Free Markets, Free People
Rand Paul managed to raise quite a ruckus by honestly stating his views in response to a loaded (and irrelevant) question. In the process, the left and those who pose an intellectual moderates have seized the opportunity to tee off on libertarianism and the Tea Party movement. Dale capably dismantled one such effort by the New York Times editorial board. Today, a more subtle, concern-trollish effort graces the NYT in a piece from Sam Tanenhaus:
On the surface Mr. Paul’s contradictory statements [i.e. that he dislikes the federal government intrusion into private business affairs, abhors racism, and would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- ed. - which aren't necessarily contradictory] might seem another instance of the trouble candidates get into when ideological consistency meets the demands of practical politics. This was the point Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, made when he said, in mild rebuke of Mr. Paul, “I hope he can separate the theoretical and the interesting and the hypothetical questions that college students debate until 2 a.m. from the actual votes we have to cast based on real legislation here.”
But Mr. Paul’s position is complicated. He has emerged as the politician most closely identified with the Tea Party movement. Its adherents are drawn to him because he has come forward as a kind of libertarian originalist, unbending in his anti-government stance. The farther he retreats from ideological purity, the more he resembles other, less attractive politicians.
In this sense, Mr. Paul’s quandary reflects the position of the Tea Partiers, whose antipathy to government, rooted in populist impatience with the major parties, implies a repudiation of politics and its capacity to effect meaningful change.
Although Tanenhaus provides a fairly non-judgmental opinion here, he is also quite clearly trying to imply a racist undertone to the Tea Party movement. At best, he is suggesting that Rand, and thus Tea Partiers, are smugly indifferent to the vagaries of racial prejudice, and all too ready to sacrifice the well-being of those who suffer most from such discrimination on the altar of libertarian purism. While it’s true that libertarians can be just as prone to fits of utopianism as any good Marxist, Tanenhaus’ conjecture relies on at least two fundamental misunderstandings: (1) that adherence to principles of liberty can only be maintained from a standpoint of ideological purity; and (2) that distrust of government intrusion equals “anti-government.”
Taking the second point first, there has been a concerted effort by the left to portray libertarians in general, and Tea Partiers specifically, as some sort of “anti-government” force. Tanenhaus attempts to support this myopic view by equating Rand’s skepticism regarding certain portions of the ’64 Act with an unbending aversion to government in toto. In turn, all those in favor of limited government, and especially those opposed to the unnecessary and unwanted expansion of federal powers witnessed in the past couple of years, are labeled as anti-government ideologues, who mistake the theoretical for the practical. Yet, in truth, the views of libertarians and the Tea Party crowd are not terribly different from those of this nation’s founders in that regard. Distrust of government, after all, was what led to the formation of a constitution that limited its powers and explicitly placed the source of all such power in the hands of the people. That is not an anti-government stance, but a pro-limited-government and pro-liberty view. Tanenhaus’ misapprehension of that fact leads to a portrayal of Rand et al. as some sort of anarchist radicals bent on destroying government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Turning to Rand’s comments on the ’64 Act, we should all have a problem with government intrusion into our private affairs. A good argument can be made that without such intrusion the invidious racist practices targeted by the ’64 Act would have continued for quite a while, but that is simply an end-justifies-the-means argument that misses the most important reason to be skeptical of such intrusions: once government has such power it rarely, if ever, gives it up, but instead extends its reach into other areas as well. Yes, that is a “slippery slope” argument, but one that in this case is well founded in fact. Indeed, the ’64 Act itself, based on Congress’ Commerce Clause powers, serves as the perfect illustration of why the slippery slope should be minded. Since the end of the Lochner era, and the concurrent expansion of Commerce Clause power, the federal government has arrogated to itself the ability to control almost every level of your business and personal activity, right down to what you may or may not ingest, and how you can can receive health care when you get sick. Again, whether some of these results are “good” is beside the point that the means of obtaining them requires a suppression of liberty and an expansion of centralize government power. For that reason, and that reason alone, Rand is right to question the necessity of certain provisions of the ’64 Act, even if eventually he would have voted in favor of it (and leaving aside the cogent, and certainly correct, arguments that federal government had the requisite power to enact those provisions through the 13th Amendment). And, again, none of that stance make he or anyone who supports him some sort of “anti-government” radical.
In the same way, questioning invasive government powers in defense of liberty does not make one an impractical ideologue. For starters, freedom isn’t just an idea or some sort of construct; government is. Like pure oxygen, it’s rare to find in the natural order of things, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In contrast, government had to be invented from the ideas of man. Accordingly, it is not ideological to take the view that, as Justice Scalia once noted, individual liberty is the default position and government control over it must be constitutionally and specifically justified, not the other way around. Our very country was founded on this basic principle. Yet, the critics of Rand Paul, libertarians and Tea Partiers get this exactly backwards.
Moreover, just because something is practical, doesn’t warrant an eradication of individual liberty. Perhaps it is true that de facto Jim Crow would have lingered in the absence of those ’64 Act provisions preventing private discrimination. If so, then the practical application of those laws would seem to trump the individual liberty of the racists who tried to perpetuate that era. Yet, can it truly be said that the ’64 Act was responsible for bringing an end to discrimination, or since we know it still exists, its retardation? Isn’t there a much better argument to be made that Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and all those civil rights activists of the 50′s and 60′s who lent their blood, sweat and tears — and sometimes their very lives — to the cause had a much greater impact than the 88th Congress? In this sense, while the ’64 Act may have been practical in regards to expediency, was it really necessary especially in consideration of the cost to personal freedom? Even if the answer to that last question is a fully justified “Yes” (and maybe it is), raising it does not make one an ideologue impervious to the realities of life. It simply makes one a principled defender of liberty, which one can be without being a mindless utopian.
Looking at this whole issue from a broader perspective, the real problem here is a basic misunderstanding of freedom. One can love liberty and still support government. From a libertarian point of view, government is simply an ordered, less brutal means of securing to ourselves the ability to pursue freedom by donating limited powers to the governing organization. Instead of defending all property with the barrel of a gun, we look to the judicial system. Rather than depend on the will and wherewithal of individuals to defend our society from its enemies, we support a national defense. As opposed to having each and every transaction among people be subject to individual contract, we recognize the ability of legislatures to set certain standards for the conduct of society. We may disagree as to where the limits should be set on each of these governmental powers, but libertarians are fully cognizant of the fact that having some sort of governmental structure is more desirable than having none. And yet, we also unapologetically and jealously guard our freedom, ever mindful that liberty lost is rarely regained without serious strife and deadly consequences.
In short, although we may question authority, we do not seek to abolish it. While we may defend the liberty of even the most odious of individuals, that does not mean we support their anti-social behaviors. Libertarians, and all lovers of freedom, have firm, historical reasons for challenging intrusions into their lives. We do not need to be ideologues to do so, and the practical effects of that suspicion of power has led directly to the greatest expansion of wealth and prosperity for the largest number of people in history. Freedom, at times, may be ugly up close, but it is still the most beautiful thing that has ever existed, bar none. Defense thereof requires an adherence to reality, not flights of fancy.
The editors of the New York Times misrepresent libertarianism by way of Rand Paul and his statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying:
As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.
It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society. The freedom of a few people to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others.
It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market. It was government that rescued the economy from the Depression and promoted safety and equality in the workplace.
Let’s start with the most obvious canard, which is the proposition that Jim Crow had anything to do with free markets. They were called “Jim Crow Laws“, not “Jim Crow Markets”, the obvious reason for which is that separate accommodations were mandated by state governments, not organically grown in some mythical garden of free association rights. Indeed, the entire reason for the corrupt deal behind the presidential election of 1876 was to throw the South’s support behind a president who would end Reconstruction.
It was government–in this case, the state governments in the South–that imposed Jim Crow, and government that forced private companies to impose the desired restrictions on blacks. If government intervention was required to Jim Crow, that was only because governments had imposed it in the first place. And it certainly wasn’t the free market that imposed racial segregation on federal government employment, or military service. Nor was it the free market that imposed poll taxes or literacy tests aimed at preventing blacks from voting in elections. The argument of the New York Times’ editors is essentially that because one level of government ended the racial segregation that another level of government imposed, this shows the superiority of government over the free market.
Now, this is not to say that the owner of a drug-store lunch counter would have served blacks. Some most certainly would not. But we’ll never know how long that state of affairs might have lasted, because the state governments of the South did everything in their power to ensure that it would last, until forced to do otherwise. And to argue that the free market would never have eliminated Jim Crow is to argue an unprovable negative. What we do know, however, is that there are examples, such as bus companies refusing to make blacks sit in the back of buses until forced to do so by state law, that indicate otherwise.
To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary, it was only so by virtue of eliminating state laws that imposed segregation, and restricted free markets from functioning.So, what “succeeding centuries have shown” is that government restriction of free markets kept segregation alive for a century after the Civil War. In presenting such a revisionist version of history, either the editors of the New York Times are abysmally ignorant, or they are actively malign.
As far as government rescuing the economy from the Great Depression, a number of serious economic historians would argue precisely the opposite. To the extent that the government did end the Great Depression, it did so by absorbing 12 million citizens into the armed forces, and producing billions of dollars worth of war materials, a great proportion of which were destroyed between 1942 and 1945, along with about half a million of those uniformed Americans. Which, I shouldn’t have to point out, hardly commends it much as a general recipe for escaping economic downturns.
In any case, the child-like trust the editors of the New York Times seem to have for government action hardly seems warranted in either instance.
This info, of course, has been available for years, but those dauntless and investigative reporters within the New York Times organization have just recently stumbled upon an example which, if revealed earlier, might have derailed the ObamaCare train. Might. I mean, that assumes every shady technical device known to politicians wouldn’t have been used to ram it through – but who knows, it might have been enough to dampen the vote in the House had it been chronicled.
What in the world am I talking about? Why the health care system in New York state – the one the flagship NYT suffers under. The health care insurance system that’s been in place for years – decades even.
New York’s insurance system has been a working laboratory for the core provision of the new federal health care law — insurance even for those who are already sick and facing huge medical bills — and an expensive lesson in unplanned consequences. Premiums for individual and small group policies have risen so high that state officials and patients’ advocates say that New York’s extensive insurance safety net for people like Ms. Welles is falling apart.
The problem stems in part from the state’s high medical costs and in part from its stringent requirements for insurance companies in the individual and small group market. In 1993, motivated by stories of suffering AIDS patients, the state became one of the first to require insurers to extend individual or small group coverage to anyone with pre-existing illnesses.
New York also became one of the few states that require insurers within each region of the state to charge the same rates for the same benefits, regardless of whether people are old or young, male or female, smokers or nonsmokers, high risk or low risk.
Healthy people, in effect, began to subsidize people who needed more health care. The healthier customers soon discovered that the high premiums were not worth it and dropped out of the plans. The pool of insured people shrank to the point where many of them had high health care needs. Without healthier people to spread the risk, their premiums skyrocketed, a phenomenon known in the trade as the “adverse selection death spiral.”
You remember the outrage when an insurance company in California tried to raise its premiums 30+%? It cited “adverse selection death spiral” as the reason – it is covering sicker people who are much costlier while the healthier are leaving the plan due to the cost. Massachusetts is undergoing the very same phenomenon. the four non-profit insurance providers have requested rather large premium increases (and been denied them) for the very same reason as the California company And now we discover, New York – which, as the article points out has been a “working laboratory for the core provisions of the federal health care law” for years – is and has been playing out the precise outcome many who opposed this bill foretold.
And somehow, until now, that never managed to find its way into the pages of the Times. As an aside, I have to say that since it has turned to advocacy journalism, it is a pale shadow of its former self and that’s one of the reasons it is headed toward ruin.
Anyway, apparently the politicians in DC learned from the New York debacle. Thus the individual mandate and the fine on employers for not covering their employees. Otherwise, as New York has proven:
“You have a mandate that’s accessible in theory, but not in practice, because it’s too expensive,” said Mark P. Scherzer, a consumer lawyer and counsel to New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage, an advocacy group. “What you get left clinging to the life raft is the population that tends to have pretty high health needs.”
And the Democrats don’t want the insurance companies to be able to charge the sick what is necessary to cover them. Instead they want to force healthier Americans to subsidize the expense through coercive mandates and fines.
Amazing – and yet there are those among us who will look you in the eye, and with a straight face tell you this is exactly what the founders of the country envisioned when they wrote the Constitution.
The QOTD for today actually comes to us from a NY Times editorial in 2005 which clearly states their understanding of the job of an opposition party:
Mr. Bush has reacted by railing against Democrats for obstruction — as if Democrats are duty-bound to breathe life into his agenda and, even sillier, as if opposing a plan that the people do not want is an illegitimate tactic for an opposition party.
Why I believe that is exactly the point the right is now arguing. As witnessed by the editorial, the Democrats, lefty blogs and much of the media thought it was fair play in 2005. Take heed, Republicans and don’t end up breathing life into a corpse. The Democrats didn’t apologize for killing Social Security reform. And it obviously didn’t hurt them electorally.
Question: did killing SS reform in 2005 make America “ungovernable?”
More importantly, did that mean the NY Times wanted the Bush agenda to “fail”?
Heh … Archives are a bitch, aren’t they?
My blogging credentials (such as they are) run back to 2002, and I can remember when Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs site was just a blip on the blogospheric map. After Rathergate, of course, that blip turned into a giant shining beacon. As you might expect, that sort of attention led to plenty of caterwauling from the lefties, and some pretty unfair accusations. At one point, I brilliantly defended Johnson from completely unjustified attacks by none other than everyone’s favorite harlequin, GreenSox Glennwald (seriously, go read this one just for the comments where I get into it with everyone’s favorite sycophant Mona; good stuff). Johnson was the king of the anti-anti-war right at that time, and the left’s long knives were emblazoned with his name.
Since the election of Barack Obama, however, Johnson has had an … er, falling out with his former brethren. For whatever reason, he’s taken to sniping at his former comrades in arms and resorted to that favorite tactic of the left in calling everyone a racist who doesn’t agree with him.
Such is life. Coalitions rarely last for very long, and divorces are typically nasty affairs where rude epithets are common. That Charles no longer wants to associate with those whom he once treated as his band of blogo-brothers is sad, but not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. Strange bedfellows abound in times of perceived danger.
Nevertheless, there was a time (called the “Bush Presidency”) when Johnson was the posterchild for all that was deemed wrong with the political right, especially the left’s fervent fantasies about racism run amuck. To be fair, such accusations typically found their quarry ruminating around LGF’s prodigious comment sections, but that was enough for the lords of tolerance to tar all non-statists as racist, warmongering, dead-enders with no sense of compassion or grace. That is, until Johnson decided to part ways with his former comrades.
Considering LGF’s place amongst the pantheon of the left’s most hated sites on Earth, you can imagine my surprise upon reading a paean to Charles Johnson in, of all places, the New York Times:
Charles Johnson has been writing a blog for almost as long as the word “blog” has existed. A bearish, gentle-voiced, ponytailed man who for three decades enjoyed a successful career as a jazz guitarist accompanying the likes of Al Jarreau and Stanley Clarke, Johnson has always had a geek’s penchant for self-education, and in that spirit he cultivated a side interest, and ultimately an expertise, in writing computer code. His Web log, which he named “Little Green Footballs” (a private joke whose derivation he has always refused to divulge), was begun in February 2001 mostly as a way to share advice and information with fellow code jockeys — his approach was similar in outlook, if vastly larger in its reach, to the guiding spirit in the days of ham radio. His final post on Sept. 10, 2001, was titled “Placement of Web Page Elements.” It read, in its entirety: “Here’s a well-executed academic study of where users expect things to be on a typical Web page.” It linked to, well, exactly what it said. The post attracted one comment, which read, in its entirety, “Fantastic article.”
He’s cute! He’s cuddly! He’s just a code monkey who likes Tab and Mountain Dew! Nothing to fear here!
By virtue of his willingness to do and share research, his personal embrace of a hawkish, populist anger and his extraordinary Web savvy, Johnson quickly turned Little Green Footballs (or L.G.F., as it is commonly known) into one of the most popular personal sites on the Web, and himself — the very model of a Los Angeles bohemian — into an avatar of the American right wing. With a daily audience in the hundreds of thousands, the career sideman had moved to the center of the stage.
Now it is eight years later, and Johnson, who is 56, sits in the ashes of an epic flame war that has destroyed his relationships with nearly every one of his old right-wing allies. People who have pledged their lives to fighting Islamic extremism, when asked about Charles Johnson now, unsheathe a word they do not throw around lightly: “evil.” Glenn Beck has taken the time to denounce him on air and at length. Johnson himself (Mad King Charles is one of his most frequent, and most printable, Web nicknames) has used his technical know-how to block thousands of his former readers not just from commenting on his site but even, in many cases, from viewing its home page. He recently moved into a gated community, partly out of fear, he said, that the venom directed at him in cyberspace might jump its boundaries and lead someone to do him physical harm. He has turned forcefully against Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, nearly every conservative icon you can name. And answering the question of what, or who, got to Charles Johnson has itself become a kind of boom genre on the Internet.
“It’s just so illogical,” Geller told me heatedly not long ago. “I loved him. I respected him. But the way he went after people was like a mental illness. There’s an evil to that, a maliciousness. He’s a traitor, a turncoat, a plant. We may not know for years what actually happened. You think he changed his mind?”
Poor code monkey. So lonely and misunderstood. How awful those righties are for abandoning such a crafty, neo-hippie (who finally found his way back home to his “bohemian” roots). It really is a shame that the right is so horribly intolerant that they call Johnson bad names like “evil” and “traitor”. What’s wrong with those jerks anyway?
You can read the rest for yourself. Suffice it to say, the irony of that bastion of MSM groupthink called the New York Times writing a glowing 1,000+ word article in defense of Charles Johnson and LGF is so thick I could feed off it for weeks. Recall that LGF was one the prime agents in exposing the fraud of MSM-mainstay Dan Rather and you might just string that irony-stew out for a couple of months.
Editorializing today, the New York Times says:
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.
From that entirely unnecessary policy (the United States had the tools to detain, charge and bring terrorists to justice) flowed a terrible legacy of torture and open-ended incarceration. It left President Obama with yet another mess to clean up on an urgent basis.
Of course this minimizes the arguments to Bush did or didn’t follow “the nation’s well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.”
In fact there were no “well-established systems” in existence at all as we found out. Anyone who remembers what happened as we began to take in these “detainees captured in antiterrorist operations” knows that no system at all existed. There was a tremendous amount of debate and legal research done to try to determine what sort of status these people should or could be held under. And that’s not been established in full to this day.
For instance, the NYT claims that “open-ended incarceration” has been ended by the Obama administration’s move. But that’s simply not true. As the Washington Post reports:
That leaves up to 75 individuals remaining at Guantanamo who could continue to be held under the laws of war because they are deemed too dangerous to release, but cannot be prosecuted because of evidentiary issues and limits on the use of classified material.
So it appears, given the evidence, that open-ended incarcerations continue. Why? Because we still don’t have a comprehensive legal policy with which to deal with these people. As the Obama administration found out when it tried to close Guantanamo, the legal questions were indeed complex and unresolved. And, at least 75 individuals continue to face the possibility of open-ended incarceration because of that – a year into the Obama administrations tenure.
The Times continues:
On Friday, Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. It promises to finally provide justice for the victims of 9/11.
Mr. Holder said those prisoners would be prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan. It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama’s efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush’s disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases.
Well, that’s the official spin, I suppose, but my guess is it has more to do with leftist politics than any concern for justice and I think James Taranto has the best take on what is most likely about this move:
As Morris Davis, a retired military prosecutor, argued the other day in The Wall Street Journal, under the administration’s plan, “the standard of justice for each detainee will depend in large part upon the government’s assessment of how high the prosecution’s evidence can jump and which evidentiary bar it can clear.” Detainees will get a “fair trial” in civilian court only if their conviction is assured. By implication, that suggests that detainees who go before military commissions will get an unfair trial. Presumably the administration would deny this and say the commission trials will be fair too. But if so, why is such a trial not good enough for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?
The answer seems to be that the administration is conducting a limited number of civilian trials of high-profile terrorists for show, so as to win “credibility” with the international left. These trials will differ from an ordinary show trial in that the process will be fair even though the verdict is predetermined. But people who wrongly think that either military commissions or detention without trial are unjust will not be satisfied with some detainees getting civilian trials–unless, of course, they are simply eager to be impressed by Barack Obama.
I think he’s exactly right. These are indeed show trials, considered safe enough (the evidence is overwhelming enough that classified evidence won’t be necessary) to ensure conviction. These trials will have little to do with “justice”, but they will have much to do with shutting up or at least muffling the leftist base which still isn’t satisfied with what the administration has accomplished in terms of closing Gitmo. These trials buy the administration more time.
Note also what Tranto says about the implication that exists concerning military tribunals. The Times says it out loud:
Regrettably, the decision fell short of a clean break. Five other Guantánamo detainees are to be tried before a military commission for the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of planning the attack.
The rules for the commissions were recently revised to bring them closer to military standards. And Mr. Holder cites the fact that the Cole bombing was an attack on a military target to justify a military trial. But that does not cure the problem of relying on a new system outside the regular military justice system. Nor does it erase the appearance that the government is forum-shopping to win convictions. Most broadly, it fails to establish a clear framework for assigning cases to regular courts or military commissions going forward.
The rules revisions the Times cites were cosmetic at best. But note that the editorial doesn’t mince words concerning its disdain for the military tribunal. The fact that those being tried before the tribunal actually attacked a military target doesn’t stop the Times from claiming “forum shopping” as the key to their continued use.
So let’s review – KSM is going to NY for trial. That, supposedly, is a clean break with the awful Bush years and open-ended incarceration and military tribunals. Except it’s not. 75 remain in open-ended incarceration at Gitmo. And 5 will face justice in front of military tribunals.
In fact, the only thing that has happened is a couple of show trials, which could just as easily been done in Guantanamo (or if they want a Federal Court – how about Miami), are going to be held in an attempt to “prove” that things have changed.
The Times is obviously fooled into believing that. And, that proves one thing – that politically at least, the Obama adminstration got this one right.
The NY Times tells us this morning that we’re likely to get health care reform whether we want it or not.
Frankly I’m not sure why that should be a surprise to anyone. Democrats know that they have to pass something or they’ll effectively, to use Howard Dean’s phrase, “kill the presidency” of Barack Obama.
So it should come as no surprise, really, that Democrats are finally talking about whatever is necessary, to include completely ignoring Republicans, to get a bill through both houses of Congress for the president’s signature.
But the exclusion of Republicans doesn’t mean smooth sailing for Democrats. Numbers-wise they certainly have the majorities they need in both houses to pass legislation. This particular legislation, however, has become fraught with political danger. Many Democrats are very wary of it because of the demonstrated unhappiness of their constituencies and the probable 2010 impact that may have. This is especially true of more conservative Democrats, even those is primarily Democratic districts. And “Blue Dogs” who managed to win in historically red districts are terrified.
Certainly by cutting out the Republicans, they can write the legislation as they want it. But certain parts, such as the so-called “death panels” and “public option”, have little public support. And, in general, polls continue to make the point that a majority of Americans want this present attempt scratched and want Congress to “start over”.
On top of that, it appears the majority of Americans do not agree that “something” has to be passed quickly. Instead, it appears, the public wants an extended debate and believe that such a debate is just beginning.
That sets up the conflict of political interests the Democrats face. They believe, now that they’ve brought it up and the president has made it one of his signature issues, that unless they pass it (or something they can call “health care reform”) they’ll have set him up for failure. However, they are also coming to realize that passing something now despite a majority of Americans saying slow down and start over could be hazardous to their political health – and majorities.
As they finally did with George Bush and the Republicans, I believe Americans are again realizing not just the benefit but the necessity for divided government to keep both sides “honest”. Government needs a bit of competition too. And if Democrats ram health care reform legislation through, whether with our without Republican support, they’re most likely to see such “competition” become reality in 2010.
Barack Obama editorial in the NY Times is another part of cranking up the left wing scream machine in effort to counter the detrimental effect townhall protesters have had on the Democrat’s health care grab. It is mostly appeals to emotion and the repeating of discredited talking points (to include the “AARP supports this” nonsense). But these lines especially caught my attention:
We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.
They totally contradict this line within the same editorial:
I hear more and more stories like these every single day, and it is why we are acting so urgently to pass health-insurance reform this year.
This is a familiar Obama tactic. Give lip service through high sounding rhetoric about “serious debate”, but in reality be focused on “urgently pass[ing] health insurance this year” and avoiding debate. It is supposed to fool you into thinking he’s committed to debate while in reality he’s trying to push this legislation through as quickly as possible.
Serious debates are not time sensitive – they go on until the debate is settled to everyone’s satisfaction. That is not at all Obama or the Democrat’s intent.
That takes us to the most disingenuous line in the op/ed:
In the end, this isn’t about politics.
That, of course, is nonsense on stilts. In the end, this is all about politics and that point is demonstrated by the rush to pass the legislation.
If, as Obama asserts, this is about “people’s lives and livelihoods” and also a “complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate”, then you have to ask – what’s the rush? Don’t “complicated and critical issues” deserve close scrutiny and extended debate?
On the other hand, if he actually believes it is about “people’s lives and livelihoods” and we must rush to accommodate the people, why does the bulk of the proposed legislation not kick in until 2013? If it’s not about politics, why is the implementation date one year after a second term would start? How does that start date support the rhetoric about the “urgency” of the matter?
In reality, there is no final bill and there has been no real debate anyone can point too in Congress. In fact it has taken the people going to townhall meetings and passionately expressing their displeasure to start the debate.
The “not about politics” is more of the glib Obama nonsense that people are beginning to see through. This is all politics – because he and the Democrats know that if they actually have a “serious debate”, this most likely wouldn’t pass. The rush to pass it is specifically to avoid that debate, gloss over the details and get it into law while Obama still has some political capital.
That effort, as we’ve seen through the polls, is in serious trouble now and Democrats can deny that or try to wave it away until the cows come home – but that won’t change anything.
However, and again despite Barack Obama’s rhetoric to the contrary (“But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another.“), this op/ed is an attempt to talk over the opposition, not with it. And it is beginning of an attempt by the left to ramp up an effort to talk over the townhall protesters and lessen their obvious impact which has been negative for the administration. Again, if you don’t believe that, simply read where Obama contradicts his high sounding rhetoric by doing precisely what he condemns:
In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain.
Obviously, at least according to Obama, you can’t have a valid argument against his political health care prescription, but must instead be a “cynic” or “naysayer” trying to “exploit fear” for “political gain”.
And, of course, we all know Obama and the Democrats would never do that, don’t we?
I‘ll leave it to you to read the health care fact check. But this was of particular interest to me:
The president continued to take credit for deficit reduction by making a claim that has been challenged by many experts.
“If we had done nothing, if you had the same old budget as opposed to the changes we made,” the deficit over the next 10 years would be $2.2 trillion greater, the president said.
In fact, $1.5 trillion of those “savings” are mainly based on an assumption that the United States would have had as many troops in Iraq in 10 years as it did when Mr. Obama took office. But before leaving office, President George W. Bush signed an agreement with Baghdad mandating the withdrawal of all American forces within three years.
So Mr. Obama is claiming credit for not spending money that, under the policy he inherited from Mr. Bush, would never have been spent in the first place.
For those of you who missed it, even Bush didn’t plan on keeping as many troops as we had then for 10 years. The SOFA agreement and the general withdrawal timetable had been announced before Obama ever took office.
A perfect example of why every “fact” Obama utters needs to be examined carefully (that’s true for every politician, but this one especially), especially now when he’s promising the moon and stars in health care for less cost. Again, read the fact check for some of the points addressing that.
Another day, another breathless “Antarctica is melting” report:
An ice bridge linking a shelf of ice the size of Jamaica to two islands in Antarctica has snapped.
Scientists say the collapse could mean the Wilkins Ice Shelf is on the brink of breaking away, and provides further evidence of rapid change in the region.
Sited on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Wilkins shelf has been retreating since the 1990s.
The BBC report seems to consciously avoid blaming it on global warming, but does imply the change is recent (and leaves it to you to decide what that means):
“The fact that it’s retreating and now has lost connection with one of its islands is really a strong indication that the warming on the Antarctic is having an effect on yet another ice shelf.”
Since this is a floating ice shelf, its breakaway will have zero effect on sea levels.
The NYT, of course, is not so careful with its coverage:
An ice bridge holding a vast Antarctic ice shelf in place has shattered and may herald a wider collapse caused by global warming, a scientist said Saturday.
While citing both articles, Think Progress naturally choses the more dire pronouncement as its lede.
Of course we’ve been through this before. You may remember the discussion when it first came up almost a year ago to the day, we did some research and discovered, low and behold, that the area where the Wilkins Ice Sheet is located also happens to be the location of some active undersea volcanoes.
Notice the ice shelf is on the western side of the peninsula and south of its tip. Now, look at this:
Well I’ll be – an active volcano very near the shelf which also vents further up the peninsula. I wonder – could that cause a bit of warming in the area?
Last year, the Ice Cap provided a little sanity to the discussion. Then it was an MSNBC report. It is essentially no different than thes reports. In fact it is more of what they don’t say than what they do say the make the news reports suspect. Here’s what Ice Cap said last year:
The [MSNBC] account may be misinterpreted by some as the ice cap or a significant (vast) portion is collapsing. In reality it and all the former shelves that collapsed are small and most near the Antarctic peninsula which sticks well out from Antarctica into the currents and winds of the South Atlantic and lies in a tectonically active region with surface and subsurface active volcanic activity. The vast continent has actually cooled since 1979.
The full Wilkins 6,000 square mile ice shelf is just 0.39% of the current ice sheet (just 0.1% of the extent last September). Only a small portion of it between 1/10th-1/20th of Wilkins has separated so far, like an icicle falling off a snow and ice covered house. And this winter is coming on quickly. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60% ahead (4.0 vs 2.5 million square km extent) of last year when it set a new record. The ice extent is already approaching the second highest level for extent since the measurements began by satellite in 1979 and just a few days into the Southern Hemisphere winter and 6 months ahead of the peak. Wilkins like all the others that temporarily broke up will refreeze soon. We are very likely going to exceed last year’s record. Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica’s ice sheet is also starting to disappear.
In other words, it is tiny portion of Antarctica which is located in a part of the continent which is most exposed to South Pacific currents and also has “surface and subsurface volcanic activity” to add to any warming. Graphically it looks like this:
So, other than it finally looks like Wilkins may split away, the situation isn’t any more dire than it was last year at this time and seems, instead, to be the work of natural forces that certainly would have a warming effect without the assistance of any sort of “global warming”.