The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Posts Tagged ‘obama’

The Alternative Reality of the Right

Posted by Bill Nance on April 24, 2010

Anonymous Liberal just posted an article that’s so completely descriptive of the complete abdication of any reality-based arguments on the right that I thought I should re-post it in toto here.

This is the first post I’ve written since last November. Part of what drove me to take a break from writing about politics was a growing realization that the Great Conversation in this country had completely ceased, that the various sides were no longer speaking the same language, like dialects that have–over time–drifted so far apart that they are no longer mutually intelligible. Watching Fox News and Tea Party rallies, it became apparent to me that the right wing in this country had severed the few remaining ties it had to the world I live in, the empirical world.

In its place, the Right has constructed its own Bubble World, a sort of political Truman Show complete with its own facts and rules (albeit facts and rules that are constantly changing based on political expediency). The writers, directors, and actors in this conservative version of Seahaven are the legions of GOP politicians, operatives, and conservative media outlets that relentlessly push this politically expedient alternative reality, and the Trumans are the millions of regular Americans who don’t realize the joke is on them.

In this Bubble World, it is an accepted truth that our President is a bumbling ignoramus who can only string together a coherent sentence if he uses a teleprompter (which, apparently, other politicians don’t use). I can understand a world in which Obama’s political opponents mock him as a being too professorial or out-of-touch or arrogant. But unintelligent? Inarticulate? I don’t know how to deal with that. It’s like mocking John Boehner for being pale.

Similarly, it is an accepted fact in the Bubble World that Obama is an extreme liberal, if not an outright socialist or communist. According to Newt Gingrich, Obama is “the most radical president in American history.” Again, I just don’t know how to deal with that. This is a guy who, at every point in his political career, has gone out of his way to position himself as a moderate, as a pragmatic technocrat. Since taking office, he has not, as far as I can tell, made a single policy decision that can fairly be described as liberal, much less radical. The only significant pieces of legislation he’s passed are a stimulus package that nearly every economist endorsed and a health care reform bill modeled on Romney-care (which, while better than nothing, is nowhere close to the kind of bill most liberals–much less a communists or socialists–would have crafted).

In Bubble World, there is a movement known as the Tea Party, whose members are simultaneously incensed about the size of the deficit and the fact that they have to pay taxes (even though they have the lowest tax rates in the free world and just got significant tax cuts–from Obama–in the past year). Moreover, they’re not angry at the party that built the deficit–by starting wars and giving massive tax cuts to people who are much richer than them–or that presided, just recently, over the near collapse of the economy. But they are furious at the party that just recently took the reins, inheriting both a crumbling economy and massive deficit. And if they had their way, they would put back in power a party whose only policy idea is, that’s right, cutting taxes; which, of course, would only make the deficit much worse.

But not in Bubble World. In Bubble World, cutting taxes actually raises revenue. In Bubble World, “the market” will magically solve all of our health care problems and true “freedom” is defined by one’s ability to be denied health coverage for pre-existing conditions. And in Bubble World, a set of sensible and long-overdue financial regulations designed to prevent another meltdown of the economy and foreclose any future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street is actually a “permanent bailout bill.”

In this alternative universe, the facts are literally whatever the political consultants say they should be. Whatever resonates with the focus group. If you’re working on behalf of Wall Street lobbyists to kill a bill that would impose more accountability on Wall Street, you simply accuse those who support the bill of doing Wall Street’s bidding. It doesn’t matter that this is the opposite of the truth and is, in fact, exactly what you’re doing. While these facts might matter to people in the empirical world, the facts in Bubble World are whatever the right wing wants them to be. In Bubble World, Mitch McConnell is bravely protecting the people from the Wall Street bigwigs, not doing the bidding of Wall Street lobbyists.

And that sad reality goes a long way toward explaining why I haven’t been blogging lately. We’ve reached a point where the right wing in this country has achieved complete epistemic closure. Aided by their extensive and growing media apparatus and a traditional media that is uninterested in playing umpire, the Right has managed to escape entirely from the gravitational pull of the empirical world, and in fact, has a created a world of its own, one with a rapidly growing gravitational field that, everyday, pulls in more and more of the unsuspecting and uninformed.

From the comfort of this Bubble World, people like Mitch McConnell can simply say whatever the hell they want to say, no matter how ludicrous, and trust that much of the country will readily accept it as true. As Christof famously says in the Truman Show, “we accept the reality with which we are presented.” And that’s particularly true when that reality is one that is focus-grouped tested to conform with our pre-existing biases and hammered home repeatedly by the folks we rely on to keep us informed (which, for a scary number of people these days, means Fox News and Rush Limbaugh).

From my perch back in the empirical world, I’m just not sure know to deal with this. How do you begin to make your case when there aren’t any mutually accepted facts? How do you convince someone that the people they trust are liars and charlatans? Writing posts trying to correct the record and dispel misinformation can at times feel about as pointless as trying to bail water out of the ocean.

I had high hopes after the thumping the Republicans took in 2006 and 2008 that we had finally turned a corner, that the cracks were beginning to show in Bubble World and the empirical world was slowly re-exerting its influence. I got the feeling that more and more people who had been stuck in the bubble were beginning to sense that something just wasn’t right.

But I was wrong. Freed from the burden of any actual governing responsibility, the GOP has been free to devote all of its efforts to reconstructing their Bubble World. And they’ve been largely successful. An entire movement has formed that is based, almost entirely, on confusion and mis-directed anger, a movement that sees the world only through the lens of Fox News and other right wing outlets. The Tea Party is an army of Trumans, a movement of people who have whole-heartedly embraced the false reality with which they’ve been presented.

The central dilemma for those us left in the empirical world is how to puncture the bubble. What can we do to make facts once again relevant? What can be done to dis-incentivize the kind of lying and reality denial that has become the hallmark of the modern conservative movement? I can’t say that I have answers to these questions, but I’m pretty confident that these are THE questions that we should be asking. Policy debates are great, but only when they take place in the empirical world. If a majority of Americans aren’t living in that world, then such debates risk becoming purely academic exercises.

One would be hard-pressed to find a better better description of what’s been going on with the right wing in this country over the last 18 months.

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Posted in Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Obama Still Sneaking Smokes

Posted by Bill Nance on January 10, 2009

From 23/6:

Bringing hope and change is stressful stuff, and if courting emphysema helps President Obama fix the economy and tame Pakistan, then he should light up. In fact, we believe the Surgeon General should designate a special warning just for Obama.

Posted in Barack Obama, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bill Richardson Bows Out. Should We Care?

Posted by Bill Nance on January 4, 2009

It looks as this will be the first genuine scandal of the Obama administration, if only a vicarious one.

NM Governor Bill Richardson, Obama’s designate for Secretary of Commerce has bowed out due to an ongoing federal investigation of corruption relating to his administration’s dealings in New Mexico.

But really, do we care?

I’ve never been impressed with Richardson. He’s a Clintonista of the first degree, and like Bill, has a reputation for being all too willing to “go along to get along.” -Often at the expense of actually accomplishing things. In his tenure as Energy Secretary in the Clinton Administration he hardly distinguished himself, contributing at least peripherally to the Wen Ho Lee espionage debacle, and was widely accused of having seriously botched security in the department’s programs.

The left loves him, but I don’t see where he’s actually accomplished anything of significance.

More importantly, Richardson failed to disclose the investigation to the transition team, which seems to me, a sin of the highest order, given Obama’s obvious desire not to have scandal hindering him in the early months of his administration.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Another kool-aid drinker calls Bush’s public speaking: “An excellent model.”

Posted by Bill Nance on November 11, 2008

This statement from John H. Hinderaker defies belief:

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly.

Oh, but it gets better. You see Hinderaker is referring to this article, appearing in the Rev. Moon’s wholly-owned newspaper, The Washington Times, which claims Obama may have promised Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski that the U.S. would continue to deploy a missile shield in that country. Apparently Kaczynski posted this claim on his website. Obama staffers vociferously denied the claim, and sure enough:

WARSAW, Poland:The Polish president’s office backtracked Sunday on a previous claim that U.S. president-elect Barack Obama had promised Poland to continue the Bush administration’s multibillion-dollar missile defense program.

Presidential aide Michal Kaminski said Obama “made no declaration on missile defense.” But Kaminski did not explain why Polish President Lech Kaczynski had claimed Saturday that Obama told him “the missile defense project would continue.”

In an interview on TVN24 news Sunday, Kaminski said Kaczynski and Obama talked on the phone late Friday about Polish-U.S. military cooperation, but that Obama “did not make any promises specifically regarding the shield.”

So let’s gt this straight. No doubt Obama made noises about continuing close ties with Poland, but the man who has been notably one of the more cautious U.S. politicians in decades claims he made no specific promises. Poland’s president personally throws something up on his blog, which his own staff quickly retracts, and this is supposed to show what a great model Geroge Bush should be?

Seriously?

The Bush Administration, mercifully only a few weeks from leaving office, has been a colossal failure on virtually every front. It has committed some of the worst foreign policy blunders on record, wrecked a once thriving economy, tarnished our honor with torture, and with it’s fingers in it’s ears, loudly yelled “la, la, la, I can’t hear you,” every time someone has suggested things weren’t going so well.

But even now, with approval ratings lower than Richard Nixon had when he left office, having left his party a shattered wreck, having alienated an entire generation of Americans from the GOP brand, people have the temerity to defend this twit.

Mr. Hinderaker, you remind me of someone else:

Posted in National Security, News & Analysis, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A sad truth

Posted by Bill Nance on October 20, 2008

No matter who wins the Presidential election, one thing is almost certain: More gun control.

It’s all but guaranteed that the Democrats will have at least 58 seats in the U.S. Senate and it’s looking increasingly likely they will manage a  full 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority.

That means there they only have to pick up four Senate Republican votes to override a veto. The two independent votes, Lieberman I -CT and Sanders I -VT  will almost certainly vote for a Brady-like gun ban given the chance.

There are plenty of Republican Senators from mostly urban states who would vote for more gun control, so I see virtually no situation that will avoid the issue.

There are two possibilities:

  1. The law we get will be slightly less arbitrary and stupid (Only relatively, the whole idea of more laws when there’s thousands on the books that never get enforced is just stupid).
  2. The law will be as restrictive or more so than the first Brady bill (Gun confiscation is not going to happen, 5th Amendment + Heller, I’m going for it. That’s a paranoid fantasy).

On the face of it, I’d say a McCain victory would seem more likely to avoid more gun laws, but I think a veto would just get an override, and could result in worse legislation than we’d get with Obama.

Obama could actually do a better job on this issue, though I have more than a few doubts. Here’s why:

Aside from the ideologues like Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, Democrats remember the results of the Brady bill. It was one of the signature issues that lost the Dems control of the congress in ’94. Barack Obama may be many things, but stupid is not one of them. I think he’s well aware of the screwups of 1993. He may well be able to substantially moderate the gun-phobes inclination for making gun-owner’s lives miserable. It has not been a signature issue for him and I think he’s bright enough not to mess with side-issues when there are much bigger fish to fry.

There’s no guarantee. His legislative career does not speak well for him on this issue at all. On the other hand, he represented a highly unfriendly-to-gun State. Like any politician, he may have largely gone with popular sentiment.

The other issue that’s different from 1992 is Heller vs District of Columbia. However much some people may like to call attention to it’s limited ruling, it was very clearly and specifically not the end of the issue. The court left the possibilities for more challenges to restrictive gun laws wide open. Obama, (And I think plenty of Democrats in congress) cannot lightly ignore that ruling

McCain would almost certainly veto any new attempts at a Brady bill. But he would just as likely be overridden by an emboldened congress generally pissed-off over the election results. Obama on the other hand, might be able to successfully ride herd on the members of his own party. (One hopes, though I’m deeply skeptical).

As someone who is very excited to get back into my hobby of shooting (Including the nasty scary “assault weapons,”) I’m deeply troubled by the gun-control issue. I have not drunk the Obama Kool-Aid™. I’m voting Obama with eyes wide-open, just as some McCain supporters are pro-choice. But on the other hand, I honestly see little hope of avoiding more Federal meddling with my Second Amendment rights no matter who wins the White House.

Ironically, the guy in the race who has the worst record on gun-control may have the best chances of stopping at least the most egregious attempts by urbanites in Congress to criminalize millions of law-abiding citizens.

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Guns Dammit!, John McCain, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Georgia: Both candidates get it wrong

Posted by Bill Nance on October 1, 2008

As I’ve written in this blog repeatedly, the recent Russian invasion of Georgia is a lot more complicated than most Americans seem to grasp.

But here’s something that’s not complicated to grasp:

Russia invaded in response to a well-telegraphed and poorly carried out attempt by Georgia to wrest back separatist South Ossetia, which was at the time, occupied by Russian “peacekeepers.”

I’m not excusing the Russian response, but let there be no mistake, that response was not unprovoked aggression. To pretend anything else is willful ignorance. The Georgians took military action against what the Russians consider a client state (regardless of the rightness or wrongness of it) and the Russians pounded them in reply.

Now both Presidential Candidates are making noises about making Georgia into a NATO ally.

Are they BOTH fucking insane?

Article Five of the North Atlantic Treaty calls for mutual military assistance. Specifically:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakhashvili rolled the dice and lost badly. Had he rolled those dice as a NATO ally, the United States would have been obligated to go to war with a country with thousands of nuclear warheads.

I’m all for expanding NATO. It provides mutual security and helps to bring Eastern European countries into the family of free-market democracies. But potential NATO allies need to first demonstrate that they aren’t likely to start world war three in a fit of pique. To even consider Georgia for membership after the predictably stupid move it made a month ago is beyond foolish and naive. It’s criminally irresponsible.

And for what it’s worth, our NATO allies will politely tell us to get stuffed if we try to railroad them into it. -Thank God.

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Georgia, John McCain, National Security, News & Analysis, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Quote of the Day

Posted by Bill Nance on September 17, 2008

“It’s hard to understand how Senator McCain is going to get us out of this crisis by doing the same things with the same old players… His outrage at Wall Street would be more convincing if he wasn’t offering them more tax cuts.”Barack Obama, Sept 16, 2008

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, John McCain, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama Gets his groove on

Posted by Bill Nance on September 10, 2008

Well thank goodness, the Dems look like they’re not going to just sit silent while the Republicans lie their asses off this campaign season.

The juice:

“Spare me the phony outrage. Spare me the phony knee talk about change,” Obama said at the start of an education event in Virginia. “We have real problems in this country right now. The American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, not diversions, not manipulations. They want real answers to the real problems we are facing.

“I don’t care what they say about me. But I love this country too much to let them take over another election with lies and phony outrage and swift boat politics,” he also said. “Enough is enough.”

The McCain campaign has so far produced not a single serious, substantive policy proposal besides a massive tax cut for the richest people in the country at a time when we’re running near record deficits. They’ve trotted out the “change” mantra, a claim which is ridiculous on it’s face and they have been running non-stop lies in their campaign ads, lies which every major news organization in the country has called them on with documented proof.

This is basic folks. Even if you don’t like Obama much, when it comes to the McCain camp, there is simply “no there there.” All they can do is tell lies.

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Joe Biden, John McCain, Politics, Sarah Palin | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Candidates and science

Posted by Bill Nance on September 9, 2008

No one would disagree that we are in a new technical age. This requires policy decisions about where to spend research budgets, how best to deal with global warming, balancing between species preservation and development and how best to direct education policy, just to name a few. (I’m not a fan of the feds having ANYTHING to do with education policy, but that’s not the world in which we actually live.).

I’ve already written about the predictably awful performance of a McCain administration with regard to science, but lets expand on that just a bit.

Presidents decide policy. Of course they should have experts advising them all these decisions. (We’re hiring a chief-executive not university department head.). Still, some understanding of basic scientific principles is needed just as a bullshit filter if nothing else. And of course in this day and age hiring a technophobe is probably a poor choice.

So I have a question that I would like to be put to each of the Presidential candidates. A question any college sophomore should be able to answer:

Can you give us your understanding of the what the scientific method consists of, and the difference between a scientific theory and an opinion?

Followup: Why is there there a difference between the latter two and why does that difference matter?

I’d be very interested to see if any of the candidates can give a coherent answer to those questions. I’d give you 3-2 odds that none of them could and 20-1 that neither McCain nor Palin could.

*cheat: Wiki has a fairly decent article on the subject

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Joe Biden, John McCain, Politics, Sarah Palin, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A snark just for you

Posted by Bill Nance on September 5, 2008

McCain vs Obama

AKA

The Technophobe vs the Technocrat

Posted in Election 08, humor, Le Snark, Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »