Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

a new attitude towards liberal thought

Just something I'm thinking about, looking at the nearly-defunct DCDL list.

These are dark days for liberal idealists. After enduring 8 years of incompetent warmongering conservatism, many hopes were raised when Barack Obama was elected. After all, Tea Partiers told us he was ultra-liberal. He promised to close Gitmo! Maybe he would enforce laws!

Well, that didn't really work out, did it? The party establishment has, by now, made it clear that they are far more interested in the desires of their wealthy donors than the desires of their rank-and-file. Liberals are repeatedly patronized and told that certain political strategies are "unrealistic," or that the US is a "center-right" nation, or that everybody loves conservatives. Meanwhile, not only are conservative policies driving the country into a ditch, they are wildly unpopular!

So, what's the solution? A "SUPER-committee" to ensure that odious policies that everybody hates are forced through Congress with little debate, and in a manner such that each party will be able to blame the other.

Seriously? This is the opposite of democracy.

Well, the US of A is in the midst of a creeping type of global class warfare, as the drumbeats of austerity economics beat on, flying in the face of their repeated failures internationally. Because - god forbid somebody be a Keynesian! God forbid somebody show some kind of tolerance for inflation!

Anyway, I was going to riff on the topic of the defeated liberals. Many liberals suffer from a delusion of living in an Enlightened State. By this I mean that they thing they have achieved some sort of Perfect Understanding of Human Nature and that all they need to do is Educate the Masses. Part of my inspiration here was from seeing the abandonment of DCDL, but part of it was from watching this:


(Yeah, Terry Gilliam is a wee bit un-PC there, isn't he.)

Anyway, if you approach liberal philosophy as an educational task to be conducted in earnest, you're probably going to burn out at a young age. The problem is that, a basic level, people suck. So trying to educate people to stop sucking so much is not something that's going to work.

And by "people suck" I mean, namely, that trying to convince the population of the virtues of an altruistic pursuit is hopeless. This kind of goal is a bad way to sell liberalism, as conservatives will smirk, and patronize, and lecture you about how young people with big hearts are liberals while wiser, older people become conservatives.

Liberal institutions and thought exist not because they satisfy some masturbatory need for people to feel good about themselves. They exist because they have fitness in an evolutionary sense. Keynesian economics exists because it was the only system that worked when free market capitalism brought the world economy to a screeching halt.

So, the key to selling liberal policies are that they work. Also, they are fair. And they have appeal to a broad base. Indeed, even the Republicans will pursue these kinds of policies when they need a boost in the polls. That's why the SUPER-DUPER-committee has been constructed in a way such that Obama will take the blame even as the government enacts right-wing policies.

That's enough for now.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Dreading 9/11

OK, so next Sunday is 9/11/11, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

I'm dreading it.

Why? Well, there's the massive revisionism that has been going on for years, especially with regard to the real-time performance of President Bush. I remember how that day went down. Bush spent the day flying all over the country in search of a safe haven, leaving sub-ordinates to figure out what was going on. And then, after playing duck-and-cover for two days, he came out on TV and made a speech that exuded confusion and fear. In the years that have passed since then, Bush and his advisors have created a mythos portraying him as the "decider-in-chief" who stepped forward in a manly fashion and took charge of the situation. After all, he went to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium!

A little-known fact: the National Geographic channel (NatGeo) is part of the Murdoch empire. So, small surprise, they've given Bush an interview in which he can tell his side of what actually happened that day. "I felt fear, grief, ..and determination" or some such nonsense.

But that's really only the half of it. What really gets me is this effort to turn 9/11 into some kind of holy day, along with the "Ground Zero" part of Lower Manhattan into a shrine. It seems grotesque to me how people embrace their own victimhood, especially citizens of the richest country in history. This narcissism, this feeling that we are uniquely betrayed by the evil of others is mind-boggling.

Our electorate refuses to come to grips with the violence we export. Mind you, I don't have a problem with commemorating the victims of 9/11. But really, well over a hundred thousand people were killed by our invasion of Iraq. And we still don't have a good explanation for why we did that!!

At its core, American exceptionalism is nothing more than narcissism. It's a very popular cultural movement (Who dares speak against national self-love!?) but it's been quite destructive over the past decade. So when the same people who endorse "pre-emptive" air attacks against Iran, who cheered on when our drones started falling in Libya, and who basically root for the expression of American force as the answer to all of our international problems - when these people weep about our victimhood on 9/11, it's hard to swallow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

City of Champions

This championship surprised me about as much as the first Patriots' Super Bowl win. I still don't think the Bruins are the best team in the NHL. But that doesn't matter - the best team is not always the champion. (See, for example, Super Bowl XLII.)

In the regular season, I thought the Bruins were clearly behind the Caps and the Penguins - well, at least the Penguins before they got all their injuries. And the there are so many elite Western Conference teams that look great: not only the Canucks but the Sharks, Red Wings, Ducks, and Preds are all arguably serious Stanley Cup contenders. And that doesn't include the defending champs in Chicago.

And then the Bs lost their first two games in the playoffs. Home games. To the despised Habs. At the time this meant a 6-game playoff losing streak to the two most despised teams (including the collapse to Philly last year). It really felt like another Spring of nothing for the Bs.

But then, remarkably, the Bs went to Montreal and improbably won two road games! And there was the series of incredible OT wins, and suddenly they've got the Flyers in Round 2. Which the Flyers never showed up for.

Once the Penguins collapsed under the weight of their injuries I thought the Caps were the clear favorites in the East. I still don't know what happened to them in their series against Tampa. I refer the interested reader to Minions.

And then the Bs were embarrassed in Game 1 by the red-hot Lightning, at which point Landru predicted a Tampa sweep. Again, the Bs dug deep and recovered. In retrospect, the series against the Lightning was tougher than the Finals. I can see why Landru hates those guys. They are pesky, but I'll give them credit: they all showed up to play, ever game.

By the time the Finals rolled around, Thomas was so hot I thought he could beat anybody. Luongo kept up the pace on his home ice, and the Canucks went up 2-0, at which point the usual crowd of idiots started saying things like "Is this this series over?" Um, well, didn't you just see the Bruins keep things essentially even for two road games?

When I saw Luongo flounder in Game 3, I knew the Bruins could win this series. I don't think I've ever seen a champion team play as poorly as the Canucks did in Game 3. Also, the Sedin brothers remained absent. Meanwhile, Thomas was lights out and the D was solid with Chara and Seidenberg leading the way. Guys like Brad Marchand I didn't know from Adam three months ago were suddenly playing like all-stars. (OK, who thought Marchand would be the rookie who led the Bruins, not Seguin? Seguin had one great game against Tampa, but Marchand was playing like a veteran by the time the Finals finished. )

So, the make a long story short, Luongo collapsed and Thomas never did, even when he easily could have after the Bruins went down 0-2 on a dreadful overtime goal. There are many recipes for winning the Cup, and Boston took one of the tried and true paths: ride the coattails of a hot goalie.

Does this bode well for next year? I don't know and don't really care. Thomas is 37 and already had a down year in 2009-10 when he lost the starting job to Tuuka Rask. Aside from Mark Recchi, the team should be sticking together for a while, and Marchand and Seguin can only get better.

It's time to just enjoy the moment. Boston's first cup since '72, when I was barely sentient and G. Gordon Liddy was considering an invasion of a suite of rooms at the Watergate Hotel.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

the Mandate

Inspired by Ezra Klein's usual indecisve musings.

I find the arguments regarding the mandate to be really quite odd. I'm liberal on most issues, but there are things about the arguments being used to justify that mandate that strike me as being quite wrong.

For example:
'This judge is a textbook case of judicial activism if I've ever seen one. The decision not to purchase health insurance is not an "inactive decision" at all. It's very much an active decision to not purchase insurance and it's one that threatens the national health care system and a paying member's premiums. Open and shut. Perfectly constitutional.'

No, it's not "an active decision" to not do something. You are standing common usage of language on its head. And I have no moral or constitutional obligation to buy insurance that I may or may not need solely to provide you with an economic benefit.

I find it amusing that such a large slice of the left have bought into the framing of this issue presented to us by Obama and the insurance companies.

"And you know what? If you don't want to buy the insurance, then you pay the tax. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable consequence for driving up my premium."

Again, boo-hoo. The relationship between you and your insurance carrier is your own business and not my concern.

The government is mandating that I participate in an industry that I may or may not want to support. There are many sound reasons why I might prefer to avoid health insurance. If I were independently wealthy, I wouldn't dream of wasting my money on insurance. On the flip side, if I have severe economic difficulties, health insurance might rationally be a cost I want to avoid.

In any case, what's happening here is that a private industry is calling upon the power of Congress and the Federal government to provide it with an increase in its customer base. What next? What industry will next convince the nation that it should be able to use the power of the government to gather in more customers?

And sadly, too many of the arguments about health care reform focus entirely on whether the person making the argument thinks that the mandate is a good idea, with absolutely no regard as to whether it's sensible to argue whether the law is actually _Constitutional_. I can think of all sorts of good laws that are not actually Constitutional.

The problem is that the Interstate Commerce Clause has been stretched far beyond its original intent. It's been abused in the past for purposes such as supporting a Federal ban on marijuana.

A mandate that I be forced to purchase a product from a private entity truly represents a new infringement on my liberty. People really need to think this through, in terms of the expansion of government power.