Monday, April 18, 2011

The Tyranny of Founders

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) at a subcommittee hearing on defending DOMA:
No one can seriously believe that the constitution's authors intended to create a right to same-sex marriage.
i remember hearing repeatedly during the Bush years that the Constitution wasn't a death pact.  Yet here we are, with Republicans insisting that we're entirely bound by what they imagine the Founding Fathers intended for us, as if we're not allowed to have any say over our own society. 

Does democracy mean nothing to them?  Is the Will of the People truly meant to be subservient to the invisible hand of the Founding Fathers and what we interpret their wishes to be?  Perhaps if that were the case, the Founding Fathers might have thought to have written that into the Constitution or something; along with the part about how our laws need to be based upon the Bible and how the government is allowed to take away the liberties of non-Christians and anyone who might sympathize with them.  Somehow, none of that was written into my Constitution.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Fine Line Between Crazy and Crazy

I read a story at an atheism website titled Loopy Christian College Kid Stabs Himself at Atheist Gathering to Prove God Exists, about a guy who stabbed himself in the hand in front of an atheist group as a way of proving the existence of God.  Now obviously, the guy's crazy.  I mean, duh.  I don't care who you are, when you're stabbing yourself in the back of the hand to prove a point, you're not dealing from a full deck.

But what's odd is reading the comments there.  At first, the general consensus is that the guy is crazy and worthy of snark.  Here are the first three comments:
"Okay, I know I’m a bit slow but could someone please explain just how the fuck stabbing yourself in the hand with a pen proves the existence of a god, ANY god?  These people really are loopy, I sometimes wonder if there was a case for eugenics when I read this sort of shit."

"I know, Graham – lol – one word, KNOB!!!!! "

"Well he certainly convinced me…..that religion makes people incredibly stupid."
But soon, there was a change in the tone of the comments, from snark to pity.  And the later consensus is that the guy has a mental illness and needs help.  And again, well duh.

Too Crazy to Insult

And my question is: How is there a difference between "Crazy religious fundie" and "mentally ill guy who needs help"?  As if it's ok to make fun of a crazy person, as long as they're not TOO crazy.  And I see this same thing with attacks on stupid people.  As if it's ok to make fun of people for being stupid, unless they're TOO stupid; in which case we pity them and refer to them with the euphemistic "mentally challenged."

And I've just never understood that.  Because no one wants to be stupid or crazy.  And anyone who is stupid or crazy is obviously too stupid or crazy to know any better, otherwise they wouldn't be that way.  That just goes without saying.

And of course, there is no specific line that says one guy is "crazy" while another has a mental illness, or one guy is stupid and the other "mentally challenged."  We're all part of a continuum of the same thing, and one guy's average intelligence is another guy's moron.  No matter how smart you are, there's always someone else who thinks you're an idiot; and he might be right.

And it's fun to make fun of people who do and say crazy shit.  It's how we cope with the crazy shit that goes on every day.  And as long as the people involved don't get their feelings hurt by it, it's all in good fun.  But we need to stop pretending there are huge distinctions between the people we mock and the ones we pity.

Crazy Is as Crazy Does

When Michele Bachmann recites crazy stuff that displays her immense ignorance, yes it's funny and we'd be wrong to let it go unchallenged.  But she should still be pitied, as she's too stupid and crazy to know any better; and the real problem isn't that she's ignorant, but that she was put in a position of power.  Unfortunately, she's too stupid and crazy to know any better and apparently imagines she has some chance at becoming president.  And that's yet more evidence of how stupid and/or crazy she is.

It's not as fun to think this way, but we should all be pitied.  We're all humans and we all have our failings.  We all say stupid stuff and we're all crazy.  The only distinction between us is how functional we are with our stupidity and craziness. Some people simply lack the tools required to function properly with what they've been given, and sometimes they crack and do horrible things.  And once we realize that, we get closer to being able to help them before they crack.

There is no line that says one guy is sane, another crazy, and yet another mentally ill.  We're all in the same boat and we all need a helping hand.  And the ones we fear most are the ones that need the most help.  But we all need help at some point or another.  It's still ok to snark at the stupid and crazy things people do, but that doesn't permit us to neglect our duty to help these people when they need it.  And with any luck, the stupid crazy people will soon be smarter and saner, and will snark at their past indiscretions along with us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Correction: Obama Greater Magician Than Assumed

Just a quick update to my earlier post Obama the Magician, about how the Whitehouse used smoke & mirrors to make a $14 billion spending cut look like $38.5 billion to the Tea Partiers who really don't know what they're doing. 

It looks like the early report I was relying upon was, in fact, mistaken.  The $38.5 billion in spending cuts Tea Partiers were unhappy to accept apparently only amounts to $350 million in actual cuts this year.  And as an added note, the four "czars" they smugly cut were unfilled positions.  Yet more smoke & mirrors to satisfy bozos whose ignorance is only exceeded by their incompetence.

Could someone please show me the evidence that Obama doesn't play 50-Dimension chess, please?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wall Street to Boehner: Don't Fuck Around With Default

In my previous post, I suggested that Republicans wouldn't seriously attempt to use the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool, because Wall Street is easily frightened and wouldn't even want to hear a serious threat of us defaulting on our debts; let alone allowing them do it.  As usual, I know what I'm talking about and the evidence once again proves it.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has had conversations with top Wall Street executives, asking how close Congress could push to the debt limit deadline without sending interests rates soaring and causing stock prices to go lower, people familiar with the matter said.
The Wall Street executives say even pushing close to the deadline — or talking about it — could have grave consequences in the marketplace.

“They don’t seem to understand that you can’t put everything back in the box. Once that fear of default is in the markets, it doesn’t just go away. We’ll be paying the price for years in higher rates,” said one executive.
The Tea Party might be in the driver's seat, but Wall Street still owns the car.  There won't be a government default.

And this is my biggest problem in life: I already know everything and nothing comes as a surprise.  It's a blessing and a curse, I suppose.  But I'm bored.  Terribly, terribly bored.

Reading the Clean Bill Tea Leaves

On my last post, longtime reader Betsy asks why the media was insisting that Obama and Democrats got rolled before they even knew the details of the shutdown deal, as well as wondering if Obama will tell Republicans to go to hell regarding negotiations over the debt ceiling, as he should know they won't screw with it. I don't have time for details, as it's tax season and I'm up to my eyeballs right now, but figured I'd share my comment as a new post.

First off, the reason the pundits and talkers speculated about who got rolled before we even knew the details is because they're idiots who are paid to talk, whether or not they know what they're talking about. If they sit there and say "I don't know, let's wait for the details," they get fired and replaced by people who don't require facts to substantiate their speculation. Like it or not, television news is considered by their corporate owners to be in the entertainment industry, and they're much more concerned with ad revenues than truth.

As for the debt ceiling, the Whitehouse has already told them to go to hell, repeatedly. But they did it nicely, by insisting that they want a "clean bill." That's polite-talk for "go to hell, you're not screwing with this one." Had they merely said it once, it wouldn't mean much. But every time it comes up, the Whitehouse keeps insisting they want a "clean bill," which means there won't be any negotiating.

The government shutdown was different, as the Tea Partiers hate the government and would have been just as happy to see it shut down, as they don't like what it does anyway. For them, the negotiations were simply the price they'd be willing to accept in order to not get what they wanted anyway. It'd be like if we were demanding that oil companies stop drilling in the Gulf, but were willing to accept something else in return.

But the debt ceiling is different. The GOP is clearly jockeying for position to get something out of it, but the Whitehouse keeps repeating "clean bill," which means they won't even discuss it. And since Wall Street is made of herd animals who are easily frightened because they're dealing with powers they don't understand, they won't even want to hear talk about a default, and are likely to be putting the kibosh on this already. So I'm fairly certain that Republicans already know they can't play this game for long.

And the one thing that could ruin this would be for Obama to tell them to go to hell, as that'd force them to do something about it, to show that he can't talk to them that way. And so we're stuck reading tea leaves, in order to understand what's really going on with our lives. But in this case, "clean bill" is pretty straightforward and I'm fairly confident that we'll get one.

Obama the Magician

The thing hurting Obama the most with progressives is speculation.  If a report comes out that is negative against Obama, it's assumed to be true.  Why?  Apparently, because of all the other reports that were speculated to be true.  And if it's possible that Obama's doing something as bad as Republicans, then we should take it for granted that it's as bad as what Republicans would do.  Why?  Because of all the other reports that are imagined to be true.

But what happens when the dust settles, and it turns out that the initial report was wrong?  I don't know.  By the time that happens, they've moved on to the next thing that Obama might be doing wrong; and the past wrong is added to the giant pile of wrongs, none of which are revisited once the truth is known.  And if you have one report that says Obama likes kittens and another report that says he eats them, we'd be fools to not add kitten eating to Obama's list of sins.

And one of the worst things Obama can do, apparently, is to negotiate with Republicans.  It's taken as a given that he's a horrible negotiator who gives Republicans everything they asked for, all in the name of kumbaya bipartisanship.  And that's assumed because Obama refuses to insult Republicans, but instead, pays lip service to bipartisanship and Republican sincerity.  Even subtle jabs at Republicans are treated as compliments, because they weren't rude enough.

And no matter how good the deal looks for us after the fact, it was already assumed to be yet another defeat; which is to be added to the heap of defeats Obama handed us, very few of which can be discussed in any actual detail.  And that's because these are only "defeats" if you assume it was ever possible to get everything we wanted. 

So getting insurance for millions was worthless because we didn't get a public option, which was never going to be the public option progressives were imagining they were getting anyway.  They had their pony plan.  Obama didn't deliver a pony.  End of story.  Sure, his plan looks nothing like what McCain/Palin would have given us, but he gave them everything they wanted.

Who Rolled Whom?

And so it is with the recent brouha over the government shutdown budget talks.  It was taken as a given that Obama was being rolled and should have bluffed by calling the Republican's bluff that they weren't bluffing about.  And it should only be assumed that we got the worst deal possible, while giving them everything they asked for.  Why?  Because that should always be assumed, even though it's never happened.  Apparently, if Republicans get anything, it means they got everything.  It's as if words just don't mean anything.

But...if recent reports are to be believed, it appears that Republicans got rolled; as $38.5 billion in spending cuts only consisted of $14.7 billion in actual cuts.  The rest of the cuts were achieved with smoke & mirrors, including the removal of funds that weren't going to be spent anyway.  And that makes sense, as Republicans really aren't that bright; and Tea Partiers especially so.

A month ago I wrote a post I never posted about Obama's strategy in proposing spending cuts as he did, and how it'd paint Republicans in a bad spot.  My thinking was that because Obama already came up with all the low hanging fruit to cut, Republicans would be in a bad position because they wouldn't be able to come up with much else to cut; and the whole thing would be a trap for them.  But I never posted it because it wasn't done and I never got back to it. 

After the deal was cut, I revisited that post to see if I should go ahead and post it, now that hindsight could judge the wisdom of it.  I didn't, because it wasn't totally spot on and I was a little ashamed of it.  But with these new reports coming out, it appears my shame was misplaced.  Republicans really couldn't come up with much else to cut.  At least not the $60 billion they were demanding.  Apparently, they couldn't even get half that.  Yet, Obama and Democrats score the points for getting the deal cut, while Tea Partiers gnash their teeth that they didn't get everything they wanted.

Granted, now is not the time to be taking $14 billion out of the economy.  If anything, we should have added more.  Like the time Obama got us over $500 billion in stimulus that boosted the economy and added millions of jobs.  But...the Republicans had real leverage against us and that simply can't be vanished away; no matter how bold of a blogger you are. 

I was unhappily willing to accept $38 billion in cuts.  I'm happier at $14 billion.  Could Obama have done better?  Maybe.  And maybe tiny ponies will fly from my butt and give me $14 billion to spend.

Perspective: What Republicans Really Want

And finally, I'd just like to put this in perspective.  Many progressives insist that Obama's given Republicans everything they wanted.  But of course, if you want to see what Republicans want, look at the Ryan Plan.

What do Republicans want?  They want $3 trillion in taxcuts for the rich.  They want to take $3 trillion in spending from the poor and needy.  They want to destroy Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  That's what Republicans want.  How much of that has Obama given them?  Nada.  Yet, Ryan is considered one of their moderates, and not representative of the true power behind the party.

What else do Republicans want?  They want war with Iran and other countries.  They want to ban abortion.  They want to kick out all the Mexicans.  They want to deny you birth control.  They want to outlaw gay sex.  They want us to return to the Gold Standard.  They want a Christian nation with biblical laws.  They want to end public education.  They want to fund Christian schools.  They want to destroy unions.  They want to end labor laws. 

I could easily go on and on.  You get the point.  These are some of the things Republicans want and Obama hasn't given them any of it.  So anyone who tells you that Obama is a sucker who has given Republicans everything they want is full of shit and I refuse to be nice about that.  It's totally and completely full of shit.  They are lying.  Period. 

It's all just hyperbole designed to get you to hate Obama just as much as they do, while the rest of us are stuck doing the heavy lifting; trying to defend reality against pony plans and speculative reports.  Fortunately, while they're a loud group, they're just a small subset of the left; while the vast majority of liberals and/or Democrats continue to support Obama. 

Obama's critics on the left might call themselves the base, but that's just another disagreement they're having with reality.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Grand Theft Politics

The problem Democrats keep having in negotiations with Republicans is that the Republicans aren't bluffing.  They really ARE as crazy as they seem to be, and until quite recently, I suspect that the vast majority of Republicans in the House simply didn't comprehend the disaster they were threatening us with.  But they rarely do. 

Mean Jean
It's like playing chicken with a guy who imagines he's in a video game.  Sure, he knows he can crash, but he still thinks that's the fun part.  Maybe it's their belief in God, I don't know.  After all, if the Big Guy has a plan for us, surely it couldn't be upset by a little government shutdown, could it?

And that's the main problem we're having with Republicans, is that the reality they're living in is so fictitious that they really don't understand that this shit is for real.  That's how it is that they can talk about "2nd Amendment Remedies" and the Secession of Texas, and then not understand why anyone finds such talk offensive. 

Because they don't really mean it.  It's all just a silly little drama for them, like professional wrestling, but less sweat.  Sure, it's real.  But it's just not "real" real. 

Negotiating with Crazy

And it's obvious that at this point Boehner and the few sane-ish Republicans left in the party are sitting in the backseat, begging for the Tea Partiers to pull over and let them drive.  But when they hear Obama say the same thing, that only makes them feel like they must be doing something right, so they put the pedal to the metal and drive even faster.

So what can Obama and the Democrats do, but swerve first, because they know the Republicans aren't bluffing.  But for as much as many progressives fault Democrats for that, and insist that this has something to do with cowardice, the real strength of our opponents is that they really don't know what they're doing.  Even their negotiating skills are laughable, but as long as they're holding America hostage, what choice do we have? 

The real solution would be to have a sensible media that dutifully called out the Crazy before they took office.  That's the answer.  Now Obama's stuck dealing with the wackos that the "gatekeepers" didn't keep out.  And yes, this is exactly why Obama agreed to extend the Bush taxcuts.  It's not that he agreed with them or because he's a wimpy wimpwimp.  It's because he knew he'd get a better deal in 2010 then he would in 2011.  History seems to have born that out.

Again, these people aren't faking the ignorance.  Congressional Republicans aren't pretending to be crazy as a negotiating tactic..It really is Mean Jean Schmidt and Michele Bachmann who are wielding great powers they don't understand. Normally, the party establishment would stash these bozos aside and only the ones who lasted a few elections would get any real power. 

But the Republicans gave the Crazies the impression that the Crazies are the most important people in the world, and now they're acting accordingly.  Crazy is as crazy does, and these people really are crazy...
Dr. Paul at the Office