Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Bob Herbert – Now and Then

One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:

Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.

The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.

Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.

The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.

Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?

~McQ

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Van Jones – An Afterword

The rise and fall of Van Jones has been a rather interesting situation to watch for a number of reasons.

One is the effect it has had on what David Sirotta calls “movement progressives”. Any one else would call them radical leftists. For those needing a definition, a “movement progressive” is one who comes from the grassroots of leftdom and has earned his or her way up through activism. That’s not to be confused with the “Team of Corporate Zombies”, per Sirota, with which Obama has surrounded himself. “Zombies” like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.

So what was the value of Van Jones and his position? Per Sirota he was the only movement progressive in a real position to actually influence policy rather than being shuffled off into a “political/tactical job”. Sirota believes progressives have been badly dissed by the administration’s decision to throw Jones under the proverbial bus. And, of course, Sirota can’t imagine anything but racism being the motivator for those who went after Jones.

Jane Hamsher goes into it even further with a real “movement progressive” blast at the entire Obama administration. She’s of the opinion that the only groups under attack (and being compromised) right now by the White House are progressive groups. Likening them to a calf in a veal pen she writes:

And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It’s a chickensh*t sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of “maintaining a seat at the table.”

I think the phrase “not happy” is an understatement. And the Van Jones debacle just further aggravates the situation.

However not every voice from every liberal area is in synch with the “movement progressive” crowd. What I’m sure some of the grassroots liberals would consider to be the voice of the corporate media, papers like the San Francisco Chronicle still dutifully carry water for the administration and a little lecture for the Hamshers and Sirotas of the world:

For all those on the left who are expressing frustrations that the Obama administration did not choose to “fight” the forces who are determined to discredit Jones because of his past, we say: There was a time for that fight. It was before Jones assumed his high-level position in the administration.

Since Jones was never vetted publicly, that moment passed without note. And that, of course is the problem with such appointments. When finally vetted by public scrutiny, problems like Jones are bound to surface. Expect more.

The Chronicle also makes an interesting point about regional politics vs. national politics that seems to be lost on progressives:

Those of us who have observed Van Jones’ work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage.

On the national stage, it requires explanation, context and a touch of contrition – just as the past writings and statements of conservatives from other parts of the country seem so offensive and inexplicable here.

The fact that Jones’ activism, ideology and statements were obviously not acceptable on a national level should tell progressives something about why their ideology isn’t translating into what they expected when they signed on to the “hope and change” express.

The Wall Street Journal provides a little more insight for the progressives:

No President is responsible for all of the views of his appointees, but the rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.

The “reality-based community” is having to face political reality for the first time and they don’t like it one bit.

Finally, any discussion of the Jones story has to include the shameful handling of it by much of the mainstream media. Or should I say the non-handling of it – for the most part, with obvious exceptions, they chose to ignore it. Consequently, when it broke, they were caught flatfooted and trying to catch up. They did their readers and viewers a great disservice and delivered yet another self-inflicted blow to their waning credibility.

~McQ

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CO2 – Is This Where We’re Headed?

Cap-and-trade is only the beginning. France is mulling a CO2 tax on its citizens:

The French government plans next year to begin making heavy users of household and transport fuels bear more of the tax burden. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to say in coming weeks that such a shift is necessary to nudge French citizens toward cleaner alternatives.

The tax would reportedly start at about 14 euros (or $20) for each ton of CO2 emitted, and could rise to levels of around 100 euros ($143) for each ton by 2030. That could mean substantial increases in the price of gasoline and diesel, as well as a sizable jump in the cost of keeping homes warm.

Nudge French citizens? What is government doing nudging its citizens toward anything to do with their energy usage? Quite simply government, at least in France, has decided that citizens must conform to its priorities (proven or unproven) and thus uses its power to tax to “nudge” people into the behavior it prefers?

Is that a proper function of government? Only if you believe government is infallible and should be the arbiter of what constitutes the “proper” way of living. Trust me, such a belief has absolutely nothing to do with freedom, choice or liberty.

But skeptics say the idea may have less to do with clean energy, and more to do with a desire on the part of Mr. Sarkozy’s government to find new ways to keep the national debt in check.

Heh … the skeptics may be on to something. We have the same sort of problem in this country which is why I imply that cap-and-trade is only the beginning. Once implemented government will use the precedent (“we’re controlling industrial CO2 emission, now we need to control “private” CO2 emissions”) to tax citizens on their use. It’s all about revenue and this source is perfect – created, literally, out of thin air.

As usual, the socialists in France (and elsewhere) are without a clue:

In addition, members of the opposition Socialist party have slammed the plan, suggesting it would unfairly burden lower income citizens — particularly those who are obliged to use their cars.

Segolene Royal, a former presidential candidate, has instead called for direct taxes on gasoline and other energy companies.

Because everyone knows that a direct tax on “gasoline and other energy companies” would never be passed on to “lower income citizens” who are “obliged to use their cars” and “unfairly burden” them, would they?

~McQ

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The Baucus Plan For Expanded Health Insurance Coverage

This is the culmination of a “year of work” by Sen. Max Baucus. And the cost? Well much less than the House version if you’re to believe the Senators who put it together. Instead of 1.5 trillion, this one will only cost us 850 to 900 billion over 10 years – another sum we cannot afford.

Why is this version less costly than the House version? Well they’re going to tax insurance companies.

Yes, I hear you. I know you know what it really means. But for the benefit of those on the left who stop by here to troll instead of taking the time to learn basic economics, we’ll again restate what should be obvious.

Corporations don’t pay taxes. Their customers do. The buck doesn’t start or stop with them – they just pass them along.

A recent report by Oppenheimer & Company, the investment bank, said, “It will be very difficult for the Senate Finance Committee to structure the fees in a way that they won’t be immediately passed on to customers in the form of higher premiums.”

Of course it will be difficult for that committee to structure them that way since it has no desire to do so:

Mr. Baucus’s plan, expected to cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, would tax insurance companies on their most expensive health care policies. The hope is that employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services.

The separate new fee on insurance companies would help raise money to pay for the plan. The fee would raise $6 billion a year starting in 2010, and it would be allocated among insurance companies according to their market shares.

So it is a redistribution of your money (once the insurance company raises its fee to offset the “tax”) back to the very same insurance companies to subsidize the effort to insure everyone.

If this doesn’t catch the eye of union employees and pensioners and turn them completely against this version, then they’re totally impervious to reason. They are prime candidates for newer, cheaper and less generous coverage if this were to be passed into law.

To make the misery equal for all, Baucus and crew hope your employer, union, pension fund will drop the health care you’re now satisfied with for a cheaper, less generous policy and thereby reduce “the overuse of medical services”. And the money taken from you will be given back to the very insurance companies which it previously “taxed” to subsidize the uninsured.

But mind you, it’s all for your own good. And no, this isn’t at all government intrusion in a market to a level sufficient to change behavior – quit saying that. Because we all know that Jay Rockefeller is right, don’t we?

Mr. Rockefeller said the fees were justified because insurance companies were “rapaciously, greedily and unstoppably making money by underpaying the patient, by underpaying the provider and by overpaying themselves.”

Who again sets the standard for medical reimbursement in the US? It darn sure isn’t private insurance companies, is it? To bad that White House email address for fishy health care info isn’t still functioning.

And of course, when Chuck Schumer says something like, “The health insurance industry should pay its fair share of the cost because it stands to gain over 40 million new consumers under health care reform legislation,” you know its a bad idea. Schumer has never once demonstrated he has a grasp on the economics of anything. And this is no exception. But he does understand the political ramifications of such a bill.

In fact, the devil is found in what Schumer doesn’t say – “40 million new customers, no pre-existing conditions, no option to deny coverage, no lifetime cap on payouts”. Yeah, sounds like a heck of a bargain, doesn’t it? 40 million new consumers and guaranteed bankruptcy leaving what?

Well good old Chuck Schumer and the government to fall back on, huh? And, after neatly rigging the game in such a way as to effectively eliminate private coverage, they’ll also offer up a hearty “we told you so” and blame it on a “market failure”.

Who needs a public option or a trigger when you can set things up this way? Yup, as is apparent, there are all sorts of ways to skin that single-payer cat, aren’t there?

~McQ

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Is The Race Card Becoming Less Effective?

There’s a good bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on with the left since Van Jones resigned under pressure. They’re turning to some very interesting introspective analysis which isn’t at all complementary to the Obama administration.

But there’s one absolutely expected line of counter-attack that you could literally bet your house on emerging as expected. I give you the tried but not so true anymore “race card”:

“It struck me, why go after this guy? He is a minor player, he has no power, no budget, why take him? It’s because he looks like Obama and he has all those same attributes of being well-educated and he’s an electrifying speaker with an elite education,” said John Anner, a good friend of Jones and former chair of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an organization Jones founded in Oakland. “It seems to me that he is symbolic of what the Obama administration is and could be and that’s inspiring for me, but for some people on the right, it’s terrifying and threatening.”

It couldn’t be because he’s unaccountable and, to many, unacceptable based on his prior words and deeds, could it? Must it be because he “looks like Obama?” The fact he is “well educated and an electrifying speaker with an elite education” doesn’t mean he isn’t a radical who people don’t want associated with their government.

In fact he’s a self-described communist. Few Americans are going to be comfortable with a communist sympathizer having access to the White House policy making apparatus that may one day have a direct effect on their country. Especially one unaccountable to the people. Is that discrimination – you bet. But not because he “looks like Obama”. Because his ideas and ideology are diametrically opposed to those America was founded upon.

My guess is, if anymore are found with similar backgrounds in the Obama administration, the same sort of pressure will be brought to bear to dump them as well – and race won’t at all be a factor.

Of course Anner isn’t the only one pursuing that ridiculous argument. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, also tossed it out:

So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics — I don’t think Fox News really cares about Jones’s ethnicity — but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a “crack-head” is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him “addict-in-chief” because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president.

Don’t you just love it when those who claim not to know what makes the right tick, then zero in on precisely what they’re sure made the right react is it did in this particular case?

In fact, this is simply an attempt at rationalization. Apparently, in Pope’s world, using derogatory descriptions of a president he disagrees with is fine. But when there are consequences for doing so, it’s obviously because those objecting are racist. The remarks are ignored for the race of the speaker. In fact, the side he seems so determined to make racist is objecting because the term used was derogatory regardless of the race of the speaker or the race of the target.

Pope needs to learn the meaning of the term “racialist” and how making everything about race causes it to lose the power it once had. When every set back and failing is because of race, soon the accusation looses all meaning. As each group accused of racism does a self-assessment and finds the accusation to be frivolous, the power the accusation might have the next time it is used is forever diminished.

Reasonable people understand it is entirely possible to disagree completely with a president and his agenda without once caring what race the president might be. But you have to be a grownup to admit that. Screaming racism is so much easier. And you don’t have to examine your own failings when you play the race card.

Ironically, the opposition should welcome its use, because each and every time the race card is played in situations in which it is obviously not a factor, it loses more and more of its effectiveness and what little power it has left.

~McQ

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Reading The Lefties So You Don’t Have Too

A chore I don’t particularly enjoy but which does reward me with a few laughs.

Fairly typical of what I’ve been reading would be a fellow named Jack Turner blogging at Jack & Jill Politics, a blog which claims to be “A black bourgeoisie perspective on U.S. politics”. Turner apparently took a bit of a blogging hiatus after the inauguration to take care of some personal commitments. He’s now shocked, shocked I tell you to return to the political arena and find everything has gone to Hades.

When I returned in mid August, it was to a country that had clearly lost its damn mind. I turned on one cable station to hear people demanding President Obama prove he’s an American citizen, an insane movement led by an Israeli citizen. I switched channels to see another group screeching in fear that Obama’s health care proposal would institute death panels to kill grandma. On yet another station, Glenn Beck accuses this president of having a deep-seated hatred for half of himself. Flip again to find parents removing their children from school because they don’t want their kids exposed to Obama’s socialist indoctrination. And yesterday, Green Jobs Czar Van Jones resigned after extreme pressure from right wing groups and extreme tepidness from the White House that hired him to do his very important work.

Great. After a brief respite, the most accessible American political discourse has returned to fearful, hate-filled, ignorant rants of a high-volume, low-intellect minority.

Now where’s the laugh in that? Well I’ve put it in bold for you. Mr. Turner unknowingly admits that the brief “quiet” was a respite. A respite from what?

How about 8 years of “fearful, hate-filled, ignorant rants of high-volume, low-intellect minority” on the left? It seems, as usual, that for the left, history began on January 20th of this year. However, occasionally you see the truth reflected in their words even when they perhaps didn’t mean to reveal it.

Black Star News, which touts itself as “New York’s Leading Investigative Newspaper”, decided to weigh in on the Van Jones resignation with an unsurprising slant on the whole thing:

So we see the Witch hunt escalating. This is just the beginning.

Van Jones, the White House environmental adviser resigned last night following a smear campaign launched by Glenn Beck and other Republicans.

Jones, who is Black, was criticized as a “radical” whose views are out of the mainstream.

The Republicans dug up various incidents from Jones’ background; that he once headed an organization that fought police brutality; that he was one of the demonstrators who protested the police brutalization of Rodney King; that he once described himself as a socialist; that he criticized white owned companies for dumping toxic waste in African American neighborhoods; and that he signed a petition which questioned whether the government’s laxity allowed the 9/11 tragedy to occur.

Of course, Jones didn’t describe himself as a “socialist”, after 6 months in jail he called himself a “communist”. He didn’t just criticize “white owned companies” for dumping toxic waste in minority communities, he accused “white environmentalists” as well. And last, the truther petition wasn’t about “government laxity”, but the claim that the government knew and actually planned the 9/11 event. Communisim, racism and radicalism all rolled up into one big green ball, totally ignored or minimized by his defenders in order to call those who went after him “verbal terrorists”.

Of course I’m sure BSN wasn’t included in Jack Turner’s “fearful, hate-filled, ignorant rants of a high-volume, low-intellect minority.” Note too that while BSN doesn’t overtly introduce the subject of racism into the rant, it does make sure you know that Jones is black very early in the editorial. You’re then left to draw your own conclusions.

Back to Turner, who apparently learns much about American policy from movies:

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the movies, it’s that “The United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists.” Yet this White House is willing to let these psychological terrorists set the terms of the debate and negotiate from their insane positions.

Remember now, Turner has returned from his hiatus expecting reasoned dialogue to be the rule. Yet it only takes a few paragraphs for him to get into the ad hominem swing. “Psychological terrorists?”

To again make the point that selective memory seems to have infected the left, take a gander at Turner’s rationalization for engaging in demonization and marginalization:

I realize I’m lumping a variety of “opposition” camps together: birthers, deathers, those who accuse the president of racism and those who accuse him of socialism. I’m grouping them because to me they all come from the same place. They’re engaging in a form of terrorism. They are using psychological violence (and occasionally the threat of real violence) to pursue a political objective, and in so doing, inflicting harm upon non-combatants.

Yeah, see the “opposition” couldn’t just be ideologically opposed to the sweeping takeover of America by the radical left and speaking out about it – you know, speaking “truth to power”? Nope, they have to be “terrorists” who are engaged in “psychological violence”. Dissent, you see, is no longer the “highest form of patriotism”. It’s now political terrorism.

You can’t help but chuckle when you think about how quickly that bit of rhetorical defense disappeared from the lefty vocabulary as soon as they took power.

The answer? Stomp ’em flat. Act like they don’t exist. Steam roll ’em:

This White House, this administration and this president failed Van, failed its supporters and failed to honor the efforts of millions that got them into office in the first place. What’s the point of having power if you don’t use it? When will this White House realize that nothing it does will ever be acceptable to the loud-mouthed, ignorant minority? When will it learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists??

Indeed, what is the point of having power if you don’t use it? The radical left wants it used and used brutally. Ram the agenda through. Marginalize and demonize the opposition. Stuff it down their throats while the power is in hand and the opportunity exists. And claim to be upset and scandalized by how the “opposition” has eroded the level of debate, all the while acting like the past 8 years and the tone you set never occurred.

Selective history, selective memory and selective facts all combine to empower clueless rants like that of Turner and BSN. After vastly outdoing today’s “psychological terrorists” the past 8 years in the level, depth and vileness of the attacks on the “opposition” and its ideas, it is amusing to watch them suddenly take umbrage when their sacred cows are effectively attacked.

But then, as I’ve often said, the left is chronically irony impaired.

~McQ

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight (Update)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): What will President Obama say Wednesday night. Van Jones – he goes after Glenn Beck with a boycott and it is Jones who ends up going home. Afghanistan – the popularity of the war is waning just as Obama is upping the forces there. What’s the prognosis?

UPDATE: Technical difficulties prevent this week. We’ll be back next week.

UPDATE [Dale]: Actually, we won’t be back next week.  Or the week after that.  I’ll be in Alaska.  Podcast will resume after  get back, in three weeks.

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Keith Olberman: “V” Is For Vendetta

In the wake of the Van Jones resignation, Keith Olberman – MSNBC’s laughable miniature pit bull (he thinks he’s a big dog) – has apparently declared war on Glenn Beck. He does so, appropriately, on the Daily Kos:

I don’t know why I’ve got this phrasing in my head, but: Find everything you can about Glenn Beck, Stu Burguiere, and Roger Ailes.

No, even now, I refuse to go all caps.

No, sending me links to the last two Countdowns with my own de-constructions of his biblical vision quality Communist/Fascist/Socialist/Zimbalist art at Rockefeller Center (where, curiously, he works, Comrade) doesn’t count. Nor does sending me links to specious inappropriate point-underscoring prove-you’re-innocent made-up rumors.

No, rocket boy wants new stuff – probably like the fake police report that was circulated earlier last week alleging Beck was a rapist and a murderer.

And, in case you’re wondering, carpet bomber Olberman isn’t satisfied with just Beck, he wants Beck’s producer and Roger Ailes as well.

Now really – is Keith Olberman clean enough that he wants to put himself in the position that the other side might decide to do the same with him? And to what end is such a campaign aimed?

Frankly, I’ve seen enough of Olberman that I don’t want to know any more about him – but there are those who will differ, and dig. Does he really want to reduce his already miniscule TV presence to this? Trying to dig up dirt on another personality who apparently buries him in the ratings. How’d that work out with Bill O’Reilly?

Tuesday we will expand this to the television audience and have a dedicated email address to accept leads, tips, contacts, on Beck, his radio producer Burguiere, and the chief of his tv enablers, Ailes (even though Ailes’ power was desperately undercut when he failed to pull off his phony “truce” push).

This becomes necessary after this in order to prove various cliches about goose and gander, and to remind everybody to walk softly and carry a big popsicle, and most particularly to save this nation from the Oligarhy of The Stupid.

I keep wondering if somewhere somebody named Ollie Garhey thinks he’s in charge now. Or, even more entertainingly and societally satisfying, if somebody named Ali Garhi does.

Despite the worn-out snark above, I am in earnest here.

Worn out snark and such clever word play – you just have to wonder how anyone resists this guy. Why aren’t his ratings through the roof? Why isn’t he blowing away those Fox freaks at whom he takes such frequent and obviously jealous aim?

Ah, yeah, perhaps it’s the sheer spectacle of someone who seemed to have talent – or at least seemed to have it until he went political – reducing himself to this chosen role?

And make no mistake about it – our favorite “earnest” muckraker is the one who has made himself exactly what he is recognized as being today – a left-wing toady who plays fast and loose with the facts, thinks he’s far more clever than he is and doesn’t yet realize that the few who watch him aren’t laughing with him, but instead at him – when they bother to watch at all. No serious person would ever turn to Keith Olberman for anything but his entertainment value – a living parody of the ego-in-overdrive “journalist” without a clue.

[And no, this isn’t a defense of Glenn Beck – I don’t watch or listen to Beck either]

~McQ

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A tale of two smears

As many predicted, Van Jones has resigned. Naturally, he picked the middle of Labor Day weekend to do it. That means minimal coverage, which is somehow fitting, seeing how little the mainstream media covered the whole thing. This has been the deftest handling of an Obama appointment miscue ever; by the time Labor Day cookouts end, this will be over and the average voter will have never heard of Jones.

Of course, Jones’ take on the whole thing is drearily predictable:

“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in his resignation statement. “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” [Emphasis mine]

He somehow doesn’t manage to pinpoint any specific lies or distortions. I suppose you could maintain that the whole thing about him signing a Truther petition was a distortion since he maintains that it doesn’t represent his views, but you would then need the underlying assumption that he’s a lazy radical who doesn’t bother to read what his fellow radicals write, and then fails to take responsibility for the resulting mistakes. I don’t see how that helps much.

The New York Times has yet to weigh in as best as I can tell. But they did find time late last week for this article, which contains the following:

Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

This was picked up and repeated by newspapers from Ireland to Las Vegas, with the usual “he’s loony” side comments. Problem is, here’s the actual quote from Mark’s guest host appearance on Rush Limbaugh that the NYT is using as a source:

Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the kind of Saddam Hussein/Kim Jong-Il scale. [Emphasis mine]

Now I suppose you could be pedantic and say, “Well, he is comparing the two, in a sense.” No, actually he’s contrasting the two, and one would hope the august journalists at the Times would know the difference, after all those “compare and contrast” essays in English class.

In my mind, this qualifies as a true smear. Instead of quoting someone, a misquoting is used that modifies the meaning of the original to make someone look bad.

As far as I can tell, this never happened with Jones. People just put up his own words and videos.

But it doesn’t matter. The word “smear” has been debased by the left, just as “fascist”, “rationing“, and plenty of others. Their post-modernist, Red Queen, multiple truths, “I knew what I meant when I said it” worldview makes that a perfectly legitimate tactic as far as they are concerned. The word “smear” now means “saying something that makes a leftist look bad” regardless of whether that something is true.

(From links originally seen at Instapundit and The Corner.)

*** Update 12:38 PM CST ***
Commenter Ernest Brown notes that the NYT finally says something about Van Jones. They delicately manage to avoid Jones’ “smear” allegations, but they do include this:

Mr. Jones apologized on Wednesday for derogatory words he directed at Republican opponents of Mr. Obama’s Congressional agenda during a lecture in February, calling his remarks “inappropriate” and noting that they were made before he joined the administration.

If all you read is the NYT, then you’ll have no clue what the heck they are talking about here. You won’t hear about the extent of Jones’ vulgarity or the cheering he got from the crowd for calling Republicans a$$holes. This is some beautifully done obfuscation for the benefit of the Obama administration.

But note that his vulgar depiction of Republicans was done before he was tapped by Obama. Well, I guess that makes it all right then!

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The Importance Of Wednesday’s Speech

Charlie Cook, one of the more respected political analysts, has a piece in the National Journal that patiently explains what the left and Democrats still don’t seem to understand – they won, but they didn’t win what they think they won.

In fact, they won much less than that. “Change”, as defined by many independents who put Barack Obama and the Democrats in office, had little to do with expanding government. And within a span of a few months, the entire political dynamic changed, but apparently the left missed it:

Independent voters — fired up by the war in Iraq and Republican scandals — gave Democrats control of both chambers of Congress in 2006. Two years later, independents upset with President Bush and eager to give his party another kick expanded the Democratic majorities on the Hill. Late in the campaign, the economic downturn, together with an influx of young people and minorities enthusiastic about Obama, created a wave that left the GOP in ruins.

That was then; this is now. For the seven weeks from mid-April through the first week of June, Obama’s weekly Gallup Poll approval rating among independents ran in the 60-to-70 percent range. But in four of the past five weeks, it has been only in the mid-to-high 40s. Meanwhile, Democrats and liberals seem lethargic even though Republicans and conservatives are spitting nails and can’t wait to vote.

Why? Cook explains the basics of what has happened:

While political analysts were fixated on last fall’s campaign and on Obama’s victory, inauguration, and first 100 days in office, two other dynamics were developing. First, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression scared many voters, making them worry about their future and that of their children and grandchildren. And the federal government’s failure to prevent that calamity fundamentally undermined the public’s already low confidence in government’s ability to solve problems. Washington’s unprecedented levels of intervention — at the end of Bush’s presidency and the start of Obama’s — into the private sector further unnerved the skittish public. People didn’t mind that the head of General Motors got fired. What frightened folks was that it was the federal government doing the firing.

Many conservatives predictably fear — and some downright oppose — any expansion of government. But late last year many moderates and independents who were already frightened about the economy began to fret that Washington was taking irreversible actions that would drive mountainous deficits higher. They worried that government was taking on far more than it could competently handle and far more than the country could afford. Against this backdrop, Obama’s agenda fanned fears that government was expanding too far, too fast. Before long, his strategy of letting Congress take the lead in formulating legislative proposals and thus prodding lawmakers to take ownership in their outcome caused his poll numbers on “strength” and “leadership” to plummet.

These fears haven’t been allayed one bit. In fact, they’ve been ignored completely as Democrats continue their approach to the issue of health care. Americans are telling them, in every poll and every townhall meeting, to back off the direction they seem to be insisting on taking. One of the implications in Cook’s assessment of why Republicans were kicked out in 2006 and again in 2008 was a growing frustration with the deafness of the Repubicans. They weren’t listening. They moved ahead with their agenda and never seemed to consider what their constituents were saying.

The Democrats are in exactly the same sort of loop. They’ve finally got the power, they’ve either misinterpreted their mandate or are simply ignoring the people for the chance to pass what they’ve long wanted to pass and are very close to paying a huge political price for doing so. Cook addresses that point:

With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president’s ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party’s voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats.

If you take an objective look at the situation under which the Republicans lost their power, Cook’s formula was precisely how it played out. If you take an equally objective look at how this situation is forming up, you can indeed see what Cook is talking about repeating itself for Democrats.

And that brings us to the Obama health care speech on Wednesday – many are calling it a “make or break” speech. I’m of the opinion that it is more likely to be too little too late. Popular support for any bill is trending down. Popular support for the Democrat’s version(s) has been trending down. Obama’s approval ratings concerning health care have been falling.

Unless Obama has some startling new ideas, never before discussed which will be introduced and promise to be pleasing to both sides, he’s stuck with attempting to repackage and spin the same old tired arguments which have, to this point, been pretty well rejected.

Wednesday’s speech could indeed still be a “make or break” speech, but not for health care. Instead it may make or break Democratic support (depending on the President’s stance on the public option) and sound the death knell for Democratic Congressional control and, possibly, the presidency. It is indeed an important speech – but not for the reasons Democrats think.

~McQ

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