Free Markets, Free People

Sarcasm


Scene from a modern American newsroom

{Reporters and editors staff meeting, Metropolis Times-Post-Globe-Tribune, Monday, August 8, 2011}

“OK, people, this looks like a big week. There’s a lot coming down this week, so we all need to do some serious, in-depth work to stay ahead of the curve. First, we’ve got the downgrade and the associated fallout. I need someone who can look at the aftereffects, and make a guess about what it means.”

“Chief, I’ve been doing some analysis on this, and…”

“Stop right there, Beth. This is another one of those ‘Obama made a mistake’ pieces you want to do, isn’t it? When I hired you last spring, I thought I made it clear that we take a balanced approach here. We need to look for fault on all sides, and respect the office of the presidency. Walt, how about you?”

“Chief, do we have to use the word fallout? On this weekend’s talk shows, everyone was using the term ‘Tea Party downgrade’. I think that’s the right analysis. Why, with that approach, the piece practically writes itself.”

“Perfect. Since that’s the new factor in DC, it’s clear that the Tea Party is the biggest factor in this. Get to work. Beth, what is it?”

“Uh, sir, how does a faction that only controls 1/3 of the majority party in one house of Congress cause this problem in only seven months? Don’t we need to go back further in time for a better analysis?”

“No, this is a newspaper, not some right-wing think tank.”

“But, sir, the articles I read about the Tea Party that we put out last year claimed they were just a bunch of whackjobs who would never have any significant effect on Washington because of their extremism. Don’t we at least need to examine how that changed over the last year?”

“No. Our readers understand how the Tea Party has morphed into a national threat. So the Tea Party downgrade is one direction we’ll go. But we need something with some math in it to explain the whole thirty year future thing. I know we don’t normally do math stuff, but with the stock market dropping like a rock, people need some reassurance on this so they don’t panic. Did anybody in here take calculus? Destiny, I seem to recall that it’s on your transcript.”

“Well, um, yeah, but I don’t remember much of it.”

“Your transcript says you made an A. And it was only two years ago. What gives?”

“Well, see, the teacher and me, we had a sort of arrangement. He was real cute, and I really needed to pass calculus, so…. I really didn’t expect the A, but we hit it off better than I thought we would.”

“OK, anybody else want to tackle that? Not you, Beth.”

“Chief, I know a guy over at MoveOn who is good with charts. I can probably get something good from him.”

“OK, Hunter, that will do. Of course, you’ll want to attribute the original source instead of MoveOn. You understand.”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Moving on, this whole gun running thing just won’t go away. Personally, I don’t see why our readers would be interested in it, but we’ve been taking some flack on the right-wing extremist talk shows at Fox. So we need to do some real investigation here, and find out the real story. It’s pretty clear that those extremists at Fox are trying to gin up a controversy that makes the Obama administration look bad, so we need to counter that with some objective analysis. Who’s up for it? Jeremy, you wrote a couple of articles on it early on. You want to go deep on it?”

“Not really, sir. I can’t get anybody in the Justice Department to talk about it, so I can’t get any balance. They’re scared by the way the whole Scooter Libby thing turned out.”

“Yeah, yet again, the Republicans ruined it for everybody. Can’t you get anyone to talk?”

“The only people I can get are field people, who seem to have an agenda here to push this as a controversy. I think they’ve been influenced by the Fox people. I don’t want to give them a soapbox. All they want to talk about is some dead agent from last year and memos from Obama’s people.”

“Sir?”

“Yes, Beth, what is it?”

“Sir, I think we have to take into consideration that there’s a real conspiracy here, something that would take us to very high levels. This could even be Pulitzer material.”

“Beth, I think you’re absolutely right. Why, given the phone hacking scandals in Britain, who knows what these Fox people are capable of. This might go all the way to Rupert Murdoch.”

“That wasn’t exactly…”

“OK, Jeremy, there’s your angle. Go back to your sources and see if any of them are interested in talking about the Fox conspiracy side of things.

“What do you want me to do about the rumors that the FBI and DEA were involved?”

“They’re just rumors.”

“Yeah, but they have some emails that look a bit incriminating.”

“Probably faked. You know how those right wingers are. First they’ll claim that Rather’s memos were faked to cover up for Bush, then they’ll turn around and fake stuff up themselves. You can’t trust anything you get from them. So stick to reliable sources. Eric Holder says the feds didn’t do anything wrong, correct?”

“That’s what he says.”

“Then you can take it to the bank. We all know there are people out there who would attack Holder just because of his race. He’s an embattled public servant. So let’s make sure the truth gets out, shall we? Now, let’s see what’s next. There was apparently a riot in Wisconsin. A flash-mob thing. I think there was also one in Philadelphia a while back. This looks like a great opportunity for some serious cultural analysis on problems in the inner city. Estelle, didn’t you minor in black studies? You want to work on this?”

“I only glanced at it this weekend sir. Were any of the victims black?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t look at it much either. I’m so tired of Wisconsin. Yes, Beth?”

“Sir, the blogs say all the victims were white, and the mob was black.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to ignore those right wing extremist blogs? We need some primary sources. Estelle, can you get facts on this?”

“What if it turns out the blogs are right and there are no black victims? I don’t know how to handle such a case. Anything I write could be used to attack underprivileged minorities. I thought that was against our mission statement.”

“Well, if that turns out to be the case, just leave race out of it completely. You can at least get some numbers of people arrested and people hurt and so forth. Remember to leave all the names out so people don’t draw any erroneous conclusions and inappropriately make this a racial thing. You can fall back on the underage confidentiality thing for that if you need to. OK, the final big subject is the crash of that helicopter that killed a bunch of SEALs. Clearly, this is a great opening to talk about what Bush did wrong in Afghanistan that has made it a quagmire. Who wants to work on that?”

“I do!” “Me, me!” “Please, can I do that one?” “No, I want to do it!” ….


A phone call to Barbara Lisa Murkowski

“Hello, Barbara Lisa Murkowski here.”

“Yo, Babs. I hear you lookin for some DC smack.”

“What? How did you get this number?”

“Oh, a friend of yours gave it to me. He says you ain’t feelin too good. Had your usual fix taken away a couple of weeks ago. Got the monkey on your back, he says.”

“Hey, I’m fine. I’m just trying to find a way to serve the people of Alaska through one more term.”

“Heh, heh. Sure. Look, you want to hear what I got or not?”

“Well, it won’t hurt to listen, I suppose.”

“Well, the LPers are open to reason. I think I can get you a ballot spot.”

“Those guys? First, they don’t seem to want to talk to me. Second, it’s a long shot that I can win by running under their ticket.”

“Well, sure, it ain’t as high quality as what you’re used to. But it’ll keep the withdrawal pangs away for a few months. I bet right now you’re feelin like that’s enough. Eh?”

“Look, I can stand it if I have too. I have dignity, you know. I could always take a job as a lobbyist.”

“Sure you can, sure you can. I’m just sayin, I think I can arrange a deal to get you that fix, uh, I mean nomination. I mean, I’d hate to see you walkin K Street.”

“How much will it cost me?”

“No more than you got. Hey, I want to help. I hate to see a lady suffer. And from what I hear, you got the DC habit pretty bad.”

“Well, it would certainly be hard to turn my back on the people of Alaska. I’ve done so much to bring home the bacon for them. It just feels so good to get the goodies for them, you know?”

“Sure, sure, you and me in the same business, giving people stuff that makes em feel good.”

“Well, seeing as how we’re both so public-spirited, I think we can definitely work together.”


A phone call to Republican Air Conditioner Service Company

“Hello, Republican Air Conditioner Service. How can I help you?”

“Hey, my air conditioner is almost completely gone. It uses ridiculous amounts of electricity, hardly cools at all, has long pipes running through the yard to neighbor’s houses, and it sounds like it’s about to blow up. I need you to fix it.”

“Do you have a current repair company you’ve been working with?”

“Yeah. The incompetent boobs at Democratic Air Conditioner Repair. I called them two years ago and they promised to fix it. It was pretty bad off then because it’s been getting progressively worse for a long time. After paying them to fix it, and watching them scramble around doing stuff for two years, it’s worse.”

“Fine, just accept us as your repair company, and we’ll get right on it.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve heard that before. What exactly are you going to do to fix it?”

“Well, we’ll clean it up. It will be nice and shiny.”

“I don’t care about that. I want it to work.”

“Ah, but we are specialists in cleaning out a Culture of Corrosion. We think a nice, shiny air conditioner makes everyone feel better about how it’s working.”

“Listen, I don’t care. What are you going to do to make it work?”

“We’ll replace the other guys. You’ll see all new trucks in your driveway.”

“You’re not getting the point. What are you going to do to fix my air conditioner?”

“Well, that will take a lot of study. We might have to increase the power consumption so it works better.”

“What?!? The power consumption is already more than I can afford! And I don’t see how more power is going to keep it from blowing up. In fact, I think feeding in more power is more likely to make it blow up!”

“Yes, well, you are simply not acquainted with the rules of Keynesian electrical power consumption. Trust me, we’ve been doing this for decades.”

“Yeah, I know. My air conditioner has been getting worse the whole time. Why can’t you just work off the basic laws of electrical physics?”

“That’s way too complex to discuss. Besides, all the best people in the air conditioner industry have agreed that Keynesian electrical power consumption principles really work, so you don’t need to bother your head about it. The real issue is that you need to switch to us to take care of your air conditioner. After all, you certainly don’t want those other guys, after what you’ve been through, do you?”

“No. But I want somebody who’s going to fix my air conditioner. And there are no other repair companies in the whole state.”

“Of course not. Why would you need more than two? That gives you a choice. Isn’t that enough?”

“Not when neither choice can get the job done!”

“Oh, trust us. We should definitely be your air conditioner company. Are you ready to switch to us?”

“Will be you be sending the same people that came the last time I used your company?”

“Sure. They’re trained air conditioner repair people. You want experienced people, don’t you?”

“No! I want competent people! I want people who will fix the problem!”

“Well, that’s us!”

“You didn’t fix it the last time I called you. I gave you years to do it, and you just made it worse. You didn’t fix anything, but you did add on more pipes to neighbors’ houses and an air-filter thingy I didn’t want and don’t need. That’s why I switched to the other guys, hoping they could do something about the stuff you messed up.”

“And see what that got you! Those guys are just awful. They’re out of touch, and they’ll never be able to fix anything. Why, I hear they added a stereo and a set of speakers to your air conditioner. Don’t they deserve to be thrown out in favor of us?”

“Wait, I thought you guys were good pals. Don’t you play golf with them all the time?”

“Sure. They’re our colleagues. Plus, we often take over repair jobs from them, and we even use them for subcontracting sometimes. So we have to stay on good terms with them. Besides, we’ve known them a long time. We went to air conditioner school with them. Of course, they chose to go with the company that distributes Left of Left of Center Air Conditioners, while we distribute Right of Left of Center Air Conditioners.”

“Yeah, well what exactly did you learn in air conditioner school?”

“Oh, the usual. Telephone sales techniques, like I’m using with you right now. How to select the best polish to make the air conditioner shiny. Fundamentals of Keynesian electrical power. How to drive the truck that we use to get to your house.”

“But did you take any courses on HOW TO FIX AIR CONDITIONERS?!?”

“We took courses on how to WORK ON air conditioners. And how to keep working on them forever. Because they need constant tinkering you know.”

“No, they don’t! They just need to work!”

“You clearly don’t understand the purpose of air conditioners.”

“I though they were to keep my house cool.”

“Well, nominally, yes, but that’s a small part of their purpose. They’re supposed to do lots of other things too, such as pump cool air through long, uninsulated pipes to neighbors who can’t afford the electricity to cool their houses.”

“That’s going to be me soon! Assuming this thing doesn’t blow up before then and kill me in the process!”


Michael Gerson Is Better Than You

Oh, and you’re ugly too:

My political friendships and sympathies are increasingly determined not by ideology but by methodology. One of the most significant divisions in American public life is not between the Democrats and the Republicans; it is between the Ugly Party and the Grown-Up Party.

[...]

The rhetoric of the Ugly Party shares some common themes: urging the death or sexual humiliation of opponents or comparing a political enemy to vermin or diseases. It is not merely an adolescent form of political discourse; it encourages a certain political philosophy — a belief that rivals are somehow less than human, which undermines the idea of equality and the possibility of common purposes.

This distinction came to mind in the case of Washington Post blogger David Weigel, who resigned last week after the leak of messages he wrote disparaging figures he covered … Unlike Weigel, most members of the Ugly Party — liberal and conservative — have little interest in keeping their views private.

[...]

The alternative to the Ugly Party is the Grown-Up Party — less edgy and less hip. It is sometimes depicted on the left and on the right as an all-powerful media establishment, stifling creativity, freedom and dissent. The Grown-Up Party, in my experience, is more like a seminar at the Aspen Institute — presentation by David Broder, responses from E.J. Dionne Jr. and David Brooks — on the electoral implications of the energy debate. I am more comfortable in this party for a few reasons: because it is more responsible, more reliable and less likely to wish its opponents would die.

Well, not in public anyway.

If I had a nickel for every time some hand-wringing, garment-wrenching, media “elite” rides to the rescue of one of their liberal brethren being caught slurring the political opposition, I could buy the entire archives of JournoList.

I’d even have enough money left over for some popcorn and a comfy chair. Then I could release those archives and watch the stampede of “Grown-Up Party” snobs falling all over themselves to explain how sophisticated they all are for only “urging the death or sexual humiliation of opponents or comparing a political enemy to vermin or diseases” in the privacy of their own chatrooms. It will be uproariously entertaining to hear how talking behind people’s backs is the epitome of class, while publicly challenging opponents is so lowly and juvenile.

You know, Mr. Gerson, being a “Grown-Up” douchebag isn’t much of an accomplishment.


Quote Of The Day

Peter Beinart is pretty sure Barack Obama is on his way to political superstardom and therefore liberals ought to quit whining about his lack of accomplishment:

If he gets health-care reform, Obama will have done more to rebuild the American welfare state in one year than his two Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did in a combined twelve.

That has got to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Because rebuilding the “American welfare state” is what government is all about.

~McQ


Darn Right-Wing Militias

Via The Jawa Report, a little “domestic terrorism” update. First St. Louis:

A federal search warrant obtained by the Post-Dispatch connects a former Democratic campaign strategist to a Clayton bombing last year that seriously injured an attorney.

About two months after the October bombing, federal law enforcement officials searched the downtown loft of Milton H. “Skip” Ohlsen III, seeking “evidence related to the planning, execution, and/or cover-up of the bombing in Clayton, Missouri, on October 16, 2008.” Ohlsen in recent weeks has been at the center of a swirling political scandal that is threatening the political careers of at least two Missouri Democratic legislators.

Then, Austin, Texas:

A Texas woman faces trial this month in Austin on charges she threatened to kill a government informant who infiltrated an Austin-based group that planned to bomb the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., last fall…

…Crowder and McKay were part of a group of activists that had gone to the Twin Cities to take part in street demonstrations. The FBI had infiltrated the group with Darby. Crowder and McKay built eight of the gasoline firebombs but didn’t use them, a fact law enforcement officials credited to Darby.

Members of the Austin protest community heaped scorn on Darby, saying he had betrayed longtime friends and colleagues.

I’m headed over to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website to see what they have to say about these right-wingers and their hate crimes …. oh, wait …

~McQ


The Magic Of Paying For Healthcare

I‘m so glad that the Democrats have settled on how to pay for their latest government boondoggle even if it is the same old formula:

House Democrats will ask the wealthiest Americans to help pay for overhauling the health care system with a $550 billion income tax increase, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee said Friday.

The proposal calls for a surtax on individuals earning at least $280,000 in adjusted gross income and couples earning more than $350,000, said the chairman, Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.

It would generate about $550 billion over 10 years to pay about half the cost of the legislation, Mr. Rangel said. As the proposal envisions it, the rest of the cost would be covered by lower spending on Medicare, the government health plan for the elderly, and other health care savings.

Tax the rich and squeeze the health care industry with lower Medicare payments. Sounds like a very “healthy” and stable way of paying for “health care reform” doesn’t it?  A perfectly sure way to accomplish the stated Obama priorities of “expanding health insurance coverage to virtually all Americans and curtailing the steep rise in the cost of medical care while improving patient outcomes.”

Expand coverage, cut payments and improve outcomes.

Yup – “I believe!”


Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

When it comes to economics, the Pope should stick to poping. While it’s not uncommon for the papacy to issue decrees and opinions vaguely in line with common socialist principles (e.g. love thy neighbor, etc.), it is somewhat rare for the Pope to outright call for one-world government:

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.”

He also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.

I wonder what happened to leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Or how about that whole concept of “free will”; you know the very basis and foundation of our religious “faith” (which, of course, can only come from choice and not from force)? That seems to be under indictment with Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical.

Leaving aside world governance for the moment, the Pope really goes off the rails when he gets into economic policy. For example, at one point he decries “globalization” and “outsourcing” as little more than the rich preying on the poor:

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

But he also wrote that “The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favor of the shareholders.”

In short, managers should run their companies for the benefit of those who whine about the common good rather than for those who actually paid for the company (i.e. the shareholders). I’m guessing this is the “squeaky wheel” part of the sermon.

Yet, while outsourcing is deemed “bad”, the Pope also laments that poor countries aren’t better taken care of by richer ones. Towards that end

Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so that there could be a unified “global political body” that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” he wrote.

Except for the fact that “development aid” is not wealth. Wealth is created through productivity, not handouts. Indeed, the surest and simplest way to aid development in poor countries to give them jobs … a.k.a “outsourcing.” Doesn’t that whole give a man a fish/teach a man to fish thing ring any bells, your Holiness? Moreover, the more things like outsourcing happen, then the greater wealth there is in the world, and the more work/wealth/happiness there is for everyone to enjoy. Again, I’m pretty sure that was something about loaves and fishes in the Bible that would help illustrate this point.

So much for Papal infallibility.

Just to be clear, I say all of this as a practicing Catholic who is raising his own children in the same tradition. I have great respect for the Pontif when it comes to matters of the spirit. I just wish he’d leave the day-to-day management to the rest of us.


Deadly Clashes in China

I assume, since China is a totalitarian state, that the US won’t have anything to say about the violence there for at least 10 days:

The official death toll in riots in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region rose sharply Monday, with the government saying that 140 had been killed in what appears to be one of the deadliest episodes of unrest in China in decades.

Police said at least 828 other people were injured in violence that began Sunday in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Witnesses said the conflicts pitted security forces against demonstrators, and members of the region’s Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group against members of the country’s Han Chinese majority. Many among the predominantly Muslim Uighurs have chafed at Chinese government rule.

[...]

As evening fell in Urumqi Monday, witnesses said that paramilitary troops of the People’s Armed Police, backed by armored personnel carriers, were patrolling largely calm city streets. Many businesses remained shuttered and gates of the city’s central bazaar, which was the scene of unrest Sunday night, were closed.

Police said they were still searching for dozens of people suspected of fanning the violence. Several hundred people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, police said, and the government said it was bringing “ethnic officials” from nearby areas to help with interrogations.

Of course the reason given by the Chinese government is much the same as that given by the Iranian government concerning the problems there -

The government blamed the unrest on a prominent exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an activist group. Sunday’s demonstration was “instigated and directed from abroad,” according to a government statement cited by Xinhua.

Given that statement, you can expect silence from the Obama administration as they’ll want to ensure they’re not seen as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs. And I can promise you that the Uighur dissidents being rounded up by China’s police forces will not be offered a vacation in Bermuda.

Apparently the only country in which the “no meddling” policy is waved is Honduras.

~McQ