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On Rugged Individualism, Or, Meet The Ghost Of Government Past January 15, 2011

It is about time for the 112th House to come back into session, and the first thing on the agenda appears to be an effort to take away any healthcare reform that have been passed by this Administration.

Next comes an effort to slash Social Security and Medicare, an effort to reverse financial reforms, and proposals to “slash” spending—but only on domestic discretionary items.

If the House majority had its way there would be no restrictions on offshore drilling, no rules designed to prevent climate change—in fact, few if any environmental protections at all…and all of this is intended to bring to life the philosophy that government, for all intents and purposes, should just go away and leave us all alone.

I don’t buy into that kind of thinking—not even a little bit—and today we’re going to look around the world and see if we can’t figure out why.

There is an unalterable rightness about the best Florentine paintings of the period. It is wholly lacking from the late works of Tintoretto. In the schoolmasterly phase, even his greatest pictures could be improved. Only it would need another Tintoretto to do the improving.

–From Old Masters: Great Artists In Old Age, by Dr. Thomas Dormandy, RSM

So when it becomes tougher and tougher for old folks to get by on whatever the national pension system can provide…what do you suppose they do?

As it turns out, they turn to crime to supplement their incomes—and they’re doing it all over the world.

In the UK, local officials in Croyden saw a 15% jump in elderly crime in 2008-2009, Japan has had a multi-year elderly shoplifting problem that tripled in size from 1999 to 2008 (nearly 50,000 elderly Japanese were arrested that year—and a third of them were repeat offenders). Even in Germany, about three times as many elderly people are charged with committing crimes as report that they are the victims of crimes.

Then there’s Elizabeth Grube, 70, and her sister, Elaine Volkert, 65, both of Stroudsburg, Pa, who had been dealing about $10,000 worth of heroin a week when they were busted.

What happens when you give up on urban planning, and you empower the market to decide where people should build their homes?

Well…how about Bhopal?

Nobody should have been allowed to build homes next to a chemical plant—but in India, there’s not really a lot of control over that sort of thing…so the poor folks built around the plant, and one night, at least 3700 people died from a toxic leak.

In Haiti, lots of “empowerment” combined with lots of poverty has led to so much deforestation that it is possible, from space, to easily discern Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic…because the Dominicans have trees. As often happens, however, the market addresses imbalances, and now the Haitians have a surplus of a new natural resource that the Dominicans don’t: landslides.

Building codes are such a pain, aren’t they?

Not so much in China, where, in one survey, nearly half of apartment dwellers said they fear the buildings they live in might fall over or something…which they sometimes do. Poor school construction kills Chinese schoolchildren, too—by the thousands—which even the Chinese Government now acknowledges.

Now all of this is theoretical and much of it takes place overseas…but what about right here in the USA?

Consider Detroit: there is a lot less of it these days, for a variety of reasons both economic and social, and what with giving another $4 trillion in tax cuts to the rich…well, there’s just not much money available to help Detroit out.

As a result, the city is considering something that sounds like the prequel to Robocop: withdrawing services from about 25% of “Old Detroit”, tearing down thousands of abandoned buildings, and turning the open space into a sort of “urban prairie”.

In fact, “undevelopment” has become so bad that, within the city, wildlife is now abundant: pheasants roam the streets, a coyote was “arrested” inside the Federal Courthouse, and Glemie Dean Beasley makes a fair bit of money selling raccoon (fur or meat, take your choice) to Detroit’s chapeau and soul food connoisseurs.

And finally, a few words about the Second Amendment:

There are those among us who wish to advance the concept that anyone can own any weapon they choose, and that, if you carry it to the right political event, it makes the perfect “accessory of intimidation”.

To them I would say: “There are lots of examples, already, of countries where that is a part of the culture…and those countries are Somalia, and Afghanistan, and Yemen, and Columbia…and if I’m looking for examples of what I want my own country to be like…it ain’t Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Somalia, or Columbia.”

I believe in the necessity of Government, just as Thomas Paine did…because it’s just plain Common Sense…and I do not believe that “this is my land, and all that matters is me and mine…” is going to work as a substitute for a United States of America…and if you believe in a vision of this country that looks like mine, you’re going to have to stand up for it, right now, as this Congress gets its crazy on, and make it real clear to those folks that extremism in the defense of liberty, misdirected, is not only a vice—but a good way to lose your liberty altogether.

Those of you who are discouraged are going to have to get up off the proverbial floor and start over, those of you who think you can’t win a political fight anymore are going to have to constantly remind themselves that we can and do win in this environment…and those of you who think the only thing left is to grab your guns, hunker down in the bunker, and wait for Jesus to save you…you need to have a cookie.

Or go play in the snow.

Or spend some time fingerpainting with the kids.

Or maybe you just need to knit something.

Whatever it is, do something that reminds you that we’re all OK here, and that things aren’t really that desperate, and that all that snow, and the yarn, and the kids and the fingerpaints…that is Jesus, right here on Earth, saving you right this very second, and if you’re not enjoying it every day for all it’s worth, then you will have missed out on your real Earthly reward…and your Heavenly one as well.

 

On Shame As A Tactic, Or, Betsie Gallardo: She Won…And So Can You! January 6, 2011

We have been following the story of Betsie Gallardo lately, she being the woman that, due to a medical decision, was being starved to death in a Florida prison.

She has inoperable cancer, her death is imminent, and her mother was working hard to make it possible for Betsie to die at home with some dignity.

As we reported just a couple days ago, half the battle was already won, as the Florida Department of Corrections had agreed to place her in a hospital so that she could again go back on nutritional support.

On January 5th, the Florida Parole Commission voted to allow her to end her life at home—and that means you spoke out, made a difference, and achieved a complete victory for the effort.

But even as we celebrate that victory, I think we should take a moment to realize that there is a bigger lesson here: the lesson that the fights over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), benefits for 9/11 first responders (the Zadroga Bill), and Betsie Gallardo’s imminent release are all actually pointing us to a political strategy that works, over and over, if we are willing to understand the wisdom that’s been laid before us.

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.

— From chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu

So what do all three of those victories have in common?

Well, how about this: in every case, Those Proud And Courageous Conservatives found themselves too embarrassed to hold their ground, and once the bright light of public shame fell upon them, their high-minded opposition to three good things simply collapsed.

And that’s my underlying thesis for 2011 and the 112th Congress: shame and embarrassment, which don’t really seem like weapons at all, are in fact fantastically powerful when focused upon those who are trying to do wrong—and a small group of people, combining shame with a bit of imagination and effort, can crack apart even the most unyielding opposition when they embarrass the hell out of those on the other side.

Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” can very honestly point to the “weapon of mass embarrassment” they delivered just before Christmas as the final straw that broke the back of Republican obstructionism around the Zadroga Bill—and how many of you look at DADT and John McCain and see not a principled fighter for military tradition, but a sad old man who didn’t know when to go home to Arizona and take up sitting on the front porch?

For the next two years we are going to have the chance to apply this tactic over and over and over again—and we already have Republicans and Democrats alike lining up to cut your Social Security…even as they make sure their own “defined benefit” retirement is fully funded, at your expense…and that’s a great place from which to start hitting back.

And in this Congress, embarrassment and shame actually pile up, layer upon layer, to create an amazingly target-rich environment.

Here’s a great example: Fred Upton is the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees things like the regulation of offshore drilling and healthcare—and that’s because it was just too embarrassing to give the job to Texas’ Joe Barton…especially after he publicly apologized to BP for how tough we’ve been on them after that giant oil spill last summer.

So Fred has the new gig, and he’s all happy about that, and he’s appointed himself a Staff Director, a fella named Gary Andres.

Now there’s been a lot of talk that some of these Members of Congress might be a bit too associated with lobbyists…and the name seemed awfully familiar…so I decided to Google Andres…and sure enough, not only is he a healthcare lobbyist, in 2007 he was named by Politico as the Top Lobbyist In Washington, making him the first “Top Lobbyist” of the post-Abramoff era.

Andres, just to add to the layering, is upset that Obama is deploying an “Army of Lobbyists”, even though he himself wrote the book on lobbying, literally: “Lobbying Reconsidered: Politics Under the Influence” is available in many fine bookstores.

This seems like as good a time as any to bring today’s conversation to a close, so let’s see where we are:

Even as we celebrate Betsie Gallardo’s victory, which was at least partially obtained through the timely and well-directed application of shame and embarrassment, Conservatives are feeling awfully full of themselves, despite the fact that they were embarrassed into caving on so many things so quickly in the past month.

They will set themselves up for lots more shame and scorn…I promise…and if we step up and focus the larger public on how shameful these folks are going to be, day after day after day, we can stop things like the upcoming raping of your Social Security in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, or any of the other 100 similar kinds of changes our opponents hope to enact, by hook or by crook.

So there you go, America: we have fish, and we have barrels, and if we can’t shut these folks down, then we have only ourselves to blame—and if that were to happen, then the only people who should truly be ashamed and embarrassed…will be us.

 

On Email Gay Bashing, Or, ENDA’s Already Getting Ugly March 25, 2010

It wasn’t but a couple of days ago that we had a conversation about The Fear and the emails that are used to spread it, and I figured with that out of the way we had dealt with the topic, and that we’d move on to new things.

Well, we would be moving on, Gentle Reader, if it wasn’t for the fact that an email came in today that was so ugly, so disturbing, and so indicative of what we are about to see as the battle over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) begins to heat up (ENDA being possibly the next “big contentious thing” that this Administration hopes to accomplish), that I had to interrupt my story schedule to bring it to your attention.

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”

–W.C. Fields

For those not yet aware, let’s do a bit of background: there have been a series of civil rights laws passed over the years, providing protections related to the right to vote, providing for equality in housing and employment based on race, or religion, or ethnicity, or gender, and providing protections for the disabled.

What is missing is a law protecting those who are gay or those who might view gender in a way that’s different than what the most fundamentalist church in town views as “normal” from discrimination in housing and employment; the idea is that ENDA (officially known as H.R. 3017, Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009) is intended to fill that gap.

The House Education and Labor Committee has held hearings on the bill, but that’s as far as it’s gone so far. Now that the pressure is easing to get health care reform through Congress, there are people who would like to advance ENDA from a bill to a law…and I’m one of ‘em.

So, naturally, when an email came into my inbox asking “Do You Support The Homosexual Agenda?” I thought to myself: “why, yes, I do”, and opened the darn thing.

As it turns out, the sender, “Public Advocate of the United States” (which, I assume, is not to be confused with The Advocate), is not a supporter of Teh Gay Agenda…but that’s not really a surprise, is it?

In fact, the group is against…well, pretty much everything, including:

“…The National Endowment of the Arts and the federal funding and endorsement of pornography and obscenity as legitimate forms of art;

The mainstream media’s promotion and glorification of drug abuse, teenage sex, gangs, atheism, homosexuality and other immoral behavior and beliefs;

The passage of hate crimes and thought control legislation that creates inequality in our state and federal legal systems…”

All of which they present with no apparent sense of the contradictions inherent in their own positions…which is also not really a surprise.

Anyway, according to the email…

“The Radical Homosexuals claim you and other pro-family Americans actually now support same-sex marriage, special job preferences for homosexuals and promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in schools…”

First off (and I had to do some research to confirm this), The Radical Homosexuals are not a band, which is too bad, because that would be one sweet name to put on a marquee.

Secondly, Angry Conservative Fundraising Guy, the country is split, almost 60/40, in favor of civil unions, this according to Pew…and when it comes to actual marriage, Pew counts it at 53% against, 39% for…which means The Radical Homosexuals are more correct in their assertions than Angry Conservative Fundraising Guy might like.

But let’s move on:

“…You see, the Radical Homosexuals are storming through Washington demanding passage of their agenda.

And with the passage of Thought Control last year, they say NOW is the time to push their perverse “life-style” on every man, women and child in America.

And they insist YOU actually support them.

The Homosexual Lobby played a major role in electing Obama and the majorities he enjoys in both houses of Congress.

I can only begin to imagine all the damage the Radical Homosexuals will do with their allies controlling the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.

As the President of Public Advocate of the U.S., I’ve devoted twenty-seven years to battling the radical homosexuals in Washington.

Backed by Hollywood celebrities, the media and millions of your tax dollars, the Radical Homosexuals have many Congressmen quivering with fear — and they have a Radical Homosexual-friendly majority in control of Congress…”

(A quick word regarding emphasis: throughout this story, where emphasis occurs, it’s as it was presented in the original, except that for technical reasons I had to change underlined words to italics.)

Storming?
Thought Control?
A Quivering Majority of the Members of Congress?

And that’s only what he can begin to imagine:

“…Frankly if you really do support the radical Homosexual Agenda — or if you just no longer care enough to stand up for the family — insiders in Congress say the entire Homosexual Agenda could pass in a matter of months.

*** Special job rights for homosexuals and lesbians. Businesses may have to adopt hiring quotas to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every homosexual fired or not hired becomes a potential federal civil rights lawsuit.

Radical homosexuals will terrorize day care centers, hospitals, churches and private schools. Traditional moral values will be shattered by federal law.

*** Same-sex marriages and adoptions. Wedding-gown clad men smooching before some left-wing clergy or state official is just the beginning.

You’ll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to “pick out” a little boy for themselves.

*** Homosexual advocacy in schools. Your children or grandchildren will be taught homosexuality is moral, natural and good. High school children will learn perverted sex acts as part of “safe sex” education.

With condoms already handed out in many schools, Radical Homosexuals will have little trouble adopting today’s “if it feels good do it” sex-ed curriculum to their agenda.

And to add insult to injury, lobbyists for the Homosexual Agenda are paid off with your tax dollars!

That’s right, radical homosexual groups like the Gay-Lesbian Task Force and ACT-UP receive millions from the government.

Hundreds of millions of dollars flow from taxpayers to homosexual activists through funding for homosexual “art,” so-called AIDS-awareness programs, and research grants…”

OK…so…at this point I need you to sit back down and take a deep breath, because it’s about to get a whole lot weirder.

I do not want you drinking anything while you read this next passage.
I don’t want you eating, either.

There are a few of you who may…oh, how should I put this…it’s possible that you may have some doubts about your own mental health.

To paraphrase comedian Lewis Black: if you go to an International House of Pancakes and you have “body issues”, you will inevitably feel better about yourself after the visit; this because there is always someone there who is at least 400 pounds heavier than you will ever weigh, ever, in your entire life.

The next portion of this email represents the International House of Mental Health, and there’s someone there 400 times crazier than you…and it’s this guy:

“…One stormy night I drove to a mailshop hidden deep in a nearly deserted stand of warehouses. I’d heard something was up and wanted to see for myself.

As I rounded the final turn my eyes nearly popped. Tractor-trailers pulled up to loading docks, cars and vans everywhere and long-haired, earring-pierced men scurrying around running forklifts, inserters and huge printing presses.

Trembling with worry I went inside. It was worse than I ever imagined.

Row after row of boxes bulging with pro-homosexual petitions lined the walls, stacked to the ceiling.

My mind reeled as I realized hundreds, maybe thousands, more boxes were already loaded on the tractor-trailers. And still more petitions were flying off the press.

Suddenly a dark-haired man screeched, “Delgaudio what are you doing here?” Dozens of men began moving toward me. I’d been recognized.

As I retreated to my car, the man chortled, “This time Delgaudio we can’t lose.”

Driving away, my eyes filled with tears as I realized he might be right. This time the Radical Homosexuals could win.

You see, even though homosexuals are just 1% of the population, if every one sent a petition to Congress it would generate a tidal wave of two or three million petitions or more.

Hundreds of thousands of pro-homosexual petitions will soon flood Congress , and my friends in Congress tell me there’s virtually nothing on Capitol Hill from the tens of millions of Americans like you who oppose the radical Homosexual Agenda and the Gay Bill of Special Rights.

I made up my mind that night to write to you and as many other patriotic Americans as possible. To stop the Radical Homosexuals and protect traditional marriage there must be an immediate outpouring from folks like you….”

I need to interrupt for a quick second to ask a question: is it just me, or is the only difference between that story and a bad gay porn film that there’s nobody knocking at the door saying: “here’s the pizza…and here’s the pepperoni”?

“…Homosexual activists mock me in the halls of Congress. They say it’s too late because Americans like you don’t care enough to help, especially with the Democrats in control of Congress and the White House…”

Hey, Angry Conservative Fundraising Guy: just because someone mocks you in the hall, it doesn’t mean they’re some kind of homosexual activist.

They could be mental health activists, for example, or activists promoting better education…and, of course, it’s always possible they’re from the Netherlands.

Now not all the news here is bad:

“…If you won’t help, I’m afraid there is little more I can do.

But the fact is, even if every person responds it won’t be enough to counter all the radical homosexuals are doing.

And not everyone will respond. Some are cowed by how pro-family Americans are portrayed on TV. Others will count on someone else to fight the fight and carry the load. I don’t believe you are like that…”

Just a real quick little bit of advice for the author of this piece, if I may be so bold.

Context matters, as those who used the word “Teabag” just a bit too freely discovered last spring, much to our delight, and when you’re busy stirring up The Fear Of The Radical Homosexual, I would be careful how I throw around terms like “carry the load”.

Next time, Angry Conservative Fundraising Guy, consider hiring a panel of 13-year-old boys who like Beavis and Butthead DVDs for a focus group before you hit the “Send” button and this sort of thing might not happen again.

The rest of this is a great big fundraiser which includes a series of links to what the sender calls a “Morality Survey”, but what I call either a push-poll or a handy one-page checklist of the arguments you can expect to hear over the next few months.

Now I think we’ve all seen enough of this for today, but here’s what I want you to take away from our conversation:

ENDA will be used as a tool to continue spreading hate in the run-up to this year’s elections…and really, really, really creepy people will be trying to scare you using really, really, really turgid (and I do mean turgid) prose.

The imaging will be ugly, with the fears of pedophilia and crossdressing and things being rammed down throats likely to all play starring roles in the Conserva-theater that’s soon to come.

I also expect to see more “outings”, á la Karl Rove’s usual practice—even against other Republicans, which has already apparently happened in this cycle, in the Illinois Senate Republican primary.

“…Stop imagining, unravel the truth and ask: “just who is it happening to?”

Everything that the passenger do, the driver experience, too

So if humanity is one then we all get burned when it’s hell that we’re traveling through…”

–From the song The Travelers, by Brother Ali.

There is no reason for us to blow this one.

The Conservative craziness that’s coming may become so extreme that even the Republicans no longer want any part of these people, but I wouldn’t count on it.

What I would count on is that this is the kind of fight we want to be having—as long as we’re out there having it.

Talk to your friends, talk to those people in line at the espresso stand, and (here’s one for the Captain in all of us), maybe even talk to the attractive individual working out next to you at the gym. Make them understand what this election is really going to be about, how desperate the other side is, and why we can’t afford to let them win.

The Radical HomoFearoPhobians are already hard at work, so get out there and do the same.

Unless, of course, you’d prefer another summer of really, really, awful Teabagging.

 

On Selling Paranoia, Or, Conservative Emails, Examined March 20, 2010

It seems that many of those who are regular guests of this space are committed to a worldview based on some degree of reason and rationality.

That’s a handy thing if the “Covert Alarm Locator Apparatus” in your Isaac Daniel® Compass Global 1000 GPS sneakers should happen to fail and you need to find your way back to where the rest of us are; sadly, not all voters are equipped with such a helpful worldview.

Luckily for them, there are lots of conservative “mouth organs” ready to fill the “information gap”.

They send out lots of emails every day, spreading their Word, and as a public service I receive several of them; this to help keep track of just what’s out there, exactly.

If you ever wondered why otherwise normal people believe some of the craziest things about “Obama’s Secret Death Care And National Virgin Sacrifice Program”, have a look at some of the things I get every single day, and it might all make a bit more sense.

Pithiatism [G. peithein, to persuade + iatos, curable] 1. Hysteria induced by suggestion. 2. Mental disorder cured by suggestion.

Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 11th Edition

It is my friends at Human Events (“Leading Conservative Media Since 1944”) who seem to be the most assiduous in keeping my inbox full, and every day a weird combination of political missives and “exiting promotional opportunities” are arriving out of the ether.

Who is Human Events?

Human Events is an offshoot of Eagle Publishing (as is RedState), and they’re performing several functions in the Conservaverse: they help spread The Word by gathering all the usual suspects, all in one place (the contributor list at Human Events includes Michelle Malkin, Pat and Bay Buchanan, James Inhofe, “David Feherty, Civilian”, and the Wango Tango guy himself, Ted Nugent), they are a daily reinforcer of the Daily Talking Points, as evidenced, again, by my inbox…and they are also one of the reasons Conservative books always seem to jump to the top of some bestseller list or another upon their release, a topic to which we’ll return shortly.

Additionally, they’re a source for others, both political and commercial, who seek access to a mailing list, which is why, from time to time, I also receive emails from Ann Coulter and Chuck Norris–and why I recently received the insider scoop on how gold is being accumulated by Central Banks and that I better get some too…before it’s too late.

Here’s what else has been coming in:

The Tea Party Express sent me an email just this morning to let me know they would be “on tour”; this action taking them from Searchlight, Nevada (read: Harry Reid) to Washington, DC:

“…Since the Democrats in Congress are so determined to ignore the will of the voters, and force a government-run healthcare fiasco down our throats – as part of the step-by-step slide towards socialism – then we here at the Tea Party Express will “Just Vote Them Out” one-by-one.

So fellow patriots, here’s an update on the launch of Tea Party Express III and the “Showdown in Searchlight.”

First, we want to thank you all. You’ve taken a lot of pressure off. In just the past two days we’ve raised over $15,000 and now have only $65,000 left to raise by March 27th.

We have just 10 days until the launch of “Tea Party Express III: Just Vote Them Out” national tour, and the kickoff event: the “Showdown in Searchlight” mega rally…”

Fun Fact: The Tea Party Express has apparently been making enemies and influencing people among the Tea Party activists themselves, based on a perception that the group is a front for the Republican Party and that the extreme behavior of some members of the group is bad for the larger Tea Party movement.

My take on this: if they’re supposed to be raising money for the Republicans, and they’re having trouble raising $80,000 for themselves…well, it would appear that the Republicans are going to need unlimited corporate donations (thank you so much for that, Supreme Court…) if they hope to stay in business.

An Action News Update!

Even as I’m writing today’s story, this just came in:

“ObamaCare Vote Imminent, Pelosi May Have Votes

He’s Pledged To Shove ObamaCare Down Your Throat Even If It Kills Him…

…Barack Obama may have given Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid a deadline to ram ObamaCare through Congress, but knowledgeable sources in Congress are telling us that Pelosi will push the Senate-passed bill to the floor of the House of Representatives the very second she believes she has the votes to shove it down our throats… or maybe even sooner…

…And we don’t need to tell you what’s at stake. You already know about the extreme cuts in Medicare… the rationing… the crippling taxes… and the long waiting lines that we may all be forced to endure for substandard medical care.

“… bankrupting the insurance industry and undermining the free market is a stated goal of some healthcare reform advocates. … the goal of healthcare reform is to create a system that bankrupts private industry and leads to socialized medicine. And that is a goal shared by Barack Obama.”…”

(Emphasis is original)

The email goes on to suggest that a donation of up to $1000 would be very helpful to enable the sender to “Blast Fax” every Member of Congress…et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

You may have already noticed a recurring theme in these messages: the fear of things being shoved down throats is ever-present among Conservative Messengers–which, to me, either suggests something about the lack of imagination over there these days…or the lack of a fully-developed sense of joie de vivre; something that may have impacted folks like Larry Craig and David Vitter and John Ensign, all of whom, on certain occasions, have presumably done a bit of throat-shoving themselves.

(For extra credit, discuss amongst yourselves: Is all this throat-shoving talk having an effect on some people’s attitudes about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue?)

Ann Coulter wrote me today to let me know that:

“…I have a plan!

… We can’t have a free market in health insurance until Congress eliminates the antitrust exemption protecting health insurance companies from competition. If Democrats really wanted to punish insurance companies, which they manifestly do not, they’d make insurers compete…”

We interrupt Dear Coulter’s message for a quick Fact Check: the House did indeed vote on February 24th to remove that antitrust exemption, with all 19 dissenting votes coming from…wait for it…Republicans; the bill, known as HR 4626, is now on the Senate’s Legislative Calendar.

We now return you to Coulter, still in progress:

“…The very next sentence of my bill provides that the exclusive regulator of insurance companies will be the state where the company’s home office is. Every insurance company in the country would incorporate in the state with the fewest government mandates, just as most corporations are based in Delaware today.

That’s the only way to bypass idiotic state mandates, requiring all insurance plans offered in the state to cover, for example, the Zone Diet, sex-change operations, and whatever it is that poor Heidi Montag has done to herself this week.

President Obama says we need national health care because Natoma Canfield of Ohio had to drop her insurance when she couldn’t afford the $6,700 premiums, and now she’s got cancer.

Much as I admire Obama’s use of terminally ill human beings as political props, let me point out here that perhaps Natoma could have afforded insurance had she not been required by Ohio’s state insurance mandates to purchase a plan that covers infertility treatments and unlimited OB/GYN visits, among other things.

It sounds like Natoma could have used a plan that covered only the basics — you know, things like cancer…”

Again, a quick interruption: if I had the power to know in advance what diseases I was gonna get in the future…and whether fertility might or might not be an issue one day…why would I waste my money on health insurance premiums when I could do a whole lot better in Las Vegas–and get free cocktails at the same time?

“…Of course, an insurance company has to be able to refuse NEW customers with “pre-existing conditions.” Otherwise, everyone would just wait to get sick to buy insurance. It’s the same reason you can’t buy fire insurance on a house that’s already on fire.

That isn’t an “insurance company”; it’s what’s known as a “Christian charity.”…

Right now, insurance companies are protected by government regulations from having to honor their contracts. Violating contracts isn’t so easy when competitors are lurking, ready to steal your customers…”

(Emphasis is added)

I assume that that last paragraph will become an important Talking Point for Republicans looking to blame Democrats for recent insurance company behavior, and I’ll be looking for this argument to appear in debates from now until November.

Wanna hear something even weirder than the idea that Democrats are what’s making the insurance companies deny their customers’ claims for care related to their pre-existing conditions?

Even as these groups are trying to either reinforce or get me to change my worldview, they’re also constantly trying to get me to buy stuff, including the Swivel Sweeper G2, a certain set of “As Seen On TV” knives, and, ironically, EcoCanteen stainless steel water bottles.

“It’s Free, But We Make It Up In Volume”

Finally, a few words about Conservatives and their books.

I get, on a regular basis, the chance to have important works of Conservative literature sent to me at rock-bottom prices, assuming I either subscribe to something or join some club that’s planning to save Our Great Nation from…most likely, from people like me.

So how can so many people make money giving away books?

It works like this: groups like the Conservative Book Club purchase thousands of copies of a book by [insert name here], using money that appears to be donated from private sources and PACs.

Since the bulk purchases are timed to occur as the book is released, it’s possible to create “Number 1 Best Sellers!” more or less on demand…and then I begin to get emails offering me the book for a price far below the cost of production.

A perfect example: Dick Morris sent me an email, just today, to let me know that I have only have a few days left to take advantage of Newsmax’s offer to get my free copy of Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown, a book that seeks to help me profit, as you might have already guessed, from the Next Global Financial Meltdown.

Check out what the Newsmax email says about how bulk purchasing works:

“…I knew that YOU should have this information too. So at great cost to Newsmax, I purchased more than 10,000 copies of this book to GIVE AWAY – completely free (just pay shipping)!

They were gone in a matter of days . . . so I purchased another 10,000. Those, too, were snatched up just days later. So, I arranged for another shipment.

Only a few copies are left . . . and this is your last chance to claim one for yourself. If you were to go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you would pay around $28 retail for this book. (By the way, both of these retailers are out of copies!) …”

(Emphasis is almost original: underlined words were changed to italics.)

(Quick Fact Check: As of March 18th, Barnes & Noble and Amazon are both selling the book, new, for $16.34, down from the $27.95 retail price, and both appear to have the item in stock…along with Wiley and Borders and a1Books and papamedia and even the UK’s Book Depository.com, who will let you have it for the apparent lowest price anywhere: $15.99–with “free shipping worldwide.”)

As you can see, Newsmax acknowledges they purchased more than 20,000 copies of the book, and possibly as many as 30,000…and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that’s a big part of the total sales for this title. In fairness, however, I could not locate BookScan or other sales data for this book, so that’s just a guess, and I could be wrong.

Sarah Palin added an interesting new twist to the process: SarahPAC (and, yes, Virginia, there really is a SarahPAC) spent more than $60,000 to purchase copies of her own book, allowing her to convert campaign donations into ordinary income that she can spend any way she wants; the books were then given away, at no charge, to donors…and now the cycle begins anew, as a second book has been announced.

All of this is reflected in how book sales are reported, with the New York Times adding a dagger to the description of certain books on its bestseller lists, which:

“…indicates that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.”

For the record, Mitt Romney’s new book, currently atop the Hardcover Nonfiction list, has two such daggers.

Add all of this together, and what do you get?

How about: a combination of events that are likely associated with a lot of today’s…Pithiatism.

A never-ending vicious cycle of self-affirming impending doom and Swivel Sweepers, delivered to your mailbox every day, until you can’t remember if Buy One, Get One Free* (*Just Pay Additional P&H) refers to a consumer product or the possibility that a Death Panel will commit you–and your family–to a beyond-top-secret Conservatives-Only Gulag soon to be established at the corner of Castro and 18th; located in a fortress built above the GBLT Historical Society’s current offices and staffed by Rainbow Stormtroopers especially chosen by Nancy Pelosi herself.

It’s a scary, scary world out there, my friends…and if these folks have anything to say about it, it’ll stay that way.

 

On Distractions, Or, If You Hide In A Smoke Screen, Make Sure It’s Not Toxic September 22, 2008

Filed under: Diversion,Framing,Political Response — fakeconsultant @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It has been an extraordinarily bad week for John McCain, what with his interest in Sarah Palin’s boobs apparently keeping him from being sufficiently aware of the “fundamental soundness” of the economy…but luckily for McCain, the news cycle turns; and a hotel bombing in Pakistan might be the opening his campaign thinks it needs.

With that in mind, expect the next week leading up to Friday’s Presidential debate to be full of references to McCain’s favorite subject…“the transcendent challenge of our time—Islamofascism”…or something eerily similar.

His campaign is convinced this is the strongest place for him to make his argument for election—but what if it is not?

As we anticipate what is coming next from McCain, let’s remind ourselves just how much of a foreign policy expert McCain really is—and let’s do it using McCain’s own words.

McCain likes to talk about how he was the most vocal critic of the war…until January 2007, when Mr. Bush finally listened to McCain and adopted The Surge.

It’s a great story…and if it were true it would be even better.

“…I’ll teach you to kick me!”

“I don’t need you to teach me.
I already know how.”

–Edgar Kennedy and Chico Marx in “Duck Soup

Now I’m not as expert-y as John McCain, but here’s what I told my friends before the war started:

Try to imagine if the UK decided that our government had gone completely crazy, and that for our own good we needed their troops to remove our government and temporarily occupy the US until we could get ourselves back on the right track.

No matter how crazy our government had actually become, the instant that news was broadcast in this country it would become the biggest hunting season you ever saw on the beaches of New England, with millions of heavily armed Americans converging on the invading forces.

What makes you think Iraqis would act any differently?

McCain, the expert, was certain that Iraqis wouldn’t even fight…and he obviously never expected an insurgency:

“Look, we’re going to send young men and women in harm’s way and that’s always a great danger, but I cannot believe that there is an Iraqi soldier who is going to be willing to die for Saddam Hussein, particularly since he will know that our objective is to remove Saddam Hussein from power.”

–John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002

The guy who was supposedly such a critic of the war was also one of the co-sponsors of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that got the war started in October of 2002.

And although he denies it now, during the runup to the war he wasn’t complaining about the number of troops to be deployed:

“But the fact is, I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past. But any military man worth his salt is going to have to prepare for any contingency, but I don’t believe it’s going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991.”

–John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002

When Robert Byrd questioned the logic of the war on the floor of the Senate, McCain rose to respond: “…when the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America.”

McCain was also very comfortable with how things were going…at first:

“I have no qualms about our strategic plans. I thought we were very successful in Afghanistan…”

–John McCain, in an editorial he wrote for the Hartford Courant, March 5, 2003

“It’s clear that the end is very much in sight. … It won’t be long…it’ll be a fairly short period of time.”

–John McCain on ABC, April 9, 2003

When questioned, McCain even defended the propriety of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the June 11, 2003 edition of Fox News’ Your World With Neil Cavuto:

NEIL CAVUTO: Senator — after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn’t over.

McCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier?

Later in 2003, despite being a self-described critic of the war, he remained certain we were on the right track:

“Let there be no doubt: victory can be our only exit strategy. We are winning in Iraq.”

–John McCain, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, November 5, 2003

Al-Qaeda supporters are Sunni; Iranians are predominantly Shi’a.
That makes it highly unlikely that Iranians are training Al-Qaeda insurgents.

I know that, you probably know that, Joe Lieberman knows that…but for some reason John McCain…the foreign policy expert…can’t seem to remember which is which…and now he doesn’t have Lieberman standing at his shoulder to set him straight.

Of course, we are told, that was just a “senior moment”.

“…The last man nearly ruined this place,
He didn’t know what to do with it;
If you think this country’s bad off now,
Just wait’ll I get through with it “

–Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly in “Duck Soup

One way to be right about an issue is to take both sides of the same argument; and this is a technique McCain employs on a regular basis.

An example? McCain was confident in the Bush Administration’s team in September of 2004…

“I think he [President Bush] strengthened our national defenses. I think he has a good team around him.”

John McCain, September 3, 2004

…but three months later, describing his feelings about then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on MSNBC, McCain gave this assessment:

“I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence.”

–John McCain, December 15, 2004

You may recall McCain said we could stay in Iraq for a hundred years…but you may not recall that in February of 2003, roughly a month before we went in, he said we can’t—and he said it as a way to justify the invasion:

“We cannot keep our forces indefinitely staged in the region. Were we to attempt again to contain Saddam, we would eventually have to withdraw them. The world is full of dangers and, more likely than not, we will need some of those brave men and women to face them down.”

You used to be able to see the original quote on John McCain’s Senate website…but for some reason the record is today “inaccessible”. (Big thanks to the PERRspectives Blog for grabbing the quote.)

And for those who think McCain might finally have his diplomatic act together…ummmm…despite his saying he knows the leaders of Latin America (and that Obama doesn’t), Spain is not Venezuela, it is not in Latin America—and they’re our friends.

Let’s sum all this up:

It is more likely than not that McCain will attempt to use the Pakistan bombing this week to position himself as the candidate who has the judgment required to keep America safe from “noun, verb, transcendent challenge”.

This is an opportunity for us, however, to remind voters that the real McCain record has not been one that inspires confidence in his leadership…that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about much of the time…and that we can’t afford another 50 years of this, or a hundred—or a million.

McCain will take jabs at the truth this week…and it is our job to meet those jabs with parries of our own—and then to follow up with counterstrikes of reality, using his own record to knock back his attacks.

Now get out there, Gentle Reader…and let’s win this thing.