Friday, December 31, 2010

Multicultural Terrorism

Another review I found at The Textbook League's website involved a supplemental social studies text called The Challenge of Terrorism, a 270 page text which the publisher describes as "a collection of diverse, balanced readings that examine the issues arising from contemporary terrorism."

And that's apparently what it is: A collection of various points of view in regards to terrorism, with at least some attempt for critical-thinking discussions.  This isn't a direct lesson on terrorism, but a collection of essays and speeches from various people.  The collection isn't intended to push a specific view, but to expose different viewpoints.  Even the guy reviewing it admits that.

Unfortunately, the guy reviewing it is Michael Radu, a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (in Philadelphia) and a co-chairman of the Institute's Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism.

His review is entitled: This Book Doesn't Teach What Students Need to Know

And what is it that students need to know, according to Michael Radu?  That multiculturalism is bad and most contemporary terrorism is Islamic.  And because the text is meant to stimulate debate by offering diverse opinions about terrorism, the book is trash.  Either you admit that Muslims are the cause of terrorism, or you're a leftist fool.  There can apparently be no middle ground.
Political Correctness Will Kill Us All
Think I'm joking?  Here's the end of his review:
For instance: How can "multiculturalism," which demands uncritical respect for whatever non-European people do, be squared with what students will read in the article that fills pages 79 through 89? Headlined "Osama bin Laden on the Attacks," the article is an excerpt from a transcript of a conversation in which Osama
Indeed.  We're supposed to imagine that the "multiculturalism" that is being taught in this book and in classrooms across America instructs us to give uncritical respect to whatever non-European people do.  That's right.  I remember being taught that.  As were we all.  And yes, that means that we have to have uncritical respect for Bin Laden's plans against us, because that's what we were all taught.  He's totally got us there.  But of course, that's a joke, because multiculturalism doesn't mean we have to have uncritical respect for people who attack us.  That's absolutely absurd. 

And yet, that's his strongest point against the book.  That's his closing argument.  To insist that multiculturalism means that we have to love Osama Bin Laden, and students instead need to learn to blame Muslims for terrorism.  As a reminder, the purpose of this supplemental textbook was to give diverse points of view.  And that's the exact problem Mr. Radu had with it.

Looks Like a Terrorism, Sounds Like a Terrorist...

Oh, and another problem Radu had with the book?  It suggested that the Oklahoma City Bombing was a terrorist attack.  As he says:
The inclusion of the Oklahoma City bombing underscores the difficulty of defining terrorism, and it reminds us that this term is often used sloppily and promiscuously. The men who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building may have hated the federal government, but is there any evidence to suggest that they were trying to influence the federal government's policies or were trying to achieve some other political or social goal?
Oh, how sloppy and promiscuous.  To even suggest that Timothy McVeigh had a goal in blowing up that building is an offense.  As if we're just to assume he was a madman, and had no other purpose than the destruction of that building and the people inside.  Like he wasn't trying to give a big blackeye to the government, and proclaim victory over it due to the impact he made.  Sounds like a terrorist to me. 

But oh, he's white.  And today's students need to learn that most terrorism is Islamic and multiculturalism is dangerous.  Any other message is bad history.

History of a Freak Nation

Upon reading about Virginia's factually-challenged textbooks, I started delving into various issues on textbooks, leading me to TTL, The Textbook League; which is apparently some group of educators who review school textbooks in order to weed out the bad ones.  I don't know much about their group, but the guys who write for their website are some rightwing kooks.  Certainly intelligent, but kooks nonetheless.

Here's a review by Angelo M. Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University, titled Brainless, Twisted "History" and Ridiculous Ignorance; which was a review of a 1996 textbook called "History of a Free Nation."  Needless to say, it wasn't a favorable review.  Codevilla says of Free Nation: "leftist indoctrination masquerades as history."  Why?  Because it had mistakes?  No, because it didn't emphasize how much white people kick ass. 

Apparently, if a history of freedom doesn't highlight white asskickers, it's a biased piece of trash.  Even worse, it didn't explain who Jesus Christ was or emphasize how important Christianity was towards our freedom.  Instead, it dared suggest that our Founding Father revolted for materialistic reasons, rather than godly ones.  The horror!


And yeah, sure, the textbook acknowledges that America is special, but it dares suggest that some of this specialness came from non-Europeans.  Ouch.  Codevilla also complains that the book doesn't say that the immigrants of today (ie, brown ones) aren't as good as the immigrants of yesteryore (ie, white ones).

As he laments:
The American establishment of a century ago insisted that immigrants must melt into our common nationality. Among some members of today's establishment, the very idea of nationality is problematic.
Because of course, nobody knows who the Italians, Irish, or Jews are anymore, because everyone so quickly melted together many generations ago.  And we don't have ethnic-themed restaurants all over the place with their crazy German, Italian, or Japanese culture.  It's only with these pesky immigrants who come in with their spicy foods and crazy dance music who are causing all the problems. 

It's as if Little Italy and Chinatown were just kitschy tourist traps.  I suppose the parts in the Godfather movies when they speak Italian is some sort of leftish hoax on America, as there's no way the Mafia wouldn't have dropped all their cultural ties to the old country.

I'm sure it's just a matter of time before Angelo Codevilla gets around to anglicizing his name; lest we be reminded that he's named for the town in Italy his people came from.  Way to assimilate, Codevilla.

Manly Historians

Towards the end of the review, Codevilla writes:
Reading this book, one gets the impression that America, for most of its life, has been a land of racial and economic iniquity, ruled by an aggressive, regressive, repressive style of morality.
Uh, yep.  Sounds about right to me.  I mean, slavery was built into the Constitution.  And it wasn't until the last sixty or so years that we, as a nation, really started to work to fix all that.  Freeing the slaves was great and everything, but that was only a start.  And all the same, we still have people who want a more aggressive, regressive, and repressive society; at least as far as they're the ones who get to be that way.  In their way of thinking, they're being repressed if they can't oppress others.

But of course, that's what the good professor is really getting at.  His problem with the textbook isn't that it's factually incorrect, but rather, it didn't conform to his worldview or emphasize the parts he liked best.  He believes that America's brilliance is due to his brilliance and people like him.  He believes he's owed something a little extra because of this, and doesn't appreciate the snubbing Glencoe served him with their history text. 

It didn't get the facts wrong, it just didn't stoke his ego.  And for guy's like Codevilla, that's what it's all about.  His own life is a boring mess, but he can always relive the past, back when men could be men and God ruled the earth.  And he'll be damned if anyone tries to tell him it wasn't exactly like that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Checking In On What Actual Conservatives Say

I've recently been accused of being a conservative.  So I decided to check in on what actual conservatives say, in a segment I'll now entitle Checking In On What Actual Conservatives Say.

BTW, I wrote this several days ago, but I'm now on a pseudo-vacation and didn't have time to finish it.  Needless to say, it'll end abruptly, as I don't feel like finishing it now.

RedState's Brian Darling
Senate Democrats are going to be working over the Christmas break to deliver a lump of coal to the American people in the form of a radical changing of the Senate’s rules. This is a naked power grab by liberals in the Senate pure and simple.

Republicans would be smart to fire back with a proposed rule to abolish the Senate Majority Leader’s power to block amendments to bills, create at 2/3rds supermajority before 2nd Amendment rights can be infringed and a 2/3rds supermajority before increasing the debt limit. 
That's right, we're going to return Senate rules back to Majority Rule.  That's the horrible thing he's complaining about, the "lump of coal to the American people."  Democrats are attempting to return the Senate as it was originally created; and these bozos are acting as if it's an assault on The American Way.

And his solution?  For Republicans to demand specialer protections against gun laws that aren't under consideration, as well as one demanding that we make it easier for the government to go into default.  Wow. 

Extended Debate and Free Amendments

Even more hilarious, Darling writes:
Liberals are going to destroy the tradition of extended debate and a free amendment process in the Senate if they can pull off this procedural coup.
Uhm, Darling?  Republicans aren't using the filibuster to extend debate.  They're using it to prevent any debate at all.  This guy's got it completely backwards.  And the complaint about "free amendments" is a joke, as again, they're just using it was a way of subverting the interests of the Senate.

After all, if Democrats have a simple majority, as they do on just about every item Obama wants, then they're going to win all the amendment votes that Republicans are throwing at them.  And the only reason they're throwing in amendments is to slow down the process to kill it.  They have no hope of winning, but they don't want to win.  They want to stifle debate.  It's all about obstructionism and the ability to stifle democracy. 

And Darling's appeal to freedom is thrown completely on its ear.  Darling is advocating against majority rules.  That's what conservatives say.  They talk about how wrong it is for Obama and Democrats to fix legislative rules that Republicans are abusing.  They're advocating for red tape.  They want it easier for the minority to tyrannize the majority.

And that's what a modern conservative talks about: Ranting about how Obama is destroying America by saving democracy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why We Play Nice With Our Opponents

Carpetbagger's got a post about how Republicans in the House actually blocked a bill that would work to stop child marriage worldwide, even though it passed through the Senate unanimously and was co-sponsored by many of the same Republicans who voted against it.  Why did the House Republicans oppose it?  Because they were wrongly told that it somehow involved abortion and that their base would be upset about it.  And that was enough for them.  Due to arcane congressional rules, this bill needed two-thirds approval, so it failed.

And in case you were wondering, yeah, this is yet another of my posts about people on the left attacking Obama and why they shouldn't.  Because I read this and think: If these congressmen are so crazy and/or scared of their base that they're willing to support child marriage, what exactly is Obama supposed to do to appease them on issues like healthcare and financial reform that they'd actually disagree with?  How can he cow them into submission from his Bully Pulpit, if they're already this scared of their base?

Because that's a part of all this Obama'a leftwing critics get backwards.  They keep acting like Obama is some great fool for trying to work with them.  And I understand that thinking, but it's flawed.  Because the reality is that Obama isn't trying to work with Republicans.  He's trying to work with a handful of conservative Democrats and any non-crazy Republicans he can find.  Not because he wants to, but because our rules force him to.  And he has to bend over backwards, forwards, and sideways to appease them, and even then they might pull out at the last minute and support a filibuster for something they support.

Wooing the "Moderates"

And these aren't issues that Obama needs to take to the American people to convince them that he's right, because they already agree with him.  The problem is Republicans and their subservience to their base.  And in that context, there's no amount of bellowing that Obama can perform to woo them to his side, because he's already lost them.  His only hope is to convince Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and the other cowardly "moderate" jerkoffs that they won't get punished for voting with him. 

And if he can't do that, then he can't get anything.  It's that simple.  This isn't a dictatorship.  We are ruled by laws.  There simply is no other way around this.  In our democracy, majority doesn't always win and you still have to convince powerful cowards that it's in their best interests to do the right thing.  And if anyone could explain how insulting Republicans will woo Nelson, Landrieu, Snowe, Brown, and these other "moderates" to our side, I'm willing to listen. 

But the reality is that these people are grown-up babies who are scared of their own base, and that's what democracy has wrought.  Should we have better politicians?  Yes.  Do we have some dumb rules?  Oh yeah, definitely.  But like it or not, this is what Obama is dealing with and if you really think that people who'd oppose an anti-child marriage law that they co-sponsored can be insulted into submission, then you're really not paying attention. 

Being polite to the people who attack you is a requirement in modern life.  Try insulting someone you're trying to win over and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Review of "Obamacare"

As is typical of groundbreaking laws, the Affordable Care Act has quite a few critics; as you may have noticed.  And it's funny to contrast the attacks by those on the right, who imagine it to be a socialist takeover of the entire healthcare industry, compared with those on the left, who don't think it did a damn thing because it didn't include a Public Option that most folks wouldn't have used.

And all this made sense back before it was passed, because there was no real bill to discuss, as everything was influx and up for negotiations.  Yet, here we are a good eight months after the law was passed, yet these people still seem to think it's either a dastardly government takeover or a dastardly handout to the insurance industry; depending upon their ideology. 

And I'm like, huh?  If we're going to discuss the law, could we at least discuss the actual law, rather than what you were told about the law before it passed?  Because I see conservatives ranting every day about how Obama has made healthcare worse and more expensive, yet cite no examples of how the law does either of these things.  And there are those on the left who still insist it did nothing, while refusing to talk about rescission, pre-existing conditions, endless rate hikes, and other bad things that have been dealt with.

And for as much as I definitely score the leftwing critics as being infinitely closer to reality than the conspiracy theorist whackjobs on the right, I'd prefer that both sides at least discuss the actual law they're attempting to dismiss.  And so I decided to go through the Wikipedia page of the Affordable Care Act and highlight the important changes that have already been implemented.  Enjoy!

Effective Immediately

A non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute is established, independent from government, to undertake comparative effectiveness research.

Creation of task forces on Preventive Services and Community Preventive Services to develop, update, and disseminate evidenced-based recommendations on the use of clinical and community prevention services.

Effective June 21, 2010

Adults with pre-existing conditions will be eligible to join a temporary high-risk pool, which will be superseded by the health care exchange in 2014.

Effective September 23, 2010

Insurance companies will be prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, like hospital stays in new policies issued.

Dependents (children) will be permitted to remain on their parents' insurance plan until their 26th birthday.

Insurers are prohibited from excluding pre-existing medical conditions (except in grandfathered individual health insurance plans) for children under the age of 19.

Insurers are prohibited from charging co-payments or deductibles for Level A or Level B preventive care and medical screenings on all new insurance plans.

Individuals affected by the Medicare Part D coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate, and 50% of the gap will be eliminated in 2011. The gap will be eliminated by 2020.

Insurers' abilities to enforce annual spending caps will be restricted, and completely prohibited by 2014.

Insurers are prohibited from dropping policyholders when they get sick.

Insurers are required to reveal details about administrative and executive expenditures.

Insurers are required to implement an appeals process for coverage determination and claims on all new plans.

Medicare is expanded to small, rural hospitals and facilities.

And again, those are all the changes that have already been implemented.  I dare anyone to look through this list and tell me this stuff isn't important.  That these are Republican ideas.  That we'd have been better off without these things.  Go ahead, I dare you.

The reality is that many of these directly cure complaints liberals had about insurers.  Yet, now that Obama has ended these problems, we're to imagine they weren't problems at all.  Or maybe we're supposed to think insurers can still rescind policies and deny coverage to children born with birth defects, and as if the appeals process for claims isn't a good thing.  And we're removing the "doughnut hole" Bush gave us in his prescription drug plan.  And we expanded Medicare.  Does this really count for nothing?  Really?

Better than the Public Option

And why do they discredit all these things?  Because we lost the Public Option.  Yet...the Public Option we "lost" wasn't the Public Option people envisioned.  The one being debated wasn't some backdoor single-payer that would allow you to dump your shitty employer-paid insurance.  It would have been yet another option for those who are forced to use the Insurance Exchanges we're setting up.  It was for people who lacked insurance, not people who wanted another option than their current insurance. 

And seeing as how the Affordable Care Act also includes strong incentives for small businesses to provide insurance to their employees, as well as forcing larger companies to cover their employees, the Public Option would be even more unnecessary than it is already.  Especially as the government now gets to set the minimum standard for health insurance, as well as dictating what the rates will be and how much of the premium must go towards healthcare.  By contrast, the Public Option was pretty small potatoes.

And so that's why Obama's so frustrated with people on the left attacking him over this law, because we got most of what we wanted, and the Public Option was only a minor part of the deal.  If you look over these things we've gotten and will get in the next few years, you'll realize that the insurers have been muzzled by government regulations and the crappy insurance of the past will soon be over.  We won. 

So again, I defy anyone to look over this list and tell me it does nothing, or isn't reflective of liberalism.  And this is just the beginning, with the big things happening in 2014.  The reality is that Obama has changed healthcare as we know it, and it's a damn good change.

Obama's Clear Liberal Voice, Part II

In my last post, I highlighted a few remarks Obama said in his press conference announcing the tax deal he cut with Republicans last week, in order to show that his remarks were more focused on his disagreement with Republicans and their policies than with progressives.  Next, I'll cover what he said during his Q&A:

Question 1

The first question asked Obama why people should trust him on the issue of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire after his tax deal "flip flop" which he did for political reasons.  Obama insisted that this wasn't about politics, but about helping struggling Americans, including the unemployed.  Saying:
And I will continue to fight before the American people to make the point that the Republican position is wrong.
Pretty unequivocal.  No bipartisan, touchy-feely stuff here.  The Republican position is wrong.

He then went on to say exactly what any good liberal would say:
Now, if there was not collateral damage, if this was just a matter of my politics or being able to persuade the American people to my side, then I would just stick to my guns, because the fact of the matter is the American people already agree with me. There are polls showing right now that the American people, for the most part, think it’s a bad idea to provide tax cuts to the wealthy.

But the issue is not me persuading the American people; they’re already there. The issue is, how do I persuade the Republicans in the Senate who are currently blocking that position. I have not been able to budge them. And I don’t think there’s any suggestion anybody in this room thinks realistically that we can budge them right now.
Now, the only difference between him and his left-wing critics is that he says he's tried fighting and his critics say he hasn't fought hard enough.  But these are just differences of opinion, not ideology.  And notice, his answer was focused on why Republicans are wrong, and couched in terms of liberal policies helping Americans, while insisting that Republican policies didn't. 

He was asked a follow-up question as to why he wasn't able to get it done in the last two years, to which Obama replied that tax cuts for the wealthy were the Republican "holy grail" and described it as "their central economic doctrine," which is why they refused to budge on the issue.  Subtle yet definite jab on Republicans.

And again, he sounded like his liberal detractors when he said:
I think our proposal to make sure that the middle class is held harmless, but that we don’t make these Bush tax cuts permanent for wealthy individuals, because it was going to cost the country at a time when we’ve got these looming deficits, that that was the better position to take. And the American people were persuaded by that.
And notice, his response was exactly what liberals were complaining about with the tax deal: That we can't afford them because they're too expensive.  I've heard repeated complaints about this tax deal by people suggesting that Obama is "trying to put lipstick on a pig."  But it's obvious that he's calling the pig a pig and complaining about the guys who made him buy it.  Never once did he suggest that the tax cuts for the rich were a good idea.

So the only difference between Obama and his left-wing critics is that he says he gave up fighting with them after several weeks of trying, while his critics say he gave up immediately.  And seeing as how I know the fighting lasted for weeks, I've got to score this one for Obama.  But all the same, there is no policy dispute here, merely a disagreement on political strategy.

Question 2

He was then asked if the stimulus portion of this deal was going to be as strong as the Recovery Act.  He said it wouldn't be as strong, but again insisted that getting more money to the middle-class and unemployed was a great stimulus, because they'd have more money to spend.  Sounds like a liberal to me.

Question 3

He was then asked about progressives who will attack him for rewarding Republican obstruction, to which he started by making another dig on Republicans, saying:
I’ve said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
Hostage-takers.  He called them hostage-takers.  Does it sound like he's loving his Republican opponents?  No.  He's likening them to unscrupulous criminals and insisting that he didn't want to give in to their demands.

He then went on to explain why it's so important to protect the unemployed and middle-class, which is the only reason he gave in to the hostage-takers.  He then went on to say how he'd have enjoyed a battle with Republicans, because he's seen the polls and knows America is on his side.  He then explained how it'll be easier for him to fight Republicans in 2014, because they won't be able to hold America hostage next time. 

Of course, that's debatable, as he mentions the added difficulties of a Republican House and a smaller Dem Senate; but he says he's willing to take that chance because he'll be in a stronger position when Republicans can no longer hold us hostage like this.  And I've got to agree with his analysis on that, as it matches my own.  I wouldn't want to be a Republican presidential nominee trying to justify this unpopular policy.  This year, Republicans didn't care about public opinion.  The Republican nominee will.  Just ask John McCain.

Now note, he was directly asked about progressives disagreeing with him, but rather than impugn their integrity, he brought it to Republicans by calling them hostage-takers and insisting that their policies are dangerous for America.  Sounds like a liberal to me.

Question 4

He was then asked about his claim that walking away from negotiations with South Korea led to a better deal with them, yet he wasn't willing to walk away from negotiations with Republicans.  And he responded that the difference was that there wasn't a time limit on the South Korea deal, while two million Americans would be hurt if he didn't get a tax deal by January 1.

As a follow-up question, he was asked if he'd use the next two years to overhaul the tax code, and he said he would.  As he explained, his first two years were all about fixing emergencies, and now that he's fixed these emergencies, he can focus on long-term measures, like improving our education system, spurring innovation, improving America's infrastructure, and paying for it all. 

He then said:
And in that context, I don’t see how the Republicans win that argument. I don’t know how they’re going to be able to argue that extending permanently these high-end tax cuts is going to be good for our economy when, to offset them, we’d end up having to cut vital services for our kids, for our veterans, for our seniors.
He wants to help needy Americans, spend more on schools and infrastructure, and he wants to pay for it by taxing the rich more and creating a more equitable tax system.  And he insists that Republicans will lose this argument because their position isn't popular.  Call me crazy, but this guy sounds like a liberal to me. 

Question 5:

He's asked if he had considered including the raising of the debt limit as part of the tax deal, and he says he didn't because he believes that Republicans aren't going let the government collapse, adding:
But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I believe he just called John Boehner a "bomb thrower," though he thinks Boehner will be more responsible now that he has to be. 

And again, I've got to agree with that.  Republicans had nothing to lose and everything to gain by saying "no" to Obama the last two years, and they weren't bluffing about this at all.  But now that they're expected to do something, the rules have changed.  Republicans are always more effective in the minority, and they're about to prove that again next year.

Question 6:

And then, we get to the final question, which is the one in which Obama caught a lot of flak from progressives for attacking them.  And it's like we're to imagine that the prepared speech I cited in the previous post and the first five questions of the Q&A didn't exist, and knocking progressives is the only thing he did.

He's asked about people on the left who are disappointed in him and how he can reassure them that he's not going to let them down again.  Now mind you, this is basically a rewrite of question three, and counts as the second time he was asked about progressives who don't like him.

And even this time, he takes it to Republicans saying:
Well, over the next two years, they’re going to have to show me what it is that they think they can do. And I think it becomes pretty clear, after you go through the budget line by line, that if in fact they want to pay for $700 billion worth of tax breaks to wealthy individuals, that that’s a lot of money and that the cuts -- corresponding cuts that would have to be made are very painful. So either they rethink their position, or I don’t think they’re going to do very well in 2012. So that’s on the first point.
And he's perfectly right about that.  It was easy for Republicans to sit on the sidelines and criticize Obama when they weren't responsible for anything.  But now it's time for them to put up or shut up, and if they can't find $700 billion in spending cuts that people don't hate them for, then they're going to be punished in 2012.  And that's my thinking exactly.  Saying "no" is the easy part.  Getting to "yes" is always more difficult.

He then goes on to explain what his "lines in the sand" are, which are that he won't make the tax cuts for the rich permanent or allow the taxcuts for the middle-class expire.

He then moves on to talking about the Public Option debate and details all the things the healthcare law did, but how all those things weren't enough because he didn't get the Public Option, too.  And yes, he referred to his left-wing critics as having a "purest position" and being "sanctimonious."  And he explained how he had to compromise because he didn't want the middle-class and unemployed to suffer. 

The Underpants Gnomes Strategy

And he ends the Q&A with:
And so the -- to my Democratic friends, what I’d suggest is, let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. This is not a short game. And to my Republican friends, I would suggest -- I think this is a good agreement, because I know that they’re swallowing some things that they don’t like as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing them on the field of competition over the next two years.
And that's it.  That's all he did.  Did he insult progressives?  Did he say they had bad policies or were too liberal?  Did he impugn their intentions?  No, he didn't.  He said how he tried to do the things they wanted him to do, but couldn't get all of them and was attacked for it. 

And the knock on him is based entirely on a hypothetical argument which suggests that the president can make Congress do things it doesn't want to do.  Yet, they don't treat it like it's a hypothetical argument.  They treat it as fact: Obama could do more...somehow.  At a guess, I'd say this elusive presidential power comes from the same place the Underpants Gnomes get their profits.  No president has had this power, yet Obama's critics attack him for not wielding it.  Disagree?  Then tell me the president who had these powers.

And overall, throughout this press conference, liberalism was at the core of everything he said.  He could have pretended that the tax cuts for the rich were somehow good for the economy to make his compromise look better, but he didn't.  He said they were worthless, dangerous, and needed to go away, while insulting the people who forced them on him.

And again, this sounds like a liberal to me.

Obama the Idiot

Yet, somehow, these words weren't good enough.  It's like we're to imagine he intentionally takes a strong enough liberal position that he's tied to the policies, yet doesn't want to take a strong enough stake that he'd actually win.  That way, he looks like a loser for losing, and gets blamed by the only people he was trying to woo.  In other words, Barack Obama is the dumbest man in the world.

Because if he didn't want to pass liberal polices, he'd say he did, and the refuse to compromise.  And then, the bills would die and the liberal base would praise him for being tough, yet he could have avoided adopting the policies.  And since the majority of Americans support his policies, he wouldn't get hurt by this.  So following liberal advice would be the easiest thing for him to do, assuming he didn't want their policies to pass.  And yeah, you should read that paragraph twice and tell me how I'm wrong, because I assure you, I'm not. 

Conversely, he could have pulled a Clinton by using conservative arguments, in order to piss off the far-left, and then picked his battles by fighting on conservative turf by picking the position that was to the immediate left of the Republican position.  And he'd avoid making any stake in a liberal policy, because he wouldn't want liberal policies and also wouldn't want to lose when they didn't get passed.

Occam's Liberal

Yet, we're to imagine it's something different: That Obama takes liberal positions, just so he can lose because he doesn't really like liberal policies.  How does that make any sense?  Why would he stake a position on something he plans to lose?  And of course, "losing" is defined as only getting most of what we want.  While to many progressives, Obama would "win" if he got none of what he want, just as long as he didn't compromise on it.  Huh?  How does losing everything beat losing a few things? 

Seriously, think about all this.  How does the "Obama's a sell-out" argument even work?

As usual, the simplest explanation is probably the right one: He wanted to pass these policies because he knew they were good policies that would help America and make his job easier, but wasn't able to do it all.  I'm open to suggestions as to how any other explanation makes sense, but it'd have to be one that didn't involve Obama being stupid and/or crazy.  And if you think Obama purposefully hypes liberal policies in order to lose and get yelled at by the base, then you're assuming he wants the economy to suffer and wants to lose the next election.  In other words, that Obama is stupid and crazy.

And that's the reason Obama's frustrated with progressives.  It's not because he thinks they're liberal wackos who need to STFU.  It's because he's trying to do the right thing, achieves many of these right things, but gets yelled at for it because he didn't get everything.  And all the same, he only talked about them once during the press conference after having been asked about them repeatedly, and was still nice to them.  And for that, he gets yelled at and I get yelled at for defending him.  How odd.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Obama's Clear Liberal Voice

One of the knocks Obama's critics on the left have against Obama is that he spends too much time criticizing them and not enough time attacking Republicans.  I myself have been accused of this, and it's somehow imagined that I'm attacking these people, even though I've only been expressing my disagreement with their political ideas and never insulted them or disagreed with their policy goals.  Apparently, it's ok for them to call Obama a spineless sell-out, as well as calling me a conservative asshole; and it only proves that the labels are correct if we dare defend ourselves against them.

And one of the recent issues involving this is in regards to Obama's press conference last week when he announced his deal with Republicans which extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich in exchange for getting some liberal policies, as well as ending Republican's legislative blockaid, which would have prevented us from repealing DADT, passing the now-dead Omnibus spending bill, and other items Democrats are trying to finalize at year end.

And Obama's critics, including longtime reader John of the Dead, suggested that Obama spent more time attacking liberals than Republicans, which was apparently a sign of something; though he failed to say what that sign was.  But I wanted to return to that press conference and see if that's what actually happened. 

I'm going to start with his prepared speech, and move on to his Q&A in a separate post.

Tale of the Tape

Here are the second, third, and fourth paragraphs from his prepared speech:
Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I've said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.

Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.

This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.
This is how he led off and I see nothing here that any good liberal would be offended with.  Sure, some will argue that we shouldn't extend the taxcuts for the upper-middle-class or for anyone; but there's nothing here that should be offensive to liberals.  He made his case of what he wants, and how the Republican plan is both expensive and useless.  Sounds good so far.

We Cannot Afford To Extend the Taxcuts Any Longer

Here are a few random digs on Republicans from the prepared speech:
"...if Republicans truly believe we shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone while our economy is still recovering from the recession, then surely we shouldn’t cut taxes for wealthy people while letting them rise on parents and students and small businesses."

"In exchange, the Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted. But we have insisted that that will be temporary."

"I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like. In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like -- namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest estates. But these tax cuts will expire in two years. And I’m confident that as we make tough choices about bringing our deficit down, as I engage in a conversation with the American people about the hard choices we’re going to have to make to secure our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future, it will become apparent that we cannot afford to extend those tax cuts any longer."
Now, did he slap them around?  No, of course not.  Because that's just not done.  Similarly, you won't find speeches of Bush slapping around Democrats when he was president.  That's not how presidents do things. 

Political versus Policy Debates

But all the same, he laid out a clear liberal voice of what Republicans were doing and why he opposed them.  You can actually read his entire speech and he explains things even better.  Now, did he have a few subtle messages at the people on the left who wouldn't like the compromise?  Of course.  But he explained why he did what he did and I don't see any insults being hurled in their direction. 

And it was quite clear that, while he disagreed with the politics of those on the left who wouldn't like what he did, he denounced both the politics and the policies of Republicans he was forced to compromise with; and spent more time on the Republicans.  And that's exactly what I've been doing too.  Democrats are having fights over political moves, not policy moves.  Obama's leftwing critics insist that he could get more if he acted more boldly, and Obama disagrees.  But he's not attacking them, disparaging their intentions, or disagreeing with their policy goals.  It'd be nice if they treated him with the same respect.

Obama wants the same things we want; not because he's a liberal ideologue or because liberals are keeping his feet to the fire, but because liberal policies work and he'll take any policy that works.  The only difference is that he's the guy responsible for getting these things, and we're not.  It's not an enviable position, I'm sure.  And who knows, maybe it is all just a sham and him and his Republican brethern are laughing at us behind the scenes.  But he's still talking like a moderate-liberal and I see absolutely no reason to doubt his intentions.

Next, I'll address the things he said in the Q&A portion of the event.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Stopping the Bullshit Isn't Enough

John McCain once came up with a brilliant scheme to end the centuries-long sectarian fighting in Iraq, saying:
One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit'.
Ahh, of course.  It's so simple!  Why hadn't anyone thought of that sooner?

And this reflects an authoritarian mindset, in which one merely requires enough willpower to get anything done. No longer do the traditional rules of political strength apply, and you can just tell people to “stop the bullshit” and they will. It’s as if Machiavelli was a silly fool for thinking he needed to bother with political mechanisms, when all he really needed was a big enough room to fit everyone in.

Finding Votes in his Spine

And that’s the mindset of too many of the people criticizing Obama from the left. They truly seem to think the presidency is endowed with the magical ability to make their opponents bow to his wishes. As if Obama could snap his fingers and get powerful politicians to submit to his will, but lacks the desire to do so. If only he had a stronger spine…

Yet, how? How does he get the votes? That’s lost in all this. If Republicans will be punished for working with him and conservative Democrats fear being associated with anything too "radical," how does he break the filibuster? I have no idea and neither do his critics. There is no amount of spine that can win them over, and sitting them down in a room and telling them to rubberstamp his agenda is the surest way to make them revolt. You either have to work politely with them and cajole them to come to our side, or it doesn’t get done. It’s that simple.

Even the Great Clinton had to become a moderate conservative to have any sort of success and even THEN they fought him at every turn. Did he get us a public option? Did he reform Wall Street? Did he stop evil bank fees that would have cost me $140 last month? No, he didn’t. He cut taxes, deregulated banks, reformed welfare, and bombed Iraq.

By contrast, Obama is one spine-filled motherfucker. Disagree if you like, but tell me, where were the Senate votes to get shit done?

Activists vs. Rulers

In a comment on my last post, longtime reader and fellow nihilist Repsac3 wrote the following:
This is my whole theory of politics (liberal and otherwise). The fringes come up with ideas and fight for them wholeheartedly, even against others in their own party, while the moderates make those ideas more palatable to the voting center by negotiating with their "equal but opposite mirror images" on other side.
And while I understand what he's saying and see that sort of formulation often, I don't think that's the proper way of seeing our political system.  Because first off, a lot of the fringe ideas really are crazy.  It's not about making them more palatable to the rest of America, but about ignoring them in hopes they'll go away. 

And the reality is that there are a lot of non-fringe people who have plenty of good ideas and really do believe in what they're doing.  Ted Kennedy wasn't dragged to the left; nor was he on the fringe.  And I fail to see what Kennedy would have agreed to that Obama wouldn't have.  The fringe might be louder, but that doesn't mean they're more pure in their beliefs.  And as I keep arguing, I believe the fringe to be far MORE political than the moderates.  For them, policy is a side-effect of the fighting; not the point of it.  They'll take a bloody fight over a policy victory any time. 

And that's why when they complain about Obama, they're forced to ignore all the good things he's done.  Rescission was a horrible practice that all good progressives knew to hate.  Yet, now that Obama has ended it, they don't seem to mention it at all.  Because they cared more about the fight than the policy. 

My Theory of Political Peoples

Here's my theory of all this: There are activists and there are rulers.  Activists are good at fighting and rulers are good at ruling.  When we're in the minority, we need activists to fight as the rulers can't do much of anything.  But when we're in the majority, the activists need to step aside and let the rulers rule, because at that time, shouting and waving signs is useless or even counter-productive.  So just as the rulers are useless when they can't rule, the activists are useless when they can't activate.  (Yes, that's an odd way of putting it, but I just liked the symmetry.)

But unfortunately, the activists don't step aside when it's time to get shit done.  Instead, they go right ahead and attack the rulers again.  And any time the rulers stray in any way from what the activists want, they consider it to be heresy and attack.  And it doesn't matter if the activists are progressives or Tea Partiers or civil rights advocates or racist thugs; activists are activists and that's all they know how to do.

Because for as much as they imagine they're trying to keep the rulers pure by keeping their feet to the fire, the reality is that they're angry because that's what they do: Be angry.  That gives them purpose.  And if you elect these people as leaders, they'll either "sell out" by acting the way rulers act, or they'll do an entirely shitty job because they're in WAAAY over their heads and didn't understand the first thing about ruling. 

That's what we keep seeing from Republicans, as they're great at being pure to their cause, yet don't know much about getting shit done.  And that's because the Republican Party has been over-run with activists for a long time and it keeps getting worse.  Yes, they're good at saying "no," but saying "no" is the easy part.  The hard part is getting to "yes." 

And again, it must be stressed that progressives didn't just start hating Obama.  Progressives hated Clinton.  And they hated Carter.  And they really hated LBJ.  It's only in hindsight that they laud these people as heroes.  The far-left ALWAYS hates whoever's in power.  Dem presidents are all spineless sell-outs until they leave office, and a few years later, once all their victories set in, you'll start hearing about what great people Democratic presidents are. 

How We'll All Just Get Along

And so, no, I don't buy into the idea that activists keep the politicos pure.  I mean, if they wanted to push the political discussion to the left, then why do they focus their wrath on Obama?  Surely a far-leftie would hate the far-righties more, right?  But no, while liberals like myself try to focus on what Republicans are doing wrong, progressives will insist that Obama is to blame for all this, because he's not fighting enough; unaware that that's not what he's supposed to be doing. 

My only hope at this point is that the majority of these people will feel that our defeat in November was enough of a message and will get back to attacking the real problem.  Or at a minimum, they'll focus on all the batshit crazy things the Republican House will be doing and ignore Obama all together.  After all, Obama's not likely to be able to sell anything out for the next two years, so there won't be a lot for them to complain about. 

So here's to hoping that we'll all be on the same team heading into 2012.  Not with progressives shouting at Obama for not being pure enough, but shouting at Republicans for screwing with our country all the time.  That's how we did it before and I'm fairly confident it'll work for us again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Obama's Victories Aren't Enough

I hear repeatedly about how Obama screwed up because he begins from the compromise position, compromises further, and ends up getting his rear handed to him by Republicans, who stood firm and look resolute.  And while I understand the logic behind that and certainly agree that this can be a problem with negotiations, I think this is a bad misreading of the situation, based entirely on unrealistic expectations of what it was we could have gotten.

But first off, let's be real here: In the last two years, Republicans haven't gotten a god damn thing beyond the extension of the Bush tax cuts they still haven't gotten yet; which they were only able to get due to their ability to hold America hostage without repercussion.  Beyond that, they haven't won anything.  All they did was obstruct, which is the easy thing for the minority to do. 

And even their victory on tax cuts was directly related to their ability to obstruct, which is something Obama could have done just as easily; assuming he was immoral enough to play chicken with human lives.  And the problem is that Obama could have done that, but he'd obviously have been bluffing, because he really did care about helping the unemployed.  Meanwhile, Republicans obviously weren't bluffing, because all they wanted were the tax cuts for the rich. 

And if your bluff is easily called while your opponent isn't bluffing, it's best to not bluff at all.  And for that Obama is attacked for giving in to hostage-takers; as if he had any other choice.

Playing Chicken With America in the Backseat

And since he wasn't willing to play hardball against people who had nothing to lose and everything to gain by forcing things until the end, Obama is considered a spineless loser who sold us out; even if he got us most of what we wanted.  And so Republicans watered down our best ideas with impunity, as the media didn't bother explaining any of this beyond the same horse race dynamic they always use to discuss anything related to politics; which invariably involves quoting Republicans for fear of being too "subjective" by telling the truth.

But all the same, Republicans have only one actual victory over the last two years, many defeats, and their best efforts were merely to slightly diminish our victories.  The only standard that allows anyone to imagine we've been "losing" is the standard that insists that we ever could have gotten everything.  We couldn't.  Getting "everything" was never a realistic option. 

And for as much as Obama's critics admit to this, they still insist that we could have gotten a lot more, based upon a fantasy scenario that involves Obama being able to strong-arm conservative Democrats and a couple of moderate-ish Republicans to act in a way that weakened them politically and embarrassed them for allowing themselves to be strong-armed. 

Negotiating With Ourselves

Because a big part of the problem is that Obama wasn't just compromising with or battling Republicans.  No.  That was the easy part, if everything else worked as it should.  The reality is that Obama, Reid, and Pelosi were battling against conservative Democrats, the Media, and a rightwing base that would have destroyed Republicans if they dared compromise with Obama.

And it was those first two groups that Obama was compromising with when he started us with the public option, rather than single-payer healthcare.  Because conservative Democrats simply would not support the destruction of the health insurance industry, while the media would have written off the entire scheme as a wacko liberal stunt. 

Because let's face it, single-payer really IS the government takeover of the healthcare industry Republicans were trying to scare us about, and I'm not so sure I'd have been on board with that myself.  Eventually, yes.  We will have single-payer.  But dismantling the entire system all at once could have been a tremendous blunder, both politically and policy-wise.  I'm not sorry to say that I'm not much of a risk-taker and don't believe in trying experiments on the lives of three hundred million people. 

They Weren't All Liberals

And so that's where things stood from the beginning.  Obama didn't have a chance to negotiate this from a far-left position and work towards a left position.  He had to start from a center-left position and move slightly inwards; eventually being forced to abandon the public-option, as some Democrats simply refused to accept it. 

Yes, he had a large Democratic majority, but not all those Democrats were liberals or even centrists.  And all the same, as much as progressives deride our current package as a Republican idea, it was only the mandate and insurance exchanges that were Republican.  The end of rescission, pre-existing conditions, and endless rate hikes were fully in the liberal category.  On the whole, I think the package Obama got us was pretty damn good and not nearly the disaster his critics on the left have chosen to paint it as.  And that's why they refuse to even talk about all the good things we got, as it undermines their point entirely.  For as much as they hated rescission during the healthcare debate, it's not a word progressives talk much about, now that Obama has ended it.

Same with the rest of what Obama got us.  Team Obama didn't start all this by taking a happy medium between themselves and Republicans.  They started things with the position that was to the furthest left that his own side could agree to.  And had Obama began from a truly liberal position, it would have been impossible for us to get as many of the centrist and conservative Democrats as we got. 

And that's the thing: For as much as Obama gets attacked for negotiating with himself, it was really with the conservative Democrats that he had to deal with, as well as the moderate-ish Republicans needed to end the filibusters in the Senate.  The reality is that we were damn lucky to get anything through Congress, and starting further to the left would only have made things more difficult for Obama; not easier.  A far-left position would have forced the conservative elements Obama needed to walk from the table completely, as they simply couldn't associate with those sort of positions.

All, or Nothing At All

And of course, our biggest problem is that most progressives don't really care about this at all.  As they've said repeatedly, they'd rather have gotten nothing than what we got.  And that's an easy position to take, if you're not actually responsible for getting something.  As it turns out, they also don't mind taking a few hostages when it comes to getting their agenda passed.

But that really IS all we would have gotten.  Nothing.  Nada.  And health insurance would still be just as crappy as it was before Obama came to office, and we'd have gotten no stimulus bill, and I would have paid more in overdraft fees last month because we wouldn't have gotten the banking bill that helped save me $140 in fees.  And had Obama ran with an openly liberal platform in the election, we'd probably be griping about all the horrible things President McCain is doing and what a horrible idea it was to bomb Iran.

Because the truth is that politics requires us to be political, while bullies get nothing.  The Bush Admin had a dysfunctional Congress that could barely succeed in getting tax cuts, Muslim war, and a Medicare drug plan; all fairly popular items that were easy to sell.  And they did almost nothing else.  Obama, on the other hand, got us a HUGE amount of policy goals passed, including the end of rescission, pre-existing conditions, and unending premium hikes. 

And the alternative isn't the Pie-in-the-Sky single-payer option.  The alternative was McCain's egregious plans for healthcare.  Or at best, nothing.  And the sad truth is that most progressives would have been happier with nothing, while too many of them would have preferred to gripe about President McCain's horrible policies.  They don't really want to be in the driver's seat.  They just like to yell at the driver.

And for this, Obama's called a spineless wimp.  Why?  Because he lost?  No, because he didn't win big enough.  And the whole time, the people who should have been slinging mud at Obama's Republican opponents while fiercely attacking any Democratic congressman who was holding out, were instead slinging mud at Obama for having sold them out because he wasn't winning big enough battles single-handedly. 

Until these people finally turn their sights back on Republicans and conservative Democrats, Obama's going to be stuck fighting battles on both sides.  We need to be punishing Congress for not being liberal enough.  Obama will sign any liberal bill he can get his hands on.  It's our job to fight for that to happen.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Rebutting Obama by Proving His Point

Here's the obvious video of the day, with Obama defending his record against his progressive critics:

And yep, I've pretty much got to agree with all of that. 

And here's the key part I liked:
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.
And the big question is: What was it about the public option that made progressives believe that this was the linchpin of the whole thing?  Without this, we've been assured, the healthcare reform was nothing but a Republican sham that wasn't worth our time to even consider thinking about, as it'd be even worse than nothing at all.  And even now that we've seen all the good things Obama got us, we're assured that the whole thing is worse than a pile of warm snot on a birthday cake and can't be referenced in any way besides a total disaster.

But what about the end of rescission?  What about the end of pre-existing condition disqualifiers?  What about the 30 million people who will get insurance, or the potential for 100 million people to see lower premiums?  What about the statewide insurance exchanges that will allow self-employed and small businesses to get real insurance at a reasonable price?  Or the fact that these insurance exchanges will include non-profit options?  Surely these provisions are worth something, right?

Apparently not.  Because people didn't get an option for government-run insurance, the whole thing was a giant betrayal and if Obama even attempts to defend his bill, he'll be attacked even further.  There's no effort needed to refute Obama's point.  Without the public option, he can't possibly have given us anything worth anything.

My Definition of Compromise

Here's a post I found because of a long-time reader who now considers me a conservative because I don't think that taxing the rich to make them poorer is a key tenet of liberalism.  Sure, I still support government programs and regulations, as well as supporting the need to force the rich to pay for it, but unless I want to outright hurt the rich by making them less rich, I'm a no-good conservative fink...or something like that. 

Anyway, he pointed me to a blogger who attacked Obama for daring to defend himself against his leftwing critics.  He quoted the Obama passage I quoted above and wrote:
Well, let’s see, first you said you wanted it included, and then when the other side objected, it wasn’t included. What’s your definition of compromise?
And first off, you've got to like the revisionist thinking here.  In reality, the healthcare debate lasted a LONG time, with Obama trying to get the public option before finally giving it up in order to get us these other things.  But in this new reality, Republicans merely objected and it was gone.  As if Obama capitulated without a fight.  Somehow, I seem to recall that battle lasting for months, but I guess I'm mistaken, because I'll be attacked as an apologist merely for saying it happened.

But more importantly, this guy just made the very point Obama was trying to make.  Because they didn't get the public option, the reform was worthless.  In his eyes, there was no compromise.  There was only the public option and anything less than that was complete and total defeat.  Because all the millions who will benefit from this aren't worth the few million who might have benefited even more.  Had the public option been the only thing we were fighting for, this guy would have a point.  But seeing as how we were fighting for an entire reform bill, most of which we got, his point only served to prove Obama right. 

Sure, Obama saved human lives.  But the compromise with Republicans apparently wasn't worth the price.  I wonder how many more people would have died if Obama had listened to his leftwing critics. 

Oh, and does it need to be mentioned that Obama has another job besides fighting for legislation; namely, running the executive branch?  Ir probably should be mentioned, especially as passing legislation wasn't even supposed to be one of the presidential duties; though I guess this makes me an even bigger apologist.

Attacking the Forest to Save the Trees

But this blogger had to ignore all that, just as he's ignored all the good things Obama got us.  In fact, if you read his entire post, you'll find that he had to directly ignore just about everything Obama said, and effectively demonstrated the exact point Obama was trying to make, which this blogger missed completely.  The debate of incompetent v. evil comes to mind, though I'll refrain from casting such aspersions because it's probably uncalled for.  But still, when people demonstrate the very point they're trying to rebut, you've got to wonder about their motivation.

But the point is clear: These progressives don't really care about what Obama got us.  They'll insist it was worthless and that we're not even allowed to consider these gains.  We lost everything and if you try to justify it in any way, then you're one of the enemy.  So I'm a conservative wingnut because I don't want to hurt the rich, while Obama's a spineless sellout because he only ended rescission, pre-existing conditions, and effectively muzzled the health insurance industry.  What a loser!

Of course, the fact that I'd even make this argument just shows what an apologist rightwing sellout I am.  And if any of them read this, they'll be so sure of this that they won't need to refute anything I wrote.  They can merely know in their heart of hearts that they could have done all the great things Obama did, while also giving us the handful of items he wasn't able to do.  And they'd do it by attacking Republicans relentlessly, because of course, that's what voters really want.  Sure, the end of rescission is nice and everything, but what people really want is more political attacks.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Compromise Makes Liberal Jesus Cry

There's nothing inherently liberal about taxation.  Nor is taxing the rich a liberal position.  Liberals believe that the government can solve certain problems, and unfortunately, it costs money for us to do that and the only way we can raise that money is through taxation.  But thus said, if we could somehow solve all our problems with salt water and daydreams, we would.  Taxation is part of the solution; it's not the goal.

Yet, to hear progressives tell it, Obama's compromise which will extend the Bush tax rates for the rich for another two years is an utter sell-out move that shows what a spineless conservative he really is.  Here are a few comments showing what I mean:
"Is Barak Obama ever going to grow a spine?"

"The WH is trying to to put lipstick on this turd, but it's not going to work. Every which way they try it, the stench is too big to cover.  I hope Obama is impeached."

"I expected Obama not to compromise and keep his campaign promise on this one…Sorry you lost me on this one…I’m taking my Obama bumper sticker off."

"Centrist Dem LOL! This guy is going hard right as fast as he can."

"So very depressing. This is Obama's, "no more taxes". I truly believe he just lost his re election."
To hear these and other commenters tell it, we were just sold out.  Yet...what exactly is so liberal about taxing the rich?  Yes, this sucks because it'll just make the deficit worse. what?  Deficits aren't the end of the world and we clearly got some good out of this.  You'd think Obama just ended Social Security or something, to hear these people rant against him.

The Dread Compromise

And the good news is that if this compromise works, we'll be extending unemployment benefits, reducing taxes for working Americans, and making payroll cheaper for businesses.  And for as much as some commenters went so far as to suggest that these were also Republican ideas, the reality is that this is what compromise is all about.  You get something you want, you give something you didn't want to give.  That's how it works. 

And now Obama has a tiny feather in his cap to show that he's not the Evil One, and even better, he'll be decoupling the Bush taxcuts of the rich from the one for the non-rich.  And so once these are set to expire in two years, Republicans will actually have to openly defend another taxcut for the rich.  And instead of news articles consistently mangling the story by writing that "Republicans want taxcuts for all Americans," as they've been doing, the stories will have to show that they only want taxcuts for the rich.  And they'll be stuck with a Republican presidential nominee trying to explain why the rich should continue getting richer.  Basically, they're losing their leverage on this issue.

And the big irony is the reason why Obama is in this position: Because these same progressives have spent the last two years hounding Obama at every turn, rather than hounding Republicans as they had been during the Bush Years.  And so we got pounded in the election because the strongest rhetorical weapon we have pointed itself right in our face and blasted Obama and the Democratic Party as heretics.  And rather than fight Republicans and Blue Dogs to make sure we got a Public Option and other liberal policies, they insisted that Obama had to do it single-handedly and attacked him relentlessly for not being Superman.

Weakening Obama

And unfortunately, they're still doing that now.  Obama's busy battling rightwing politicians who are hounded by their base if they compromise in any way with him, while also battling his leftwing base for compromising in any way with the right.  And in this case, "compromising" with Republicans means not insulting them at every turn.  Perhaps if these outraged liberals would finally start directing their outrage at Republicans instead of Democrats, we might actually be able to get somewhere.

And as I've said before, the most annoying part about these progressives attacking Obama is that they don't really care about ideology at all.  It's all about attacking Republicans.  That's why Obama's compromise is a sell-out to them.  Because taxes on the rich isn't a liberal position.  But to progressives, attacking Republicans is.  And that means giving Republicans want they want is inherently anti-liberal, even if it has nothing to do with liberalism at all.

Are deficits for the rich a good idea?  No.  Is it a destruction of liberalism?  Not even a little bit.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Insults Are All They Have

I've been meaning to write for some time about a phenomenon I've noticed whenever rightwing commenters see a Democrat's name in a news article or blog post, which entails them flipping out and hurling personal insults at the Democrat, regardless of what the article said.  I mean, it'd be one thing if they made the slightest effort to refute the Democrat's point.  But they seem oblivious to the very concept, and instead hurl personal attacks with no attempt at addressing any issue whatsoever beyond the attack itself.

Like this column by John Kerry in which he totally spanks Mitt Romney in a debate over the new START treaty.  Now, what I'd expect to see from Kerry's critics is some level of rebuttal to something he wrote, even if it was error-ridden and insulting.  But no, it's all insults, like they couldn't comprehend the words Kerry wrote beyond his name. 

And so we end up with Kerry's intelligent argument being greeted with comments like these:
"It seems like the Captain of the good ship Isabel is panicked because he's about to suffer his second big defeat of the year. The first was his cap-and-tax proposal to increase energy costs. That went down in flames. Now he's about to see the Start Treaty sink beneath the waves. No wonder he feels the need to get personal with Mitt Romney. Romney's running circles around John Kerry."

"John Kerry cannot present an argument without demeaning his opposition. Today it's Mitt who isn't smart enough to understand while just a few months ago it was the MA voters he implied were stupid. What an arrogant man!"
As strong as my mind-reading skills are, I simply have no idea what these two guys imagine they thought they were writing.  The second commenter, in particular, seems to be writing only about himself.  It's obvious they know that personal insults are bad, as they're attacking Kerry for doing so, even though he hadn't.  Yet they just couldn't help themselves.  The pot not only called the kettle black, but insulted the kettle for insulting kettles; even though the kettle was talking about nuclear peace treaties the whole time.  Simply amazing.

Dancing with the Morons

I also read a story yesterday in which Margaret Cho claims to have heard from inside sources that Bristol Palin only went on Dancing with the Stars because Sarah Palin made her do it.  Supposedly, because Sarah felt that Bristol's pregnancy cost her the election, Sarah wanted Bristol to get America to love her, so she could win the next election.

Naturally, I have no idea if that's true.  Nor do I really care.  While I suppose it fits Sarah's MO pretty well, I don't really think it makes much of a difference with anything, as Sarah Palin is extremely unlikely to have any impact on my life; unless she inexplicably wins the Republican nomination in 2012, which would be great as it would ensure Obama's re-election.  But Margaret Cho also went on to say how pleasant Bristol was and how they really got along and was a decent person; even if she doesn't agree with Sarah Palin's political views.

Needless to say, the Republicans on that messageboard were ripping Cho a new one.  Why does it matter why Bristol was on that show?  And more importantly, if she's got an axe to grind and isn't reliable, as all the Republicans insisted she wasn't, then why did she say such nice things about Bristol?  If she's inventing stuff, why didn't she invent something damaging, or at least insult Bristol?

I don't know, and neither did the people attacking her.  All they know is that Cho "attacked" the Palins and that's good enough for them.  It didn't matter if what she said was true or relevant.  All that mattered was the attack.  Cho sent one of theirs to the hospital, so they're sending her to the morgue; rhetorically speaking, anyway.

Martha Coakley and the Proverbial Broomstick

And here's another odd incident I just read.  It's a news story about how Dane Cook's step-brother ripped him off and now owes him $12 million for what he embezzled from Cook.  Pretty harmless story, right?  But no.  The story happened to mention Martha Coakley, who was the dope Democrat who lost Ted Kennedy's senate seat to a Republican.

And because a famous Democrat was involved, we get incoherent comments like this, where a guy quotes the article which said:
A spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley told the Portsmouth Herald that the next step is for the court to tally the couple's assets.
To which the knee-jerk Republican responded:
Yeah, the only tallying Martha Coakley still can't win is her getting the proverbial broomstick up her a** via Scott Brown!!!!!!!
And, huh??  I get the idea of what this insult is supposed to mean, but...what the hell did he imagine this said?  I mean, you don't "win" tallies.  And to my knowledge, there is no proverbial broomstick that goes up asses.  And is he saying that she "wins" all the other tallies, except for the one which involves her getting a proverbial broomstick stuck inside her?  Is this something Scott Brown is still doing to her, and why?

But most imporantly, why is Coakley being insulted for trying to get Dane Cook's money back?  I'm no fan of Cook's by any means, and feel he "earned" this money just as much as his crooked half-brother did, but still, Coakley isn't doing anything wrong here.  If you're going to attack someone, attack the guy who wrote Good Luck Chuck, as that dude is totally deserving of derision.  But Coakley is the good guy here and the election was eleven months ago.  You won.  Get over it.

But for Republicans, none of this matters.  It's not even important to make a comprehensible insult, let alone one that actually fits the story.  All that matters is that an "infamous" Democrat's name appeared in a story and that's good enough for them.  And, of course, any Democrat they've heard of is "infamous," because they wouldn't have heard about any Democrat who didn't do something "wrong."

And that's the thing: These people don't care about ideology.  Even political stories are too much for them to handle.  All they care about is insulting the enemy.  That's why the term "hypocrite" never applies to them, as they never actually go against their own beliefs.  All they care about is the team and attacking the enemy.  Everything else is negotiable.