Monday, January 31, 2011

America Needs Infrastructure and Plenty of it

One of the things people get wrong is the idea that American companies can somehow outsource their labor to cheaper countires and maintain the same standard of goods/services that they'd get here.  While that can happen on the micro-scale, it can't in the big picture and if Chinese workers could be as productive as American workers, they'll soon be paid American wages and the whole reason for outsourcing becomes negated.

And so I'm happy to read stories like this, which explain how America is still the top manufacturing country.
What's changed is that U.S. manufacturers have abandoned products with thin profit margins, like consumer electronics, toys and shoes. They've ceded that sector to China, Indonesia and other emerging nations with low labor costs.

Instead, American factories have seized upon complex and expensive goods requiring specialized labor: industrial lathes, computer chips, fighter jets, health care products.
And as I said, if China and these other countries could produce what we produce, then they'd get paid what we get paid.  And not that it should matter, but in case you find authority figures appealing, I should mention that I stole this idea from Krugman (not that I'm saying he invented it, just that that's where I first heard it).

Power, Roads, and Training

And here's the part that puts the lie to conservatives who insist that Big Government sucks and we could run our country on third-world tax revenues while maintaining a first world country:
Hook says the United States offers advantages over poorer, low-wage countries: reliable supplies of electricity and water, decent roads. And some localities support businesses by providing infrastructure and vocational training for potential hires.
"We need a highly skilled work force," Hook says. "So it's very advantageous to be in a country like the United States where people are educated and ready to be hired."
And that is undoubtedly the case.  It's not a coincidence that first world countries have first world laws and infrastructure and education; while second and third world countries do not.  We don't have these things because we can afford them; we can only afford them because we have them.  And if we did things like a third world country, we'd soon become one.

And the people who benefit most by a good education system isn't the Average Joe who might make $1.5 million his entire life, but the Rich Joe who makes $1.5 million every year.  The rich benefit the most from our first world infrastructure, so it just makes sense that they should pay the most for it, too.  After all, we wouldn't have fancy tax accountants to shelter their absurd incomes if we didn't have the government training those fancy accountants with loans, grants, and subsidies.

America needs an educated workforce.  America needs good roads and good water and good regulations.  These aren't luxuries we can cut back on when times are tough.  These are necessities that America requires in order to prevent times from getting tougher, and every penny we pinch on infrastructure now is a dollar we lose in the future.  America's fighting men need infrastructure.  The best infrastructure.  Plenty of it.

BTW, due to the obscure nature of my reference and because I like it so much, here's a link to America's Fighting Men Need Meat.

And here's the version you can dance to:
America's Fighting Men Need Meat

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Big Picture of Progress

One of my longtime and favoritist readers responded to my post on people who see compromise as a problem, lamenting the fact that we can't all get along and how we're heading for turbulent times; not least of which is Global Warming.  And I felt my response was important enough to not hide in a comment, so here it is.

Here's an excerpt of her comment:
I am not an "end of the world" lover, but I think we are going to be a failed species sooner than most failed species. Desmond Morris called us "The Naked Ape", and we still can't seem to get past our primate past. I believe our ancient planet will be going through one of it's many, many upheavals, when most of what we know and value will be destroyed.
And I definitely understand the point, but think she's reading too much into the intimacy of modern life to see the bigger picture of where we're heading as a species.  After all, on the grand scale of our species, it was quite recent that a large portion of our country was so convinced that it was their god-given right to enslave and destroy humans that they were willing to die fighting for it.  And even more recently, Europeans used their best minds to create a mass killing machine to destroy humans and conquer the continent to have it reflect their racial ideals. 

In fact, history is far more full of fighting, hatred, and death than was the opposite. By contrast, we're all BFF's.  Sure, Glenn Beck inciting hatred against an elderly sociologist for what she wrote over forty years ago is deplorable, but relatively recently, she might have been burned as a witch merely for owning cats or expressing opinions or for no reason at all. 

While modern Christians gripe endlessly about not being able to display the Ten Commandments everywhere, for much of history, such differences were a death sentence. 

Getting Better All the Time

And so we've seen thousands upon thousands of years where violence was the norm around the globe.  These days, we've got maybe 10% in our country wanting to fight, where "fighting" means insults and death threats.  And every once in awhile, some total loon goes bonkers and actually does something about it, and you can only find a handful of people willing to defend that; and even fewer willing to join them.  What was once the norm for thousands of years is now a freak event that 99.9% of people abhor.

And the point is that as bad as things seem, we're definitely heading in the right direction.  Sure, there are some people outraged at having a black president and threaten violence at what he's doing. But sixty years ago, Obama could have been a shoe shiner hung from a tree for talking to a white girl or jailed for sitting in the wrong seat. And two hundred years ago, he would have been a possession to be purchased on the free-market. This is real progress.

And really, we need these people. We need dissent. It's not good to go too far, too fast. As a species it's best to have variety, and the herd instinct can be even more dangerous than the war instinct. And at the bottom, we're all just dumb animals trying our best to make the best of what we've got, and we're struggling against millions of years of impulses that we don't understand.

But all the same, we're moving in the right direction. And the secret is to stay positive and keep our eyes on the big picture. 

Not the End of the World

Even with Global Warming, the Powers-That-Be will eventually have to work with us, as they'll see how they have more at risk than we do.  Because there is no nefarious force who wants the world destroyed.  Rather, all their actions can be explained by their short-term focus on quarterly profits; which not only causes them to oppose necessary policies, but also to hurt their own long-term profits.  Like it or not, shallow people find it easier to become Masters of the Universe than us nice people, and our system allows them to have far more power than their abilities can handle.

But eventually, even they'll be on-board with this, and the only people who will continue to oppose it will be mouth-breathing bozos who always have to be on the wrong side of everything.  But again, this is good.  It's good to have dissent.  It's necessary to have contrarians who say the opposite of everyone else, and they don't even understand the function they play for us.  If they knew they were contrarians who served as ballast for the human race, they wouldn't be effective. 

And the only issue is whether or not the bozo contrarians can wield the power necessary to hold us back from doing what we must.  They can't.  Exxon can buy senators and Glenn Beck can pimp unintelligent conspiracies to the masses; but that's just for the cash.  They don't really mean it.  And at some point, they'll let us do the right thing and move on.  And I'm tremendously impressed with our ability to get shit done and don't fear for the future.

We need to stay vigilant, but not distress.  After all, not only does worrying not solve anything, but it's counter-productive, as it acts as a substitute for action in our silly monkey brains.  And right now, we've got less to worry about than any generation ever.  It might not seem that way, but that's just because you weren't paying attention before.  I'll take someone denouncing our black president over someone owning him.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Compromise is the Problem

One of the problems I noted in my last post was in regards to people on both ends of the spectrum (and I'm referring to those on the very ends, and not the vast majority in the middle), who refuse to compromise, as they somehow imagine that it constitutes a complete sell-out. 

So it's not enough for Democrats to get liberal policies if it means Republicans got something they wanted.  Sure, there was nothing inherently anti-liberal about the tax deal Obama cut last month, as taxing the rich isn't inherently a liberal position; but only one of necessity.  And if we didn't need their money, it'd be fine if they kept it. 

But that's not enough for some on the far left.  For them, the very fact that Obama gave Republicans anything is the problem.  And they'll denounce him as being anti-liberal, even though he did it to support liberal policies and the compromise he made wasn't anti-liberal. 

And as I keep stressing, for as much as these people imagine they're choosing policy above politics, it's the exact opposite.  They're partisans who insist that compromise is for the weak and it'd be better politics to hold out until we win; even if it hurt people.

Not Much of a Concession

And we certainly see this on the right, which is so entirely out of whack that they actually have their leaders say this crap.  And so we have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in this exchange:
MCCONNELL: If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we’re not going to say no and –

ALLEN: But that’s not much of a concession. That’s not bargaining, to just give you what you want.

MCCONNELL: Um, I like to think I’m a pretty good negotiator.
And well, no.  That really wasn't much of a concession.  And no, negotiating does not mean you just get what you want.

Working Together Isn't a Sin

And look, this country wasn't meant to work with steamroller politics.  If half the country wants one thing, and the other half wants something else, and both sides refuse to budge; nothing will happen.  That's how it was designed.  That's the idea.  This isn't winner take all.  We're supposed to work together for a common solution, and if enough people disagree with you, then you don't get anything.  That's not a bug in the system.  That's by design.

And if you're fine with nothing getting done, as Republicans are, then this works perfectly.  But...if you think there are problems to solve, like social and economic inequality, then you can't sit back and hold your breath until everyone fulfills your demands.  And since Republicans still have enough power to put the kibosh on our agenda, it means we have to work with the few reasonable ones we have in order to get anything.  And the more we try to use strong-arm tactics and insults to get them to agree with us, then less likely they will.

And again, that's by design.  This is the system we were meant to have and I support it completely.  I don't want a president that can force his will on the country without the agreement of Congress.  I'd rather have social and economic inequality if the alternative was being forced upon us without our consent.  Because such a system wouldn't work. 

Our government rules with the consent of the governed, and that includes the 35% or so crazy ones who don't know what they're talking about.  And so we're stuck working with people we might not like and being polite, even when we hate their guts; as it was meant to be.  Politeness isn't a vice in modern life; it's a necessity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Extremist Kabuki Theater (Or: What to Do in America When You're Bored)

It's a well-known meme among those on the far left that there is no real difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, and the whole feud between them is some made up event used as an excuse for why both parties support the elite and never get anything real done.

And their evidence of this is that most Democratic politicians don't do more to attack Republicans, but rather, compromise with them in order to get tepid liberal policies. And they're confident that we could get strong liberal policies, if only we attacked Republicans more, refused to compromise on anything, and stopped accepting "minor" liberal policies, like helping the unemployed, improving healthcare, and repealing egregious practices like DADT. 

And we see something similar on the right. Of course, their conspiracy theory is slightly different, as they support the status quo and don't accuse the two parties of collusion.  Rather, they prefer to see moderate conservatives as "weak," as they're not strong enough to sit around, repeating bold cliches on their computers or barstools.  The way they see things, there's a vast liberal conspiracy perpetrated by a small but powerful liberal cabal that uses the liberal media and bribes to minorities in order to prevent America from regaining the glory days that only exists in their minds.

And oddly, this cabal is both rich and anti-rich, establishment and anti-establishment, led by minorities while wanting to keep them down, and wants to destroy America by weakening it so they can continue their dominance in order to help the Chinese, Mexicans, Muslims, Blacks, and any other dirty critter who hates America and wants to see the liberal cabal lose power.  Or...something like that.

Creating Reality In Our Own Image

Naturally, of these two groups, I've certainly got to side with those on the left. Not only do we share many of the same goals, but there is quite a bit of truth to the idea of powerful corporate interests preventing us from creating the policies we need.  And of course, the rightwing side is so entirely nonsensical that it's utterly impossible for one to wrap one's mind around it.

It basically amounts to them being victims besieged from all sides, which can be the only explanation for why things aren't working out better for them. After all, they had been promised that they would be wealthy crime-fighting astronaut cowboys when they grew up, but instead, they're stuck working for a living and wallowing in troubles like everyone else. Clearly, there can only be one explanation for this: George Soros and the Brown People.

But all the same, even the liberals are overstating the problem, as they cherrypick certain undeniable truths in order to simplify the answer. And that answer can only require one thing: Attacking anyone who doesn't agree with them and holding out until they get what they want. And in that aspect, they're identical to far-righties, who also insist upon attacking anyone who doesn't agree with them and holding out until they get what they want.

And that includes disavowing any halfsteps and compromises, while fighting the good fight until the end.  Both sides insist that it's better to get none of what you want than part of it, and if your opponent is willing to compromise, it can only mean you're getting screwed.

Creating Enemies for Fun & Profit

And in that regard, we start to see the real cabal of like-minded interests who pose a kabuki dance of fake fighting in order to get what they want. It's the folks on the far right and left, who insist on standing so firmly on their principles that nothing can possibly get done and they can wage an eternal struggle of good v. evil.  And while they insist that good policies are at the root of their agenda, in practice, attaining such policies is impossible; as it's intended to be.

If they get any good policies at all, it's a side-effect of this struggle, not the purpose. And they'll insist that any policy is an abomination unless it was done in their desired way. And so they continue with their eternal struggle, because their real struggle is with moderation and compromise.  They know that if they're ever allowed to have a real dogfight with their foe, they'll win.  And so they blame anyone who doesn't allow that to happen.

And until the traitors on their own side stop getting in the way, they'll be forced to fight the good fight against people they consider foolish heretics or enemy spies. And to the far-left's chagrin, they have so many people on their side that it's been "watered down" with moderates, while their counterparts on the far-right wield great power within their party and seem to be having all the fun; but only because the party already shed off all the moderates who were watering it down.

And so ironically, righties bask in the glory of a popular movement that's only extreme because it's so small, while lefties gnash their teeth at the weakness caused by their popularity.  But since the ones on the left prefer seeing themselves as a small band of experts fighting for justice, while those on the right cast themselves as part of a large group of Real Americans fighting for America; this is probably for the best on both sides. And the bigger the left gets and the smaller the right gets only pushes them further into their chosen direction, confident that they're doing what is right and holy.

And the end result is that they have a great war to fight, with goals which are as big and bold as they are impossible to attain. And if any victory is won by their side, it will be immdiately forgotten, as the goalposts move further into their intended direction. For them, it's not about winning the war, but having a war to win in the first place. They all know there's a war to fight. They just have to figure out where it is.

Reality Sux

And of course, the truth is far more mundane: Politicians are human and democracy is a popularity contest too often won by selfish, shallow idiots who know how to impress people with money. And because our Founding Fathers wanted to make it difficult for a minority to make drastic changes to our nation, we end up with halfway policies and compromises which reflect a rough average of America's populace as a whole.

And that's a feature, not a bug.  It's good that people disagree.  It's not healthy for a species if we all think alike and move in the same direction.  Herd logic should always be questioned, and we should always be careful about moving too fast at once.  But that's just not something these people like to acknowledge, as it removes evil from the equation and makes the solution too difficult for them to solve on their own.  So they're forced to invent a secret cabal keeping them down, while ignoring any fact that refutes that theory.

And so all-important goals like ending rescission and repealing DADT disappear from the scorecard the very moment we achieve them. Not because they weren't important, but because they undermine the theory of the evil cabal. And they only started believing in this cabal because modern life is incredibly dull and they'd rather see some Grand Scheme pitting their good against their enemy's evil than admit that there really isn't much reason to wake up in the morning other than to pay their bills and feed their pets.

And that's what outrages them most of all. These people don't need an ideologically perfect America. They just need a hobby.  I hope some day they get one, so the grown-ups can focus on getting shit done.  Sorry, people, but it's not about you.  Believe it or not, fixing problems is more important than your ideological purity.  Deal with it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why We Need Conservative Democrats, Part II

On my recent post about why we need conservative Democrats, a commenter wrote:
Actually, conservative Democrats make it more difficult for Democrats to get majorities in Congress. These rightists alienate core Democratic constituencies and lower turnout.
And that's a valid point, as I know there are many core Democrats who are turned-off by conservative Democrats who water-down our policies, undermine our positions, and make things unnecessarily difficult for us.  I mean, I can understand if they don't want to vote for our bills.  But why must they support Republican filibusters which deny us the opportunity to discuss our bills in the Senate?  Or repeat Republican lies which make it more difficult for themselves, due to their affiliation with our party? 

And I share that frustration, as these Democrats are engaging in practices that are too clever by half, and end up hurting everyone in the long run; including themselves.  Because Democrats can win in conservative districts, and they have to be conservative in order to do so.  And as long as they're better than the Republican alternative, I'll reluctantly approve of their victories. 

But supporting filibusters and Republican lies isn't necessary in order to win these seats.  They can vote their conscience, but they don't have to undermine us like this. Because it's not scoring them any points.  The only voters who will be angered if they don't support a filibuster or repeat rightwing lies are the hardcore wingnuts who wouldn't vote for them anyway.  And by doing these things, it makes their party id a bigger liability to them with people who are conservative, but still willing to vote for a Democrat. 

It's like a black man who tells everyone how scary black people are and why you can't trust them.  The racists still won't like him, while anyone who listens will be less likely to trust him.  So it'd be smarter for conservative Democrats if they expressed their conservativism, but without damaging the Democratic Party as a whole.  And if the party is liberal, it only hurts them when they demonize liberalism.

Why We Still Need Them

And so I understand perfectly how frustrating these fools can be.  But all the same, we need these seats.  And if anyone imagines that liberals can routinely win congressional seats in places like Kentucky and Indiana, they're delusional.  It's not going to happen.

Nor should it, as long as the voters in those districts are conservative.  We have a representative democracy for a reason and I fully believe that our politicians should represent their constituents, even if they're wrong.  That's a basic pillar of democracy.  It's not about coming up with the right answers.  It's about having the right system.  And that means supporting our system, even when it comes up with the wrong answers.  We don't have to like the answers it gives, but it's wrong to suggest that they're illegitimate. 

After all, America was founded with a compromise that said slaves were less than human; and we've moved past that into something far better.  Had our Founding Fathers held out for a more perfect solution, we might not be here today.  Supporting our opponents when we lose is the only way we can expect them to support us when we win.  That's what democracy is all about and if we always hold out until we get everything we want, we'll never get anything.

And if that means we need a Democrat in Kentucky who supports gun rights and opposes abortion, so be it.  Because no matter how conservative he is, he's still better than the alternative.  Because the alternative to a conservative Democrat isn't a Republican who supports gun rights and opposes abortion.  It's a Republican who wants to impeach Obama and investigate scientists and Muslims.  Anyone who suggests that Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same simply isn't paying attention.

 Who's Zooming Whom

And that's why it's wrong for liberals to diss on Democrats because of the actions of conservative Democrats.  The idea is that if we punish Obama and moderate Democrats for the actions of conservative Democrats, we'll get fewer conservative Democrats.  And that's great, if you want Congress to investigate Muslims and scientists, rather than reforming student loans and repealing DADT.

And the comment I quoted above is really quite circular, as he's arguing that we shouldn't support conservative Democrats because many core Democrats will hurt the party because many core Democrats will hurt the party.  Because the solution, therefore, would be for them to stop hurting the party because of these conservative Democrats.  Then, the problem he mentioned would vanish.  We'd still support liberalism when we could, but would plug our noses and support the conservative Democrats, when we had no other choice.

Yet these people refuse to do that, and create the very problem my commenter was blaming on conservative Democrats.  Because we're going to have conservative Democrats.  It's inevitable.  We'll always have Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons that win office.  And if we continue hurting the Democratic Party until all the Liebermans and Nelsons are gone, then we'll always hurt the party. 

I mean, hell, there's no reason for Lieberman to be conservative, as he's not from a conservative state.  But as long as he's in office, we're stuck with him.  And if we purged the party of every politician who stood in the way of our agenda, then we'd never have a majority in Congress and our laws will become more conservative.  Perhaps I'm stupid, but I fail to see how that helps liberalism.

Bigger than Liberalism

And mind you, I fully believe that Americans are liberal, including the most conservative of them.  It's easy to be a conservative, until reality hits us personally.  After that, we all want the government to be our friend and demand a liberal interpretation of the Constitution that permits the federal government to do as much as possible to help us out.

But perceptions are more important than reality when you're dealing with people outside of yourself, so if that means we need to woo voters who desire to hurt their own interests in order to help them, so be it.  I'm a pragmatist.  I'll do whatever it takes to get liberal policies.  Unfortunately, many of the people who consider themselves the purest liberals don't agree.  Sure, they'll demand liberal policies.  They just don't want to have to sacrifice their purity in order to get them. 

But with all the problems we need to fix, I'll take my liberalism any way I can get it.  If that means we have to whore ourselves in order to repeal DADT and help the unemployed, so be it.  Ideological purity isn't going to put food on anyone's table or get them the cancer treatments they need.  It's better to help people with compromises than hurt them with purity.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Does Harvard Offer Refunds?

It's always sad when intelligent people invest so heavily in the wrong idea that they end up completely embarrassing themselves with absurd arguments as their only means to continue down the wrong path.  And this is surely the case with Greg Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard who wrote a post called Give Me $1 Billion to Cut the Budget Deficit

Now, I'm sure Mankiw is a bright guy.  I mean, I never even dreamed of going to Harvard, let alone being smart enough to teach there.  And I'm sure that if the topic was purely on economics, Mankiw could run circles around me.  I doubt he'd be right, but I'm sure I wouldn't understand all his fancy jargon which he'd insist was untranslatable into English.  So unless we kept the focus on practical economics, rather than academic economics that might not necessarily apply to the real world, I don't think I'd challenge the guy to a debate.  My point?  I'm sure the guy's intelligent.

But...he's on the wrong side of issues, and so in the end, no matter how smart he is, he's going to end up wrong.  Because it's garbage-in and garbage-out, and if your foundation is wrong, you're going to come up with the wrong answers.  And that's what we see here with his $1 Billion post.

Taxes = Bad

Basically, Mankiw's arguing that it's wrong to say that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit, because the spending part of the bill doesn't reduce the deficit. And that's it.  That's his argument.  But of course, nobody's making that claim.  We claim that the law reduces the deficit, because it does.  That's what the CBO says and he's not arguing against it.  But nobody ever claimed it was the spending that reduced the deficit.

So right off the bat, he's arguing against a point that no one would make.  And for as much as his argument works, it's something everyone already knows.  It'd be like me lecturing you on all the reasons you shouldn't poke your eye out with a poo stick.  It's such a bad idea that it doesn't need to be said. 

And he seems to be making the same mistake I mentioned Charles Krauthammer made earlier today.  At a guess, I'm thinking they've got a mental hang-up about taxes.  They believe implicitly that taxes are a bad thing and can't be used as a positive.  So in their minds, Democrats are saying that their spending bill reduces the deficit, and then added a bad thing to it; thus making it worse.  But of course, it's the "bad thing" that explains why we're saying it reduces the deficit.

Silly Tricks for Silly People

Beyond that, his argument is absolutely embarrassing.  His point is to suggest that our claims that ACA reduces the deficit would be the same as him saying that he can reduce the deficit by $2 billion if we raise taxes by $3 billion and give him $1 billion. 

But...that would reduce the deficit.  And if this were somehow the only way we could raise taxes, and I mean absolutely the only way, I suppose I might consider supporting the $1 Billion Greg Mankiw Subsidy Act.  Not because I think he needs the money, but because we need the money and it'd be the only way to get it. 

And the same went with ACA.  Because Congress only raised these taxes to pay for this bill, and wouldn't have otherwise.  That wasn't a gimmick.  That was how we paid for the spending, which is supposedly important to conservatives like Mankiw.  And the reason his deficit reduction plan sounds ridiculous isn't because it's ridiculous to raise taxes to pay for spending and deficit reduction, but because it involved giving the money to him.  And we immediately see that he wasn't making some valid point against his opponents, but using a silly rhetorical trick that wouldn't impress a junior high debate team.

And I don't think this paints Mankiw's intelligence in a bad light, as I don't think his intelligence was involved at all.  This was allllll emotions.  He knows he doesn't like ACA and is really upset now that he's realizing that efforts to repeal it will increase the deficit, and has to figure some way out of it.  But he can't.  There is no way out.  It does what he doesn't want it to do and it bugs the hell out of him.

Now if he wants, he can argue that the tax increases might destroy America, as it puts such a horrible burden on tanning salon owners, who are the heart and soul of our nation, as well as imposing upon gold-plated health insurance policies for people who really want health costs to explode.  But he can't argue that it's bad for the deficit.  And so he's stuck making childish arguments because it's all he's got left.  I don't know much about Mankiw's knowledge of economics, but I suspect there's a good reason he doesn't teach logic.

And as I said with Krauthammer, I still can't believe these people are finally acknowledging that ACA doesn't hurt the deficit.  Baby steps, people.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Link Blogging

While I normally only use this blog as a source of analysis I'm not seeing anywhere else and almost never as a news site posting links to other stories and blogs, there were a few interesting things I've read recently that I thought I should highlight without much comment.

First was an analysis by Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress, who wrote a post called Clearly Constitutional, which makes clear that the Affordable Care Act is most definintely constitutional.

Next up is a post from Richard Unger at Forbes, in which he explains why our Founding Fathers supported socialized medicine, by mandating that sailors pay a tax in order to build a government healthcare system for them to use.  And the irony here is that the main ways that this differed from our supposedly unconstituional healthcare solution is that our plan relies upon private insurers and hospitals for healthcare, rather than a purely government solution that conservatives would hate even more.

And finally, I just wanted to highlight this selection from of Promises Kept, showcasing many of the great policies we got through Congress; including repealing DADT, reforming student loans, ending many bad credit card practices, and of course, getting everyone decent healthcare. 


Pushing the Envelope on Conservative Math

Steve Benen's got a post about a delusional column by Charles Krauthammer (does he have any other kind?), in which Krauthammer writes:
Suppose someone -- say, the president of United States -- proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I've got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.

He'd be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare.
And along with Benen, I'm left wondering: What exactly is so laughable about this?  $770 billion minus $540 billion is $230 billion.  That seems like pretty basic arthimatic, even with the word "billion" in there.  Perhaps this is part of the new math, where 770 isn't bigger than 540.

And I suspect that part of Krauthammer's problem is that he's bought into the absurdist myth that there is somehow something wrong or evil about taxes.  As if nothing involving a tax increase can be good for the deficit, while tax cuts are a magical thing that make deficits disappear. 

Protecting Peter to Destroy Paul

And this delusion is so strong that it now permeates even their most basic analysis, as they now seem to have conflated tax revenues with the funds we're collecting from, and if we let rich people keep more of their money, it's the same as the government collecting it.  And since the free markets are better at allocating funds than the government, in their minds, then it's simply better to allow the markets to decide where the money is spent.

But of course, it's not like that and in order to compensate for every dollar we don't collect in taxes, the cut would have to make considerably more in order to keep tax revenues equal.  As a simple example, if we tax $100 at a 40% rate, we'd collect $40 in revenue.  But if we cut that rate to 35%, the person who got the cut would have to generate an additional $14.29 with the $5 he got to keep in order to keep tax revenues at $40. 

And that's why it's absurd to imagine that tax cuts pay for themselves, as that would have to happen every year.  And if private industry can't parlay that $5 savings into an extra $14.29 every year, we'll come out behind.  But to conservatives, this has become a zero-sum game, in which we're robbing Peter to pay Paul, unaware that Peter is part of Paul's expenses and if Paul doesn't have enough to pay his bills, it'll hurt Paul, Peter, and Mary. 

And that's part of another lie, in which government spending only benefits the government, and if we deny them funds, it'll benefit the rest of us.  And so you get the impression that the Fat Cats in Washington are giving themselves huge bonuses with the funds they collect, rather than building roads and helping people who are struggling to survive. 

And even if they acknowledge that the money is spent to help people, it's as if we're to somehow believe that this money falls into a vacuum, rather than pumping up the economy the same as if private industry kept it.  And rather than understand how taxes can help individuals, communities, and the economy; they inexplicably believe that it does none of these things and only makes things worse. 

Even the individuals we help are damaged by these funds, we're told, as it just makes them lazy; which is why they don't deserve to be helped, because they're so lazy that they need help from the government.  It's an amazing piece of circular logic that doesn't even make sense in its own terms.

The Tax Hike Secret

But frankly, I'm just amazed that Krauthammer has at least acknowledged how it is the healthcare law reduces the deficit, even if he finds it laughable for reasons he can't explain.  Most conservatives simply accept it on faith that it'll balloon the deficit, unaware of the tax increases it contained. 

I recently mentioned the tax increases to a conservative friend who opposed the law and he didn't seem aware of them at all and had no response.  Apparently, he hadn't been given a talking point on this, and couldn't even rant against Obama raising taxes.  And for as much as that's odd, as you'd think they'd be screaming about Obama hiking taxes on everyone, I suppose since that'd let everyone understand how Obama's being truthful when he says it cuts the deficit, I can see why they prefer to be mum on the whole thing. 

But seeing as how even an intelligent conservative like Krauthammer considers it laughable that a tax increase could pay for spending increases, I suppose it's just a matter of time until they all accept on faith that "Obamacare" destroys the budget while also raising taxes on those poor rich people.  I truly worry about these people.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why We Need Conservative Democrats

Like it or not, America is not a dictatorship.  I happen to like that, not necessarily because democracy is the best form of government for coming up with the right answers, because it isn't.  If we wanted the "right" answers, we'd give dictator powers to technocrats and let them solve all our problems. 

Democracy's strength, on the other hand, has to do with giving people power over their own lives in order to give them an interest in seeing it continue; much like how some businesses give company stock to their employees, to give those employees an incentive to see it improve.  But for many people on both ends of the political spectrum, that's not good enough.  Yeah, sure, they'll pay lip service to democracy, but if it doesn't give them the right policies, they'd just as soon choose a form of government that allowed them to get the right policies. 

And we saw that on the right during the Bush years, when conservatives celebrated a rubber-stamp Congress that they've written out of existence, now that Bush's policies turned out to suck and they were forced to declare that he wasn't a conservative after all.  And even now, they'll insist that the results of elections only mean something if their side wins.  And that completely goes against the idea of democracy.

A chief pillar of democracy is that you support the system, win or lose.  It's not about getting the right results.  It's about having the right system.  And if you only support the system when it gives you the answers you wanted, then you're not talking about a democracy at all. 

Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Live Without 'Em

And we also see that on the left, with people who blame Obama for not giving us everything he said he would.  And it's as if Congress doesn't exist and Obama can do anything he wants, were he to choose to do so.  And if he falls back and blames Congress for not passing his agenda, it's all part of a kabuki theater he's using to trick us.  And they'll insist that we're all just patsies and that this isn't democracy because both sides are the same; all evidence to the contrary.  And that's why these people have to ignore all the great things Obama got for us, while emphasizing very tenuous similarities between Obama and Bush.

And I was thinking about this while reading a post at Washington Monthly, which points out how House Democrats are now relishing the fight to defend the healthcare law.  And that's in contrast to last year, when they wanted to talk about anything but the healthcare law.  And at first this seems dumb, as the time to fight was last year, before the election.  And now, some might see this as more kabuki theater, in that they're only willing to fight as long as they can't actually do anything about it.

But this misreads the situation.  Because our chief problem is that there were conservative Democrats who refused to support the law.  For example, Lieberman and others had made it clear that they would absolutely kill the bill if it had a Public Option, so it had to be dropped.  And for as much as Obama's critics on the left use that as proof that Obama's a fraud, it's well known that this wasn't his fault.  There are conservative Democrats who didn't like this debate at all and were quite happy to insert as many poison pills as possible to get it off the table.

And now that many of these conservatives lost anyway, the remaining Democrats are free to act more like Democrats in defending the law.  And of course, progressives on the left may say that this is reason enough for us to always oppose conservative Democrats, so that they can't sabotage our platform like this.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work either.  Because without conservative Democrats, we don't have control of Congress.  And rather than freeing us to pass our agenda, it prevents us from pushing an agenda at all.  And without conservative Democrats, we're stuck with conservative Republicans; who are almost always going to be further to the right than any of the Democrats who are screwing us up. 

Conservatives Vote, Too

And so we're screwed.  If we have conservative Democrats in Congress, they'll water down our bills, undermine our agenda, and screw us up.  If we don't have conservative Democrats in Congress, then we lose control of Congress and spend all our time preventing Republicans from steamrolling us.  And yes, in an ideal world, we could push for all liberal Democrats and get everything we want.  But that's simply not a possibility.  Not right now, anyway. 

For as much as places like Kentucky, Indiana, and Wyoming would benefit from liberal policies, that's simply not part of the current political background and no amount of attacking conservative Democrats will change that.  Right or wrong, the people in those states are conservatives, and we're stuck working with the people they send to Congress; just as our Founding Fathers were stuck making compromises with people who were screwing things up.  That's just the nature of democracy.

And so our biggest problem is democracy, as it allows people in Kentucky just as much say over their lives as it does people in California.  And as much as that causes problems, there is no alternative.  Because for as much as you and I know the right policies for our nation, these people think they know the right answers, too.  And were we to eschew our democracy for one in which we elected the "right" people, it would be at the cost of alienating people who didn't agree and it'd soon spell the end of our nation.

And so our democracy is both a blessing and a curse.  And for as much as some people don't like the answers it gives us, it's really the only option we have.  And so that means we're stuck with conservative Democrats who oppose good policies for bad reasons, and tie our hands behind our back when we were already short-handed.  And as much as that's a problem we have to deal with, it's a lot better than the one's we'd face if we had a system that allowed Obama to get everything he wanted.

Why Armies Gather

While writing my last post, I got around to reading the Declaration of Independence, and thought I'd highlight the part where they explained why they were declaring independence.  It's a well-known truism among Tea Partiers that the Founding Fathers revolted over a tea tax.  As if a simple tax was enough to enrage our nation into revolt, making it perfectly sensible for us to want to revolt against liberals taxes now.

And really, there is no finer example of delusional political advertising than this one, in my humble opinion.

And beyond the absurdity of this turd thinking he could lecture to Washington & Co about reasons to revolt, my favorite part is how upset he is about them revolting over a tea tax.  A tea tax!  Because for me, the emphasis is entirely different from the one he intended, as I'd think our Founding Fathers were absolute fools if their chief reason for rebelling was a tea tax.

And of course, the punchline is that Washington did gather an army over taxes, in order to enforce the Whiskey Tax Congress had passed.  It's as if we're to imagine our Founding Fathers wanted us to collect no taxes at all.  Yet all the same, many conservatives still insist the Founding Fathers were anti-taxation.

A Reason to Revolt

But let's just go to a source document on this one, and see what it is they were revolting against:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such disolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass [sic] our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Something tells me these guys had a little bit more on their minds than a tea tax. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Omitting God From America

Conservatives are such weird people.  I was just reading this letter which the Congressional Prayer Caucus sent to Obama, because they wanted Obama to issue a correction for not properly identifying their god as the source of America's greatness in speeches he's given.

Now, the first part of the correction I kind of understand, in that Obama said our national motto was "out of many one," which is only an unofficial national motto.  While our official national motto is "In God we trust."  And that's understandable, even if it's a bit lame, as E pluribus unum is one of our mottos, and it's really a lot better than the god one they came up with in the 50's.  But whatever.

But the other part is ridiculous, as they attack Obama for "omitting" God from his speeches, because he mentioned that we have unalienable rights, without mentioning who gave us these rights.  Similarly, they attack him for mentioning that we're united under one flag, without saying that we're "one nation under God."  They even went on to complain that he did this repeatedly, which proves that it wasn't accidental.

And I'm sorry, but that's just stupid.  It'd be one thing if he quoted from the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Alligence and skipped over the God parts.  But the idea that he's supposed to reference God every time he references the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance is absolutely moronic.  Seriously. 

Which Creator?

And the funny part is when they write:
The Declaration of Independence definitively recognizes God, our Creator, as the source of our rights.
But uh, that's not actually the case.  Because Jefferson surely could have written "they are endowed by God, their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights," had he wanted to.  But he didn't.  Hell, if he meant God, he could just have said "God," and left the Creator part out completely; as that would would have been implied.  But he didn't.  He didn't mention God at all. 

And the only use of the word "God," in the whole document is a reference to "Nature's God," which is most assuredly not His name.  Of course, "God" is merely God's nickname and not His name in any case, but there's certainly a distinction between "God" and "Nature's God."  And again, if they meant God, they would have said "God." 

And let's not forget that the Declaration quite clearly states that our rights are secured by the government, which derives its power from the consent of the governed.  And again, they could have said it derives power from God or that God secures our rights, but they didn't.  They didn't mention God at all.  Not by name, anyway.  It's as if they were being intentionally vague as to which Creator they were referring to, because it didn't really matter.  They had rights that couldn't be taken away, and it was up to men to take care of them.  And if they wanted biblical based laws, they certainly could have said so.

Now, maybe the Congressional Prayer Caucus might have some issues with Jefferson about this, as he certainly could have named which Creator he was referring to, and that's a conversation I'd really like to see.  I'm just imagining Michelle Bachman, Steve King and the rest of these freaks informing Jefferson of this omissions, right before he blows up on them and kicks them out of the bar they found him in.

And that's just something conservatives really don't let themselves think too much about, as to why it was that our Founding Fathers didn't bother mentioning God in the Declaration, or why they forgot to mention in the Constitution that all laws need to be based on the Bible.  And why they didn't think of "In God We Trust" as their national motto, or why they didn't force us all to recite a pledge to the flag.  Conservatives are all about turning the clock back to 1776, just as long as they get to keep the God stuff that came later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Thin End of the Wedge

Related to my previous post is a problem people have when they take real facts, speculate about them, and eventually turn that speculation into facts, which they then build upon.  And you see this sort of thing when one side presents a policy and the other side rejects that policy, not based upon the policy itself, but for what they speculate the "real" purpose of that policy is; which is always the thin end of the wedge.  The beginning of the end of whatever it is they hold dear.  So no policy is what it seems, as they all have nefarious goals which will eventually undermine our side completely.

And we see this with the current suggestion by liberals that we once again restrict the sort of high-capacity gun clips used by the insane guy in Tucson.  I mean, 2nd Amendment or not, why do we need to have Glocks that hold 33 bullets?  A smaller gun clip would have surely saved lives and even the NRA hasn't proposed any real world situation for why we need them.

But for them, it's not about the clips.  It's about what this ban will mean in future debates.  For them, this is just a nefarious plot: The thin end of the wedge towards a gun ban.  So they oppose this policy because of speculation of what this policy might mean, and the speculation becomes a fact that they now treat as reality.  They've already decided that Obama wants to destroy the 2nd Amendment, all evidence to the contrary, and they can now accept this latest proposal as just more of that push to destroy America.

Social Security Still Safe

And we see the same thing on the left.  Obama came up with an idea for giving workers more spending money by having the government pay a small portion of their Social Security for them.  And from there, liberals began speculating that this will eventually lead to Social Security being defunded and eventually dissolved.  And before you know it, this speculation of what might happen became a reality of what will happen and was a reason for not supporting a policy that will allow people to spend more money.

And this is something to be avoided.  Speculation is great and it's definitely a requirement for us to make educated guesses as to what the future implications of our actions will be; and it'd be irresponsible to not speculate about such things.  But...we shouldn't allow ourselves to convert speculation into reality.  Yes, renewing the ban on high-capacity gun clips might lead to more gun control, and allowing people to keep part of their Social Security tax while it gets paid by the government might lead to Social Security being defunded.  But this is only speculation and not reality.  Simply because a dreaded thing might occur doesn't mean it will occur.

Because yeah, there are real fears of any policy being the thin end of the wedge which helps destroy other policies.  But more often than not, most policies see a pendulum effect, not a momentum effect.  Success on one side makes future success more difficult, not easier.  A ban on high-capacity clips makes future bans more difficult.  And anyone who actually imagines Americans will accept a defunded Social Security just hasn't been paying attention. 

People will accept a lot of things, but hardline gun control and destroyed Social Security will simply not be tolerated.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is deluding themselves.  Maybe I'm wrong, but the evidence is clearly on my side. We must remain vigilant in protecting Social Security, but not allow ourselves to believe it's already been damaged.

An Ad Hominem Universe

Carpetbagger's got a great post about The Dangers of Epistemic Closure, in which he describes the problem conservatives have when they only accept facts and opinions from like-minded conservatives, including the dismissal of conservatives who ever stray from what they want to hear.  Basically, it's a garbage-in, garbage-out situation, and since they're fact-checking their garbage with more garbage, they only get more delusional with every passing day.

But of course, this doesn't only afflict people on the right, but is something everyone can fall victim to.  If the only news you're willing to accept is news that already agrees with you, you're going to have a hard time dealing with the real world; which can often have things you don't want to hear in it.

And one major problem is that too many people suffer from an ad hominem mindset, in which they reject a piece of news if it comes from the wrong source.  And even worse, they have a natural assumption of propaganda from any source that doesn't conform to what they want to hear; while they're too willing to accept news from a preferred source, without bothering to check if it's true.

Propaganda Isn't Always False

If the NY Times reports something negative about conservatives, then conservatives will naturally assume the Times has a hidden agenda and will dismiss the report.  Similarly, if Fox News reports something negative about liberals, then liberals will assume that Fox has a hidden agenda and will dismiss the report.

Now, of course, Fox News is propaganda and does have a hidden agenda that isn't even well hidden, so it's understandable why someone would dismiss them as a news source.  Yet all the same, facts are facts, and simply because Fox News reports something doesn't make it automatically false. 

Similarly, the NY Times does have a liberal bias, in the sense that reality has a liberal bias and the NY Times reports reality.  And so it's understandable that conservatives would dismiss this source because they so rarely report what conservatives want to hear.  And whenever the Times reports something they want to hear (which happens far more often then they'll admit), they'll think "Oh, if the liberal NY Times says it, then it really must be true," even if it's not.

Just the Facts

And the problem is that any source can have truths and facts hidden in them, no matter how propagandic they are.  And it's too easy to dismiss a fact, simply based upon its source.  But that's something we must reject if we want to know the truth. 

And the thing to do is to read news from all sources and really scour for the truth.  To not accept information just because it came from Krugman, Kos, or Kuchinich; or reject something because it came from Fox or RedState.  Only by doing independent research can we determine that "Obamacare" didn't have Death Panels, or that Obama's tax deal last month didn't defund Social Security.

Because it's not about who says the information, but what the information is; and even the most reliable source is only human and must be verified.  And if anything, we must be more vigilant when reading news from an accepted news source; not less.  And if you're not clicking through the links of your sources, and clicking through their links, and the links from those links, you might be getting deceived by someone who was themselves deceived.  Everyone's human; including those we agree with.

Fact Check Thyself

And most of all, it's ourselves that we must be most vigilant about double-checking.  It's easy to see when others are lying to us, but very difficult to see when we're lying to ourselves.  Yes, you can have a working assumption that RedState is full of shit most of the time, but when it comes to fact checking, we should assume them to be more trustworthy than ourselves. 

Only after triple-checking our own facts can we add it to the pile of information we use for other fact-checking.  And if the only information you're willing to accept is the information that immediately confirms your own beliefs, then you probably don't know what you're talking about. 

That's why I read Washington Monthly and TPM and other sources that report what conservatives are saying; while generally avoiding liberal sites that only report liberal news and opinions.  And why I scour Yahoo News for stories of all types, while visiting sites like RedState.  Many commenters at WaMo and TPM deride them for focusing too much on what conservatives say, insisting that we should be discussing liberal policies.  But to me, that's exactly opposite.  Because we already know our own facts and opinions.  It's healthy to know what the other side is saying, just to make sure we're not missing something.

So I look towards outside sources in order to get as much information as possible, as well as engaging in any debate I can, while avoiding discussions with people who already agree with me; so as to not get caught in echo chambers and mutual admiration circle-jerks.  And if you're dismissing a story solely because it was reported by a source you don't trust, then you can't possibly have any way of verifying your own beliefs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tear Down This Idiot

I was starting a different post which unfortunately required me to go to RedState and saw the first post which was Trying to Erase 'Tear Down This Wall' by Moe Lane. And first off, that title.  Huh? What? I know creating titles for blogposts can be a bit wearisome, but that's an awkwardly phrased title, to say the least.

The point of the post is that Ron Reagan Jr. (which Moe repeatedly refers to as "the boy," in a deliberate attempt to put Ron in his place, in accordance with Moe's juvenile understanding of the universe), has written a book about his father in which he claims that Reagan had Alzheimer's as early as 1984 and would have resigned in 1987, had it been diagnosed at the time.

Oh, 1987, you say?  That can only mean one thing, right?  I mean, 1987?  Eh, eh?  We all know why The Boy might have picked that year, right?  Right? 

Oh, wait.  You don't know?  It's not obvious to you, because you're not stuck using Moe Lane's delusional mind?  Well then, I'll just have to clue you in: That was the year Reagan gave his now famous "Tear Down This Wall" speech which led to the immediate destruction of the Soviet Union, a mere four and a half years later.

Picking 1987 Because We Hate Reagan

Now you're seeing it, right?  It's perfectly obvious why The Boy picked that year, right?  Right?  What?  You're still not getting it?  Well maybe you're the one with Alzheimer's, then.  Ok, fine.  I'll let Moe connect the dots for you. 
Before they hated Sarah Palin, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleeza Rice, or George W Bush, the Left hated Ronald Wilson Reagan.  They hated and feared him - and not least for the way that he destroyed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in eight short years.  It’s not even that he did it; it’s that he did it so apparently effortlessly.
And yes, one of the big reasons liberals hated Reagan while he was in office was because he destroyed Mother Russia almost three years after he left office.  Because yeah, we all know how much us liberals pine for the glory days of the Soviet Union, and gnash our teeth that we lost.

And Reagan's work was so effortless that it didn't seem like he did a god damn thing and even our best intel completely failed to predict it. It was only in hindsight that anyone suggested that Reagan could beat the Soviets, as he never said that was his plan at all. That's what good presidenting is all about.

Reverse-Engineered Smears

But it looks like Moe figured out our trick.  We told The Boy to use that year because we hated Reagan so much.  And so, uhm, err...hold on.  I lost the thought train on this one.  We picked 1987 because we knew people think of that speech when they think of 1987 and want them to think he was senile when he made it would erase the speech from our memories if we thought he had memory issues when he made it? 

Wait, huh?  That can't be right. Ok, sorry. I blew it.  I thought I understood Moe's point, but realize he lost me completely. 

And was the pick of 1987 a smear on Reagan, or on the significance of that speech? I fail to see how it works on either count. And, well, screw it.  I can't figure this out.  Even with my famed biobrain, I can't quite grasp the logic Moe was working with here. 

My best guess is that he reverse-engineered the smear.  He saw the year 1987 and searched for some significant event that happened that year; assuming that Ron was up to some trick.  And seeing as how 1987 really wasn't that great of a year for Reagan, with his approval ratings at a four-year low, half the country considering him "out of touch with what is going on in the government," and Iran-Contra looming large, I guess it makes sense that Moe had to settle on a non-event that could only look impressive in hindsight...assuming the hindsight was by a childlike partisan trying desperately to link a single speech to an event that happened four years later.  Particularly as the rest of Reagan's 1987 sounds kind of like a mildly senile guy having a hard time at an extremely difficult job.

And so yeah, sure, maybe someone might see some connection between the overall cluelessness Reagan exhibited during the Iran-Contra blow-up and the mental issues which supposedly appeared out of nowhere after he left office.  But dammit, Reagan sure sounded good when he was reading a speech written by someone else.  So it's gotta be the speech that The Boy was referring to, and not any actual events which might support his case.

Oh, and in case you were wondering.  No, the book hasn't come out yet and Moe hasn't read it.  He merely read a quote from the book, in which Ron wrote:
Had the diagnosis been made in, say 1987, would he have stepped down? I believe he would have.
From that, he concluded that Ron Reagan is trying to erase "Tear Down the Wall;" whatever that means.  And that's pretty much SOP for conservatives.  They're great at telling you about liberal conspiracies to destroy their legacy, but not so great at explaining how the conspiracy is supposed to work.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paying for Government Mistakes

And so I'm reading about how Illinois is passing a temporary tax hike and how Republicans are insisting that this is the end of the world and lots of businesses will pack up and move.  As if we're to imagine that a tax increase from 4.8% to 7% would somehow justify the cost of moving your entire business to another state...especially when that other state still has higher taxes.

And then I read this oddity:
"We're saying to the people of Illinois, `For eight years we've overspent, now we're going to make it your problem,'" said Rep. Roger Eddy. "We're making up for our mistakes on your back."
It's as if this money just up and vanished.  No roads were built.  No children were educated.  It didn't pay a retired firefighter's pension.  It all went to waste.  Just a mistake, really.  Nobody but the politicians wanted this spending.  It just happened...for eight years.

But of course, government spending doesn't just disappear.  Sure, some of it gets siphoned off due to corruption and waste; particularly in Illinois.  But the vast majority of it goes towards the very people who paid for it.*  Even the funds that are paid to employees get spent, the same as a paycheck from any other employer.  And seeing as how the main areas Republicans want to cut go towards healthcare for the poor and elderly, as well as other aid programs; I'm a bit confused as to how these are mistakes.

But that's just par for the course with Republicans.  It's all about rallying against unnamed government expenses, because if you name them, you start to get unpopular.  That's why Republicans are so insistent upon getting Democrats to agree with them on spending cuts, because they wouldn't dare touch this money otherwise.

*Post updated to mention government corruption.

Gimme My America Back

And so I was reading this interesting piece about we've blocked off public access to many important buildings in Washington D.C. for better security.  And if you've got a moment, I recommend reading it, because it was fairly interesting.  Go on.  I can wait.

And as I usually do when I read stories on Yahoo, I scanned down to see what the crazies on the messageboard were saying.  I'm not sure why.  Yahoo's messageboard is truly one of the worst cesspools of idiocy I've seen this side of RedState.  Seriously.  Even the smart ones are pretty dumb, and the dumb ones are f-ing scary. 

Here's a sample of some of the crazy I found there:
We are no longer an open society thanks to the radicals most of whom are the Muslims. They can be very warm people just before they cut your head off with what ever is close. Doesn't even have to be sharp.
Wondering Soul

This country has turned into that overbearing government bureaucracy our forefathers fled from. The Constitution, that great historical document is merely words on paper. Our freedoms have been taken away to the point where we are no longer free but subservient to those who hold power and control over us. Wake up America! Shake off those chains which do bind you. Awake and arise! Return this country to its foundation of liberty and justice for all!
Return to Freedom

Yep, all of the buildings we used to just be able to waltz right in, we get the denied sign. But as I read below, i agree with alot of others here. Who Cares? for those of you who may live near D.C., have you seen the reflecting pool on the mall?? Its down right disgusting, the only thing that its reflecting is the constant @#$% that keeps coming out of our politicians mouths on the daily bases. I could give a rats @#$% about our buildings, gimmie my @#$% country back!!! For those of you who read this and think otherwise, im independent.

Good bye America. It was nice knowing you. You sure were great once. I'm glad I'm old enough to have seen you then. It was something! Whatever this grotesque aberration is today that calls itself America, has more in common with Komrade Stalin or Herr Hitler. This is no longer America.
David Selznik

Has anyone seen my country? If you have please send it home.
Just a Man

they have won

I'm not sure which one I like best.  Wondering Soul was a good one, with his warm Muslims who cut your head off spiel.  Presumably, he wasn't speaking from personal experience, but then again, that would explain a few things.  But really, they're all pretty good. 

We're All Victims Now

Now mind you, these all came from the first page of comments I found.  I didn't go hunting for these.  The screen showed ten posts and six of them were batshit crazy.  And let me tell you, this is the saddest bunch of ragtag victims ever.  They had their country taken from them and they're desperate to get it back.  But what do they even mean by that?  What is being denied to them?  Who knows?  They never say.  It's all about how things used to be better, without a hint as to what it is they think they're actually being denied.

And that's because they can't really admit what their problem is, because it sounds so stupid.  And their real complaint is that they're not living the lives that they imagined they were promised, and now they're bitter about it because they're stuck having to live the same reality as everyone else.  They wanted to be the sports star, the cowboy, the rich guy; just like they were promised they could.  But instead, they're stuck working a shitty job so they can support their shitty wives and shitty little kids.

That's the America these bozos are pining for.  They don't care about having the right to discriminate or tell sexist jocks.  What they want is their dreams.  They want to be the winning quarterback.  They want to be Dirty Harry.  They want to be the hero, yet they're just extras.  They were assured that there was something special about them, and they want the shiny new America back; the one they were imagined they were promised so long ago.