Archive for August, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: “American evangelicals are much more pro-torture in this respect than many Iranian Muslims”

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Andrew Sullivan - still theoretically not blogging during his August sabbatical to work on articles for The Atlantic – had to chime in last week when further torture documents were released:

American evangelicals are much more pro-torture in this respect than many Iranian Muslims.

This is what Bush and Cheney truly achieved in their tragic response to 9/11: two terribly failed, brutally expensive wars, the revival of sectarian warfare and genocide in the Middle East, the end of America’s global moral authority, the empowerment of Iran’s and North Korea’s dictatorships, and the nightmares of Gitmo and Bagram still haunting the new administration.

But what they did to the culture – how they systematically dismantled core American values like the prohibition on torture and respect for the rule of law – is the worst and most enduring of the legacies.

One political party in this country is now explicitly pro-torture, and wants to restore a torture regime if it regains power.

Last summer, I actually wrote a piece coming to almost the exact same conclusion. I wrote that Bush had made things “just bad enough” that we would be able to reverse course and start down a better path – that his presidency had served as a kind of innoculation against certain tyrannical elements. This proved to be true on a political level – but I missed the cultural transformation that has led so many people to defend the indefensible. This is perhaps the most damning legacy Bush of Bush’s presidency.

Health Care Lie #493: Rationing

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Ezra Klein does a pretty good job taking down the rhetorical slights of hand Republicans are using on this issue. His approach might not be the most effective politically – but it has the virtue of being honest. Rather than proclaiming there will be no rationing – he points out that we already do ration.

We prioritize botox for the rich over cancer treatments for the poor. This is the status quo that we have that is so incredibly expensive. The debate over health care should be focusing on two questions:

  1. How much of our national wealth are we going to choose to spend on health care?
  2. How do we want to allocate our limited health care technology and services?

We can agree to spend a lot of our national wealth on health care. After all, we need to spend it on something. The rate of growth is too much now – but we don’t need to reduce our levels of health care spending to that of Great Britain. (They spend 41 cents on the dollar that we spend for better overall results as measured by life expectancy, infant mortality, as well as overall patient satisfaction.)

Then – to the second question – how do we allocate access? Right now, we provide emergency treatment to everyone; those with the most money get any treatment they like without significant waits; the rest of us wait, but at least are treated if we have insurance coverage. There’s a reason why rich people from around the world travel to America – and it’s not just because we have great doctors. It’s because they get to cut the line and get treated ahead of those with less financial status because our system rations by money.

For the rest of us, the health care reforms being discussed now won’t reverse this privileged position for the rich. What Obama is proposing is not anything so radical. But rather he seeks to accomplish several things, to moderately improve our current system:

  • it will eliminate the fear that your insurance company will drop your coverage once you get sick – putting you on the fast road to being poor and at the bottom rung of our society and in our health care system at the same time;
  • it will – through incentives, tax breaks, and mandates – ensure that everyone has a base level of coverage;
  • for the many who already do have coverage, it will provide a sense of security – a peace of mind – that even if you lose your job, you will still be able to get affordable health insurance; and
  • finally, for a small number of Americans to start, and then perhaps for a larger portion if the program is successful, it will provide a choice of health insurance plans in a functioning and transparent market for individuals which our current mish-mash of Wall Street-run health insurance companies and hodge-podge of regulations isn’t able to provide.

This moderate plan bears little resemblance to the “government takeover of health care” that critics are directing their fire at. It isn’t about “rationing.” In fact, what it seeks to do is address the rationing our system already does. In this way, the attacks on the plan are Rovian in the most diabolical sense – they take the strength of the plan, and try to turn it into a weakness.

[Image by Aaron Edwards licensed under Creative Commons.]

Yglesias: “Progressive politics at its best isn’t about bigger government but about attacking privilege and power.”

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Matt Yglesias tells the story of “Ted Kennedy: Deregulator” – and takes away about the conclusion I expected:

The moral of the story isn’t that “regulation is bad” but that progressive politics at its best isn’t about bigger government but about attacking privilege and power. At times that requires more government and more regulation (right now we badly need more regulation of polluters whose carbon dioxide emissions are threatening the viability of the planet) but at times the forces of privilege and power are using existing regulatory structures to re-enforce their own position. Kennedy, rightly, saw no contradiction between his record as a deregulator and his record as a champion of the little guy. [my emphasis]

Yglesias has made the point – and I think he’s right – that right wingers since Reagan have been more ideological than any left wing equivalent. Yglesias – echoing an influential article by Jonathan Chait from a few years ago – attributes this right wing tendendcy towards ideological thinking to the fact that right wingers see government as an inherently bad thing – and oppose many government interventions simply because they are government interventions. Liberals, progressives, and leftists of various sorts also oppose many government interventions; and they support some government interventions; and they believe it oftentimes is worth trying a program to see if it will work rather than sullenly tell everyone that, “The world is as it is,” and there’s nothing to do about it. In this way, they are pragmatists.  (Not all of them – Communists for example believe the state must control the economy and thus are the ideological equivalent of the far right wing. But Communists have little to no role in the leftist movements in America, except in the imagination of the right wing.)

Though conservatives and right wingers like to suggest that Obama or other liberals simply want to have the government controlling everything – and see this as his hidden agenda – they make the mistake of imputing on liberals and other leftists the opposite of their ideology rather than the more subtle goals of liberalism – which are inherently pragmatic and moderate.

Brief Thoughts for the Week of 2009-08-28

Friday, August 28th, 2009
  • To top off today listening to Steve Marlsberg is too much "Everything about Barack Hussein Obama is fiction!" he says, enunciating each word #
  • Workers using up to 20% of their time at work surfing the web for leisure are 9% more productive, than those who don’t. http://xurl.jp/762a #
  • Finally a trivia question: Which Congressman/Senator had the first congressional website? #
  • Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die…” http://2parse.com/?p=3861 #
  • I hate the changes I need to make when retweeting someone's statement to fit enough characters to use their name – and "RT" #
  • RT @ezraklein Need program that locks me out of Gmail except at 30-min intervals. Think that program's "self-control" but my version's buggy #
  • For anyone out there who has ever asked for help with computer problems: http://xkcd.com/627/ #xkcd #
  • Chlamydia helps young men feel more 'manly': Swedish study http://www.thelocal.se/21622/20090822/ #

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TownHall.com Considers Its Readers Gullible Idiots

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I suppose it’s pretty clear from some of my posts that I subscribe to TownHall.com’s email updates. One thing that puzzles me is the sheer number and seeming shady-ness of the “investment opportunities” that TownHall sends out. You have to wonder what they think of their audience as they send out these quasi-scamming get-rich schemes every week. It makes you look at their political posts – which likewise seem to be geared towards gullible idiots – a bit differently. I mean – if you’re willing to mislead your readers, who have trusted you with their email address, with shady get-rich quick schemes offering “exclusive information” (sent out to millions no doubt) – and your readers put up with it – it creates a rather odd dynamic. I can’t imagine a liberal site getting away with any similar.

To see what I’m talking about, here’s an email I got this morning. (All links have been diluted with a rel=”nofollow” tag to make sure I don’t give this site a boost.)

Having trouble viewing this? Click here

Attention Investor,

I just received a phone call about an hour ago that changed my perspective on some little-known market news on gold stocks. That’s why I’m writing you…I want you to be the first to know that gold stocks are outperforming stocks in other sectors…and let you know why they are headed up.

The call was from Dr. Willem Fuchter. He’s the renowned mining consultant who’s currently the CEO of Constitution Mining Corp. (CMIN.OB). He told me about a promising new development plan for their massive Gold Sands project…and it’s groundbreaking news that I thought you needed to know about before it hits the press.

Initial estimates from the already large discovery suggested that the property potentially held upwards of50 million ounces of gold…worth an amazing $46 billion.

But the most recent tests now indicate that there could be even more.

In fact, Constitution Mining could be looking at 100 million ounces of gold…which would make this the largest gold strike in modern history. This is an impressive bit of news for investors!

It could potentially turn a $10,000 investment into $431,000.

As you may know, I am a former executive in various departments, including foreign exchange and derivative settlement markets, with the legendary Switzerland-based investment giant Credit Suisse.

For more than 30 years, I’ve been privy to the closely guarded fortune-building and asset-protection secrets in the highest levels of Swiss investment banking. These strategies have helped the world’s wealthiest people grow even wealthier.

And that’s why when Dr. Fuchter called me, I wanted to immediately notify you about our conversation, because…

I think Constitution Mining Corp. (CMIN.OB) could skyrocket!

Dr. Fuchter revealed that the company received permits to proceed with the Gold Sands drill program, indicating the exceptional economic potential of the company…

Potential that could turn $10,000 into a 6-figure fortune within 12 to 24 months.

Read that again: A potential 6-figure fortune within 12 to 24 months

Analysts now estimate that, because of a breakthrough technology, Constitution Mining may actually be able to pull a mind-boggling 100 million ounces of gold—worth $92 billion—from the deposit. In other words, this isn’t potentially just one of the largest gold deposits ever discovered in South America—it could be one of the largest in the world!

Thanks to high-tech mining dredgers, Constitution Mining can now extract billions of dollars worth of gold for just $185 per ounce. And when gold is selling for around $900 that makes mining this site very profitable indeed!

Once in place, these dredgers should allow Constitution Mining to extract an astonishing 2.26 million ounces of gold worth $1.616 billion from the Marañón River in just 6 months.

And right now, this company’s market cap is a mere $50 million. Just imagine what’s going to happen to its stock once word gets out. Even if Constitution Mining is only able to mine half as much gold as I expect, its share price could still soar in a matter of months.

Just how high? Well…

Thanks to billions and billions in bailout money that have been pumped into the economy…plus Obama’s $1.845 trillion deficit…and his $3.5 trillion budget…we’re heading for double-digit inflation.

And you know what that means: Investors are going to be flocking to gold and gold stocks, and both could move to record highs in the next 12 to 24 months.

It’s even more serious than the inflation we suffered under the Carter administration…and the profits could be even greater than what smart investors made in the 1980 gold spike.

No wonder Merrill Lynch is predicting that gold will jump another 50% to $1,500 in the next 12 to 15 months. Citigroup is predicting $2,000 gold and USB is forecasting $2,500.

But the word from my sources in Zurich is that gold could rise to an incredible $3,000…and that’s why the world’s investment elite are buying it hand over fist right now.

When this amazing spike happens, “Dr. Fuchter” and “Constitution Mining” are two names you’re going to be glad you heard about today.

So your next question is probably about how much money, exactly, you could make in profits. I’m telling you this…

I see Constitution Mining’s epic gold discovery as having great potential to helping you make back everything you may have lost in the past 17 months.

I’ve seen it happen before with Seabridge Gold (AMEX: SA), which my inner circle recommended and invested in at $0.50 a share…only to see it soar to $39.50 over the next 4 years. That was enough to turn every $10,000 invested into $790,000!

And now Constitution Mining’s promising gold strike has the potential to double your wealth in a matter of months.

Let me tell you about the 3 most likely scenarios and how much money we’re talking about…

Scenario #1 could turn $10,000 into $269,400

Results from 500 holes drilled at the Constitution Mining site indicate a discovery that could be in the range of 100 million ounces. But even if it turns out to be just 1.4 million ounces—or 1.4% of the projected total—you could still make more than 25 times your money.

With gold selling at $900 an ounce, a 1.4 million-ounce discovery could generate $1.26 billion in revenue. Subtract the cost of extracting the gold—$185 per ounce, or about $259 million—and Constitution Mining would still be left with an amazing $1.001 billion.

Divide that by the 75 million outstanding shares and the share price could equal $13.47 per share!

That’s a 2,594% return…enough to potentially turn your $10,000 investment into $269,400! Best of all, we could see this kind of price explosion within 12 months.

You may be thinking that sounds impossible, I know. But recall, early investors in Kinross Gold, before its 1984 Fort Knox discovery, made 20 times their money as the stock soared 2,075% once the discovery became public knowledge.

And that wasn’t even the most profitable of the big gold strikes. After Barrick Gold discovered its famous 15-million-ounce mine in 1987…early-bird investors made an unbelievable 12,440% on their money,turning $10,000 into $1,254,000.

Now it could be your turn.

Take a look at Scenario #2, and a surprise revelation
that could turn $10,000 into $431,000…

The exploratory drilling on the site went down 32 meters, and the gold grades got richer every step of the way.

But in this case, the drills never reached the bedrock that underlies all gold sands deposits—and nobody knew for sure just how far the gold sands could go.

Well all that’s changed. You see, during my extensive research, I met a contractor named Hugo Romero who had done some relocation contract work for Petrex S.A., a Peruvian oil company, back in the early 2000s.

Mr. Romero was part of a crew whose job it was to bury a pipeline running through a portion of the Gold Sands district that crosses under the Marañón River.

The pipe was laid at a depth of 54 meters—almost twice as deep as the drill sites—and it was still in the Gold Sands, with no bedrock in sight.

This revelation makes it highly likely that Constitution Mining will be able to pull gold from much deeper than previously thought. And it gives me the confidence I need to consider it likely that the find will expand to at least 2.26 million ounces worth a whopping $2,034,000,000.

Subtract the $418,100,000 cost of extracting the gold…and that leaves Constitution Mining with a potential profit of $1.616 billion worth of gold!

Divide that $1.616 billion by 75 million shares and you could be looking at $21.55 per share—an astonishing gain of 4,210%!

That’s good enough to turn $10,000 into a potentially eye-popping $431,000! And again, it could happen in a matter of months.

When the time comes that the share price hits $13 or $14, I recommend pulling some of your profits off the table—but it also makes good sense to leave a portion of your money in play whenever the odds of success are so high.

But let’s look at my worst-case scenario for a moment. You’ll be glad to know it’s still enough to make more than 10 times your money!

Because Scenario #3 could still turn $10,000 into $133,466!

So for this worst-case projection, let’s assume for a moment that I’m wrong about the size of Constitution Mining’s discovery, and that it’s actually less than 1% of the 100 million ounces that are projected.

That would be 700,000 ounces of gold in all. And with gold selling for $900 an ounce, a 700,000-ounce discovery will generate $630 million in revenue. Subtract the $185 per-ounce cost of extraction ($129.5 million) and Constitution Mining could get $550 million.

Divide that $550 million by 75 million shares outstanding, and Constitution Mining’s share price could climb to $6.67 per share…for a potential gain of $1,234%!

And that’s how your $10,000 could turn into an astonishing $133,466.

Then, if gold goes to $2,000…that will more than double my estimates…and the amount of profits you could take away.

My calculations assume a gold price of $900 an ounce. For example, with $2,000 gold in Scenario #2, the share price could skyrocket to $54.69—which could potentially turn your $10,000 into $1,093,800.

That means you could become a millionaire practically overnight.

Are you beginning to see why I consider Constitution Mining to be my #1 gold stock for 2009–2010…and why I’ve recommended it to our wealthiest clients across the globe?

Now it’s your turn.

To profit with Constitution Mining, you need to get in now

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the results of my research with my extensive network of Swiss investment bankers who are all hungry for a great gold stock.

And they will be getting their own clients into this stock. Because these investment bankers are looking for real value backed up with real numbers.

And once word gets out that big money is moving into Constitution Mining, the stock price will start to move.

Now, let me tell you that when I first got wind of Constitution Mining, my natural skepticism kicked in. Why? Because my philosophy from years in Swiss banking is “Never trust, but verify.”

I’ve heard plenty of hot air from emerging companies before, and I wasn’t about to be seduced by a sales pitch.

But then I took a closer look at the information…and that’s why I form independent teams and only recommend stocks periodically because of the extensive research I do. We’re looking for the grand slam and that makes everyone involved feel like standing up and clapping.

Even better, my team, made up of independent geologists, including Dr. Vicente Méndez, made several trips to the mining site itself to check things out firsthand.

We’ve done our homework.

I have a stack of paper on my desk right now that’s 2 feet tall—and it’s all the research I’ve done on Constitution Mining…

Notes on the dozens of conversations I’ve had with mining engineers, geologists and even a one-on-one interview with Peru’s ambassador to Switzerland, Elizabeth Astete Rodriguez (excerpts of which appear in the pages of my Swiss Confidential newsletter that I’ll tell you more about in a moment).

In addition, I have the results of the 500 exploration holes that were drilled on the site…and a report from Sojuzkarta, the independent consulting firm based in Russia that audited and confirmed these results…

Plus, I have legal documents confirming that Constitution Mining has ownership of the site and the required permits to move forward with their development project…

You need to know about all of this. That’s why I’ve posted more free information and in-depth analysis on my website. Just go to www.SwissCrisisKit.com to review it now.

I’ve also prepared a Special Report that hits all the highlights from my research and reveals all the key reasons why I’m so high on this company. It’s titled Constitution Mining: My #1 Gold Stock for 2009–2010 (a $19.95 value) and it’s yours free when you subscribe for 1 year to my monthly Swiss Confidential newsletter. In addition, you’ll receive the 2009–2010 Obama Crisis Kit that I’m giving away to introduce you to my service.

My new 2009–2010 Obama Crisis Kit—a $98.85 value—will bring you the peace of mind that comes with protecting and growing your wealth in the months and years ahead. I’ll send it to you absolutely FREE when you subscribe to my online monthly newsletter Swiss Confidential for just $77 for 12 issues—that’s 50% off the regular subscription price of $154. This is a total value of $252.85 for just $77. Find out more on my website, www.SwissCrisisKit.com.

Because now is not the time to sit on the sidelines…or waste your money on the wrong sector of stocks.

With the global financial turmoil that’s in full swing, you need sound analysis and investment advice you can count on. That’s why I’ve published the 2009–2010 Obama Crisis Kit in the first place.

You’ll get all the tools you need right now to begin rebuilding your wealth over the next 12 to 24 months…in spite of this economic crisis and the outrageous double-digit inflation that lies ahead.

When it comes to Constitution Mining, you don’t want to miss a single critical news alert—and as a subscriber to my newsletter, you won’t. Just go to www.SwissCrisisKit.com to learn more.

I urge you to take a closer look at Constitution Mining Corp. (CMIN.OB) and make your investment early, while there’s still time to get in on the ground floor. Then follow my buy, sell and hold recommendations for the stock, which will appear in my publication.

In the meantime, be sure to examine the in-depth information about the stock posted on my website atwww.SwissCrisisKit.com.

Then what you should consider is going online or calling your discount broker to invest in Constitution Mining Corp. (CMIN.OB).

Because as soon as gold starts pouring out of that mine, the game is going to change and the herd will be stampeding to get in on the action.

There’s no time to lose. Don’t miss out on the sky-high profit potential that Constitution Mining presents…because it’s your best opportunity now to potentially turn your $10,000 investment into a 6-figure fortune.

Sending you my best from Switzerland,

Scott Smith
Scott Smith
Editor, Scott Smith’s Swiss Confidential

P.S. To learn more about Constitution Mining and get your FREE 2009–2010 Obama Crisis Kit, log on to www.SwissCrisisKit.com now.

Disclaimer

Remembering Ted Kennedy: “He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.”

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The tributes have obviously been coming in. The conclusion seems to be the same one I would have come to before: that Ted Kennedy was a great, but flawed man – and like all men and women, he should be celebrated, without tears for the good he did in his life.

Here’s a few articles worth reading:

In Timothy Noah’s Slate piece he declares Ted Kennedy, “The Kennedy who most changed America.”

George F. Will argues much the same thing in a piece that reminds me of his greatness as a columnist, despite all of his bitter distortions on climate change:

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts’ greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

Joe Klein meanwhile explains “how Ted Kennedy found himself” in a personal remembrance of the man he knew for many years.

Michael Tomasky writes in the Guardian in his moving piece:

One would be hard pressed to argue that Ted Kennedy’s death was a more bitter pill for the country than the deaths of his brothers before him – John, the young president whose assassination gave Americans a hard warning about the violent age they were about to enter, or Robert, the presidential aspirant who was thought at the time to be the last leader in America who might have been able to help the nation transcend that violence.

Nevertheless, the heavens have somehow conspired to make this Kennedy death, however expected it might have been, nearly as heartbreaking as those of his vigorous younger brothers.

Charles P. Pierce writes in a long piece about Ted Kennedy’s life and career about how the events in Chappaquiddick shortly before the first man landed on the moon affected the rest of Senator Ted Kennedy’s career:

She’s always there. Even if she doesn’t fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy’s anguished appeals to the country’s better angels. He was forced from the rhetoric of moral outrage and into the incremental nitty-gritty of social justice. He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous…

And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die…”

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Last night, Senator Ted Kennedy died.

His brothers had come to symbolize the height of the liberal era of the 1960s – the hope and promise of a forward-looking America, the almost-mythical consensus and unity that existed in the early 1960s and the most promising side of the radicalism that came later in that decade. Both were gunned down – promise unfulfilled.

But Ted Kennedy lived on – and came into his own – as a stalwart liberal voice against a growing right wing tide. He was seen as uncompromising, but he was already ready to deal with the opposition; he was a master of the Senate, its second longest serving member; he was passionate in his causes; but most importantly, he was a liberal. He remained a proud liberal all of his life, a public liberal; he continued to speak about the poor and the oppressed even after it was no longer fashionable; he preached about a moral society.

His most prominent years were as a voice of opposition – but last year, he seemed to finally inaugurate the coming progressive era, the swinging of the pendulum back that has long been a characteristic of American history. His pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama was one of the campaign’s turning points – and his conveyance of the mantle of the Kennedys onto Obama fraught with symbolic meaning. It was said by many older liberals that Barack Obama’s 2008 run was in a sense the completion of Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign – as Obama finally inaugurated a pragmatically progressive era that Bobby Kennedy had been working towards, that Ted Kennedy had been working towards – and that finally, Obama had the courage and the vision and the luck to call forth.

When Teddy Kennedy ran for the presidency against the incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, he ran as an unabashed liberal in a long, drawn-out campaign. He finally conceded and endorsed Carter with this tribute to the American people and to liberalism itself, which could as easily serve as his own eulogy:

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

“I am a part of all that I have met….
Tho much is taken, much abides….
That which we are, we are–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
…strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

[First image by jonathanpberger licensed under Creative Commons; second image not subject to copyright.]

John McCain’s Cowardly Politics

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Senator John McCain established his reputation as a “maverick” in a large part for the bold positions he staked out in the 2000 campaign on long-term problems affecting our nation. That was his trademarked, “Straight Talk.” He was one of the few politicians out there who would tell you how much trouble Social Security and Medicare were in. But under the Obama administration and to a lesser extent throughout his career, McCain has gained great credibility and popularity by taking very strong, responsible positions on long-term issues – while finding some minor excuse to oppose any attempts at reform that cost him politically.

But the Obama administration apparently still continues to hope to meet the McCain who was often invoked, though rarely seen, in the 2008 campaign – the “maverick” with an interest in “bipartisanship” who “puts country first.”*

McCain’s 11th Sunday morning talk show appearance this year occurred this Sunday, as he  appeared on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. Chris Cilizza of theWashington Post said he expected the interview to be “Must Watch TV” – and in fact, it was – as McCain demonstrated a phenomenon I call “the politics of irresponsible responsibility.”

In his interview with Stephanopoulos, McCain talked like a moderate on domestic policy issues – but managed to find a single or dual objection that allowed him to obstruct Obama’s agenda on every issue. The two-step would go like this: “Yes, [fill-in-the-blank] is a serious issue. I am in favor of reform. We need to do something right away. But Obama’s plan is missing [fill-in-another-blank] so I will fight to stop this effort at reform.”

  • On Guantanamo Bay, McCain agrees that the prison should be closed – and soon – but opposes the Obama administration’s attempts to do so because he doesn’t think they “have an overall policy developed.”
  • On the stimulus package, he does not deny that there was a need for government spending to stimulate the economy, but nevertheless opposed it because there was pork spending in it.
  • On cap and trade, he agrees that climate change is real and serious and the government must act – but opposes every action proposed because they don’t include support for nuclear energy (and beyond that, he presumes that the bill must contain large amounts of pork spending).
  • And then on health care, he supports reform – and knows we need it – but he opposes every reform on the table because of the public option.
  • He believes we need to “reform Medicare” to cut trillions in costs, but he demagogues Obama’s proposal to create a board that studies the effectiveness of treatments as a common-sense measure to restrain spending as “not quote death panels” exactly – but certainly something scary.

As George Stephanopoulos pointed out, John McCain – despite his rhetoric – has hewed more closely to partisan positions this year than at any point in his career – even after he called on his supporters to support Obama in his concession speech:

McCain had an explanation for his increasingly partisan record: “It’s been some of the issues.” Though he claims to see the need for reform and take the issues seriously, he’s not willing to pay the political cost of getting serious. In this McCain represents – perhaps better than any politician – the politics of irresponsible responsibility. Like another “respected,” “serious,” “moderate” Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley, McCain will work to get his ideas into legislation, but will demagogue and oppose even a bill he agrees with if he believes if will cost him support among the Republican base.  He talks about serious issues affecting our nation – and boldly states the problems in stark terms. But his boldness evaporates when he is asked to take an immediate position. Guantanamo should be closed, he agrees; but take a step towards doing so, and his long-term conviction does not restrain him from attacking what is being done to close it. Climate change is real and serious – on this he agrees with the Obama administration; but he will oppose any steps towards reform if they don’t include his pet ideas of nuclear energy and pork barrel spending. It’s a low cost way to kneecap reform while maintaining the mantle of a reformer.

This is not a courageous position. And it demonstrates the inadequacy of our current political conversation. When the most powerful people in the Republican Party blatantly lie about issues – and those who are “responsible” and “moderate” find any excuse to avoid dealing with the issues they say are essential, any attempts to deal with the systematic problems facing our nation will falter. And we face no shortage of problems – built up over decades of avoiding them – climate change; economic growth dependent on bubbles; our deteriorating health insurance and transportation  systems; our long-term deficit and the looming entitlement crisis; our economic imbalance with Japan and China – the list goes on.

A courageous politician, a maverick would take a stand in favor of responsible reform – and not seek to obstruct every effort as Senator McCain has done. His actions are not that of a maverick or reformer – but of a coward.

*On one set of issues, McCain has lived up to his reputation. Like most public officials are, McCain is treated as an expert on any policy matter before the Senate – but his interviews and various statements in the past demonstrate that McCain is no expert on foreign policy or domestic policy issues. The area where McCain has shown expertise is the military components of national security. On everything else, he seems a bit lost – jumping from one talking point to another – like a more seasoned version of Sarah Palin.

[Image by marcn licensed under Creative Commons.]

“Fixing” The National Conversation

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Obama with correspondence

Ezra Klein gives his dispiriting prognosis of the health care reform debate:

[E]ven if…the media has made some admirable efforts to combat specific lies, they — we — have allowed lies and chaos to emerge as the subject of the health-care reform debate.

He writes this while pointing out that more than half of polled Americans believe that the plans at issue now would amount to a “government takeover of health care” and would give coverage to illegals – despite the fact that both are untrue. Large percentages of Americans likewise believe that it would lead to government-financed abortions and the government “pulling the plug on grandma.”

What this suggests is that our national conversation truly is broken – that once you go negative enough, and negative consistently – you will have won. This obviously creates rather perverse incentives and leads to a system in which only changes that can be passed quickly – and without opposition from entrenched forces – will be effected. It would be a system in which only those regulations and reforms and changes that have concentrated benefits for a minority and disperse costs on the majority will pass. That’s basically the system we have now – as people from most ideologies can recognize.

But there are a few glimmers of hope. Barack Obama was the object of such a campaign of lies – but he still won a majority. And it must be true that the same tactics used repeatedly have a diminished effect.

I would argue though that the best way to “fix” the national conversation at this point would be for the Democrats to pass a health care bill with every demagogued position, make sure it would benefit a large majority of Americans in clear ways, make the implementation transparent, and let the lies meet the truth of the legislation passed. Once our politics takes this into account – that lies can be proven false by action and transparency – this particular tactic will no longer be effective.

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Governor Rick Perry Lies to Voters As He Prepares for a National Race

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Emily Asfahini Smith interviewed Governor Rick Perry of Texas for the Wall Street Journal editorial board over the weekend. Governor Perry made very clear in the interview – by his positioning – that he’s planning on making a jump to the national stage. He’s probably the candidate most motivated to bring libertarians back into the Republican fold – referencing Hayek here and blaming the Republicans’ problems on not remaining true to their values – of which he says fiscal conservatism is the core:

They spent too much money. They acted like Democrats.

It’s a funny thing to say, if typical. The freest spending presidencies in recent memory have been George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. The most fiscally responsible have been Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush (who lost the Republican base for responsibly raising taxes), and Jimmy Carter. It’s not so much fiscal conservatism that is the heart of the Republican party as deficit politics – the game the Baby Boomers have played regarding spending and taxing.

There’s a great moment in the interview though that is so typical of the absolute asininity of the Republican positioning on health care. He “explains” the bill’s position on end of life issues as this:

You’re a little too old to be spending money on, so we’re just going to put you over here in the ‘gonna die’ category. ‘Bye.’ That’s pretty gruesome and scary to people that are my mom and dad’s age.

But his next line is about how:

To talk about health-care reform and not talk about tort reform is like whistling past the cemetery…

So, his message is: Obama’s going to put my mom and dad in the “gonna die” category – and on top of that, there’s no tort reform in the bill! Imagine the insane mental leap required for a man to go directly from one of these subjects to another. Clearly, the charges of forced euthanasia aren’t meant to be taken seriously – even by those promoting them like Governor Perry. Of course, this isn’t news. But it’s worth calling out by name each lie I come across, so when it is time for voters to evaluate them again, they remember the many lies they were told.

[Image by Bonzo McGrue licensed under Creative Commons.]