Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Explanation of Why We Are All Flaming Hypocrites

Hey, want me to share a little secret?  No, not that kind of secret.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  With the new political situation such as it is, I get four years of not caring anymore about politics, or at least not that much.  I might jump in with the occasional defense of the Donald, or try to troll a few liberals with a smarmy Facebook post, but otherwise I get to kick my heels up on ye olde desk, light up a cigar, and enjoy life as much as possible (subject to the obvious constraint of living in a thoroughly screwed up society). 

And for you Obama-ites out there, and other asunder liberals, it’s time to do the opposite and remain ever vigilant over the dimming flame of liberty and stuff like that there.  Time to brush off the “no justice no peace” and construct an argument that dissent, after an eight-year period of being racist bigotry or ideological partisanship, is now again the highest form of patriotism.

But you already knew that because you’ve been to like 16 protests already.  And the more committed among you have burned stuff, thrown batteries at people’s heads, and destroyed property to make it clear that you will not tolerate fascist violence (although anti-fascist violence is A-OK!).  Your eight-year vacation of tolerating or otherwise ignoring indefensible actions of the government is over, whereas mine is just beginning.  I’m even wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt as I type. 

Now, of course, not everyone on my side will be taking a vacation.  We have a small unit deployed to counter the silliness that will no doubt be argued by you guys for the foreseeable future.  Good luck to you in combating them - they are in a good position, because they have eight years of stupid precedents set by your main man in trying to jam his legislative agenda down the collective American throat to cite in defending the process by which Trump goes about doing the same.  

Don’t like the IRS targeting political enemies?  Well, you sure seemed fine with it before.  Find a president who criticizes elements of the press to be a troubling abuse of power casting a long shadow over the freedom of the press?  There are some unfortunate Obama quotes regarding Fox news that we might call to your attention, not to mention investigating and imprisoning journalists.  Find outright blatant and repeated lies from the President regarding key policies downright impeachable offenses?  I’ll mull that one over after a few more hours working to afford my now increased health care premiums (so that I can see the new doctor I had to switch to).  Object to the return of water-boarding to gain some useful intelligence from some terrorists?  Fair enough, we will skip straight to the drone “workplace violence removal strategy.”  Need I go on? 

Yes, I know, none of these things sound even remotely familiar to you.  It’s understandable – you’ve had eight years of sipping Mai Thais and posting cat pictures on Facebook – but trust me, all of it is well documented.  I’m sure it won’t deter you, but you cannot expect anyone on the other side to agree with you on principle if you fail to demonstrate any.

Which brings me to my point – in political arguments, anytime one party can point to inconsistencies regarding the positions of the other party, and cry hypocrisy, the equal and opposite cry of hypocrisy can fly in the other direction.  For example (and a boring one at that), Obama was an outspoken critic of raising the debt ceiling under GWB, but then sought to increase it under his own presidency.  So Obama can fairly and accurately be called a hypocrite, but the same argument could be lodged against a Republican who followed the party line under Bush, only to argue against it under Obama.  Now, there will in general be the rare exception of consistency for people on either side of the political spectrum or little nuances here and there that justifies an otherwise apparent inconsistency, but by and large as a party this flipping constantly occurs.  So it is inaccurate to make blanket statements such as all liberals are hypocrites on issue A, or all conservatives are hypocrites on issue B, but there are many instances where characterizations of the general approach of the group as hypocritical are accurate. 

I recently smarmily pointed out 2 such instances on Facebook.  One regarded the women’s march in Washington and other cities, which in part was motivated by crude comments (made hypothetically I might add) by Trump.  I think organizers would point to that comment, and perhaps allegations of actual sexual assault against Trump, as the raison d’etre for their march, rather than the true underlying reason, which was in large part the defense of abortion rights (and perhaps subsidized contraception).  They couldn’t say that, of course, because the possibility of a retrenchment of such “rights” was nothing new or unique to Trump, and the purpose of the rally was in part to suggest that he poses a unique threat to women.  And regardless of his personal conduct, real or imagined, there is absolutely zero evidence that Trump would seek to roll back legal protections for women who are victims of sexual assault (sorry, abortion is not a legal protection from such actions).  Furthermore, any attempt to do so would be political suicide, and so no one can seriously suggest he has such plans in the making.

Of course, many of the women attending were of adult age through the presidency of Bill Clinton, who was credibly accused of rape and sexual assault, but who despite his best efforts to get hundreds of thousands of women within arm’s reach of the White House earned no such women’s march.  The good women soldiers of the left were told by Gloria Steinem, in the wake of the Kathleen Wiley’s accusations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton (while she mourned her husband’s death), that perhaps a “one grope” rule should be invoked - a man cannot be expected to know that a sexual assault is unwanted unless and until he attempts it. To wit, at the time there was no protest.  Why not?  Well, to paraphrase one woman journalist, she would gladly perform fellatio on the president herself in exchange for keeping abortion legal. She couldn’t have cared less about a rape or an assault here or there as long as good old Bill didn’t come after abortion rights.  Calling many (not all) of the women attending the women’s march hypocrites is fair and accurate.

But the converse may also be true, although there are always differences. So we hear from liberals saying, wait a minute, all you Republicans were saying that Clinton’s actions were serious, impeachable, and at the very least despicable acts, and y’all ran to the ballot box to cast your vote for Trump amidst similar behavior and accusations.  Now, I’d argue in Clinton’s case some of what he was credibly accused of occurred during his presidency, and otherwise accusations lodged against him were far worse, such as the rape charges from Juanita Broderick.  But still, I will concede that if all Republicans and Democrats were polled in 1970 and asked whether any of the behavior of either Trump or Clinton was desirable or defensible in a President, there’d be uniform agreement that it is not.  

So why are we all a bunch of flaming hypocrites?  Well, we flat out have to be.  Think about the federal government as an organization that, for better or for worse, we’ve delegated hundreds of responsibilities to, leaving ourselves unable to work out satisfactory policies at the state or local level (where we have much more influence, if only by voting with our feet), or better yet through the private sector.  The guy from our tribe can be screwing up most every one of those hundreds of responsibilities, but so long as he has a few key policy positions in line with our own, we stick by him under the tacit assumption that, as bad as he may be on so many of these issues, the other tribe’s guy would be no better and potentially far worse.  Put another way, we have to defend the indefensible to preserve a few issues that we care about and understand, even if we know in our heart of hearts that our guy is a disaster on all other fronts.

So what is the solution to a political system that has us all shamelessly shilling for the con men that comprise the respective tribes?  There is no solution, or rather the only good solution would be rejected entirely by the political left.  The solution would be a libertarian one, which would involve retrenching the federal government from having so much power and influence, in order to leave more responsibilities to lower levels of government or no levels of government.  It’s hard to vote with your feet from country to country, as we find out every four years when thousands of people on both sides of the aisle pledge to get out of Dodge if so and so is elected, with no one following through.  But moving from New Jersey to Delaware is a cinch.  

A move to libertarianism or more decentralized power would, however, seriously limit the welfare state, as well as the regulatory state.  If decentralized, net taxpayers would seek low tax jurisdictions that offer smaller welfare benefits, whereas those on the dole would seek jurisdictions offering large benefits.  This would create an unsustainable tax/welfare position for any state trying to offer very generous benefits.   (Incidentally, this is the exact reason Obamacare is imploding, as it's penalties are too small to induce healthy young people to subsidize less healthy poor people - they are effectively walking away from premiums that tax them to provide subsidies).  A similar race to what the left would consider the bottom would also ensue with the regulatory state, with states offering the least onerous regulations potentially attracting more business. However, this would be more intriguing, as the removal of regulations that might improve the quality of life might detract the workforce businesses seek.  Arguably such a decentralized regulatory structure could serve to just trim the fat of over-regulation, leaving in place those that are truly desired.

Bottom line – the solution is a total non-starter for liberals because it undermines their entire conception of government.  A Leviathan proportioned government requires a very large geography.  Which leaves us where we started.  Arguing that our man is competently riding the bull of big government even as its clear he’s been thrown off and is getting gored in the ass.  And we do it with a straight face.  Until our guys loses, when we all of a sudden are concerned with every single government screw up as if it is something new.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Anti-Truman Show Ends Its 8 Year Run

As a general rule, I’ve tried to shy away from making blog posts about the character flaws I perceive in leaders from the other side of the political spectrum.  At the end of the day, as I stated here in my “I’m not a fan of Trump, but” post, most people treat the personal details, foibles, faults etc. as secondary to said candidate’s alignment with their own policy preferences.  But in addition to that, when you point out objectively the character flaws of a politician from the other tribe, said tribe is more likely to acknowledge such flaws as a strength because they serve the aims of their particular tribe.  Democrats probably know Harry Reid was a vindictive dishonorable liar, but he was their vindictive dishonorable liar, and employing his assholeness on behalf of their causes served them well.  Being an asshole was his greatest political quality.  I call this the Pete Rose effect – I hated Pete Rose sprinting to first base when he got walked while a member of the Reds, but surely loved every minute of it when he was doing it for the Phils. One’s assessment of Pete Rose was not determined by objective consideration of what you liked or disliked about him as a player - it was driven by whether he was on your team or not.  (If that’s too dated, think of Christian Laettner – Duke fans love him best precisely because Duke haters hate him most.) 

But here I am going to make an exception to discussing my personal perceptions of Obama.  In my prior “not a fan of Trump” post, I pointed out that those things that seemed to concern so many liberals about Trump were equally if not doubly true for Hillary or Bill.  One thing I did not address was Trump’s narcissistic egomania, which I freely concede.  But now with Obama just a couple days away from leaving office, I’d like to make the same point again – no liberal can appeal to me that Trump’s narcissism by itself is objectively a troubling fact that should worry me – they’ve lost credibility on that issue  because they clearly suffer from the Pete Rose Effect.  How do I know this?  Because, while Trump may one day prove to eclipse Obama in the category of narcissistic egomania, for the last eight years Obama blew away any prior record for such among American presidents, and rather than that concerning liberals, they’ve simply fed Obama’s delusional self-regard.

Remember the Jim Carey movie called the Truman show? Where Jim Carey’s character is the only one who doesn’t understand he is part of a reality TV show faithfully followed by hundreds of millions of viewers.  Every person in Carey’s life is a character actor in the story of his life, and he is the only one not in the know.  He is the only authentic person in his own life, surrounded by actors playing his wife, parents, kids, and best friend, all of them acting out a script.  Truman’s life, unbeknownst to him, goes in a direction only partially determined by his own actions, as the show’s writers constantly adjust his environment to enhance the potential drama of the show.

The Obama presidency is like the Anti-Truman Show – apparently every living person is at best a bit character in his life story (if they are lucky), while we mistakenly harbor the illusion that we are living lives that are significant on their own and independent from his place and time in history.  We’ve known since Shakespeare that all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, but we never really knew that our particular show was all about Obama until he came along.  Lucky for us, as those who came before and those will come after are just the build-up and the denouement of the story.  Like Truman, our lives were only partially in our own hands, and we needed Obama as the script writer to set the story in the right direction, to get us on the “right side of history,” as he is fond of saying.  Before he arrived we were doomed to always be on the wrong side of history.  Not coincidentally, the wrong side of history is tautologically defined as disagreement with Obama over, well, just about anything. 

If you harbor the illusion that you are not part of the Anti-Truman Show, it is likely only because he hasn’t yet graced you as a live extra in the show, or otherwise made your part clear.  Take Indonesia, for example.  The entire country was mired in obscurity, not connected to any reality TV show worth watching, and especially not the Anti-Truman show, until Obama made a state visit and recounted his time there.  Imagine the joy of an entire country learning from his speech their importance in the Show, as the visit to their country was formative in his early years.  The only historical parallel perhaps, and I think Obama would be the first to allow that no other parallel would do, would be the residents of Bethlehem just going about their business day to day 2000 plus years ago only to find out 40 years later that the risen Christ was born in Bethlehem.  Suddenly on the world map of history!  Take that Judea, always looking at us Bethlehemians as backwater hicks!

If you google “Obama self references in speeches,” you get 181,000 hits in 0.69 seconds – imagine if you gave Google a whole minute to search!  And lest you think the endless personal story telling of Obama is a mere right wing smear, recently the Washington Post published an article calling Obama’s presidency the “self-referential presidency.”  From the Washington Post article:

“Throughout Obama’s time in the White House, his touchstone would not be that singular country on Earth, whose politics he was never able to bind together. Rather, it would be the man himself. My story. This was a presidency preoccupied with Obama’s exceptionalism as much as with America’s.”

The author says that in the abstract the “personalized presidency can be inspiring,” but also concedes that it can “feel arrogant.”  Gee, ya think?  And notice the use of “feel” rather than “be” – presumably those of us on the wrong side of history can understandably mistakenly feel that his approach is arrogant, which is clearly not the same thing as saying that it is arrogant.  But, objectively, it is arrogant. 

The article points out that Obama called himself a “prisoner of his own biography” in one of his several autobiographical books.  For eight years, the prisoner had taken us all hostage inside the same prison.  His only professional accomplishment prior to his political career, and indeed the launching pad for his political career, was his autobiography.  An autobiography of a man with no accomplishments to speak of became his accomplishment to speak of. 

At the time he wrote his autobiography his life was remarkable in no sense.  But man what it has turned into since is truly remarkable – it is like a Ponzi scheme that continued to work.  There was no remarkably significant obstacle overcome.  He grew up as the child of a single Mom in a free country in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and as compared to so many other kids of single parents who grew up in poverty, he grew up in secure financial conditions.  There was no rags to riches, no major objective obstacles to a fruitful life except in his own overwrought imagination.  Perhaps the only truly amazing fact about his early life is that his ego remained fully in tact despite being a 6’4” black guy who couldn’t get a starting position on a high school basketball team filled with Hawaiians.    

One fictional achievement led to a grander fictional achievement, which led to yet even grander fictional achievements.  As a self-proclaimed constitutional scholar, who never published a scholarly article on anything having to do with the constitution (or anything for that matter), he wrote an autobiography that launched him to an Illinois state senate seat, where, despite abstaining from most votes, he launched himself to a US Senate seat, where, despite authoring no significant legislation, he wins the Presidency, where, despite presiding over the worst post-WWII recession recovery, alienating traditional allies and emboldening clear enemies, and breezily ignoring scandals at the IRS, the VA, the State Department, and the DOJ, he waltzes out of the White House patting himself on the back so vigorously that he risks separating his shoulder.   

In his 2008 campaign, he famously declared himself the “one we’ve been waiting for,” although I don’t recall waiting for anyone.  But apparently some people were waiting for someone.  Turns out it was him, although here we are 8 years later and it’s hard to understand why people were waiting for someone to hand the middle east over to Russia and Iran, with nukes and an airplane full of ransom cash for the mullahs in Iran to boot in exchange for … well, that’s not clear exactly, now is it?  But maybe we were waiting for a fiscally unsustainable healthcare takeover that is predictably imploding.  And all the while, you’ve bought the story hook, line, and sinker. 

I know your concern – it is this – that there will be a rabid Trump following that, no matter what objective failures one can point to in his administration, will faithfully defend him and argue that anyone other than him would have made it worse.  And in so doing, that rabid following may only perpetuate his delusions of grandeur and the policy mistakes that go with it.  All I can say is, been there done that, and I know your pain.

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