December 2010 Archives

O-Zone, continued

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Before I pick up where we left off before the Christmas break, let me first recap my last post. I asked why conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly does not think President Obama is a socialist but self-described socialist and MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell does.

Seems backwards, doesn't it?

O'Donnell even said that O'Reilly "lies" about what socialism is, adding that there isn't a capitalist country left in existence, and cited Newseek's infamous "We're all socialists now" cover to show how much in the mainstream that ideology really is.

I'm not sure what lies O'Donnell is referring to, as O'Reilly has gone out of his way to paint Obama as a Left-centrist--much to the chagrin of his conservative audience.

O'Reilly wrote that "as long as he isn't nationalizing industry or purloining private property, I don't think the socialist label is accurate."

Some might say that he is.

But what does Obama think about the label?

The New York Times asked him point blank if he's a socialist after the first six weeks of his presidency.

"The answer would be no," the president said.

The reporter pushed, asking if there's anything wrong with saying yes.  Obama responded with a 400-word response in which no answer was provided. The reporter tried again.

"Is there a one-word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you a progressive? One word?"

"No," Obama said. "I'm not going to engage in that."

After the interview, a miffed Obama felt the need to call the New York Times reporter back to clarify his ideology.

"It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question," he said, adding that he's been "operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles."

He better tell O'Donnell and Maher, because they think he's one of them.

Why is there so much confusion over this man's political views? Almost every other heavy hitter in politics is easily identifiable. Nobody disagrees that O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Palin, and Gingrich are conservatives and capitalists. Why, then, is the opposite label murky and controversial?

As a result of this country's history as the first small-government laissez-faire capitalist nation--the astounding success of which engenders a large amount of pride in its populace--conservativism and capitalism are our embedded, default values.  Most Americans find the opposite view--socialism--to be unpalatable.

Consequently, in order to be politically successful, socialists need to mask their true identities.

"I know this about my country. Liberals are 20 percent of the electorate," O'Donnell said minutes after his famous socialism admission. "Conservatives are 41 percent of the electorate. So I don't pretend that my views, which would ban all guns in America, make Medicare available to all in America, have any chance of happening in the federal government."

 He went on to say that the only reason a Chairman Barney Frank exists is because of Blue Dog Democrats, and blamed those who ran to the left of them for their heavy losses this November 2nd.

In short, he warned the Left not to outrun its cover. O'Donnell and Maher can freely admit their socialism and keep their jobs because they can stay on air by appealing to that far-Left niche. Obama, who needs 51 percent of the vote, has to be craftier.

And that, my friends, is why O'Reilly and O'Donnell aren't on the same page about Obama. It's why the one-dimensional political spectrum is flawed.

Simply put, the element of time is undefined.

A person can be a hard-core socialist while being realistic enough to see--like O'Donnell sees--that the country won't take it all in one sitting. To avoid a backlash, it must be fed to them slowly over time in small spoonfuls, mixed with some capitalism to make it go down smoother.

O'Reilly is focusing on the small spoonfuls, and--not seeing pure socialism--calls Obama center-Left. O'Donnell, the advocate of the incrementalist strategy, sees the spoonfuls as merely a tactic of Obama's to achieve the grand strategy of socialism in America.

In the end, they may not disagree after all--they may merely be seeing to aspects of the same thing.

O-Zone: O'Reilly, O'Donnell offer opposite opinions of Obama's outlook

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How liberal is Barack Obama? Pundits identify him as anything from a center-left pragmatist to a far-Left Marxist. This one-dimensional Left-Right paradigm is useful only in determining that he's not a conservative; it doesn't tell us how far to the left he is.

Opinions are all over the map, sometimes in surprising ways. Earlier this year, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly opined:

Radio guy Rush Limbaugh recently mocked me because I do not call President Obama a socialist. Although I asked Mr. Obama to explain his "socialistic tenets" in my last interview with him, I have not branded him with the "S" word because the label does not exactly apply to his governance thus far.

However, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell--who proudly wears the "S" label-- agreed with Limbaugh that Obama is a socialist.

"Two weeks ago on Bill Maher's show," O'Donnell said, "Bill and I both admitted to being socialists and we threw Barack Obama in with us."

The progressive website Media Matters complained that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes "smeared" Obama when he said that he "had to be told by the French and Germans that his socialism was too far to the left for them to deal with."

Is it a smear when the far-Left O'Donnell says the same thing?

O'Donnell also said that O'Reilly "lies" about what socialism is, adding that there isn't a capitalist country left in existence, and cited Newseek's infamous "We're all socialists now" cover to show how much in the mainstream that ideology really is.

I'm not sure what lies O'Donnell is referring to, as O'Reilly has gone out of his way to paint Obama as a Left-centrist--much to the chagrin of his conservative audience.

O'Reilly wrote that "as long as he isn't nationalizing industry or purloining private property, I don't think the socialist label is accurate."

O'Reilly doesn't think Obama is a socialist but O'Donnell (along with Limbaugh and Maher) do? What is going on here?

I think I have the answer, and it will be in my next post.

Chavez uses familiar arguments to clamp down on Internet

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Here's another example how the Left seeks to increase government control by saying that they're only trying to help people.

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, like some of our friends in Washington and the U.N., is planning to regulate the Internet. His reasoning?

Chavez's congressional allies are considering extending the "Social Responsibility Law" for broadcast media to the Internet, banning messages that "disrespect public authorities," "incite or promote hatred" or crimes, or are aimed at creating "anxiety" in the population.

Government opponents and press freedom groups have been critical of the plan, saying it is one of several measures being considered that could restrict freedoms in Venezuela.

"We aren't eliminating the Internet here ... nor censoring the Internet," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio program, "Hello, President." "What we're doing is protecting ourselves against crimes, cybercrimes, through a law."

Obviously, Chavez will use this law to silence his political opposition and solidify his power. But he can't say that, so he tells his people that he is merely protecting them.

The "we're just trying to protect you" line is popular among Statists in this country as well. From gun control ("we're just trying to protect people from accidentally shooting themselves") to school food ("we're just trying to protect kids from unhealthy food") to the Fairness Doctrine ("we're just trying to protect you from one-sided political speech"), Progressives can sell their plan for all-encompassing government control to an unwitting public.

In defense of Assange

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I'm hearing some scary things from conservatives over the ongoing Wikileaks saga. Julian Assange, the website's founder, was just released from prison after being arrested on ginned up sex crimes charges. I probably don't agree with him on anything regarding politics. I cringe when I think of all the lives he endangered by publishing raw diplomatic cables.

But what he did--namely, publishing leaks derived from a source inside the American government--is something that should be protected.

Now, I'm not saying that leaking information needs to necessarily be protected--I have no problem that the alleged leaker, PFC Bradley Manning, was arrested and may spend time in prison. [continue reading]

Nanny state that de Tocqueville prophesied comes to pass

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With her husband standing by her side, Michelle Obama announced new school nutrition regulations.

"It's clear that we as a nation have a responsibility to meet as well. We can't just leave it up to the parents," the First Lady said.

With that statement, she invited the federal government to run yet another detail of our daily lives. Many people find nothing objectionable about her Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. But the thousands of these small intrusions over the years have a very corrosive impact on a nation. According to Alexis de Tocqueville, it will lead to catastrophe.

In his classic Democracy in America (1835), Tocqueville predicted that tyranny in America wouldn't introduce itself through force. He noted that even Roman Emperors, absolute as their power was, couldn't exert it upon the daily lives of their subjects.

They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or of life; their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the many; it was fixed to some few main objects and neglected the rest; it was violent but its range was limited.

The mild nature of American government meant that the tyranny would be mild.

This universal moderation moderates the sovereign himself and checks within certain limits the inordinate stretch of his desires.

The "species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced" would take the form not with rulers, "but rather with guardians."

That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if like that authority its object was to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood.

In other words, he feared America would become a nanny state. After listing all the things such a government would regulate, he writes, "what remains but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living."

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd.

It creates minute regulations such as Mrs. Obama's plans to ban sodas from school campuses. We need to have experts help us figure out what our taxes are; we need lawyers to help us start businesses. Want to buy a house? A real estate agent is needed to guide you through the paperwork, along with a multitude of entities to check title or inspect the home. Tocqueville continues:

The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act but they are constantly restrained from acting-- such a power does not destroy but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.

The "soft despotism" of the nanny states devolves its citizens into mush--it saps their strength and robs them of their willpower. One needs to look no further than the 99'ers to see fleshy examples of this evil. There is danger when the populace is weakened like this.

It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power this rare and brief exercise of their free choice,  however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

If Americans don't cast off the "leading strings" of small regulations, Tocqueville sees only one alternative. Unable to choose a good government, we get the government we deserve, and end up slaves in a "hard despotism."

The vices of rulers and the inaptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin, and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master.

Michelle Obama just moved us one step closer to that fate.

Teachers: Grinch wants to cut education spending

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Anyone who wants to cut spending is the Grinch, according to the CTA.

"There is no more meat on this bone to carve, the only thing left is amputation," said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Assn. "If we do what Mr. Grinch wants us to do, the possibility of shutting down schools is a reality. Is that really what we want to do?"

Total per-pupil expenditures are about $12,000 in California. Think about that--the price of a small car every year for all six million plus students.

There are 175 school days in a year. That's $68 a day California spends on each kid. You could book a room in a motel for that amount.  If there are 40 kids in a class, it costs $2,742 to teach them for a six-hour period, or $457 per hour. If a teacher makes $40,000 a year, he rakes in $38 per teaching hour. We spend $457 per teaching hour, but less than ten percent of that goes to the teacher's salary. The union is telling us there's no more meat on the bone? [continue reading]

Tea Party claims temporary victory in T.O. monster sign controversy

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Think nationally, act locally is the mantra of grassroots organizations--a slogan that was popularized by the Left but is now adopted by Tea Parties are all over the country.

Having experienced great success at the national level, Tea Partiers are turning their attention inward to their local governments and are having an impact at the city level.

Locally, the Thousand Oaks Tea Party claimed a temporary victory when plans for a giant auto mall sign off the 101 Freeway were removed from this Tuesday's City Council agenda at the auto mall dealer's association's behest.

The Tea Party has been campaigning against it and hoped to organize a large demonstration at the meeting. The dealers said they want more community input before moving forward on the project, which is still very much alive.

Although the 35-foot-sign is merely delayed--not dead, as Tea Partiers hoped--it puts wind in their sails for a future battle with the project.

Pirates of the Constitution: The Curse of the Black Robe

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In the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Keira Knightley's character survives a raid by invoking the right of parlay, apparently a law in the strict Pirate Code that requires captors to safely escort their captives to their captain for negotiation. She didn't quite get what she was expecting. The captain says:

First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl.

The distinction between "guidelines" and "actual rules" occurred to me as a read Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer discuss his interpretation of the Constitution. Is it a document of actual rules, or is it merely a set of guiding principles?

Breyer, who just published "Making Our Democracy Work," a book about the role of the court in American life, outlined his judicial philosophy as one in which the court must take a pragmatic approach in which it "should regard the Constitution as containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances."

It's a document that contains values that must be applied "flexibly?" There are some, Justice Breyer, who would say that the Constitution is a legal document that carries the force of law. Not only that, but that it is the supreme law of the land.

"The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing," Breyer said. "It's not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended."

This is stunning. This is a one-ninth of the members of the highest court in the land saying that the Constitution is not a legal document--that it's a statement of principles that he must apply to whatever circumstances come before him. He must make sure that any law under is review sort of fits within the general guidelines set forth in nation's founding document.

It's not just Keira Knightley's whose been taken captive.

Left freaks over Palin's shooting of "Santa's reindeer"

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Do progressives think meat grows on trees?

A "trigger-happy" Sarah Palin "gunned down" a caribou, according to the Left, on her eponymous TLC show about her adventures in Alaska.  Her critics must think that it's possible to get meat from an animal without killing it.

There's no difference between killing food in a slaughterhouse or shooting it on the tundra. It's just more upfront Sarah Palin's way, where you can see the moment the furry animal dies. Oddly, the Left is mute about 42 million aborted infants--maybe because they die behind closed doors just like the cattle that end up in our refrigerators, so the messy process can be ignored.

Only the demise of cute, furry animals gets the Left's dander up

Aaron Sorkin of The Social Network fame responded to Palin's defense of her carnivorous appetites.

"Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather chair or eaten meat, save your condemnation."

You're right, Sarah, we'll all just go f**k ourselves now.

The snotty quote was posted by Sarah Palin on (like all the great frontier women who've come before her) her Facebook page to respond to the criticism she knew and hoped would be coming after she hunted, killed and carved up a Caribou during a segment of her truly awful reality show, Sarah Palin's Alaska, broadcast on The-Now-Hilariously-Titled Learning Channel.

So angry...Sorkin went on to say that Palin's show is a "snuff film" where she relished "torturing animals."

Does it sound like Sorkin is a bit out of touch with the real world?

Of the progressives that were offended by Palin's hunting display, Maureen Down stands out as one of the more hysterical commentators.

The poor caribou in the Arctic Circle, a cousin to Santa's reindeer, had to die so Palin could show off her toughness to voters and try to boost ratings on her show that have slipped since its premiere.

Sarah Palin killed Rudolph. Nice.

I have a feeling Dowd would be upset at Palin if she picked vegetables in her garden for a salad. In the same screed about Palin's show, Dowd writes:

The female caribou could easily have escaped, since it took the Wasilla huntress six shots, two rifles and some help from her dad to bag her prey.

So Dowd is critical that Palin is a bad shot, yet she complains when Palin hits her mark and kills the animal. Can Palin do nothing right?

Yes, and Obama can do nothing wrong. Dowd ties Rudolph's fate to the tax cut deal Obama reached with Republicans.

The caribou that waited too pliantly in the cross hairs is doomed to become stew for Palin and an allegory for politics. The elegant animal standing above the fray, dithering rather than charging at his foes or outmaneuvering them, is Obambi. Even with a rifle aimed at him, he's trying to be the most reasonable mammal in the scene, mammalian bipartisan, and rise above what he sees as empty distinctions between the species so that we can all unite at a higher level of being. Palin kills Rudolph and Bambi but Obama is Jesus Christ reincarnate? Is anyone influenced by Dowd?

The Left would gladly ritually sacrifice a caribou--or a hundred--if that could get rid of Sarah Palin. They don't care about the animals--they just hate Palin and everything she does.

AP remembers Rich pardon as merely "controversial"

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President Obama just exercised his pardoning powers, absolving nine people of minor offenses. No news there--except strangely four of them had cocaine-related violations, a drug that Obama admitted using. But the pardons are a reminder of past pardons by President Clinton, who handed them out like candy to political supporters.

However, the AP noted that Clinton's pardons were simply "controversial." [continue reading]

Rangel defiant while being censured

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Unbelievable. That's the only word I can think of to describe Charlie Rangel's stunning response to being censured by the House of Representatives. 

Rangel, the head of the chief tax-writing committee in the House, failed to report $75,000 in income to the IRS for his rental property in the Dominican Republic. His 3 bedroom beachfront villa sometimes rented for $1,100 a night during the peak busy season.

Rangel grew up poor. He was a lawyer for a brief time--where he made little money--before entering politics. Now he has a beachfront villa? Starting to smell a little fishy?

He also owns property in Sunny Isles, Florida worth up to $500,000 and has a checking account also with up to half a million dollars in it. He failed to report these assets initially. He also failed to report details on the sale of his Washington, D.C. home. Despite his wealth, he failed to pay taxes on two New Jersey properties he owns.

Oh there's more! Rangel also accepted trips from organizations lobbying the Ways and Means committee, which he chaired. This humble public servant also found some way to spend $2 million on his lawyers.

The wealthy politician also benefited from four rent-controlled apartments--one of which he illegally used as a campaign office--in Harlem.

Even the progressive group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington labeled Rangel one of the 15 most corrupt politicians in Washington, noting that he violated a dozen laws, more than any other name on the list.

The Democrats voted to give him only a slap on the wrist as his censure today.

What did this most corrupt of politicians do? He blamed the new wave of House Republicans for  singling him out. After all, everyone makes these mistakes. He apologized only for putting people in a difficult position.

Defiant to the end. What an ugly display of arrogant Washington elitism.

The Decline and Fall of the American Republic?

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Yesterday there were a couple of great discussions about the transition America is making from a small-government Republic to, well, something else--treated in the context of what happened to ancient civilizations. Readers of this blog will know that I've been harping on this subject for the last year-and-a-half.

The first comes from Mort Zuckerman

It is nearly a century since that gloomy German mathematician and philosopher Oswald Spengler published his 1918 classic The Decline of the West. His arguments were complex, but basically he suggested that the future of the West was not as limitless as his peers imagined after the ghastly World War I. His thesis was that civilizations had an underlying trajectory, an organic rise and fall; his metaphor was to compare the stages of this process to the stages of our seasons--but seasons of many centuries. In the 19th century we were, he suggested, in the winter of the West, witnessing the triumph of materialism, socialism, and money and that the era of individualism, liberty, and humanitarianism was nearing its end. (When the Nazis rose to power he seemed vindicated--he was a vehement critic.)

Note that he implies Nazis were socialists--it's news to people in some circles that Nazis were the National Socialist party.

The second discussion was on Glenn Beck's Fox News show. He said that historians agree ancient Rome fell for three reasons: 1) a declining moral value, 2) and extended military overstretched in foreign lands,and 3) a debt-ridden government.

He went so far as to claim that President Obama is a modern-day Augustus Caesar, something I disagree with. I see America as in the same stage today as when the Roman Republic was transitioning to the Roman Empire. Notice the future tense--it's a process. It's not something that happens overnight. The executive branch slowly gains more power, like it's been doing for 150 years. But to allow that process to continue is to abandon a government ruled by separation of powers, fundamentally changing this country from what it was, to something else.

This blog attempts to add perspective and context to local and national politics, through a variety of disciplines, such as history, economics, and philosophy--all tempered with common sense. About the author

Eric Ingemunson's commentary has been featured on Hannity, CNN, NBC, Inside Edition, and KFI's The John and Ken Show. Eric was born and raised in Ventura County and currently resides in Moorpark. He earned a master's degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. As a conservative, Eric supports smaller government, less taxation, more individual freedom, the rule of law, and a strict adherence to the Constitution.
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