Free Markets, Free People

Billy Hollis


It’s easy to be smug when you think you’re smart and virtuous. Exhibit A: Lois Lerner

Over at Cold Fury, Mike is discussing the spectacle of Lois Lerner taking the 5th before Congress. He observedquoted DrewM at Ace of Spades:

What a smug SOB she is. She sat there like she’d done nothing wrong and was above it all.

That is not due to any intended deception on her part. She believes that she did nothing wrong, all the way to her core of her being.

First, as Heinlein said, no one is a villain in their own eyes. They always manage to rationalize why their immoral or unethical actions were actually just peachy if everyone knew the whole story about them.

But it goes beyond that with today’s leftists. They are steeped in post-modern philosophy, so steeped in fact that they can’t even think outside the patterns imposed by that philosophy. There are axioms that they believe cannot be violated, and that reality can never falsify.

One axiom is that leftists are wise, beneficent people who are eminently qualified to boss everyone else around by virtue of their superior intellect and good intentions. The direct corollary to this axiom is that any time they fail in the real world, the fault must be ascribed to someone not on the left.

Reality doesn’t matter here. Any non-left group will do as the scapegoat, even squishy establishment Republicans. Any excuse (non-doctored "doctored" emails, non-hacked "hacked" Twitter accounts) will do.

That leads to another axiom: anyone who opposes the left deserves whatever the left can inflict on them. Anyone opposing the left has shown by that very fact that they are morally deficient, have bad intentions, and are possibly less than human.

So it’s not wrong to discriminate against them, violate the law to deny them access to the political process, throw them in jail for non-existent or flimsy reasons (such as carrying a perfectly legal gun in the trunk of their car), tax them until their ears bleed, seize their property because someone else happened to be parked there with a joint, seize their property because they changed the course of a creek that only runs once every three years, throw them out of college for inoffensive remarks that accidentally offend another hyper-sensitive leftist, take their children away from them for indoctrination by the state, and prohibit them from doing a thousand things that used to be perfectly legal and have no demonstrated harm or ill effects.

In fact, it’s not simply that it’s not wrong to do those things. It’s virtuous to do such things to those who oppose the left. Lois Lerner can sit there and be smug in the face of Republican questions because she’s positive in her heart and soul that she was doing good to impede and harass the Tea Party organizations. It was a virtuous act, as far as she is concerned, and she does not feel the least shame or guilt over it.

It’s an inconvenience that she and the rest of the oppressive leftists who love government got caught, of course.  They have to manufacture narrative, dance around those bumbling Republicans who have to put up a show for the people back home, and, perhaps worst of all, they’ll have to suspend their oppression of their political enemies during a short cosmetic period before they get back to business.

But never, ever expect today’s left to show remorse for any act they undertake, no matter how illegal, immoral, or unethical it might be. For them, whatever behavior benefits the left is, by definition, virtuous. 

*** Update 11:40 CST ***

The very next article I read is an excellent example of one of the points above. Kirsten Powers in USA Today is doing her best to defend the indefensible.

A synopsis of her article is:

“These scandals can’t possibly be blamed on liberalism because liberals are good, virtuous people. Therefore the Republicans who are claiming these scandals indicate flaws in big government are unfairly twisting the truth for political advantage. Big government is clearly wonderful when run by virtuous liberals.”

Notice how this dovetails into the idea that the left is never at fault when things go wrong, and thus a scapegoat must be found. It was big-government advocates who put the tax system in place, appointed people with the willingness to suppress opposing viewpoints with the power of the IRS, and covered up those actions as long as possible. Nevertheless, the real villain in the investigation is small government advocates!

She dismisses those who actually did the political oppression as aberrations and peripheral to the entire debate. But those who indict big government using the very actions of big government are somehow bad actors.

There’s no debating people who will simply deny the facts sitting on the table because their worldview does not permit them to think liberalism/leftism has any flaws.

Look, I know the flaws of free market economics. Some abuses will occur, usually transient and corrected in the long term by the market, but real for a time. I know allowing radical freedom means some people will make bad choices.

I don’t claim limited government is without flaw, nor that everyone on the right is a saint. But history and our internal desire for freedom tell us that limited government is the best system we can get.

At least it has feedback built in to correct flaws. Perhaps the biggest indictment of today’s leftism is demonstrated by Kirsten’s column: she and her ilk are incapable of taking feedback on the flaws of the political system she prefers. All she can do is blame problems on the other side, and keep maintaining against all evidence that her side does not have the flaws that it so evidently does have.

*** Update 15:00 CST ***

Looks like Congressman Issa wasn’t any more impressed with Lerner’s smug “I’m so, so innocent” performance than the rest of us. He’s hauling her back and telling her that her opening statement claiming innocence means she waived 5th Amendment rights. (Via Drudge)


Top ten newspapers and their circulation–a six month update

Six months ago, I did some numbers and commentary on declining newspaper circulation.* By chance, I noticed a couple of web articles that give some more current numbers, so I decided to revisit the older article and see how things are proceeding.**

Here is a table I created with print numbers from 2004, mid 2012, and late 2012-early 2013 for the current (2013) top ten newspapers. The current top ten list is taken from an AP article on Huffington Post, and is ranked by their current circulation.

 

Newspaper

2004

2012

Early 2013

6 mo +/-%

Total +/-% since 2004

WSJ

2101017

1499204

1480725

-1.23

-29.52

USA Today

2192098

1627526

1424406

-12.48

-35.02

NYT

1119027

717513

731395

1.9

-34.64

LA Times

983727

489792

476148

-2.79

-51.60

Wash Post

760034

434693

432454

-0.52

-43.10

Chicago Sun-Times

453757

361523

392889

8.68

-13.41

Chicago Tribune

603315

388848

368145

-5.32

-38.98

NY Daily News

712671

389270

360459

-7.40

-49.42

NY Post

642844

344755

299950

-13.00

-53.34

Denver Post

340169

236223

223871

-5.23

-34.19

 

Back in November, I said

USA Today looks vulnerable to me, because it looks like the easiest national newspaper to replace with a web-based aggregation app. They do very little original reporting except for the sports section. They have not yet ramped up a decent web presence, and it’s pretty late in that game.

In the latest numbers, USA Today’s print circulation is down a staggering 12% in just six months. I’d like to say I was prescient, but that’s so much, I suspect that the data isn’t comparable. I suppose it could be correct, especially if they lost a major hotel chain or two as a distribution channel. It does seem indisputable that they they are on a long term trend of losing circulation fairly rapidly.

It appears that USA Today did ramp up their web presence somewhat. The reported number of “web subscribers” went from about 86,000 to 250,000. I suspect they’ve started counting the numbers differently; that much increase out of the blue, with no special reason for more eyes on their site, looks unlikely. Since they have no paid web subscribers, it almost doesn’t matter anyway because the revenue from web advertising isn’t going to support their current business model. (The uncertainty about web numbers is one of the reasons I think the methodology might have changed enough to make the print comparisons suspect.)

I also noted circulation alarms for the Washington Post last time:

The Washington Post looks vulnerable too. It also has limited web presence, and print circulation is down a staggering 40%+ in eight years.

The six month circulation change isn’t too bad for them, but Ed Driscoll noted yesterday that their financials have taken a big hit in that time period. Their earnings are down 85%. 

There are a couple of reasons I don’t pay much attention to the web numbers. First, it’s hard to compare the numbers or get any idea of trends without details on their methodology for counting “subscribers”. For example, they could take the count of people who have gone through a silly registration process where they ask for an email. Someone might register that way for one article and never come back. Or it might be based on visits, but there are lots of ways to fudge those, depending on how you count and define things.

Second, I’m guessing they are using a methodology that’s favorable to their numbers, and they still lag. For example, the largest reported number of web subscribers by any of the majors is about half of what the Drudge Report gets in unique daily visits. Drudge’s monthly unique visits would make that ratio fifteen to one instead of two to one. I mentioned last time that Huffington Post has passed NYT in daily visits.

The overall story means steadily decreasing revenues for everyone except possibly the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and I wouldn’t be too sure about the Times. Occasionally a regional paper will have a good run and make up some ground, as the Chicago Sun-Times has done recently (passing the Tribune on circulation in fact), and I called out the San Jose Mercury News for impressive growth in the last post. But those cases are rare, and don’t seem to be long lasting effects.

Way less money to spend is convenient in some respects, though. It’s easy for an editor to rationalize ignoring a complex story such as Benghazi. Unconsciously, he may not want to cover it because of the danger to his precious historic president, but he can tell himself he just doesn’t have the resources.

One of the messages the right needs to communicate and make part of the popular understanding is how declining revenues have constrained the reporting at major newspapers. That would be one way to explain to people, without getting partisan about it, that those newspapers shouldn’t be regarded with the authority most everyone gave them thirty years ago.

 

* The Washington Post link in that blog post, showing 2012 circulation figures, is dead now. It was apparently based on an AP story, and got removed after a while. I found the original AP story on Yahoo, with all the numbers from the original cite. It’s here.

** I should repeat the same caveat as last time: I am looking primarily at print circulation declines, and so I have to do some arithmetic because the newer numbers combine web and print. Those numbers also give the web number, so I subtract to get the presumed print circulation. It’s possible that I’m misunderstanding what the web numbers mean. Some of the “web subscribers” might also receive a print edition. In that case, the print numbers would be higher. But since I think the industry would want those numbers to look as high as possible, I don’t think they’re defining things that way.


For our readers in software development–a new technology called the agilo-modulizer

Today seems like a perfect day to tell you about some new technology I’ve been involved with for software development. Here’s a ninety second video with a high level description, made by the video training company that I did a course with last year:

 

I know some of our regular commenters, particularly looker, will be interested in this technology.


If we had just bought what the establishment GOP was selling, they would have thrown in undercoating for free

I don’t visit The Corner at National Review as often as I used to. Their pop-behind ads annoy me too much. But with good stuff from Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, Andrew McCarthy, and a few others of that ilk, I still go by from time to time, despite the ads.

Almost as annoying as the ads are the Gentry GOP types who are constantly providing cover for establishment Republicans. Ramesh Ponnuru leads that crew. Ponnuru had a post yesterday, with a follow-on today, that both serve as a fine illustrations.

Both are about the intricate strategerizing (as another establishment Republican might put it) around the so-called fiscal cliff. I tried to understand what he was getting at. I really did. But it all just came out as complicated blather to promote some kind of go-along-get-along viewpoint. I never did understand his argument. I’m pretty sure that he wants the Republicans who blocked the last deal to get with the program and support the establishment cohort led by Boehner, but even after reading his posts through twice I still don’t get *why*.

He ends the first piece with this paragraph:

That some Republicans are willing to see higher taxes for the sake of anti-tax purity is topsy-turvy enough. Adding to the vertigo: The Republicans (inside and outside the House) who fret about blurring the party’s definition are the ones who are doing most to blur it. They are the ones who are, in most cases, accusing Republican leaders of seeking to raise taxes when they are actually trying to cut taxes as much as they think possible—cut them, that is, from the levels the law already has in place for 2013. They’re the ones who are accusing most House Republicans of  “caving” to the Democrats, even as some of them prefer that the Democrats get their way entirely. That’s where the convoluted politics of this moment have led us.

This word salad sounds like an old Dilbert cartoon to me. In it, Dilbert is asked to sign a document stating "Employee election to not rescind the opposite action of declining the reverse inclination to not discontinue employment with the company."

The Gentry GOP’s equivalent seems to be "Voting for the bill to raise taxes in order to not raise taxes while electing to stand firm on not doing anything on spending while ensuring the previous action of claiming to reduce spending." Or something like that. I’m not really sure.

On stuff like this, I am a firm believer in the Asimov principle. In an introduction to one of his books, he said (approximately) "When I read something I don’t understand, I don’t assume I’m stupid." There are plenty of reasons for something to be incomprehensible that don’t have anything to do with me:

- The author might not know what he’s talking about

- The author might be a very bad communicator, and so just can’t explain himself very well

- As in the Dilbert example, the author might be trying to obfuscate the issue

For the entire discussion over the fiscal cliff, from Democrats, the media, or establishment Republicans, I’m going with the last explanation. It’s pretty clear at this point that the whole thing simply does not matter that much in the long term. No proposal being taken seriously will do anything to alter our long term trajectory. So the entire episode is just for political maneuvering.

That’s the part Ponnuru doesn’t seem to get, or at least he doesn’t assign any real weight to it. He doesn’t understand why twenty or so Republicans just won’t go along with the gag.

I get it completely. They have the intuition that they are being gamed.

Analyzing the details doesn’t help, because those details are intentionally confusing, and leave entirely too much room for statists to make things come out the way they want later.

If you’ve ever been subjected to the car salesmen who insists that this wonderful deal he’s offering you won’t be good tomorrow, you know the dynamic here. Those in the GOP who won’t go along with the game sense that the ruling class is using the same technique, with the fiscal cliff deadline as the nominal justification.

In general, I’m sick of any argument by an establishment GOP type that it’s necessary to do X to avoid being blamed for Y. Much of this fiscal cliff discussion seems to be in that vein. I’m sick of it because it pre-supposes that there is a path where the GOP won’t be blamed for the bad things that happen. That’s ridiculous.


Where will newspaper circulation and influence be in 2016?

Given the pathetic performance of our media during the Benghazi tragedy/debacle, I’ve been wondering just what will happen to the media before the next election after this one. I decided to look at where they were a couple of cycles ago, to get some historical perspective. I thought QandO readers might be interested in the results and my own speculations.

I had seen this article in the Washington Post a few days ago, giving circulation of the top 25 newspapers. I found another source showing circulation of the top 100 newspapers in 2004. So I fired up Excel and entered the top 15 from 2004 to see where they are now, and also noted the new members of the top 15 that were not there in 2004.

One adjustment was called for. I restricted the comparison to print copies. I’m assuming the 2004 figures were only print copies, or that web “copies” were insignificant. However, the Post reported circulation for 2012 with print and web combined, though they did note the web number. So the spreadsheet subtracted web circulation from total circulation to get print circulation.

Here are the results, with percentage increase or decrease in print circulation calculated. Almost all “decrease”, as you shall see.

 

Newspaper

Gross 2012

Web 2012

Net Print 2012

2004

%+- for 2012

USA Today

1713833

86307

1627526

2192098

-25.7549

WSJ

2293798

794594

1499204

2101017

-28.6439

NYT

1613865

896352

717513

1119027

-35.8806

LA Times

641369

151577

489792

983727

-50.2106

Wash Post

462228

27535

434693

760034

-42.8061

NY Daily News

535875

146605

389270

712671

-45.3787

NY Post

522868

178113

344755

642844

-46.3703

Chicago Tribune

411960

23112

388848

603315

-35.5481

Newsday

392989

114620

278369

553117

-49.6727

Houston Chronicle

325814

91331

234483

549300

-57.3124

Dallas Morning News

410130

64788

345342

528379

-34.6412

SF Chronicle*

229176

0

229176

499008

-54.0737

Arizona Republic

275622

839

274783

466926

-41.1506

Chicago Sun-Times

432455

70932

361523

453757

-20.3267

Boston Globe

230351

49432

180919

446241

-59.4571

     

 

New in top 15:

   

 

Denver Post

412669

176446

236223

340169

-30.5572

Tampa Bay Times

313003

13610

299393

348502

-14.0915

San Jose Mercury News

529999

43318

486681

279539

74.10129

* SF Chronicle dropped out of the top 25, so circulation was obtained from another web source.

This table isn’t really fair to newspapers that are making decent money through their web versions, but from what I can tell, that group has one member among the majors: the Wall Street Journal. NYT is the other major with a decent paid web subscription, but they won’t talk about their web financials anywhere I can find, which tells me the web is probably losing money for them.

WSJ and NYT also share the distinction that, if you include their web numbers, circulation has gone up instead of down. However, I found out that the Times has stalled in their monthly unique visitors. They were passed last year by the Huffington Post. So while the web has helped stem the decline in NYT readership, it won’t continue to do so unless they can get their web numbers increasing again.

I can’t find a reliable source that tells how much the other top newspapers really make through the web, either in circulation fees or in advertising, but I’m guessing it is a small fraction of what they made on the equivalent “circulation” in print in 2004.

So, just looking at print, and assuming revenue from the web is way less than revenue from equivalent print subscriptions, these guys are hurting. There is only one legitimate success story in the bunch: the San Jose Mercury News. Everyone else had gone down, with several losing over half their circulation in just eight years. The Tampa Bay Times managed to break in the top fifteen by merely losing fewer readers than any 2004 top 15 member.

Even among the ones towards the top, the signs of their distress are clear. I see USA Today when I’m on the road because many hotels give it away free. I rather doubt that this is a high-profit distribution for USA Today, and I’ve watched the daily edition get steadily thinner and thinner in the last few years. I don’t have actual numbers, but I think it’s at least one-third smaller than it was eight years ago. If they didn’t have one of the most comprehensive sports sections in the country, I think they would be even worse off.

The legacy press is driving on fumes. Over and above their shattered credibility, or in some respects because of it, their economic model is stressed to the breaking point.

So where will they be in 2016? I think the NYT and WSJ will tread water, the WSJ because they have a reasonably viable economic model and have not totally squandered their credibility, and the NYT because the left simply won’t let them sink.

The others, though, have a more chancy outlook. USA Today looks vulnerable to me, because it looks like the easiest national newspaper to replace with a web-based aggregation app. They do very little original reporting except for the sports section. They have not yet ramped up a decent web presence, and it’s pretty late in that game. I’ve noticed that fewer hotels have it than I used to see. I was in two hotels in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, and neither of them had it.

The Washington Post looks vulnerable too. It also has limited web presence, and print circulation is down a staggering 40%+ in eight years. With their concentration on politics, the operating model of the Post requires a certain level of spending to maintain. If they drop much further, they simply might not be able to be viable on the newspaper side. I suppose they can cross-subsidize from their other divisions such as Kaplan, but that doesn’t seem like a stable long-term strategy to me.

The problems get worse for any newspaper that isn’t explicitly national. The local papers’ major advertising revenue sources generally include department stores, movies, and automobiles. All of those are threatened by the web. It never enters the mind of a twenty something to buy a newspaper to find movie listings, and Amazon is killing department stores all over the country. Craigslist is wiping out local newspaper classifieds, and Monster.com and it’s relatives are wiping out the Help Wanted sections. 

I think the legacy press will remain a force through the 2016 election. They still have some reserves to draw on, at least economically. But their reserves of credibility are diminished more than their circulation numbers, so the influence will be considerably diminished.  

After that, I don’t know. For all I know, news in 2020 may be delivered primarily via Facebook, with your friends “Like” preferences driving what you are offered. Or Apple might so something to leverage the iPad 7. No doubt Google will try something, and their strength with advertisers might be their hole card. None of those answer the question, though, of where the content will come from.

Getting away from traditional papers for content might require some kind of crowd-sourced solution. AP or Reuters would be obvious candidates to try that, but I don’t think either one has the web savvy or the cultural savvy to succeed.

I think the Cheezburger network has as much chance of success at crowd-sourced news as AP or Reuters. As awful as that sounds, though, I’m not sure it’s worse than depending on the New York Times.


Excuses for not covering Benghazi–a helpful list for members of the Jurassic Media

There are rising calls for more reporting on the consular attack in Benghazi. Our poor press is beleaguered, and certainly too busy covering Sandy and the election to respond.

In fact, they’re so busy they apparently can’t think up good excuses for not covering Benghazi. At least, I haven’t seen any reasons disclosed publicly. They just don’t seem to see, hear, or say anything about it.

To help them out, I thought I would come up with a nice, prefab list of excuses. If any members of the media are reading, please feel free to use these. I’m sure QandO readers will add even more in the comments:

  • There’s really no need to go on site, because there’s video of the whole thing, shot from a drone. I’m sure we’ll see it very soon, probably about November 8. No, I’m not the least bit curious about why the Obama administration hasn’t released it yet. Why do you ask?
  • I just can’t see publicizing the whole seven hour standoff thing. We have enough superhero movies already.
  • Can’t get over there. SwissAir has no business class seats left.
  • Can’t face increasing my carbon footprint with a trip that long.
  • No Starbucks in Benghazi, and I hear the one in Tripoli is always out of pumpkin spice for lattes.
  • All these ghost-shaped Halloween cookies I baked would go to waste if I couldn’t give them to trick-or-treaters.
  • Sorry, I missed your question because I just came from a meeting with Obama. Let me wipe my mouth and then hear it again.
  • Putting something that violent in front of the public is not to be done lightly. Hey, we’re consistent about that. We didn’t show the pictures of George Zimmerman’s beating either.
  • Dead ambassador? Oh, yeah, I heard something about that. Something about a video that caused a riot. What a shame. But gosh, that was six weeks ago. Old news.
  • I’m afraid of politicizing that story this close to an election. Yeah, I did report Romney’s premature comments on it, and asked him a dozen times if he regrets his remarks. So?
  • Too busy writing my story about how Hurricane Sandy depressed Democratic voting in Philadelphia, so Obama losing Pennsylvania was an act of God. Certainly not a repudiation of Obama. Nope. No way.

Seriously, I thought the media could not be any more disgraceful in their slavish covering for Obama. More fool I.


Probably untrue news – 9 Sept 2012 edition

Mitt Romney stopped and bought Girl Scout cookies during a campaign stop this morning. He bought two boxes of Do-si-dos and a box of Trefoil butter cookies.

Debbie Wasserman-Shultz derided the incident as yet more evidence that Romney is out of touch with average Americans. "He didn’t get a single box of Samoas or Thin Mints? That’s unpardonable. Those are the Girl Scout Cookie varieties Americans love. Mitt Romney has proven again that he’s not fit to lead America during this tough economy."

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Romney a racist over the flap. "He didn’t buy anything that has any chocolate in it. Not only did he turn down the totally brown Thin Mints, he wouldn’t even take the partially brown Samoas. The only reason I can think of for such blatant insensitivity is outright racism."

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said a friend in the Girl Scouts told him Romney had never purchased Samoas or Thin Mints. "The facts are clear. Unless Romney releases his purchase records of Girl Scout cookies for the last twenty years, we’ll all know exactly what to think."

A Romney campaign spokesman pointed out that the group of Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a supermarket was out of Samoas and Thin Mints. "We were all disappointed that there were no Samoas, but that’s not Mitt Romney’s fault. The Obama economy with its high unemployment has made it impossible for the Girl Scouts to predict how many cookies of each variety to order. I really wanted some Samoas with vanilla ice cream on top, but, hey, that’s just how it goes."

Politifact looked at the Romney campaign’s claim that they didn’t buy Samoas or Thin Mints because they were not available that day. Since there were some Samoas and Thin Mints available from other scouts elsewhere in the country, they rated the claim "mostly false".


The philosophy of Obama’s speechwriters: "Thank goodness for cut and paste"

This is definitely worth two minutes:

Of course, politicians routinely repeat their stump speeches, so you could generate a video with repeated mantras for almost anyone in office. But this many, four years apart?

Remember, this guy is supposed to be a world class orator with world class intelligence. Can’t he come up with some different ways to explain himself? Hasn’t he learned from four years of being president, and gained a deeper understanding of the problems?

Four years ago, those soundbites sounded fresh, and people hearing them could believe that he meant them and would take action on them.

Recycling soundbites after four years in office doesn’t sound fresh. It sounds desperate, unoriginal, and generally sad.

Back in December, 2008, I said:

If Obama supporters don’t feel the quasi-religious fervor they felt in 2008, which I think is probably the case, then they might not give nearly as much money, or work nearly as hard for him. He’ll have to find other ways of connecting with voters to make up for that.

It’s pretty clear now that he has no other ways. He used everything he had in 2008, aided by a compliant, sycophantic media. He must confront the reality of four years in office, yet he has nothing left to offer but the same empty rhetoric and the same empty promises.

Every week, in more ways, this man sounds like a loser. With four years in office rebutting everything that was said about him in 2008, I doubt that his tingle-thighed acolytes in the media can do much about that.

(Video found via Instapundit.)


Obama: "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" Me: “As long as you let him define what a compromise is”

Among the various annoying sophistries of the left, their attempt to re-define the term “compromise” is high on my list.

If I’m sitting in Nashville on I-40 and I want to go to Memphis, and I’m trying to share transportation with someone who wants to go to Knoxville, there isn’t much room for compromise. Standing still is a better choice than any option that takes me further from my goal.

But the left don’t want us to look at it that way. They insist on setting a ground rule that some sort of movement in their direction is a sine qua non.

Oh, sure, they’ll alter non-essential details. “Well, if you insist, we can take Highway 70 instead of I-40. That’s a real sacrifice on our part, because it’s a scenic route and a lot slower. But, in the spirit of compromise, we’ll do that. Now, why won’t you go along with that? You’re just inflexible. Don’t you see we need to compromise and come to an agreement here? We have to do something!

It does no good to point out that the exact highway doesn’t matter – it’s the goal I don’t agree with. And that doing nothing is preferred to taking even one more step in their preferred direction.

This is the spirit with which Obama claims he’s willing to compromise in an interview with the AP (which I saw via Ace of Spades). After spending most of his time bashing Romney for his “extreme” views, Obama came out with his faux-reasonable, “why can’t we all get along” schtick:

If Republicans are willing, Obama said, "I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises" that could even rankle his own party. But he did not get specific.

I’ll bet he didn’t get specific. If he had, the entire fiction would have been exposed. And any “rankling” we see in his own party would just be the usual moaning that we’re not growing government fast enough.

Because what he means is that he wants the other side to give him more collectivist stuff, with perhaps a few meaningless changes to let GOP congressmen save face. He most certainly does not mean that he’s willing to cut government in any shape, form, or fashion.

I must note, for the umpteenth time, that Obama does not think he’s lying when he says such things. The headline at Ace of Spades is “Obama Tells Another Whopper”. Most commentators on the right feel the same way, but I don’t. I think it’s important to understand what’s going on in the minds of those on the left when they trot out their preposterous untruths.

Here’s an example I’ve discussed before – Harry Reid attempting to redefine the word “voluntary”. If you’ve never seen that video, you really should take four minutes and watch it – it’s eye opening. If you’re new to QandO and never heard me go off about the post-modernist stance involved, read the comments.

That video was just a particularly egregious example of the post-modern debate tactics of the left. They really do believe that they can simply redefine a word to suit their argument. All they have to do then is to get enough people to go along with their new definition, and it becomes the “valid” definition.

One of their earliest triumphs in this space was co-opting the very term “liberal”. That case shows the pattern. They take a word that has positive connotations and redefine it to suit their partisan purposes. They do it through repetition via their mainstream media arm plus an occasional dose of shouting down the opposition.

“Compromise” has almost reached this state. They want it redefined to mean “giving collectivists at least part of what they want”. But they want to preserve the connotation that compromise is a good thing.

For the current crew in charge of the Democratic Party, plus their media comrades, “compromise” never means taking something away from collectivists or reducing the size and scope of government. Anything  of that nature is immediately branded “extreme”. And, of course, you just can’t reason with extremists, so the implication is that they don’t need to be a part of the political process.

That’s how they are trying to tag Mitt Romney right now.

"I can’t speak to Governor Romney’s motivations," Obama said. "What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.

That’s laughable! Mitt Romney, an extremist? He’s the very archetype of an establishment, go-along-get-along Republican. He proved it in Massachusetts.

But it doesn’t matter whether he’s really extreme. The word has the connotation they want, so they use it incorrectly to promote their point of view, without a shred of shame or guilt, because they don’t think doing that is wrong.

To see additional recent examples of this insistence on the left to own definitions and set the terms of the debate in their favor, let’s look at some bilge from Nancy Pelosi and Tom Friedman.

First, here’s Pelosi in USA Today.

Though we never compromised principles, we did seek common ground to achieve results. From the start, we acted to strengthen workers by increasing the minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade. We worked with President Bush to jump-start our economy with recovery rebates for 130 million American families, even though Democrats preferred including investments to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges.

To promote the industries of the future and safeguard national security, we enacted the comprehensive Energy Independence and Security Act, raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years, investing in renewables and biofuels while creating clean energy jobs. We followed up with the COMPETES Act to support high-tech jobs, extend math and science education and boost research.

What she means by “not compromising principles” is “never giving in to reducing government”. Her examples prove it. They’re all about expanding government in some way.

These are not compromises, and having some gullible Republicans vote for them doesn’t change that.

Some of those gullible Republicans have since been sent to the showers, and the GOP’s major gains in 2010 reflected the dissatisfaction of these ridiculous “compromises” and the ever-expanding scope of government that goes along with them. Voters made it pretty explicit that they wanted to go in a different direction, and finally enough Republicans got that message to stop “compromising” in a way that constantly grew government.

But of course, Nancy wants to own the terminology. For her, the stand off resulted in a “do-nothing Congress”, which she seems to regard as intolerable.

This is one of the least productive Congresses in history, reported USA TODAY — even worse than the "do-nothing Congress" President Truman lambasted in 1948.

It never occurs to Nancy or her lapdog media acolytes to notice that the GOP passed a bunch of bills that were turned down by the Democrat-majority Senate. Why didn’t Nancy and her buddies in the Senate have some responsibility for compromise? Why weren’t some of those bills made law? It would have not been a “do-nothing Congress” then. Isn’t that important, Nancy?

No, it isn’t. What’s important is that she keeps growing government. That’s the only thing that matters to today’s left. The budget doesn’t matter (over three years without one, which I thought was something Congress was required to do), and the debt doesn’t matter (the Democrats want even more stimulus). They actually demand more regulations and higher taxes.

If you oppose any of those things, Nancy and her buddies are never, ever going to compromise with you. But they will constantly bitch and moan that you won’t “compromise” with them, i.e., go along with another round of making government bigger. 

We’ve been seeing that sort of “compromise” for decades now, and it’s brought us to the verge of an economic meltdown unprecedented in history. Yet the collectivists keep insisting that somehow, some way, one more round of “compromise” that gives them most of what they want will do the trick and make things work out better.

To see Nancy’s support in the chin-pulling media, last week’s Tom Friedman column is a great example.

And even if Ryan’s entry does spark a meaningful debate about one of the great issues facing America — the nexus of debt, taxes and entitlements — there is little sign that we’ll seriously debate our other three major challenges: how to generate growth and upgrade the skills of every American in an age when the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution means every good job requires more education; how to meet our energy and climate challenges; and how to create an immigration policy that will treat those who are here illegally humanely, while opening America to the world’s most talented immigrants, whom we need to remain the world’s most innovative economy

But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there.

This is the same sort of nonsense as that from Pelosi, under a different cover.

Friedman attempts to sound fair by admitting that we’re about to go off the cliff from entitlements and debt, and magnanimously agrees that we have to “do something”. Naturally, he ducks any mention of his preferred solution, and I don’t even have to know the details, because it is certain to mean higher taxes and more government. What else would we expect from someone who admires the authoritarians in China? (I notice that he doesn’t seem eager to notice their recent economic problems, and perhaps revisit his “analysis”, does he?)

But after that pro forma acknowledgment that serious problems must be solved, he veers off into how we absolutely must handle three other areas. It’s equally obvious that, as far as Friedman is concerned, more government is the preferred outcome.

Why else would these debates be so essential as soon as there’s a new Congress? What he’s suggesting is federal intervention to “upgrade skills” and “meet energy and climate challenges”. Naturally, he doesn’t bother to tell us precisely what government can do in these areas. He doesn’t really care much, as long as government gets more control.

Then he starts in on one area that is definitely the purview of the federal government: immigration. But he’s not for enforcing laws or any similar silly conservative notions. No, to him one of the top four critical issues that absolutely must be dealt with is how to treat illegal immigrants humanely. The fact that they chose to come here and can leave whenever they don’t like the way they’re treated never seems to enter his mind, nor does he support the claims of inhumane treatment. He just wants to again generate the urgency to “do something” because he expects the “something” that is reached via “compromise” to be within shouting distance of his preferred policy.

But he’s just setting the stage for his real lament:

We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base.

See the rhetorical sleight of hand? Anyone who disagrees with his positions is automatically “radical”. Those who would “make a deal” with his side are the true conservatives.

This is just another example of wanting to own the terminology. Friedman thinks it’s completely appropriate for the left to dictate how political terms are used, even in describing their opponents. He want’s to redefine “conservative” to mean “someone who isn’t quite as collectivist as me, but is still willing to go along with the collectivist programs of the Democrats after some token opposition”. That is, he wants all respectable political labels to be flavors of collectivism.

He wants to redefine the Democrats like Pelosi too. I think it’s completely reasonable to say that she’s the most collectivist, far left Speaker of the House we’ve ever had, and her district is ideologically as collectivist as any in the nature. Obama is pretty much in the same territory, as his background and priorities during office have proven.

But to Friedman, they’re just “center left”:

We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. … Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges.

Again, the “compromise” he has in mind grows government. His “center-left” (which by historical standards is way, way to the left) would never, ever agree to anything else.

He concludes with

As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing.

Sure, Tom, but whose fault is that? You want to claim it’s the fault of the right, because of course your vaunted collectivists are never at fault for anything that goes wrong, either here or in China. But why can’t your guys suck it up and compromise this time around?

The collectivist left has gotten their “compromises” from the GOP that led the way to bigger, more expensive, more debt-laden, and more intrusive government for decades. Isn’t it time for the compromise to go the other way for a while? Given the trouble we’re in, isn’t it time for the “center-left” to compromise for a while in the direction of less government?

No, of course not. For the likes of Obama, Pelosi, and Friedman, the day of admitting that their political opponents might have a point about big government will never come. They will never truly compromise with anyone who believes in limited government. They will only “compromise” – which means to keep growing government with the collusion of the establishment GOP.

I’m not the only one noticing this trend of redefining the terms instead of actually debating anything. Here’s James Taranto talking about the same thing:

Note carefully what is being asserted here. It’s not just that Democratic ideas are morally superior to Republican ones or that Barack Obama is a better president, or a better man, than Mitt Romney or would be, or is. Rather, the claim is that whereas billionaires who support Romney are greedy and selfish, those who back Obama are altruistic–or, to the extent they have a selfish motive, it is a relatively benign one, a simple desire to be in the presence of the Dear Leader.

It’s a leftist cliché that money corrupts politics. These leftists, however, believe that their politics somehow purifies money–that writing a check to Obama for America is an act of moral money-laundering.

Leftists have tried to own the terminology of politics as long as I remember. But notice, all these examples are within the last few days.

This is another sign to me that the Democrats are starting to feel desperation. They don’t have anything positive to talk about. They have no original or constructive ideas to offer the electorate. They have fallen back to spending almost all their time attempting to define the opposition as an intolerable alternative. They think that will let them win without a program, because they think they can simply define themselves as the only reasonable choice.

I do not think that’s going to work. But the collectivist Democrats will probably keep enough power in Congress to stymie any attempts by Republicans to do anything that reduces government in any substantial way.

If the Democrats lose the presidency (as I think likely) and the Senate (as I think possible), somehow I bet the collectivist left will suddenly lost their fervor for compromise. The filibuster will become an essential tool of democracy. A “do-nothing Congress” will quickly become a badge of honor instead of an insult.

But, when you’re a post-modernist, you never worry about consistency or hypocrisy. You just redefine your terms.

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