Thursday, December 31, 2009

The History of Liberalism

This might be a longer than usual post. Michael McBride's latest article purports to give a history of liberalism, leading up to it's natural conclusion, which is public nudity. Yep. Liberalisms end game is public nudity. Bet you didn't see that coming.

But let's not neglect the journey.
American liberalism initially manifested itself with the emergence of suffrage drives, with Wilson’s pandering for the League of Nations, and with the relaxing of mores during the twenties. Morals were plied with the consumption of prohibited beverages and further trod upon by the liberating sense of rebellion that came with doing so.
Hmmmmm. Well he's partially right - the late 1800s early 1900s did contain the progressives, and Wilson did try to create the League of Nations (which Congress then neutered). On the other hand it's hilarious for McBride to imply the Jazz age was some kind of liberal period - rather the government was thoroughly conservative in policy and program. And liberals of that period were more likely to be pro-Prohibition rather than avid drinkers. I suppose he's trying to make a connection to the sixties, but it's rather tenuous. Still it's not as ahistorical as the next bit.
Such exuberance was quickly snuffed out by the harsh realities of the Great Depression, Nazism, the bleak existence most families found themselves in, and the eventual national commitment to a two front war. There was scant time available for dalliances with anything that wasn’t practical and immediate. Concepts and ideas outside of the very real and necessary were left to those in the colleges of America and Europe or to professional philosophers and theorists.
I find myself wondering if McBride has ever heard of the New Deal, which kind of sprung up out of the harsh realities of the Great Depression. Or FDR, Liberal Icon, who ran the country during this period. Or the dozens of progressive programs that got there start in the 1930s. I guess not.
Then, after a relatively brief period of peace, America elected a young Senator from the uber-liberal state of Massachusetts, and liberalism was once again uncorked. Fermented by years of being bottled up by the necessities imposed by the outside world, liberalism was unleashed full tilt into a generation excited by the charisma of a core of liberal politicos who enthralled them. Eager to escape their depression educated parents and their parents’ puritanical concepts in child rearing; this generation accelerated past the standard bearers and never looked back. Chicago 1968.

Based on the reasonable concepts of equal civil rights (although it took Republicans to actually get civil rights legislation passed in the sixties; over objections of many Democrats), women’s rights, taking care of the poor and protecting the weak, liberal thought was embraceable by many who felt blessed in those heady times.
I particularly like the one line reference to Chicago 1968. Charitably I'll assume he intended to expand on the idea, and put that in there to remind himself, but forgot. I'll also note that while Republicans did support Civil Rights Legislation, Conservatives did not. And those Conservatives who fought against Civil Rights legislation soon found a new home in the Republican Party where they have been to this day.

And then we get to McBride's denouement - the goal of Liberalism.
Soon liberal thought pushed well past the novel concepts of civil rights, sexual equality, and governmental support of the poor, to free love, sexual freedom, feminism, abortion rights, and exaggerated forms of freedom of expression, including; burning the flag, urinating and defecating on religious symbols, vulgarity in art and music, tolerance of all manner and combination of sexual encounters, right to self-euthanize, and the consumption of all manner of mind bending drugs, among others.
Fascinating. But I suppose this puts his earlier nonsensical comments about prohibition in context. And the argument that Public Nudity is Liberalisms endgame. Although I think urinating and defecating on religious symbols might be worse than public nudity. He gets around to a very liberal town with a very liberal public nudity policy in which some of the residents are upset at the amount of public nudity. So some liberals think there should be more public nudity while others think there should be less public nudity. This exposes the fault lines of modern liberalism between the crazy extremist liberals and the moderate liberals. He cheerfully predicts that these differences will destroy the liberal movement shortly, and hopes that conservatives are ready to take over.

I don't know - I am anti-public-nudity (particularly my own (there are individuals for whom my anti-public-nudity stance is weaker, but it's chilly and rainy here today and it just seems cruel to expect them to walk around naked)), and yet I am still willing to vote for and support Democrats and Liberals. Perhaps I'm an outlier.

Where does President Obama stand on Public Nudity?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smash Terrorists Now!

Austin Bay's latest article is on a subject that's pretty popular around the right wing right now; President Obama is a wimp for not immediately blowing the hell out of Yemen. Austin Bay's is not unique, but it is pretty representative.
Big mouths hooked to minds fogged with anti-American cant hindered U.S. defense efforts during the Cold War. Their descendant America haters in the Internet era provide philosophical succor to al-Qaida. The fanatics interpret apologies and guilt-trips as signs of weakness and incipient decay, the bleats of a corrupt culture wallowing in self-doubt. This is not conjecture. Pro-terrorists websites see the defeatist tripe as a divine sign al-Qaida is winning.

For decades, the Blame Amerika Crowd has made a media living alleging attacks on American citizens, U.S. embassies and U.S. territory are somehow, someway provoked by the U.S. The "America Is Guilty" smear would be a laugher except the major TV networks and The New York Times give this baloney headline credence, especially when a Republican is president.
Yeah - it's all liberals fault. I mean other than invading Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing the hell out other parts of the Middle East, strongly supporting Israel, supporting repressive regimes (like Saddam Hussein for a while) it's not like we've ever done anything to the Middle East.

In fairness I think many of those (particularly our alliance with Israel and the invasion of Afghanistan) can be defended. But it is somewhat sad to believe that some in the middle east might disagree. I'm reminded of something Paul O'Brien said a while back about a particularly heinous Captain America comic book.
For christ's sake, the central argument of this issue fancies itself as a comparison between the moral values of Al-Qaeda and the USA. Even without turning Al-Qaeda into one-dimensional cartoons or airbrushing American history, it would scarcely be a challenge to bring the USA out on top in this argument. But the suggestion that the other side might have a point, or that the USA could be remotely flawed, is inadmissible in this comic. Repellently, a flimsy facsimile of a counter-argument is put forward so that it can be brushed aside, under pretext of showing the opposite side of the argument. That's your counter-argument, get back to waving your flags.
But no in the world of small minded Austin Bay, there are no reasons for terrorists to hate and no reason to consider what we might do differently.

We are back to "If we kill enough of them Muslims they're bound to start liking us." Fortunately the man actually in charge doesn't seem to subscribe to that point of view.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

News from the Past - December 29, 1929

Depressing news from the past this Sunday of long ago. Among the rejected stories was one about a rancher who's killed himself after getting his ankle crushed by a horse and another saying that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. But instead I went with this story that is initially funny and then sad, from the Helena Independent out of Helena, Montana.
Supposed Dead Hubby
Returns for Spouse

Kansas City, Dec. 28.—(£•)—In 1921, Wilber M Rogers married Mrs. Albert Farley. They moved to a home near Overland Park, Kan. Recently two men came to the home.
"We want to see the family Bible " they told Rogers.
"Why"" Rogers demanded.
"Because I am Albert Farley, your wife's first husband, and this is our son," said the older of the
two men.
Then the elder Farley explained he was not dead, as his wife had been informed by a telegram years ago after a separation of several years. Farley has been seeking his wife for years, not knowing she had married again.
Rogers has filed an annulment suit in district court and written the details of the reappearance of
Farley to the wife, who is at present caring for an invalid mother in Canton. N. Y.
"One husband is enough for one woman and Farley has prior claim." philosophizes Rogers.
Like I say funny then sad.

Healthcare Reform Revisited

Again I generally want to see the healthcare bill pass, but I can't deny there are a lot of problems with it, particularly the Senate Christmas Bill. Bob Herbert highlights some of these problems in his latest article.
Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.
It is pretty troubling to consider. I hope that some elements of this draconian plan can be smoothed out in committee or over the next few years.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Few Pastors

Star Parker's latest article is calling us to repentance in this holiday season, referring back to 9/11.
After the horrendous attacks on September 11, 2001, a few Christian pastors stepped up to say that the unprecedented violation of America's homeland was a sign of weakness within our nation.

They weren't talking about how we gather intelligence or how we check travelers at the airport.

. . . The weakness which led to our vulnerability on that infamous September day, said those pastors, was moral, not technical. For this, they were widely denounced.
Presumably she's talking about Jerry Falwell's statement shortly after the bombing.
The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'
So, this is the sort of thinking that Star Parker wants to celebrate. Of course she doesn't cite this quote or even reference the individuals involved (Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, on whose show Falwell made these quotes and who agreed with him (later claiming he hadn't actually heard what Falwell said)). I suppose because the ugliness of the remarks would turn off some people, and the people who wouldn't be turned off by the quotes already know them.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ben Shapiro, Still Young After All These Years

Most people studying the healthcare bill about to be passed by congress have twigged to the fact that it's a giveaway to the insurance industry. Jonah Goldberg admits as much in his latest article, and why not. It's not like people are raring to defend health insurance companies.

But not Ben Shapiro; in his latest article, he's determined to paint the insurance companies as victims (even as he calls for consumers to stop using them).
Congressional Democrats, after all their faux wrangling, open bribery and bully tactics, are poised to reach agreement on a massive makeover of the American health system. This makeover will bankrupt the insurance companies, raise premiums, and eventually lead to the full nationalization of health care.
He recommends that American doctors begin refusing payments from both insurers and medicaid, and only consent to treat patients who pay for their own health care. This will somehow bring costs down through "competition." Another possibility - the Doctors trying this foolish scheme go out of business as their customers go across the street to someone who will take their health insurance/medicaid cards.

He also encourages every healthy American to refuse to get health insurance and to be willing to go to court to fight for the right not to have health insurance, and he advocates not electing Obama or Democrats. OK, I kind of see where he's coming from on that last one.

Still it does kind of speak to Shapiro's mentality. I'm not a fan of the phrase Ivory Tower Academic, but it does seem to fight Shapiro - he really doesn't seem to have a clue how the world works.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Generic War on Christmas Post

I have been tired of the War on Christmas for a long time, and have largely avoided it this season. But sometimes you come across something you gotta flag up. Matt Barber's latest article takes on this subject with traditional subtlety.
Are you as annoyed as I am by that nauseatingly amorphous phrase “Happy Holidays?” You may be interested to know that the mindset behind the term precedes America’s postmodern love affair with political correctness, tracing back to good ol’ fashioned Cold War Communism (PC’s uglier big sister).

Indeed, today’s secularist war on Christmas (yes, the one that, like God, many liberals deny exists) was waged, in large part, when Communists began attempting to supplant the deity of Christ (and His associated Judeo-Christian principles) with the false deity of the State.
It's a pretty traditional take on the system. He has one example of this omnipresent war on Christmas (a school in Wisconsin that rewrote the lyrics to Silent Night). It's got the connections to Communist Russia (obviously). The muddleheaded suggestion that liberals want Americans to worship government. The total lack of awareness that other faiths have holidays around this time of year. In other words it's a vigorous but somewhat same-y article on the war on Christmas.

I really do think that Conservatives are in danger of being the boys who cried "war on Christmas." This year these articles do not seem as high pitched as previous, and given American Conservatives concern about who is in the White House, you'd think there would be an uptick in this type of story. Maybe there is but I haven't been seeing it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Evil President Obama

Robert Chapin's latest article lacks a certain restraint when it comes to discussing President Obama.
Never before in our history has an American president, deliberately and by design, risked our very survival to a maniacal enemy power sworn to remove America from the world. Yet from all appearances, this is exactly what Obama is doing by failing to vigorously oppose Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

. . . The practical consequences of Obama’s extreme radical left agenda can only be to put our nation at the mercy of a new world order dominated by ruthless tyrants, thugs and spineless states who sell their souls for commercial gain. His first allegiance is to such an international order – not to the United States.

Obama is not only unfit to serve as commander-in-chief in a time of war, he is a menace to our national security.

. . . Take heed America, Obama’s policies may be paving the way for a nuclear doomsday.
Let's give Chapin some credit. Unlike most Muslim Menace articles, he at least does say what he wants Obama to do. Vigorously fund Missile Defense and invade Iran, with or without the international community. Those seem like foolish steps to me, but it's better than vague pronouncements that we need to do something to stop Muslims without actually saying what we need to do.

Still he does seem a bit over the top doesn't he? I suppose in his minds the steps he advocates are so clear and obvious that for Obama not to be following them proves he's on the Mullah's side. I think Mr. Chapin needs to get out a bit more.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Health Care

I generally come down on the side of the health care debate that says that this is the best bill we could get just now, and it's a lot better than the status quo so lets pass it and amend it. I am concerned that failure to pass something will lead to another 15 years of no progress on this issue and I'm not in favor of that.

That said, I find this post by Glenn Greenwald, arguing that President Obama's protestations of innocence are a little disingenuous.
. . . the idea that the White House did what it could to ensure the inclusion of progressive provisions -- or that they were powerless to do anything about it -- is absurd on its face. Whatever else is true, the overwhelming evidence points to exactly what Sen. Feingold said yesterday: "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place."
I kind of agree, and find myself wondering what was possible if President Obama had gone to the mattress for what he claimed to support.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You are known by the company you keep

Terry Jeffries latest article argues that Obama should be against marriage, church going, prosperity and longevity. Apparently Obama does well with people who aren't married, who don't go to church, who aren't prosperous, or who haven't lived that long.

This is kind of a slam on Obama but it makes no sense if you spend even a moment thinking about it. The Church Goer thing, well, that's been around for a while, but the other ones? Does it occur to Jeffries that maybe the reason the poor support Obama is that they would like the opportunity to get prosperous? And the split between youth voters and older voters has been around since the 60s.

He also presents statistics that, for example, show that 42% of church goers support Obama (although a higher percentage of non-church goers or occasional church goers support Obama), which kind of implies that many church goers do, in fact, like Obama and like what he is doing. He presents similar statistics for the other groups. Similar figures exist in all of his categories. And yet he has the courage to make this statement.
The people who form the backbone of our society -- the married, churchgoing, hard-working, experienced members of our national community -- do not believe what Obama is doing today as president serves their interests.
Jeffrey is positing a split in this society based on faulty math and wishful thinking. He is pitting the successful against the failures, the old against the young, the married against the singles, when the figures he presents don't really support that interpretation. At the very least you have to admit that all of the categories he presents are divided on whether or not President Obama is doing a good job.

Fair enough. He's not making an argument that actually makes sense, rather he is stroking the egos of his readers. Always a popular policy, even if it is less the honest at times.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Have to Understand the Argument before You Can Refute It

Dennis Prager's latest article asks the question of whether or not America is focused on making good people anymore. He takes the time to note that he, like many conservatives, believes that external conditions do not create bad people, and poverty doesn't lead to crime.
Now, while no one could possibly refute the argument that starving people will steal bread for their families (an act that is morally defensible), the argument that poverty causes crime posits that when poor people in America commit murder and other violent crimes, it is because they are poor.

This is irrational dogma, as much a matter of faith as any theological doctrine. Two simple facts illustrate this: First, the vast majority of poor people, in America and elsewhere, do not commit violent crimes. Second, a large amount of crime is committed by the middle class and even by the wealthy. Neither fact prompts the "poverty causes crime" believers to rethink their position.
This is a lousy argument on a few points, but mostly because Prager doesn't seem to understand what the argument is.

Poverty doesn't make people into criminals; people have the opportunity to choose (Prager is right on this point). What poverty does, to put it in a religious sense, is tempt people to commit crimes. If you are poor, and you don't see any legitimate way out of your poverty, crime becomes a viable escape route. If society seems broken and doesn't flat work for some people, than those people are going to turn to methods outside of society.

Consider for a moment; both Christianity and Judaism consider fornication (i.e. sex outside of marriage) a sin. Lets say, some perverse billionaire decides to just mess with people, so he opens a free whore house. Totally free and safe. Hygienic. Yes, many people would decide not to go to the free whore house. But some would. Over time, many would (particularly as people got the idea that there weren't direct consequences to their actions). The spiritual damage to the community would presumably be great (and, in fairness, there would probably be some direct family damage as well). In that context is it enough for the Billionaire to say "Well some people aren't coming around to my free whore house. And look some people are fornicating with work mates. So you can't hold me responsible for the spiritual damage my free whore house is causing."

That's a pretty sad argument in fact. When you take action to create temptation, you are sinning yourself. And it is perhaps a more serious sin than those who fall into your trap. Consider Jeremiah 5:25-27.
25 Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.

26 For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.

27 As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.
I think that describes my fictional billionaire pretty well. And, perhaps, that describes us a society. Not all the time and not all of us, but when we are basically happy to let children grow up in poverty, grow up without hope, without dreams, well, maybe that's not the best thing in the world. And it reflects badly on us as a society.

Monday, December 14, 2009

History Moons

Specifically history should moon Allen Hunt, for his latest aticle. I do feel kind of silly taking a "Muslim Menace" article to task for not being historical, but there it is. In his latest article, Hunt attacks Obama for noting that the evils of Islam are the evils of a few and that the religion as a whole isn't a threat to America. This conflicts with Hunts assertion that Islam is an evil and violent religion.

In particular he berates Obama for bringing up the Crusades. Apparently a gentleman named Jonathan Riley-Smith has written a book on the Crusades which asserts that the Crusades were all the Muslims fault and that Western Europe acted honorably throughout the period. Quite an assertion.
President Obama continues to show a lack of history education as he likens the Crusaders to the Muslim jihadists. That ignorance is unacceptable. One would hope that in an Ivy League education that included undergraduate years at Columbia and law school at Harvard, the President would have had access to a non-politically correct reading of history.
This is ahistorical. If Riley-Smith's book does literally assert that the Christians are completely innocent of any wrong doing during the Crusades, it is so out of step with the historical record and historical opinion as to be, at the least, controversial. Taking Obama to task for failing to agree with the one person Hunt agrees with and then portraying Obama as ignorant for failing to agree with the one person Hunt agrees with, well, I've describe such behavior as childish before.

Hunt plays the numbers game as well.
Given that about 0.6% (1.35 MM) of the adult American population is Muslim according to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, that very small population clearly generates an inordinate number of terroristic males.
This will be enough to convince idiots impressed by the mere existence of numbers, but of course isn't very convincing when you look at what he's actually saying. The relevant numbers would be the ones that showed what percent of Muslim men are committing these crimes, presumably compared to what percent of the general public commits violent crimes. But those numbers, I'm guessing, don't back up Hunt's point, so he brings up this nonsensical comparison.

Hunt also suggests that as a Noble Peace Prize winner, Obama should be the first to declare war on Islam (like all Muslim Menace articles Hunt fails to suggest what he thinks should actually be done about the Mulims in our midst). Not sure if Hunt understands what Obama got the award for.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Paul Krugman on Healthcare

I haven't read Krugman in a while, but he's still quite good. His latest notes that the current health care bill will make significant strides in bringing down the cost of healthcare. Not exactly what Republicans are saying, but he seems convincing enough to me.
. . . the proposed health care reform links the expansion of coverage to serious cost-control measures for Medicare. Think of it as a grand bargain: coverage for (almost) everyone, tied to an effort to ensure that health care dollars are well spent.

Are we talking about real savings, or just window dressing? Well, the health care economists I respect are seriously impressed by the cost-control measures in the Senate bill, which include efforts to improve incentives for cost-effective care, the use of medical research to guide doctors toward treatments that actually work, and more. This is “the best effort anyone has made,” says Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Unfortunately he notes that the Republican party has made strenuous efforts to demonize this particular part of the plan, meaning that, if this bill fails, meaningful reform may have to wait another few decades at which point the situation will be a lot worse.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Limbaugh and Hannity

I listened to a bit of Limbaugh and Hannity yesterday. Limbaugh was down on Obama's speech on Afghanistan, saying that we were basically promising to surrender in a year and a half. He then commented on the theory that we would build up the Afghan Troops, stating that some of them don't even know what a pencil is. I swear I heard this, and it really made me laugh, but I can't find the quote.

Then Hannity had a person on who had been to see Sarah Palin. Apparently Sarah Palin had autographed his back, and he had immediately run out and gotten a tattoo of the signature. What was that about Obama's cult of personality again?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I'm Down

David Limbaugh's latest article is on Healthcare Reform, or Obamacare as he calls it.
With the information that has now come to light about the costs of "reform," there is no other rational explanation for Obama's obsession to enact Obamacare than his desire to increase government control over every aspect of our lives.
No other rational explanation. I guess those of us who think he and congressional Democrats might actually want to improve health care are irrational.