Thursday, January 5, 2012

Recess Time

So President Obama finally recess-appointed a director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and filled three vacancies at the National Labor Relations Board.  Democratic partisans are in ecstasy because Barry finally got his mojo back, grew a spine, showed he is a true progressive after all and has emerged as grand born-again champion of the middle class.

Of course I am very, very happy that the self-interest of a politician and the greater public good happened to nicely coincide for a change.  But not so fast, liberals! Cynic that I am, let me suggest that the recess appointments were done not only to strengthen his poll numbers -- but mainly to circumvent attempted criminal sedition by the obstructionist Republicans.  Had the president not made the appointments (and remember, he went right down to the wire on them) he theoretically could have been a criminal enabler himself.  Can-kicking and procrastination can be legal no-nos sometimes, as well as bad and cowardly public policy all the time.

It wasn't the qualifications or the personality of Richard Cordray that had the GOP nihilists balking at his confirmation. It was the agency itself -- an agency that was formed by an Act of Congress.  Republicans were actually attempting to illegally nullify a federal agency.  Ditto for the NLRB: their aim was to destroy the whole office.  Very, very illegal.  Here is how Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution describes the ongoing Republican obstructionism:
In the case of the Consumer Protection Board, Senate Republicans have said they would not confirm anyone who does not agree to restructure the leadership of the agency from a single person to a multi-member body. They insist that a legitimately passed law be changed before allowing it to function with a director – a modern-day form of nullification. Same with the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There is nothing normal or routine about this. The Senate policing of non-cabinet appointments is sometimes more aggressive but the current practice goes well beyond that, more like pre-Civil War days than 20th century practice.
Of course, Donald Berwick, the recently departed director of Medicare and Medicaid Services, resigned when the Congressional minority vowed to block his nomination. He had unforgivably expressed an admiration for the British system of single payer health care.  And Obama never fought for Berwick, who has been replaced by a government bureaucrat who will presumably not discuss any socialist tendencies. 

 Too bad Obama hasn't actually called Mitch McConnell and his cohort out as traitors or coup d'etat villains on their hijacking of democracy. He found himself some mo, but forgot the jo. Very, very tepid.

And he made very, very sure to get the legal advice that if the Republicans do happen to sue him over the appointments, they will not have a leg to stand on.  If he wasn't sure of being the winner going in, I doubt he would have attempted the appointments.  This, being an election year, was also a good time to throw the base some bigger chunks of bread instead of the usual crumbs.

The NLRB recess appointments may have even more to with presidential politics than the CFPB, although had the vacancies remained unfilled, this longstanding federal agency would have literally died too.  Labor journalist Mike Elk lays it out:
President Obama's rapid fix to the NLRB's problem stands in stark contrast to the beginning of his term in January 2009, when the board was also inoperable. Obama waited 14 months to make recess appointments to fill those slots. 
The speed in making the appointments may be a move by the White House to gain the support of the AFL-CIO, which has yet to endorse Obama, unlike other major unions like AFSCME, NEA, UFCW and SEIU. It’s unclear as well if the AFL-CIO's delay in endorsing Obama, or AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s recent call for greater political independence for organized labor played any role in pressuring the White House to quickly make the recess appointments to both the CFPB and NLRB.
 Trumka wasted no time in lavishing praise on Obama's appointment, thus presumably giving himelf the needed cover to endorse his candidacy.  Trumka, it should be remembered, is also a member of Obama's in-house corporate CEO lobby, laughably known as the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

When it comes to right-to-work (anti-union) states, Obama has remained his usual passive-aggressive tepid (arch-conservative) self. He infamously called off his Organizing for America campaign arm from direct involvement in the Wisconsin collective bargaining demonstrations last winter.  He has yet to take a stand on upcoming anti-labor legislation in Indiana.  And several trade unions are planning to boycott the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina -- another high unemployment, anti-union state. But conveniently home to Fort Bragg and all those returning troops.


Denis Neville said...

Why didn't Obama make a recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren?

What accounts for Obama’s stunning failure of leadership?

Jackson Lears, London Review of Books, reviews two recent books, biographies of Obama’s father and his mother that “may help to provide a genealogy of disappointment – a fuller explanation of how Obama came so grievously to disappoint his supporters as well as, perhaps, himself.”

Denis Neville said...

[KG Alert, Krugman comments, #3 (so far) Readers Picks]

Romney the Job-destroyer…


"As far as I'm concerned, somebody who's fallen from middle class to poverty, in my opinion is still middle class." – Mittens in Iowa

“Utopian capitalism can look pretty good in a time of disillusionment and collapse.” - Thomas Franks, Pity the Poor Billionaire

In “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Thomas Franks observed that it was as though the French Revolution occurred in reverse, with the people running through the streets demanding that the nobility be given even more money and privileges!

“In Pity the Billionaire” Franks describes even more astonishingly that the perpetrators of the 2008 Crash are calling for yet a purer version of the supremacy of the "free market," and even more astonishingly, millions of it previous victims are buying this latest version of utopian capitalism.

The 2008 crisis of capitalism revealed that America was not “too capitalist,” it was “not capitalist enough!”

“If ever a financial order deserved a 30s-style repudiation, this one did. Its gods were false. Its taste was bad. Its heroes were oafs and brutes and thieves and bullies. And all of them failed, even on their own stunted terms.” Thomas Franks is correct. Why would anyone consider voting for the same lying bastards that ran our country into the ground? Are our memories so short that we would vote these bastards back into office?

But, amazingly, Franks reports that once again Utopian capitalism has gone “from being a CEO’s dream to the fighting faith of the millions.”

Sure about an Obama second term? Could rightwing demagogues retake the White House? How many are lost in the dreams of capitalist utopianism, even as they head to the poorhouse? It wouldn’t be the first time that our fellow citizens laid down their lives so that others could cash out at the top, and renounced forever their middle-American prosperity (or little of what’s left of it).


Anonymous said...

Loved your comment on "The March of the Non-Mitts" article on the NYT

Denis Neville said...

More Cognitive Dissonance…

Glenn Greenwald encounters “one of the most extreme episodes of cognitive dissonance” in some time.

David Atkins/“thereisnospoon”:

“For a liberal like me, who is primarily interested in the well-being of the American middle-class and in providing opportunity for everyone in the United States, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc., I just don’t see why I should be “challenged” by Ron Paul. I understand that if you’re a liberal who is primarily interested in civil liberties and a less bellicose foreign policy, then you might be conflicted about Paul. But to me, he’s just another racist asshole who wants to fuck the American middle-class.


“So apparently, in order to be a liberal who is content with the Democratic Party and the incumbent President, one must be “primarily interested in the well-being of the American middle-class” (rather than the fate of those irrelevant, dying, occupied and indefinitely imprisoned foreigners or, presumably, America’s lower classes), and must further de-prioritize “civil liberties and a less bellicose foreign policy” (meaning little things like preemptive war, killing civilians, imprisonment and assassinations without due process, vast secrecy powers, etc.). Who knew?”

Anne Lavoie said...

KG Alert - Brooks, 'A New Social Agenda' 1/6/12

Anne Lavoie said...

Here's an interesting quote from '7 Reasons America's Mental Health Industry Is a Threat to Our Sanity' from

I have inserted 'the political class' next to 'mental health profession'. It jibes well with what Glenn Greenwald writes about today regarding the response to those who bring up salient issues that the status quo doesn't want discussed.

Cognitive dissonance turns out to be very good for the mental health and pharmaceutical industries!

"In addition to pathologizing normal behavior, the mental health profession (political class) also diverts us from examining a society that creates the ingredients—helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, and isolation—that cause emotional difficulties. We are diverted from the reality that many emotional problems are natural human reactions to loss in our society of autonomy and community. Thus, the mental health profession (political class) not only has financial value for drug companies but it has political value for those at the top of societal hierarchies who want to retain the status quo."

Anonymous said...

I am so amazed at your analysis, intelligence and wit. I am not eloquent so I never comment on any of the articles, but I look so forward to reading your comments. Karen you Rock!! Been reading you for a year and after reading your comment on Brooks article today I had to give you a shout out. The Bosch comment was brillant. Happy New Year and I look forward to reading your comments in future. Frances from Denver

Anne Lavoie said...

KG Alert - NYT, 'A Leaner Pentagon" 1/6/12

Kat said...

@ Anne-- thanks for the alert. A commenter compared Obama's "downsizing" of the military with Eisenhower's famous warning. Huh?
@Denis-- amazing isn't it? It really does show where priorities are. And these people talk about the ideological purity of those that criticize Obama? They can't admit that Paul's views on our defense priorities are the more sane ones because they do not spring from the right ideology.

Anne Lavoie said...

I haven't really looked into these particular defense 'cuts', but if they are like all the rest for the past 4 decades or so, it is really just a cut in the projected rate of increase.

I like to compare it to announcing you are planning to gain 100 pounds, knowing someone is going to tell you to put the brakes on and only gain 80. You still get to pig out! What a game, and the media always plays along.

Denis Neville said...

@ Anne… '7 Reasons America's Mental Health Industry Is a Threat to Our Sanity' is deeply disturbing.

It's bad enough to suffer with mental illness…or to love someone who does. Close to 60 million Americans live with a diagnosable mental illness, and one in four families has a relative living with mental illness.

“Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy,” Gardiner Harris:

“Medicine is rapidly changing in the United States from a cottage industry to one dominated by large hospital groups and corporations, but the new efficiencies can be accompanied by a telling loss of intimacy between doctors and patients. And no specialty has suffered this loss more profoundly than psychiatry.”

“Because of changes in how much insurance will pay, psychiatric hospitals that once offered patients months of talk therapy now discharge them within days with only pills.”

The goal used to be to help patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional (hopefully).

Daniel Carlat, “Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry - A Doctor's Revelations about a Profession in Crisis, offers “A Psychiatrist's Prescription For His Profession” on Fresh Air from WHYY:

The stigma of mental illness has metastasized into the policymaking process. States have cut a total of $1.6 billion from their budgets for services for children and adults living with mental illness in the last two years.

State Mental Health Cuts: The Continuing Crisis, A Report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness

The penny-wise and pound-foolishness of the long knife budget cutters.

Valerie said...

I just was offered a $5 t-shirt from the re-elect Obama campaign. Quite the come-down from the expensive campaign paraphernalia of 2008.

Wonder where the t-shirt was made? Maybe in one of those third world countries Obama made Free Trade agreements with in October.

Thanks Denis and Anne for the KG alerts.

Denis Neville said...

Still more proof that David Brooks is a moron:

“America is creative because of its moral materialism - when social values and economic ambitions get down in the mosh pit and dance.”

Karen, terrific reposte!! - “Rick Santorum gyrating in the moral materialism mosh pit? This is the stuff of Brooksian dreams and fodder for the nightmares of the 99%. This is the American hell in which unfettered capitalism weds psychotic right wing zealotry. This is a portrait of a fascist state straight from a canvas by Hieronymous Bosch.”

Santorum? “He is far closer to developing a new 21st-century philosophy of government than most leaders out there.” Really?

Will Bunch’s Pennsylvanian brief guide to the Rick Santorum you don’t know:

“The real Rick Santorum is indeed a frothy mixture - of self-interest, loose ethical standards, and careerism in a career that's been largely devoted not so much to the social causes about which he makes headlines as looking out for the interests of big corporations and the wealthiest 1 Percent of Americans. It's a shame that more voters don't know that yet. That is the "Google problem" that Santorum actually deserves.”

Jay - Ottawa said...

Enough of these KG Alerts. I'm running around in circles and having to do all manner of things with my cookies -- or is it my cache? -- in order to vault over pay walls, run through op-eds, and then finally hit paydirt: Karen's comment. Enough of this endless obstacle course.

Here's an idea -- one I've not mentioned, discused or cleared with Karen, in case anyone wants to know. So, for anyone who sends her a donation to keep Sardonicky in the black, she would bcc the donor a copy of each comment she sends hither and yon. Now there's a pay wall I would gladly accept.

Somebody who knows marketing, please step in with the details like donation level, renewal periods, etc.

Karen Garcia said...

No donation necessary. If readers can spare a few bucks now and then, I am grateful, but I know times are tough for most people.
How about I just copy and paste my own comments from now on? The Times paywall is quite a hurdle and especially egregious now that the CEO is leaving with a multimillion dollar retirement plan and the Times employees are being asked to sacrifice. Also, I hear that those of us who link to the Times on our blogs will soon be tracked down and asked to pay a fee. More on that later.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

What’s the Matter with the New York Times?

I hope Thomas Frank makes that the title of his third book. But let’s hope it won’t be reviewed by Michael Kinsley, who just reviewed Frank’s second book, “Pity the Billionaire.”

BTW, thanks, Denis, for mentioning Frank and providing those quotes from “What’s the Matter with Kansas” and “Pity the Billionaire.” Allow me to horn in on your find, not to talk about Frank and his book, but to focus on the reviewer and the newspaper that hands Kinsley the blade to do his work on Frank. Your mentions of Frank in earlier comments made me more attentive when I did happen upon this week’s flagship review in the Times’ electronic edition.

Picking Kinsley, a regular at “Bloomberg View” (TILT!) who describes himself as a “liberal,” to review a book by Thomas Frank is about as appropriate as assigning David Koch, the "philanthropist," to review Chris Hedges. On page 1 of his review Kinsley is “more or less” in agreement with Frank’s severe critique of the nouveau elite and their friend in the White House. When you turn to page 2 of Kinsey’s review, the mindset of this “liberal” is laid bare, and what you have on your hands is really a Yellow Dog Democrat doing good service for the master. Here's how the long money quote from Kinsley begins:

“It seems to me that a Democratic president who gets us health care reform and tough new financial protection for consumers, who guides the economy through its roughest period in 80 years with moderate success (who could do better?), who … [etc., etc., etc.]”

Kinsley is using Frank as a springboard for DNC propaganda in the newspaper of record. Since the Times placed this review at the top of all other reviews in its Book Review section, we can assume the Times is in accord with Kinsley, on loan from the Bloomberg stable.

Another writer elsewhere this week

advised progressives to stop being cynical. Better to be naïve. Naïve people get angry. Cynical people just shake their heads, empty of all hope. They don’t occupy anything anymore. Angry people do.

Zee said...

@Denis Neville—

You’ve been quoting liberally from What’s the Matter With Kansas by Thomas Frank over the past few days, and I agree entirely with your—and Frank’s—analysis.

Over the past thirty years the Republican Party has successfully duped the middle and working classes into consistently voting against their best economic interests. I confess that I have been amongst the (partially) duped. And now, perhaps, the latter have been further suckered into voting for a return to unfettered capitalism in its most dangerous form.

But there’s more to Frank’s analysis than this, which I know you are aware of because you have discussed it over at Reality Chex OTS.

Frank closely studied just how the Republicans stripped off so much of the middle and working classes from the Democratic party. The Republicans’ means to this end have been the cultural issues: guns, religion, abortion and homosexuality are the main issues that come to mind, but I am sure there are others. The Republicans split off conservative Democrats in droves based almost entirely on these issues.

As you put it by quoting Frank, “By all rights the people…should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and arrogant by the day…” --@Denis Neville quoting Thomas Frank, Reality Chex OTS, August 14, 2011. (Bold emphasis added.)

These voters are unlikely to return to the Democratic fold unless the Democratic party can persuade them that the party can be trusted to have their interests at heart again—or at least tolerated—on at least some of these “cultural” (read: “wedge”) issues.

Far be it from me to suggest to Progressives how to win back the “values voters.” As I recollect, Frank had a few suggestions on that; I can’t check because I’ve loaned my copy of What’s the Matter With Kansas? to a friend.

I will certainly not suggest that you betray or compromise your principles, at least not on the subjects of gay rights and abortion, where I am in total agreement with you: I’m absolutely pro-gay rights and pro-choice.

But are there other areas on which you Progressives can compromise with—or at least tolerate—“social Conservatives” and somehow win some of them—including “semi-social Conservative” me—back?

The alternative is an excruciating effort to educate most social conservatives, which may be futile. As you once again put it—quoting Frank—
“Democratic political strategy simply assumes that people know where their economic interest lies and that they will act on it by instinct…The gigantic error in all this is that people don’t spontaneously understand their situation in the great sweep of things.” --@Denis Neville, quoting Thomas Frank, Reality Chex OTS, August 14, 2011.

@Denis, I hope that I haven’t misquoted you or taken you too much out of context as I have an enormous respect for you and have learned much from you. But the message from Thomas Frank seems clear. Either win back social conservatives quickly in some way that satisfies some of their concerns, or attempt the lengthy process of educating them even as time grows short.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Thanks for agreeing to copy and paste your comments from other venues here.

Think about it. No more need for KG alerts. We have been asking Karen for this for a long time. Today we caught her in a weak moment. To whatever extent your means allow, and by way of recognizing the additional trouble she must now go through in order to paste all her comments from elsewhere here, please, seriously, out of solidarity, in appreciation for Sardonicky, consider a donation.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Winning back the fallen-away Democrats of yore (who were stripped away from the party by Republicans harping on touchy cultural issues) by OUR inching over evermore to the cultural views of those fallen-away Democrats and their new-found Republican friends may not be the way to go, in my humble opinion. Why ask us to violate conscience to make nice to block heads with narrow views?

Why should I, to take just one example, go along with immigrant abuse to win back one more vote, or a hundred more votes, for the Democratic Party?

This cultural debating club idea is another diversion, distraction and blind alley peeling us away from the real struggle before society.

If we had leaders in the Congress and the White House whose tongues were not controlled by big money or the fear of evangelical and orthodox bigots, those political leaders would have long ago mounted one bully pulpit after another to defend humane cultural values with verve, convincing many of the value of cultural tolerance if not cultural magnanimity, instead of caving to ignorance and pressure from the ultra pious shock troops of God or being tricked into looking away every time some arch conservative, who really doesn't give a damn, says "Look at what those hippies/brownies/non-Christians, gays, whatever, are doing to our country."

Surrender in the cultural war is not the right tactic nor the main issue for serious people, although rightists love to send us all off in that direction.

Economic justice is the moral challenge of our day, damn it. It's the economy, stupid.

Suzan said...

@Jay in Ottawa: Agreed.

And thanks, Karen, for offering us your comments here.

I loved my first time happening upon your incisive response to one of Paul Krugman's essays. I'd love to see others.

And will contribute when I get on my feet.


Carry on, sister.


Anne Lavoie said...


You certainly had a conversion experience over there at Reality Chex!

How is it that you consider yourself a Conservative, given your current position on the issues? You sound more like a Blue Dog Democrat! Given that you do consider yourself a Conservative though, I wonder who you are leaning towards for President?

As far as finding common ground on cultural issues, what good would that do us when corporations have taken over our government and political process? I think that focusing on cultural issues misses the big picture.

I'd also like to address something else. You referred several times to Reality Chex in this thread and some other ones, and I wonder if your expectations might be the same for both sites? Just in case they are, I would like to take this opportunity to plug Sardonicky and point out how different this blog is from others. This is just my take, mind you.

What I have found and appreciate about Sardonicky is of course first and foremost Karen's perceptive, incisive, intelligent, and often comical comments. So many of us have had coffee come out of our noses, bursting out laughing from reading her stuff!

Another thing is that even when we discuss various issues here, the big picture always seems to stay in focus, keeping everything in proper perspective.

The best part is that there is no pressure or expectation to try to persuade, convert, convince, or argue our positions as if we were in a courtroom or debate club, or to express ourselves in a certain way. Refreshingly, we don't have to provide 'evidence' to prove our 'arguments'.

What we do is express our opinions, disagreeing at times of course, but mostly we try to help each other expand our knowledge base about various issues, referring each other to good sources of information, and perhaps giving each other a different way to look at things.

That makes this more of a cafe than a courtroom, classroom, or debate club. And thank God it isn't a place for trying to save or convert others. Heresy is welcome here!

So savor the brew at the Sardonicky Cafe. It's a unique blend, to be enjoyed. Just don't let it squirt out your nose!

Denis Neville said...

@ Jay – We know “What’s the Matter with the New York Times?”

Just read the “objective, unbiased” review of “Pity the Billionaire” by Michael Kinsley.

“But when he casually uses phrases like “deregulators and free marketeers” to define the bad guys, it does give one pause. For Frank, are government regulations ever excessive? Does he see no merit at all in free trade?... It would have been nice to know a bit more about where Thomas Frank is coming from. Otherwise, he starts to sound like those Tea Party people whom he rightly mocks for being very, very angry with no idea why or what to do about it.”

Consider the source. Michael Kinsley not only writes for “All the News that Is Fit To Sell,” he also works as a political tool for the American Caesar, Michael Bloomberg at Bloomberg View.

There is also another “flattering” NY Times review of Franks’ book by Michiko Kakutani, “How Conservatives Spin the Nation’s Predicament.”

“Not only does Mr. Frank arbitrarily cherry-pick illustrations that support his thesis - much the way conservatives arbitrarily cherry-pick illustrations to support their attacks on liberals - but his vitriolic denunciations of capitalism and free markets also make him sound like a parody of the sort of left-wing ‘socialist’agitator that the right loves to hate… Mr. Frank’s more credible arguments here are undermined by his ideological certainty, his reductive logic and his hectoring tone: some of the very qualities he so detests in the conservatives he tries to eviscerate in these pages.”

Who signs Michiko’s paychecks?

Chris Hedges, “The Myth of The New York Times, in Documentary Form”

“When you allow an institution to provide you with your identity and sense of self-worth you become an obsequious pawn, no matter how much talent you possess. You live in perpetual fear of what those in authority think of you and might do to you. This mechanism of internalized control - for you always need them more than they need you -is effective. The rules of advancement at the paper are never clearly defined or written down. Careerists pay lip service to the stated ideals of the institution, which are couched in lofty rhetoric about balance, impartiality and neutrality, but astutely grasp the actual guiding principle of the paper, which is: Do not significantly alienate the corporate and political power elite on whom the institution depends for access and money. Those who master this duplicitous game do well. Those who cling tenaciously to a desire to tell the truth, even at a cost to themselves and the institution, become a management problem.”

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee,

Don’t feel bad. We have all been duped at one time or another. Some for “a return to unfettered capitalism,” others for that “hopey-changey” stuff.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Republican conservatives’ invention of the cultural wars has been that those cultural issues, that motivated people by the millions, have never won. Republicans never delivered, while remaking (cratering) the economy. They fanned the flames by making people feel they were victims of a liberal elite - the conservative fantasy of victimhood - that never existed. This was the gigantic contradiction in conservatism. The free market capitalism, that they professed to love so much, delivered the very culture that they found so offensive and so abhorrent. The Republicans escaped that contradiction by inventing the vast liberal conspiracy that controlled society, and in so doing, got their unfettered free-market capitalism off the hook.

That contradiction should have been fatal for Republican conservatism. However, the Democrats would have had to talk about the contradiction. But they just weren’t interested in exposing and opposing the hypocrisy of the Republican Party.

As Franks has said, “It’s a cycle that feeds on itself and it gets worse. The way you challenge it is by talking about the real economic world that we live in. However, doing that would mean turning away or making Wall Street very unhappy and the corporate world very unhappy. That is political death in this day and age because that’s where the money comes from. One of the things that the Democratic Party has been constantly trying to prove is that they are safe to corporate America and that corporate America doesn’t have to worry about them - you know, Harry Truman threatening to nationalize some industry, or Franklin Roosevelt jacking up the tax on various corporate transactions, or something like that. They want to persuade the corporate world that they’re never going to do that sort of thing again, and so they have sworn off this language.”

Also @ Zee – “Are there other areas on which you Progressives can compromise with—or at least tolerate—“social Conservatives” and somehow win some of them—including “semi-social Conservative” me—back?”

We can sometimes be our own worst enemies; the danger of believing our own rhetoric about each other. Progressives passionately oppose policies favored by conservatives, and vice versa. Yet we actually agree on important things. We should begin by actually listening to each other. While we may not agree on everything, there is the common ground where we can meet and stand together, such as against those who are destroying our democracy and how best to restore the promise of a broad middle class society. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are speaking to our interests (unless you’re the one percent).

Denis Neville said...

Speaking of unfettered free market capitalism…

“According to the rules of the free market fairy, I do, in fact, have the right to piss in your pool."

“And then send the cleanup bill to the taxpayers.” – Atrios

That's how free market capitalism (One Market Under God) works for you and me (the 99 percent).

“I remember our pastor saying one time, ‘A cynic is a man who sneers, and a man who sneers is setting himself up to tell God that he doesn’t approve of God’s handiwork!’” – Sinclair Lewis, The Man Who Knew Coolidge

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie—

You’ve raised some interesting questions about me and my sociopolitical views. In an earlier thread you asked me to describe the areas of common ground that I believe exist between Conservatives—or at least this Conservative—and Progressives. Back under the thread entitled “Same Old New Year” I did so (the very last post), regarding areas of common ground that I held with Progressives even before stumbling upon RC OTS. I still don’t know if anyone has read it, but I have been planning on an additional post—which I might as well do today—to discuss what I have learned since I began posting there, which includes finding yet more common ground with at least some Progressives.

You are as diverse a group as Conservatives are, and I have been surprised to find that not all Progressives are anti-capitalism. (Although I should have already known this from my few Progressive friends.) Like me, many of you appear believe in capitalism, but not the unfettered and rapacious form that Republicans are currently pushing, the same which led us to the 2008 financial crisis. There's some common ground.

Thanks to the various books and articles to which I have been referred at RC OTS—and now, here too—I’ve learned that both the Democratic and Republican parties are riddled with even more corruption and rot than I already knew of. Both parties sell out the American taxpayer to further enrich already-wealthy individuals and corporations, who in turn then enrich the campaign coffers of their legislator buddies—and that includes the Presidency, too. As I acknowledged to @Denis Neville, I’ve been duped. Thanks again, @Kat, for pointing me to Free Lunch and other books. So I think that’s another area in which I now share with Progressives the same understanding of—and anger with—our current government.

The discussions that I have participated in at RC OTS have changed my perspective on American health care too. If I loathe ObamaCare and believe that it is unconstitutional, well, I now believe that a complete overhaul of our system is necessary. I favor a Canadian-style single-payer system—more common ground with Progressive—with one caveat that has not won me many Progressive friends.

Even the Canadians have learned that their single-payer system results in unacceptably long waits for treatments that are not emergencies but which hugely impact quality of life, e.g., hip and knee replacements, and back and cataract surgeries. Even obtaining MRIs, which can be essential for timely diagnoses of serious illnesses, can take a significant amount of time depending upon the urgency that your particular doctor happens to place on your symptoms on any given day.

Recently the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban private health care insurance and private providers who could offer such services at an accelerated rate:

Canadians now can have supplemental, private insurance, though as I understand it, such insurance is still not as comprehensive as I would like it to be. While this is still controversial in Canada and it is not clear how it will turn out there, this is the system that I would like to see here. Still, that’s a position that’s significantly closer to that of Progressives than my previous one.

So there are three areas in which I have either significantly changed my opinion of Progressive for the better, or have come to share Progressive values as a consequence of my participation at RC OTS, and here. (I “lurked” for quite a while before jumping in.) I think that I could name more, but I’m close up against the character limit.

I’ll try to address your other questions today in yet another post.

Denis Neville said...


Dan Savage rebuts Mark Judge’s hysteric Dan Savage and his “santorum.”

Dan Savage can respectfully disagree with others; may even support them, vote for them, donate to them. But…

Savage explains the redefinition of Santorum's last name, “Only Santorum Has Gotten the ‘Santorum’ Treatment.”

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie –

Back again!

Well, yes, I have had something of an epiphany since I “joined” RC OTS, but only on some subjects . You go on to ask, “How is it that you consider yourself a Conservative, given your current position on the issues? You sound more like a Blue Dog Democrat!”

I suppose that I might be considered a “Blue Dog” when one examines some of my beliefs and opinions, but after years of listening to strident calls for ever more confiscatory gun laws (sorry to bring up “guns” again), e.g.,

"If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them [so-called assault weapons] . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here." --Diane Feinstein, February, 1995…

…I could never think of myself as a Democrat—even a Blue one. I would be registered as an Independent except that here in New Mexico we have closed primaries. I register Republican to try to sway the party in a more humane direction, probably a hopeless proposition.

I continue to believe in certain core, conservative principles, and I don’t think that will ever change: Personal responsibility. Self-reliance. Individual initiative. That a smaller government is less a threat to individual liberty—and corruption—than a larger one. That, overall, people fare best when they learn to “do” for themselves. And, yes, capitalism, though not the unregulated, laissez-faire variety. That sounds pretty conservative to me.

Yes, I recognize that it is my duty—as a Progressive Christian and a fellow human being—to help those in need, even those who have brought their troubles upon themselves by making poor choices in life. While I think that I am inclined to be much more generous than Republicans, you and I would probably still have some long debates on how large and generous such government programs should be. I think you would consider me rather a Conservative here, too.

On the issue of how I believe the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution—and, indeed, all law well, I am an “originalist”—albeit with qualifications—a very conservative position. @Marie Burns, @The Doktor and I had an interesting discussion about this which you can find here, replete with quotes from the Founding Fathers and a link to a speech by Justice David Souter:

Next to the Patriot Act and the NDAA, I believe that the greatest threat to individual liberty in this country is the huge expansion of the power of the Federal government over the individual, promoted by so-called “living document” court interpretations of the Constitution that serve the purposes of fans of big—and ever bigger--government.

The Constitution is already a living document in that it has a straightforward—if laborious—provision for amendment. We shouldn’t encourage expansive readings of the Constitution in order to meet imagined current needs. The fundamental “law of the land” will eventually lose all meaning otherwise.

So, how can I consider myself to be a Conservative? Well, there are, I think, a few good reasons why. I’m just a Conservative who can’t be readily stereotyped as just another Republican, and I think that there are many of us out here in the same category.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – “So, how can I consider myself to be a Conservative?”

Corey Robin, “The Reactionary Mind,” argues that conservatives are radical reactionaries, whose fundamental impulse is the preservation of established hierarchy and privilege; the defense of power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality; and resistance, and where possible, rolling back the claims of the working class against their rulers.

Robin says that “conservatism is a theory, a moral and political argument, of hierarchy and elitism, which believes that all that is good in the world – all that is fine and beautiful and superior and excellent – is the product of not only superior people but superior people presiding over a society of unequals. Inequality, in their minds, is the condition of greatness – individual greatness and the contributions that greatness makes to all of civilization.”

"I've Got Mine, Jack," and any alleged dedication to the principles of liberty is merely a mask for the desire to get and keep mine and screw the rest, is Robin's core argument about conservatives in general. In the end, all that matters is the maintenance of power.

There is an interesting two-part interview with Cory Robin at

Part I is here:

Part II is here:

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie—

One last round of comments!

Thus far, I absolutely agree with your take on the excellent flavor and aroma of “the brew at the Sardonicky Café.” Even if I don’t always agree with Ms. Garcia’s posts, I find them to be intelligent, thoughtful, exceptionally well-written, humorous—yes, I can laugh at myself—and always passionate and sincere. I feel the same way about @Marie Burns’ posts over at Reality Chex.

The atmosphere here does seem a bit more relaxed than over at RC OTS. Both here and at RC OTS the posters are polite and generally respectful-which is what has drawn me to these blogs-but things can sometimes get a little intense in the latter forum. This doesn’t bother me too much as I have a thick skin, trained by a scientific career. Still, I’ve learned to come armed with data, and when I find that I can’t, I’ve modified my thinking. Given that additional “training,” I’ll try to come to Sardonicky with facts, too.

My expectations—“hopes,” really—for my participation in both forums is as I’ve stated previously. I hope to find common ground at the “big picture” level between thinking Conservatives and Progressives, places where we can act in concert for the public good. But if Sardonicky isn’t “a courtroom, classroom or debate club,” I still do have an agenda.

By showing that my thinking can sometimes be changed by polite discussion and your persuasive analyses, and by me, in turn, presenting reasoned—I hope!—contrarian viewpoints as the situation arises, I hope to show you that (1) some Conservatives can think, reason, and change when warranted and that (2) some Conservative thinking is worthy of respect, too.

I don’t necessarily expect to change your thinking much, but I do hope to persuade you occasionally that certain closely-held Conservative cultural values have strong grounding in American history and tradition, and are therefore worthy of respect if for no other reasons than those. And yes, some of this will probably be at the cultural level: that’s the level that makes us who and what we are, IMHO.

Finally, you’ve asked me a really thorny question: Who am I leaning towards for President? Well, I’m committed to voting each and every incumbent OUT in 2012. It’s the only message that I can conceive of that will make it clear to D.C. that we—the public—are completely and utterly FED UP with the corruption and gridlock there. NO voting for YOUR favorite congresscritter because you just know (S)HE is really a good person. They are ALL guilty—or soon will be if we keep sending them back—and ALL must go.

So as you might guess, I won’t be voting for Obama. While I would prefer Huntsman, I might consider voting for Romney while holding my nose, if and only if he decides to segue back to the center after winning the nomination. If the Republican candidate is one of the remaining politico-cultural barbarians—Gingrich, Paul, Perry or Santorum—I will either leave the box unchecked or vote for a third-party candidate. Heck, I might even do so if Romney is the Republican nominee.

Denis Neville said...

“Mr. Peppers had put his feet up on a subway seat, and that, the officer informed him, was a crime — one that in his case would lead to his arrest. He spent 12 hours in jail before he saw a judge, and was released after pleading guilty.”

Millions of people’s lives have crumbled as a result of systemic financial fraud, yet no one is guilty? A corporation is a person, but not a real person which can be prosecuted?

Denis Neville said...

@ Anne… f/u on '7 Reasons America's Mental Health Industry Is a Threat to Our Sanity'

Reihan Salam on "Up w/ Chris Hayes" this morning recommended this book – “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America”

Thomas Franks, Pity the Poor Billionaire, was also a guest on "Up w/ Chris Hayes" this morning. Video can be accessed here:

Anne Lavoie said...


Thank you. You covered it nicely. Labels are so misleading. I don't see much difference between you and most Democrats actually.

The gun issue is probably the one that makes you feel at home with Republicans, and where you hope to win over some Democrats to that hallowed ground. Indeed, it seems to be the only area in your list of cultural issues where you are not in sync with most Democrats.

You brought this up a few times, even asking where we stood in regard to state and local militias against an abusive government. Also you said you've studied the gun issue for 30 years, so can you clarify something for us?

The gun issue/Second Amendment isn't about hunting and crime prevention and protection, right? It's actually about citizens claiming ownership of the right to violence, per Second Amendment, as a legal and Constitutional challenge to an abusive government, right?

It would be helpful to have this out in the open before we consider if any common ground is possible. Even if we could agree that it's a valid right, whether it is a sane, effective, or appropriate option, is another matter. So what's the real issue when you asked us about it?

Karen Garcia said...

Speaking of conservatives... actually, speaking of whacked-out reactionaries, here is my comment on Ross Douthat's Times column tonight (he indirectly linked to a pro-life site without mentioning it was a pro-life site while pontificating on Rick Santorum.):

That website that Ross Douthat refers us to, the one that advises families of stillborn children how to grieve, has direct ties to the Crisis Pregnancy Center network. Called the American Pregnancy Association, it does not directly advocate against abortion on its site, but it does discourage the termination of pregnancies in some pretty insidious ways. For example, clients are asked if they are aware of the relationship between abortion and breast cancer. Of course, any link between abortion and breast cancer was debunked a long time ago. But it lives on in the pro-life literature. Quelle surprise!

Here's more:

All that being said, I do not believe that Karen Santorum had a therapeutic abortion, nor am I qualified to offer an opinion on her family's method of grieving. But I think I am qualified to register disgust at the way her husband is using a personal family tragedy to proselytize during a presidential campaign. How is this guy icky? Let me count the ways... starting with trying to weasel his way out of a racist remark by calling food stamp recipients "blahs". Reminds me of the "Christmas Story" movie scene in which Ralphie says "F-u-", and then tries to change it to fudge. Too bad we can't stick a bar of soap into Rick's sanctimonious mouth too.

Zee said...

@Denis Neville--

Thank you for your thoughtful reply regarding my interpretation of at least some of what I think Thomas Frank was trying to get at in What’s the Matter with Kansas?, and thank you also for the quotes from, and links to, Corey Robin’s works regarding his perceptions of Conservatism. I will have to look up and read the Robin references and links at a later time before I dare to comment on them at length, if I do at all.

You are generally correct when you point out that the ironic fact is that the “Republican conservatives’ invention of the cultural wars has been that those cultural issues, that motivated people by the millions, have never [been] won. Republicans never delivered, while remaking (cratering) the economy.”

Still, I would disagree with you a bit. I view my little piece of the “culture wars”—and there are those pesky guns again—as very real, not an invention. Even if I am open to far “tighter” gun laws than the run-of-the-mill NRA member, the incendiary words of Diane Feinstein—which I’ve quoted earlier today in one of my posts to @Anne Lavoie—sounded to me and millions of other law-abiding gun owners like a declaration of war. And so I voted with the side that supported me on this very important—to me—cultural issue. I hate to admit that I have been a one-issue voter, but there it is. I can no more betray my conscience and, yes, my way of life, than can you or @Jay—Ottawa.

Gun owners won several significant victories over the past couple of years thanks to a largely Republican-appointed Supreme Court. As a result, I expect that I will be able to hold on to my firearms at least through my lifetime. That matters very much to me. At a later date I would be happy to explain why I am passionate about this issue, but I’ve hogged a great deal of space here today. Soon it will be time for me to “lie low” and just “lurk” for a few days.

I agree with you when you say “We can sometimes be our own worst enemies; the danger of believing our own rhetoric about each other.” But the vitriolic and careless rhetoric of a Diane Feinstein provokes vitriolic rhetoric and intransigence in return.

Words matter, and we all need to think twice about what we say, and, equally importantly, how we say it.

I further agree with you that “…we actually agree on important things. [Does that make me a Progressive?] We should begin by actually listening to each other. I’m here to listen to you, and I think that you’re willing to listen to me, too.

Finally, I think—without yet having read his works—that Corey Robin’s perception of Conservatism is, well, jaundiced by current Republican perversions of the meaning of the word. Or, maybe I’m just a Progressive and don’t yet realize it.

To me, Conservatism means paying due deference to traditions, values and institutions that have stood the test of time, abandoning them when conscience finally demands it. To me, individual liberty is not “merely a mask for the desire to get and keep mine and screw the rest.” If you believe that of me, then you seriously misjudge me. I have welcomed—and participated in—the steady expansion of individual freedom and equality that we have seen in the areas of women’s and gay rights, just as we freed the slaves 150 years ago and subsequently integrated this country 50 years ago.

Sometimes even time-honored values and traditions turn out to be just plain wrong.

If you agree with Robin’s assessment of Conservatism, then I must be something else; but hopefully something more charitable in your mind than “a**h***” or equivalent epithet.

I have hogged far too much space—and spent far too much time—here today. Mrs. Zee— my wife of 37+ years—is reminding me that I have chores to do, responsibilities to fulfill, and, yes, some fun to have. To me, this is work, not fun. So, after addressing one last question from @Anne Lavoie, I will sign off and be content to “lurk” for awhile.

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie—

Actually, Anne, I think that you have me rather wrong on this point.

I don’t have Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. Chicago close to hand, and as I indicated to @Denis, I’m worn out and done for a few days. I’m not gonna Google ‘em and re-read ‘em tonight.

As I recollect, in those Supreme Court findings it was held that private citizens have the right to own ordinary firearms—including handguns—for personal defense, subject to reasonable controls. I could be wrong, but I don’t recollect that those opinions touched upon the Second Amendment as a means for preserving the right to do violence against a repressive government at all. (As you more or less put it.)

My principal concern with guns and the Second Amendment—the “real issue” as you put it— is the same as the Court’s: My belief in a fundamental and unalienable right to self-defense—and defense of my loved ones—in the face of unprovoked attack, and, yes, the further right to possess the same arms that the criminals have access to in order to defend myself.

So, yes, it is a “crime prevention and protection issue” to me, not a “Second Amendment remedy” matter as you infer. Thus far, the Supreme Court says that I have those rights, whether you consider them “valid and sane” or not.

Relentless efforts on the parts of both Progressives and garden-variety Democrats to deny me those rights have thrown me into the arms of Republicans whether I like it or not. I don’t like it, but there it is.

There. It’s out in the open, though I didn’t think that I was really keeping it a deep, dark secret from you. If you’re giving me a litmus test as to whether “[you will] consider if any common ground is possible… based on that answer alone, well, I guess I came to the wrong place. But I think there is room for further discussion.

My question about “armed resistance” merely seemed appropriate at the time, relative to the topic then at hand, specifically, anticipated warrantless arrests and indefinite detainment under the terms of the NDAA. It was strictly a vehicle to inquire as to whether any of you Progressives out there own firearms, as several of my Progressive friends do here. Just curious, you know?

Like you, I question the extent to which an “armed citizenry” could actually resist an overly-repressive government. We don’t have access to tanks, fully automatic weapons, drones and the like.

But among others, it was a respected liberal Democrat who suggested that the Second Amendment provided a “remedy” against oppressive government. This quote is genuine and sourced, insofar as I can determine—though I admit that many fake quotes in support of the Second Amendment are floating around out there:

“The right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.” --Hubert H. Humphrey

Far be it for me to disagree with the “Happy Warrior,” even if Second Amendment remedies aren’t the crux of my concerns.

I’m off for a few days, if only to preserve my marriage.

I'll let you and @Denis decide whether or not I'm a Conservative, a garden-variety Democrat, or maybe just an a**h***.

Jay - Ottawa said...

The lead story from the NYT indicates that the election of 2012 will boil down to this: the Lesser of Two Evils vs The Best of Bad Choices (Mitt). Sounds like a scholastic conundrum out of the Middle Ages. What will become of us? Bring me hope or reports about OWS, if they're still around.

Anne Lavoie said...


I guess I touched a nerve. So solly! I would like to address 'common ground' though, and I need to review some of your words to get there:

Zee: "Have any of you considered the possibility of armed resistance in the face of suspension of civil rights and internment of alleged “enemies of the state?” Or will you all just “go gentle into that good night?”"

Zee quoting Madison:
"“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of."

Zee: "If you accept my interpretation thus far, then it seems to me that you must further conclude that Madison envisioned resistance—even to the point of armed resistance by at least state militias, and, perhaps the people --in the event of suppression of civil rights by the Federal government."

I just accepted at face value what you wrote for the purpose of finding common ground. However, you then backtracked and changed your tune completely:

Zee: "So, yes, it is a “crime prevention and protection issue” to me, not a “Second Amendment remedy” matter as you infer. Thus far, the Supreme Court says that I have those rights, whether you consider them “valid and sane” or not."

Hey, what happened to my concession that you indeed had the right to bear arms? I give ground and you take it away. No fair! I only disputed the wisdom or sanity of actually planning to exercise that right as an option in dealing with a repressive government, aka The Beast. Who would have thought, after all your quotes, and especially in the context of discussing NDAA, the Occupy movement, and Patriot Act, that you were actually talking about guns for crime prevention and personal protection? Could have fooled me!

And just to clarify, no one at Sardonicky (I can't speak for elsewhere) has ever called you, nor would we call you, an 'a**h***', as you seemed to suggest at the end of your response. Not only would Karen not allow it, but on the occasion when a label is used, aka 'name-calling', they are descriptive words that convey a meaning, such as spook or troll for example, not simple insults. Give us some credit!

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie--

Please accept my apology for misinterpreting your earlier remarks.

And please also accept my apology for providing you with plenty of reason to believe that I see entirely in the Second Amendment a remedy for a tyrannical government, yet snapping at you when you asked me for clarification on that specific point.

Though I like to think that I have a thick skin, I tend to have a “hair trigger” sometimes. Usually I can keep it under control, but sometimes it just goes off.

Those of you out there who have followed my participation over at Reality Chex have seen me get into occasional trouble there, too, and seen me apologize when I realize that I’m wrong or have overreacted.

I have definitely overreacted once again, and for that I sincerely apologize.

Moreover, I accept that you have conceded my right to keep and bear arms. That is very important to me, and gives me great encouragement that there is even more common ground to be identified.