Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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28 September 2009

William Safire, RIP

I read William Safire's Times columns religiously for many years and, while I very much enjoyed his writing and the basic tenor of his arguments, it seemed that over-and-over again he ended up being wrong. His most blatantly off-base argument was his accusing General Schwartzkopf of being a "new McClellan" for his apparent reluctance to take on Saddam in 1990. That was a few short months before the general orchestrated one of the most lopsided victories in the history of warfare. A bit later, just a few weeks before the fireworks would begin, he actually offered as a choice in his annual "Office Pool" predictions that Schwartzkopf would run as a Democrat, McClellan-like, against Bush. But it really wasn't his fault - he was after all an original neocon, and neocons are pretty much doomed to being wrong.

18 September 2009

The 'Public Option' and Democrat Assurances

One of the more contentious issues in the health debate is whether there will be a so-called 'public option' - i.e., a government-run insurer of last resort. Health-care proponents claim it's necessary to "keep private insurers honest." Opponents claim the public option will destroy the health insurance industry. Proponents counter that this is a lie and the health care proposals in no way jeopardize private insurance - that there are safeguards to prevent this. We know that pundits on either side of a debate often lie, so which side is right this time?

This one fits a typical pattern we've seen over the years in which those on the left are the liars (yes, there are other patterns where the right is lying). The pattern is this:
Democrats push new proposal X
Republicans claim X will lead to Y
Democrats claim this is a lie and the proposal clearly prevents Y from happening
After a passage of some period of time, Y is the norm and those who continue to oppose Y are [insert appropriate anti-reactionary epithet]
Where have we seen this before? The Civil Rights Act, for one. Opponents claimed that it would lead to quotas. Proponents pointed out the act specifically bars quotas. Before we knew what hit us we had the EEOC and affirmative action was ensconsed thoughout the land, prosecuting instances of "disparate impact." Opponents are accused of bigotry.

When the immigration reform act was passed in 1965, Ted Kennedy promised Americans it would not lead to a shift in the nation's ethnic balance. Well, a dramatic shift has indeed occurred. Imagine arguing on TV today that immigration is a problem because it has changed our ethnic make-up.

Gay marriage is a recent example where the progression occurred rather rapidly. In his dissent in Lawrence v Texas, Scalia predicted* that the majority's decision to protect homosexual sex on Fourteenth Amendment grounds would lead to gay marriage being legalized. The majority scoffed at such a notion. But state court decisions legalizing gay marriage soon followed in its wake. And today, opposing gay marriage leads to charges of bigotry and can lose you your job.

So the 'public option' will absolutely lead to the destruction of the private insurance industry - it can't work any other way, no matter what 'safeguards' are put into the law. The only point of the public option is to provide a low-cost alternative to private insurance for those who can't afford the latter. "Keeping private insurers honest" means engaging in business practices that private insurers would find too costly. By definition, this will undercut the private market. The pressure to allow more-and-more people into the public option will be too great, and the floodgates will open. In a few years, when the private insurance industry starts to fall apart, proponents will point out how unfair it is that there is a private insurance market for the wealthy sucking up valuable health-care resources from the working class and that it should just be killed outright.

Now whether this is a good or bad thing is a different question - should we have a single-payer system or a private-insurance system? - I don't know. But the honest argument is that the public option will indeed kill the health-insurance industry. Come to think of it, Paul Krugman himself has argued just that.

*State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding. Lawrence v Texas, Scalia (dissent).

That this law as applied to private, consensual conduct is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause does not mean that other laws distinguishing between heterosexuals and homosexuals would similarly fail under rational basis review. Texas cannot assert any legitimate state interest here, such as national security or preserving the traditional institution of marriage. Unlike the moral disapproval of same-sex relations–the asserted state interest in this case–other reasons exist to promote the institution of marriage beyond mere moral disapproval of an excluded group. Lawrence v Texas, O'Connor (concurring)

17 September 2009

Obama Kills East Europe Missile Shield

Good for him - it was a dumb idea that needlessly antagonized Russia, a country with which we have no proper quarrel. Hmmm - first he starts a trade war (where no one actually gets killed) with a "partner" who sucks $250 from us each year, and backs off from starting a real - he's on a roll!

Obama's Trade War

Could the tariff Obama threw on Chinese tires lead to a trade war? Not clear yet if it will, but if it does, then finally we'll have a war that, okay, we might not be able to win, but sure would be worth waging!

16 September 2009

It's All About Race

Now Jimmy Carter is joining the "Joe Wilson's Outburst Was About Race" chorus. While using the "race card" to stifle criticism of the president is a concern, perhaps there's a silver lining? Perhaps there is a growing realization that, when it comes to pretty much everything, it's all about race?

Obama himself is all about race - he's nothing without his race - he'd be just another boring guy of above-average intelligence whom no one's ever heard of. Crime is all about race. Education is all about race. Government spending and taxation are all about race. The securitized-mortgage calamity was all about race. Income inequality is all about race. Is health care all about race? It's largely an issue of who pays for it vs. who benefits from it, and so like all such conundrums it too boils down to race. Foreign policy? Oddly, though very few foreign policy decisions are influenced by what we consider minorities, it seems a vast amount of foreign policy resources are driven by the fortunes of a couple million people in the Middle East who share an ethno-religious identity with a couple million people who happen to be doing rather well here in the U.S.A. And, obviously, there's immigration.

Non-Asian minorities have lower average achievement levels economically (lower median income), in education (test scores, graduation rates). They have higher rates of street crime, of poor health effects (obesity, hypertension) and illegitimacy. These differences are statistically significant and, more important, noticeable to pretty much everyone on each side, particularly to people like Obama who are much higher achievers than average. The question is how do you respond to these differences - resentfully or practically? Immigration greatly exacerbates these divides because it results in very large increases in the numbers of one underachieving group (Mexican-Americans). And when it comes to contentious issues like universal health care, it's a problem that places like Canada - or Vermont - don't have to wrestle with. So, yes, Joe Wilson's outburst ultimately finds its genesis in race - but so does pretty much every other controversy that pops up in this racially divided nation.

04 September 2009

Creeps Galore!

Maybe my idea for a Creep-o-pedia to winnow down the list of sex offenders to the truly dangerous is pretty dumb after all. AP reports that in Philip Garrido's zip-code alone there are over 100. Well, if you look up Antioch in California's Megan's Law list, there are 122. And it's one scary looking group. For pretty much each of them the listed offense is "LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS ACTS WITH CHILD UNDER 14 YEARS," whatever that means, but by the look of them I'm guessing it's generally for a little more than copping a quick feel on the subway. It would be nice to have access to a little more detail. For example, Garrido's offense is listed as "RAPE BY FORCE/FEAR/ETC" which doesn't do his original offense justice. But looking at these guys' mugs, I doubt there's too many who are not capable of committing another heinous crime. Here's a map showing the location of various offenders living in Garrido's neighborhood. Yikes.

01 September 2009

Wasn't Obama Supposed to be Charismatic?

What happened to Obama's awesome charisma. Maybe he never really had any. Maybe his legions of disciples were simply awed that a black man could be so - well, like them, that it was their own reflections - reflections of their own awesomeness, their self-righteous, universalistic, 21st-centuriness - that mesmerized them. That and some well crafted speeches and an appealing delivery before a teleprompter. But the man himself is a zero when it comes to personality, and his limited level of achievement in his pre-Axelrod life should have been a signal that maybe he's not all that.

At any rate, he was supposed to hit the hustings and take the Health Care cause directly to the American people and bypass all that news reporting slanted against him and rouse the troops. Yawn. Seems like a ragtag collection of malcontents with trucker hats make more compelling viewing than Barry's lame pontificating.

Oh, and notice the market the last couple days? Nothing but good news on the manufacturing and housing front, and the market is cratering. All of a sudden everyone's noticed that no one's buying anything, and the alleged recovery will be stillborn. Good think Obama's putting all his energy on health care and civil rights enforcement - that'll sure help Americans find good work.