Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

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ObamaCare – the numbers are in

“It’ll save the average family $2,500 a year!”  That was the promise.  Here’s the reality:

… It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.

… The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs.

Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law. …

Enjoy!

~McQ

The sad state of the union

Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.

In working with matters overseas, the President must lead.  The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.

A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure.  That leadership thing again … he isn’t one.  And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar.  He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.

Epstein goes on:

Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” 

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate.  It’s all about stalling and buying time.  Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact.  Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet?  It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress.  As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).

Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.

That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence.  Bottom line?

The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.

Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”.  Naturally, he’s full of them.

Domestically:

The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.

But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power.  They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate.  Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it.  And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.

Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims.  Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success.  For instance:

He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies?  You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:

Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.

Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.

But we told you all that before he ever ran.

~McQ

Yes, it’s official – he’s a national embarrssment

I mean, come on:

embarrassment

 

Below the dignity of the office?  You think?

One CNN correspondent asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest during a daily biefing: ‘I’m just curious – was “Charlie Bit My Finger” or “David After Dentist” not available?’

Add in the John Kerry/James Taylor “You’ve Got A Friend” and, well, “pitiful” is an inadequate way of describing this mess.

Next up?  Joe Biden attends the funeral of the Saudi King and offers Ray Stevens and “Ahab the Arab” in tribute?  Would anyone be surprised?

~McQ

SOTU: infomercial for low info voters

Facts – hard to beat.  Easy, though, to put nonsense out there (especially when you have an hour of prime time TV to yourself) and have it believed by enough people that will never see the corrections.  Even AP couldn’t quite stomach the baloney Obama put out:

Among the claims the AP finds less than truthful in the piece, entitled “FACT CHECK: Obama claims credit for an incomplete recovery“:

  • “At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”

Actually, the AP notes, “By many measures, the economy is still recovering from the deep scars left by the Great Recession.” Unemployment has been steadily decreasing, but that’s driven primarily by a growth in low paying jobs and people leaving the labor market. There are still 1.7 million fewer workers with full-time jobs than in December 2007 when the recession began.

  • “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.”

The cost of community college isn’t being lowered to zero, the costs will simply be shifted elsewhere. The AP estimates it would cost “an estimated $60 billion over 10 years to the treasury.” Furthermore, the plan would require states to contribute a quarter of tuition, and not all students would qualify.

  • “Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small-business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.”

While business owners are indeed reporting that they “plan” to increase wages, “there is scant evidence that it is happening yet.”

And that’s just a very small part of the propaganda Obama put out there.

Frankly I think Emily Zanotti (I’m a big fan of hers) summed it up best:

The State of the Union is an infomercial for low-information voters and an excuse for DC staffers to get blindingly drunk on a weeknight.

Pretty much.  I’d only amend it to say that it is the party of the President who gets to present the infomercial (because few if any watch the other party’s rebuttal).  But yeah, it’s a whole bunch of preening and lying laid out for those who will look no further.  It’s also an exercise in bias confirmation for others.

Modern politics.  What’s not to love?

 ~McQ

Even more this and that

Not sure how you stick with one topic a day when so much is going on, thus the appeal of commenting on lots of topics.

For instance, we find out that President Obama is the reason gas prices are down … if his SOTU is to be believed (yeah, it’s not).  The fact that you happened to be hanging out in Washington DC and your title is “President of the United States” doesn’t mean you did anything to make that happen.   As I pointed out earlier, his EPA will soon take care of that anyway.

There were a lot of other bits of fun and fantasy as well – free community college.  Because, you know, its free.  And not to worry, it’s those greedy rich folks that will pay for it.  Mr. Obama wants $320 billion in new taxes.  Capital gains tax – up.  Death tax – up.  Bank tax – up.  And  your 529 savings plan for your kids college?  Yeah, no longer tax free.

That, dear friends, is how you get “free” college.  Isn’t free stuff wonderful?

 

Rob-Peter-NRD-600-w-logo

On to your retirement savings:

There would be a new cap in the amount one could accumulate in the aggregate in all IRA and 401(k) type accounts of $3.4 million. After that, you can’t save any more new dollars. The idea is that this is enough to secure a $210,000 annual distribution in retirement, which the government apparently deems “enough” for a retiree.

Because, of course, nanny knows best.

Finally, if  you’re an employer:

In addition, all employers with more than 10 workers and who do not have a 401(k) type plan would be mandated to set up payroll deduction Traditional IRAs for their employees. Also, part-time workers would have to be covered under retirement plans if they have been working someplace long enough. These two things are a new kind of employer mandate from Obama.

Nice plan, no?  No.  As usual, that means precisely what the cartoon shows.  Someone has to pay for all of this and it isn’t just going to be the employer.

Of course the concept that someone must actually “pay” for these things is always left out of the discussion.  It’s “free” after all.

For a completely different subject, and in case you were wondering, yes, liberals in Hollywood (almost redundant, isn’t it) are still wringing their hands about the all white Oscars.  Or at least doing a good imitation of it.  My favorite theory?  “Racial fatigue”.

The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported “12 Years a Slave” had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year.

Because, you know, there’s only so much support those white Hollywood liberals can dole out a year, or something. They gave their all last year.  And you black folks just need to understand that!  By the way, I believe “racial fatigue” does indeed play a part.   People are tired of everything being made to be about race.

Speaking of culture, I found article to be very entertaining.  Is there a civil war brewing on the “progressive” left (one dearly hopes so)?  Why the question?  Dilemmas such as this:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens were once known as the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism. For a long while, there was nothing more amusing to a young liberal than watching one of them debate against a creationist, or someone who objected to abortion or gay marriage on religious grounds. Dawkins, for a while, was the darling of the British media.

Then things started to sour. Christopher Hitchens, in his full-throated defences of the second Iraq war, was the first to lose left-wing support. Notoriously, Feminist Frequency producer Jonathan McIntosh celebrated Hitchens’ death, saying he was a “despicable, warmongering, hateful human being. Good riddance.” (To put that in perspective, McIntosh had just a few months earlier refused to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Dawkins, who recently discovered the joys of deliberately offending people on Twitter, has become an even greater figure of hate for progressives. This is probably due to his indiscriminate rationalism: he is just as willing to poke holes in theories of post-modern feminism as he is to attack religion. And when he does attack religion, he insists that Islam is probably the worst one out there. He has become persona non grata in progressive circles as a result.

2014 saw atheists and progressives embroiled in what looked like an all-out war. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female genital mutilation survivor and one of the fiercest critics of Islam in the atheist movement, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at Brandeis University for her criticism of Islam, and was stripped of her honorary degree. Salon.com immediately applauded the decision.

Students at UC Berkeley attempted to do the same to Bill Maher over his alleged islamophobia, but were stopped by the college administration. Sam Harris, another of the “four horsemen”, felt compelled to engage in a three-hour debate with progressive commentator Cenk Uygur after enduring a wave of hatchet-jobs from media progressives for his own comments on Islam.

Progressives may be overwhelmingly atheist, but there is only so much heresy they can stand. One of their core beliefs is that you do not “punch down”–that is, attack vulnerable or marginalised communities. Islam, despite being the dominant religion of dozens of nation-states, is said by progressives to fall into this category.

We’ve watched this sort of cognitive dissonance have its way with the left before.  That’s because they aren’t really about principles as much as they are about biases.  Oh, and limiting your freedom:

A YouGov poll taken just last fall found that equal amounts of Americans support and oppose “hate speech laws,” defined as laws that would “make it a crime for people to make comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” Thirty-six percent said sure and 38 percent said no way. That’s disturbing enough on its own, but here’s something even more unsettling: Fully 51 percent of self-identified Democrats supported hate-speech laws.

Somehow I’m not at all surprised, given the examples above … are you?

~McQ

This and that

There’s a lot to talk about as we begin this week.

First and foremost, I wanted to note that Word Press found something I wrote in my EPA post to be unpublishable.  Try it with the first sentence, nothing.  Take out the first sentence and it published.  But that was discovered after a long session of trying to figure out if it was a computer problems, internet problem … etc.  Here’s hoping this publishes.

Saw an article that said Hillary was looking for a slogan for her run for the presidency.  I have a great one: “No more Clintons”.  I’d apply the same slogan to the Bush campaign: “No more Bushes”.    And Romney … etc.  I’m becoming convinced we could leave the office vacant and probably do better.  Especially when you consider those who want the job.

If you’re wondering what I thought of the John Kerry/James Taylor attempt at diplomacy last week, I thought is was pathetic and embarrassing.  It was like the diplomatic equivalent of the ObamaCare website rollout.

I am thoroughly enjoying the left’s melt-down over the success of Clint Eastwood’s film “American Sniper”.  Here’s a typical bit:

But Academy members seem to be paying attention to the criticism that Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper shouldn’t be celebrating a man who wrote that killing hundreds of Iraqis was “fun.”

“He seems like he may be a sociopath,” one Academy member told TheWrap, adding he had not yet seen the film but had read the article, which is being passed around.

“He seems to be a sociopath, uh, but I haven’t seen the film yet …I did read an article however”.

And that made it into the critique of the film because it used a word that apparently found favor with the author – “sociopath”.  Because this academy member knows all about sniper operations and how they’re used in warfare and somehow soundly concludes that the guy must be a sociopath.  Gee, I wonder what he thinks about, oh, I don’t know, regular infantry guys in the Army and Marine Corps?  Would it be too much of a stretch to think he might hold the same thoughts about them?

And the Yahoo who ate Detroit, Michael Moore, felt it necessary to “weigh” in:

Michael Moore, an Oscar voter and former Academy governor from the Documentary Branch, tweeted an anti-sniper comment on Sunday — “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards … Snipers aren’t heroes … ” — but said it wasn’t about “American Sniper.”

Of course its not about “American Sniper” … just a gratuitous out-of-the-blue cowardly shot.  What pisses Moore and the other off is you people out in flyover land are making “American Sniper” a box-office success.

And by the way, Michael … why are all the Oscar nominees white?

Yeah, that’s right … that’s the latest Hollywood scandal to rock Tinsel-town these days.  Apparently it’s not the perfection of your craft that’s important but the mix of skin color.  I wonder if anyone would have said anything if there were no whites nominated?  My guess is, “no”.

Finally to Jane Fonda – sorry what you did wasn’t a “huge, huge mistake” anymore than what John Kerry did was a mistake.  It was a carefully thought out and pursued strategy that has made you wildly unpopular and despised by a very respected community – veterans.  So trying to rewrite history isn’t going to work:

“It hurts me and it will to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers. … This famous person goes and does something that looks like I’m against the troops, which wasn’t true, but it looked that way, and I’m a convenient target. So I understand.”

No, you don’t understand … you apparently don’t understand at all.  You were against the troops and made it known by your actions.  But like much of the left, after a despicable and reprehensible act you think all you have to do is give some sort of apology and all is right with the world.  Uh, no.

Happy Monday.

~McQ

Like cheap gas? The EPA doesn’t

The oil shale boom has helped create a surplus of oil that has entered the market and driven prices down to under $2 a gallon. It is an economic boon to hard pressed families and businesses who use a lot of fuel. It is also a testament to how well markets work. And that’s why government is about to intrude in that market and jack the prices back up. This time under the guise of your out-of-control EPA

In spite of dramatically lower methane emissions from fracking, according to the EPA’s own data, the agency wants to impose draconian regulations on the oil and gas industry similar to those on coal.
The new rules that the White House announced on Wednesday aim to cut oil emissions of methane, a target of environmental groups, by 45% below 2012 levels, despite the fact that the emissions already show a sharp decline even as shale oil and gas production has skyrocketed.
This war-on-shale action mirrors the administration’s war on coal, with EPA rules impossible to meet economically and sometimes requiring technology that doesn’t even exist.

This is all based on the extremely shaky theory that the earth is warming due to greenhouse gasses produced by man, despite 18 years with no evidence of warming. It is also being done despite the fact that the EPA has no real reason, according to its own findings, to go after this industry:

“Reported methane emissions from (the) petroleum and natural gas systems sector have decreased by 12% since 2011, with the largest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, which have decreased by 73% during that period,” according to the EPA itself.

Oil from shale has created jobs, lowered fuel prices and generally been the one bright spot in an otherwise lackluster economy. And it has been done without Federal help. Now the government is going to step in and impose onerous requirements on that will both slow production and raise production costs (then when prices go back up it will blame greedy oil companies).
You’d almost think the guy in the White House had once promised that energy prices would rise to very high levels under his administration.

Elitism driving “free” college proposal by Obama?

The short answer is “yes”. Megan McArdle makes the point :

Higher education is becoming the ginseng of the policy world: a sort of all-purpose snake oil for solving any problem you’d care to name, as long as we consume enough of it. Education is a very good thing, but it is not the only good thing. An indiscriminate focus on pushing more people into the system is no cure for society’s ills–and indeed, often functions as a substitute for helping the people who are struggling in the current system.

In fact (beside the fact we can’t afford “ObamaCare for colleges”):

What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t? My grandfather graduated into a world where a man with a high-school diploma could reasonably hope to own his own business, or become someone else’s highly valued employee, a successful pillar of a supportive community. His grandchildren graduated into a world where a college diploma was almost the bare necessity to get any kind of a decent job. Why aren’t we at least asking ourselves if there’s something we can do to create more opportunity for people without diplomas, instead of asking how many more years we can keep everyone in school? Why do all of our proposed solutions essentially ratify the structure that excludes so many people, instead of questioning it?

Indeed. For too long our policies have been driven by an elite. And for the most part, the elite have made an awful mess of things. Now they want to take on “community colleges”.

Anyone? How long before they start looking at 4 year colleges?

McArdle suggests the following probable effects of any program like Obama has proposed:

1. Offer a subsidy to middle-class kids who don’t really need the money?

2. Encourage middle-class families to transfer their kids to community college for the first two years of school, and thus help to moderate college costs?

3. Encourage financially constrained students who might not have gone to college to enter the system en route to a degree?

4. Encourage marginal students with a low chance of completing a career-enhancing degree to attend school, mostly wasting government money and their own time?

As she points out 2 and 3 are actually not bad policy goals in and of themselves.  However, the much more likely effect will be 1 and 4.  Another government sponsored and taxpayer funded boondoggle that will essentially give community colleges a subsidy (it’ll be all about headcount – no one will really care if the student’s succeed) and create bureaucratic jobs while doing little or nothing in terms of “education advancement”.

Oh, yeah, did I mention we can’t afford it?

I thought I did.

~McQ

Clint Eastwood nailed it when he portrayed Obama as an empty chair

I’ve said for 6+ years that the man in the White House was not a leader.  He’s never been a leader.  And this weekend he again demonstrated to the world that leadership is not something of which he has even an inkling of understanding.  This weekend, at a gathering of 3 million in the French capital, 40 leaders of various countries stood with those people and symbolically said “no” to terrorism, intimidation and murder and “yes” to free speech.  They demonstrated leadership.   They demonstrated political courage.  They did what leaders do.

And where was our President?  Or Vice President?  At home with nothing on their schedules … that’s where.  Showing up in Europe and doing what leadership demands was apparently something they couldn’t figure out.

Leadership takes, no, requires courage.  This weekend we saw a display of diplomatic and political cowardice (and I don’t buy the “threat was too great” – apparently it was acceptable to the Israeli PM).

Oh, we’ll see them scramble now to try to turn this around and to their advantage, but it is clear to those of us who’ve actually been leaders that we lack one in the White House.  It’s a pitiful but representative example of why this man should never have been elected to the Illinois Senate much less to the presidency of the United States.

He voted “present” as a state senator and this weekend he voted “present” as the President of the United States.

Shameful.

~McQ

So we’re not all Charlie Hebdo …

David Brooks opines today concerning the murders in Paris (quit calling them “executions” and giving them some sort of legal patina):

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in. 

We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.

But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.

Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.

A lot of people are panning Brooks today, but on the large point, I think he’s right.  What was done was, in many people’s opinion, “puerile” and “offensive”.  But as he further points out, even those who are puerile and offensive in that regard do indeed serve a “useful public role.”  They point to things that need pointed at and they do it in a way that is difficult to ignore.  That doesn’t mean I have to like their methods or even their message, but I do want them to have the freedom to express it.

For myself, I usually avoid that sort of offense.  I personally think most points can be made within reasonable bounds of propriety.  But those are limits I put on myself.  It’s a personal belief that I am able to sway more people with reasonable arguments and bits of sarcasm that I am from being puerile and offensive.  I believe that those who engage in that sort of behavior turn off more minds than they turn on.  But that’s my belief.  However, for those that believe otherwise, they have the full right to engage in such behavior as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.   And no, you have absolutely no right to not be offended.

So in that regard, Brooks is right.  I’m not in the mold of Charlie Hebdo … but I defend their right to be offensive, profane, blasphemous and puerile via their speech with everything I have.  That doesn’t at all mean I like it, am not offended by it or think it is right.  And whatever they do, their right to free speech also opens them up to the consequences of exercising that right.

Murder is not one of them.  Violence of any sort is not one of them.  We hear a lot about proportionality.  What is a proportional response to being offended?  Off the top of my head I can think of any number of “proportional” responses – depending on what you find offensive, there are several ways to make that point – condemnation, boycott, peaceful activism, ignoring them, dismissing them, etc.  But their right to say what they want is as fundamental a freedom as the consequences that come with it.  And that’s how it should be.

Modern Christians, for instance, have seen many examples of profanity and what they’d consider to be blasphemy writ large – in supposed “art” for instance.  However, they’ve responded proportionally to the offense.

So Brooks is right in the large sense.  I’m not Charlie Hebdo – but I’ll support Charlie Hebdo’s right to do what they did to the death.

~McQ

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