as the basis for his entire argument. It's like a guy who joins a gunfight by running unarmed into the middle of the street wearing a target.  Donald already lost before he started and was so unprepared for the fight that he didn't even realize he got shot.  That's what happens when you only practice against strawmen.

Outsourced Arguments

This time, he didn't even try making an argument.  He merely asserted that my arguments were "pure Democratic baloney" and then outsourced his argument to two other people who also didn't address my point.  Essentially, this consisted of conservatives who took two of Obama's statements and reprocessed them into something he hadn't said, based entirely on strawmen that conservatives invented years ago.  

It was all about finding "trick wording and dishonest blame-shifting" that would expose Obama's true meaning.  Trick wording?  What kind of warfare is that?  The whole point of "class warfare" is that someone is pitting one class against the other.  Now it takes a Fox News Decoder Ring to figure out how Obama is rousing the masses against the rich?  That hardly sounds like anti-wealth populism to me.

Here are those two Obama statements:
“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.”

"We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin."
And while I suppose I can see how these could be interpreted as remarks against the upper-class, they sound much more like attacks on Republicans and their policies.  Obama's not saying that the rich were evil for receiving tax cuts.  He's saying that it was unwise for us to have given them tax cuts.  And while I completely agree with that, that's pretty weak tea as far as class warfare goes.

Even worse, neither of these people even mentioned class warfare.  The first suggested that Obama's phrasing indicates that he thinks wealth belongs to the government, so even his interpretation of Obama isn't a direct link to class warfare.  And the second person said exactly what I was saying; that Obama was blaming Republicans.   I quote: "Translation: Blame Republicans, and tax cuts."  Why Donald used her quote remains a mystery.

Back to the Beginning

And so we're right back where we started: Donald Douglas agrees that it's ok for the upper-class to pay more than the lower classes, but disagrees with the specific rate increase that Obama has requested.  And because of this 3% disagreement, he assumes that Obama is making "warfare" against the rich.  Again, this makes no sense.  We all agree that the rich should pay more taxes than the poor because they can afford to pay more.  Where's the warfare?

Now, if Donald wants to get around to explaining the assumption that I have been refuting from the start, this is the time to do so.  Heck, even a basic definition of what he means by "class warfare" would be a start.  And his answer would have to include why he thinks Obama's tax plan is classist, when he himself agrees that rich people should pay more than poor people.  But I'm quite sure he's incapable of doing so or he would have done it by now.  He has to "assume" that his point is correct because he can't actually explain his position otherwise.  

But this isn't just the failing of Donald Douglas.  The entire conservative movement is bereft of any clues and the best they can do is shout cliched mantras about "class warfare" and "socialism," and pray that someone will listen.  But for as much as they need to believe that Obama hates the upper-class, the best they can do is sift through his sentences and make inferences based upon their need to find something there.  But rescinding Bush's tax cuts are far from evidence they can use.

Now we just need to figure out why conservatives believe that the term "class warfare" is a magical weapon that scores points for them.  Obama made this tax plan a pillar in his campaign and used it to trounce his Republican opponent.  So why would anyone be scared of it now?  Mysteries never cease.

Still Crying Class Warfare

Conservative blogger Donald Douglas despises me so much that he reads my blog all the time in an effort to find something to attack me for.  And while normally he merely cites my blog to toss a meaningless label at me, it looks like Donald finally found a post that he could disagree with.  But as expected, his bark had zero bite to it.

It was my post on class warfare, which he "rebutted" in Class Warfare Denialism.  In my post, I explained that Republicans were wrong for suggesting that Obama's tax increase on the rich is evidence that he's engaging in class warfare.  And I did so by explaining what class warfare is and how the term doesn't apply to Obama's tax plan.  I even pointed out that Republicans engage in class warfare when they attack poor people as lazy, which they use to demagogue against government programs.  The lower classes are villains in a morality tale about the evils of government; which is a classic example of class warfare.

And so for Donald to rebut my argument, he'd need to give his definition of class warfare and explain how Obama's actions fit into that definition.  But as usual, he failed at that completely and instead made the same point that I had already destroyed.

Donald's Case

Here is my summary of Donald's argument:
Rich people already pay more in taxes than non-rich.  A Rasmussan poll says that many people agree with an anti-government phrase that Ronald Reagan once used.  The New York Times says that Obama will raise taxes on the rich to pay for healthcare.  Charles Krauthammer says that Obama is using the recession as an opportunity to expand government, just as FDR did.

And from that, he moves into his conclusion: Therefore Obama wants to redistribute wealth to the least productive members of society, which is a violation of liberty, but because the Obama Administration is dishonest, liberal bloggers are lying about it.

And no, I don't think I missed any steps there.  Douglas actually imagines he's established that Obama is engaging in class warfare because he wants rich people to pay a little more in taxes.  And yet, that was the point I started at.  That was what I had already refuted.  As I said, for this to be class warfare, Obama would be vilifying rich people as a method for getting the lower classes to hate the upper class.  I mean, the word "warfare" has to mean something, right?

But that's not happening at all.  Obama is merely suggesting that rich people can afford to pay a little more money to help our country.  That's all.  He's not attacking them or using them as scapegoats; he's merely wanting to raise their taxes a little.  And if that's class warfare, Douglas still needs to make that case.  Yet he doesn't.  And I don't think he can.  Instead, he just gives a hodgepodge of non-sequiturs, followed by the same tired "anti-tax" rhetoric his ilk has been repeating since the first time they heard Limbaugh say it.

Rich Always Pay More

And what's odd is that, as Douglas says, the rich already pay more in taxes than the rest of us.  Does he think that's also class warfare?  Is it always class warfare to make rich people pay more than poor people?  I don't think Douglas is making that point.  And if not, then what could his point be?  I'm not sure if there are any conservatives who believe that all Americans should literally pay the same amount in taxes.  They might want a flat tax rate, but they still expect the rich to pay more than the poor.

So how can Douglas suggest that making them pay a little extra is class warfare and a confiscation of personal property?  The only principles Douglas espoused would suggest that all taxation is wrong.  Yet I can't believe that Douglas is suggesting we switch to a voluntary payment system.  So what is his point?  I don't know.  I already raised these points in his comments section and all he could do is assert that I was wrong.  No explanation at all.  

But again, I don't think he has a point.  He's just repeating what he's heard about class warfare and imagines it must be solid because it's the best argument he's been given.  And that was the point of my original post.  To show that conservatives don't know what they're talking about when accusing Obama of class warfare.  Perhaps Douglas really does have some strong principle which explains why a 36% top rate is fine, but 39% destroys liberty.  Or perhaps he's just complaining that we're not raising everyone's taxes.  I don't know.  He never explained what he meant.

And their problem is that once you agree that taxation is acceptable and that it's ok to make rich people pay more than poor people, and most conservatives do agree on this; then we're all on the same page and it's simply a matter of deciding what the rates should be.  For as much as Douglas and other conservatives might imagine they have some killer argument against Obama's tax plan, it looks to me like they already agree with us on everything but the price tag.

Cries of Class Warfare

Having just read the AP analysis piece: Obama Plan Brings Cries of Class Warfare, it seems to me that author Tom Raum and Congressional Republicans don't actually know what the phrase "class warfare" means.

No, just becuase Obama is going to make rich people pay more does not mean it's "warfare." Nor is Obama "pitting the haves against the have nots." He's doing nothing of the kind. He's not saying "Rich people are screwing you over, so we need to take their money." He's just making people who can afford to pay more, pay more. That's not warfare. That's a sensible proposition. It's not about soaking the rich. It's about paying for what we have, without hurting people who can't afford the bite.

And ironically, it's generally Republicans who play class warfare, as they want us all hating the "lazy" poor people who we have to bail-out all the time. It's about hating people for being on welfare. It's about blaming others for being in financial trouble. That's the Republican game. And while there are Democrats who don't like rich people and think rich people are ripping us off; that's not part of Obama's argument. He's just trying to find the money required to pay for what we need.

And as usual, there's a little problem with message discipline here. It's an article about class warfare, yet it also says that Obama's tax hikes will "reach deep into the middle class." So much for class warfare, eh? It seems obvious to me that these fools are desparately reaching for any argument they can get. And for as much as they were willing to quote Obama people defending his plan, they seemed to fail to get anyone to attack the Republicans' basic premise.

More Nihilism for the Masses

I've got two more posts up at American Nihilists. The first has an excerpt below and it explains why actions by Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh which at first appear to be nihilistic are, in fact, not nihilistic. And then I've got one about the veiled threat that the Obama Administration made against Rick Santelli. Good stuff.

An Excerpt:
Firstly, Dick Cheney only "supports" his lesbian daughter because he knows that lesbianism is a choice and that Mary's just going through a rebellious phase, typical of girls in their late 30's; and not dissimilar to the phase Lynn Cheney briefly went through when she wrote her lesbian novel. So Dick's just applying some old fashioned conservative tough love, vis-a-vis reverse-psychology, to lure Mary back to sanity by pretending to support her repugnant life choice. And by doing so, he is lulling the gay agendaists into a false sense of security by allowing them to imagine that he's not trying to defeat them. They will definitely regret that mistake.

Beyond that, it should be known that Mary Cheney's lesbianism is of the "hot" variety, which is considered a turn-on in normal hetero society; and not in the militant feminist vein of scary lesbians who sweat like men and don't shave. And so it's perfectly natural for Dick Cheney to pretend to accept this sort of healthy lesbianism, because it's so widely discussed during football parties by men who drink beer.

As we all know, lesbianism is only bad if it's meant to exclude men from the reproductive process, which is an abomination to God and nature. That's why nihilists only support the dirty form of lesbianism, because it's gross and destroys the American family. And as we discovered, so-called "hot" lesbians only encourage procreation in men, or so the test subjects we interviewed told us. We will be addressing the issue of pro-family lesbianism and how to stop it at our nihilist summit in Kenya this spring.

Read More at the American Nihilist

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The GOP's Uncertain Return

Politico's got a good piece explaining the GOP's risky strategy of obstructing everything, but which makes the same analysis error I've been seeing for weeks.
And the cracks in the facade appear to be the first public signal of Republican rank-and-file squeamishness with a remarkably high-risk strategy that promises an uncertain return.  For Republicans, a central question looms: Is saying no to Obama’s agenda the way to get voters to say yes to an already beleaguered GOP brand?

If Republicans are right, the economy will remain in tatters and voters will recognize in 2010 that the recovery was delayed by profligate Democrats and their president.  If the GOP is wrong, however, and the economy begins to show signs of life, the resistance will be easily framed as excessive obstructionism, the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party.
And of course, the reason why this can be easily framed that way is because this IS the last gasp of an intellectually bankrupt party.  They've got nothing and have been essentially coasting on fumes for the past fifteen years.  9/11 gave them a temporary respite, but they managed it poorly and now lack foreign policy credibility.  The last good idea they had was invading Iraq and the wisdom of that decision is in obvious doubt.

And the reality is that they were always intellectually bankrupt.  The "Party of Ideas" thing was just a marketing slogan; not an accurate description.  And underneath it all, sloganeering and fear-mongering is about all they've had since liberalism established a beachhead with FDR.

A Lose-Lose for Republicans

But the big mistake Politico is making is the upside prediction to all this.  For as much as folks keep insisting that Republicans are betting against the economy improving, and I DO believe this is their thinking too, this makes no sense.  Because this just isn't how things will play out.  

If the economy doesn't improve, Democrats will just say that the stimulus wasn't enough and that at least they prevented things from getting worse.  And if it DOES improve, Republicans will say that it was going to improve anyway, in spite of the stimulus.  And we know this to be the case, because this is exactly how things worked for Bush's tax cuts.  This is also what happened during the Clinton years, when Republicans had to insist that the economy was booming in spite of Clinton's tax increase.  What else was either side going to say?  Admitting defeat on this issue is simply not an option.

And the only way of deciding which side is correct is to weigh the merits of each system.  And that's the problem that Republicans are already in: Common sense says that when we're in a recession and people are losing their jobs, we should borrow money to pump into the economy.  It's what every individual, business, and government understands intuitively; assuming they don't suffer from ideological biases against such strategies.  

So as far as the majority of Americans is concerned, this debate is already over.  They don't need to wait two or four years for the results.  They know that the government can bail them out and they're just waiting for it to happen.  And even if the economy doesn't improve, they'll still know the theory was good, but that it just wasn't implemented properly.  And seeing as how the Republicans are completely rejecting the theory, even failure doesn't work to their advantage.

The Impossible Strategy

And so Republicans are essentially betting everything on a counter-intuitive argument that has already been rejected.  Even worse, this isn't a 50/50 shot at seeing the economy improve; they're relying on an almost impossible triple-bank shot.  They not only have to pray that the experts are wrong and the stimulus won't work, but also that it won't get better on its own.  And even if the economy doesn't improve, they have to hope that Americans are idiots who would blame Obama's common sense plan that they all supported.  All of this must happen, or the Republicans lose...bigtime.

And the only way for this to work is if they can successfully follow Bill Kristol's idiotic advice and actually obstruct Obama.  It's not enough to slow him down if the bill's eventually get passed.  That only makes the Republicans look worse in every way.  And even if they ARE successful in stopping Obama and stifling Obama, there's still the big risk that they'll get the blame for screwing with the economy.

As I've argued before, Republicans understood perfectly well that blaming Democrats for obstructionism was a good idea; and now they imagine this is a winning hand for them?  They're banking everything on this??   That's idiotic.

Aiding Obama

And the stupidest part of this is that, for as much as many analysts are gaming this with the same mistaken assumptions the GOP does, this ISN'T why the GOP made this blunder.  It was entirely predictable that the GOP would oppose Obama no matter what he did.  It would have made much more sense if they had grudgingly agreed to trust Obama.  That way, they could say he betrayed their trust if things failed or take the credit if things succeeded.  They'd be in the same boat as before, except they'd have more credibility.

But these dopes didn't have the brains to pull off such political maneuvering, and so Obama gets to do the right thing while using Republicans as foils.  Had they selected a nice Obama-lite policy using Clinton's old triangulation strategy, they would have been able to pull support from Obama with good effect.  But their taxcut-only plan and firm stance against spending only made Obama's job easier.  Even Karl Rove wants to believe that Obama was attacking a strawman when Obama stated the Republican position, but fortunately for us, they put themselves in the strawman suit and want Obama to knock the hell out of them.

These guys are as predictable as the sunrise and Obama appears to be using that to great effect.  Not that he has to do anything, beyond stay on message and allow them to speak.  Of course, he can't stop them from speaking, so they really have no one to blame but themselves.

Ten Good Reasons Charlie Bass is an Idiot

And as a followup to my last post, we have another whackjob Congressman who wants to get some of that ol' RedState loving. Here we have Rep. Charlie Bass from New Hampshire, another 1994 Gingrich Republican, but who also got swept right back out of office in 2006. I suspect Bass was one of those sheep candidates hired for his ability to repeat rhetoric, and not too swift when it comes to seeing the political tides shift.

Curiously, his Wikipedia page says he's a moderate Republican, which should make him a pariah at RedState. But perhaps he's only there to reform his image. Or hell, why even pretend RedState has any standards. They were probably happy to have him, even if he's not in Congress anymore.

Charlie's Post is entitled: Ten Good Reasons to Oppose the Omnibus Spending Bill. How imaginative. Particularly as his list doesn't actually give any good reasons for doing so.

Here's an example of Charlie's mentality:

Families all across the country are being forced to tighten their belts and make the tough decisions and its time Washington followed the lead of the American people.
Yeah. We're in a recession because people aren't spending money, so Charlie's answer is to have the government also spend less money. Brilliant. I suppose his cure for diarrhea includes giving people dysentery. Perhaps we can have the military firebomb major cities to really show them that we feel their pain.

A Shorter Charlie Bass

Here's my summary of Charlie's list:

1. It's a lot of money.
2. Some money is going to agencies that already received money in the stimulus.
3. Some money is going where Congressmen want it to go.
4. Some money is going to organizations that used a disgraced lobbying firm.
5. Some money is going to grant programs named after Democratic Congressmen.
6. Some money is being spent on salmon.
7. Some money is going to a group with a Spanish name.
8. Some money is going to NASA museums.
9. Congress is hiring more staff members.
10. Some money is going where former congressmen wanted it to go.

And it can all be summed as: You should oppose this bill because money is being spent.

Yet, not once does he actually explain why this is bad spending. It's just assumed that it's bad for salmon and NASA to get money. And on number nine, he actually suggests that it's wrong for Congress to hire people if businesses are firing people. He actually complains that the bill "Does as I Say Don’t Do as I Do" as if they're hypocrites for hiring people during a recession. What the hell is the matter with these people? That sentence didn't even make sense!

And seriously, did RedState really imagine they needed a former congressman to make the point that conservatives don't like budgets made by Democrats? I thought that was part of their mission statement or something. Of course, in comments there are plenty of complaints against Republicans for voting for it and inserting earmarks. And good for them. It sounds like they might have finally realized they've been punk'd all these years and that they never had any power in Washington. Now if they can only understand why everyone else thinks they're idiots, we really might be onto something.

Really, Shadegg. We Love Big Government

One of the truly amazing things about RedState isn't just that they can so consistently repeat the same disproven conservative cliches that the Limbaughs have been feeding them for all these years; but that they can actually attract real politicians who have nothing better to do than make the nuts at RedState feel important by signing their name to this same tired rhetoric.

Here we have Congressman John Shadegg, an Arizona Republican who came into office during the 1994 Gingrich revolution and apparently was never informed that the election was over and it's time for a new song. It's like these guys were trapped in a stasis field and continue to spout out the same nonsense, in spite of their record during the Bush Administration.

Shadegg's contribution is a post entitled Really??, in which the Congressman imagines he's got some really great factcheck on Obama:
Last night President Obama said, “I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan…Not because I believe in bigger government - I don’t.”


If that’s true, why was every single policy the President suggested last night…big
And somehow, the concept seems to elude Shadegg that Obama's point was that he isn't asking for these because he likes big government, but rather because these are things that we need. And to suggest otherwise is absurd. Yet these bozos do it all the time. They honestly believe that the reason why liberals want a powerful government is because we like powerful government.

The Already Answered Question

And Shadegg is far from the only conservative who highlights that one line and imagines he's got the ultimate Orwellian gotcha on Obama. And what's pathetic is that, as Carpetbagger says, the entire point of that passage was to cut-off the conservative attacks that Obama wants Big Government. As Obama said two sentences later "I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships."

So this wasn't the double-speak lie conservatives imagine it was. Rather, they walked right into a jujitsu kick and didn't even realize it. He was directly addressing their concerns and deflecting their criticism. Yet they remain entirely oblivious to this and continue to rant about how Obama's government expansion only shows that he wants to expand government. And they imagine that if anyone doesn't call him on it, they must be koolaid drinking fools who aren't paying attention. It's like the sleepwalkers have taken over the sleep institute.

I suppose they imagine the purpose of using deodorant is to express our love of deodorant. And by this same logic, it can be deduced that anyone who wants America to torture terrorists only does so because they love torturing terrorists (ok, this one might be true). In other words, the only purpose of doing anything can be because you love doing that kind of thing. Some might say this is Taoist in its simplicity, while most others think it's moronic. I'll leave that decision to you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Combating a Political Circus

I'm not sure why, but I've always kind of liked Harry Reid and supported him in most of his efforts.  I suppose it's because I heavily preferred him over the completely ineffectual Tom Daschle, who was not only unable to outmaneuver Republicans, but entirely clueless as to where to even start fighting.  But Reid's taken a lot of grief from liberals who didn't like his risk-averse strategies.  For example, they wanted him to filibuster as minority leader and want him to stand-up against Republican filibusters as majority leader.  

And now that Reid has released a memo stating why filibusters can't realistically be stopped, he's being attacked by liberals who insist that this memo shows why he should have filibustered as minority leader, as well as by those who say we should let them filibuster now regardless of the difficulties.  Somehow, both of these groups kept arguing against those of us defending Reid, rather than realizing that they were stating mutually exclusive propositions which cancelled each other out.  

I mean, if it's bad for Republicans to filibuster by showing them to be obstructionists, then it would have been bad for us to do that.  But if filibusters would have been effective for us, then they'd be effective for Republicans now.   There's just no in-between ground here, yet these people never faced-off against each other.  The debate was strictly between those defending Reid and those attacking him; even if the attackers were doing so from opposing sides.

Gimmicks as Governing

And I am of the firm belief that we'd have been screwed in either case.  Dems would be painted as obstructionists for filibustering, and ineffective for permitting a Republican filibuster.  And that's because our greatest strength is our desire to actually get shit done, so Republicans win as long as it appears we can't get shit done.

And the main problem for us is that Republicans have never cared about governing; at least not since the "Gingrich Revolution."  It's all about political theater and taking huge gambles at the expense of America.  And they had to do this because they have no real platform.  They have no ideas or policies.  It's all about political gimmicks because that's easier than getting shit done.  And if they were truly interested in governing effectively, then they'd need to be liberals.  History has shown again and again that liberal policies are the only ones with a realistic chance of succeeding.

And so they gave us government shutdowns, endless investigations, presidential impeachments, preemptive wars, constant threats of filibusters, "nuclear options" against filibusters, and all sorts of stupid culture wars, pointless grandstanding, and manufactured outrage.  None of this had anything to do with passing policies.  Policy battles were only waged for their political value.  These people were never serious about getting anything done, and so they didn't.

And this stuff is HUGELY unpopular.  The nation hated Gingrich.  Before 9/11 temporarily changed the rules, Bush had to run as a "Compassionate Conservative" with a bipartisan record, in order to put a happy face on the Republican ticket.  Similarly, McCain had absolutely no strategy in his presidential run, preferring gimmicky tactics, outrageous smears, and Hail Mary longshots.  And the few times they succeeded, many liberals would insist that Obama was being routed and demanded that he try equally risky gambits.

And in the end, voters preferred the coolheaded adult over the gimmicky gambler.  And that dynamic continues now, with Republicans preferring political theater that the media loves, but which gets soundly rejected by a majority of Americans.  And that's as it should be.  Progressives might hate risk-averse strategies, but they work far better than Republican gambles.

Ignoring Reality

And this only happens because Republicans don't give a shit about the rules of politics or public opinion.  They're playing by their own rules which say that as long as they make the far-right happy and get the media to repeat their nonsense, the rest of America will follow.  Yet it rarely does and we have too many elections which prove they're wrong.

And that's the real problem that Reid and Democrats have.  If Republicans refuse to acknowledge political reality, then there really isn't much we can do about it, besides wait for another election.  Because they not only want political drama and gamesmanship, they require it.  And if we do the same, we'll only play into their hands and give them exactly what they want.  And not only will we not get what we want, but we'll lose elections too; getting us even further from our goal.  Again, our best attribute is our desire to get shit done.  Without that, we really get trounced.

It'd be like when your toddler has a temper tantrum in a restaurant.  You can respond by matching their theatrics, but you'll only look like a fool and won't have quieted your toddler.  And the louder you get, the louder they'll get; which is exactly what they wanted.  And so you bribe them and plead for them to behave rationally and are at their mercy until you can get them home and beat the hell out of them (joking!).  Except in our case, we can't leave the restaurant and they refuse to be placated.  

Because the temper tantrum is all they've got.  Without that, they'd have nothing to work with.  So while Democrats need to act responsibly and play within the rules of political realities, Republicans get to do any crazy stunt they can dream up.  And in the short-run, it works.  They have their tantrums and political drama and keep screwing with us.  

And the only time we can really stop this is at election time, when they lose again.  Ignoring public opinion is a huge advantage until election day, when it becomes the ultimate disadvantage.

Beating Blago

And we're seeing this played out again with the Blago-Burris Senate appointment.  Reader Green Eagle mentioned in my American Nihilist post on Burris how Reid got totally played by Blago and Burris, and how he's a buffoon because of it.  But again, the problem isn't that Reid screwed this up.  It's that he was dealing with two children who refused to acknowledge political reality.

And in the long run, this will hurt them.  Blago is unlikely to win elected office again and I seriously doubt Burris will have good chances of holding this Senate seat.  But in the meantime, they got what they wanted.  Reid did the adult thing and stated that no Blago appointment would be accepted, but Blago ignored reality and appointed someone anyway.  And Burris pulled out the political theatrics and ignored reality and insisted upon being seated, and Reid had little choice than to allow it.  And now that Burris has been exposed as being a lying schmuck, he still refuses to acknowledge reality and is trying to hold on to his seat at all costs.

And throughout this, Blago and Burris were perfectly willing to take huge risks and ignore reality, while Reid is considered the sucker for playing by the rules.  And in the long run, Reid will win.  Burris is quite unlikely to win re-election, assuming he holds his seat.  And in any case, it's likely that his reputation is tarnished almost as badly as Blago's.  Blago's career was over and Burris decided to chance a roll of the dice by sleeping with the Devil, on the belief that he'd get a political office he had little chance of obtaining otherwise.

Playing Against the Rules

And in the short run, he got his seat and Blago got to humiliate the adults with political gamesmanship that served no other purpose than to score a meaningless point.  For as much as he "routed" Reid, he gained nothing and only became more of a joke.  Sure, he had nothing to lose from all this, but he gained nothing either.  And Reid's only "mistake" was being stuck working in reality and getting outmaneuvered by people who had no such restrictions.  

But it's not because Blago, Burris, or the Republicans are political geniuses who know how to manipulate the political world.  It's that they're political morons who could only imagine they're winning because they're so ignorant of the rules they're breaking; and are egged on by a media which is equally ignorant.  It's like someone who thinks they're a chessmaster because they "discovered" they can move their pawns anywhere on the board they want.  Sure, they might capture your king on the second move, but they still lose.  And if progressives would stay focused on long-term goals, they'd realize that Republicans are losing.  But again, the problem is that reality can only inject itself every two years, and Republicans can continue ignoring it the rest of the time.

And overall, this is a dynamic that will always favor the adult in the long run.  If you want a successful career in politics, you have to play by the rules of politics.  And if you ignore those rules, you won't succeed.  And now with a political powerhouse like Obama in the Whitehouse, even short-term success will elude Republicans.  That's not to say we can steamroll them, as their lack of concern for public opinion denies us our strongest weapon.  Merely that they'll become even more irrelevant as they continue to play games that no longer have any value.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nihilist Agency of the Week: The Environmental Protection Agency

Here you go, folks.  The newest announcement of the Nihilist Agency of the Week, and you won't want to miss this one.  Oh, and if you haven't already, be sure to check out my Nihilistic Shout-Out to Roland Burris.

Ok, naming the EPA as Nihilist Agency of the Week seems a bit unfair, seeing as how its entire purpose is nihilistic to its very core. I mean, the EPA's unstated mission statement is to destroy the American economy by pretending that humans can harm God's second greatest creation, Mother Earth. So what could the EPA really do to go beyond that to earn this great honor?

Here's how (emphasis added):
President Barack Obama's climate czar said Sunday the Environmental Protection Agency would soon issue a rule on regulation of carbon dioxide, finding that it represents a danger to the public
Officially recognizing that carbon dioxide is a danger to the public sets would trigger regulation of the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, refineries, chemical plants, cement firms, vehicles and any other emitting sectors across the economy.
And you see where this is going, right? Not only will this ruling shutdown every source of energy in our country, there's one other big emitter of carbon dioxide they omitted. That's right: Human Beings. The EPA under Obama has now taken the first step to outlaw breathing by all Americans. Oh, well they can breathe; they just can't exhale.

And in case you're not up on your modern biology, exhaling carbon dioxide is generally considered a necessary part of the human lifesystem. All this, under the guise of protecting people from a threat that never existed in the first place. Does it get any more Orwellian than that? I think not.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Republican Message Mangling

One big problem Republicans face is their lack of message discipline.  That was always a key weapon of theirs, but they've long since abandoned it and go for whatever argument sounds good at the moment, even if it contradicts everything else they just said.

And we see this with the stimulus law.  Half the time they're referring to it as "Generational Theft" and the rest of the time they're talking about how they're personally paying to bailout their neighbors.  But you can't have it both ways.  Either our grandkids are paying for this, or we're paying for it.  And seeing as how we walked into this with ballooning deficits, it's quite obvious we're not paying for this and were already "stealing" from our grandkids.

And their whole point is entirely undermined by the complete lack of concern Republicans had for deficits throughout the Bush Presidency.  Their annoying "small government" rhetoric only worked when there was no real-world examples to undermine them.  Somehow, Republicans still think they can create their own reality, when there's already one in place that entirely contradicts them.  They had no problem with letting our grandkids pay for our wars in Iraq or tax cuts for our rich.  It's only when the money might do some good that they suddenly kick up a fury.

The Extremist Appeal to Moderates

And so we still seem them living in a fantasyworld where it's smart to deny unemployment benefits to your constituents and punish moderate Republicans for living in reality.  Hardline conservativism was never popular and only worked back before the moderates realized how hardline the Republican Party had become.  The political theory which stated that going extremist would pull moderates in their direction was always a completely braindead strategy that had no chance of being correct, and was only meant to appeal to far-right extremists who want to imagine they're in the majority.  

But it could only backfire because, as it turns out, most moderates aren't braindead sheep unable to make up their minds.  They're actually as firm in their moderateness as the liberals and conservatives are in their positions.  It wasn't wishy-washiness that puts them in the middle.  It's a firm belief that the middle is the place to be.  And so hardline extremism was only going to offend them.  And the further Republicans pull to the right, the more they were going to be rejected.  This was as predictable as sunrise.

And it only makes matters worse if all your arguments are counter-intuitive, anti-empirical, and contradictory.  When Republicans ascended in 1994, it was based upon a "common sense" appeal that was difficult to disprove.  Since then, Republicans have had to embrace such a tortured worldview that it's almost impossible for a non-believer to even understand what they're trying to say.  I'm quite convinced that even they don't know what their point is most of the time.  They just keep riffing on the same tired rhetoric they've been repeating for two decades and hope it's still relevant.  It's not.

Perhaps some day modern Republicans will remember why Bush originally went with the "Compassionate Conservative" schtick, before screwing things up with his "My Way or the Highway" routine.  Or perhaps they'll just continue on the road to political irrelevance.  Either way, we win.

Friday, February 20, 2009

When a Tax Isn't a Tax

I'm with Atrios when he says he doesn't understand why people think it'd be politically easier for the government to track everyone's mileage than to just raise the gas tax.  But I'll go one further: I don't understand the idea that people will be happier to pay taxes, just as long as you call it something else or collect it in a different way.

Like the people who are in love with the Flat Tax or Fair Tax or National Sales Tax or whatever alternative to income tax they can devise.  They're all a bunch of filthy liars.  For as much as they cite high principles for wanting to abolish the income tax in favor of these other systems, their primary goal is for them personally to pay less in taxes.  That's all that it's about.  They somehow imagine that these other schemes will allow them to pay less tax, so they support it.  

And you can bet your bottom dollar that if they determined they'd end up paying more through one of these other systems, they'd most certainly oppose it.  That's why proponents of these alternatives always lowball the number, as it's the only way that it sounds preferable over our current system.  They're told that a 17% flat tax would pay for everything and if you cite experts who say it'd have to be much higher, they'll insist that you're wrong.  To even discuss the higher rate undermines their entire argument, so they refuse to even consider it.  Because again, all they're interested in is lower taxes, not a fairer system.

And the whole thing is just retarded.  Seriously.  Because if you decrease tax revenues without cutting spending, you just get deficits.  Government can't be drowned no matter how high the deficits run.  And so we'd need to raise just as much money no matter which tax scheme we developed.  And then we'd be back into the business of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which is the exact sort of thing that these guys were bitching about in the first place.  They take a principled stand against using the tax code to implement social policies, yet any scheme they devise will have that exact effect.

Tax Games

And I've got the same problem with toll roads too.  I suppose I'm not against the building of tollways if they're special purpose ones being solely designed for a specific clientele; particularly if the people who'd use it most aren't the ones who'd pay for it otherwise.  But the taxing of existing roads, as they're doing here in Austin, is simply outrageous.  It's just a way for Republicans to tax people without it being called a "tax."  But a toll is a tax, no matter what you call it. 

And these guys play these sorts of games all the time.  They've been trained to hate the word "tax" but still can't get around the fact that Americans want an effective government and an effective government costs money that can only be collected through taxes.  Even Republicans don't really want the crappy government that they profess to support and expect the government to take care of them just like everyone else. And so they develop silly principles to justify tax schemes that they imagine will let them pay less taxes, or simply change the word so it's not "tax."  

But our society requires a certain level of tax revenue no matter what you call it, so all these silly games are not only annoying, they're dangerous.  And you end up with horrible situations like California Republicans playing chicken in support of principles they don't really believe in.  And in the end, they're not really against the idea of good government.  They just want to make sure they're not the ones paying for it.

Fighting the Liberal Loser Syndrome

Carpetbagger has a post about a ridiculous ad campaign brought to us by the same dopes that spent $2.8 million trying to smear Obama by linking him to Bill Ayers before the election.  This time, they're spending $1 million in an absurd effort to inform people that one trillion is a big number.  And I wish them luck with this.  Hell, I hope they throw another million dollars into the mix.  Every conservative dollar throw towards this sort of loser ad campaign is another dollar wasted.

And yet, some liberals still don't see it that way.  Somehow, despite huge electoral victories in 2006 and 2008, we're still losing.  Sure, we got our stimulus bill and other measures that would have been impossible with a Republican Whitehouse.  And there's little chance that they can stop us from getting most of our agenda passed before the next election.  But we're still losing because we're supposedly letting Republicans frame the debate without offering one of our own.

Here's one commenter's thoughts on this:
You can decry this talking point as much as you want, but it is the kind of thing that has worked extremely well for Republicans....These talking points have a simplistic logic which a lot of people will accept UNLESS THEY HEAR A COUNTER ARGUMENT. Sadly Democrats and the media rarely offer one.
Even after Republican policies have been proven to be an unmitigated disaster, Democrats are still allowing the right to frame the debate and control the terms of our public dialogue. They allow powerful talking poinst to go unchallenged (American corporations do not pay the highest tax in the world nor do tax cuts pay for themselves).

Our nation will never get back to living in the reality-based world until Democrats learn how to communicate and the media is pressured to start informing the public accurately about important issues. If our current crisis is not enough to make this happen, I give up.
And my question is: What public discourse is this guy watching?  We're winning.  The stimulus passed largely how we wanted it and is so popular that many Republicans who openly opposed it are now bragging about the funds that are coming to their state.  And Obama is still very popular.  Even Congressional Democrats are fairly popular, while Republicans are still tanking.  So what is this guy talking about?  And he's far from the only one.

The Republican Catastrophe

And I suspect that a big part of the problem is that these people have become so conditioned to losing that they have no rhetorical framework to use when they're winning.  And in fact, they've got nothing to talk about when they're winning.  Whenever they heard Democrats mocking Republicans for spewing nonsense, they reflexively chastise those Dems for not "getting it."  But these guys "get it."  They understand how the game is played and why Dems keep losing.  And they need to keep repeating this stuff until Dems stop mocking Republican stupidity and start doing something about it.

But you know, we ARE doing something about.  We're winning.  Democrats ARE pushing back and we've been doing it for several years now.  Republicans might still control the media, but liberals have control over the internet, and the internet has more influence than the media because there's more of us and we're smarter.  Josh Marshall can now influence the media.  Atrios and Kos can rally the troops to influence Congress.  And then there's that Obama guy, who doesn't just have the smoothest political instincts in Washington, but the loudest voice too.

Yet somehow, these people are still stuck in 2002.  They're still warning us about attacks that ceased being effectively several elections ago.  And they still refuse to understand the impact 9/11 had on our public discourse.  Had it not been for 9/11, Republicans would have tanked in 2002 and Bush would have lost in 2004.  And now we're more powerful than we could ever have hoped to be, while Republicans are weaker than ever.

And even still, for as much as Democrats touted Republican success, they never really got much of what they wanted.  Besides war and tax cuts, Republicans really weren't able to get much out of Congress.  Not only were they unable to gut Social Security, but they actually increased Medicare benefits.  These were two programs conservatives have hated for decades, yet they had no success in weakening them.  The reality is that Republicans were really never that powerful.  And that's because they're really only good at spin and trickery; but actually doing things has never been their strongsuit.

Acting Like a Winner

Liberal fear-mongering aside, the Republican downfall isn't a fluke event that will easily be reversed.  It was a long time in the making and merely got stalled because of a catastrophic event that favored them.  But it was 9/11 that gave them the respite, not a financial crisis that gave us one.  Their power peaked fourteen years ago and they've been struggling to stay relevant ever since; relying on gimmicks like government shutdowns, impeachments, and war, in lieu of getting real results.  And now with Democrats in charge and finally in a position to achieve their goals, we'll only gain in popularity, while they'll chase themselves into further irrelevance.

And my biggest worry is that this loser syndrome will continue to infect us, and every political event that doesn't entirely favor us will be touted as more proof that we're losing.  And it's that defeatist attitude that was always a big part of our problem.  If you want to be a winner, you have to act like a winner.  And if you act like every setback is a defeat, it will be one.  Republicans know this, which is why they still pretend they're winning, all evidence to the contrary.

And in this case, there was no setback at all.  We're winning and the loser Republicans are just wasting money by making an attack that will convince no one of anything.  Yet still, we're told this is a bad thing for us and chastised for laughing at them about it.  The sooner these people stop telling everyone that we're losing and develop rhetoric on how to keep winning, the better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Meaning of the Word "Billion"

The question isn't why conservatives have suddenly fallen on hard times.  The question is why they were ever taken seriously in the first place.  

In yet another bid to convince folks that $789 billion is a lot of money, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R-Crazy) breaks it down by explaining that the stimulus bill is enough money to issue a check of $1,430 to every person in the world.  And besides the fact that her math is totally off, as it would actually be a check closer to $116 per person; so what?  The money is actually better spent in this stimulus bill than if we gave out the $9.6 trillion she suggested we're giving out.

And her point is: It's a big number.  And they keep saying stupid stuff like that.  They'll stack the bills up.  They'll tell you how many Big Macs it'll buy you.  But what they won't do is actually explain why it's a bad idea.  It's all vague nothingness about how government can't fix problems.  They've got no answers.  They've just got the same sort of cheap gimmick that boring people use on elementary school kids when they try to get them interested in boring stuff. 

Yeah, we get it.  It's a big number.  The reason people support it isn't because we're idiots who don't understand what "billion" means.  We support it because we think it's a good idea.  Most of the spending comes back to us in some way.  It's for stuff we need.  So there's no problem. 

Evil Government

And you know, if a foreign company announced that it was going to spend $789 billion in America and let duly chosen proxies pick where the money is being spent, conservatives would be perfectly happy with that.  They'd understand how this could fix our economy.  And they'd be glad that it was a large amount and would proudly state that a stack that big would go to the moon.  It's only when it comes from the government that they imagine it can't do any good.  

Similarly, it's only bad when the government borrows money to raise funds.  They understand why it's smart for Microsoft to issue bonds when it wants to spend money it doesn't have.  And most Americans buy stuff on credit, like our houses and cars.  It's the American Way and if people didn't borrow funds to buy stuff they couldn't afford, our economy would really be in the crapper.  After all, one of the main things that's been keeping us going for the past eight years is the high level of borrowing everyone's doing; and a big part of the slowdown is because people are no longer able to borrow as much.  It's obvious that borrowed money spends just like the real kind.

So why the big deal when the government borrows money?  It's like the government is some special entity with a different set of rules.  But it's not.  It's the same set of rules.  It doesn't matter if it's an outside company spending the money or if the government's spending it.  And borrowing money to increase spending can be a brilliant plan; if done properly.  But Republicans have nothing to say about any of this.  All they can do is regurgitate bogus rules on the evils of government while teaching us the meaning of the word "billion."  

Why anyone ever feared these people is beyond me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Might Be A Racist If...RedState Edition

RedState's Jeff Emanuel and commenter reaction to Eric Holder's speech on race inspired this piece on You Might Be a Racist...

You might be a racist if every time you hear a black person talk about race, you bitch about how black people need to stop talking about race.

You might be a racist if every time you hear a black person talk about race, you feel the need to mention the small number of important black people you can think of or the black people you know personally.

You might be a racist if every time you hear a black person talk about race, you imagine it's part of some big ploy to undermine you and steal power from your race.

You might be a racist if you think people think you're racist for not supporting Obama.

You might be a racist if you talk about how you will be physically harmed for not supporting Obama.

You might be a racist if you insist that only people who talk about race are racists and that you and all your white friends are "colorblind."

You might be a racist if you think your one black neighbor is proof that you're not a racist.

Same goes for the black co-worker you sometimes hang out with.

You might be a racist if you think that only white people are allowed to defend themselves because you're sick of white people being the only group who can't defend themselves.

You might be a racist if you complain that non-whites have special advantages that are denied to white people.

You might be a racist if you think it's time for you and your white buddies to stand-up against the racist minorities attacking you.

You might be a racist if your anecdotes of welfare cheats require you to state the cheater's race.

You definitely are a racist if you imagine your anecdotes about one person in a race is indicative of others in that race.

You might be a racist if you have to keep telling people you're not a racist.

You might be a racist if it angers you to hear a black person talk about race.

You might be a racist if you only enjoy hearing white people talk about race; particularly if it's only when they bash black people for talking about race.

Lastly, you might be a racist if, when hearing a black person complain about racists, you immediately assume he's talking about you.

Anti-Race Conservativism

The irony is that Holder wasn't actually addressing the issues of overt racism. Rather, he was speaking about the people who aren't particularly racist, but still refuse to acknowledge the racial divides that clearly still exist. He wasn't denouncing open discrimination or hyping affirmative action. Yet, every one of those RedStaters imagined they were being labeled racist and many of them mocked him for pushing affirmative action. They didn't even try to understand his point. They just kept insisting that they weren't racists and attacking Holder for suggesting they were.

But of course, that's what the new racism is all about. It's not explicitly about white people being better than black people. It's a defensiveness which attacks non-white people for not letting them do whatever the hell they want to do. They demand the right to be racist, as well as the right to not be called racist. It's all about how they're under attack. They don't hate black people. They just hate the way most black people behave and are upset that anyone is blaming them for the bad things that happen to black people, when those people clearly deserve what they get.

And that's not really a "new" racism, as that's been the basis for the White Power movement all along: White people are under attack and need to defend themselves against the outsiders. And they do this because that's their only way to self-identify. They know who they are based upon who they are not: They're not non-white, non-Christian, or liberal. Outside of that identity, they don't know who they are or what they believe in.

And that's why they're so offended by Holder's comments, as well as anyone else who talks about race: Being offended at this stuff is what they do. For them to be offended at Holder's speech is like an environmentalist being offended by litter. And that's entirely obvious from the post and the comments: When they're not hyping their black friends and colorblindness, they're bitching about what people of color are doing to them and how they should fight back.

That's not to say that these people necessarily are racists. Merely that their group identity involves activities which help propagate racism. And in the end, the difference between racists and anti-race conservatives is probably not one worth making. Racist is as racist does. These people may identify as being non-racist, but their actions tell a different story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Conservative Narrative Needed

One of the key strengths of conservatives has always been their ability to weave a story.  They insist that details and specifics aren't important, because they're engaging in epic battles that rewrite history.  They don't have time for facts; they're too busy saving the world from commies, liberals, Mexicans, and Muslims.  The world is out to destroy them, so it's no biggie if they break a few eggs while making the omelette of freedom.

But unfortunately for them, they are so much in love with their narrative that they never know when to stop writing.  They're like authors in the serial age of novels, when guys like Dickens and Dostoyevsky got paid as long as they could keep milking their popular stories.  Except our conservatives never seem to learn when it's time to wrap-up the story.  They just keep going and going, and even when a catastrophic event like 9/11 occurs, they merely add the new characters as henchmen of their standard villain.

And so we have nutbag Pat Robertson daring to say that Rush Limbaugh isn't "thinking rationally" when he says that he hopes Obama fails.  And while it's possible that Robertson truly wants Obama to succeed, it's just as likely that he sees the error in Limbaugh's attacks.  Because Obama's presidency calls for a new story.  A fresh beginning.  The old story is getting boring and losing fans.  They need something new to pull in new readers and get them interested in the story again.

The New Story

And it needs to be like how the Harry Potter books work.  They had the big showdown with the ultimate villain and it looks like the villain has prevailed at the end of this one (by conservative standards).  Now it's time to start fresh with the next book in the series.  And that needs to be one that takes into account Obama's popularity.  It needs to address the fact that the "good guys" are on the outs and are disliked and lack credibility.  And most of all, it needs to give a definite separation between the story they've been telling and the one they want to tell now.

And from there, it can spin a tale about how they gave Obama a chance and tried to work together.  And without a doubt, it needs to have the "heroes" admit their failures and hubris, and become pure once more.  And so the first few chapters have to show them working hand-in-hand with Obama, giving him room, but without too much liberalism.  And then they need to work things up so that Obama appears to betray them, showing that he's actually the villain in all this.  And they can show that they put their partisanship aside and were punished for it.  And that explains why they should be trusted again.

But they blew it.  Instead of starting over with the fresh story, they keep milking the same damn narrative as before.  And without a sign of contrition or having tried to work with Obama, they keep going further downhill.  They weren't trusted before and now they're really not trusted.  They were unpopular before and now they're becoming less popular.  Meanwhile, Obama played the story properly and can show how he started up a fresh narrative, while Republicans quickly took the role of the villains in it. 

And so perhaps that's why Robertson thinks that Limbaugh is screwing up.  By refusing to start a new story, conservatives never get the fresh start they needed.  They still lack credibility.  They're still unpopular.  And there's no way for them to break free from all this.  Now, if they start working with Obama, it'll look like capitulation.  The die is cast and they're screwed.   They had a chance at writing a new story, but because they insisted on continuing the old one, it's now just a matter of how far they'll fall until they finally buckle-under and join the winning team.

More Nihilism

I've got two new posts up at American Nihilist that you won't want to miss:

We wish Kim Jong-Il a Happy Happy Birthday, naming him Nihilist of the Day for being the great nihilist he is.

And then I give a big shout-out to the "experts" who are helping undermine America in Nihilist Experts Rule the Earth.

And remember, American Nihilist is the place to go to satisfy all our liberal nihilistic tendencies to hate America as much as you hate yourself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nihilists of the Day: Climate "Experts"

I've got yet another Nihilist of the Day post up at American Nihilist.  You won't want to miss it.  And don't forget to check out my Report from Obama Youth Rally & Nihilist Hate Expo.  You will be quizzed on it during your daily hypnihilist education session later tonight.  Be prepared.

The smartest move secular nihilists ever made was their outright embrace of "science" as a weapon to destroy religion and defeat Yahweh. Not only has it provided us intellectual cover to hide our anti-religious bigotry, by providing unrefutable explanations for the origins of the universe, but it also gives us mucho political power to control the lives of people who traditionally embrace freedom. And in that regard, I'm giving a big Nihilist of the Day award to Global Warming Scientists.

This is based upon an article titled Climate Change Even Worse Than Predicted: Experts. And the headline says it all right there. The global warming scaremongering was already fearsome enough to help us get a hedonistic non-citizen communist into the Whitehouse. Any normal group of villains would have been content with that. But no, our "experts" took it further. We won the election. Now the real fun starts: The Destruction of the American Economy.

The Opposition Party Myth

Republican rhetoric to the contrary, everyone agrees that the stimulus bill will stimulate the economy.  There can't be one Republican who seriously wants their state or local government to send back the money.  They'll spend any stimulus funds they get.  They'll apply for any government contracts that come up.  They'll accept any benefits that get doled out to them.  They might pretend to disagree with the theory behind it, but all the same, they all know this money is good and will improve things for them.  Sure, they might believe that tax cuts help more, but they still believe that the stimulus will improve their local economy.

And so any opposition Republicans make is purely political strategy.  The rightwing talkers keep telling them that they need to oppose it or they'll suffer politically.  And as I've explained repeatedly, this is an idiotic strategy.  The only people who gain power from this are the few Republicans who break ranks and rightwing talkers like Limbaugh and O'Reilly who require divisiveness to keep their rabid fans tuning-in.

Because as I pointed out in that last post, Republican politicians are just sidelining themselves using the same "obstructionist" strategy they always tried to use on us.  They clearly understand that this is a losing position, yet Limbaugh won't let them have any other.  As Carpetbagger points out, Arlon Specter says that many of his colleagues wanted to join him, but realized that doing so would make their Republican primaries hard to win.  And so they went against their better judgment because Limbaugh gave them no other choice.

Of course, the solution to that would have been for these politicians to stop lying about the stimulus and explain that it's a good idea.  Which, as I already mentioned, everyone already agrees with.  But that'd require them to face-off against Limbaugh and the other talkers, who clearly are more influential with the base.  So Limbaugh is essentially holding the Republican Party hostage, solely for the benefit of his ratings.  

For as much as Congressional Republicans are in a power struggle, it's entirely against Limbaugh and his ilk; and they're clearly losing.  And because of that, Congressional Repubs have forfeited the power struggle against Obama.

Destroying Democracy

And so it bugs me to read Atrios and Carpetbagger suggest that this is how things are supposed to work because Republicans are the "opposition" party.  Because that's not how democracy is supposed to work.  Democracy isn't the tyranny of the majority.  It's not about picking the most popular leaders.  It's not about one party ruling while the other party jeers from the sideline.  It's about giving a voice to the people.  All the people.  Not just the ones who won.  

And even if your candidate loses, you're supposed to feel positive, because you had a voice in how your life is governed.  Republicans were wrong for imagining that victory means having the losers "suck it" until the next election.  Democracy is a full-time system, not just an event that happens on Election Day.  The presidency isn't a four-year dictatorship and Obama doesn't just represent Democrats.  In theory, Obama should take into account all Americans, and while it's impossible for him to satisfy them all, he needs to at least demonstrate that he hears them and is also representing their interests.  Similarly, all politicians should consider all their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them.  To do otherwise would be anti-democratic.

But Limbaugh doesn't want that to happen.  He doesn't want his fans to think Obama is listening to them.  He wants them to feel powerless against Obama and that Limbaugh is the only outlet of power they have.  And that means he has to make Republican politicians powerless.  He doesn't want them making the stimulus bill better, or any other Democratic bill better.  He wants them to abstain completely.  If they're not working to make the bills better, they might as well not even be in Congress.  

So effectively, the people these congressmen represent don't have representatives in Congress.  No one is sticking up for them but Limbaugh.  Limbaugh is the only voice they have.  They have been effectively disenfranchised.  And that's the way the Limbaughs want it.  Republicans aren't functioning as an opposition party.  They're a non-existent party, which doesn't function at all.

Purpose of Democracy

And that completely subverts the entire purpose of democracy.  Again, democracy isn't about picking leaders.  It's about giving people an ownership stake in the government.  And by doing so, they will stay within the governmental system and use the tools it provides to better control their lives.  And the alternative is for them to go outside the system, remain angry, and do shit like blow up federal buildings and attend survivalist training camps.  People do those things because they see government as the enemy, because it doesn't represent them.

And that's exactly what Limbaugh wants, though I doubt he wants it go that far.  But it will.  It did in the 90's and it will now.  And democracy is meant to prevent that.  Sure, democracy will give us bad leaders and foolish policies.  It will frustrate and anger you, because you know what needs to be done; if only those fool politicians would obey you.  But again, it's not about you, or your policies, or your leaders.  It's about giving power to the people.  That's the entire purpose of democracy.

And hey, this isn't our fault.  It's not our job to ensure that Republican voters have a voice.  And if Republicans insist on remaining impotent and voiceless, there's nothing we can do to stop that.  But all the same, this is bad for us.  This is not how democracy is supposed to work.  Society benefits when the Timothy McVeighs feel they are being listened to.  Terrorism and crime is what people choose when they feel the system isn't working for them.  It's to our benefit that as many people as possible stay within the system.

This isn't about winning elections so we can impose our policies on America.  It's about building a healthier society.  Sure, sidelining Republicans might give us better healthcare policies and regulations, but that's a minor benefit if they're blowing up our cities.  No, we don't have much of a choice in this, but we shouldn't act as if this is how things should work.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Popular Obstructionism for Dummies

When Republicans controlled the Whitehouse and Congress, they adopted an overall strategic theme to paint Democrats as partisan obstructionists.  The idea was that the minority party needed to go along with everything Republicans wanted and any efforts to slowdown the Republican agenda was portrayed as an act of extortion against the American people.  And if you do a search just on the phrase "Obstructionist Democrats" in Yahoo, you'll get over 17,000 results.

And in order to stress this theme, they made a point of ensuring that Democrats wouldn't support their bills.  So they tailored their specific bills to be so repugnant to Democrats that the majority of them would be forced to reject it.  Sure, they'd try to grab a few "good" Dems to give an air of "bipartisanship," but even popular bills would be larded with poison pills that would cause headaches to almost every Democrat.  And their political appointments would need to be safe enough to pass, but controversial enough for Dems to oppose.

And the point was that they believed that being "obstructionist" was a huge negative, so they wanted to paint Dems as obstructionists as much as possible.  Not only did it allow them to push a hard-right agenda by making it seem moderate in comparison, but it also was meant to hurt Dems politically.  And so pushing a far-right agenda was not only possible, but a requirement of the strategy.  They needed to marginalize Democrats with every vote, or the "obstructionist" label wouldn't stick as well.

Reversal of Power

And so the question is: Now that Republicans are out of power, why are they doing this to themselves?  Why are they marginalizing themselves as obstructionists and setting conditions which make it impossible for them to work with Democrats?  They knew that "obstructionist" was a negative word and firmly believed that forcing Dems to vote against them was a smart strategy.  And I agree.  I think there are better strategies, but it wasn't a bad strategy.  So why are they doing this to themselves?

And the answer is that they just don't know any better.  This is the only strategy they understand.  They didn't just adopt this strategy because it made sense, but because being exclusionist was a key part of their entire identity.  They know who they are based upon who they are not: Liberal Democrats.  Beyond that, they have no identity.  They aren't for small government, or pro-religion, or anti-terror; they're anti-liberal.  That's the only principle they stand for.  It's their entire purpose.  

And so they're continuing with the same basic strategy as before, except this time, it's working against them.  Now they're the obstructionists.  Now they're the ones marginalized, with no power.  Now they're the minority putting partisan gamesmanship ahead of America's best interests.  And even worse, it's not the sham that they tried with Democrats.  It's for real.  They're actually doing exactly what they falsely accused Democrats of.  And it's going to seriously hurt them.  

Political Strategies

And right now, we still have many liberals who are gnashing their teeth at all this and still think the same games are being played.  But they're not getting it either.  They're really not into political strategy and the theatrical nature of the gamesmanship bugs them.  But as things go on, they'll see that they're wrong.  Because we will continue to get bills passed.  The stimulus fight is just the first in a long line of battles; not the be-all show-stopper they imagined it was.  

And in the end, while we're not getting a perfect bill, it's not so far off from what we originally requested.  And the only Republicans who "won" are the three Senators who wanted to show that they had some power.  And the ones who sidelined themselves got zip out of it.  They wanted to stop the entire bill, but couldn't.  They hope the bill doesn't improve the economy, but that's a political consideration that will never work.  As we've seen, Republicans credit Bush's tax cuts with preventing a deeper recession, while we say they served no purpose.  This bill will play out the same way, but in reverse.  And no matter what happens economically, this bill can't be used as an effective attack on us.

All they did was marginalize themselves as obstructionists, just as they wanted to do to us.  Because they knew that was a bad thing to happen to a politician.  Somehow, they fail to see how the situation is reversed.  And so they keep pushing themselves further down the hill and think it's good that they're gaining speed.  I hope they keep up with that.  

Bipartisanship was going to cause us some headaches, so it was nice of Republicans to demonstrate so clearly that we needn't bother.  They've announced their intention to be powerless obstructionists, and so now we can get on with passing our agenda.  Not that we can get everything we want, but we'll lose far less this way.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nihilist of the Day: Barney Frank

Ok, I confess.  I enjoy writing nihilist posts more than the ones at this blog.  So here's another Nihilist of the Day post, written for American Nihilist.

Here's the Excerpt:
Barney Frank is a homosexual. The sheer depravity of his man-lust alone is enough to ensure his place in the lower rings of the nihilist pit of hate, alongside other great rejectionist leaders like Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Willie Horton, and JFK Jr. But even better, Frank is a loud-mouthed liberal congressman, which means he has no qualms about publicly undermining objective truths on a daily basis; and that's what makes Congressman Barney Frank our Nihilist of the Day.

Here's a clip of Frank espousing such nihilism on Meet the Press, which is always a friendly haven for denialist rejectionist liberals like Frank:

Notice how Frank wasn't attacked for being a homo. His deviant perversions weren't even mentioned once!! Yet, what true American doesn't immediately think of sweaty man-on-man fornication when they look at Frank? Why else would conservatives mention it every time they talk about him? They're practically obsessed with Frank's sexuality and can barely contain their disgust whenever they make jokes about his torrid sex life; which could only be Frank's fault for being such a a filthy sinner as to have sex with...other men.

Yet, Frank's lifestyle choice wasn't even discussed on MTP. This is clear proof of the media's postmodern subjectivist biases. Not only did the host not mention Frank's irrational penchant for smoking manmeat or the secret sex brothel being run out of his house, but even his upstanding Republican foes were clearly forbidden from using this obvious mental defect to undermine Frank's anti-American lie-mongering. Their best weapon, and they couldn't even use it.

This tells me only one thing: We've properly laid the groundwork for our bestiality candidates to enter Congress and do their damage. And with any luck, I should be able to marry my beloved falcon before the next presidential election. That's progress, people. And hey, once we get gay marriage, beast marriage, man-boy marriage, and forced male prostitution, maybe we'll finally be in a position to get something truly vile legalized, like smoking our own living rooms. That'd be true blow against freedom in America.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Regulating Customers

Please make this an issue Obama can fix (emphasis added):
Runaways are not supposed to be put in jail, let alone meet adult lawbreakers on the inside, under a 34-year-old federal law called the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  Yet year after year, some states disregard key parts of the law with little consequence, an Associated Press examination has found. Those states included Wyoming, Mississippi, South Carolina and Washington in 2006, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which administers the act, has a policy of not naming publicly the noncompliant states and not disclosing how those states have run afoul of the law. As a result, many kids become victims, advocates say.

It was only after a six-month, back-and-forth process under FOIA that the AP obtained records of states' compliance from the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  The office said it doesn't routinely name noncompliant states because it doesn't want to embarrass them.

"I don't think it's ever a good customer-friendly service to embarrass somebody, do you?" said Greg Thompson, an office administrator who works with states to comply with the law. "I think we achieve more by working collegially with the states rather than trying to work adversarially with them."

Records released to AP show Mississippi has complied with fewer areas of the law than any other state — except perhaps Wyoming, which hasn't participated in the law since 1993.
And the issue I'm talking about is the jackass quoted in the bolded section.  Because, no, non-compliant states are not his customers.  I mean, Wyoming hasn't complied for fifteen years.  Real successful strategy there, Greg.  They're clearly not going to do the right thing on their own, so perhaps if Wyoming residents realized their government was screwing them over, they might do something about it.  But no, people like Greg imagine that Wyoming's rights are more important than those of the citizens of Wyoming.

Customers v. Products

The reality is that all Americans are his customers.  The teenage runaways being wrongly imprisoned with adults are his customers.  And getting states to comply is the service he provides.  It's like if a KFC employee imagined that the chickens were his customer.  And hey, it's not good service to cut up and deep fry your customers, is it.

But this guy isn't the only one who forgets this kind of thing.  Government regulators often imagine that the people they're regulating are their clients.  The SEC protects big business from investors.  The FDA streamlines approval of new drugs.  The Pentagon writes contracts to match the items their contractors want to sell them.  And financial scandals like Enron could only happen because the auditors thought their client was Enron's management.

And in all these cases, the problem is that it's human nature to think of the people you deal with on a regular basis as the one's you're there for.  But they're not.  In each of these cases, the customer base is the general public.  But they don't deal with the general public on a regular basis.  They deal with the organizations they regulate.  And so they lose sight of what the real goal is and lose their objectivity.  The emphasis is on being friendly and making things easier.  And the result is that their real customers suffer.  

I hope Obama has some plans to do something about that.  Or at a minimum, not letting FOIA requests slide for so long.  The government is ours, not theirs.