Saturday, February 20, 2010

...and which principles would those be?

I hear that a bunch of conservatives sign this Mount Vernon Statement thing which seems to be a 21st century conservative credo. And as I'm reading it, all I can think is "...mmmyep." You can read it, but it's absolutely nothing new.

What I'm now wondering  about is the entire concept of "conservative principles". Maybe I'm being cynical, but I think the best thing you can say about this is that it's ironic. This is not to say that progressives are never unprincipled or hypocritical, but among conservatives it's like a competitive sport.

There's the whole "limited government thing. They absolutely oppose anything that looks like unnecessary federal spending, except the spending they ask for. They oppose all needless government interference in people's lives, except when it suits their arbitrary morals. They are against any expansion of federal power, unless it's to enforce those morals. They think all life is sacred, especially life of the embryonic and fetal variety  - but not if you're a pregnant woman with no insurance.

Because they're fiscally conservative too, right? That's why they support tax cuts and oppose healthcare reform and unions. That stuff leads to socialism, which is like what they have in Soviet Russia. Or Canada. 

And they want to lower taxes, right? They would totally get rid of income taxes except that would never work, so you know what they're going to do instead? Give a whole bunch of tax cuts to rich people, because, um... the Laffer curve says it's a good idea!

Well anyway, the conservatives would have you know that all the liberals want to do is be soft on communism terrorism. Because it's not like Bill Clinton spent a metric fuckton of money on counterterrorism or put a whole bunch of terrorists in prison or anything. And Obama? He's just as bad as Clinton (if by "bad" you mean "awesome". )

Oooooh, but did you know that Obama did drugs when he was younger? Republicans would never do drugs... okay, except that one time. See, what you don't understand is that "drugs are bad" means "for poor people".  Also "unless you're white."

But don't you dare call them racist, because they're totally not racist. They only defend people's right to continue displaying the Confederate flag because those people have a right to express pride their heritage; it says so in the First Amendment! But if you want to exercise your First Amendment rights by burning the flag or being "hostile" towards religion, well you're just a goddamn hippie.

ETA: Ezra Klein wrote a short but good post about how the Republicans conflate their political position with their philosophy - which explains why their "philosophy" changes whenever it suits them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why the public option is good for everyone.

You've probably already figured out from reading my posts that I am in favor of healthcare reform. I also favor the public option, and I am very pleased to see that it may not be dead after all.

The thing is, most of the arguments for the public option that I've seen stop at "everyone gets insurance", and this isn't enough to convince some people. Those who are insured probably want to know why they should have to pay for this, in addition to what they have already.

If you are one of those people, this post is for you. I'm going to explain how the public option will benefit you even if you have private insurance and want to keep it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Call Your Reps.

Dennis at Balloon Juice regularly posts reminders to call your House and Senate reps and tell them to pass the healthcare bill. I've just called my Senator, and I'm going to call my Rep once I'm done reading my morning news feeds.

I know that calling important people can be kind of nerve-wracking, but just remember that these people are supposed to be working for you - even if you didn't vote for them, you can still decide whether or not to do so the next time they run. Also, the person who answers the phone is usually an intern - so while you should definitely be nice to them, don't be afraid to tell them how strongly you feel about this issue and how much you want your rep to vote for this bill.

If you need some easy steps to follow, Balloon Juice has a guide for first-time callers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fred Clark at slacktivist made a point about climate change denial which I hadn't thought of, and which is very interesting:

It might be helpful to look at this through the lens of a textbook example from Ethics 101: The Drowning Stranger.

"A man is drowning near the end of the dock," the professor says. "What is your responsibility?"

"I didn't push him in!" the student says, with abrupt, vehement anger.


This question of blame and innocence seems to be central to much of the denialism and the vehemently irresponsible lack of a response to climate change. The more overwhelming the evidence becomes that climate change is, undeniably, happening, the louder they protest that nothing can or should be done because climate change isn't "man-made." After years of denying that there even was a drowning stranger in the water, they've fallen back to the student's defensive claim of "I didn't push him in!"
This actually makes quite a lot of sense. We something bad happens, it's much easier if there's one person, or a few people who are obviously responsible -  we've got someone to blame and punish, even if someone else ultimately cleans up the mess. With climate change we don't have anyone to blame, and in fact it's something that nearly every human in the world has contributed to. No one wants to believe that they could have done something like this... and so they deny.

The fact is that all the available evidence is to contrary. and denying it's there won't make it go away. Even if you don't want to accept responsibility for this problem, you can be part of the solution, because many of the actions that reduce your carbon output will also save you money.

Taking up too much space in the market.

I found this interesting little anecdote while roaming around on Digg, and since I don't want to be one of those people who only reads posts they agree with I read it through. It mentioned something that I've heard mentioned quite a few times since the Citizens United ruling went down. The writer of this post seemed to think that the only reason why a progressive individual (such as myself) would want to prevent corporations from contributing a lot of money to elections - or why we'd want to prevent them from doing anything, for that matter - is because we're a bunch of elitists and think that all the normal everyday Americans are gullible and stupid.

According to this guy's post, the liberal with whom he was talking did say that most people aren't "intelligent" enough to understand contracts they make with banks or other corporations. To be fair I've met a few other liberal-types who've expressed a similar sentiment... but I disagree. I don't think you'd have to be stupid to not understand a bunch of text that's really small, really dense, and full of legal jargon. The fact that some people (myself included) find that stuff completely obtuse and mystifying doesn't mean we're stupid - it means we aren't lawyers. The people writing those contracts know this, and they overload them with information, knowing that we probably won't be able to process all of it, and hoping that we'll miss something that will allow them to screw us over later.  The best thing you could call this is a dishonest business practice.

Now on to Citizens. For-profit corporations are not just a bunch of people who "choose to organize"- they organize specifically to make a profit. I don't have any problem with this per se. I do have a problem when those with more money start to feel like they are entitled to more of everything else as well - including more speech. Any asshole can get a free blog and write stuff on the internet, but if you want anyone to ever see it you've got to write good stuff, encourage people to link to it, and put forth effort to get more page views and be seen.