Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conversations with the Parents

My parents, mother especially, occasionally forward me things. I read these, all of them, but rarely reply. This one forced it out of me, and again proves that I could never really go into politics (I would have a heart attack within a few years). This was a quick reply (hah...quick...), so it wasn't researched anywhere near well-enough, but it got most of the basic points into it. I'll post the email I received first and my reply after the fold.

Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2010 16:36:54 -0700
From: --------------------
To: ----------------------------------------------------------

What if he is right?

I hope you find the time to read this with an open mind. It's interesting. Please read it with the open mind rather than immediately breaking it down into left or right, but rather look at it from the neutral viewpoint of right or wrong. It's like the line below says, "what if he is right?"

Take the three minutes to read this. Maybe he is wrong, but what if he's right?

David Kaiser is a respected historian whose published works have covered a broad range of topics, from European Warfare to American League Baseball. Born in 1947, the son of a diplomat, Kaiser spent his childhood in three capital cities: Washington D.C. , Albany , New York , and Dakar , Senegal . He attended Harvard University , graduating there in 1969 with a B.A. in history. He then spent several years more at Harvard, gaining a PhD in history, which he obtained in 1976. He served in the Army Reserve from 1970 to 1976.

He is a professor in the Strategy and Policy Department of the United States Naval War College . He has previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, Williams College and Harvard University . Kaiser's latest book, The Road to Dallas, about the Kennedy assassination, was just published by Harvard University Press.

History Unfolding

I am a student of history. Professionally, I have written 15 books on history that have been published in six languages, and I have studied history all my life. I have come to think there is something monumentally large afoot, and I do not believe it is simply a banking crisis, or a mortgage crisis, or a credit crisis. Yes these exist, but they are merely single facets on a very large gemstone that is only now coming into a sharper focus.

Something of historic proportions is happening. I can sense it because I know how it feels, smells, what it looks like, and how people react to it. Yes, a perfect storm may be brewing, but there is something happening within our country that has been evolving for about ten to fifteen years. The pace has dramatically quickened in the past two.

We demand and then codify into law the requirement that our banks make massive loans to people we know they can never pay back? Why?

We learned just days ago that the Federal Reserve, which has little or no real oversight by anyone, has "loaned" two trillion dollars (that is $2,000,000,000,000) over the past few months, but will not tell us to whom or why or disclose the terms. That is our money. Yours and mine. And that is three times the $700 billion we all argued about so strenuously just this past September. Who has this money? Why do they have it? Why are the terms unavailable to us? Who asked for it? Who authorized it? I thought this was a government of "we the people," who loaned our powers to our elected leaders. Apparently not.

We have spent two or more decades intentionally de-industrializing our economy.


We have intentionally dumbed down our schools, ignored our history, and no longer teach our founding documents, why we are exceptional, and why we are worth preserving. Students by and large cannot write, think critically, read, or articulate. Parents are not revolting, teachers are not picketing, school boards continue to back mediocrity.


We have now established the precedent of protesting every close election (violently in California over a proposition that is so controversial that it simply wants marriage to remain defined as between one man and one woman. Did you ever think such a thing possible just a decade ago?) We have corrupted our sacred political process by allowing unelected judges to write laws that radically change our way of life, and then mainstream Marxist groups like ACORN and others to turn our voting system into a banana republic. To what purpose?

Now our mortgage industry is collapsing, housing prices are in free fall, major industries are failing, our banking system is on the verge of collapse, social security is nearly bankrupt, as is Medicare and our entire government. Our education system is worse than a joke (I teach college and I know precisely what I am talking about) - the list is staggering in its length, breadth, and depth. It is potentially 1929 x ten...and we are at war with an enemy we cannot even name for fear of offending people of the same religion, who, in turn, cannot wait to slit the throats of your children if they have the opportunity to do so.

And finally, we have elected a man that no one really knows anything about, who has never run so much as a Dairy Queen, let alone a town as big as Wasilla, Alaska...All of his associations and alliances are with real radicals in their chosen fields of employment, and everything we learn about him, drip by drip, is unsettling if not downright scary. (Surely you have heard him speak about his idea to create and fund a mandatory civilian defense force stronger than our military for use inside our borders? No? Oh, of course. The media would never play that for you over and over and then demand he answer it. Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter and $150,000 wardrobe are more important.)

Mr. Obama's winning platform can be boiled down to one word:



I have never been so afraid for my country and for my children as I am now.

This man campaigned on bringing people together, something he has never, ever done in his professional life. In my assessment, Obama will divide us along philosophical lines, push us apart, and then try to realign the pieces into a new and different power structure. Change is indeed coming. And when it comes, you will never see the same nation again.

And that is only the beginning..

As a serious student of history, I thought I would never come to experience what the ordinary, moral German must have felt in the mid-1930s. In those times, the "savior" was a former smooth-talking rabble-rouser from the streets, about whom the average German knew next to nothing. What they should have known was that he was associated with groups that shouted, shoved, and pushed around people with whom they disagreed; he edged his way onto the political stage through great oratory. Conservative "losers" read it right now.

And there were the promises. Economic times were tough, people were losing jobs, and he was a great speaker. And he smiled and frowned and waved a lot. And people, even newspapers, were afraid to speak out for fear that his "brown shirts" would bully and beat them into submission. Which they did - regularly. And then, he was duly elected to office, while a full-throttled economic crisis bloomed at hand - the Great Depression. Slowly, but surely he seized the controls of government power, person by person, department by department, bureaucracy by bureaucracy. The children of German citizens were at first, encouraged to join a Youth Movement in his name where they were taught exactly what to think. Later, they were required to do so. No Jews of course,

How did he get people on his side? He did it by promising jobs to the jobless, money to the money-less, and rewards for the military-industrial complex. He did it by indoctrinating the children, advocating gun control, health care for all, better wages, better jobs, and promising to re-instill pride once again in the country, across Europe , and across the world. He did it with a compliant media - did you know that? And he did this all in the name of justice and ... change. And the people surely got what they voted for.

If you think I am exaggerating, look it up. It's all there in the history books.

So read your history books. Many people of conscience objected in 1933 and were shouted down, called names, laughed at, and ridiculed. When Winston Churchill pointed out the obvious in the late 1930s while seated in the House of Lords in England (he was not yet Prime Minister), he was booed into his seat and called a crazy troublemaker. He was right, though. And the world came to regret that he was not listened to.

Do not forget that Germany was the most educated, the most cultured country in Europe . It was full of music, art, museums, hospitals, laboratories, and universities. And yet, in less than six years (a shorter time span than just two terms of the U. S. presidency) it was rounding up its own citizens, killing others, abrogating its laws, turning children against parents, and neighbors against neighbors.. All with the best of intentions, of course. The road to Hell is paved with them.

As a practical thinker, one not overly prone to emotional decisions, I have a choice: I can either believe what the objective pieces of evidence tell me (even if they make me cringe with disgust); I can believe what history is shouting to me from across the chasm of seven decades; or I can hope I am wrong by closing my eyes, having another latte, and ignoring what is transpiring around me.

I choose to believe the evidence. No doubt some people will scoff at me, others laugh, or think I am foolish, naive, or both. To some degree, perhaps I am. But I have never been afraid to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what I believe-and why I believe it.

I pray I am wrong. I do not think I am. Perhaps the only hope is our vote in the next elections.

David Kaiser
Jamestown, Rhode Island
United States

Pass this along. Perhaps it will help to begin the awakening of America as to where we are headed...

So, that was the email my mom sent me. Here was my response:

Hey Mom,

I'm going to dedicate a little time to replying to this one because, well, I feel it's important. I think I should note from the beginning that I am actually very disappointed in Obama, but I'll explain that later. That being said:

First, this article is not by David Kaiser. I thought that was odd to begin with, because I've heard some of Kaiser's talks about history, and this didn't seem to agree with anything he's ever said before. So, via snopes, http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/proportions.asp , the article actually comes from a reader's comment on a conservative blog.

To his first proposition, that we demand and then codify into law that banks make loans that we know people cannot pay back, this is largely an effect of the deregulation that began in earnest under Reagan, continued in a strong way under Bush senior, coasted through under Clinton, and then picked up again under Bush junior. The heads of the banks figured out how to make a bet that would make money no matter what - essentially loan out mortgages that would be tied to the national interest rate instead of fixed, and then bet against them so that if they ever went bad, they would get a huge pay-out. Alan Greenspan had artificially deflated the interest rate around this time to about 1% and the Fed urged everyone to buy adjustable rate mortgages because they would be so much cheaper in the long run. Now, it doesn't take much to see that when you have an artificially deflated interest rate, especially so low of one, there's not much lower that it can go. Thus, statistically, it's likely that it will rise, and rise close to the "true" interest rate, given the prevailing market. So, at the urging of the Fed and bankers, many people bought these AR mortgages, I suppose believing that the interest rate would always remain low. Of course, it didn't, and when the interest rate skyrocketed back to the level that it should have been at, many people could not pay their new rates, and thus the housing crisis. The problem here was multi-faceted - there was a historically low interest rate, which makes people interested in buying homes and property anyway, the banks' creation of a new type of (for the time) cheaper mortgages and loans, and the urging of government and religious bodies (this was also the beginning of the Christian Prosperity movement, which was very emphatic about everyone being blessed to own a home) to buy housing. Add the rising interest rate, and thus the increase in foreclosures, to the fact that the entire housing scheme was little more than a massive Ponzi scam, then it's not surprising that when the housing bubble burst and entrance funds ran out, the whole system collapsed under it's own weight, except for those massive pay-outs on all the back-door bets that the system would collapse anyway.

Why did this happen? A large part of it is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. From the creation of this Act until its repeal, we did not have another financial collapse on the order of the Great Depression or the economic collapse of today. Essentially, the Act separated the banks into two parts - those that loaned money to citizens, with a certain amount of capital dedicated to that, and another part that invested money, using the bank's credit. It's a pretty clear conflict of interest when the banks use the same pool to lend money and to invest. The Act also did not allow banks to own other financial institutions, like say, institutions used to rate the quality of a bank's investment package. That last part was repealed in 1980 under Reagan, and the second part was repealed by the Republican-majority Congress under Clinton in 1999. Democrats and Republicans share the blame for this, but as it was the Republicans who proposed it and pushed so hard for it from the beginning, I'm going to lay a slight share more of the blame on them. It's long been a conservative rallying cry to de-regulate, so, this is the eventual consequence of a true free-market with a pure-profit motive.

As to the bailouts, I am likewise very upset and disappointed, but again, there is a rather short-list of people whom we can reasonably lay some part of the blame on. First, the Senate. It is not a stretch to say that all of the Republican senators and the majority of the Democratic senators have taken huge payouts from the banking industry and are willing to do anything and blame anyone but the banks themselves. If this means shoving more citizens' money into the banks, they're fine with it. Most recently, we can see this by the Republican opposition to a measure to force the banks to create their own "bailout fund", with their own money, so if they fail they have a bit of a safety net and the taxpayer will not be required to bail them out again. Apparently this was a terrible idea in the minds of the Senate Republicans, who would prefer that taxpayers do the bailing out however many times is necessary to keep the banks in the black. The same holds largely true, but to a lesser extent, in the House of Representatives. The problem is not so much Republican vs. Democrat (although, if we're being fair and looking at from whom these guys are getting paid, the Republicans are definitely much more in their pockets), but a problem that the majority of both houses of the Senate could be called "corporatist." They don't represent the people because they get too much money from the banking industry, the industrial-military complex, and other corporate entities who have their own self-interest at heart. I can't blame for that - it's capitalism, and as long as it's regulated to a degree, it can do wonders, but for the past three decades at least we've been trying harder and harder to deregulate everything.

The banking institutions can obviously be blamed - they set up the bad loans in the first place. The regulatory agencies can be blamed, but only a little. Our government, following conservative free-market principles, has done all it can to limit the power and oversight of regulatory agencies, or have them bought out by the institutions they are supposed to regulate (this was particularly a problem under Bush junior, who stacked almost all the major regulatory boards with people who were former employees, or were still technically employees, of major companies in the industry they were supposed to watch over, including, in the case of the MMS, a representative who had a long history of safety violations and trying to cover them up). Obama can be blamed to an extent - it's clear that he doesn't particularly understand the financial industry and is willing to let Timothy Geithner and Ben Burnanke run the show, both of whom have a long history of being cozy with the banking industry. Geithner was the one who orchestrated the bail-out in its present terms, which essentially means that we, the taxpayers, payed one hundred cents on the dollar for the banks' bad loans and had no plan to get any of that paid back. Now, if Obama had nominated say, Joseph Stiglitz, or Paul Krugman, or Paul Volcker to the same position, things may have been very different. Or, as seems likely now, they still would not have been confirmed because all of them are much less conservative that Geithner, and as there are still over one hundred nominations that have not been allowed to be tested yet, we can see that the Republicans are very much a party of opposition right now.

I'm a little confused by his assertion that we have de-industrialized the economy. In some ways, this is obviously true. We do indeed have proposals that are trying to shift people into newer, technologically driven fields because all signs point to the fact that these fields will dominate the foreseeable future. In other cases, it's clear that some of the larger industries refused to change their business model at all, and so collapsed under their own weight. In other cases, we've given strong incentives for companies to move oversees, but, as is beginning to happen, places like China are becoming more expensive as their own industry expands, and companies are returning here because we're now among the cheap labor.

The paragraph about dumbing down our schools is largely true, especially in certain areas of the U.S. If we look at the Texas Board of Education in the past few months, controlled entirely by conservatives, they have made it clear that Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Mark Twain are persona non grata, because they do not adequately reflect the idea of a strongly Christian, white, free-market, conservative nation. It's also become increasingly clear that these people do not see men like Benjamin Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, or John Adams as our "Founding Fathers," but instead the Puritans and other strongly religious groups who first settled here and continued a history of sectarian warfare leading up until very close to the American Revolution. I do strongly wish that we would teach our founding documents, but this is entirely against the conservative agenda. For example, all the rights presented in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are granted to every person in this country - citizen or not. How can I defend that? In the Bill of Rights, every amendment makes use of the word "person." By itself, this would not mean much, but if we turn to the 14th amendment, we come to actual definition of a citizen - any person born or naturalized in the United States. This means that all the conservatives in states like Arizona who want to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born here are strongly, and I mean strongly, anti-Constitutional. Also, most importantly, as soon as the word "citizen" is defined, the writers immediately revert back to word "person." Of particular interest is this line:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Notice, they define citizen, explain the rights of citizens, and then explicitly say that these same basic rights are granted to any person within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Now, also to reach ahead a bit, this bears directly on the recent Arizona laws about illegal immigrants - number one, by the numbers of arrests and the demographics of people questioned, this law is obvious a codification of racial profiling and thus is anti-Constitutional in that it denies due process to the people in the jurisdiction of the United States. Secondly, as the latter half of this article is so fond of drawing ties to Nazi Germany, I can think of a particular regime where the words "Show me your papers" was a bit of a catchphrase. In fact, there's hardly a movie made about these people that does not include that phrase somewhere. Brown shirts, indeed.

I can understand the desire to protest close elections, and I think people have a stronger sense of it now than they did say, before 2000, when a president who lost the popular vote was elected anyway. As for Proposition 8 in California, there are numerous reasons why that vote was so controversial. First off, it was primarily funded and advanced by certain religious groups like the Mormons, in an official, church-sponsored way. Why is this controversial? Well, this also ties into the bit about history and why actually studying history so goes against the conservative line, but we have a long history of a process called separation of church and state. While conservatives love to harp that this line is nowhere found in the Constitution, I would point out two things - 1) God is likewise never mentioned in the Constitution, and in fact the opening line is the most important -
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Notice, it is We the People, not, We Under God, or any other such statement. To add to this, you have the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli by John Adams, one of the founding fathers, who makes it explicit that the United States is not a Christian country and in fact endorses no official religion at all. James Madison and Jefferson were the real source of the idea of separation of church and state, and why this is important I'll get to later, but created the Jefferson Bible, which removed every supernatural element of the text and essentially left a history with some proverbs and teachings.

Also, 2) we do have the establishment cause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, which guarantees that the government will make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This is a pretty broad-ranging statement and also explains why, at least in its current form, the National Day of Prayer is not really Constitutional either.

Why does the United States have a history of separation of church and state? There are several reasons, but among the most important are these - 1) The founding fathers were all strong proponents of reason and believed that if religion, any religion, had any element of truth to it, then people, being reasoning creatures, would be able to find this out for themselves. Moreover, imposing upon these people an established religion would only impede the effort of their own free reason, and thus would more than likely lead people into falsehood than promote a truth. Moreover, the founding fathers had seen the long history of sectarian warfare in Europe and in the early Americas, largely brought on by established religions, and had no desire to repeat this. It's little wonder that, until recently, when the myth of the United States always being a conservative Christian country has become so entrenched, America has never had to worry about a religious war or strong religious persecution. The entire idea of the 1st Amendment, and the idea of separation of church and state, is that everyone is free to practice their own religion or lack thereof, and neither the government, nor any other person, can impinge upon that, so long as the practicing of religion is not harmful to others or does not impinge upon the rights of others. In reflection on Jefferson's words, the Supreme Court had this to say:

"The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organization or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and state."

This means (and this is the way things are, as much as conservative voices like to claim otherwise) that in a public school, children can pray as much as they like, but a teacher or principal cannot lead them in prayer. Why? Because to have children pray, or to have a group of students organize around a particular religious belief (say, the Christian athlete organizations which are very popular) do not, in and of themselves, impinge upon others' rights. To have an official lead people in a prayer of a particular faith, however, does impinge upon others' rights to potentially of another religion, or to lack a religion entirely. Also, it is not fair to make people declare their religious beliefs, because we are granted a right to our own conscience.

So, against all the conservatives (and liberals too, let's be honest, everyone falls prey to this one in a political battle), I would say that no, we are not a Christian nation built on Judeo-Christan values. We are the descendants of a government established as the world's first secular government that recognized that the only way everyone could actually be free was to never endorse or prohibit the exercise or non-exercise of religion by any free individual. In fact, until the rise of the evangelical movement, the various religions in the United States have been the ~strongest~ proponents of the separation of church and state, with the possible exception of Catholicism.

The reason that Proposition 8 was so controversial in that it was a religious organization advocating for it is because it is a violation of the separation of church and state. If individuals of a particular religion want to get together to propose something like that and fund it, that is fine. When a religion itself funds it, it is strictly against the rules - why? Because it violates the idea of one religion imposing its beliefs on other people, and violates the idea of the government making a law respecting the establishment of a religion. It's fine that these people believe marriage can be only between one man and one woman, what's not fine is them using their official positions as religious leaders to get the government to agree. If religions want a voice in the government, from an official position, then at the very least they should pay taxes and pay the membership fees to the government. The other major problem is that marriage is often seen as a right for citizens. On this particular issue, people of other racial groups have had to fight incredibly hard - first blacks for the right to marry at all, and later for the right of inter-racial marriage. What this comes down to in the end is that the government should not oppose the marriage of two consenting adults. However, conservatives see it somewhat differently, in that, largely based on religious ideas, they do not think that gays or lesbians should be considered as full citizens, guaranteed the full rights of citizens, or allowed access to the same services of other citizens.

I am even more strongly upset about this line about our "sacred political process being corrupted by unelected judges". By the rules of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is appointed, not elected. Apparently, the writer of this article does not believe in our political system at all, and instead believes that we should throw it all out and start over. In fact, the idea of a "sacred political process" is itself extremely anti-American. The whole idea, as pointed out above, is that this is a secular government and that it can and should be changed from time to time, according to the needs of the people.

As to the point about Acorn, number one, the organization is not Marxist, unless by Marxist it is meant that all those people who can vote should be allowed to vote and educated about the process and issues. In fact, I can't think of a more American sentiment than that. Acorn's primary intent was to educate people about their government and its processes. Now, I'm sure we're all familiar with the video that's circulated (and eventually led to Acorn being defunded and closed) of a teenager dressed as a pimp asking for information about how to set up a prostitution business. What's not shown, and mentioned only a few times by anyone, is that the kid never went into an office dressed as a pimp, but instead had a highly edited video. Almost all of the offices he visited, when they came to understand what he was asking, refused him service. Only a few places provided him any information at all, and from the extent of the unedited video, it's rather unclear whether they really understood what he was getting at. It's also rarely mentioned that the guy was later arrested after impersonating a telephone repair man and attempting to wire tap a Democratic office. I seem to recall that we in this country had a similar event a few decades ago that led to a lot of anger and then an impeachment. I believe it was called Watergate. But, of course, the media instead reports this kid as a hero or a martyr. So now we have defunded an organization who likely had a few bad people working for them, but overall had been rated extremely high for getting people to go and vote and educating people on politicians' stances on various issues. Of course, this is likely a large part of the Republican opposition to Acorn, because especially recently, figuring out what the Republicans actually stand for has driven a lot of people away from them.

The next paragraph is likewise highly offensive, and largely wrong. To begin with, it was a stupid idea at the beginning to name this war the "War on Terror." Terrorism is a tactic, and thus it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a war on a tactic. We don't have a "War on Guerilla Fighting," or a "War on Snipers" or a "War on Mutually Assured Destruction." As to the last, I rather wish that we would, not an actual war, but a recognition that while it was temporarily useful, it's actually a horrible idea. This leaves us with...what? I know the conservatives would like to say that this is a war on Islam, or Islamic fundamentalists, but to me, that seems wrong. The majority of Muslims are not terrorists, just as the majority of Christians are not. However, for every "underwear bomber" or "Time Square bomber," there is likewise a Scott Roeder, Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, and others. There are anti-government terrorists who fly planes into IRS buildings, or break windows and threaten government officials, but rarely do we hear a call for a War on Domestic Terrorism, but then again, the majority of these people are white conservative Christians, so I imagine that would not play well in our politics.

As to Obama's experience, it's partially true. He's never run a country before. In fact, besides the former presidents, I don't think anyone in this country has run a country before. I'm not sure that there's much former experience that's useful to that task. Bush junior ran several companies into the ground before taking the reins. He had experience, sure, but I don't think it counted for much. Reagan was a movie star. As much as the conservatives love him, I'm not sure why they would ever bring up the "experience" or "celebrity" card about anyone else. And the opposition to Sarah Palin is much more deep-rooted than her lack of experience, her pregnant daughter (whom she constantly referenced by the way, and is now getting tens of thousands of dollars to talk about the value of abstinence-only education...the education policy shown to work the least by any measure), and her wardrobe. Though, I will say, it is becoming abundantly clear that Palin is ready to cut and run as long as more money is involved. Besides that, though, it's clear that she would utterly destroy everything that this country was founded on and convince a large percentage of people that it's exactly what the founding fathers had envisioned. This references some of the points about the educational system, above.

As far as never bringing people together in his professional career...well, that's a bit of a wonder. First, Obama was a community organizer, and by all accounts brought a large number of people together for a common cause. Beyond that, in his run for president, he created an extremely strong grass-roots effort that got him elected. I think watching his acceptance speech at Grant Park, it's hard to say that the man never brought people together. The thing that is really disappointing about Obama is that he has become increasingly conservative and increasing desperate to achieve "bi-partisanship," which the Republicans have never been interested in. I would like to see him strike out and say "Fine, if you don't want to play, we'll do it on our own," after all the press conferences where Republican representatives have said again and again that they will never vote for any measure proposed by this administration. It's clear that they're playing a political game and have no actual interest for the American people in mind, and yet they still win the rhetoric game because they know how to play to peoples' emotions and fears. If you want to look at a person dividing this country philosophically, look back the Bush years with all the "Anti-American" rhetoric.

Now, as to the whole history lesson on Hitler: This is almost laughable, if not for the fact that it has become a consistent meme among conservatives today. I would say that almost every negative attribute he attributes to the Nazis and Hitler is actually a case of projection - conservatives have done, and continue to do, all of those things. When you hear about violent, threatening rabble-rousers, 9 times out of 10, it's a conservative group. Look at the Tea Party protesters that bring assault rifles to meetings and carry signs saying "Next time they'll be loaded," or the constant death threats that Democratic congresspeople received, and continue to receive, over any new proposal. Look at the town hall meetings where you have people shouting down senators to say things like "Keep your government hands off my Medicare!" Think about that one for a while if you don't sense the irony.

In fact, conservatives should love Obama. He's only pandered to them since the beginning and compromised on every good proposal he had to give them everything they wanted, even when they ultimately vote against the bill in the end anyway. I have to say, this must be an extremely new breed of conservatives, and the Republicans under Clinton must have all been socialists. Otherwise, it makes no sense that conservatives today would call the Public Option a socialist plan when it was precisely what Republicans under Clinton proposed in opposition to his health care bill.

This actually makes an important point about the larger picture of why a reference to Hitler doesn't make sense. Fascism is inherently conservative - it seeks to control people's thoughts and education and organize everyone into a military complex, but it believes inherently in a completely free market and pure-profit capitalism. Now, it's pretty clear that these days, it's the conservatives who have come to dominate many of the school boards and are attempting to rewrite history. Texas went so far as to try to rename the "slave trade" the "Atlantic Triangular Trade" and remove most references to slavery. Thankfully, that change was rejected. Conservatives are also the first to propose expansions to the Defense Department's budget and never cutting any military projects, even when the military itself doesn't want them. No other nation on Earth spends so much on its military as we do, and it's really not clear exactly why. There is no other super-power with an advanced military left to fight right now. We have military dominance, yet, we continue to expand the budget, taking money away from science, educational, and health care programs because conservatives have made it very clear that those things are extremely low priorities for them. Also, as is evident, conservatives are the strongest advocates for completely free markets with no regulations whatsoever. They tried for years to achieve that, and now want to blame the collapse on other people. Likewise, as noted above about Arizona, but this also applies to United States citizens throughout the country, it is conservatives who have rounded people up for questioning. Under Bush, a large number of U.S. citizens were detailed indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism or terrorist-ties. To that, I would have to go back to the words of a Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin : "The society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

As for Obama having a compliant media? Where? I suppose he has never heard of Fox News, which daily broadcasts total opposition to the Obama administration and touts itself as the largest and most-listened-to news organization in America. You can't have it both ways.

As for the laundry list of things that Hitler advocated for, this is a ridiculous argument. Not all of those things are bad, and not every policy under the Nazis or personal decision that some Nazis made were evil. For example, the Nazis were the first to institute a public anti-smoking campaign. I suppose if you want to carry this list further, we should all strike up a few cigarettes in opposition to Nazi policy. Likewise, universal health care is not an inherently bad idea. Certainly, every other major 1st-world nation has found a way to do it, and it's very popular among the people that do have it. In this country, granted, the Veteran's Administration and Medicare both got off to rocky starts, but they are recognized by outside observers and by the people in these programs as today being among the top Health Care programs in the world. And they're both government-run. The public option was not even universal health care, instead, it was an additional optional plan that people could buy into (i.e., pay premiums just like we do with any other insurance company). It would not "get in between you and your doctor" any more than an insurance company already does, and you could not be denied coverage. I don't see this is a bad idea, in large part because the insurance companies have a responsibility to their shareholders. This is not necessarily bad, but it means that on average, they have to cut coverage and raise premiums on people in their plans to be able to pay higher dividends to their shareholders. They're for-profit companies, so you can't blame them for this, really, but I think it should be recognized that having for-profit companies in charge of mediating health care, which is really a life-and-death matter sometimes, is not a great idea.

For example, we provide other services for these kinds of things. If you're being robbed or assaulted, you can call the police. If your house catches on fire, you can call the fire department. Neither the police or the fire department ask to see your Civil Service Insurance and have to call to make sure you're covered before they try to assist you. The closest thing we have for health care, though, is the emergency room, but even then we have to deal with insurance and whether they will cover something or not. It's not, in my opinion, a very smart system.

On the same matter, there are some programs that I believe should be government run and should be mandatory - vaccines, for example. This is a matter of statistics - the vaccines we currently have have a reaction rate that is an order of magnitude, at least, lower than the base rate of catching the disease they vaccinate against and dying. Because the anti-vax movement has become so popular, measles and a host of other preventable diseases are making a resurgence and killing tens or hundreds of children and elderly people. If a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, their child may never catch the disease, or may have a mild case, but they can then pass it on to a child too young to be vaccinated, or to an immuno-compromised individual. I strongly hope that we don't have to watch thousands of children dying every year before we recognize the need again for vaccines.

To get back on topic, however, the most damning evidence against the writer of this article is that there is no similar piece from him during the Bush years. He apparently did not care about the direct violations of the Constitution, the rounding up of American citizens, the increased de-regulation that led to economic instability, or any other such matter until a Republican was no longer in charge. When Obama begins taking away peoples' guns, invading Canada and Mexico, and rounding up American citizens, then he may have a case about analogy to Hitler, until then, this is nothing more than an extremely strong case of projection, and it only fuels the fires of fear-mongering that has happened so often in the past few years.



David Kaiser said...

Obviously I appreciated Matt's response. I am amazed, however, at how many people continue to leave this rant up, attributed to me, even after they have been made aware that it is a hoax. There is no excuse for it, or for leaving the tag "David Kaiser" on your blog. Remove it, please!!!

David Kaiser

Ragoth said...

Hi David,

I did not mean to attribute the rant to you, and I hope that the response below the email I received made that clear. I did want to leave your name there from the email, however, as that was how I received it first, and then talking about how it's a mistaken attribution in my response doesn't make much sense if I removed the attribution from the original email.

As for the tag, that was perhaps a bad choice, and I've removed it.

Would you mind if I linked to your blog at the end with something like "To see David Kaiser's actual opinions, see his blog: History Unfolding?" Sort of a response + follow-up so whoever reads this blog (and I'm assuming...well, actually I know, that's a low number, but just in case) would have an immediate link to your actual work and opinions?


tom sheepandgoats said...

“Perhaps the only hope is our vote in the next elections.”

Isn’t that almost a religious statement? An article of faith? Any evidence of it being true? Thank goodness for the “perhaps,” but generally the statement is made without that qualifier.

People of different upbringings, life experiences, perhaps even genetic predisposition, come to perceive things differently. It’s too bad that’s seldom acknowledged; instead they impugn, not only the tactics of “the other side,” but also the motives. Thus, we didn’t ruin our economy; we intentionally ruined it. We didn’t dumb down our system of education; we intentionally dumbed it down. Not to mention the, as you say, the “almost laughable” comparison of the current President with the evil one.

But I’m not sure the reply is any less biased. For example, “by the rules of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is appointed, not elected. Apparently, the writer of this article does not believe in our political system at all, and instead believes that we should throw it all out and start over.” True enough. But didn’t Bush “steal” the election from Gore by winning the electoral college vote, if not the popular one? Per the Constitution, the EC vote is the only one that counts. Perhaps those who vehemently protested that Bush victory do “not believe in our political system at all, and instead believe that we should throw it all out and start over.”

And what’s this observation that fascism goes hand in hand with the conservative cause, but never the liberal one? Have things changed since that long-ago time when I was taught the political spectrum in school, which had communism at one end, fascism at the other, and democracy in between? Only, because the tactics of both communism and fascism at their extremes mirror each other, it turned out that spectrum was a circle, with the two ends meeting. Which is not a bad way of envisioning human efforts of governing - going round and round in circles.

Ragoth said...


Hey Tom, good to hear from you again.

I would not say that it's a religious statement, unless we want to get very loose with the definition of "religious." If "I hope one day my descendants will be able to walk on the Moon" is a religious statement, then yes, I suppose "perhaps the only hope is our votes in the next elections" is a religious statement. I suppose it depends on exactly what your hopes are.

Case in point - the recent failed bill to provide health care to 9/11 first responders. Could we have passed that with a simple majority? Yes. Would it have had very unattractive amendments tacked on by the Republicans? Yes. So, this is despicable in several ways: 1) One of the primary amendments was to deny funding to anyone who was potentially an illegal immigrant, etc, which may have largely prevented a lot of the money going to those first responders. Because, as we all know, if you're an illegal in this country, you're welcome to help dig through the rubble and help save people, but we'd be damned if we were going to give you any health assistance. 2) The Democrats didn't want to vote on these amendments during a sensitive election time. Of course not, because the vast majority of the Democratic party is very weak. 3) In the end, the Republicans would rather not fund health care for first responders because it may go to illegal immigrants, or whatever. All of these are utterly disappointing and despicable. So, what is our "hope" in this? I'm sure that for you and other JW's, the hope is that this system is but a temporary hiccup and that it will all be washed away as so many during the Flood. For me, it'd be to stack the House with people like Anthony Wiener. The guy's not perfect, but he has passion, and he has a sense of justice. Those are two things that have been slinking away slowly into the shadows over the years, and it's good to see a real firebrand upon the altar of our sacred halls of Congress (some element of that is tongue-in-cheek, as I'm sure you know, but what can I say? I'm in a literary mood).

Ragoth said...

Now, as to motives - I fully agree. All too often we jump from a person's actions to conclusions about their character and internal motivation. This is actually a well-known psychological phenomenon, and basically part of the way we're wired. Especially when dealing with people we don't particularly 1) know or 2) like. So, on the face of it, I accept the criticism. Perhaps for many of these people, I have jumped to a few conclusions about their character.

Unfortunately for others, though, we live in a digital and archival age - few things go out that aren't saved somewhere (among the first lessons I will teach my children, should I ever have any). And among the chaff of those millions of video clips, emails, text messages, and others, there is a lot of evidence that these people's primary motivation is little more than simple greed, and they could care less if they harm others so long as their bottom line is very safely in the black. We have all the emails from inside trading companies which show that they know they have toxic assets, but the money is just too good, and they're "smarter" than the other guys, so it'll all be okay, and if it crashes, well, they have a big safety net, so who cares? In this sense, it's not that far of a jump to actually condemn some of these people who knew what was going on, knew that it was extremely high risk, and went on with it anyway. Again, I know, as we've discussed before, that for you this is a sign of the times and that humans are unfit to rule themselves. Well, I partially agree - humans do pretty badly in charge, but I don't think that God is going to come to save us, and I'm not entirely sure he could do a much better job and still have subjects which could be called "human."

Ragoth said...

As to biases, yes, I'll fully and readily admit, I have a strong progressive bias. As to Bush's election win over Gore, while I personally was strongly opposed to it, and still find it quite humorous that he was elected without the popular vote, I've always told people, that yes, that is indeed the system, because at heart the Founders didn't particularly think the populace all that capable, willing, or able to decide some of these matters, and thus it was more expedient to establish an Electoral College. Should it be done away with? Perhaps, but that's an argument for changing the system from within, which I support. What I don't support is the "get-your-guns" mentality that is often espoused by say, Fox "News" during their "opinion hours" (and to be quite honest, during their "news" hours as well). Where I come down on the issue is that the system does need radical change - where I differ from certain others is that I think the system needs to be overhauled, maybe completely retrofitted, but not put down at bullet point.

Finally, political spectrums - ah, the bane of the sociology/political science student. I've never liked them, and I think they largely distort or misjudge political movements and stances. I think it's somewhat analogous to the change in models of the electron from the Bohr orbit to the electron cloud. There's a lot of fuzzy lines and open space, and no hard-defined orbit.

In a sense, any government can be totalitarian, and can be in different ways. My comparison to Fascism is perhaps a bit premature - what I should have said is that many modern conservative planks strongly resemble the particular fascism of Nazi Germany - a great deal of pro-military thinking, fear-mongering about immigrants and outsiders, promoting unregulated capitalism and fear of eroding the "traditional" culture. Now, of course, in the long scale of history, having two political parties which don't have SOMETHING in common would be exceptionally hard to pull off, so this is, at best, unsurprising, but I think it goes to the larger point I made elsewhere in that response that these kinds of comparisons are ridiculous and can't be taken very seriously.

Anyway, yes, I am quite biased toward the "liberal" end of the spectrum, and I like to keep that in the open, so people know. I do think I'm rather reasonable, though, and not doggedly on one side for no reason. Feel free to disagree though.

As always, nice to hear from you. Sorry I haven't been around much, I've been busy with work, house work, and all sorts of other work recently. Hope things are well with you,


tom sheepandgoats said...

As often happens with posts, I incorporate them into new posts of my own. Thus, a remark or two of yours here finds itself into a post I wrote about science vs the implementation of science:


Hope all is well.