Tag Archives: Pissing off Libertarians

Ron Paul Fans (Like Most Republicans) Have No Business Whining About Todd Akin

By now you have probably become aware of Missouri Senate Candidate and current congressman Todd Akin and his remarks detailing how women cannot become pregnant as a result of a “legitimate” rape (meaning that a pregnancy is actually an indicator that a woman must have enjoyed or consented to the act). Akin has since been roundly condemned by pretty much everyone, including conservatives (excluding hacks like Dana Loesch). There have even been calls by Republicans for him to withdraw from the race, although as of right now it seems that he intends on staying in the race.

Just to remind the pseudo-libertarian Ron Paul followers out there, here is your hero of “individual liberty” basically saying the same thing back in February:

And just to drive home the point, the kindly old doctor douchebag himself also signed onto that idiotic personhood amendment, which reads:

I believe that in order to properly protect the right to life of the vulnerable among us, every human being at every stage of development must be recognized as a person possessing the right to life in federal and state laws without exception and without compromise. I recognize that in cases where a mother’s life is at risk, every effort should be made to save the baby’s life as well; leaving the death of an innocent child as an unintended tragedy rather than an intentional killing.

Ron Paul, like his jackass scion currently serving as the junior Senator from Kentucky, has always had a serious problem with extending his vision of unlimited personal freedom to include a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system.

The current strain of “libertarianism” within the Republican party has always been little more than a facade employed during times when a Democratic President is in charge to distract the narrative-hungry members of the Washington media from the profligate spending and fascist foreign policies of the GOP when they are in power. The same transparently fraudulent argument is repeated because we as a country need for “two sides” to exists to every movement, and calling out one side of an argument as being demonstrably full of shit or evil is considered déclassé. The conservative minds of this country continue to believe (as they always have) that the only “people” who should be free from government control are corporate business interests and religious authority figures, and neither group thinks to fondly of a woman having unregulated control of their vagina.

Todd Akin, Ron Paul, and Paul Ryan have all been champions within the Congress for restricting abortion even in cases of rape and incest, an indefensible and maliciously cruel policy position for anyone to take, much less someone with the power to actually affect legislation. Akin and Ryan also worked during this congressional term to redefine rape (with reference to the limited allowable medicaid reimbursements for abortions) by qualifying the act with the term “forcible”. This means that other forms of non-consensual sex would not be eligible for federally-funded abortion services. The belief that “fake rape” is being frequently used as a excuse to exploit a loophole for a procedure that these men think should never be allowed is widespread amongst the Republican party, even amongst the stalwart defenders of “economic liberty”.

It is time to stop giving these men the benefit of the doubt concerning their records and their own words. The people who are promoting this line of thinking are hypocrites, misogynists, and sadists for wishing anyone to undergo a forced birth. Calling these men “libertarians” or defenders of “liberty” is beyond ironic, it is disgusting.


Vice Presidential Politics And The Myth Of American Individualism

A few weeks ago Mark Shriver appeared on the Colbert Report to promote his new book concerning the accomplishments and life of his Father, former Ambassador and Vice-Presidential candidate Sargent Shriver. If you take the time to check out the specific programs that Shriver either established or headed, you quickly become aware that this was a person who understood what “civic duty” meant. From the excellent article “The Good Works of Sargent Shriver”:

  • His pivotal role in getting John F. Kennedy elected President in 1960;
  • Leading JFK’s “talent hunt,” staffing the cabinet and the upper levels of the Administration;
  • Founding and leading the Peace Corps;
  • Launching Head Start, Legal Services for the Poor, VISTA, and many other programs critical to the War on Poverty;
  • Presiding over the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam;
  • Helping his wife to found the Special Olympics;
  • Cultivating a generation of public servants who will continue to exert a powerful influence on American history for years to come.

I bolded the middle bullet point that the author included because I feel that it specifically highlights the difference in consensus thinking between the previous generation of policy makers and today’s cynical politicians. Those domestic assistance programs do not represent “handouts” or “statism”, nor do they “breed a culture of dependence”. Rather what Sargent Shriver recognized was that all individuals, regardless of their class, require similar forms of support in the pursuit of their own individual aspirations.

One must first accept an essential and inherent equality within all people, a concept which is as egalitarian as it is throughly American. After that it becomes evident that their exists in this society, some rather obvious advantages that only some people receive as a matter of luck, happenstance, or heredity. By requiring the community to provide access to those advantages to all people in society (and funding them in a progressive manner), we actually facilitate the creation of a true meritocracy from which we can all benefit. No individual from the upper class would intentionally deprive their family access to education, legal assistance, nutrition, and shelter out of some desire to strengthen their “individual spirit”. Rather Shriver just sought to extend those same benefits in order to aid in the development of people (who already had considerable raw talent) to do good things for themselves, their families, and for their country.

Unfortunately today’s sorry reality forces us to contrast this optimistic, and yet entirely proven, concept of limited and yet effective government assistance with the insane visions of people who used to be justifiably called demagogues and frauds. Our current Republican candidate for Vice President rejects all of the assertions and successes of fellow Catholic Sargent Shriver, and instead believes that there is a different “path to prosperity”. From the essential Ryan Lizza article on the congressman:

In a 2005 speech to a group of Rand devotees called the Atlas Society, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he told the group. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” To me he was careful to point out that he rejects Rand’s atheism (Ed’s note, this allows Ryan to make an exception regarding concept of the individual in order to maintain his stance that women should not have access to contraception or abortion services)

….

When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.” But independent assessments make clear that Ryan’s budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.

The insanity of course goes beyond just Congressman Ryan and his teenage ramblings about “collectivism” (while collecting a government salary and benefit package). Mitt Romney himself has hilariously carried the famous “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” metaphor into this election despite his own prep-school and tax-payer financed background. The big lie concerning individual capability and drive being the sole tools necessary for success are now mainstream ideas. The immense power of the government is reserved for those who already have the means to thrive, and the rest of us just have to deal with that fact.

The upper class tells us that our failure to succeed is our own fault, and that any assistance we receive from the government (that we all equally control) is the source of “dependency”. Meanwhile professional test preparation, private tutoring, legacy hiring, and tax free blind trust funds, remain as the inaccessible yet completely essential tools of maintaining control over opportunity and success in this country. We have been duped, and the success of the scam is all around us.


The Libtard’s Armory, Vol. 1

Debating conservatives is difficult. The more sophisticated and intelligent ones will spin these intricate and glistening webs of theory and logic which you have to break down piece by piece with actual data from a world that doesn’t actually have perfect information, free transaction costs, or humans with the processing power of supercomputers. But even the other 97% of conservatives present a recurring problem – their inability to recognize when you’ve scored a point against them. If they complain about government restrictions on the “free market” for coal energy and you point out that this market is flawed because it doesn’t account for important externalities like pollution and global warming, your average conservative is no more likely to back down than this guy, even if you have effectively dismembered his argument.

But there are times when my optimism gets the best of me, and in the course of many, many arguments with conservatives at various levels of sophistication I have found that some facts and arguments are more effective and versatile than others. These are the “liberal truths” that don’t lend themselves to easy dismissals and don’t require a lot of explanation: I can use them against a member of the Federalist Society or my grandmother with almost equal confidence, while saving my more nuanced arguments for situations when they’re really needed (i.e., when my opponent can actually comprehend them). It’s a limited list of arguments, to be sure; it’s very hard to find a datapoint that has the necessary combination of simplicity, veracity, and obvious importance to make an impact on a wide variety of audiences. But that’s precisely why I think every liberal should have these “go-to pitches”, some fastballs that they can throw against some of the most common conservative fallacies that have proliferated throughout the country.

So here are my general criteria for inclusion on the list of liberal facts and arguments that aren’t just helpful, but essential:

1. Keep it relatively simple - you’re not dealing with rocket scientists, after all (if you were, they’d be liberals anyway). Syllogisms with multiple premises aren’t going to be very helpful in casual exchanges or around the table at Thanksgiving, and you might forget some key component at an inopportune time.

2. . . . but not so familiar that people are immune to it - Look, given the stakes, I’ll continue to emphasize the oncoming train wreck of global climate change at every opportunity. But by this point, an entire industry of denialism has spent decades effectively immunizing large chunks of the American public from very basic, obvious truths about the environment. The items in this series, by contrast, address weaknesses in conservative dogma that most Republicans haven’t really considered. To continue the analogy, their “intellectual immune systems” haven’t prepared them for these attacks, which gives you a better chance of achieving a breakthrough (or making them look like idiots, if that’s your goal).
3. Use stats whenever possible, not anecdotes - Generalizations from a sample size of 1 may be easy, but they’re also intellectually lazy. Even the best examples and analogies can be distinguished or explained away by people determined to exploit every irrelevant difference between environments. Many people shy away from stats because they run into rule #1, but they convey a sense of legitimacy that far exceeds “well I heard about this one time where…”. Which, incidentally, is why conservatives love to abuse them.
4. Argue facts, not values - Arguing about values is an easy way to end up deadlocked in a screaming match. This is precisely why I hate getting involved in the central debates about gay marriage or abortion – at their core they are value judgments. Things like inequality, tax rates, social mobility, education, and health, on the other hand, often come down to arguments about facts, although often the conflict is only implied. As long as I’m arguing facts, the game of tit-for-tat can be played with links to news reports and research, rather than references to Nazi Germany.
My first item directly refutes one of the trendiest conservative claims about taxation – that we live in a “soak the rich” society where the poor “job creators” are being sucked dry of their wealth. Lately, conservatives have diverted attention from the historically-low marginal tax rates on the wealthy by blaming the 50 percent of Americans who pay no income tax. This claim has allowed Republican to blather on about getting people to “have more skin in the game” and “broadening the base,” a meme that the dumb 20-something libertarians have taken up with zeal.
But here’s the problem for anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of taxes – the federal income tax is not the only form of taxation. And while it’s true that the federal income tax is progressive, it’s accompanied by other taxes (like Social Security, Medicare, sales, and gas taxes) that are regressive and therefore take more from the poor than the rich. The conservative argument, while backed by a fact about the federal income tax that is technically true, is being used to support a bald-faced lie – that taken as a whole “we have an extraordinarily progressive tax code already.”

Here’s the truth -

• The share of total taxes paid by each income group is similar to that group’s share of total income.
• The share of total taxes paid by the richest one percent (21.6 percent) is almost identical to that group’s share of total income (21.0 percent).
• The total effective tax rate for the richest one percent (29.0 percent) is only about four percentage points higher than the total effective tax rate for the middle fifth of taxpayers (25.2 percent)
• The share of total taxes paid by the poorest fifth of Americans (2.1 percent) is only slightly less than this group’s share of total income (3.4 percent).

This cannot be emphasized enough – for all the bitching and whining by the rich and their slobbering apologists about being oppressed and disrespected, the difference between the One Percent’s income and its share of taxes is sixth-tenths of a percentage point. As a matter of effective tax rates, the rich barely pay more than the middle class. And for all the hysteria about the poor not paying taxes, the bottom quintile of Americans still pay out over a sixth of their income in taxes. Taken as a whole, the tax code is barely, barely progressive, largely due to the efforts of state governments whose favorite hobby is taxing the poor. And I guarantee you that many Republicans in Washington are aware of this, just as they are aware that they can distract people from the fact that many of the taxes we pay don’t get filed on April 15th.

…and that’s all you really need – the Citizens for Tax Justice annual report and an opportunity to cut off some smug Ayn-Rand-quoting asshole at the knees. Told you this stuff was simple.


For The Last Goddamn Time, John Galt Did Not Build The Internet

It’s always funny when a conservative commentator in an allegedly respectable publication tries to rewrite history, but damn if Gordon Crovitz didn’t give it his best shot in the Wall Street Journal by claiming, “It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet”: 

But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks. Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto) and the graphical user interface that still drives computer usage today.

According to a book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning” (by Michael Hiltzik), its top researchers realized they couldn’t wait for the government to connect different networks, so would have to do it themselves.  

Slate and Ars Technica rip Crovitz for being a proper idiot, but Michael Hiltzik delivers the coup de grace:

And while I’m gratified in a sense that he cites my book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning,”to support his case, it’s my duty to point out that he’s wrong. My book bolsters, not contradicts, the argument that the Internet had its roots in the ARPANet, a government project.

So the bottom line is that the Internet as we know it was indeed born as a government project. In fact, without ARPA and Bob Taylor, it could not have come into existence. Private enterprise had no interest in something so visionary and complex, with questionable commercial opportunities. Indeed, the private corporation that then owned monopoly control over America’s communications network, AT&T, fought tooth and nail against the ARPANet. Luckily for us, a far-sighted government agency prevailed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call the full Marshall McLuhan treatment. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney continues to tour the country meeting people who are too dumb to comprehend the ways government enables their businesses.


Why Returning To Mayberry Might Save Us All

This country has always had a fascination with sentimentality and nostalgia. That continuing trend in our popular culture was on display again recently with the passing of beloved film and tv star Andy Griffith, who of course will always be remembered for his portrayal of small town America in his self-titled show. It has been interesting to watch the reactions to Griffith’s death (besides the insane right wing cries of him being a COMMUNIST) and I think that they perhaps indicate a willingness to return to “local” concepts of political power where “community” and civic interest are once again valued in our society.

Our current political and economic reality is one that has been shaped dramatically by the deregulation and privatization craze of the 1980′s through the 2000′s. Throughout this time the emphasis has been on “market efficiency”, whereby the race to the bottom for overhead costs was supposedly going to result in more money for individual citizens, which would then trickle down into local communities. In truth this effort actually resulted in the wholesale abandonment of the social contract as Randian values emphasizing acting only in one’s self-interest took over for any long term thinking about the consequences of destabilizing communities of all sizes.

We now live in a country where the very idea of preserving public spaces is increasingly under attack by people obsessed by the supposed superiority of property rights as a panacea for success and peace. While it might make sense that communities should be run or influenced by people who have the best interest of that area at heart, power has actually shifted in the opposite direction (again in the name of “efficiency”) . Whether it be “emergency managers” who are appointed solely to sell off a town’s assets or the “outsourcing” of critical utilities or even local journalism, the importance of the neighborhood has been degraded as a matter of policy.

This sort of rather insane thinking of course has major consequences and it more than almost anything else has contributed to the death spiral of our own micro-economic stability. It is easier to sell off a local function when we don’t think about what it will do to our friends and neighbors. Refusing to acknowledge the importance of what happens in our own backyard allows us to believe that we alone, despite all the evidence to the contrary, can design our destiny like Nietzsche’s Superman or Rand’s Galt. Today’s large corporate interests have no need for towns or cities, or even this country itself.

So liberalism has a huge opening at this point. Luckily for us, the more authoritarian form of conservatism has already laid down the groundwork in centralizing power in the state and local governments by law (as part of the “family values” movement that proceeded this current libertarian streak). Taking backing school boards, emphasizing “community” policing, forming neighborhood associations, embrace the local food movement, or even making dog parks will all shift the focus away from they hyper-individualism of the last thirty years and instead promote real sustainable local growth in our towns and cities of all kinds. Nostalgia is an extremely powerful tool to use in politics, and for once we should utilize it to actually bring some happiness to our beleaguered society.


Forest Fires And Jackass Libertarianism

So let me get this straight…

A bunch of people living in the epicenter of one of the most ideologically “individualistic” conservative areas of the country are now experiencing epic fires that are threatening to destroy the entire goddamn region. These are the same people who whined about the evil environmentalists and their “scam” concerning the negative effects of global warming. Environmentalists who mentioned the possibility of increased ferocity of forest fires due to prolonged droughts in certain parts of the country were regarded as idiotic Cassandra’s or even communists.

These are people who now demand “government support” despite previously degrading the work of public workers, including fire fighters as being “parasites” to the national economy. This is also the exact same region of the country that proudly started cutting public services in such draconian ways to the point that streetlights were seen as “optional” and idiotic policies “pay per use” emergency services were either implemented or at least seriously discussed.

Furthermore these are the same people who looked at the role of the federal government in particular with an intense and unbridled hatred. Organizations like the National Park Service might have been extremely helpful in the effort to clear the massive amount of brush that fueled this fire, yet this essential task has been degraded mightily after decades of decreased public investment. And it’s not like conservatives really value federal entities whose sole job it is to address mass-scale emergencies. When the GOP was in charge FEMA was headed by a fired horse show executive. Since the GOP lost the presidency FEMA has been subjected to an endless stream of bullshit conspiracy stories or congressional obstructionism with their funding and leadership.

In the end maybe I’m just dismayed with the hypocrisy of this movement. Granted Ron Paul has stayed consistent with his batshit insane views of federal emergency management, with his greatest concern being the government’s apparent confiscation the guns belonging to the victims of emergencies (side note, given his lack of an ability to prove specific times when this has ever happened I’m guessing he’s full of gold-leafed shit). Maybe the conservatives need a reminder that their ideology is one that blames them for weighing the “moral hazard” of living in a fire zone and “choosing” to rationally take that risk. Remember, this sort of choice is “what freedom is all about”.


Someone Call The Whaaambulance For The GOP (Obamacare Will Cover The Cost)

Let’s take a step back and analyze the gigantic bitchfest that has erupted in the right wing since yesterday’s decision. Despite the fact the president has “won” a massive political victory by not having his signature policy achievement struck down, there are a ton of reasons for conservatives to be ecstatic about yesterday. Of course being happy for these people (versus being vindictive assholes) is a kind of a foreign concept, so I’m just going to list why they need to pull their head out of their collective asses.

For one the decision to call the ACA a “tax”- instead of a law derived from the power of congress to regulate interstate commerce is potentially a massive win for conservative ideology. While the dissent was (as Chris Hayes called it) “full-out Richard-Epstein, constitution-in-exile, back-to-Lochner fire breathing”, the majority opinion has the potential itself to overturn a 70 plus years of precedent having to do with the federal regulation of interstate commerce. Frankly as a liberal who believes that “state” power runs counter to the founding concept of constitution (versus the awful circus that was the Articles of Confederation)  this fact alone scares the living fuck out of me. I’m not one of those Democrats who is celebrating Justice Roberts “bravery” in this instance, rather I feel as though he found a clever way to ratfuck us in the long term by taking some political heat in the short term. He is no Earl Warren.

Although I reserve the right to laugh my ass off if similar billboards start popping up

Furthermore the entire fucking law was designed by the Republican party. There is virtually no difference between this plan and the one originally envisioned by the insane clown posse at the Heritage Foundation in the late 1980′s, the idea championed by Bob Dole in the 1990′s, and the one actually implemented by Romney in the 2000′s. If the right wing decided to stop hyperventilating about COMMUNISM® for ten seconds they could actually use the law’s genealogy to their political advantage. Instead Republicans have decided to take all of their cues from geniuses like Dick Armey or Rand Paul, so they will continue to look like cry baby fools for perpetuity.

Finally lets remember that 30 million people will now have affordable health insurance. I know that the entire basis for conservative ideology is the fear that someone else might actually share in your success (and not “deserve it” as much as your entitled lilly-white ass). However even a conservative has to celebrate the fact that we are finally potentially joining the rest of the industrialized world in implementing universal health coverage. If anything you are just shooting yourselves in the foot politically by continuing your vociferously sniveling about the loss of “freedom” in the face of people finally getting a break in this hobbesian world of neo-libertarian American economics.

So in the end I have one piece of advice for my dejected friends on the right: you still “won” you whiny motherfuckers. The basis of this policy is firmly grounded in your ideology. Legal precedent has been established that is very much in your favor. Oh and people will now be less likely to go bankrupt due to medical costs. Perhaps if ya’ll participated in the process of developing this law with the President who was more than willing to work for you (much to the chagrin of folks like me) you could even take credit for the eventual success of the plan. Instead you choose the path of obstruction (which didn’t work) and then litigiousness (which has also now dramatically failed). Live with your dumbass decision and stop this self-indulgent sobbing- you are disappointing St. Ronnie’s ghost and Andrew Breitbart’s cocaine-addled corpse.