Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, Decision 2010, Financial Crisis, Government, Politics, Too Big To Fail — Rick Moran @ 11:10 am

It is an article of faith for many on the right that government regulation of anything is inherently wasteful and inefficient; that government’s role as a watchdog or arbiter can only lead to less freedom, more restriction of the free market, and a less vibrant economy.

More learned people than I make that argument so I will not dispute it. The question then; is there a case to be made for government regulation anyway?

We’re getting into slippery territory by weighing the bad against the good; a loss of freedom in the market in exchange for some semblance of order. The notion that this is a bad trade off in every case is mistaken, in my opinion. Certainly there are compelling reasons why the only entity large enough to ride herd on the gigantic corporations who run our financial industry upon which we all ultimately depend is the federal government. Trusting these mega-banks to do the right thing without careful, and calibrated adult supervision contradicts the conservative principle that you can’t change human nature (Russell Kirk’s principle of the “imperfectability”) - that given the means and opportunity, the financial giants will act in ways that would be detrimental to the promotion of necessary fairness and transparency, thus damaging the free market anyway.

Kirk’s “well ordered society” and “prudent restraints upon power” should inform any regulatory scheme that seeks to balance the needs of society to protect itself and the necessity of the free market to operate. In this way, there is a conservative case for financial regulatory reform to be made. It’s just too bad that GOP lawmakers are so terrified of their right wing base that they didn’t dare work with Democrats to come up with a bi-partisan FinReg bill that would have been a more prudent, less intrusive, and more effective than the one that passed the senate yesterday. Working with the enemy is verboten and that goes double for anything that smacks of using the government to regulate Wall Street.

It is a legitimate question to ask whether Democrats would have listened to Republicans - any Republican - on a FinReg bill in the first place. Not even trying to work with the opposition on such significant legislation is irresponsible governance. Those few Republicans who exposed themselves to the fury of the base by trying to work with Democrats will get precious little thanks for their efforts. What meager concessions that senators like Scott Brown, Susan Collins, and Olympia Snowe were able to wangle from the majority will do little to alleviate the impression that this is a Democratic bill through and through, passed once again in the dead of night, with little understanding of what the senate has wrought, and will place an inordinate amount of power in the hands of regulators to make sense of the bill’s 2000+ pages.

Prudence is a lost civic virtue.

The tragedy is that there are indeed, some aspects of this bill that any conservative could have gotten behind. For the first time, a light will shine on the shadowy world of derivatives and credit default swaps - the abuse of which became a primary cause of the downfall of Bear Stearns and AIG. The NY Times Steven Davidoff:

Shadow Banking. The bill establishes record-keeping and reporting requirements for most derivatives (Section 727 and 729). It also establishes a registered derivatives exchange and requires all of these derivatives to be submitted for clearance on an exchange (Section 723). The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission can regulate and ban abusive derivatives as well as decide which derivatives are required to be cleared (Section 714). Nonfinancial companies do not need to clear derivatives if there is a commercial reason for the transaction and they notify the S.E.C. of their ability to financially meet the obligation (Section 723). These provisions as a whole ensure that there is a more open process for derivatives and the ability of regulators to assess their systemic risk.

Treating the derivatives market in a similar fashion that we regulate the stock exchange is a reform long overdue. Previously, we were treated to the spectacle of derivative traders actually betting against the plays of their clients - a grossly unethical practice. At least regulators will get a heads up if there are the kinds of abuses in the system that led to the meltdown.

What about bailouts?

The bill establishes an intricate series of provisions to place ailing financial institutions and systemically significant nonbank financial companies into receivership (Title II). The bill also has provisions allowing the government to deal with systemically significant foreign firms and foreign financial subsidiaries of American companies (Sections 113 and 210). Had these provisions existed, the government could have dealt effectively with the disastrous problems at the American International Group, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

The bill requires that in any resolution, senior management is placed farther down the line of creditors of the firm than they would in a normal bankruptcy (they are placed after the unsecured creditors and just before shareholders) (Section 210). The bill also allows the government to break financial contracts, like credit default swaps, in the resolution process (Section 210). These two provisions allow the government to avoid an A.I.G.-type situation where it is forced to hand over collateral under these derivatives contracts or otherwise pay out money to undeserving management.

There is no guarantee that a company will be “too big to fail” but it makes a taxpayer bailout a matter of last resort rather than panicked action by government. The point being, even if we allow a failing giant to go out of business, it must be managed very carefully so as not to spook the rest of the market and guarantee an orderly exit for the business.

Not perfect but probably the best that could be achieved under the circumstances.

The bank capital requirements are mostly sensible to me, although there is the risk that too stringent requirements will lessen the competitiveness of our financial institutions. As a prime example of unintended consequences, a regulatory regime that is too restrictive in how much cash and assets a bank should have on hand is a probable outcome. Regulators, by nature, are overly cautious and this area of the bill would seem to lend itself to overregulation.

There’s plenty not to like in the bill. A fairly thorough and intelligent take on this comes from Conn Carroll over at Heritage blog. No doubt there are other unknown consequences that will emerge over the next few years. All we can do is hope that Congress will ride herd on the bureaucrats and mitigate the worst of what they can do.

Could the GOP have done any better - that is, if they were of a mind to regulate Wall Street to begin with? I really don’t know. Would a GOP bill have incorporated more suggestions from the industry? Would it have been as tough on derivatives as the current bill appears to be?

What is certain is that we have another imprudent example of how not to govern an industrialized democracy in the 21st century. These gigantic “comprehensive” reform measures hand too much power to unelected bureaucrats by Congress abdicating its responsibilities to carefully weigh the consequences of their proposals before greenlighting them. The most disheartening aspect of Obama’s agenda is not that little thought is given in this area, but that no thought at all is invested in figuring out the downside to these legislative initiatives. It is beyond irresponsiblity that the Democratic Congress has placed us in thrall to government apparatchiks who care more about aggrandizing power and elevating their position than in promulgating intelligent regulation. That is the nature of bureaucracy - something that the Democrats have forgotten, or simply about which the Democrats don’t care.

Reason enough to boot them from power in November.



This articile originally appears on The Moderate Voice

I would like to think that the continuing drama being played out between pragmatists and ideologues in the conservative sphere might be optioned to NBC and made into a daytime drama. Two problems arise immediately; soap operas are a dying TV genre and it would be no contest with regards to sex appeal between Sarah Palin and David Frum.

That said, a fascinating incident made public by John Hawkins, who denied David Frum’s website a place in his conservative ad network because he didn’t believe Frum was sufficiently conservative (defined as someone who criticizes the right solely to ingratiate themselves with liberal elites), underscores the current struggle between those who believe in applying conservative principles to government in a prudent, practical effort to preserve liberty and force Washington to be a servant of the people, and those who wish to use conservatism in the same, exact manner in which Democrats are using liberalism today; as a club to destroy their enemies.

Am I mischaracterizing the beliefs of Hawkins and his ilk? I’m sure John would mostly agree with this rant from Dr. Zero (linked by Instapundit), in which the good Doctor defines the two sides thusly:

There are two Republican parties, and both had a candidate on the 2008 presidential ticket. John McCain was the candidate of the thin-blooded aristocracy, tired men who dislike certain elements of their nominal constituency far more intensely than their political opposition. They have no strenuous objection to the premises of the Left, as could be seen from McCain’s swift acceptance of the freedom-has-failed spin pushed by the Democrats during the 2008 financial crisis. Many of them believe opposition to the Left’s emotional narrative is electoral suicide. This also makes them reluctant to criticize Democrat candidates in harsh terms…


The other Republican party is young and vital. On the 2008 ticket, its banner was carried by Sarah Palin. It’s the yeoman wing of the party, composed of people with middle-class backgrounds and real-world business experience. These people are appalled at the bloated mess in Washington, and the smaller but equally fatal tumors infecting many state capitols. They see a government speeding toward systemic collapse, its doom spelled out in the simple math of unsustainable entitlements and economy-crushing taxation. They’re in love with the American people, a sincere passion that rings from every speech Palin delivers.

Dr. Zero didn’t include the horns and tail for the “thin-blooded aristocracy” or the halo for his “yeomen” (hardscrabble dirt farmers operating on the economic margins, and light years from being considered “middle class” ) which is just as well. This isn’t serious analysis anyway. Such one dimensional, stick figure characterizations can’t even be construed as generalizations; more like representational cotton candy cut outs with the heft of a feather pillow and the consistency of oatmeal. It’s value is in how it reveals the shallowness of ideologues’ thinking and their exaggerated opinion of themselves as well as the comically broad manner in which they denigrate the pragmatists.

Here’s Hawkins on why he turned Frum down:

There’s an easy answer to that question: the mainstream media loves “conservatives” and “Republicans” who will trash whomever the Left hates most. So, if you’re willing to talk about how Sarah Palin is a hick, Glenn Beck is a crank, Rush Limbaugh is bad for the country, and the Tea Party is bad for democracy, the mainstream media will reward you — and because conservatives pride themselves on being open minded, they’ll all too often give you a pass for your atrocious behavior — especially since the MSM doesn’t insist you play their game all the time. As long as you’re willing to say what they want about the people they hate the most, they’ll reward you with a cover story at Newsweek and then in your off time, you can churn out a few articles to point gullible conservatives towards while you’re trying to guilt them into taking you seriously by crying “epistemic closure!”

This is what David Frum does for a living — and don’t think he doesn’t know it. Even the people who write for him know it. I ran into someone who writes for his blog at an event once. He was extremely defensive about writing for them. I must have heard him tell at least three people, myself included, something akin to, “I write for FrumForum, but please don’t hold that against me.”

Long story short, everybody has to make a living. But, I’m not interested in helping people like Frum play this little game where they try to cripple conservatives publicly while coming around on the back end to milk us for money. If Frum wants to be a dancing monkey for the Left, let them come up with the money to pay for the tune.

Hawkins has a lot more to say and you should read the whole thing. But instead of mocking epistemic closure, John should reread the original piece by Julian Sanchez and contemplate how his explanation defines the term:

Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter. If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely—maybe even when it comes from the New York Times. And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation. A more intellectually secure conservatism would welcome this, because it wouldn’t need to define itself primarily in terms of its rejection of an alien enemy.

Hawkins does not believe that Frum is a conservative at all. He comes to this conclusion not because of what Frum espouses or what he believes philosophically but because liberals like it when he criticizes Hawkins’ favorite cotton candy conservatives! It is not where Frum stands on the issues that rankles Hawkins, but rather some of his criticisms are exactly the same as those coming from liberals. Ergo, since liberals have nothing to say that any “real” conservative should listen, anything Frum says is dismissed.

I went through this same thing when I had some nice things to say about Sam Tanenhaus’s Death of Conservatism. Dismissing what someone says based solely and exclusively on their ideology is too stupid to comment on. That goes for both sides of the divide and bespeaks an anti-intellectualism from those who practice such idiocy. Tanenhaus was dead wrong in much of his critique, but that doesn’t mean he had nothing of value to say. To believe that is to close your mind entirely to alternative points of view.

Incredibly, in Hawkins’ response to Frum’s pique over the ad controversy, Hawkins claims that he and other conservatives don’t mind being criticized - as long as it doesn’t mimic what liberals say about them:

If you were going by talent, personality, or ability to hold an audience, none of the people I’ve just mentioned, including David Frum, have the ability to claw their way up the conservative food chain like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin have. So, to use David Frum’s word again, they’re willing to prostitute themselves (If Meghan McCain happens to read this, I don’t mean that literally — like a street walker. It means you’re selling out your principles. If you get confused, ask your daddy to hire someone to explain it to you) to the liberals in the mainstream media who want “conservatives” who are willing to tell liberals what they want to hear. This is no secret to David Frum or anybody else who works in this business.


Actually, I, like most conservatives, do not advocate groupthink or demand people rigidly stick to the “company line.” We actually have a simpler request: We just want people who are billed as Republicans and conservatives to actually be on the same side we are. The editorial pages in the newspapers slant liberal. The columnists slant liberal. Even the news in the newspapers slants liberal. Hell, even the TV shows and movies slant liberal. So finally, after all that, you run across a “conservative” in the mainstream media giving an opinion and guess what? He’s been given a platform to speak because he agrees with the liberals. That’s what people like David Frum get paid to do, I’m sick of it, and I’m not doing anything else to reward people like him, including allowing them to get into the Blogads Conservative Hive.

Shorter Hawkins; We don’t advocate groupthink except when we advocate groupthink. We don’t want an independent thinker representing conservatism and Republicans - even if he served in the administration of a Republican president, advocates strongly for conservative issues like fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and strong defense, supports many conservative candidates, and has written passionately about ways that the GOP and conservatism can be made relevant again.

We want someone like Eric Erickson representing conservative - a guy who once referred to former Supreme Court Justice David Souter in a Tweet as a “goat fucking child molester” and daydreamed at RedState, “At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?”

Much better. Such “true conservatives” are what we need front and center, representing the right.

What makes Hawkins response to Frum so classically tragic is that he fails to recognize how much in the grip of epistemic closure he is. He can write that he doesn’t subscribe to groupthink while making it plain as day that this is exactly what he is beholden to. Such a Shakespearean formulation - where the protagonist fails utterly in sensing his tragic flaw due to hubris, or fear of knowing oneself, or even being blocked from self-awareness by the Gods - makes Hawkins’ ignorance heartbreaking for those of us on the right whose criticisms of the Beck-Hannity-Palin-Limbaugh worldview seeks to smash the echo chamber that dominates conservative conversation and inject some realism and a little sanity into the discourse. At the very least, criticizing the shallowness, the illogic, the wildly exaggerated conspiracy theories and the outright falsehoods espoused by the cotton candy conservative crowd allows for an alternate record to be made that promotes reason rather than the irrational.

Hawkins is a prisoner of an intellectual conceit that brooks no opposition, and even less independent thought. Unable, as Sanchez points out, to answer the criticism on an intellectual level, Hawkins and his ilk stoop to questioning motives. Of course Frum is critical of the right; he craves attention and financial rewards from liberals. Never mind engaging Frum on the specifics of his criticisms (a far more rewarding proposition and one with a good chance of success given Mr. Frum’s sometimes inconsistent arguments). The way to answer Frum is by trying to discredit him by accusing him of being intellectually dishonest.


Hawkins seems to be suggesting that we go on TV not as individuals, to express our own ideas as best we can, to offer the most useful information we can discover. No – people should appear as representatives of pre-existing tribes: conservatives, liberals, blacks, whatever, to engage in a ritual of synchronized repetition of pre-existing phrases. You are a conservative? You must say THIS – and never that. You must approve THIS – and never admit to doubts about that.

Hawkins asks: “What’s the point of putting Frum on TV?” Take him seriously though and you have to wonder: What’s the point of putting ANYONE on TV when the job could be so easily automated?

Hawkins makes it plain that conservatives are free to speak their minds - as long as they think Glen Beck is the bees knees, Rush Limbaugh is the cat’s meow, and Sarah Palin is ready to be president. The ideologues who equate criticism of their heroes with being a liberal do so because their worldview is so closed to alternative viewpoints that they are incapable of logical argument. Hence, the strawmen, the logical fallacies, and the simple, personal smear questioning the integrity of others is all they have.

What criticism of the right would Hawkins agree with? He never says, although you can be sure it would be irrelevant to what really ails conservatism. A movement so fatally flawed by its failure to engage critics from its own ranks - critics who seek to make conservatism relevant again so that electoral success can translate into prudent, practical public policy that will regrow the economy, protect our citizens, and re-establish the primacy of individual rights - may find temporary success at the polls as a result of the utter stupidity and incompetence of Obama and the Democrats. But in order to truly reform the government and the culture, it will take a more intellectually rigorous application of conservative principles and a pragmatic political bent that will ensure political competitiveness for decades to come.



Filed under: Decision '08, Government, History, Politics, Tea Parties, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 12:49 pm

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

Something remarkable has been happening in America since even before President Obama took office. There has been a dedicated effort on both sides of the political divide to reconnect with our founding document and its principles in an effort to understand, and counteract what they see as dangerous unconstitutional actions by our government.

It is more widespread today than it was in the Bush years, but even then there were many on the left who worried about the increase in executive power the Bush administration was accumulating and we witnessed many ordinary citizens earnestly studying the Constitution in their efforts to place the actions of Bush in a constitutional framework. The resulting criticism was, at least in some part, reasonable and rational while being based on sound constitutional arguments.

But this effort was but a prologue to the tsunami of interest in the Constitution evinced by the tea party movement and conservatives generally once the massive spending and power grabs of the Obama administration began. Probably millions of ordinary citizens are reading and trying to understand the Ur document of America’s founding given that the pocket sized edition of the Constitution is passed out at every tea party meeting across the country. I commented on this phenomenon following my visit to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:

It may seem to some a quaint exercise in good citizenship for these millions to wrestle with such convoluted and complex questions as the meaning and reach of the commerce clause or the constitutionality of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The condescension is misplaced — and totally unwarranted.

The Constitution was not written in legalese despite the presence of so many lawyers at the Constitutional Convention. It was written in plain, accessible English so that the document could be read and understood by ordinary Americans. It was printed in newspapers, slapped on the walls near the village commons, and mailed far and wide. It was discussed in churches, in public houses, at family dinners, and between neighbors from New England to Georgia.

Never before in history had a country thought and debated itself into existence. When that generation of Americans looked at our founding document, could they have imagined that one day a congressman would say that the Constitution doesn’t matter? Or that congressmen could not answer the question of where in the Constitution did it authorize the federal government to force citizens to buy health insurance?

What does it matter today that ordinary people are reading and interpreting the Constitution in their own way, without reference to precedent or knowledge of specific court cases that have laid out the grid work upon which the powers and responsibilities of government have been constructed? After all, they can interpret the Constitution from here to doomsday and it won’t matter a fig to the Supreme Court. Those nine robed magistrates will work their will regardless of popular sentiment and, sometimes, common sense.

But in one of the more remarkable aspects of this revival of interest among the citizenry of the meaning and purpose of the Constitution, it doesn’t matter what the Supremes think, or the elites, or the sickeningly condescending left who sneer at talk of the Tenth Amendment or strict constructionism. What matters is the effort itself — that people are becoming more engaged in what their government is up to than they have been in a very long time.

What does this mean? The Hill reports a run on the Constitution booklet at the Government Printing Office:

Since September 2009, the GPO has sold more than 8,700 copies of the pocket Constitution to the public, according to GPO spokesman Gary Somerset. That is a higher sell rate than in recent years.

Those sales are in addition to the thousands of copies given to members of Congress each year. Congress authorized a resolution in 2009 to print 441,000 copies for the use of the House (1,000 for each member) and 100,000 copies for the Senate (1,000 for each senator).

The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute, which keep statistics on the Constitution, also say that requests for the historical document are on the rise.

GPO sells copies for $2.75, but constituents can request a free one from their lawmaker.

Congressional offices are burning through theirs stacks of pocket Constitutions.

In a recent “Dear Colleague” letter titled “Order More Pocket Constitutions!” House Administration Committee Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) advised members to take advantage of a special rate.

The letter stated, “Many Members have lately experienced a large increase in constituent requests for the Pocket Constitution. Members who may need more are invited to take advantage of a special, pre-publication ‘rider-rate’ of $390 per 1,000 copies. This rider rate of 39¢ each represents a substantial savings over the post-publication price of $2.75 each ($2,750 per 1,000) available later through the GPO Sales Program.”

There’s been nothing like it in my lifetime and no similar wave of interest in the Constitution that I can fathom from my own reading of history. Perhaps not since the debate on ratification itself have so many ordinary Americans struggled with trying to interpret and understand what Madison, Mason and their compatriots wrought 222 years ago this summer.

Ed Meese from Heritage’s Constitution Center:

“I think there is more interest now than I’ve seen in the last many years, and I think it’s because people are really worried about whether the federal government is getting so large, so expansive, so intrusive and so powerful that the Constitution is in jeopardy.”

Can the naysayers who pooh-pooh American exceptionalism explain this phenomenon in the context of other nations’ citizens carrying on this way? I doubt it. We Americans have always had a reverence for our founding document that transcends the words on the page and becomes sublime veneration - almost a civic bible.

In this, there is danger. There are many in the tea party movement as well as in some boisterous conservative circles who posit the notion that if something is not in the Constitution, then it is, quite simply unconstitutional. Nothing in there about health insurance so of course, it’s not legal. We don’t see the words “Cap and Trade” so we have to oppose it as a measure not authorized in our founding document.

These are people who actually think of the Constitution the same way they think of the Bible; immutable, unchanging, and holy writ. There is no “interpreting” the document because the words are themselves good enough to cover any eventuality that may arise.

This is wrongheaded, of course, but there are many of us who wish government erred more toward that interpretation than toward the present “anything goes” free for all where the Constitution is stretched beyond recognition to cover one scheme or another that seeks to separate Americans from their liberty.

It is here where the debate cleaves the sharpest; is the Constitution a guidebook that government is to follow or is it a suggestion box whose codicils are used to justify power grabs? It seems at times that we use the Constitution to absolve and exonerate rather than trying to grapple with connecting what is being adjudicated to the intent of the Founders.

I know that intentionalism is in pretty bad odor on the left and indeed, carried to extremes it is a pernicious doctrine. But if you are going to respect what’s in the Constitution, it seems like simple common sense to respect the intent of those who wrote it. Obviously, the framers didn’t have a clue about our modern world. They designed a government to cover the exigencies of a 18th century coastal republic of 7 million freemen. But neither could they envision a day when their basic intent of creating a nation of limited government, expansive individual rights, and the protection of property was tossed aside in the name of modernity.

Will all of this interest in the Constitution make a practical difference in our politics and culture? I am anxious to see the answer to that question play out over the next few years.



Filed under: Blogging, Decision '08, Ethics, Government, Homeland Security, Media, Politics, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 7:39 am

This blurb by Dave Neiwert at Crooks and Liars is fascinating. It is so blithely ignorant of its own irony that it could easily be construed as a child sticking its tongue out at a playmate and sneering, “So there, nyeah.”

The next time you hear some right-winger (most notably Dick Cheney) sneer at the Obama administration’s “law enforcement approach to terrorism,” remember this.

Remember what? How incredibly lucky we are because twice now since Christmas we failed to interdict a terrorist attack because the essence of the “law enforcement approach” is to wait until the terrorists have killed a lot of Americans before acting? The “law enforcement approach” did not stop Shahzad from trying to incinerate New Yorkers in Times Square, nor did it stop Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from trying to bring down an airplane filled with people on Christmas day.

If Mr. Shahdaz was sitting in jail right after a successful attack, how sneeringly juvenile would Neiwert be about that? If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been able to bring down the plane on Christmas day, how much crowing would Neiwert be doing about the “law enforcement approach” to terrorism?

The police have an important role to play in the War on Terror. No one disputes this except people like Neiwert trying to set up strawman arguments to shadow box with his political opponents. International cooperation to break up terror cells already in place is a vital component to keep us safe. Cheney should know. He headed a Bush administration effort that, for all its faults, worked closely with our allies, and even those nations who don’t like us very much (Pakistan) in a proactive attempt to foil terrorist plots before they occurred.

Those of us who believe that we are at war with Islamic extremists (they certainly believe they are at war with us) want to go beyond this common sense approach and, using special forces, drones, and even assassins, attack terrorists where they are hiding to prevent them from planning attacks on us in the first place. Also, if necessary, attack nations that harbor and succor terrorists who have successfully attacked America.

Don’t look now, but President Obama is doing all of that (I have no doubt he would respond with military force if it could be shown a major attack on America originated in a country that allowed terrorists safe haven). He’s just not calling it a “War on Terror” and has liberals like Neiwert bamboozled into thinking he has altered President Bush’s policies much at all. He hasn’t. He has stepped up the use of drones on our enemies while special forces are assisting Yemenis, Pakistanis, and probably other nations in going after and killing terrorists. His emphasis on law enforcement is cosmetic. In order not to offend the sensibilities of moderate Muslims (and to fool his own domestic political base), the president is downplaying the military aspect of the War on Terror in his public pronouncements. What goes on behind the scenes is a different story.

Cheney is upset that Obama isn’t acting like a cowboy and broadcasting our efforts to fight a war against the terrorists where they live and plot their attacks. And liberals like Neiwert are deluding themselves if they think that because the atmospherics have changed, the policy has been altered. Nothing could be further from the truth.

CIA paramilitaries, SEALS, Green Berets, and special forces units from every branch of the service are engaged in a “hot” war with those who would do us harm. They are working with the military and intelligence services of other nations to track, expose, and kill terrorists. By any definition you want to use, this is war. And Neiwert’s arrogant posturing notwithstanding, it is a vitally important adjunct to efforts by police around the world to carry out their own anti-terrorism functions that not only look to capture terrorists before they can harm us, but also take away their sources of finance, cut off their communications with their overseas masters, and relentlessly pursue them, never giving them a moment’s rest.

Our military constantly feeds intelligence gleaned from their efforts to our allies in the War on Terror who pass the information along to local and national police authorities. It is a symbiotic relationship that has proven very successful - for the most part. But as former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge pointed out years ago, we have to be successful in interdicting the terrorist’s plans 100% of the time where they only have to be successful once in order to kill a lot of Americans.

The recent attacks in Detroit on Christmas day and in Times Square over the weekend highlight that truism. It is worrisome in both instances that our own government dropped the ball; a failure in airport security measures that failed to stop Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from attempting his murder, and several red flags that should have made Faisal Shahzad a person of interest to domestic law enforcement. This calls into question the basic competence of this administration and whether President Obama is protecting the homeland adequately.

Only by the grace of God and the incompetence of the attackers has a major domestic terrorist incident been avoided over the last few months. I hardly think that calls for the kind of childishness offered up by Dave Neiwert or any other lefty who is stupidly celebrating their “victory” over their political foes.

A few more victories like that and we’re going to have a lot of dead Americans to mourn.



Filed under: Decision '08, History, Politics, The Rick Moran Show — Rick Moran @ 9:12 am

This article originally appears on The Moderate Voice

First in a series.

This post by Julian Sanchez started an internet conversation/debate on what he calls “epistemic closure” on the right.

Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter. If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely—maybe even when it comes from the New York Times. And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation. A more intellectually secure conservatism would welcome this, because it wouldn’t need to define itself primarily in terms of its rejection of an alien enemy.

Predictably, conservatives don’t like being compared to Communist Chinese. But in that one brief passage. Mr. Sanchez has crystallized one of the major problems with modern conservatism; what I term its “negative feedback loop” of information exchange. Epistemic closure, by any other name, is an echo chamber effect; a disease that afflicts both sides but that, for some reason, is especially virulent on the right.

But Sanchez goes beyond the obvious to posit the notion that the very reality inhabited by the right is a Matrix-like construct, created out of the resentments and false assumptions made by conservatives about the world around them. There is the objective reality of Zion and then there is the Machine World that sort of looks like Zion but is the result of bearing a false consciousness about the way the world truly works.

The result? A herd mentality that brooks no criticism lest the sleepers awaken to their dilemma and realize all is not as they have imagined. Where for years they have believed Zion was the dream and they were living in the real world, they simply cannot make the psychic leap of faith and logic to embrace the same reality the rest of us accept. Hence, their ill treatment of apostates and total dismissiveness of liberal critics.

It is hard to argue with a lot of that. Even Jonah Goldberg accepts some of Sanchez’s critique:

Now, I think there’s some merit to what Sanchez says here. As the recipient of lots of email from people who insist I’m an apostate to conservative orthodoxy and from lots of people who insist I’m a leading enforcer of conservative orthodoxy, I have some appreciation for both the reality and the mirage of what Sanchez calls conservatism’s movement toward epistemic closure.

But what I find rather astounding and perplexing in these sorts of autopsies or vivisections of conservatism are how so many people claim there are problems for conservatism that are in fact simply facts of life for all human associations and movements. It’s like a physician describing the anatomy of Belgians as if they were somehow different from Ukrainians.

Jonah is right - up to a point. His problem is one of degree. The level of epistemic closure in, for example, the Catholic priesthood is far less a denial of objective reality than that found on the American right today. The Matrix like world inhabited by talk radio hosts and listeners, where Barack Obama is not just wrong but deliberately trying to destroy the country, has no counterpart in any other milieu of which I am aware.

The level of hysteria regarding Obama and the Democrats on what passes for the mainstream right is truly astonishing. Are we really “that close” to becoming a Marxist dictatorship? Is health care reform the end of American liberty? Is Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals really a liberal playbook being followed religiously by Obama on how to take over the country? Is the Obama administration a “regime?” Is it a “gangster government?”

This is but a sampling of the reality propounded on a daily basis by the cotton candy conservatives on talk radio, and eagerly lapped up by conservative listeners in the tens of millions. This, and worse, is written daily on conservative blogs and websites, reinforcing the reality as it is recognized and delivered by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other big names on the right.

The light of knowledge and objective reality cannot penetrate the screen set up by the gatekeepers of information trafficking because to do so would obviate their own cockeyed view of the world. The closed circle grows ever tighter around adherents as they deliberately shut off opposing perspectives, even when offered by those who are putatively on their side. To protect themselves from straying too far from the reality they have invented, they skewer critics - even on the right - with charges that they are liberal, or RINO’s, or their motivation is born out of jealousy and hate for the successful puindits who promulgate their warped worldview.

Jim Manzi:

I started to read Mark Levin’s massive bestseller Liberty and Tyranny a number of months ago as debate swirled around it. I wasn’t expecting a PhD thesis (and in fact had hoped to write a post supporting the book as a well-reasoned case for certain principles that upset academics just because it didn’t employ a bunch of pseudo-intellectual tropes). But when I waded into the first couple of chapters, I found that — while I had a lot of sympathy for many of its basic points — it seemed to all but ignore the most obvious counter-arguments that could be raised to any of its assertions. This sounds to me like a pretty good plain English meaning of epistemic closure. The problem with this, of course, is that unwillingness to confront the strongest evidence or arguments contrary to our own beliefs normally means we fail to learn quickly, and therefore persist in correctable error.

Case in point; try telling an inhabitant of this alternate reality that Obama is not a socialist, that the government has taken over only a tiny slice of the economy, and that if you value the meanings of words, you would desist from trying shoehorn the president and the Democrats into a definitional construct that is false from the word “go.”

“Obama lover” would be the first response, followed quickly by “RINO.” There currently isn’t a vocabulary on most of the right that would encompass dealing with internal criticism of this kind. The very nature of criticism has been turned on its head as ideological bona fides must be established before the critic is accepted. Thus, the echo chamber remains secure and the negative feedback loop intact.

It will take a national leader of the stature of Reagan to break through this morass and restore some semblance of objective reality to movement conservatism. The Republican party may triumph at the polls in November, but it will be no thanks to the mainstream right who have embraced a worldview that is at odds with what most of the rest of us know to be true.



Filed under: Birthers, Decision '08, Politics, Tea Parties — Rick Moran @ 9:03 am

This article originally appears on the Moderate Voice.

And it was all going so well for Democrats and liberals in the media.

Display a picture or vid clip of angry, contorted faces of the tea partiers, add the race card, accuse the “core” of the movement of being birthers, and generally play to the idea that this vast, grassroots movement is a small, insignificant bunch of sour grape Republicans who hate Obama.

Well, it worked for a while. But something funny happened on the way to smearing millions of ordinary Americans worried about the future; surveys of tea partiers show them to be almost as mainstream as a McDonald’s french fry:

The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, a Republican-leaning firm that conducted the surveys on behalf of an education advocacy group. Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.

The Winston Group conducted three national telephone surveys of 1,000 registered voters between December and February. Of those polled, 17 percent – more than 500 people — said they were “part of the Tea Party movement.” …

Yeah, yeah OK. Let’s trash the results because the Winston Group is “Republican leaning.”

I suppose Gallup is in the GOP’s pocket too?

Tea Party supporters skew right politically; but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That’s the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income.

In several other respects, however — their age, educational background, employment status, and race — Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large. (Emphasis mine)

Gallup actually gives better numbers for party affiliation than the GOP leaning Winston Group; 48% Republican and 43% independent with 8% self identified Democrats. And did Gallup really measure 32% of all Democrats in America supporting the tea partiers?

Ooops. There goes the narrative - mostly. With 28% of all Americans supporting the Tea Partiers and 26% opposed, you are bound to get a few kooks and crazies. You know the type; the one in ten thousand who hold up a sign comparing Obama to a witch doctor who somehow is portrayed as representative of protestors.

But I find it interesting that a group that is representative of the racial makeup of the US would be…racist. Can’t use the excuse that voters aren’t aware of the charges of racism made so casually, so nauseatingly by opponents. They’d have to be oblivious to the avalanche of media reports and opinion pieces that make the racist charge so cavalierly.

Beyond that, it is also not surprising that the majority would be conservative Republicans, although one might refer to most tea partiers as “nominal Republicans” in that I doubt whether there are more than a handful of GOP politicians that tea partiers are happy with.

I have been very critical of those in the tea party movement who seek to use anger and fear as a wedge to gain support for their cause. It is still my belief that reason wins a lot more converts than screaming, and fear mongering is self defeating - as seen by the failure to stop Obamacare. That vocal minority has done more damage to the tea party movement than most are willing to admit.

But the left is going to have to start coming to terms with this group based on reality, not their own, politically motivated smears. It is possible to argue against their positions without referring to them as racist, although I admit it’s a challenge to defend deficits of more than a trillion dollars as far as the eye can see. It is also possible to critique their arguments without trying to marginalize them as kooks. “Birtherism” has been so discredited that only a fringe now tries to keep the idea alive that Obama isn’t a natural born citizen. At any rate, is is a deliberate smear to posit the notion that the “core” of the tea party movement are birthers, as the president suggested in his Today Show interview.

Is the conservatism of the tea party movement farther right, in general, than the mainstream? We have little relevant data to make any kind of intelligent determination but my sense is that there is a distinct hard right flavor that, as Gallup might indicate, places the tea partiers on the edge of mainstream politics; not fringe by any means but some distance from the “center-right” that makes up the bulk of American voters. I would peg them as more ideological than much of the mainstream which skews their views in many respects. The fact that only 28% of all adults support them while 46% either have no opinion or don’t know shows there are a lot of adults in America who are suspicious of the tea party movement, as most Americans tend to be of excessively ideological people.

But even with those caveats, you cannot escape the notion that the narrative created by tea party opponents to smear them has been dealt a serious blow by these surveys. I’m sure on April 15th, when the tea partiers gather en masse once again, that we will get the same kind of coverage in the media that we have gotten previously; ignoring the tens of thousands of peaceful, reasonable, passionate demonstrators and highlight the kooks. At least, judging from the results of the surveys, the American people appear to be looking beyond that narrative and are focusing on the message of the movement; that we are spending too much and burdening future generations with obligations they will not be able to meet.



Filed under: Decision '08, PJ Media, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 9:02 am

My latest column is up at Pajamas Media and in it, I go through the reasons why Obamacare will probably not be repealed, nor declared unconstitutional in its entirety:

A sample:

Considering the fact that Democrats have deluded themselves into believing that ObamaCare is the nirvana all Americans have been pining for, it would be impolite not to join them in their self-deception.

This, the GOP has apparently taken to heart with talk of repealing ObamaCare. While an excellent idea with much merit, the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing this mirage are insurmountable. Consider:

1. In order to make repeal a reality, the GOP would have to win back both houses of Congress with considerable room to spare, capturing 2/3 of the seats in each chamber. This is because unless Barack Obama has a “road to Damascus” moment about liberty, the Constitution, the free market, and first principles, it is more than likely he will veto said repeal legislation just as quickly as they can load the teleprompter with his remarks on how he is saving “the children.”

2. An alternative to repeal, one that would have the same effect, would be to defund the measure by repealing parts of the bill. This path has the virtue of not needing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, because the tax credits and Medicaid expansion could be dealt with through the reconciliation process. Before getting too excited, you might want to think of the effect of cutting off subsidies to millions of poor people who have insurance only because the government pays for it. Making yourself an easy target for liberal demonizing is not a sound political strategy.

3. I hate bringing up history at a time like this, but no entitlement program once enacted has ever been repealed. “There’s a first time for everything” might be a tempting battle cry to employ, until you realize that the reason history is not on our side is because constituencies rapidly grow up around entitlements, making them as politically indestructible as the pyramids. The yowls of pain from beneficiaries of any entitlement that is under threat of major overhaul or repeal resonate with that significant portion of the electorate who gets all weepy at the thought of any American suffering for any reason. It is a major source of our strength as a nation - and it might be the death of us in the end.

Apropos my comment earlier in the week about the GOP eventually embracing national health insurance (which I shamelessly repeated in this piece), Senator Chuck Grassley has already made noises about fixing Obamacare rather than repealing it. And I think “repeal and replace” a far more intelligent political strategy than simple “repeal.”

But when you can’t move the mountain, isn’t it smarter to figure out ways to deal with it where it is? I would love to see Obamacare repealed but its never happened before and there is absolutely nothing about this situation that would make me think differently. Unless there is a total, unmitigated financial disaster before November, or unemployment skies, or inflation starts to really bite, the GOP will not win back control of the Senate, and taking over the House is also a problematic question.

Thus, with Obama firmly ensconced in the presidency until at least 2012, it seems a fanciful notion to entertain thoughts of repeal until at least 2013 — and that’s assuming Obama loses and the GOP picks up enough senate seats to defeat any filibuster attempt.

It’s not impossible - just not very likely. And saying so doesn’t make me a “defeatist.” It makes me a realist. Wishful thinking in this matter is the sign of a weak mind, easily swayed by emotion rather than logic.

Perhaps it’s too much to ask that the rank emotionalism that characterized this debate be put away and strategy formed by reason, not hysteria. But the GOP leadership, having unleashed and in some ways, encouraged this anger, is now finding it hard to control. How much of this rage is real and how much is exaggerated we’ll never know. But it seems to me that cooler heads must lead the coming fight and that by relying on hyperbolic, exaggerated rhetoric to whip up support for the cause simply isn’t necessary. Just as it wasn’t - isn’t - necessary to lie or exaggerate the worst parts of Obamacare. The bill is bad enough that it should have been defeated on its imprudent, costly, and coercive demerits.

We’ll never know if that approach would have worked. Just like we’ll never know if the Democrats had limited their goals with the bill if any GOP lawmakers would have joined them. Both sides have made their excessively partisan beds and now must lie in them. For the Democrats, everytime someone is in a doctor’s waiting room for more than 2 hours, they will be blamed. Every time a medical outcome goes against a patient, they will be blamed. Every snafu, every bottleneck, everything that could possibly go wrong with an individual’s medical care, the Democrats will be blamed. They bought the health care system lock, stock, and barrel. That’s the price they are going to pay for failing to heed the calls for prudence, and rational reform.

For the GOP, they will have to take care that they don’t appear to favor repeal at the expense of the weakest members of society. This is where “replace” comes in and where the GOP better step up to the plate with a better idea than simply throwing 30 million people into Medicaid. I think they can do it, but they have to get the base to agree that there’s a problem with the health care system to begin with. Once that’s done, the Republicans could move forward aggressively with an alternative to Obamacare; cheaper, more realistic, and one that addresses the real problems that the GOP failed to address during the Bush years.

With an astonishing 55% of Americans wanting to repeal the bill already, it’s not like Republicans will be wandering in the wilderness. With so much of this bill based on coercion, the Democrats may yet discover that when it comes to being told what to do, a majority of American still say to hell with what the Europeans are doing, health care reform is inimical to the first principles of personal responsibility and individual liberty.



Filed under: Decision '08, History, Politics, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:19 am

Here we go again, conservatives blowing something way, way out of proportion that when smart people think about it, doesn’t deserve all this hand wringing and angst-ridden diatribes on the right. When are conservatives ever going to learn that all this talk about the Constitution is just a distraction? What everyone should be looking at is making sure that everyone has their own set of dentures by passing Obamacare.

I’m talking, of course, about the “Slaughter Rule” where Democrats in the House - in what is really a brilliantly conceived and incredibly ballsy move even though Pelosi is gonadless - won’t even vote on the original health care reform bill passed by the senate and instead, simply “deem” the bill as passed. This will allow the president to sign into law a health care reform bill that will then be amended using reconciliation.

Stick in the mud conservatives are screaming foul. They point to this obscure part of the Constitution to make their case:

U.S Constitution, Article I, Section VII, Clause II.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively…

How quaint. Basing your objections on a 231 year old document is just a little bizarre, don’t you think? How seriously can we take this thing if it doesn’t even mention health care, or global warming, or even amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Oh sure, it’s ok as a sort of guide for government. And there are some really, really neat parts in there, like the First Amendment that says you can’t have any religion anywhere, at any time. And the Fifth Amendment that protects terrorists from incriminating themselves. Those are fine.

But remember, the Constitution is a racist document. It counted slaves as only 3/5 of a person. If that were true, then conservatives would count as about 1/3 of a person. Obviously, if conservatives are going to argue anything based on this document, they are closet Kluxers.

Besides, what’s the big deal about not voting for health care reform? Sure, a lot of people are opposed to it now, but just you wait until all the good stuff that’s in there kicks in. Yeah, it will take a few years but eventually, all you rich people out there - the ones with jobs anyway - will be subsidizing those who, through no fault of their own, didn’t buy insurance when they had the chance. This time, no excuse for you. You will buy insurance or the IRS is going to make sure you pay big time.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why conservatives insist on getting a vote for the original senate bill? This voting thing can be very hard when you’re trying to make history and not enough congressman want to do what our great, great, grandchildren will see as the completion of the welfare state:

A larger question any member of congress reading the op-ed ought to ask himself is “so what?” If reform passes and is signed into law, then immediately Barack Obama’s position in history is secured. When people look back from 2060 on the creation of the American welfare state, they’ll say that FDR, LBJ, and BHO were its main architects, with Roosevelt enshrining the principle of universal social insurance into law and Obama completing the initial promise of the New Deal. Members of congress who helped him do that will have a place in history. Nobody’s going to be very interested in a story like “Mike Ross served a bunch of years in Congress and people were impressed with his ability to win a relatively conservative district; he didn’t achieve very much and one day he wasn’t in Congress anymore.”

Which is just to say that nobody lasts in office forever, no congressional majority lasts forever, and no party controls the White House forever. But the measure of a political coalition isn’t how long it lasted, but what it achieved.

This is very smart stuff from Mr. Ygelsias. “Go for it boys - I’m right behind you! Nothing will happen to me if I cheer you on mindlessly while your political career ends up in the toilet. After all, it’s not ME who will get pummeled in the next election.”

Brave Sir Matt with some sound advice for politicians whose “achievement” may end up sending us into sovereign default, but at least we’ll have stuck it to the rich (and the near rich…and the wannabe rich…and those not rich at all but dream of being rich), while creating a health care paradise where waiting for routine procedures won’t be much longer than a year or so, and old folks will be put in their place and denied treatment better given to a more productive member of society, and thus ushering them off to hospice lickety split where they’ll have a cot and three hots until they croak.

Surely conservatives can see the beauty, the efficiency, the fairness of a system like this. Why muck up the works by throwing up a Constitutional smokescreen when this historical bill will make schoolkids in America forever after repeat the name of Barack Obama in the same hushed, reverent tones they use when uttering the name “Eugene Debs?”

It’s a distraction, I say! A distraction! Concentrate on what’s important - the passage of health care reform that may not do much of anything that Democrats are claiming it will do, but by God, it will be historical.

And that’s what’s important. The libs haven’t had much of a chance to make history lately. They miss the delicious feeling they get when they are immortalized through government action. Of course, they’d never dream of actually, you know, creating something that would immortalize them. That’s so bourgeoisie. Better to be immortalized by ramming government run health care down the throats of the American people so that future generations will, in their minds eye, look back in awe - AWE I tell you — at the lengths to which they went to bring them this…this…achievement!

If we’re lucky, those future school kids won’t even have to worry about a racist, sexist, homophobic, document like the Constitution. It will be long gone and we’ll be well rid of it.



Filed under: Decision '08, History, Politics, War on Terror, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:03 am

Just when you think you’ve seen just about everything in politics, one party or the other bites you in the ass to let you know that authoritarian tactics fit easily and comfortably over the democratic template laid down by the Founders.

It really is seamless at times. Witness the Tom DeLay move to keep the vote on the Medicare drug benefit open for hours (the rules say 15 minutes) while he and Hastert twisted arms, legs, and probably some more private parts of the bodies of GOP members in order to get the votes necessary for passage.

True, a minor glitch in the democratic process - just a little authoritarianism where rules are broken willy nilly for the sake of the momentary goal. There are other examples from the time the GOP ruled the roost in the House and DeLay was a power unto himself. A junior Mussolini that one, complete with the strutting kind of arrogance so beloved of Il Duce.

But nothing in my more than 30 years of observing politics could prepare me for what the Democrats may end up doing in order to pass health care reform:

The twisted scheme by which Democratic leaders plan to bend the rules to ram President Obama’s massive health care legislation through Congress now has a name: the Slaughter Solution.

The Slaughter Solution is a plan by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democratic chair of the powerful House Rules Committee and a key ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to get the health care legislation through the House without an actual vote on the Senate-passed health care bill. You see, Democratic leaders currently lack the votes needed to pass the Senate health care bill through the House. Under Slaughter’s scheme, Democratic leaders will overcome this problem by simply “deeming” the Senate bill passed in the House - without an actual vote by members of the House.

So is this just a partisan take on the matter? They can’t really be serious about passing health care reform by waving a magic gavel, could they?

There is a serious lack of reaction to this story on the left. Perhaps their email list hasn’t been able to reach a consensus on how to respond yet. Maybe they’re as taken aback by the breathtaking, undemocratic nature of the ploy as most of the rest of the planet. John Dickerson of Slate - no flaming liberal but hardly a man of the right - matter of factly lays out the scheme, appearing to applaud its utilitarian nature:

One method for accommodating the situation (first reported in CongressDaily) would allow the House to vote on the Bill B and, after doing so, simply consider the Senate health care bill (Bill A) as passed. There would be no actual up-or-down vote on the underlying bill. This would be the legislative equivalent of the economist’s old trick of assuming a can opener.

Actually, it’s an economist’s old joke, John, not a trick - which I suppose is quite revealing of how seriously you take the idea of the Democrats passing a bill that will affect 300 million Americans and fundamentally alter the relationship between the citizen and the government, and not allow members to express their preference in an up or down vote.

But, of course, that’s the point of this little whiff of Politburo politics; it’s to allow Democratic members to lie through their teeth to their constituents:

This approach would serve two purposes. First, Democrats who think the Senate bill doesn’t sufficiently limit abortion rights would never have to be on record as having voted for it. (Because the Senate abortion language can’t be fixed in Bill B for procedural reasons, some Democratic aides say there is talk about a later bill that would handle these issues.) Second, if the Senate didn’t fulfill its end of the bargain by voting on Bill B—remember, it’s already passed Bill A—then House Democrats would be able to say: I never voted for that crummy Bill A. In fact, I only voted for that nifty Bill B to fix it.

I mentioned this is Politburo politics, which is actually an insult to the commies. At least they have a rigged vote. We don’t even get that on Obamacare.

I think it fairly obvious that Nancy Pelosi does not have the votes, and likely will never get the votes, to pass the senate bill as is. Firedoglake has the latest whip count (based on publicly stated positions) at 191-195 meaning Pelosi needs a near miracle. She needs 24 votes of the remaining 40 “persuadables” to win. And they wouldn’t be talking about “deeming” a bill as passed if she thought there was any hope of achieving 216.

The real sticking point, ironically, is that House Democrats don’t trust their colleagues in the senate to follow through and take them off the hook by ramming House Obamacare amendments through via reconciliation. In fact, the GOP is talking about a weird ploy of their own; they may vote with pro-choice Democrats in the senate to kill any change in the abortion language wanted by Stupak and his gang of 12. If they’re serious, that alone might trigger a revolt among House members who don’t think the senate is serious about reconciliation.

I’m actually excited to see the Democrats try this. What are all those good government liberals going to say? How is the White House going to spin this as a victory for the people when the people’s representatives haven’t even been consulted on the final product?

What are the voters going to think? I don’t think much at all. This is far too arcane a topic to interest anyone but process junkies. By November, the Democrats will have dressed this pig up in a nice prom dress, smeared some lipstick on the porker, and presented it to the American people as a triumph. Many will shrug their shoulders, accept what government is giving them, and move on with their lives.

Voters are going to be a lot more upset with Democrats about jobs and the economy than they will ever get upset with them about how they managed to move this monstrosity through Congress and get it signed into law. But those who might take a dimmer view of this tactic will lament the loss of the fundamental fairness to the minority it represents. We now officially have a tyranny of the majority.

I hope the Democrats don’t complain too much when Republicans pull crap like this on them when they’re back in power.



It is difficult to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the exercise of power. For 8 years, it caused hysterical derangement on a very large slice of the left who tried to promote the idea that George Bush was a fascist, or a theocrat intent on establishing an authoritarian “regime” - the word most often used even by “respectable” liberals. America does not have “regimes” - not now, not then, not ever. But you can’t tell that to liberals who, for 8 long, tiresome years, bored us to death with their paranoid fantasies about George Bush. The draft, the Haliburton nonsense, the “lies” about WMD, the “lapdog press,” the “stolen” elections - all this and more, told and retold on the web, and even sometimes in respectable publications (not to mention the halls of Congress); paranoid delusions that only grew wilder and more sensationally idiotic as time went on.

Nor can you convince many conservatives today that entire segments of their overall critique of President Obama are hysterically exaggerated fantasies, nonsensical assumptions and “truths” that bear no resemblance to the facts. The left today has their own delusions; about conservatives, Republicans, and the motives of both. But it is conservatives who, by pushing these ridiculous fallacies about the president, are swallowing the barrel and pulling the trigger on their chances to rally the country behind them and take back the government.

I have been virtually told that I don’t hate Barack Obama enough; that if I don’t parrot these birdbrained “facts” about the president, I am actually a supporter of his or, at best, a simpleminded dupe who just can’t see what kind of evil man he is.

Worse, by highlighting these imbecilic talking points, or going after cotton candy conservatives and others on the right who are shooting conservatism in the foot with their derangement, I am a traitor. Better to lie and march to the beat of the same drum in order to defeat the forces of darkness who besmirch our republic with their loathsome plans.

Sorry. I don’t do lockstep. Nor am I enamored with illogical, unreasonable, and patently false arguments about Obama that serve only to prove that there are many on the right who have lost themselves in overhyped agitation - a delirium tremens that no amount of Chivas can help.

What really flips my gibbet is that this guy Obama is such an easy target for rational, penetrating criticism. He’s a clown sitting above a dunk tank just waiting for an accurate missile to send him to a well deserved soaking. Instead, so many on the right are missing so wildly they end up smacking themselves in the nose with their own throws.

There is an objective reality in which most Americans live. It’s a place where people are human, not cartoon cut-outs of evil. It’s a place where there is a connection between actions and rhetoric. And it is a place where facts are facts, not exaggerated, paranoid flakes of fancy seen through a broken mirror of ideology and fear.

Here then are 8 popular myths and exaggerations about Barack Obama that are routinely pushed by the right. Having been a comment moderator for three conservative sites, I know them by heart and can attest that at the very least, a large number of conservatives believe this nonsense.

1. Obama is sympathetic to Moooooslims and favors them at the expense of America

This has variations from Obama is a closet Muslim, to Obama wants to establish Sharia law, to Obama is actually a terrorist. One or all of these jumbo baloney sandwiches passes for wisdom among many on the right, including a prominent blogger who is worried that the 2 million Muslims in America are sneaking up on the rest of the 299 million of us and wish to make us all into dhimmis.

2. Obama is a socialist/Marxist.

I put this one to rest right before the election here.

Obama is a liberal. He’s a far left, garden variety, 100%, fully inspected La-La Land lefty. Are his policies “socialist?” Sure. I guess. Some of his policies ape programs initiated by socialist governments. National health insurance for one.

But the same could be said for Social Security, Medicare, and a host of Great Society programs still with us today. The social democracies of Europe that so enamor the left are not “socialist” countries - not by a long shot. The means of production are still in the hands of private citizens, even though those governments - and soon, our own - make it difficult for private enterprise to succeed. It makes no sense to call what Obama is doing “socialist” if you wish to adhere to the strictest definition of the word. And if you’re not going to stick with how a word is defined and make up your own definition, why bother with the English language at all?

It is quite simply an exaggeration to say that the president is a socialist.

3. Obama hates America.

Glad that so many of my friends on the right have been given the gift of insight into someone’s heart.

In truth, the president loves America as most liberals love it; in an abstract, intellectualized manner. It would perhaps be more accurate to say the president loves what America could be, rather than what she is now. I happen to believe you can love both Americas but many on the right are steadfast in their belief that America can do no wrong, while probably the same number on the left believe she can do no right. It is a different kind of love, but a love nonetheless, and to posit that the president of the United States hates his own country is, on its face, absurd.

4. Obama wasn’t born here/not a natural born citizen/is hiding the origins of his birth/is the spawn of the devil/is the antichrist.

Debunked too many times, in too many places to waste any time here except to say that about 30% of conservatives have “questions” about Obama’s origins.

A winning issue for 2010.

5. Obama is deliberately trying to destroy America.

This is a favorite of Rush Limbaugh. The “reasoning” goes, Obama wants to destroy America so that everybody becomes dependent on the federal government for their very lives. This will create a permanent Democratic majority because everyone knows that people who are dependent on government vote for Democrats.

I can’t argue against the notion that the president’s policies have the potential to harm America greatly. I have argued such in the past. If that happened, I am sure the president would be as disappointed as the rest of us. No doubt, he would blame it on Bush.

But there is no politician who would ever deliberately destroy the country that just elected him. Where’s the advantage? I daresay that voters would give a good goddamn about dependency and throw the majority party who ruined their lives out into the street.

This is so absurd on its face and yet so prevalent a notion on the right, is it any wonder I question the sanity of conservatives sometimes?

And then there’s a related myth…

6. Obama is deliberately preventing a recovery.

This is a variation on #5 but the “reasoning” is a little different. Obama needs a “crisis” to pass his agenda.

He’s had a crisis, his agenda lies in tatters, and he is proven so incompetent he can’t even take advantage of the worst economic crisis in 80 years to push through a Congress his party owns lock, stock, and barrel anything except an $800 billion stim bill he didn’t write and had little to do with passing.

7. Obama wants to kill your grandma.

We have Sarah Palin to thank for this one. It is the one myth in the health care debate that refuses all applications of reason and logic, and is persistently advanced despite all evidence to the contrary.

The slippery slope argument is even bogus. It is impossible to connect the dots from A to Z, as I explained here. But Saracudda says it’s true so it must be.

8. Obama goes around the world “apologizing” for America’s sins

If you’re not grown up, or well read enough, or have been asleep for the last 50 years, you know that there are several things that America should be apologizing for. But here, we have a gross exaggeration of what the president was doing by highlighting our shortcomings (I don’t believe the words “apology” or “We’re sorry” ever crossed his lips.)

The president acknowledged errors - at least, errors from his perspective - that America committed not only during the Bush administration, but prior to that as well. He also acknowledged them because his audience perceived our actions to be in error - whether we think them right or wrong.

But almost in the same breath, Obama castigated his audiences from London to Cairo for their reflexive, knee jerk anti-Americanism. Tony Blair and John Howard actually said it much better than he did. But our professorial president used a common rhetorician’s gimmick of forcing the audience to listen to him by agreeing with their perceptions about America and then hammering them for their own shortcomings.

It was an effective technique and certainly won him a lot of friends overseas among the common folk. But it is inaccurate to say that he “apologized” for our past. In fact, he frequently went out of his way to say that he had no apologies for our ideals or principles. It appears to me that many on the right heard what they wanted to hear and closed their mind to the rest. Hence, this myth - as widespread as it is - doesn’t stand up to the facts.

The unhinged nature of some of the criticism directed at the president reflects badly on the entire right. When you consider that Obama is a duck in a shooting gallery that a pie eyed prostitute could hit with her eyes closed, it is a mystery why so many seek to misrepresent and exaggerate what this president has done and what he stands for.

Keep your eye on the target and allow logic and reason to guide your criticisms. Leave behind the paranoia, the fear mongering, and the hysteria. That’s the losers argument. Let objective reality animate your commentary and people will actually start to listen rather than turn you off quicker than a Tim Robbins movie.

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