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Archive for February 22nd, 2010

One of the things I have truly enjoyed in starting a dialogue with Rutherford is the opportunity to engage a few leftists who actually make a real attempt to justify their beliefs, and are capable of talking without simply tossing a bomb and leaving. One of these people is the Rutherford regular, Hippieprof.

A few days ago, the Hippieprof tossed out the idea that FOX is an “unbalanced” news source because he has never seen a positive news story on Obama’s successes on it. I suggested that perhaps that would be because there was no success to report. Which then tumbled to his postulation that conservatives never see any of his successes as successes because we only watch FOX and FOX only says that he is a dismal failure. (Yeah, I know that means that he always seems to miss where Juan Williams, Bob Beckel, and other left-leaning spin doctors try to educate the various viewers about all the things the Democrats do right, I was trying to roll with it…), and I asked him what these successes were.

Life was intervening at various points, and the only answer he had time to provide was the appointment of Justice Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I asked him why he thought this was so, and pointed him to my post “Unfit and Injudicious”. Instead of telling me why this was a success, he simply informed me that my demonstration of her repeated instances of injudicious conduct was simply an opinion, which could be wrong because other “experts” had come to a different conclusion. I suppose that because some “experts” believe that drug use is a victimless crime, those who conclude differently by measuring the cost to society and damage to non-using family members also have an opinion that could be wrong, because of the “experts” who never actually answer those issues.

This morning, he finally gave a more detailed response to my query about Obama’s successes, and rather than trying to my response into another blogger’s comment section, it seemed appropriate to offer a post here rebutting my learned friend’s opinions.

BiW….

On to Obama’s successes (including a list of what I see to be his failures at the end). I suspect you will not agree with any of the successes I list. You are entitled to your opinion, as I am entitled to mine. There is no objective standard on most of these – and we have no historical perspective.

I take issue with the false premise that you begin with, that being that there can be no objective measure of success. Success, like every other word has a definition, and to define something is to clearly declare its meaning. To say that a word that has a clear meaning, several of them, in fact, is somehow incapable of being objectively measured is sophistry, plain and simple. But before I begin my rebuttal in earnest, I will set forth the definition of “success”, so that we can be clear about our expectations.

From the Websters Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language:

Success: 1. The favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors;
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like;
3. a successful performance or achievement;
4. a person or a thing that is successful.

Note also that we are merely 13 months into his term – so much of this remains a work in progress.

Wow. I cannot tell you how disappointing this particular walk-back of expectation is after all the “The First 100 Days” hype we were treated to every single one of those first 100 days by MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc…

Here goes:

1) Obama has symbolically broken the racial glass ceiling. He has empowered a huge segment of our society – a group who in fact felt that the American dream did not apply to them. He has given a sense of hope to the disenfranchised. Go ahead and scoff at this – but believe me, it is real and it is important. This is one reason I am so resentful of those who seek to take Obama down for mere political gain. You may have already seen my blog post on the topic: http://hippieprofessor.com/2010/02/10/ahhh-sarah-about-that-hopey-changey-thing/

Really?  I thought that Billy Jeff was the nation’s very first African-American President? 

He has not empowered anyone, and any sense of hope that he might have offered was the cruelest kind of illusion.

There has been no explosion of minority entrepreneurial activity.  The black single mom living in the ghetto with her three kids relying on welfare under Bush is still living in the same place and still relying on welfare for a living under Obama.  If there is a difference, it is that more Americans, ones who don’t want to be dependent upon government now find themselves in reduced circumstances and relying on unemployment extensions to keep paying some of their bills.  There is no growth in opportunity to take control of one’s own destiny and cast of the shackles of government dependency.  Indeed, the cornerstone of his plan to fundamentally change our country has been to offer even more dependency in the offensive usurpation of power that is the health care take over plan.

What hope has he offered?  Now that we have a black President, is it a hope that blacks will finally “come into their own” and take a larger leadership role in government because of his being elected President?  I think that is very insulting to every “person of color” who worked their way into positions of power on their own accord and by measurable, concrete achievement.   However, after decades of being called Uncle Toms and worse by a self-appointed African-American leadership for not staying on the modern-day plantation and accepting the prevailing political philosophy, people like Justice Thomas, Dr. Rice, or Thomas Sowell either have the good grace to let such assertions go unchallenged, or are too busy actually doing what they do with skill and intellect to bother speaking against this mirage.  Certainly such a belief continues to mistake equality of opportunity with equality of ability.

Or perhaps you were speaking of the Hope his candidacy offered to white liberals who don’t just hold close to a race guilt that they do not deserve, but actually cling to it as an article of faith?  Certainly these people were instrumental in this historic candidacy, and such irrationalism would be necessary to elect a person so undeserving of the position. 

I can see the color coming to your cheeks, and the OUTRAGE!111!! building behind your eyes.  Take a breath and ask yourself this question:  “Would I have cast my vote for a white man with the same or similar record?”  Obama is a supposedly brilliant man, yet we don’t know what his grades were at Occidental College or at Harvard.  We know his opponent’s class rank.  We know what kind of grades his predecessor got, and Al Gore’s grades for that matter. 

What did he do for a living beforehand?  He was a ‘community organizer’ and sometimes law lecturer.  But what does that mean?  He certainly wasn’t going to tell us that it means coaching organizations on new and better ways to work against the government, or lecturing to students about what a deeply flawed instrument the Constitution is because it provided no means to accomplish the aims of social justice a/k/a wealth redistribution.

Where did he distinguish himself in politics?  What ideas or issues were so important to him that he put something…anything on the line in defense of them?  He gave a nice speech at the Democratic Convention years prior, and voted ‘present’ in the Senate most of the time.  Before that, when in the Illinois State Senate, he found it important to stand against palliative comfort care for children with the temerity to survive their mother’s attempts to murder them.   I can’t think of very many serious candidates in years before with similarly sparse resume’s who rated real consideration for the office.  It certainly didn’t measure up to his opponent’s curriculum vitae, which reflected achievement, accomplishment, and sacrifice, not just for select subgroups of the country, but for us all, despite the fact I have disagreements with the various issues he has chosen to make a stand on, such as campaign finance, and illegal immigration.

You, and so many like you expose an unhealthy fascination with race, when you show that you are willing to elect a person carrying a paper-thin resume, and vague promises of hope and change because you find the historic achievement to be so necessary that you cannot wait for someone with both the correct racial pedigree and a demonstrated ability and character for the job (and speaking against even comfort care for the most innocent and defenseless among us is NOT the kind of character required for the leader of the free world).  And it so blinds you legitimate criticisms that you are willing to dismiss real and logical disagreements as criticism for “mere political gain”, which you deem as offensive, and I suspect, inherently unacceptable.  I don’t know what country you grew up in, but I would call your attention to the first real Presidential campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the years intervening, when there was a vile vitriol between the two camps that was all about “political gain”, and it consisted not just of different political philosophies, but slanderous filth of the most unimaginable kind.  The Chicago Messiah™ has so far had it much easier than his immediate two predecessors, both in scrutiny from the press, and criticism by political opponents and interest groups, and neither of their critics were continually savaged with the politically correct attempt to shut them up with the hysterical cries of “Racism!11!!!”, which has become the textbook response by people who have no desire to honestly address criticism.

2) He has stabilized the economy at a time when we might well have made a tailspin into a second great depression. You will scoff. Seriously – can you honestly claim that the economy would be in better shape right now without the stimulus? Had GM and Chrysler and AIG failed we would have seen a massive cascade of business failures and unemployment would be far far far higher than it is now. I have said it a billion times – in economics we don’t get a control group. Wish we did – because I know I would be right.

I don’t recall him “saving the economy”.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that it was his predecessor who peddled the intellectually bankrupt concept of “breaking the rules of the free market system in order to save it.”  Yes, your messiah was involved, but he only came to the TARP table reluctantly…after basically saying “If you need me, call me.”  That was hardly the act of someone who was interested in the job, or the effect of the economy on the American people.

As for the spendulous, while it has benefitted a lot of people in government jobs (i.e. people who don’t produce anything that contributes to economic growth), I can say that we would be better.  When there was 6.4 Billion Dollars spent in Congressional Districts that don’t exist (there’s a story for an uncritical Fourth Estate to pursue…unless it would be raaaacist to do so.), unemployment that went well above what we were promised that it would, and lots of signs touting invisible projects funded by the bill, and an enormous bill that necessarily has to fall on to the backs of my children, no, I can’t say that we are better off.  In fact, for me to do so would be a silly as touting a belief in the ridiculous and unprovable metric of “Millions of jobs saved or created”.

3) BTW – saving GM and Chrysler – at least for now – was a big thing. I suspect you will claim it was illegal and unconstitutional. I tend to think it wasn’t – but as you have pointed out I don’t have a law degree. Now we will actually see the Chevy Volt – and with Toyota in disarray the US may even to be able to catch up in the race for green technology. Yeah – I know – not important to you.

Hmmm.  I guess I’ll start with a simple question:  Do you believe in private property?  If your answer to that question is “yes”, then I’d like to know what that concept means to you. If private property means that something is truly the property of them what owns it and pays the bills due on it, then it is not a legitimate or legal act for government to step in, take it over, screw over preferred creditors…private parties who took a risk in granting these companies additional capital in exchange for collateral so that they knew exactly what they were risking in making the loans…in favor of unsecured creditors who played a large part in making the entities fail economically.  Put another way, government had neither the right or authority to take over the corporations, ignore established bankruptcy laws, strong-arm collaterized creditors, and then essentially give the corporations to the very parties that contributed to their downfall (i.e. the UAW) with their inflexible approach and sense of entitlement to a much higher standard of living than virtually every other class of manufacturing worker currently employed in this country. 

I care about this more than you can imagine.  I grew up in the Flint suburbs, in a family that has always driven Chryslers, and when I reached adulthood, I tended to favor GM.  These workers were the parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents of my friends.  They were my neighbors.  We drove American through the 70’s and 80’s, when driving American wasn’t cool.  I have a Chevy and a Chrysler in my driveway right now.  I was looking forward to the hope of picking up a used Dodge Challenger in a few years, just because the idea of owning such a sleek Gaia-raping, deep-throated street predator filled me with such awe and wonder that it almost made me giggle with delight.  That isn’t going to happen now, and if I am going to stick by my committment to drive American, I have to look at Ford when the time comes to replace my beloved Impala, simply because I have no intention to reward the bad behavior of any of the parties involved…managment, union, or government.

However, a more important consideration is this:  GM is now basically a union-government joint venture.  During and after the restructuring, they received even more of our money to stay afloat.  No steps have been taken to control legacy costs, or even to address incredibly generous union contracts, and as long as Uncle Sugar (really you and me) keep writing the checks, the unions have no incentive to make their end of the business more competitive.  They will continue to spend our money for as long as they possibly can.

As for AIG and the rest, it was patently wrong for the government, which already played a role in the economy as regulator, to step in and become a participant.  Business succeeds in generating wealth not just for its owners, but for the national economy at large because it has a better idea, or can be more cost efficient than its competitors.  Competitors that can’t or won’t control their costs, and/or put out inferior products should fail because of competitors that accomplish this better.  Ford did this better than GM or Chrysler, and as a result, had every right to expect to be rewarded for doing so with the greater market share that comes when a competitor fails.  And while it has continued to do much better since turning down the sugar that Uncle peddled, it now is in competition with the same entity that regulates the market, and its practices and processes. 

The government, which already had enormous regulatory power over financial markets, and had instituted policies such as the Community Reinvestment Act, which required banks and other regulated lenders to make bad business decisions in the form of risky loans, decided to that it was appropriate to step in and pick winners and losers when the decade of looting, overseen by prominent (and well-paid) Democrats such as Jaime Gorelick and Franklin Raines, could no longer be concealed and the time came to pay the bill.  We paid gobs and buckets of money to cover bad loans that we never should have made in the first place through the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the home finance world, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and then we decided that firms that took part in this ongoing fraud such as Bear Sterns were not worthy of saving, but Goldman Sachs (Turbo Tax Timmy’s old gang)  and AIG HAD to be saved at any cost…which means at any cost to the taxpayer.  Interference with private property rights, circumventing the law, competing in the same markets it also regulates, and spending piles and piles of other people’s money on these dubious investments is not something that should be celebrated.  It should be severely sanctioned with convictions, jail time, restitution, and if all else fails, tar and feathers.

4) He has articulated a moderate vision of health care reform. Despite dishonest conservative commentary(fueled by a desperate insurance industry) It is far from a progressive position – a progressive position would entail single payer or at least a very robust public option. An honest politician on the right would find a lot to like in the bills now on the table – yet they seek to to score political points instead – and they disgust me. See my section on failures below for commentary on Obama’s failure to get this done.

It isn’t up to the government to provide health care for people, and that includes Medicaid and Medicare.  I would make an exception for the care that the VA renders because I believe that injuries suffered by those willing to give their lives to preserve our way of life should be repaid in such a fashion, and because the injuries were suffered in the service of the Republic, we assumed that duty. 

Medicaid and Medicare prove that government cannot efficiently manage such a process.  The billions of dollars in waste and fraud and decades worth of IOUs for tax receipts looted for other entitlement spending are ample testimony to that.  There are other considerations also, first and foremost being that such an undertaking is not Constitutional.  I know from our previous exchanges on this subject that you want to believe otherwise, and will seize upon any argument you feel supports your decision (the welfare clause, the fact that Medicare has never been declared Unconstitutional, etc, etc, etc.) but the fact remains that there simply is no Constitutional authority making it the government’s right and duty to see to it that we have to provide any health insurance for everyone, and the idea that government can impose financial penalties and prison time for my failure to purchase a plan it approves of is antithetical to every principle this nation was founded on.  If health care becomes the purview of the government, then what health care I can receive by necessity also becomes the purview of the government.  Just as the power to tax a thing is the power to destroy a thing, the power to control health care is the power to deny health care.  The power to deny health care is the power to kill.  I shouldn’t have to point to the proof available to all who look, such as the NHS in Britain denying breast cancer drugs that work to breast cancer patients because they cost too much, or the old Soviet trick of declaring political opponents and critics to be “mentally ill” and institutionalizing them in wretched facilities with the expectation that they die there, isolated and silenced.  “That’s extreme!!!111!!!”  you say.  “Perhaps,” I say, “but at the same time, I’m not inclined to leave my physical well-being in the hands of people so unprincipled that they continue to subvert and ignore the inviolate law of the land, and act in contravention to the will of the recognized source of our unalienable rights.” 

But my insurance company can deny me a drug or a treatment now, you say.  You are correct, but my decision to buy health insurance is just that: my decision.  If my employer provides it to me, then it is something my employer chose to provide to me.  Nothing is stopping me from shopping for and purchasing my own policy right now.  If we get Obamacare sans the “public option”[for now…Bwarney Fwanks was absolutely correct that it is the next inevitable step], I don’t get to chose not to have a plan…a choice made by many young people because they are young and in good health.  I don’t get the plan of my choosing.  I get to choose from the plans that government will approve.  This is a wonderful opportunity for graft and kickbacks, and will still lead to the death of private insurance because a publically funded alternative has NO INCENTIVE to operate like a business.  If the money runs out, they simply charge the taxpayer more, and the private companies have to compete with an entity that has its hand in our collective pocket every time they spend too much.  If I didn’t understand the underlying belief held dear by most liberals that people should be relieved of the burden of making their own choices and the consequences of the choices that they do make, though the power of the government, that they, as the ones who know what’s best for us, always plan to control, I would say that it is an unusual position for someone who believes in freedom of choice, as long as it includes the right of a mother to murder their offspring.

5) He is taking strides to end “don’t ask, don’t tell” – he should have done it earlier, and it will take too long in the end – but it is the right thing to do.

Why is it the right thing to do?  I have yet to hear a logical explanation why we as a nation have a vested interest in upholding and supporting the notion of gay rights.  Indeed, most of the arguments that I do hear could just as easily be employed my NAMBLA members or people who like having sex with farm animals.  Come to me with scientific proof of an immutable condition, or admit that if we accept the current reasoning, there is a great deal of behavior, including behavior that liberals find offensive, that we will have to legitimize for the exact same reasons later.

6) He has, as promised, given a tax cut to the vast majority of working Americans. That they apparently don’t realize this is testimony to the power of the conservative press. You can be damned sure that had McCain lowered middle-class taxes to a similar degree FOX would be shouting it from the mountaintops.

Allowing the Bush tax cuts to sunset raised taxes for everyone.  Manipulating the withholding tables to give an average of $13 of the normal American’s pay back to him in his weekly paycheck, while making no change in the actual tax rates that dictate the amount of taxes that they will pay for the year is not a real tax cut.  Of course, most Americans won’t really pick up on this until next year, and the continued lack of any movement by members of both parties will create a situation were more and more middle class Americans will be hammered by the AMT, but that won’t be honestly reported if the Chicago Messiah™ gets to continue lowering the definition of who is actually “rich” in America.  By then, his strategy of fomenting class envy and generally pushing the various doctrines that comprise The Politics of Lowered Expectations™ will really be taking hold, as the entitlement class grows more restless in its greed, and the paying class grows weary of the increasing levels of confiscation of its life energy imposed on it from a ballooning government.  On the Mark Twain scale, your statement isn’t just a lie, its a damn lie.

7) He acted boldly and decisively with the Somali pirate situation. Before you scoff, just think what you would be saying had that rescue attempt failed. Why – you would be saying the same things you say about Carter’s failure to rescue the Iran hostages (though of course that was a much bigger undertaking).

I’m scoffing because his action was neither “bold” or “decisive”.  The Maersk Alabama was hijacked on April 8, 2009.  The crew themselves took the ship back later that day.  The US dispatched response arrived the following day, but the captain of the Alabama was not freed until the 12th…after Obama sent FBI negotiators to talk to the pirates, and dithered for days about letting the Navy do its job and dispatch the pirates with extreme prejudice.  I realize that in academia, bold and decisive action is rapidly criticizing a decision made by a conservative politician or denouncing a state government for reducing the number of taxpayer dollars that a legislature will be sending to institutions of higher indoctrination within their borders in that budget year, but in this case bold and decisive action would have been immediately unleashing the SEALs to kill the pirates and rescue the captain if possible, and then to bomb the pirates’ land based support into rubble, and capturing and hanging any pirates who subsequently attempted to hijack commercial shipping in the area.
 

He has made an unprecedented outreach to the Islamic world. No doubt you will think this was a mistake – a sign of weakness perhaps. You fail to realize how badly our image has fallen in the rest of the world after Bush. Something needs to be done about that – this is a start.

I know.  Actually acting after stacks of resolutions against Iraq piled up for violating the otherwise ineffective directives of the “international authorities” and many of our allies profited on the side from the Oil-for-Food program while helping a ruthless dictator to rearm and continue to attack people that “international authorities” continually told him to keep away from was pretty reprehensible.  After all, it is bad form to shed light on and shut off your allies’ graft personal enrichment programs that are in direct contravention of their public statements made in front of cameras and reporters.  Its kind of like waiting to tell your wife that you’re sterile until after she announces that she’s pregnant.

I do support his current program of reaching out to jihadis with Predator drones and missile strikes, as well as sharing real time intelligence with governments that actually make an effort to root out such vipers in their midst, as is currently occurring in some middle east nations like Yemen.  Unlike you, I have no illusion that this will somehow translate in to lots of fluffy bunny and skittle crapping unicorn sessions with the various members of the Islamic world, but also unlike you, I have no reason to see the approbation and approval of people who have demonstrated a willingness time and time again to kill anyone who doesn’t think like they do, which means most of the western world.

9) He made a good choice for his first Supreme Court appointment. I stand by that. I knew what “wise Latina” meant the moment I heard the phrase – and I am saddened that she had to backtrack on that and pretend it meant something other than it did. Yes – we all know what you think here.

Yes, but I still don’t know why you think it was a good choice.  I suspect, based on our exchanges, but I do not know.  You simply keep saying that it was a good choice, and frankly, that reads much like some of her more notorious decisions.

[I have omitted the rest of his comment because he started on his list of Obama failures, and while I don’t agree with much of his underlying rationale, I also didn’t see cause for disappointment in these “failures”.]

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