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7/31/2009
YES, MORE PAUL RYAN PLEASE

Michael Moynihan has a post up at Reason’s Hit and Run that identifies at least one conservative “leader” who isn’t a talk radio host, or some other pop conservative polemicist.

After excoriating Republicans for spending like Dutch social democrats (and elevating halfwits to important leadership positions), I was asked recently by a radio host to name a Republican qualified to be “leader of the party.” The pickings are slim, but there are a few exceptionally bright, market-oriented contenders out there. So I plugged, with appropriate obsequiousness, the always impressive Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. When I sat down with Ryan last month to discuss Obama’s education policy, he quoted Hayek, talked at length about handing out Rand books to staffers, and discussed his previous life as an economic analyst. Such conversations should be de rigueur with members of the House Budget Committee, but I suspect Ryan is the only one that could name an Austrian economist.

Further proof that the Republican Party needs more Paul Ryans: Yesterday, he beat up on MSNBC host Carlos Watson and The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel regarding the “public option” and why Congress shouldn’t pass bills it hasn’t read. Imagine such a performance from, say, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann:

Indeed, Ryan dispatches vanden Heuval with the greatest of ease:

Prior to hearing the Wisconsin congressman at CPAC, I didn’t know much about the guy. Michael Barone notes in The Almanac of American Politics that Ryan is pretty much a mainstream Republican, although more of a foreign policy centrist. He is a reliable conservative on fiscal matters and toes a pretty conservative line on social issues.

But this fellow is a thinker - a rarity among all politicians and especially among many legislators who call themselves conservatives today.

An example from his CPAC speech:

Our greatest leaders - from Lincoln to Reagan - succeeded because they anchored conservative thinking and policies in the founding principles of our nation. They did so not because of mere “history” or “tradition” - but because they understood the need to revitalize the unchanging truths that inspired the birth of America.

Let those truths inspire us again! Let them re-ignite the sparks of hope for a new generation of Americans who love freedom!

Without enduring principles we get “change” but no direction.

Guided by the founding principles we can direct “change” toward the ends that have made America the envy of the world: Individual freedom … growing prosperity … and equal rights secured by constitutional self-government.

America’s Founders did not discover ideas no one ever heard of. Their great achievement was to build a constitution of equality and liberty upon a foundation of self-evident truths as old as the beginning of mankind and as new as tomorrow.

What are those truths?

First is that the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” are the only sure touchstone of right and wrong … for individuals as well as societies.

A second is that all human beings are created with equal natural rights - the rights to live … to be free … to acquire property - and other means to fulfill our God-given potential for happiness.

Third, and most important for conservatives: The great purpose of government is to secure these natural rights: protecting every person’s life, liberty, and freedom to pursue happiness is the great and only mission of a government true to our founding.

There are very few congressmen who speak so eloquently of First Principles. Now, he frames those principles in a quasi-religious context, which is acceptable to me as long as it goes to fundamental truths espoused by the Founders who, like all natural rights supporters at the time, believed man was created by God and that these rights were simply self-evident manifestations of God’s desires.

His CPAC speech was necessarily more political than philosphical. But read this speech he gave at a Hudson Institute symposium on “Making Conservatism Credible Again:”

“Conservatism” at its best, defends the standards and qualities which define “people of character.” The original source for these standards is the Western tradition of civilization, rooted in reason and faith, stretching back thousands of years. The tradition as a whole affirms the high dignity, rights, and obligations of the individual human person. One of the glories of Western civilization was to break out of the mythological past which saw only groups and classes, ranked and organized by collectivist governments. Before the Western tradition began in ancient Israel and classical Greece, the individual person as a subject of rights was simply unknown.

Nowhere was the Western tradition epitomized more memorably than in our Declaration of Independence. By “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” all human beings are created equal, not in height, or skills, or knowledge, or color, or other nonessentials, but equal in certain inalienable rights – to live, to be free, and to fulfill their best individual potential, including the right to the “material” such as property needed to do this. Each individual is unique and possesses rights and dignity. There are no group or collective rights in the Declaration. Nor does basic human equality imply “equal result.” It means “equal opportunity”: every person has a right not to be prevented from pursuing happiness, from developing his or her potential. The results should differ from one to another because “justice” or “fairness” is giving each individual what each has earned or merited. That’s what fairness is.

The great conservative purpose of government is to secure these natural rights under popular consent. Protecting every person’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should be the great and only mission of legitimate government.

After a stirring defense of the Adam Smith “invisible hand,” Ryan make a thoughtful attempt to unite libertarian and social conservatives by pointing to common ground:

A “libertarian” who wants limited government should embrace the means to his freedom: thriving mediating institutions that create the moral preconditions for economic markets and choice. A “social issues” conservative with a zeal for righteousness should insist on a free market economy to supply the material needs for families, schools, and churches that inspire moral and spiritual life. In a nutshell, the notion of separating the social from the economic issues is a false choice. They stem from the same root.

Take that Huckabee and all of you “crunchy cons.”

I tried to think of some other elected conservative who is making this kind of honest attempt to bring the factions back together and came up empty. Nor can I think of too many conservative legislators who quote Hayek, Mises, and Adam Smith, while speaking the language of social conservatives and espousing a decidedly libertarian economic viewpoint.

But he voted for TARP I which makes him poison to many in the base of the Republican party. I was disappointed so many conservatives voted for the execrable legislation except we have to understand the context. Everyone was being told that if this money didn’t get to the banks right away, there would be a financial meltdown that could lead to a panic which would plunge us into a worldwide, catastrophic depression. They were being told this by a president and Treasury secretary of their own party. They had no clue that the money would be used for everything but buying up those bad assets that were weighing down the balance sheets of the big banks. In my book, they were acting as responsible lawmakers.

For that reason, I am inclined to cut Ryan and others some slack for their vote on TARP I. And his subsequent statements and actions have shown Ryan to be an innovative and creative legislator. His alternative budget would have cut taxes to stimulate the economy the right way and done it in a revenue neutral manner. Just think where we’d be today if his plan had been followed.

I’m not the first to proclaim Ryan a future conservative leader. But I think he needs more exposure than what he’s been getting from conservatives on the internet as well as the pop-conservatives on talk radio. Elevating his stature would seem to be a smart thing to do given the man’s base intelligence and good ideas on a variety of public concerns. His criticisms of Obama have been reasonable, fact based, and without the hyperbole associated with more rabid conservatives in Congress. That too, is a plus in my book.

At age 39, he will be on the national stage for a long time to come. He may or may not run for higher office some day. But he will be an important voice for conservatives regardless of where his political career takes him.

By: Rick Moran at 2:18 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

7/30/2009
NOW THEY’RE COMING FOR THE FAT PEOPLE

Megan McCardle has a disturbing interview with Paul Campos, the author of The Obesity Myth (republished as The Diet Myth) that smashes the idea that obese people are necessarily more of a drain on health care resources than thinner people.

McCardle:

With health care in the news, everyone’s looking for magic bullets to save money. Obesity seems to be a growing favorite: wouldn’t it be great if we could make everyone look like Jennifer Anniston, and be cheaper to treat? There are a lot of holes in this theory–the morbidly obese are very sick, but die young, while lower levels of overweight/obesity aren’t so well correlated with poor health. But still, the idea’s power seems to be growing every day.

This week, Health Affairs published a new study showing that–quel surprise!–obesity accounts for an ever growing share of our health care costs. They put the number at about 10%. So I decided to ask Paul Campos, the author of The Obesity Myth, what he thought. The book, which everyone should read, argues that the health benefits of losing weight are largely imaginary; that we are using “health” to advance our class bias in favor of thin people, particularly thin women.

Following are some selected cuts from the interview that should open you eyes about the efficacy of studies touted by government health professionals as well as the difference between being thin and being healthy.

On trying to control health care costs by reducing the number of obese Americans:

It’s a terrible idea on all sorts of levels. There are three big problems with attempting to control health care costs by reducing so-called “obesity.” First, it’s a fake problem. Second, the solutions for the problem are non-existent, even assuming the problem existed. Third, focusing on making Americans thinner diverts resources from real public health issues.

Is being fat really being unhealthy?

The correlations between higher weight and greater health risk are weak except at statistical extremes. The extent to which those correlations are causal is poorly established. There is literally not a shred of evidence that turning fat people into thin people improves their health. And the reason there’s no evidence is that there’s no way to do it.

So saying “let’s improve health by turning fat people into thin people” is every bit as irrational as saying “let’s improve health by turning men into women or old people into young people”. Actually it’s a lot crazier, because there actually are significant health differences between men and women and the old and the young — much more so than between the fat and the thin.

Campos calls this obsession in the public health community over obesity “a moral panic” and debunks the statistics:

OK, the CDC honchos and the authors of this study you referenced are in hysterics because the obesity rate, so-called, has roughly doubled in the last 30 years. But let’s consider what that actually means.

Obesity is defined completely arbitrarily as a body mass index of 30 or higher (175 pounds for an average height woman). Now body mass follows more or less a normal distribution, whiich means if the the mean body weight is in the mid to high 20s, which it has been for many decades now, then tens of millions of people will have BMIs just below and just above the magic 30 line. So if the average weight of the population goes up by ten pounds, tens of millions of people who were just under the line will now be just over it.

This might be meaningful if there was any evidence that people who have BMIs in the low 30s have different average health than people with BMIs in the high 20s, but they don’t. At all. So the “obesity epidemic” is 100% a product of tens of millions of people having their BMIs creep over an arbitrary line. It’s exactly as sensible as declaring that people who are 5′11 are healthy but people who are 6′1″ are sick.

Adding to the absurdity of all this, people with BMIs in the mid to high 20s actually have the best overall health and longest life expectancy — ,more so than those in the so-called “normal” BMI range.

Debunking diets:

If you put people on starvation diets, which is what these methods do, of course you’ll get huge amounts of weight loss. Then most or all of it will be gained back, which among other things is a recipe for congestive heart failure. I’d love to do a “reality” show on the contestants on shows like The Biggest Loser three years down the road. But that would probably be a little too much reality.

Gastric bypass is the most radical method available for weight loss, and it basically doesn’t work. Everything else is even less successful, though usually not quite as dangerous.

Finally, increasing government coercion to get obese people to lose weight.

It’s the classic pattern of moral panics. As public concern about the damage being done to the fabric of society by the folk devils increases, increasingly intense demands are made on public officials to “do something” about the crisis, usually by eliminating the folk devils.

That of course is the strategy for this crisis. If fat people are the problem, then the solution is to get rid of them, by making them thin people. The most amazing aspect of this whole thing, for me, has always been the imperviouusness of policy makers, and even more so people who consider themselves serious academics and scientists, to the overwhelming evidence that there’s no way to do this.

I mean, there’s no better established empirical proposition in medical science that we don’t know how to make people thinner. But apparently this proposition is too disturbing to consider, even though it’s about as well established as that cigarettes cause lung cancer. So all these proposals about improving public health by making people thinner are completely crazy. They are as non-sensical as anything being proposed by public officials in our culture right now, which is saying something.

There is perhaps no part of government that bases its policies on flawed research, unproven assumptions, and is driven by politics more than the public health sector. From the Alar scare that cost apple growers $100 million to the myth that salt causes high blood pressure, our public health bureaucrats have not been as helpful as they should be in contributing to the health of Americans.

Beyond the question of how effective they are, there is the growing realization that altering personal behavior to conform to what some health professionals believe to be necessary for good health results in a loss of freedom for the individual to manage their own lives without interference from the government.

The excuse to intervene in such personal decisions as what we should eat or drink will be even more prevalent once national health care is a reality. The logic that eating certain foods or partaking in some behaviors results in an individual using more than one’s fair share of scarce health resources will be more than enough to tax, to ban, to regulate, to dictate the kinds of foods that should be available to us. It may even result in penalties if we fail to abide by these strictures, such as not treating people whose behaviors or diets are self destructive.

When I was 280 lbs (42 lbs ago), I felt tired all the time, caught colds often, and found it very hard to get around. I’m still about 50lbs overweight but am losing the weight without dieting. It’s a slow process - no more than 2-3 lbs a month, sometimes none at all. But I’m eating better while still enjoying all the foods I ate when I was 280. I figure that there are so few true pleasures here on earth - one of them being good food - that to shortchange yourself, even at the expense of your weight and ultimate life expectancy, isn’t worth it. Better to live well than make yourself miserable by dieting all the time. If that results in a few fewer years on this planet, so be it.

This may not be your attitude and that’s fine. That’s your choice. But the point is, it should be our choice, not the governments. This is the same mindset that forced auto manufacturers to make it impossible to start a car without buckling up. Is buckling up a smart thing to do? Sure. But the idea that the government is forcing you into a behavior - no matter how much money it saves (no evidence it does due to different injuries suffered while wearing a belt), - that isn’t and shouldn’t be the point.

Where does it stop? At what point do government diktats on health or controlling behavior become so onerous that the very idea of individual responsibility and personal freedom is destroyed? I am not that much of a libertarian to believe that ingesting anything we please - including drugs that are currently banned or illegal - should be the standard under which we measure our personal freedom.

But government comes perilously close to unnecessary intervention in our personal lives when it determines for itself what is “healthy” and what is not, and then tries to impose that idea on us by reducing our freedom to decide for ourselves.

By: Rick Moran at 11:17 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

7/29/2009
FRUM IS BEING TOO KIND
CATEGORY: Blogging, Media, Politics

To call the hysterically exaggerated, paranoid rantings of some talk radio personalities and conservative bloggers “whining,” as David Frum does in a series of now 4 articles on conservative despair, is being generous. These overwrought ninnies are the flip side of lefty loons who spouted about Bush turning the US into a Nazi state.

I wrote dozens (perhaps hundreds) of posts about this culture of hysteria on the left during the Bush years with many on the right wholeheartedly agreeing with me. I posed the question more than once, “If I really believed the country was descending into a fascist dictatorship, don’t you think that most of us on the right would be the first on the front lines to combat this evil?” Perhaps it’s time to turn that question around and ask if our freedoms really are being lost, what are you doing sitting at home writing spittle flecked rants about the dangers of dictatorship rather than taking your rifle and going out to battle this scourge?

So once again, I take my rationalist pen in hand and attempt to inject some reason into critiques of the Obama administration and debunk the hysterics who speak of the Republic as if it were in the past tense - or headed there full speed ahead.

Positing the notion that we are marching toward a socialist dictatorship or are losing our freedoms under Obama is just not supported by the facts. And Frum wrote in his second “Whine” post exactly what I have been writing and thinking since Obama took office:

The extremity of conservative pessimism attacks the foundational rules of the American political game. Since 1865, the United States has enjoyed amazing political stability. Americans have achieved this stability via tried and tested rules of the road, including the unquestioning acceptance of election results, an acknowledgement of the basic good faith of the other political party, and an absolute acceptance that people of all points of view are committed to the shared constitutional system.

If I lived in a country in imminent danger of a Bolshevik or Fascist seizure of power, I’d be a cowardly fool if I failed to use every means to prevent it, including violence if need be. If it were true that our political opponents wanted to impose tyranny on the United States – if (as Rush Limbaugh said the other day) a vote for the other party was a vote for “totalitarianism, dungeons, and torture,” then what patriot could possibly abide a political defeat?

Happily, none of those things are true. As wrong and harmful as the Obama administration’s plans are, the administration is playing by the rules of the game. To agitate people into thinking otherwise is to corrode the foundations of the American constitutional regime.

It is also to act and look like sore losers. If America has been sliding gently but irresistibly into soft despotism, where were all the valiant defenders of liberty before November of 2008? Soft despotism begins to look less like a profound sociological trend, more like undulations of the sine curve: It’s despotism when we lose, freedom when we win. We should have more confidence in the people and the country than this. We should also have more charity to our political opponents – who after all are contending with hideous problems bequeathed to them by … by … well suddenly we Republicans cannot seem to remember who preceded Barack Obama in office.

Frum is picking on Mark Levin whose book Liberty and Tyranny has sold 900,000 copies. Levin had a few choice words in reply but frankly, the Great One should know better. Frum’s point about conservatives being relatively sanguine when Bush passed the prescription drug bill, as well as No Child Left Behind is spot on. Sure, there was some grumbling and name calling, but Levin and other pop conservatives never spoke in apocalyptic tones about the massive intrusion of the government into the education of our children nor did many righties see the expansion of Medicare as the forerunner to today’s attempt to take over the health insurance industry.

This is what I’ve been trying to get across to those few conservatives who read this blog and are open to argument. Barack Obama is not a communist, or a socialist, or a fascist, or an anarchist. He is a child of the New Left, and most if not all of his agenda reflects ideas and programs that have been floating around liberal salons, think tanks, and symposiums for nearly 40 years, if not longer.

These ideas weren’t socialist then and they aren’t socialist now. Taking over the auto industry to save the jobs of his union supporters is stupid economics, not a slippery slope to communism. Buying preferred stock in big banks is government strong arming, not the end of capitalism in America. Spending and taxing us until we are a second rate economic power is bad governance, not the prelude to an attempt by Obama to destroy the country in order to set up a dictatorship.

I refuse to accept the liberal critique that this kind of opposition to Obama is largely race-based. That’s absurd on its face. Surely there is a small minority who harbor hate for Obama’s skin color, but this kind of paranoia and hysteria about Obama’s agenda is being fed by the need of many to be part of a great drama where our heroes on the right must save the Republic from its enemies. In short, the Levins, Limbaughs, and the rest of the pop conservative brigade who are standing up and screaming “Fire” in a crowded theater because some idiot lit a cigarette, are turning their listeners into a bunch of 11 year old drama queens.

It’s not enough that our political opponents have ideas that are wrong headed, illogical, resistant to reason, and profligate with the people’s money. These ideas must be evil, insidious, and transcendentally malignant - all the better so that the self-appointed watchdogs of democracy can ride to the rescue and save us from the Evil Lord.

It is, at bottom, an adolescent critique of the Obama administration because, as Frum points out, it substitutes emotion for reason, hyperbole for measured responses, and wildly accusatory rhetoric for a pragmatic approach to combating bad ideas.

Politics is not an exercise in self-expression. It’s an exercise in persuasion. The targets of that persuasion are not the already persuaded but the as yet unpersuaded. It is their concerns that need to be understand, their questions answered, their values appealed to. Harry and Louise did not denounce Clintoncare as fascism. They explained how it would harm the people it purported to help, and they made their case in calm commonsense terms and tone.

In today’s debate, conservatives could show that a public option will invite private employers to end their coverage and dump their employees into the government plan. Americans are practical people, and they’ll respond to practical sense. Because Americans start with a bias in favor of free enterprise, they’ll respond especially well to sensible conservative arguments. But if we elevate everything to an immediate 11 on the Spinal Tap sound amplifier, we’ll lose, and not just elections, but the deepest values we are trying to defend via elections.

In this year 2009, it often seems that liberals offer policies and conservatives offer emotions. True, the liberals offer bad policies and conservatives offer understandable or anyway pardonable emotions. Rick Santelli expressed something real and true in his famous CNBC outburst.

I think Frum is a little harsh with Levin, whose book - what I’ve read of it - is much more than a dark, emotional screed against Obama. There is an elegant defense of the free market as well as a passionate portrayal of conservatism as the antidote to Obama’s government overreach. But Levin can’t leave it at that and be successful. Talk radio is all about eliciting an emotional response from the listener, and urging conservatives to counter Obama with reason and pragmatism rather than gut busting anger and hyperbolic fear mongering cannot be done and still remain atop the talk radio ziggurat.

If I seem a little harsh with some of my fellow conservatives who see Gorgons and dragons behind every tree in Washington it is because the perception is gaining ground - fed by a media eager to falsely portray all conservatives as unbalanced weirdos - that we can’t be trusted to run the country because we are too angry, too emotional to govern dispassionately. I know that a majority of conservatives are not into the kind of over the top nuttiness exhibited by many on the right. This moronic cacophony is especially prevelant on the web where these memes are endlessly recycled and regurgitated in a kind of perverse feed back loop. It has become a contest to see which blogger or commenter can outdo the last one in spouting a riot of nonsense about Obama’s dark plans to cancel elections, round up opponents, even turn the country over to the Muslims.

Obama Derangement Syndrome is well established now. It is up to those conservatives who are more interested in returning to power than in despairing over how the United States has become a socialist country, to rationally critique the abominable policies of this administration, and regain the high ground in the debate.

Otherwise, we will continue to wander in a dark, depressing wilderness - one of our own making.

By: Rick Moran at 10:32 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (49)

7/28/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: THE BIRTH OF LUNACY — HEALTH CARE AND THE BIRTHERS

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome Jazz Shaw and Fausta Wertz for a discussion of the birther movement and its impact on the GOP. We’ll also look at the prospects for health care reform.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 2:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT WITH HEALTH CARE REFORM

My latest piece is up at AIP and its about how health care reform reminds me a lot of my ex-wife:

I think it would be extremely helpful if Americans began to think of President Obama’s health care reform proposals the same way I think of my first wife. The more you know about it, the less you like it.

And the fact that it lacks common sense, spends too much of your money, makes decisions that would be better left in your hands, and is attractive on the outside while being insidiously rotten on the inside is also reminiscent of my former beloved, although at least my ex-amour was a great dancer and a decent cook. Otherwise, I would recommend a Vegas divorce for this monstrosity of a bill.

One of the major selling points that the president used for his national health care reform was that it would lower insurance premiums substantially. He promised on his campaign web site, in the second presidential debate, and in the third debate:

“If you have health insurance, then you don’t have to do anything. If you’ve got health insurance through your employer, you can keep your health insurance, keep your choice of doctor, keep your plan. … And we estimate we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.”

We Americans can be a pretty cynical lot when it comes to believing politicians so it is a wonder that we actually fell for this little prevarication from Candidate Obama.

We know now that the prospects of keeping your insurance depends on how willing you are to overspend for it. That’s because Candidate Obama’s promise to lower your premiums by $2500 are about as believable as my ex-wife’s explanation for why she spent $1500 on a dress. “But it was on sale…” just doesn’t cut it.

Supporters will probably tell me I’m all wet, that we will save money on our premiums, that we won’t be forced on to the government plan, that costs will come down simply by government waving a magic wand,…

Sorry, but you can spin what’s in the bill all you want and it won’t change the practical effect of what is implied in adopting many of the measures in the bill. This is what supporters refuse to address.

Is there anything in the bill that would require you to drop your insurance that you have now? No - but the practical effect would be to make it prohibitively expensive and force you to choose less coverage for more money - unless you are eligible for the subsidy that doesn’t cover you if you’re part of an employer based insurance plan.

Faulty numbers, insidious requirements, stealth mandates - its all there.

Do I have a viable alternative? No, I don’t. But others do and, as I have said before, it is criminally negligent of the Democrats to present this monstrosity of a bill as the only alternative - that there’s no other game in town. Baucus is looking at some of those alternatives as I write this, although without including a public option in his compromise, it is doubtful that Obama will sign it much less the liberals in the House support it.

I have to believe there is a third way - somewhere. There has got to be a combination out there of public and private that will cover the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions, bring down costs intelligently, while keeping the best of the private health care system in place, and not cost us $1.5 trillion I refuse to believe that this is not possible - even in our current partisan atmosphere.

I agree we cannot go on as we are now. Those who say we don’t need reform are crazy. Rising health care costs will bankrupt us in 20 years. But to support this bill is to support catastrophe for our health care system as well as for our fiscal situation. Don’t believe me? Ask other Democrats who are the ones standing in the way of passing this bill, not Republicans.

Don’t tell me this is as good as we can do “realistically.” I don’t believe that for a moment. They are big boys and girls in the White House and Capitol Hill. If things are as bad as they say - and they are, except it’s not quite the “emergency” we are being led to believe - then the judgment of the people who believe that this is a crucial issue will be severe if nothing is done.

And, I daresay, the blame will go to both parties. The GOP cannot be accused of “obstructionism” - not with the gigantic Democratic majorities in both chambers. But they will be blamed for not offering solid alternatives. Republicans should be out there every day touting their own plan. Instead, they have decided to treat it as a PR gimmick rather than a serious legislative initiative.

And I will repeat - Obama is not taking the lead on this as he should. He is not being realistic in his criticisms, nor is he doing much besides jawboning from the sidelines. His one effort at compromise - the health commission - was shot down by the CBO as being meaningless in controlling costs. Face it- the guy is an empty suit; all talk and no action.

In that respect, if health care reform is dropped or goes down to defeat, President Obama will be as much to blame as anyone.

By: Rick Moran at 9:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

7/27/2009
HELP! IS THERE A WHITE DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?

Nothing says crazy quite like the idea that someone is better off receiving services from a person who shares the same skin pigmentation.

Obviously, a black accountant is better off having black clients while a white lawyer is better suited to handle cases brought by other whites, this idiotic thinking goes. It is racial preferences run amuck and has taken what is actually a sound idea and extended it to radically ridiculous lengths to serve the interests of racialists, hate mongers, and pea brained politicians who see political advantage in trying to curry favor with “victims of white oppression” or in playing up racial differences.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the Obama administration would want to see that “underrepresented” minorities in the health care field would become part of what Linda Chavez calls a “racial spoils system” that will give educational preference to minorities in health care fields because everyone knows that people will be healthier and get better treatment if their doctors share their racial and ethnic background.

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine released a study entitled “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care” that sparked a flurry of accusations that minority patients, especially African-Americans, receive bad health care because their doctors were biased.

The study said that “some evidence suggests that bias, prejudice and stereotyping on the part of health-care providers may contribute to differences in care.” But as Dr. Sally Satel, a highly respected physician and author, observed at the time, the “evidence” in the study was thin. ” ‘Some,’ ’suggests’ and ‘may,’ ” she wrote, “are all the kinds of words authors use when the data are flimsy and reputations are at stake.”

There is no question that African-Americans, on average, die younger and have poorer health than whites. What is less clear is why that is the case. Socio-economic class and behavior both play an important role. Homicide is the leading cause of death for young black males between the ages of 15-24, for example. Obesity, drug and alcohol use, and other behavioral factors play an important role in determining overall health. But will insisting on preferences for African-American students applying to medical-school admission improve health care for blacks? Not likely.

There is not one scintilla of evidence that black doctors treating black patients will make black people healthier. But when have facts ever stopped the racialists from seeking preferences based not on ability or aptitude, but rather the color of one’s skin? You either have what it takes to be a doctor or you don’t. The same is true for nurses, and anyone’s hands I am forced to entrust with my mortal coil.

I don’t care if my doctor is black, brown, green, or six shades of chartreuse. I don’t care whether the physician is from Delhi, India, Peshawar, Pakistan, Colombo, Sri Lanka, or Dixon, Illinois. When I’m in an emergency room after being involved in a car wreck, I just want to be assured that the attending physician knows my shin bone from my elbow bone, is fully qualified as a result of a medical meritocracy, and isn’t the recipient of preferential medical school policies that promote based on the accident of birth that gave one person more melanin than someone else.

I support affirmative action as it was originally intended. But the idea that all things being equal in educational or employment opportunities, preference should be given if at all possible to those who have been the historic targets of discrimination has fallen by the wayside in favor of out and out quotas by schools and large corporations who fear being sued for discrimination more than they value fairness and merit based policies. And this cockamamie idea that preferential consideration should be given applicants not due to ability but due to skin tone or whether one’s loins are cloven, not cleft, is a rank injustice against all Americans.

A society that recognizes historic differences in equal opportunity but seeks to overcome disadvantages for some by disadvantaging others is not the kind of society envisioned by the Founders nor those who fought so hard to make the Constitution’s words about equality be a source of inspiration and not hypocrisy. Martin Luther King and most of the mainstream civil rights activists at the time believed in an Affirmative Action that recognized merit first, race second. Today’s race baiters and hate mongers have that notion switched around entirely and instead, use Affirmative Action as a club to make a mockery of merit altogether.

The notion that a white doctor can treat me better than a black doctor, and vice versa, is so nonsensical as to be beyond belief. I either have the flu or I don’t. The same goes for just about everything else connected with medical care. Medicine is a science that makes judgments as a result of empirical facts based on testing and experience. The idea that a white doctor would miss a virus, or a bug, or some other condition, or prescribe the wrong medicine, or cause any harm by omission or commission because he/she is not the same color as the patient is idiotic on its face.

Should medical schools actively seek out qualified minority candidates? Abslutely yes. But not everyone has what it takes to be a doctor, and admitting unqualified candidates based on race while other, qualified candidates are refused will not improve the health care system, will not improve the life expectancy of blacks, but will result in fewer doctors.

And in the immortal words of Dirty Harry, “That’s a helluva price to pay for being stylish.”

By: Rick Moran at 9:28 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

7/25/2009
A FEW RAMBLING THOUGHTS ON THE GATES AFFAIR

I have a long article coming out tomorrow in Pajamas Media on the Gates matter that will look at why everyone in that little drama acted the way they did. It is my belief that in some ways, we are programmed to respond in racial situations and that it’s like that because we just can’t bring ourselves to really talk about race in a way that would start to change the dynamics between the races.

Case in point; Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic:

I feel pretty stupid for going hard on this, and stupider for defending what Obama won’t really defend himself. I should have left it at one post. Evidently Obama, Crowley and Gates are talking about getting a beer together. I hope they have a grand old time.

The rest of us are left with a country where, by all appearances, officers are well within their rights to arrest you for sassing them. Which is where we started. I can’t explain why, but this is the sort of thing that makes you reflect on your own precarious citizenship. I mean, the end of all of this scares the hell out of me.

Coates is troubled by the attitude of his fellow citizens:

When we think about the cops, it’s scary, on one level, to conclude that a cop can basically arrest you on a whim. It’s scarier still to think that this is what Americans want, that this country is as we’ve made it. And then finally it’s even scarier to understand that no president can change that. It’s not why he’s there. He is there to pass health-reform–not make us post-racist, or post-police power, or post-whatever. Only the people can do that. And they don’t seem particularly inclined. Here is what the election of Barack Obama says about race–white people, in general, are willing to hire a black guy for the ultimate job. That’s a big step. But it isn’t any more than what it says.

Coates, a very smart, very reasoned liberal who happens to be African American. His attitude toward the police has been influenced, then, by living as a black man in America and all that implies when it comes to his experience in dealing with what historically has been the heavy handed oppression of police directed against African American males.

Is Coates programmed by his experience and by society to respond in this way? I think so - just as Gates, Crowley, and Obama were all programmed to respond the way they did.

The fact that Coates sees the American people as giving the police the green light to harass African Americans is also a programmed response. I would agree that the American people don’t seem inclined to challenge the racial divide in this country but only one who has experienced oppression first hand could lay the blame for that on some nebulous attitude on the part of citizens that arresting people “on a whim” is good and then try and connect that attitude to carrying a concealed firearm. The two issues have nothing to do with each other - unless you’ve seen the dark underbelly of racism first hand and can imagine worse.

From my PJM article:

The facts of the case are a fascinating example of how race divides America. Police, as authority figures, have a notorious history in African American communities — sometimes deserved, sometimes not. It appears from unimpeachable eyewitness accounts that in this case, despite Sgt. Crowley being an expert in how to avoid racial profiling and diversity training, the perception on the part of Professor Gates was that he was being singled out for being black.

Of course, Gates had no idea that Officer Crowley had such a stellar reputation or possessed such tolerant credentials. All he knew was his experience as a black man in America and his assumption that if he had been white, the police would not have asked for his ID.

We’ll never know if that assumption was correct. Just as we’ll never know if the anonymous woman who called the police after seeing Gates try to break into his own home would have done so if she had glimpsed a white man trying to do the same thing. We can assume the best or the worst from all involved and, within the context of our flawed understanding of each other, assure ourselves that we are correct.

The point being, all the actors in this little drama have their perception of the incident colored by what divides us. The actions of everyone were programmed by the rules under which we currently interact as white and black Americans. Gates felt his dignity attacked — an anathema to whites who can’t understand how he could fail to appreciate the police looking after his property. For his part, one might wonder how much more patient Crowley could have or should have been with Gates before arresting him. No doubt he acted professionally. But even with someone as evenhanded as Crowley apparently is, the nagging suspicion that if Gates had been white he would have somehow been treated differently is hard for many to shake. That is the trap that history has set for us and is one from which we refuse to release ourselves.

The president has been forced to backtrack so precipitously for his “stupid cops” comment that he is tripping over his Democratic friends on the Hill who are backtracking on health care reform. He is putting a bandaid on the cut by doing what we do best when confronted with our racial divide in such stark, and open terms; he is finessing the situation by setting up this little Kabuki play with Gates, Crowley, and him sitting down like drinking buddies and tossing down a few beers at the White House.

Left unsaid, as always, will be the real things that divide the races. But that’s the way it has always been in America - even with an African American as president.

By: Rick Moran at 10:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (61)

7/23/2009
PERFECT IN EVERY WAY
CATEGORY: Sports, WHITE SOX

1-4

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle leaps into the arms of catcher Ramon Castro following the last out recorded in the 18th perfect game pitched in Major League history.

Baseball is a game where the confluence of history and tradition clash with the modern age — a pastoral pursuit set down in our cynical, urbanized industrial democracy.

This may explain why baseball as professional sport has fallen from the heights it once occupied in its glory days just a few decades ago. The players have become hobos thanks to free agency while shooting themselves full of additives to the point that Dr. Frankenstein might take a keen interest in their off-field training regimen. Owners, once gentlemen sportsmen who operated baseball like a private club, are now giant corporations or fabulously wealthy men who have handed virtual control of their teams to bean counters and sports agents.

Yes, they’ve all  tried to ruin the game to the best of their ability. Unions, ESPN, cable and satellite TV, advertisers, and the Commissioner’s office where Bud Selig has shamefully presided over an era that will be long remembered for the drug assisted, performance enhanced feats of sluggers Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa among many others. Pumped up with human growth hormone and muscle building supplements, those players who broke the rules did more than cheat. They betrayed the game itself by artificially giving themselves an advantage not available to players in previous generations.

If there’s one thing about baseball that belongs only to the game itself it is the wonderful world of statistics that allow a fan to roughly measure the performance of a player of today to those of yesteryear. Who was better, Koufax or Randy Johnson? Tom Seaver or Greg Maddux? Would Ruth hit 60 today? This is the real fantasy in baseball and it connects generations to the game unlike any other professional sport.

Today, White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle added to the rich history and tradition of the game by pitching the 18th perfect game in baseball history, beating Tampa Bay 5-0. That’s 27 men coming to the plate, and 27 men returning to the bench without reaching base.  One hundred years from now, statistics will tell the story. Buehrle threw 116 pitches and recorded 10 fly ball outs, 11 ground outs, and 6 strike outs. He threw 76 strikes and 40 balls in his 9 innings, throwing three balls in a count to only one hitter.

Until the 9th inning, no batted ball caused any of the Sox fielders any trouble. And then leading off the last frame, Tampa Bay right fielder Gabe Kaplan made solid contact with one of Buerhle’s change-ups and sent a line drive deep to left center field. At the crack of the bat, DeWayne Wise, who had entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement for starter Scott Posednik, turned and sprinted for the wall. It looked like a sure hit and perhaps even a home run. But Wise, running full speed, leapt high in the air, stretched out his glove, and the ball somehow found the very top of his mitt. He crashed into the outfield wall padding so hard, the ball fell out of his glove, and while stumbling, trying to regain his balance, he reached out and grabbed the ball with his bare hand,  preserving the perfect game in unbelievably spectacular fashion.

Here’s the video. You may have to run it twice to believe your eyes.

Buehrle is not an overpowering pitcher like Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, or some others who have achieved pitching perfection. He is something of a throwback — a blue collar pitcher who makes his living on the corners of home plate while keeping hitters off balance with a collection of slow curves, slower changeups, and a fastball that might break a paper bag at 60 feet. He is one of the few pitchers in today’s game who can pitch a game in less than 2 hours — commonplace years ago but a rarity today.

Beyond that, he is unflappable on the mound. He usually has a mischievous smile on his face when walking to and from the dugout, teasing his teammates, exchanging jokes with umpires. He is worshiped by fans and teammates alike. He is the consummate professional ballplayer.

There was a point a couple of years ago where there was a question whether Buehrle would be resigned to another contract. When word began to circulate that the White Sox were considering letting him go the free agency route, the fans raised such a stink that the team shelled out $57 million over 4 years to keep him. Seeing that he is 11-3 this season, almost single-handedly keeping the Sox in the pennant race, that decision to resign him looks like minor genius at this point.

A perfect game is 2 parts luck and one part skill. You can have the best stuff of your career and a batter can swing, breaking his bat while the ball falls 10 feet over the infield for a cheap hit. Happens all the time as do seeing eye ground balls that squirt through the gap between infielders. There are 8 ways you can reach first base safely and in order to pitch a perfect game, the chucker has to avoid all of them for 9 innings. No wonder they are so rare.

It is days like this that make being a baseball fan such a joy. And the fact that it was one of the true nice guys of the game who achieved this immortality only makes it sweeter.

By: Rick Moran at 4:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

HEALTH CARE REFORM HEADING FOR DERAILMENT — EVEN IF IT PASSES

Obama’s press conference was not aimed at the recalcitrant members of his own party who are balking at passing health care reform. For some reason, he can’t quite bring himself to do much in the way of traditional arm twisting and private lecturing that has been the hallmark of successful presidents in the past.

Instead, his message was aimed at the American people who are beginning to doubt the president can deliver what he promised and are becoming leery of the plan as it is emerging from Congress.

Jane Sassen of Business Week:

While insisting that his own proposal to cut the amount of tax deductions wealthy taxpayers could write off for their charitable contributions would be better, the President said such a measure would “meet my principle” that the costs should not be borne “by families already having a tough time.”

Of course, providing answers to tough funding questions wasn’t the aim of the press conference, as least from the White House point of view. The goal was to make a convincing case to keep public support for the plans from eroding. And at that, he may well have succeeded. The prime time hour may not have done much to move the needle in Congress, where the nitty-gritty proposals are being hashed out. But the President probably helped tamp down some of the increasing doubts that the American public has expressed recently about health care reforms as details have emerged. And that, after all, was his real job for the night.

Meanwhile, the senate’s #2 Democrat Dick Durbin says that the reform bill will not be taken up before the August recess as Taylor Rushing of The Hill reports:

“We’re going to take a little longer to get it right,” Durbin told The Hill when asked about the oft-stated goal of a vote on or before Aug. 7, when a monthlong Senate recess begins. “Initially we had hoped for a full vote by then, but I don’t think it’s going to be possible.”

Delaying the vote until after Labor Day would all but erase hopes of getting a bill to President Obama by mid-October, since the House and Senate versions would have to be reconciled in conference negotiations - assuming they pass their chambers.Durbin said the bill was still largely on track, however, denying that momentum has stalled.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “This is a complex challenge, and we’re taking a reasonable approach with it. It would be better if some Republicans joined us instead of just criticizing.”

Just wait until Democratic congressmen and senators start talking to their constituents about this bill while they are home during the recess. They will no doubt get an earful. Also, several independent groups are planning massive ad campaigns during the recess targeting Blue Dog Democrats as well as those in districts that were carried by George Bush or John McCain.

The question has been raised by the bill’s supporters that even bad reform is better than no reform at all. Such would be the case if there weren’t other options, other ideas out there - none of which got any hearing whatsoever by the progressives in both the House and the Senate who were handed the ball by the president and have created this monstrosity on their own.

It is simple minded to dismiss these options as “more of the same” tax cuts and the like from the GOP. The  GOP alternative that some liberals were surprised in that it was fairly comprehensive, would not have raised taxes on anybody, rich or poor, and in the end, probably have induced more people who are currently uninsured to get coverage. There were many problems with the bill - the tax credit for families to buy insurance was ridiculously low, for example - but it addressed almost all of the same problems the Democrat’s bill does including coverage for pre-existing conditions, Medicare reform, portable insurance, and a host of other elements the Democrats want us to pay a trillion dollars for.

The Wall Street Journal had the bare bones outline:

The nexus of their plan is redirecting the $300 billion annual tax subsidy for employment-based health insurance to individuals in the form of refundable, advanceable tax credits. Families would get $5,700 a year and individuals $2,300 to buy insurance and invest in Health Savings Accounts.

Low-income Americans would get a supplemental debit card of up to $5,000 to help them purchase insurance and pay out-of-pocket costs. They would have an incentive to spend wisely since up to one-fourth of any unspent money in the accounts could be rolled over to the next year. The combination of the refundable tax credit and debit card gives lower-income Americans a way out of the Medicaid ghetto so they can have the dignity of private insurance.

The great majority of Americans with job-based health insurance would see little more than a bookkeeping change with the Patients’ Choice plan. But implicit in the policy is the acknowledgment that our system of tying health insurance to the workplace is not working for upwards of 45 million uninsured Americans.

As I said, the bill is far from perfect and some of it makes assumptions as unreasonable as are in the Democratic bill. And the GOP bill isn’t the only alternative game in town. There are dozens of proposals - equally untried as anything in the Democratic bill I might add - floating around that have never been examined, studied, or debated by Congress because Obama wants his reform RIGHT NOW - despite the fact that a careful vetting of ideas in the Democratic bill or any alternative has not been done.

Why can’t my liberal friends see that this is no way to reform 1/6 of the economy? This massive, untested, unproven, Gorgon of a bill is being rushed through with nobody reading it, no one measuring the consequences, and no one weighing the effect on ordinary people’s lives. And it being rushed through not because if we delay 6 months or a year, anything bad will happen. It is being rushed for the sole and exclusive purpose of giving the president of the United States a legislative victory. Politics trumps sanity in this case. And if you want the bill now, you are part of a Kabuki play that almost certainly is going to cost more, cause more problems, and perhaps even make things worse than if we slowed down and looked at the health care problem rationally.

But there are many good ideas that haven’t even been examined because the liberals have a monumental distaste for the free market. Government cannot order costs to be lowered any more than King Canute could order the tide to recede. Market based incentives, both logically and intuitively, would work better, more efficiently, and more cheaply than the simple lowering of Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals the liberals have in mind, not to mention the “intelligent” rationing of services we are told that will result from passage of this bill.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi was bragging to reporters that she has the votes right now to pass a health reform bill in the House. That’s a lie, as two Democratic congressmen confirmed tp Deidre Walsh of CNN :

Nancy Pelosi’s statement Wednesday that Democrats have the votes to pass health care in the House. “I think the Speaker was well intended because she was hearing optimistic things, but I don’t believe there are the votes on the floor as of right now,” he said Wednesday.

Hill said he and other Blue Dogs were meeting again Wednesday night with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. Hill said they’re “making progress,” but still have significant issues to resolve. Nancy Ann DeParle from the White House was involved in an earlier meeting with Blue Dogs, he said.

Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who is trying to change the bill to make it clear it would not use taxpayer money for abortions, also disagreed with the Speaker.

“It would be easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to pass this bill,” said Stupak.

Stupak said Democratic leaders can’t lose 40 votes if they want to pass the bill and predicted “she [Pelosi] would lose more than 40 on the right to life issue alone. There’s just no way.”

Stupak said he doesn’t want to block the bill, but wants leaders to agree to add language on the abortion issue before it comes to the House floor.

Pelosi has a revolt on both her right and left, with the progressive caucus getting angrier with each concession made to the moderates.

In the end, the bill might die a death by a thousand cuts as the final effort may contain so many objectionable elements to so many Democrats that it won’t have a prayer of passing.

The lack of leadership on this bill by the president has been astounding. While he has occasionally met with members at the White House, his efforts have fallen far short of whipping his reluctant party into line. He makes speeches. He holds town halls, He goes before his friends in the press.

But the nitty gritty political work he is leaving to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and at least 5 committee chairmen. While no one has ever doubted the president’s skills as a campaigner, it is apparent he doesn’t know how to lead. He can’t distinguish a difference between campaigning and governing.

And there is a real possibility, no longer remote, that he will fail to bring any health care bill to a vote this year.

By: Rick Moran at 9:21 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

7/22/2009
IT’S PAST TIME TO INOCULATE CONSERVATISM AGAINST THE BIRTHERS

It is sometimes easy when you live in the virtual world of the internet to look at people like the Birthers or Truthers and dismiss them out of hand as a small minority of lunatics who are best left alone to wallow in their paranoid kookiness.

Such might be good advice for dealing with those who believe we never landed on the moon, or who think that we have dead aliens on ice at Area 51. But, as I warned my fellow conservatives in this post about the Founding Freeper’s call for “revolution” and removal of all elected representatives from the president on down, we ignore some of these groups, including the Birthers, at the peril of having conservatism severely damaged by having their ideas associated with the mainstream right.

Yes, there numbers may be small relative to the whole. But they are actively committed to spreading their lunacy far and wide and are gaining converts and cash as I write this.

The question then becomes do we try and isolate, chastise, and ultimately drive out the paranoid purveyors of utterly fantastical notions of Obama’s origins while they are still a small enough group that a concerted effort could succeed? Or do we wait and see how big they get before acting, thus risking a backlash against the right from the voter?

To prevent many diseases from harming our health, we inoculate ourselves so that an illness will not develop. I propose something similar in dealing with the Birthers. For my part, anyone who leaves a comment on this site, on any post, that advances any birther “theory” will be banned from accessing my writings.

Some might think this a bad idea in that I will forgo “debate” or perhaps not allow a Birther to be convinced otherwise. That’s nonsense. My experience with Birthers has been that they don’t want to hear any contrary evidence, that they have closed their mind so completely to the truth that arguing with a brick wall would be easy by comparison.

Besides, for most Birthers, it’s not about discovering the truth. It is about delegitimizing the president. For months they demanded to see the president’s birth certificate. When the state of Hawaii released a “Certificate of Live Birth,” we heard from the Birthers that it wasn’t good enough, or it was a fake. “All we want is to see the president’s birth certificate,” they innocently ask. And they take the president’s reluctance to do so - indeed, his fight in the courts to prevent the release of it - as “evidence” that there is something amiss.

I don’t blame Obama for fighting it. It is an insult to the presidency, to begin with. And the fact that no other president or presidential candidate in history has been asked to “prove” they are citizens is a personal insult to Obama.

I have little doubt that racism plays a role in this for some, but for most, it is a continuation of a streak of radical paranoia that has afflicted a subset of modern conservatism in the post-World War II era. The anti-Masons, the bugaboos associated with the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, Breton Woods, the Jews, the Catholics — it is a long, inglorious list of people and organizations around which has grown paranoid conspiracies of the most outrageous sort.

I’ve quoted Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” several times on this site. The opening paragraph of that essay applies to our current situation:

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

Hofstadter misread the Goldwater movement entirely, but so did most liberals at the time who failed to appreciate what energies had been released as a result of the Arizona senator’s candidacy. To ascribe Goldwater’s success to the paranoids was an extreme oversimplification but typical of the blindness demonstrated by the left to what was happening to conservatism below the surface. (I wonder what Hofstadter would have made of the unhinged, paranoid and radical nature of opposition to Bush by many lefty bloggers over the previous 8 years?)

The point is that Hofstadter’s description of the Birthers (and others who believe everything from Obama being a communist to his desire to “destroy” America) is spot on. “Heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” are the hallmarks of the Birthers, and even if Obama were to release his birth certificate, they would find it a fake or demand something equally idiotic as “proof” of his citizenship.

You cannot debate them without legitimizing their arguments. They are not rational so logic and reason have no effect on their thinking. Like the 9/11 Truthers who are a cross cultural, equal opportunity fraternity of both left and right nutcases, they must be denounced in as strong language that we can muster. They must be belittled, humiliated, laughed at, raged against, and verbally hammered unmercifully until they are beaten back into the shadows and dark places from which their fantasies emerged.

And now, Rush Limbaugh has joined the Birthers in asking to see the president’s “long form” birth certificate. The “news” site World News Daily - one of the biggest boosters of the Birther movement - reports on Limbaugh’s conversion:

On his show today, Limbaugh told listeners, “As you know, I’m in the midst of another harassing audit from New York State and New York City for the last three years. We’re up to 16 different ways I have to prove to New York City and state tax authorities where I have been every day – not just work week – but every day, for the past three years.”

He continued, “Barack Obama has yet to have to prove that he’s a citizen. All he has to do is show a birth certificate. He has yet to have to prove he’s a citizen. I have to show them 14 different ways where the h— I am every day of the year for three years.”

Do my fellow righties still think this is just a fringe group of paranoids? Whenever I criticize Limbaugh on this site, I get an army of conservatives telling me he is the heart and soul of the conservative movement. If so, what does that say to the rest of us who utterly reject the Birther nonsense? Are we out of step with the mainstream? Or has Limbaugh proved once again that he is a clown, an oaf, and a shallow panderer to the fears and anger of his listeners?

Mark Ambinder offers this in his post, “Should the GOP Take the Birther Threat Seriously?”

That’s the thesis of the First Readers of NBC News, after viewing this astonishing clip from a town hall meeting that Rep. Mike Castle held in Delaware for his constituents. What’s most notable, to me, at least, is not how scared Castle looked or how passionately the woman argued for Barack Obama’s foreign birth. It was the reaction of the audience, a good portion of which erupted into cheers and youbetchas.

[...]

To the extent that one can conclusively prove such things in our postmodern age, this claim has been extremely thoroughly debunked. The birther movement may be premised on a fictional belief, but it is savvy: birthers now wear the term “birther” as badge of honor, as if they were a persecuted minority — which, come to think of it, is one mechanism for solidarity in the face of evidence to the contrary.

[...]

This is, at once, a fringe movement and something greater. It’s fringe because no important Republicans believe it, and most are offended by it. It’s greater because some fairly prominent local lawmakers are beginning to sign birther petitions.

At least nine members of Congress have cosponsored a birther bill that would require prospective presidents to affirm their U.S. citizenship. What we don’t know is how widespread the belief is among Republicans — and even if the belief is confined to a narrow minority, whether the belief will spread as Republicans begin to pay closer attention to electoral politics in 2010 and 2012.

Now that Rush has picked up the Birther standard, expect other Pop-Cons like Hannity, Beck, Coulter, and more to start pushing it. If they do, they are playing with fire. Pandering to paranoids has the historically nasty habit of having their delusions stick to you like glue. Charles Lindbergh found that out to his detriment when he embraced the “America First Committee” before World War II. When the war broke out, he was ignored by Roosevelt and his fame took a permanent hit.

I am open to any and all ideas on how to marginalize these kooks before conservatism itself becomes a victim of the Birthers unbalanced lunacy. We can no longer turn the other way when confronted with Birther blather. Since they won’t listen to reason , shame and humiliation would seem to me to be the best way to closet them with the other nutcases of American politics.

UPDATE

I was right to compare Birtherism with a disease. It seems to be spreading.

First Limbaugh, now Liz Cheney who refused to denounce the Birthers on Larry King:

After King showed video of the crazy birther who disrupted a meeting with poor GOP Rep. Mike Castle, demanding he acknowledge Obama was born in Kenya (that’s one birther claim); and after Carville denounced them as a “poor, pathetic” fringe group, King gave Cheney a chance to distance herself from them. But Cheney demurred, telling King the Birther movement exists because “People are uncomfortable with a president who is reluctant to defend the nation overseas.”

The rarely shocked Carville seemed briefly speechless, and even King, not known to be the most combative interviewer, tried a second time to get an honest reaction from Cheney — which I read as expecting her to separate herself from the crazies. But Cheney repeated her talking point about Obama inadequately defending the nation overseas. Unbelievable. Carville called her on it, accurately: “She refuses to say, ‘This is ludicrous,’ because she actually wants to encourage these people to believe this.”

Absolutely nuts.

By: Rick Moran at 9:53 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (59)