Political Rhetoric

A Matter of Perspective

So what right-wing columnist said this:

All this fuss about civility . . . is an attempt to bully critics into unilaterally disarming – into being demure and respectful to the president.

Actually, it was Paul Krugman, quoted in a Stephen Miller article titled “Anger Mismanagement,” published in the Wall Street Journal on March 19, 2004.

Hey, at least this can be one time where I totally agree with Paul Krugman.  Oddly enough, apparently I am in fuller accord with Paul Krugman than . . . Paul Krugman.

On the Transformative Power of Hate

Midway through college, I found myself (in part, I am sure, through my own fault) sucked into one of those interpersonal dramas of the sort that can only take place in an environment where lots of young adults with much time and little sense are living with each other in a small residential college 24/7. I had a falling out with my roommate, and since the room had become a rather difficult place to live, I arranged with the residence director to move into another room in the dorm. This was almost but not quite the end of it. For a few weeks longer there were random knocks on my door, anything I put on my bulletin board was slashed to ribbons, milkshakes had a way of happening to get spilled on my car, etc. And then all was forgotten.

But during that brief period during which the strife could not be let go, I developed a reflexive reaction to everything about the former roommate. Seeing a car on the highway the same color and model as his would make me angry. Just hearing the roommate’s name would cause a tightening feeling in my stomach. Even if one would be glad to be done with it all, being hated by someone else is something which cannot help but cause significant changes in you. Hatred is never a one-way relationship.

I think of this at the moment because our country looks increasingly like two camps that would really like to be warring, except for the fact that actual civil wars cut into work hours more than blogging does. When Representative Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured, and six bystanders were killed, by a gunman who was seriously disturbed, to say the least, it could have been a moment for the country to pull together in a sense of common sympathy for the dead and injured and outrage that violence had been brought into our civic life, where it has no place.

House Speaker John Boehner stepped forward and delivered standard unifying rhetoric for such occasions, “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society… This is a sad day for our country.”
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Arizona Strikes Back! Ready to Cut Power to L.A.

The boycott that Los Angeles is imposing on Arizona has its first victim, the city of Los Angeles itself.

The state of Arizona is about to strike back at L.A. again to defend itself.

A letter written by one of the commissioners of the Arizona Corporate Commission is telling Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be ready to accept the consequences of his actions:

If Los Angeles wants to boycott Arizona, it had better get used to reading by candlelight.

Basically Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s bluff has been called.

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Lying to Join The Band of Brothers

I have never served in combat or been in a warzone for which I thank God.  However, many of my friends are veterans of combat in conflicts stretching from World War II to Iraq.  Such an experience marks them.  They tell me that they have some of their best memories from their time in service, along with some of their worst.  It is a crucible that they have passed through which is hard to completely convey to someone like me who has never gone through it.  Usually they do not speak much of it, although often I have seen a quiet pride when they do speak about it:  a knowledge that they were given a test on their passage through life and made it through, mingled with sadness for their friends who were lost.  They belong to the exclusive club of those called upon to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.  They are entitled to respect for their service, whether they are given that respect by the rest of us or not.

Therefore I take a very dim view of anyone who seeks entry into their ranks under false pretences.  The New York Times has revealed that Richard Blumenthal, Democrat Attorney General of Connecticut and candidate for the Democrat nomination for the US Senate is one such person:

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

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State of the Union Open Thread

Although I tend to agree with my friend Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative, that the State of the Union address is our annual self inflicted ritual of boring torture, I did have the State of the Union on as background noise while I went about other tasks.  I was amazed at what a self-indulgent exercise in venting it mostly was.  Things haven’t gone Obama’s way, and last night he decided to engage in a little Presidential talk-therapy.  The tedious length, reminiscent of some of Bill Clinton’s efforts, indicated that this was an undisciplined opportunity for Obama to lash out at his opponents.  Three more years of this should be as much fun for the country as my last root canal was for me.

Two points struck me as particularly odd.  Obama telling Democrats in Congress that this was not a time to “head for the hills” in panic over the looming elections.  This is the type of statement that he might make to them behind closed doors, but certainly not in a State of the Union address so as to remind the nation that Democrats are in panic mode.  Doing so will not calm jittery Democrats in the slightest.  The second point was his reopening the issue of gays in the military.  I could just hear Blue Dogs from Republican areas thinking, “Well thanks Mr. President for driving another nail in my coffin in November!”  Obama has obviously decided that if he is going down, he will do so as a champion of Liberal orthodoxy.  I doubt if this will please the Democrat members of Congress more rooted in electoral reality.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

More Than Intentions

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek makes a good point which is too often glossed over in political debate:

Writing about health-care, Paul Krugman asserts that “conservatives … don’t want Americans to have universal coverage” (”The Defining Moment,” Oct. 30).

Among the earliest lessons that I teach my freshman economics students are (1) intentions are not results, and (2) to oppose a government program is not necessarily to object to the intentions stated by that program’s advocates.

Paul Krugman obviously teaches his students differently, for he clearly believes that (1) if government intends for Americans to have universal health coverage, then the result will be that Americans actually get universal health coverage, and (2) anyone who opposes a government program promising universal health coverage is a person who objects to Americans actually getting universal health coverage.

This is perhaps the most common fallacy of all in political argument for people to follow the form: I support bill/candidate X because I think it will have good result Y. You don’t support X. Therefore you don’t care about Y. Continue reading

Obamas Speech: Dem Health Care Bill Now, With Or Without GOP

[Updates at the bottom of this posting as of 3:03am CDT on AD 9-10-2009]

President Obama’s speech covered many topics, lets first layout our President’s plan:

I. Keep the health insurance you have now.

1.  Pre-existing symptoms or disabilities no longer will disqualify anyone from coverage.

2.  No spending caps set by insurance companies.

3.  No drop in coverage in the middle of an illness.

4.  Limit on out of pocket expense.

5.  Minimal requirements of coverage.

II. Public Option & Exchange

1.  When losing your job you have the Public Option if you can’t afford insurance.

2.  Insurance exchange markets will be required for insurance companies to participate in.

3.  Tax credits for small businesses.

4.  In theory this will not lead to a government take over.

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Overreacting, The Left Needs To Wake Up To Reality

GOP overreaction to Obama speechLiberals and Democrats have accused many Americans of overreacting to the speech that President Obama will be delivering to school children today (at 11:00 am Central Daylight Time).

On the surface this would seem a fair evaluation but if you dig a little deeper, those on the Left may well be making another crucial misdiagnosis of the source and cause of this reaction.

First lets examine the prism that those on the Left have viewed this reaction.

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Debate on Armed Protesters at Townhall Meetings

[Updates at the bottom of this article]

Though long (my solution was to download the MP3 and listen to it in the background throughout the day) this BloggingHeads discussion between Megan McArdle of the The Atlantic (libertarian) and author Michelle Goldberg (left-ish) about protesters carrying guns at townhall meetings was very interesting. Michelle takes the position (which I imagine we’ve all heard somewhere) that these open carry protesters are trying to exert political intimidation through threat of violence and are indeed likely to commit violence. Megan explains why she thinks it much more likely that they’re simply gun nuts trying to make a point about 2nd Amendment rights. (In a way, incidentally, which neither McArdle nor I support, but still almost certainly not in fact a violent threat to the nation with whose brush the entire right side of the political spectrum can be tarred by association.)

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Freak Show

Megan McArdle links to a Financial Times piece by Clive Cook which includes the following quote:

The gap between the right of the Republican party, which is providing the angriest critics of the reforms, and the left of the Democratic party, which thinks the proposals too timid, is unbridgeable. These groups do not merely disagree. They despise each other. Their differences are only secondarily about policy. They hold each other’s values in contempt.

These snarling extremes are nonetheless somewhat alike. They have an equal and opposite penchant for conspiracy theories. Almost a third of Republicans, according to a recent poll, believe the unsupported story that Mr Obama was not born in the US (in which case he would be disqualified from serving as president). But remember that more than a third of Democrats subscribe to the even more outlandish theory that the Bush administration knew about the attacks of September 2001 in advance.

One of the annoying qualities of national debate over the last several months (which seems to increase as Democrats become more desperate about their flagship legislation) is the attempt to find the very looniest possible elements of the right and portray them as being mainstream. Continue reading

Tortured Credibility

It has become an oft repeated trope of Catholics who are on the left or the self-consciously-unclassifiable portions of the American political spectrum that the pro-life movement has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility because of its association with the Republican Party, and thence with the Iraq War and the use of torture on Al Qaeda detainees. Until the pro-life movement distances itself from the Republican Party and all of the pro-life leadership who have defended the Iraq War and/or the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, the argument goes, the pro-life movement will have no moral authority and will be the laughing stock of enlightened Catholics everywhere.

Regardless of what one thinks about the Iraq War and torture (myself, I continue to support the former but oppose the latter) I’m not sure that this claim works very well. Further, I think that those who make it often fail to recognize the extent to which it cuts both ways.

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What's Empathy Got To Do With It?

Doug Kmiec has a rather bizarre article up at America entitled The Case For Empathy: Why a Much-Maligned Value Is a Crucial Qualification for the Supreme Court. If the article is any indication, I suppose we should be thankful Obama didn’t make any off-hand remarks suggesting ‘creativity’ or ‘imagination’ were traits he would look for in a potential Supreme Court justice, if only because it might have lead to more essays like this one. After some preliminary gushing about, you guessed it, empathy, Kmiec explains what an empathetic justice would accomplish:

To do this, it is possible that [Obama] will mine for legal talent in unusual places, but it is more likely he will attempt to find a nominee with appellate court experience whose skill set also shows the capability of challenging methods of interpretation that otherwise wouldn’t give empathy the time of day. If Obama succeeds even with this more limited challenge,he will have exploded the notion  that swapping out a Souter for a new, most likely younger and intellectually energetic, justice is without effect.

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Obama Wants Living Constitution Theory For SCOTUS Nominee

With the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter President Obama wasted no time in addressing the issue of what he’s looking for to fill this vacancy.  In so many words he clearly stated his desire for an activist judge with an eye towards reengineering America [emphasis and comments mine].

“It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives [meaning he wants a Justice who holds fast to the Living Constitution Theory,ie, an activist judge finding invisible law where none existed], whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.”

The following excerpt clearly reveals President Obama’s contempt for legislative history in effect eliminating a potential nominee that adheres to the theory of original intent.

“I will seek someone who understands that justice is not about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook.”

One thing is for sure, it will be an extremist liberal and pro-abortion nominee.

Colbert On Obama's Tortured Reasoning

The Pandora’s box that President Obama has opened with the release of the torture memo’s has caused quite a stir in the Catholic blogosphere.  Nonetheless the stealth Catholic, comedian Stephen Colbert, has geniusely made a humorous rendition of the logic floating around Washington on the torture controversy.  Biretta tip to Mark Shea.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.2419680&w=425&h=350&fv=autoPlay%3Dfalse]

more about “Colbert: The Word – Stressed Position“, posted with vodpod

Symbolic Action

Symbols mean things, but they do not necessarily accomplish things in concrete fashion, so they often seem to be a prime source of argument and misunderstanding in the political arena.

Last week, environmental activists throughout the US participated in a “green hour” in which they all committed to turn off all electricity-using appliances in their possession for one hour (from 8-9pm, as I recall). This was supposed to express to the leaders of the G-20 nations the importance of moving to implement regulations to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

Not being a major devotee of the global warming cause (I don’t think the kind of restrictions that could realistically be passed would do much good if global warming is in fact a man-made phenomenon, so I would be more interested in putting resources into mitigation than regulating power production) this gesture strikes me as a bit silly. If you really thought that reducing power consumption was important, it seems to me you should reduce your power consumption. Permanently, that is, not just for one hour and then go back to normal.

In the same sense, I suspect that the continuing controversy over Notre Dame University honoring President Obama looks silly to outsiders.

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AIG Bonus Recipient Quits via NY Times Editorial

Over the last week the news cycle has been enjoying a Five Minutes of Hate over the bonuses being given out to a number of individuals in the AIG Financial Product division, with some going to so far as to say that at a minimum they should all get jail time, and since that’s not possible they should see all their earnings taxed away.  Given the, “our problems are all the result of Wall Street greed” narrative which many have applied to our current financial crisis, and that as fallen human beings we are all prone to envy, this can hardly be surprising.

For those wanting to know about the reality behind the fracas, this editorial in yesterday’s New York Times is illuminating.  It is an open resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit (and a recipient of one of the infamous bonuses), to AIG’s CEO.

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And They Accuse Us of Brainless Sloganisms

So there’s a new You-Tube video  spreading around meant to be the final word in exposing the hypocrisy of anti-abortion advocates. In what many seem to believe is highly telling, an interviewer asks a group of demonstrating pro-lifers that, should abortion be declared illegal, if they would punish women who had abortions. Apparently the confused looks, murmured “I don’t know, I don’t think they should be punished,” and the otherwise general indication that they hadn’t thought much on the issue, somehow shows that pro-lifers do not believe that abortion is murder, or even the taking of human life. There is a huge amount of self-congratulatory straining of shoulders, clapping themselves on the back for having discovered this one-shot knockdown argument.

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