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Politics | jonmower.com

Politics

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The argument for the public option (in brief)

...the private health insurance industry is irreversibly compromised by its need to turn a profit. But we don't want people's access to health care to be governed by whether or not they're profitable.

Ezra Klein (link)

James Taranto on Authoritarian Impulses

From his Wall Street Journal column (link):

We still find all of this [rhetoric from the Obama administration that to some seems authoritarian] far from alarming. American institutions are strong enough, and the country’s culture of freedom deep-seated enough, to thwart any authoritarian impulses Obama and his men may have.

James Taranto on Calling Someone a Nazi

The conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal had this to say about calling your political opponent a Nazi (link):

…we disapprove, on both rhetorical and moral grounds, of comparisons between Obama and Hitler or ObamaCare and Nazism. (It should go without saying that such expression is fully protected by the First Amendment.) One should never in earnest liken a political opponent to the Nazis if that opponent does not practice or advocate genocide or totalitarianism.

To do so is a rhetorical error because it calls attention away from the speaker’s message and toward his lack of perspective. It is a moral error because of that lack of perspective. There may be plausible arguments that ObamaCare is evil in intent or would be evil in effect, but it is insane to equate it to the singular evil of Nazism. The easy recourse to Nazi analogies--far more common on the left than the right--debases the currency of moral outrage and can only diminish moral clarity.

Miscellany May 13, 2009

» While conservatives understandably are exercised about the apparent double standard of Wanda Sykes filleting Limbaugh while Obama sat by grinning (what if it had been a Republican president and a liberal being attacked?), we should also try to imagine how conservatives would react to a liberal former VP enjoying his retirement by attacking the sitting conservative president.  Well, we don't have to imagine.  In today's article skewering Cheney, Dowd gives several examples of how conservatives responded in similar situations when the tables were turned.  So, which way do I prefer it?  I guess I'd lean towards everyone feeling free to speak their minds...but let's have some consistency.  Don't freak out over a conservative making a joke in poor taste if you don't do the same when a liberal does it.  Don't freak out about a liberal ex-leader criticizing the actions of a sitting president if you don't do the same when a conservative does it.

» Timothy Noah makes the case for why he thinks Republicans are sore losers in presidential politics.

» Real Life Twitter (h/t Mike Todd)

» Stewart impales Pelosi:

Miscellany 6 May 2009

» Who ever said America was on the road to perdition?  Surely we've got things turned around now that we're getting tough on "fleeting expletives!"

» If you make a big deal about transparency regarding the ~$800 billion stimulus and about how every dime will be track-able at recovery.gov, you really ought to deliver...and if you don't, at least have the sense not to blame your failure on inadequate data storage capacity.  This is 2009! (h/t WSJ)

» "Obama takes Jesus' advice: "when you pray, go into your room, close the door & pray to your Father, who is unseen"" Surely no one will take a dig at him for that, right? (link) (h/t Jimmy Shaw)

Miscellany April 27, 2009

» This recent news story (about a 23-year-old resident of our town being hired by his uncle to kill his aunt but aborting the mission when one his cousins was also in the house when he arrived to do the deed) really got me somehow.  You hear about stuff like this all of the time on TV and in places far the way, but it felt strange thinking about someone in my community being hired by his uncle to kill his aunt and acting on it.

» What little confidence I had left in the financial guys calling the shots in the current and previous administrations is dwindling quickly (e.g., this and this)

» I don't accept that whether or not torture "works" is the main issue in determining whether or not we should torture, but if you do: how bothered would you be if it was true that the real "...ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections" (link) ?

» Unless you're a Marine, please stop with the "Ooh-rah!"

The Most Bizarre Letter to the Editor Ever

Last week our paper, the Midland Daily News, published a letter to the editor by Jeffrey D. Behr titled "World changing."  After alluding to childhood trauma and thoughts of suicide, his reasons for writing letters to the editor despite the negative impact they might have on his business, and the ways he believes that the United States has become "perverse," Jeffrey ends his letter with with this fascinating paragraph:

We have elected Barack Hussein Obama to be our president. He and his wife are actually haters of America, bent on punishing anyone who disagrees with them and punishing America for slavery. My greatest prayer these days is that God will rise up our founders and give them a chance to make up for that terrible and evil mistake, giving them the power, utensils, equipment, command of animals, insects, viruses and bacteria. Their mission being to move over our great country and destroy all adult human beings who do not have authentic, good, honorable American spirits. When the smoke clears there would only be a remnant few still standing. People of all colors, sizes and shapes. Christians, Jews, Islamics, Catholics and agnostics too. We would at that point be the most powerful nation in the world in spite of the human loss.

The Founding Fathers raised from the dead and controlling the insects! Wow.

No, actually, the government is not calling you a "right-wing extremist"

Friends, I understand that you have a very low opinion of the Obama administration and would not be surprised at all if they considered you to be an "extremist" because you are pro-gun, pro-life, believe in limited government, are concerned about illegal immigration, etc...BUT, I read the DHS report about right-wing extremists (link)  that has your knickers in a twist.  I also read a recent DHS report about left-wing extremists (link) and a recent press release from the FBI about left-wing extremists (link).

It is clear to me that all of the mainstream conservatives who are claiming that the DHS is calling them "right-wing extremists" are misreading what the report is saying (assuming they have read it).  The report is about right-wing extremist groups.  Reading the report (and the one about left-wing extremists groups), it is clear that extremism as far as the DHS is concerned is defined by the proclivity to resort to violence (which is common sense anyway because that is what DHS seeks to prevent).  Violence is mentioned throughout the reports.

The reports do identify issues of concern to many right-wing extremist groups (states rights, gun rights, immigration, abortion, etc.) and left-wing extremists groups (globalization, the environment, animal rights, etc.)...BUT, those things are not what defines an extremist.  Proclivity to violence is what defines extremists.  Normal conservatives and liberals (like you and me) are also often concerned about immigration, abortion, the environment, animal rights, etc.  Unless we are contemplating acts of violence and terrorism in response to our concerns, we are not extremists in the eyes of DHS.  The DHS report does mention some specific examples of right-wing extremist groups (militias and white supremacists) but does not, given a fair reading, equate normal people who are concerned about abortion or gun rights with extremists like those.

Again, let me emphasize, there is an important distinction here that is critical to understanding these reports. The report on right-wing extremists does not identify core conservative values as extreme. Instead, it indicates that some extremists are motivated by core conservative values. The left-wing reports indicate that some extremists are motivated by a stereotypically core liberal value (environmentalism), but that is entirely different from identifying environmentalism as an extreme value!  When someone states the fact that some extremist groups that perpetrate violence against abortion providers are (of course) motivated by opposition to abortion, obviously I should not take that to imply that I am an extremist just because I oppose abortion.

That, to me, is a common sense reading of the recent reports on extremism.  Of course, I don't necessarily expect everyone to use common sense in reading reports like these.  Some people will tell you that the DHS is calling you a "right-wing extremist" and, again, I understand that you are inclined to believe them (given your very low opinion of the Obama administration).  However, as far as I can tell, those people who are telling you that are not actually telling you the truth.

National Indebtedness

I recently cited an article on taxes in Forbes by Bruce Bartlett, economist and former Reagan administration official.  From a recent follow-up from Bartlett:

The truth is that the greatest addition to national indebtedness occurred in 2003 when Bush rammed through the Republican Congress a massive expansion of Medicare to provide drug benefits even though the system was already broke. According to the latest report from Medicare's trustees, the drug benefit added $7.9 trillion to the nation's indebtedness. This should have led to massive tax protests on April 15, 2004. But, of course, there weren't any. Those protesting this week were only protesting because it is a Democrat who has increased the deficit. When a Republican did worse, it's like Emily Litella used to say, "Never mind."

Of course, people are free to protest whatever they want whenever they want, and are also free to change their minds. Maybe this week's tax protesters would have been out protesting even if McCain were president, but I don't think so. I believe this was largely a partisan exercise designed to improve the fortunes of the Republican Party, not an expression of genuine concern about taxes or our nation's fiscal future.

People should remember that while they have the right to their opinion, they are not entitled to be taken seriously. That only comes from having credibility gained by the correct presentation of facts and analysis and a willingness to be even-handed--criticizing one's own side when it is wrong and not only speaking up when the other party does the same thing.

I'm sure many of the protesters were very concerned about Bush's spending and (hypothetically) feel like they would have reacted the same if McCain had been the one bailing out the banks and stimulating the economy.  Still, in the last ~ 30 years of ballooning deficits, there have only been 2 years when the Republicans controlled neither the White House or Congress, yet conservatives have picked such a period of relative impotence to take to the streets about taxes and debt?  That doesn't seem like good timing to me.

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