The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Apologies of a Bush voter
Oh boy. I have been writing as the "libertarian in a cage" at Bring It On - a very liberal blog. Most of the regular writers there are very polite and willing to debate. However, a recent post of mine really got some flak. It was linked by two or three huge blogs, and the traffic flodded in.
I apparently pissed off a lot of people.
They were pleased to hear that I thought America was on the wrong track and headed for financial crisis (!!! - What kind of person is pleased by that?).
But they weren't pleased that I thought most politicans in Washington - and not just Bush - were responsible. Washington's problem is systematic: it is on spending autopilot.
And they were horrified that I STILL wouldn't vote for that loser candidate the Democrats put up (what was his name....)
Sorry about that.
Here's the post:
I wrote most of this in November 2004:
Republicans may someday look on the re-election of George Bush as one of the biggest disasters that has ever befallen their Party
Yes, of course I voted for him.
I earnestly believe that his foreign policy approach is by far the nicest of all the options available to the United States. Assisting the cause of freedom around the world – and particularly in the Middle East – gives us the only chance we have of avoiding a larger and more catastrophic war.
Unstable, nuclear-armed Arab countries pose a real threat to the existence of the West. Letting this threat ferment and strengthen was not much of option: It was suicide. This, admittedly, is arguable, but I think the weight of reason tips the scale in favor of intervening now rather than letting the Middle East develop newer and better-armed forms of tyranny. This is going to be messy, but it must be done.
I enthusiastically voted for Bush mainly for this reason.
Going into the booth, I was well aware of his faults – his protectionism, his indifference to an overbearingly large government, his comfort with the evangelicals, and his love of big ticket programs – but I, like most other voters, ignored them in favor of something that is vastly more important: national security.
But it was more than that: I think the Democrats have lost credibility when they talk about most things. They criticize Bush and the Bible thumpers, but they are in bed with forces that are just as bad (and maybe worse): trial lawyers, unions and left wing academics who make careers of stoppering economic and political freedom. Their populist message can be reduced to “tax the rich to buy benefits for the middle class,” but its import is undercut by the basic unfairness of the tax code. Nearly all our federal revenue (96%) comes from the top 50% of taxpayers (the rich), but the super rich (like John Kerry and John Edwards) use clever manipulation of the code to avoid paying anywhere near their “fair share.”
The Democratic Party has become increasingly protectionist (am I the only one who sees it as odd that a party so full of anti-business sentiment is eager to pass out trade perks to businesses?) and no one would ever accuse the Democrats of being the party of financial responsibility.
Yes, Clinton did balance the budget – so I’ve been told by Democrat after Democrat – but in the ‘90’s, doing that was simple: the economy was growing rapidly. With this growth, tax revenues exploded. The economy was growing because Clinton ignored his liberal impulses and practiced laissez-faire capitalism (I’m sorry to remind the Democrats who had blissfully forgotten this inconvenient fact): he decided that he wasn’t going to nationalize the doctors or destroy the health insurance industry. He signed NAFTA, and left business to do as it pleased. I salute him for it. The Democratic Party, though, has forgotten Clintonian policy while embracing him personally (watch his hands).
But back to Bush. I think there are many reasons why Republicans may someday look on the re-election of George Bush as one of the biggest disasters that has ever befallen their Party. Another Nixon, at a time when the country can least afford it.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, they may not be in much of a position to take advantage of it.
The problem is the dollar. The American economy is an amazing beast. It has rushed onward and upward through wars, terrorist attacks, protectionism, tax hikes, tax cuts, currency crises and stock market crashes.
But this beast needs the food of a healthy, stable currency. And Washington seems intent to starve of it of the one thing it needs to keep going.
It is not all George Bush’s fault: the Bush people are eager to blame others – they say that sluggish growth in Europe and Japan is helping to create a current account deficit (a trade deficit) that threatens the dollar’s value, and there is some truth in this. Indeed, in real terms, both Japan and Europe are poorer relative to the US than they were a decade ago. That is their problem and they seem loathe to do the things necessary to correct that (freeing up their labor markets, reducing government spending and liberalizing trade).
But the Europeans are also right to point the finger back at the Americans: the real problem is the explosion of federal spending that has occurred under Bush’s watch. This spending has cheapened the value of the dollar, and many foreigners are beginning to question why they are holding so much of a depreciating currency.
Sometime in the future, a sell-off is going to happen.
Currency fluctuations tend to be self-correcting: when a currency goes down in value, that country’s exports are cheaper in foreign nations and more are purchased. Cheap currency often causes export-driven growth, which eventually drives up the value of the currency in the home nation.
The problem is that the US is the world’s largest debtor nation, and the dollar underpins the word economy.
Is that about to change? If the dollar can no longer be relied upon to underpin the world economy, what can be? Gold? No one knows the answer to that question.
But if the dollar does tank at some point, the result for the US economy will be very painful. Bush –and the Republican Party – will be blamed.
What is to be done?
The good news – for fiscal conservatives - is that Bush (or someone) now MUST reduce federal spending.
The bad news – for everyone – is that he probably can’t.
The sad truth is that Washington’s spending is out of control. Literally. Only about one third of government spending is discretionary. The rest of that spending is Social Security, Medicare, debt payments and other assorted benefit programs that Bush could not cut even if he wanted to.
It is going to be difficult to cut the remaining third enough to make a big difference.
Not while fighting a necessary war. And beginning the important – and expensive - task of reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
To make matters worse, the new Medicare drug benefit – which the stupid chimp himself signed into law in 2003 – will start taking effect in 2006. It will mandate hundreds of billions of dollars of new spending in that year, and the price of that new program will only go up.
Who ever takes power in 2008 will have their hands tied even more tightly than Bush does, and it will only get worse. We are on course for a disastrous train wreck that every politician would rather ignore.
For fiscal conservatives, the Armageddon that we have been warning about is here. I will take no satisfaction in having predicted it.
Bush is in for a rough four years. And the country is in several very rough decades.
Now back to your regularly-scheduled, big media arguments over bullshit....
In the comments that follow, there is a zoo where you can observe the evolution of modern liberal thought. There are specimens of rational beings, yes. I have befriended some of these people, and I have found them be different, but quite hospitable and welcoming.
But danielpatrick monihanisesius is almost extinct.
These careful cautious creatures have been pushed aside by their raging Cro-Magnon cousins. For these brutish beings, there is no need for thinking when you have a club: you can call someone an "idiot asshole" and threaten his life.
And of course, there are the hippies (tedius kennedinesius)who still think it is the Summer of Love, despite the snow.
And speaking of snow, there are plenty of flakes.....
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Richard Cohen's war on algebra
Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen has come up with a brilliant plan to help American high school students compete with the math whiz kids from Asia.
Let's get rid of the hard classes, written as "advice" to a failing high school student:
You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know -- never mind want to know -- how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later -- or something like that....If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.
...It has its uses, I suppose, and I think it should be available for people who want to take it. Maybe students should even be compelled to take it, but it should not be a requirement for graduation.
Seriously, I love it when someone "reasons" as Cohen does:
Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note -- or reason even a little bit.
Why, Cohen is right.
And further, most of the great classics of literature are available on VHS or in Cliff's Notes.
Why should we inconvenience teenagers by forcing them to read Shakespeare?
History? You can read all that stuff on the internet! Geography? That's why we have maps, silly. And who ever diagrams a sentence in the real world?
That's reason, Cohen-style. Take it to its natural conclusion and we can just let kids take whatever they want: they could spend all their time in Sex Ed and Fingerpainting!And we can hire Asians to do the math for us.
How long do you think that would work?
Seriously, the purpose of education is to expose children to as much learning as possible. It should not be limited to "life skills." It should be broad spectrum, a true "liberal arts" approach.
Mathematics is problem sovling, and problem solving is "reason."
Of course, Cohen is rational enough to have been a celebrated liberal columnist at the Washington Post for two decades. Pretty good for someone who was stumped by the concept of graphing a line.
But it tells you something about modern liberal thought. (Though I should add that Washington conservatives rarely even try to sound intellectual anymore.)
Thursday, February 09, 2006
El Borak's Myopia:
When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside-down, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 C. The Russians used a pencil. Your taxes are due again--enjoy paying them.
They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and it's worked for over 200 years. This makes a lot of sense since we're not using it anymore.
The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse is that you cannot post 'Thou Shall Not Steal,' 'Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
In defense of McCain-Feingold
I once opposed McCain-Feingold. I must admit, I was wrong.
The election of 2004 as one of the fairest and cleanest in history, dominated not by the special interests, but by the power of ideas. Money was almost completely absent, and the election was one of the cheapest in history.
There was little character assassination from shadowy interests groups in the election, and - for once - wealthy people found it difficult to get their voices heard. The political scene was thankfully characterized by respectful disagreement and amiable debate. An unprecedented number of house seats changed hands, and every senator who ran faced a competitive race. As a result, I would say there has never been a cleaner and more resposible Congress in history.
This has energized the political scene in the country, while serving to bring us together as a nation. And politicians are using their new power of incumbency wisely. The new powers enumerated under McCain-Feingold have enabled the government to begin a long overdue regulation of political speech directed against politicians: Now there is talk of restricting the power of bloggers and radio talk show hosts to criticize their elected leaders. Our politicians toil on selflessly on our behalf; the least we can do is spare them criticism from simple people who don't understand the issues.
Yes, I was wrong.
Can we forget about it now?
Friday, February 03, 2006
A spine in Europe?
The Religion of Peace is really freaking out over these cartoons (cartoons courtesy of LGF).
Fundamentalist Muslims are gently threatening editors with murder, meekly advising governments of coming suicide attacks, and reluctantly committing to the mass murder of the infidels.
And Europe has not surrendered! Europe is standing tough - with each day bring news of more courageous editors in more European countries.
Is it a European spine forming?
It may be, but it is too early to call it a spine.
Right now, it is a lateral line of nervous tissue that is hardening with cartilage.
But it may yet calcify into bone.
Wait and see.
No school, no books, no teacher's dirty looks
(CNN) -- It's a child's dream. Wake up whenever you want, with nobody telling you what to do and when to do it. And here's the kicker: No school to rush off to.
Welcome to the world of "unschooling" -- an educational movement where kids, not parents, not teachers, decide what they will learn that day.
"I don't want to sound pompous, but I think I am learning a little bit more, because I can just do everything at my own pace," said Nailah Ellis, a 10-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who has been unschooled for most of her life.
Nailah's day starts about 11 a.m., her typical wake-up time. She studies Chinese, reading, writing, piano and martial arts. But there's no set schedule. She works on what she wants, when she wants. She'll even watch some TV -- science documentaries are a favorite -- until her day comes to an end about 2 a.m.
Yeah, I bet she'll be a real whiz at math.
She'll probably get around to memorizing her multiplication tables by the time she's 18...
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Kennedy goes nuts, conservatives rejoice
I am not a conservative.
I am a liberatarian.
But people like Ted Kennedy make me wonder. He's pushing me to the right.
After the Alito vote, Teddy Kennedy stumbled up to Senate podium, held himself steady on the banister, and managed to hold his pee through seven minutes of stammering, slurring and screaming - at straw men only his unfocused, gin-infused eyes could see:
The march towards knocking down the walls of discrimination that permitted us to pass a 1964 civil right act in public accommodations so people whose skin was not white could go into restaurants and go into hotels. Public accommodation. The 1965 act for voting rights. 1968 Act for public accommodations. The 1973 act to say that women are going to be treated equally. The americans with disabilities act that said the disabled are going to be part of the american family. All of that is the march to progress. And my friends, the one organization, the one institution that protects it is the supreme court of the United States.
I might not be up on the news lately, butI was unaware that Alito intended to revisit the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act.
Oh yeah, he won't. In fact, I have never heard any mainstream conservative argue in favor of doing so.
Those issues are straw men - slumping, elderly ghost issues from the '60's - and the drunken senior senator from Massachusetts dutifully beats the stuffing out of them, to the cheers of his graying hippy fans.
But those issues are irrelvant.
Alito might someday redefine Affirmative Action, which to Kennedy is no different from repealing the Voting Rights Act. (And the Americans with Disabilities Act could use an overhaul.)
Unfortunately for hacks like Ted, revisiting Affirmative Action is something that 80+% of Americans support.
Yes, politics is becoming like religion, and Ted Kennedy is one of the nuttiest fundamentalist preachers one can imagine.
But I see him a more pitiful creature: he is the dinosaur - at ease in the gentle flora of the 1960's - unaware that the meteor in the sky has already made creatures like him irrelevant.
And if creatures like Kennedy did not exist, Karl Rove would need to invent them, so effective are they at making people say "all liberals are nuts."
All liberals aren't nuts. Many are good and conscientious people, trying to better the nation.
Ted Kennedy isn't among them.
It is a pity. His brother, John F. Kennedy, was a great leader: strong foreign policy, visionary cold warrior, aggressive tax cutter and commitment to racial justice...
Democrats would do well to rediscover him.
And while they are at it, they might want to rediscover Thomas Jefferson.