Free Markets, Free People


The Left’s new narrative?

Personally I think of Steve Benen as a bit of a lightweight when it comes to political analysis. But he can be counted on to faithfully repeat the left’s talking points, or absent that, come up with some off the wall theory (sometimes involving conspiracy) to try to explain and demonize the right. A recent wig out involves a vast conspiracy of right-wingers who want to see the economy stay sickly for political purposes. And it is all because, as he implies, the right-wingers "actively dislike the United States".

No. Really.

NONE DARE CALL IT SABOTAGE…. Consider a thought experiment. Imagine you actively disliked the United States, and wanted to deliberately undermine its economy. What kind of positions would you take to do the most damage?

You might start with rejecting the advice of economists and oppose any kind of stimulus investments. You’d also want to cut spending and take money out of the economy, while blocking funds to states and municipalities, forcing them to lay off more workers. You’d no doubt want to cut off stimulative unemployment benefits, and identify the single most effective jobs program of the last two years (the TANF Emergency Fund) so you could kill it.

You might then take steps to stop the Federal Reserve from trying to lower the unemployment rate. You’d also no doubt want to create massive economic uncertainty by vowing to gut the national health care system, promising to re-write the rules overseeing the financial industry, vowing re-write business regulations in general, considering a government shutdown, and even weighing the possibly of sending the United States into default.

You might want to cover your tracks a bit, and say you have an economic plan that would help — a tax policy that’s already been tried — but you’d do so knowing that such a plan has already proven not to work.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Does any of it sound familiar? In the context you’ve presented it, Mr. Benen – uh, no. It sounds contrived and fanciful – a wish a political hack would love to be true so he could use it to brand the opposition as unpatriotic and evil. Not that it being untrue will stop Mr. Benen from using such implications – this article is proof of that.

But you really have to suspend disbelief and pitch logic out the window to end up where Benen is with this particular piece. Cherry pick things that support your hare-brained thesis, give them a conspiratorial twist and bingo, you’re on your way to branding the opposition with something you’ve wanted to put on them for quite some time.

Benen then brings out some supporting fire:

Budget expert Stan Collender has predicted that Republicans perceive "economic hardship as the path to election glory." Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday that Republicans "want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House."

Got to love the hard hitting "Republicans "perceive" economic hardship as a path to election glory." Pure unsubstantiated speculation (unsupported by anything credible – certainly not Benen’s conspiracy theory nonsense).  Always fun to see a Democratic operative speaking about “Republican perceptions”, something I’m sure he’s absolutely tuned in on.

Certainly the state of the economy has worked to the detriment of the Democrats, but concluding a continuing poor economy is of value to the Republicans completely misses the message of the midterm election. And as Benen demonstrates, as does Krugman for that matter,  he missed the message too.  Not that anyone should be surprised.   The Democratic Congress missed it as well (see lame duck legislative priorities) as did the President.

Benen also turns to Matt Yglesias, a truly objective source, to give his batty theory some legs:

…I know that tangible improvements in the economy are key to Obama’s re-election chances. And Douglas Hibbs knows that it’s key. And senior administration officials know that its key. So is it so unreasonable to think that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner may also know that it’s key? That rank and file Republicans know that it’s key? McConnell has clarified that his key goal in the Senate is to cause Barack Obama to lose in 2012 which if McConnell understands the situation correctly means doing everything in his power to reduce economic growth. Boehner has distanced himself from this theory, but many members of his caucus may agree with McConnell.

Which is just to say that specifically the White House needs to be prepared not just for rough political tactics from the opposition (what else is new?) but for a true worst case scenario of deliberate economic sabotage.

Then it time for the cherry on top – liberal commenter Jonathan Chait:

Establishing motive is always very hard to prove. What’s more, the notion of deliberate sabotage presumes a conscious awareness that doesn’t square with human psychology as I understand it. People are extraordinarily deft at making their principles — not just their stated principles, but their actual principles — comport with their interests. The old Upton Sinclair quote — "It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it" — has a lot of wisdom to it.

I don’t think many Republicans are actually trying to stop legislation that might help the economy recover because they know that a slow economy is their best route to regaining power. I think that when they’re in power, consequences like an economic slowdown or a collapsing industry seem very dire, and policies to prevent this are going to sound compelling. When you’re out of power, arguments against such policies are going to sound more compelling.

Really?  Or is it, as has been the case with most of the legislation the 111th Congress has passed or attempted to pass, just abysmally bad law? Occam’s razor, Mr. Chait.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  In the case of the legislation passed by the latest Congress, sometimes crap is just crap.

But back on point, does anyone see what’s going on here? It is "victimhood" time on the left. They will still control the Presidency and the Senate next year, but they’re already setting up the "Republicans are evil and are really in control of the government, so whatever happens isn’t our fault" meme.  Benen seems to realize that the current Congress and President have done an awful job with the economy. In fact, other than quickly throwing a few trillion dollars we don’t have at it (and which has seemingly had no measurable positive effect) they’ve ignored it for their ideological agenda items.  And, because of that, and the  obvious probability that the economy will not be in the shape necessary to give the President and Democrats a leg up in 2012, it is time to start switching the narrative and project the blame on the usual suspects.

And what better way to do that than to start yelling conspiracy theory (well sorta, kinda) and cobbling together disparate facts and fanciful rhetoric into dubious implications for a new narrative?

Premise: The Republicans are evil, only interested in regaining power (one assumes to finally destroy the nation) and will do whatever it takes to secure that power, to include sabotaging the economy.  Why?  Because they “actively dislike the United States”.

This from a group of people that actively worked for eight long years to sabotage (no conjecture here, the record stands on its own) a Republican Presidency and flat had tantrums if you ever questioned their patriotism or motivation.

But, as they say, that was then and this is now.  And now, of course, it’s “different”.



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Mexican President Calderon – flaming hypocrisy from the lawn of the White House

Anyone who reads this blog for more than a day or so is probably familiar with the fact that I’m not a big fan of hypocrisy.  Especially when it presents itself as self-righteously as it did yesterday in the words of Mexican President Calderon.  Specifically, this paragraph:

In Mexico, we are and will continue being respectful of the internal policies of the United States and its legitimate right to establish in accordance to its Constitution whatever laws it approves.  But we will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals.  And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given in fair principles that are partial and discriminatory.

Take sentence one – a country that allows the wholesale illegal immigration of a large part of its citizenship into the United States is respectful of nothing concerning the internal policies of the US or it’s “legitimate right” to establish its laws.

Second sentence: pure bovine feces.  It’s a strawman – no law that I know of, either federal or state “criminalizes migration”.  It make it a crime to try to immigrate ILLEGALLY.  I.e. not go through the proper procedures as outlined in those law Calderon claims to so highly “respect”.

Last sentence – SB 1070 does not introduce “partiality’ or “discrimination”.  It enforces federal laws already on the record (for instance, federal law requires all legal immigrants to carry their immigration identification paperwork with them at all times).

The real hypocrisy, however, comes from Mexico’s own immigration laws.  If Arizona’s SB 1070 is “draconian” come up with a good description of these:

Mexico welcomes only foreigners who will be useful to Mexican society:

– Foreigners are admitted into Mexico “according to their possibilities of contributing to national progress.” (Article 32)

– Immigration officials must “ensure” that “immigrants will be useful elements for the country and that they have the necessary funds for their sustenance” and for their dependents. (Article 34)

– Foreigners may be barred from the country if their presence upsets “the equilibrium of the national demographics,” when foreigners are deemed detrimental to “economic or national interests,” when they do not behave like good citizens in their own country, when they have broken Mexican laws, and when “they are not found to be physically or mentally healthy.” (Article 37)

– The Secretary of Governance may “suspend or prohibit the admission of foreigners when he determines it to be in the national interest.” (Article 38)

Mexican authorities must keep track of every single person in the country:

– Federal, local and municipal police must cooperate with federal immigration authorities upon request, i.e., to assist in the arrests of illegal immigrants. (Article 73)

– A National Population Registry keeps track of “every single individual who comprises the population of the country,” and verifies each individual’s identity. (Articles 85 and 86)

– A national Catalog of Foreigners tracks foreign tourists and immigrants (Article 87), and assigns each individual with a unique tracking number (Article 91).

Foreigners with fake papers, or who enter the country under false pretenses, may be imprisoned:

– Foreigners with fake immigration papers may be fined or imprisoned. (Article 116)

– Foreigners who sign government documents “with a signature that is false or different from that which he normally uses” are subject to fine and imprisonment. (Article 116)

Foreigners who fail to obey the rules will be fined, deported, and/or imprisoned as felons:

– Foreigners who fail to obey a deportation order are to be punished. (Article 117)

– Foreigners who are deported from Mexico and attempt to re-enter the country without authorization can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. (Article 118)

– Foreigners who violate the terms of their visa may be sentenced to up to six years in prison (Articles 119, 120 and 121). Foreigners who misrepresent the terms of their visa while in Mexico — such as working with out a permit — can also be imprisoned.

Under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony. The General Law on Population says,

– “A penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of three hundred to five thousand pesos will be imposed on the foreigner who enters the country illegally.” (Article 123)

– Foreigners with legal immigration problems may be deported from Mexico instead of being imprisoned. (Article 125)

– Foreigners who “attempt against national sovereignty or security” will be deported. (Article 126)

There are scads more you can read through that make what Calderon is squealing about seem like child’s play.

Calderon and Mexico are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  And feting this crew who come here and mischaracterized immigration in general and what is going on in Arizona while doing nothing to stop the problem is simply nonsense.  Until they begin to be part of the solution, they don’t deserve the time of day, much less a state dinner.   Until they step up to stem the tide of ILLEGALS we owe them nothing.  And the irony of having a immigration code of their own that is much more draconian than anything we have shouldn’t be lost in this either.  They don’t put up with what they demand we put up with and we ought to call them on that.

But we won’t.  Instead this administration will call out Arizona which has only attempted to enforce the laws the federal government refuses to do all the while Obama smiles and fetes the source of the problem and refuses to demand Mexico do anything on its end.


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Separation Of Church And State – Except When It Suits Us Otherwise

Tell me how else I should interpret this?

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops delivered a critical endorsement to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday by signing off on late-night agreement to grant a vote on an amendment barring insurance companies that participate in the exchange from covering abortions

For other than political reasons, why even involve the USCCB? I mean I’m sure they were more than happy to comply given abortion is anathema to them, but God help them if they try putting a nativity scene on the US Capital grounds. It’s not that I blame them for taking the opportunity to influence legislation to conform with their religious belief. My question is why isn’t the secular “keep the church out of politics or we’ll have a theocracy” left screaming its bloody head off?

It’s because they’re a bunch of unprincipled hypocrites whose only real desire is the accumulation of power by any means. By Christmas, they’ll be back to their old “ban that stuff” selves (and more than likely hinting, if not outright saying, that every Catholic priest is a pedophile), just watch.  But for right now, it’s just peachy keen to have those Catholic bishops weighing in on secular legislation.  Yessiree Bob.


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Reaping What They’ve Sown And Not Liking It

This is fascinating. You’ve probably seen this popping up. It first appeared in LA:


The UK’s Mail Online says:

The right-wing editor of the American Thinker website, Thomas Lifson, wrote today: ‘It is starting.

‘Open mockery of of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly middle-of-the-roader.’

But the President’s supporters have condemned the image, calling it ‘mean-spirited and dangerous.’

A spokesman from the Los Angeles urban policy unit said that depicting the president as demonic and a socialist ‘goes beyond political spoofery.’

“Mean-spirited and dangerous?” “Goes beyond political spoofery?” Really?

So what was this?


I don’t know about you, but I call it “free speech”. Funny though – now that the shoe is on the other foot, this sort of spoofery is “mean-spirited and dangerous” as far as the left is concerned.  And, of course, the first reaction of some is to try to make it a racial thing (the same publication which published the cover above, naturally).

And then there was this from Vanity Fair. Seems there was no problem at all with Joker parodies in July of 2008:

As one of the commenters at Vanity Fair said:

Poor Joker, he doesn’t deserve this. Bush isn’t good enough to wear his face.

Mealy-mouthed hypocrites.

Quit whining. Save your outrage for someone who hasn’t seen your act before.


Rep. Waxman: Against the President = Traitor

Funny how the same people who threw hissy fits when challenged on actually rooting for the War in Iraq to fail, now find it perfectly acceptable to question anyone’s patriotism who doesn’t step in line with a hearty “Jawohl!” Well, more sad than funny really:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who has had an eventful couple of weeks to say the least, believes House Republican opposition to climate change legislation and the stimulus indicates they’re cheering against the good ol’ US of A.

“It appears that the Republican Party leadership in the Congress has made a decision that they want to deny President Obama success, which means, in my mind, they are rooting against the country, as well,” the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman told WAMU radio host Diane Rehm on Tuesday morning, promoting his new book, “The Waxman Report.”

Just to be clear, opposition to the President’s agenda means that you also oppose America, according to Waxman. Doesn’t that mean that Waxman and most of the rest of his Democratic allies, including our current President, were “against America” for not supporting Bush’s agenda?

Ah well. That was a different time, I guess. Things are so completely different now that questioning one’s patriotism is absolutely justified. At least that’s what Steve Benen seems to think:

This sounds like intemperate rhetoric, but under the circumstances, it’s hardly over the top.

It’s not immediately clear what “circumstances” we’re under that render such accusations perfectly acceptable to Benen, but one can’t help but recall Obama’s famous call to bi-partisanship: “I won.”

Hypocrisy Alert

Steve Benen is “shocked, shocked I tell you”, that some on the right are trying to hang the Iranian election shambles on Obama. He entitles his post:


Of course, for 8 years, Benen and company made a cottage industry of substituting the name “Bush” for “Obama” while doing the very same thing. Apparently that’s gone the way of an Alzheimer patient’s memory of breakfast and they’ve awakened in a new world which began on January 20th of this year.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so insufferably hypocritical.


Pelosi, “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, and Hypocrisy

You know, when you’re in DC it seems such a calm and beautiful place, and yet, the cynical machinations of politicians continue unabated.

We now have Nancy Pelosi under fire for essentially sanctioning the “advanced interrogation techiniques” by not speaking up against them or opposing them when she was briefed about their use many years ago:

Nancy Pelosi didn’t cry foul when the Bush administration briefed her on “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects in 2002, but her team was locked and loaded to counter hypocrisy charges when the “torture” memos were released last week.

Many Republicans obliged, led by former CIA chief Porter Goss, who is accusing Democrats like Pelosi of “amnesia” for demanding investigations in 2009 after failing to raise objections seven years ago when she first learned of the legal basis for the program.

She and her staff can be as “locked and loaded” as they wish, but the fact remains that she’s said nothing about the use of those techniques for 7 years – not a single, solitary word to anyone about opposing them on any grounds.

So the use of these techniques wasn’t something which was going on in a dark corner out of the view or knowledge of Congressional leadership. Democrats have tried to sell that as the “conventional wisdom” – a fascist and authoritarian president making decisions that violate human rights behind closed doors and without the knowledge of the enlightened Dems who would surely have stopped it if they had only known.

But they did know – and said nothing. In the realm of Washington politics that is the same as giving something sanction.

More importantly, Democrats would like for you to believe that these things took place due to an out-of-control executive branch. However, and as usual, this all took place because both Republicans and Democrats in Congress allowed it to take place. When you have the information necessary to stop something you supposedly oppose and do nothing, you become as complicit as anyone.

So as I said in the beginning, Pelosi’s staff as “locked and cocked” as they wish, and they can spin it until they puke, but the fact remains she can’t plead ignorance and she certainly can’t say she did or said anything in opposition, and that that speaks louder than anything her spin machine can gin up in her defense.

Whether or not you agree with the use of the techniques doesn’t change the fact that when it came to “put up or shut up” time where leadership and principle were called to the fore, Nancy Pelosi blew it and any criticism or spin she or her staff now puts forward has the horrific stench of hypocrisy emanating from it.


Dear Obama: Really?

The NYT’s White House reporters got an exclusive interview with Pres. Obama, and one of the pressing questions on their minds was what his ideology is.  They asked if, given his spending priorities, he is a socialist, to which he said no, and when they asked if he was a “liberal” or a “progressive” or any other one-word answer, he declined to comment.  I can understand him saying that.

But then, after the interview, the president called the reporters back, like he’d thought up a really good zinger after the fact:

It was hard for me to believe you were entirely serious about that socialist question. I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a whole bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement – the prescription drug plan without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks thro[w] these words around that we’ve actually been operating in a way that is entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word ‘socialist’ around can’t say the same.

Q. So who[se] watch are we talking about here?

A. [*Chuckle*] Well, I just think it’s clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people is that if, coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. And the fact that we’ve had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preferences, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk-taking has precipitated a crisis.

This is bittersweet, because on the one hand, he clears up any misconception that Bush was effectively conservative (or as John Kerry claimed, extreme libertarian).  He says, to his credit, that buying up shares of banks and passing a massive new entitlement (or at least one financed by borrowing) are inconsistent with free-market principles.

I like how Obama says that the financial bailout wasn’t on his watch, when he voted for it as a Senator.  But he’s right about Bush.  With Obama’s help, a Republican president did dump mountains of wealth into the thermal boreholes of the most heavily regulated sector of the economythat’s the financial sector, dear reader, although health care is way up there.  And afterward, Bush was frank enough to admit that he had “abandoned free-market principles,” although he had the monumental cheek to say he had done so “to save the free-market system.”

But on the other hand, Obama claims that his team’s been operating in a way that is “entirely consistent with free-market principles“!  I feel like launching into one of those “Really!?!” segments from SNL, only less funny and more desperate.

Really, Mr. President?  And you’re not shoveling piles of taxpayer money into the financial system?  You’re not planning any massive expansions of entitlement spending?  Really? And you’re going to come up with a source of funding for all of this?  Without taxing anyone but the top two five percent?  Really.

Really, Mr. President, all you’ve talked about since this crisis started is how everyone in the private sector needs a regulatory cavity search deep enough to do a ventriloquist act.  As if what we really need is more Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC and FASB rule changes because it was our lax regulation that all those businesses ran overseas to escape.

And if I’m putting together a line-up of who caused the “extravagant risk-taking” like the massive overborrowing that inflated the residential real estate bubble, shouldn’t my first suspects be Fannie & Freddie, the Fed and government subsidies?

Your response to this crisis is to borrow more money to subsidize energy, public transportation, public education and state-mandated health care, and really, isn’t that what the free market is all about?  Thanks for the assurances that you’re not in favor of bigger government.

Your budget, the stimulus, that second stimulus you hinted at, and rescuing all those giant institutions, some of them for the second and third time: these are all entirely consistent with free-market principles?  I mean, really.

Someone help me out.  Exactly which free-market principles has the president adhered to, either in his campaign promises or in his actions in office?  Tell me why Obama is not mistaken or lying.