Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Moderate" Conservatives and Colonel Blimp


Colonel Blimp, for the uninitiated, was a British cartoon character invented in the 1930's by David Low, who became a symbol of the upper-class twit between the world wars. Blimp, as part of his general buffoonery, maintained a view of world affairs more suited to the gentleman's wars of the 19th century than any modern reality. This character found perhaps its most poignant expression in the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1943 in which the eponymous character, while Commander of the British Home Guard, is captured in a Turkish bath during a training exercise by a young lieutenant, in violation of what Blimp considers the conventions of war. It is worth noting here that this film struck such a nerve that Winston Churchill attempted to have it banned as a matter of national morale.

American had its own Colonel Blimps at approximately the same time. Henry Stimson, Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover, shut down Foggy Bottom’s code-breaking bureau on the grounds that “gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail.”

We jump cut to modern times and the Colonel Blimps within the conservative movement, the self-described "moderates". They are the old guard, who like Blimp have served with some distinction in previous conflicts, but refuse to see beyond the paradigm of party politics and policy nuance. They see the left as friendly opponents in a largely benign game, which will be won sometimes, lost sometimes, but will always begin and end with a handshake, and will be repeated in perpetuity with essentially the same rules. Theirs is the studied collegiality of attorneys who vigorously argue their respective sides of a case, but always meet up for a drink afterward.

It does not occur to them, largely as a function of willful blindness, that their opponents have been playing the game only insofar as it advanced their purpose, and are now poised to change the rules dramatically and, in the extreme case, cancel the game altogether.

We are currently witnessing an arrogation of powers by the Executive branch not remotely contemplated by the founders of the Constitution. Tom Clancy on his best day couldn't have conjured up the plot line we are living, replete with corrupt and/or somnambulant legislators, Orwellian levels of disinformation and Byzantine power relationships. In the face of this, the moderates among us are akin to someone in the midst of a home invasion asking quizzically, "Hey, wait a minute, do you have a permit for that thing?"

More disturbing is their tendency to wag a finger at the watch-dogs who are actually sounding the alarm.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin and others have documented the clear and present danger to the Republic as we know it to great effect. The Tea Party movement and the unprecedented protests at the Town Hall meetings represent an authentic popular uprising against these measures. One would think in light of all this our Colonel Blimps would find focuses for their passion (such as it exists) other than the tone, perceived lack of sophistication and "civility" of the outcry.

That, however, is precisely what we find in the writings of David Frum, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan and Kathleen Parker. Apart from a generally apologetic tone towards their fellow cognoscenti on the left, the subtext of these pieces reflects a certain umbrage that these "leaders" have looked behind them and discovered nobody is following. Like Colonel You-Know-Who, events have overtaken them and time has passed them by.

In the event the current administration is successful in its plans to socialize this country, the Colonel Blimps, their usefulness ended, will quickly discover the inconstancy of the favor they have been so eager to curry. In the event we are successful in at least blunting those ambitions, they will find themselves diminished and largely ignored by the new conservative leadership.

In either event, they have consigned themselves to irrelevance.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Racism, Glenn Beck, and the art of the counter-attack

Last April Janeane Garofalo garnered significant attention by offering the following analysis of the Tea Party movement:
"... this is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up." (Full transcript and video here.)
For those of us who attended the Tea Parties this came as something of a revelation, since most of us would have cited such things as unconstitutional arrogation of powers, profligate spending, and massive covert social engineering as some of the more obvious reasons to be unhappy with the federal government. Probably as part of our larger disorder (which Garofalo, in an obvious attempt to prove she is too a brain surgeon, attributed to invasion of the frontal lobes by the limbic system) we overlooked the obvious: It's not the threat to the Republic, stupid; we're all just racists.

Garofalo is admittedly an unlikely candidate to be pointing fingers on the subject of mental disorders, but you have to admire her candor. She didn't sport with our intelligence by somehow trying to prove that "socialism" and "work-ethic" (or for that matter "heartbreak of psoriasis") were code-words for "lynch that swarthy fellow," nor did she attempt to prove that gun-toting racist nuts were closing in on the President by cropping a photo of a gun-toting black protester. Nope, she just vented her spleen "straight up", the very personification of the shrill and moronic man-behind-the-curtain we are assured doesn't exist.

The (you should pardon the expression) indiscriminate use of the race card by the left to demonize its enemies has unquestionably been effective in recent years. The possibility of being accused of racism has fostered a hyper-vigilance bordering on contortionism in common expression (not-that-there-is-anything-wrong-with-that). Actual charges of racism--easy to make, difficult to disprove--have reduced grown men to orgies of self-abasement and exposed organizations of all sizes to the various shakedown schemes and thinly-veiled protection rackets of outfits such as Acorn.

It is then altogether predictable that this same group should be driven to apoplexy when this "one-shot-stop" weapon is not only dismissed by the opposition for the canard it usually is, but when that very weapon is turned against them.

Barbara Boxer must have thought she had entered some parallel universe when Harry Alford, President and CEO of the Black Chamber of Commerce, accused her of playing race politics during an EPW Committee hearing on green jobs. Boxer, who was clearly trying to blunt the criticism of one black man by producing counter-arguments by other black men, seemed astonished that this should be a problem, and reacted to Alford's response like a prize-fighter who had just been slugged by the referee.

But this was small beer compared to the left's reaction when Glenn Beck suggested, in the wake of the Henry Gates fiasco, that President Obama was himself, a racist. Beck's supporting logic and evidence (dealing with such irrelevancies as a minimalist definition of racism, Obama's own writings and pronouncements on the subject, as well as the clear intent of his legislative initiatives) were light years ahead of the usual auguries of the left but this was all ignored in the sputtering rage that was the template response.

Beck's follow-up argument was that Obama is an uber-reparationist, in that he doesn't thing the classical ideas of reparations go enough. Others have written about this (including the marvelously incisive L.E. Ikenga) but Beck's visibility guaranteed special attention, and he has definitely received his share of that.

The brilliance of Beck's polemic--hand-wringing of some nominal conservative allies aside--is that he has taken a weapon typically used by the left to divert attention, and used it to focus it. The "racist" label among non-ideologues invites the challenge to prove it or apologize, and I think it is a safe assumption that Beck isn't dedicating the resources at his disposal to finding the right words to say "I'm sorry".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care "retreat" is just a tactical change

While the apparent White House retreat from the public option should be a cause for encouragement, we need to be very clear-eyed about what it is and what it isn't.

In the various piles of tea-leaves we are asked to read--primarily excerpts from the Sunday talk-shows and their follow-ups--there is nothing to suggest the White House has abandoned its ultimate goal of government run health care. There is a great deal to suggest that it is merely adapting its tactics, akin to switching from a frontal assault to a flanking maneuver. The "end run" imagery within that analogy is by no means inadvertent.

What this government can't get away with directly it will do by proxy. Thus, if the public option won't fly, propose "co-ops" as an alternative:
With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.
If this sounds familiar to anybody, it's because it's directly out of the Fannie and Freddie playbook. Create "independent" entities with Federal funding, which can, of course, be augmented once they start to flounder, because they will be "too big to fail."

Inasmuch as they will be bound by the same constraints and voodoo economics that have made Medicare such a resounding success, they will flounder in due course, but, insulated from failure by the federal government (read "your money"), will be able to undercut and destroy private insurers and drive consumers to government health care, however branded.

The difference between "public option" and co-ops is thus a quibble over the delivery mechanism. The overall objective remains unchanged.

The bottom line here vis-à-vis public pressure is maintain vigilance and do not let up. Party-hats, not so much.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update: Obviously not having read my analysis above and/or used their thinking-caps for just a minute, some members of the liberal wing of the Democratic party (a term akin to being the chlorine wing of the pool) are bridling at the suggestion of compromise.

What might save the republic is these guys aren't even particularly good Machiavellians. We can all hope they stick to their guns, even the ones that aren't loaded.


Friday, August 14, 2009

MSM planting the gun

Plant v.
To place or position an idea or series of ideas in public consciousness--typically through emphasis and repetition--for the express purpose of shaping public opinion and as a possible prelude to justification of normally prohibited acts at a later time.
-- Meed's Highly Unofficial Dictionary

Not satisfied with exploiting existing incidents of random violence to advance dark warnings of "right-wing hate mongering" the MSM has clearly decided to get out in front of the next one.

Consider ABC's model of balance and restrain: Fear for Obama's Safety Grows as Hate Groups Thrive on Racial Backlash. The justification for this subdued headline is 1) One protester holding up a really stupid threatening sign, 2) another protester stupidly (but legally) displaying a firearm outside the recent Town Hall and 3) an arrest of an individual with "mental problems" in California (relevance unexplained) . As an afterthought, the article also admits (almost with regret) that "the President's daily threat matrix has yet to reflect a sharp increase in threats".

Exhibit B is host Ed Schultz' oil-on-troubled-waters assertion that "Conservatives Want Obama To Get Shot." (By the way, is it possible that Schultz is the left's version of Ralph Kramden? Just asking.)

Typically we have to wait until a heinous act actually occurs before the usual suspects like Paul Krugman weigh in with boilerplate pieces like The Big Hate. Unhappily for the MSM, the Town Hall protesters are not the Red Brigades and the true crazies seem to have taken the summer off, so this leaves the MSM with the unenviable task of having to stir the pot with very thin ingredients.

Nevermind. Inasmuch as the laws of probability ensure that somewhere, somehow, sometime, some mental deficient will do something violent, it is only necessary to keep the pot boiling in anticipation. This is the very essence of the "plant". No conspiracy theories need apply; just plant the manufactured evidence then wait however long it takes for someone to "find" it.

The end game of all of this is disturbingly clear. Inasmuch as conservative talk radio and Fox News represent a significant thorn in the flesh to the liberal establishment it would be very much in its interest to classify conservative opinion--or at least insufficiently sterilized conservative opinion--as hate speech. If legislative muscle could be put behind this eventually, that would be game, set and match.

(For those who consider this far-fetched, please review the current proposed expansion of existing hate crime legislation, note the baby-steps that would be required in terms of definition of "injury" and "victim groups" to achieve the ends above, and tell me again why this wouldn't be attempted.)

During the worst of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, someone observed that if it were proven conclusively that God didn't exist the combatants would immediately resolve themselves into Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists. People who walk into public places with violence in mind are not driven by anything but their own demons, and, to paraphrase Mr. Krugman, those who attempt to exploit these tragedies for political gain do so at their peril.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Bed, What Girl - Part Deux

As I have written before, there is a famous scene in "A Guide for the Married Man" in which Joey Bishop, caught in bed with another woman by his wife, gets up, gets dressed, straightens up the room, and sends the other woman on her way--all the while responding to his wife's escalating outrage with protestations of "What bed? What girl?" Once the last of the evidence has been removed, the wife's umbrage dissolves into bewilderment and Joey lives to (um) do whatever, another day.

This illustration, while hardly a teaching moment in morality, is nonetheless a perfect analog for the political/social climate in which we find ourselves. We are repeatedly told words and actions don't mean what we clearly know them to mean, while the deniers play for time with an audience not exactly renowned for its long attention span.

One recent, but by no means isolated, example of this is President Obama's breathtaking assertion that he has never said he was for a single-payer system, notwithstanding the now viral 2003 video (available in uncut form) in which he unequivocally states that very thing.

But by far the more intriguing perspective isn't the Joey Bishop character, it's his wife. It is the capacity of often highly intelligent people to observe, analyze, and even write about, a series of events with great insight then ignore the obvious conclusion.

Case in point is Camille Paglia's recent piece on salon.com: Obama's healthcare horror. Such titles do not normally portend glad tidings, and Paglia for the most part does not disappoint. Her analysis of the current health care mess, and the gang-who-couldn't-shoot-straight (and I use the term "gang" in more than a metaphorical sense) who have orchestrated it, is on the mark.

The problem here is that, having enumerated many of the essential problems and missteps of the Obama administration on this issue, to say nothing of the disturbing demonization of dissenters (in which she, to her credit, states Obama is implicated through his inaction), the bulk of her criticism appears to be for pretty much everyone but Obama: the White House staff, Congress, Nancy Pelosi, liberals in general ... the implication being that he has been, at worst, unwise.

In case the readers should miss her intention in the subtext, it is laid out in the more or less obligatory opening disclaimer.
Buyer's remorse? Not me. At the North American summit in Guadalajara this week, President Obama resumed the role he is best at -- representing the U.S. with dignity and authority abroad. This is why I, for one, voted for Obama and continue to support him. The damage done to U.S. prestige by the feckless, buffoonish George W. Bush will take years to repair. Obama has barely begun the crucial mission that he was elected to do.
To those of us who still subscribe to the "if it walks like a duck" school of logic, Paglia's piece is yet another example of cognitive dissonance raised to an art form. One has to hope that at some point common sense, laws of statistical probability, and the critical mass of facts that accumulate daily will trigger an epiphany in such people before it's too late.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Linda Douglass - The Factless One

Linda Douglass and John Adams are right, facts are stubborn things. The principal difference between them is Adams actually believed it.

The bone of contention was a video posted on Drudge of Obama at an SEIU forum in 2003 (available in uncut form) in which BHO clearly states his support for, and desire to implement, a single payer system. I have watched this video about a dozen times and there is no other rational interpretation.

So when I heard that Douglass (communications director for the White House’s Health Reform Office) had decided to go on offense with a little video of her own I was curious as to what artful legerdemain she would engage in to somehow make us doubt our lying eyes. I needn't have gotten all worked up; Douglass is clearly no Houdini, she isn't even my Uncle Ed (who could do a marvelous trick when you pulled his finger, but I digress).

Douglass' sophisticated counter-attack consisted of asserting that the 2003 video had been spliced to give a false impression, providing no evidence for this claim, then presenting some of BHO's recent videos (which she claims, in a break from reality that rates an entry in the DSM, conservatives have never seen) as proof-positive, I guess, that at least it was the same guy in all of them. No that's unfair, she did demonstrate that in at least one of the videos BHO had to have been lying a priori.

Having proven exactly nothing she concluded with an exhortation for the faithful to forward any "fishy" e-mails to whitehouse.gov, somehow avoiding the urge to pop in a monocle and fire up a cigarette as she asked for "ze names".

Barak, it's one thing to run a sweatshop, quite another to run a sweatshop badly. This is what you get when you put an MSM-toadie into the job and not one of Chicago guys. Send Douglass down to the minors (can Michelle use another PR flack, just asking) and get someone in the position who can at least lie in an entertaining fashion. Not insulting our collective intelligence would be a boon as well.