Free Markets, Free People
OK, that’s not really true. We knew that Helen Thomas was a pretty opinionated, nasty piece of work, as her questioning of President Bush–when he occasionally deigned to recognize her–showed over his two terms. So, learning this week that Ms. Thomas was of the opinion that Israel had no right to exist, should be disbanded, and the Jews should return to Wurstland and Kielbasastan wasn’t much of a surprise. Her agent acted surprised, though, as did Hearst newspapers–both unconvincingly. Surely they knew what a c– uh, controversial set of opinions she had. They had to. But they went through the tired old kabuki of being shocked at her opinions about Israel…and of letting her go, after suitable mouth noises indicating shock and surprise.
Now, all the right-wingers are happy she’s been fired, and her career is over. Although, at 89, wasn’t her career in the inevitable winding down phase anyway? I find I can’t really join in the celebration at her firing, though.
NineSpeakers, her agent, and Hearst, her employer, are, of course, perfectly within their rights to choose not to work with her. But I don’t particularly rejoice to see them exercise that right. I guess I approach this differently. I didn’t think Don Imus should’ve been fired for the “nappy hos” comment. I didn’t think Opie & Anthony should have been suspended because they let a homeless person come in and make horrible statements about Condoleeza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II. And I don’t think that Helen Thomas should have been fired because she thinks that Israel, as a state, was illegitimately created on Arab soil.
When the La Raza/Reconquista types talk about how the southwestern United States used to be part of Mexico in the 19th century, that people of Mexican extraction have continuously lived there since, and that it needs to go back to Mexico, conservatives immediately reject that argument as having any validity at all in today’s political context. They then turn around and argue that, since Israel was the Jewish state prior to the Romans forcing Jews to disperse in 70AD, and that Jews have lived there continuously since, that gives Israel the right to exist as a modern Jewish state. So, it’s a completely illegitimate argument in Mexico’s case, but perfectly rational in the case of Israel. That means that when Helen Thomas makes the same argument about Israel that conservatives make about Mexico, it’s an intolerably outlandish opinion.
And I find it fascinating that the same people who get themselves in a tizzy about “hate speech”, political correctness, and speech codes are the same people who are cheering on Helen Thomas’ firing. Turns out that they don’t really object to speech codes or political correctness. They just want them enforced on a different set of opinions.
Helen Thomas’ opinion about Israel tells us all something. It provides us with information that we can use in judging her subsequent writings or statements. Now, of course, what we’ve done is send a message to everyone else who might have controversial or nasty opinions to keep them to themselves. So, in the future, people in Ms. Thomas’ position will now be less likely to share those opinions with us, and we will be deprived of insights into their minds that help us judge their veracity and intentions.
Once again, a clear message has been sent out about the importance of narrowing acceptable political opinion. So, apparently there are a lot of people on both the Left and Right who sanctimoniously declare that “the solution to bad speech speech is more speech,” but they don’t really mean it. It just makes them feel good about themselves to say it.
For my part, I think Helen Thomas is a kook when it comes to Israel, just like I think the reconquista folks are kooks when it comes to Mexico. I am hugely uninterested in revisiting geopolitical events that occurred before I was born, whether in 1948, or 1845. And I am completely opposed to using distant historical events as a justification of who gets to live where today. Quite apart from anything else, if pushed to its logical conclusion, it would mean that I would have to turn over my house to the Pala Indians, and spend the rest of my life wandering around the cold, windswept coast of north-central Scotland in a plaid skirt, with maybe an occasional jaunt to Aberdeen for a night of drunken fist-fighting. Mexico lost the southwest. The Arabs lost Israel. Tough.
I just find that I don’t disagree enough with Helen Thomas’ opinion–or anyone else’s–to want to deprive her of her livelihood, or to deprive me of the pleasure of pointing at her and laughing.
If the administration has lost Bob Herbert, an up to now dependable Obama sycophant, I’d say they’re in deep trouble.
Not that Herbert’s column is an outright declaration of incompetence or anything. In fact he tip toes around quite assiduously laying out the woes the nation faces and his idea of what is necessary (more spending – much more spending) to correct the situation.
He laments the depth of unemployment and the economic demise of the private sector. And he is sure, that had some things been done when necessary (more spending – much more spending) we might be on the road to recovery. But since those things weren’t done (more spending – much more spending) we’re in the quagmire and, says Herbert, “there is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix.”
Any guess why he says that? The last to sentences in his column and our quote of the day explain:
Bold and effective leadership would have put us on this road to a sustainable future. Instead, we’re approaching a dead end.
When even Herbert figures it out you have to figure the gig is pretty much up.
Canada’s health care system is in deep trouble financially. So it should come as no surprise that the British NHS is as well. It is simply in the process of proving correct Margaret Thatcher, who said, “the trouble with socialism you eventually run out of other people’s money”.
The Brits ran out of “other people’s money” quite some time ago (as is the US as debt and deficit figues show) and their social structures are existing on debt. And the NHS, the celebrated “single-payer” government run system in place since right after WW II, is failing:
Jeff Taylor of the Economic Voice clarified the problem when he wrote last week that “the U.K. is broke.”
“Our whole society and way of life is now built on the shaky foundation of debt,” he writes in response to the NHS cuts. “Our hospitals, schools, armed forces, police, prisons and social services are founded on debt. In truth we have not yet paid for the operations that have already taken place.”
The NHS is planning on extensive rationing of surgery. The service is looking at eliminating literally millions – with an “m” – of surgical procedures because it simply cannot afford them. Representative of those procedures which will no longer be available are hip replacements for obese patients, some operations for hernias and gallstones, and treatments for varicose veins, ear and nose problems, and cataract surgery.
The intent is to “save” 29 billion by telling patients in need of those procedures “no”.
Rationing, pure and simple – as promised. However, it is government deciding what you can or can’t have, regardless of your preference or need. This is indeed the ultimate outcome of handing things such as health care over to any third party. And it is especially a problem when “cost containment” takes precedence over health care.
That is precisely the mandate government here has assumed with its legislative charter to “cut costs” in the health care business. With that as a priority, and given the structure of the new law, an almost impossible priority to fulfill, the same outcome is almost guaranteed here. With cost containment driving the train, shortages are inevitable. And what those shortages mean, in concrete terms, is precisely what the NHS is planning on doing – denying patients health care.
The inevitable shape of things to come.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll is nothing to write home about if you’re the President of the United States – they guy in charge of the federal government’s response to disaster. Americans are beginning to understand the scope of the catastrophe, they hold the proper company responsible and culpable, but, that said, they’re not at all happy with the federal government’s response. Interestingly, the present effort gets worse reviews than Katrina.
By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support the pursuit of criminal charges in the nation’s worst oil spill , with increasing numbers calling it a major environmental disaster. Eight in 10 criticize the way BP’s handled it – and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.
A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.
The IBD/TIPP poll echoes the ABC poll:
The poll found that 30% rated Obama’s response as “unacceptable” and 22% rated it “poor.” Just 6% rated it “excellent” and 17% “good.” The rest gave him an average score.
Three-quarters of Republicans and one-third of Democrats disapprove of Obama on the issue. In an ominous sign for Democrats heading into midterm elections, just 18% of independents gave him favorable marks on the spill vs. 57% giving him failing grades.
The all important independent bloc gave him failing marks in an overwhelming majority (74% of independents viewed the federal effort negatively in the ABC poll).
“I don’t sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” Obama continued. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”
Given the polls, the size of the disaster and the poor federal response, most people, as the polls demonstrate, already know “whose ass to kick.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be having much of an effect.
I think Charlie Rangel may have summed it up best:
“I don’t think the administration has the slightest clue. We’re bringing in experts now, in and outside of government, to see whether or not BP will do more.”
America continues to be held hostage by a lack of leadership.