I just can't help myself. I described the people that I disagree with as collectively believing that "taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That's what lies behind the modern right's fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty." and that "There's no middle ground" between the views of those people and the views I hold. When I wrote this column, I was, on some level, aware of your Roadmap and the Ryan-Rivlin Plan. I have been able to take a step back from my work and can now see that your plans include a substantial welfare state funded at approximately the same level of federal taxation that has prevailed in recent decades. When looking at what I wrote and what you have proposed, I can see the hysteria and dishonesty of what I have written.
That doesn't mean I don't have honest criticisms of your proposals. I'm not sure the taxes in the Roadmap will bring in as much revenue as you project. I think that the tax system in the Roadmap is too regressive and in any case I would prefer a state that takes in more revenue and redistributes more to recipients. I think that your proposals for Medicare reform are such that the "death panels" I favor would be both more efficient and fairer. I use the term death panels with bitter irony since we both know (as does Mitch Daniels) that there is no conceivable reform of health care for the elderly that does not leave some families with terrible choices.
But those were not the differences I described. I suppose I could try to weasel out by saying that I was only talking about some more extreme members of your political coalition but I would be kidding no one. I explicitly set up my side as those who believe in "the modern welfare state -- a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net." That means I excluded the nontrivial socialist fringe of my coalition and we both know that Rand Paul is no more going to undo the welfare state than Bernie Sanders is going to undo the corporation. Real policy is going to be made by people with something like my views on my side (maybe a little more statist on things like trade and top marginal tax rates) and people like you on your side (maybe a little less likely to reduce entitlement spending.) And the eventual policy outcomes are going to be somewhere in the middle ground that I pretended does not exist.
In my column I wrote that "political leaders" need to "declare that both violence and any language hinting at the acceptability of violence are out of bounds." I agree with that but I'm rethinking the implications. My own newspaper published an article by former Democratic congressmen Paul Kanjorski in which Mr. Kanjorski wrote that "it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation." Then it came out that Mr. Kanjorski had called for the murder of Florida's Republican candidate for governor. I don't think he meant it but that is the kind of thing that should stop.
I also need to rethink my use of the term "eliminationist" as a description of political rhetoric. I originally used the term as a sly way to paint my democratic political opponents as proto-Nazis who were preparing their followers for a genocidal campaign against people who hold my views. I more specifically used it to stigmatize a kind of heated rhetoric that grotesquely elevates the political stakes so high, and so demonizes the opposition that political violence becomes reasonable. With that standard in mind, I am taking a second look at my own rhetoric. I can see where I implied that if your policy preferences prevailed that the elderly and the poor would be left utterly helpless. I can see where I described my opponents as collectively violent as well as heartless and that there is "no middle ground" between us and them. I can see where someone terrified and indignant at the thought of the abandonment of the elderly and the poor at the hands of a bunch of terrorists and terrorist-enablers might contemplate violence despite my pro forma declarations against violence (after all, even Sarah Palin is officially against political violence.)
Is my rhetoric eliminationist? I don't think so, but I don't know. I never intended for that standard to be applied to me or Alan Grayson or anyone else on my side. I have no confidence in my ability to craft a standard of rhetoric that isn't a contradictory and self-serving mess. I shouldn't be trying to tell other people how to talk. I should be making the strenuous efforts it will evidently take for me to learn to write about my opponents with some modicum of honesty and civility. So, Rep. Ryan, let us talk about our significant differences over the best way to craft a sustainable, just and humane welfare state. Let us even see if we can find a middle ground.
I've an article at The American Spectator asking: "What if Loughner wasn't a tin-foil-hat lunatic, but a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, a disciple of Sarah Palin and full-throated, tea-dumping critic of Obama's taxation-nation? What difference would it make?"
I humbly recommend that you RTWT.
1. A large (but too long effort) to call forth the better angels of his countrymen.
2. The audience reaction was very weird, but the people cheering and hooting really, really wanted to like him and they thought that the cheering was what he wanted. They were trying to help. It is a reminder of the (sometimes latent) strength of Obama's bond with millions of Americans.
3. The speech contained implied criticism of the Paul Krugman's and Andrew Sullivans of the world. This was very smart, but also very politically convenient. Obama is especially strong when he can position himself as an arbiter above left/right debates. He knows that being seen as a bitter and disingenuous left sectarian would get in the way of implementing his agenda and conducting the other responsibilities of governing. He has greater self-control and depth of vision that Professor Krugman. Obama is also tougher than the big mouthed Krugmans, Sullivans and Clyburns of the world - though they no doubt have their uses for Obama. He is focused on winning rather than lashing out petulantly
I am sorry. When I heard that a moderate Democratic member of Congress had been shot by a white male, I had all kinds of suspicions. It is not clear to me, even now, to what extent those suspicions were reasonable and to what extent they were fueled by a set of personally-held cultural bigotries that I am only now beginning to recognize. In any case, I should have kept those suspicions to myself until facts came out substantiating any link (whether personal or ideological) between the shooter and yourself and a broad movement of citizen activists. I am embarrassed at my confidence at the "odds" that the shooting was "political." By "political" I meant that the shooter was directly inspired by your rhetoric and ideology rather than the shooter having a combination of personal and political (though deranged) motives that I could not have guessed at given my perfect ignorance of his personal situation. I now recognize that my confidence was really a manifestation of my desire to wound my enemies at every opportunity.
I am especially sorry that, as the facts came out, I did not admit that I had been wrong in my assumptions and that I instead retreated into a politicized pseudo-meteorology about the "national climate" in order to continue my campaign of linking you and other organizations and people I disagree with to the Arizona attack. I still don't know to what degree I was motivated by pride, hatefulness, a desire to see my policy preferences prevail or some combination of the above.
There has been much talk of a need to increase the amount of civility in public discourse. I have come to agree with that sentiment. I will start with myself.
Leftists have shifted their goal in manipulating the Arizona shooting to their political advantage. At first, they tried to tie the tragedy to the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, talk-radio and conservatives in general. Revelations that the murdering madman was a left-of-center lunatic, as well as a general public backlash against such brazen politicking in the wake of a national crisis, ended the "blame conservatives" campaign. So, the left is now trying to use the shootings to bolster their campaign against guns.
That's fair. Reasonable people can disagree about gun ownership. Just following a diatribe about inappropriate rhetoric and the need to restore reasoned debate to politics, liberals may risk seeming a bit disingenuous by capitalizing on the emotions roused by a tragic murder to push an agenda. Nevertheless, the incident deserves a debate. Conservatives successfully defended themselves against accusations of culpability for the crime due to alleged overheated rhetoric - now they need to defend their gun policies by the same rational method.
It is commendable that conservatives have not attempted to use revelations of the killer's apparent liberal ideology as an indictment of the left. Conservatives have thus far conducted themselves well and will not be seen at the conclusion of this sad episode as the breathless, hysterical faction of American politics.
"If Jared Loughner is crazy, then so are we."
- Richard Cohen, The Washington Post, 11 January 2011
I don't know about the rest of you, but whenever some significant event occurs in our political culture I find myself asking, "I wonder what Michael Moore has to say about this?"
Naturally, we didn't have to wait long before he chimed in on the Tucson murders. He tweeted (and I'm not going to reward his website with hits by linking to it): "If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web with cross-hairs on twenty politicians, and then one of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking."
A fair question, Michael, and I think I'll take a stab at answering it. First of all, I think we'd want to know something more about your hypothetical shooter. Is there any evidence that he was motivated by Islamic extremism? Is he even Muslim? Is there any evidence that he ever even saw the web page with the cross-hairs? Did the cross-hairs stand alone, or were they accompanied by an explicit call for someone to kill said politicians (after all, if Muslim extremists want you dead, they don't tend to pussyfoot around)?
If the answers to these questions are, "Yes," then I imagine that, at the very least, our "Detroit Muslim" would be declared a "person of interest" by the authorities. If not, not.
Now, if I might pose a counter-question to Michael Moore: if your "Detroit Muslim" were arrested for complicity in this hypothetical shooting of a politician, what would you be doing right now? The answer, I suspect, is "loudly demanding that he be released, and denouncing the authorities for violating his freedom of speech."
After dropping anchor at Mount Arafat, Noah promptly disembarked the ark and set himself to cultivating a vineyard so as to celebrate his arrival on dry land by properly wetting his whistle with fruit of the vine and work of human hands. Archaeologists have now uncovered an advanced winemaking operation - including a wine press, vat, grape seeds, and plant pigments - dating back 6,000 years in a cave near Mount Ararat. It's the oldest known vinoteca by well over 1,000 years.
We never cease to learn from the example of the ancients.
I previously noted the recent atrocities committed by Egyptian Muslims against Coptic Christians. Some Egyptian Mulsims have now taken a stand for their Christian brethren. Muslim intellectuals and activists have called upon Egyptian Muslims across the nation to attend Coptic Christmas Eve masses as a show of solidarity with the Coptic minority and to serve as "human shields" against an attack by Islamist militants.
Many Egyptians have nobly and courageously spoken out against the Islamic murders - but most express their regret with a tragic sense of hopelessness. Murderous militantism is deeply embedded in Islam - or, murderous militants are deeply invested in employing Islam as their vehicle of propaganda and terror - and Islamic political parties are often in a race to the bottom to appease highly organized Islamic extremists.
Moderate Muslims and all those living under the tyranny of Islamic extremism have a hard road ahead.
So you think American political rhetoric is too extreme?
"Witches will head to the Danube to put a hex on the [Romanian] government and hurl mandrake into the river 'so evil will befall them'" following the government's decision to levy a tax on witchcraft. Fortune-tellers will also be taxed, but, as the paper notes, they "should have seen it coming."
Do you suppose the witches are from the Christine O'Donnell wing of the international Tea Party?
(H/t Wheat and Weeds)
"Basque armed-separatist group ETA declared Monday that it will lay down arms for good." The cease-fire would end 42-years of violence intended to create an independent Basque state.
I expect there's little hope for the ceasefire, as ETA is likely only positioning for political leverage - their political arm has been banned by the Spanish government and their goal of an independent state is presently hopeless. Like terror outfits in Palestine, Northern Ireland and elsewhere, the promise of peace is their only bargaining chip. If they were to lay it on the table honestly, they'd soon be out of the game - so expect them to renege on any promises.
In case anyone was curious as to the likely composition of a future Basque state, the ceasefire statement ended with the chant: "Hail an independent Basque country! Hail a socialist Basque country! Onwards with socialist independence, until the end!"
You didn't expect terrorists to adopt free markets, did you?
That's what passes for news among the left-wing, anti-American news-agencies in Europe. They make the New York Times proud. The UK's liberal Guardian splashed the sensational front page headline across yesterday's paper, leaving little room for doubt that the tragedy is to be blamed on Sarah Palin (who the paper says is "well-known for her intemperate language and actions"). The Tea Party and conservatives in general are also incriminated, though the Guardian does allow that "conservative bloggers accused liberals of seeking to exploit the attack." Allow me to confirm that those "liberals" are not confined to this side of the pond.
There was one ray of sunlight, however. The most "recommended" comment under the story was by PaulinNI:
Even in Europe, the people are nowhere near as liberal and unprincipled as the media which daily force feeds their distorted agenda.
As we speak about the Constitution, political rhetoric and the proper functions of government, it bears noting that a new nation is about to appear in Africa. Southern Sudan votes for independence today. A majority vote and 60% turnout are required for the referendum to be valid, but it seems that the southerners will meet those hurdles.
Southern Sudan - or whatever it will be called tomorrow - will initially become one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world. It will require great assistance from the U.S. and, hopefully, African neighbors, and security will continue to be a serious problem. But it will provide a lesson for the world to witness the comparative evolution from this point of an Islamic north Sudan under dictatorial sharia law and an anomalous Christian south Sudan which, one hopes, will adopt a moderate form of western democracy.
Alongside praying for the victims of the evil act in Arizona, it might make sense to dust off this book by James Pierson. I don't agree with every word he writes, but Pierson is great at explaining how center-left writers desperately try to identify their small-d democratic political opponents with political violence even if the attacker did not share their ideology. Liberals in this instance resort to guilt by nonassociation through stuff about climates of hate or violent rhetoric despite the lack of evidence that the attacker was influenced by any of this stuff. As Pierson points out, liberals will try to identify their democratic opponents with a violent attack even when the attacker self-identifies with the left. Several thought to keep in mind.
1. Decency, and honesty have nothing to with the Paul Krugmans and Bill Presses of the world (no shock there to some.)
2. They don't deserve politeness or any assumption of good faith. They are trying to exploit the unburied dead to attempt to silence criticism of powerful political figures and relevant policies. They owe everybody an apology and should be treated with the coldest and most persistent contempt until they alter their behavior.
Refine & Enlarge
The New York Times is not to be outdone. No doubts mortified that the Washington Post beat them to the punch in laying the Arizona disaster at the feet of conservatives, the Times now features a column to the same effect by the reliably far-left Paul Krugman.
Krugman blames Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and "the whole Tea Party" as he conjures images of the Oklahoma City bombing and warns that "violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate." In case you're wondering who he's talking about, Krugman lectures, "it's long past time for the GOP's leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers." It will no doubt always elude Krugman that he is the creature he so despises.
Verum Serum graciously responds to Krugman (so the rest of us needn't do so). I'd simply add two observations: First, the gunman in Arizona has been described as a liberal by a friend, which, coupled with his obvious insanity, should quiet speculation that the tragedy is part of a vast right wing conspiracy. Second, readers should remember the trove of hateful malice spewed by the left toward President Bush - to pretend that the left has not potentially incited violence through aggressive language against Bush, Republicans, conservatives, Tea Partiers, etc. and that the right has a monopoly on invective is beyond silly, it is intentionally deceitful.