Sanity Is Relative

 

There’s a claim I’ve heard many times from my American friends. “The UK Conservative Party is more liberal than our Democratic Party. Those guys are sane, sensible conservatives.” And every time I see a claim along these lines, I roll my eyes.

Yesterday, it was announced that Britain’s double-dip recession is intensifying:

The economy shrank by 0.7 per cent between April and June, the Office for National Statistics said. It is now smaller than when the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Since then, the Chancellor has pursued a strict policy of austerity – “Plan A” – in an attempt to bring down the deficit, leading to accusations that he has not done enough to stimulate growth.

Wednesday’s fall was worse than expected and means that Britain is firmly back in recession, with negative growth for the past nine months.

Amid a growing clamour from business groups for radical action, one senior Conservative figure admitted that the economy was likely to be in “intensive care” for another two years.

The Coalition’s  been in power for 2 years, and things are now even worse than they were when they were elected. As a clearly on-the-ball politician points out here, the world’s economy is recovering albeit slowly while austerity-driven Europe is struggling:

“The challenge is particularly great in our neighbourhood…since the financial crash the world economy has grown by 20%. But Europe’s has hardly grown at all.”

…said Prime Minister David Cameron. Cue frustrated headdesking.

The Tories’ solution to economic disaster caused by austerity has been the same as George W Bush’s to Iraq: stay the course, and unsurprisingly had the same results. The Tory party might not obsessively attempt to restrict women’s and gay people’s rights, but their economic policies are as destructive as their counterparts’ would be and threatening to bring about both a lost decade and a lost generation of young people who simply cannot find employment. Supporting gay marriage doesn’t make David Cameron a liberal (as some would hold) – it makes him a typical conservative: supporting one kind of family value, while harming families with his idea of ‘reforms’.

Let’s compare and contrast what our Coalition and US Democrats have done or attempted to do:

UK: Undertaken a policy of austerity which has led to crippling cuts in public spending with only one of the promised effects: it’s causing a lot of pain to British people, but making our economy worse.

US: Passed a stimulus bill which stemmed the economy haemorrhaging  jobs and turned it around to the point where America has now had 27 months of job growth and 11 consecutive quarters of economic growth. US conservatives would like America to follow our plan.

UK: Raised caps on tuition fees to a maximum of £9000, which resulted in virtually every single university choosing the maximum fee, as anyone not a Lib Dem could have predicted. Students now face leaving university burdened with a minimum of £36k debt.

US: Extended low student loan rates to make life easier for college students.

UK: Overhauled the welfare system, with the following impacts: disabled people are worse off, companies get free labour from young people on ‘work experience placements’ (workfare) which still does not help them find work, families lose out on child benefit, household benefits are capped at £26k because everyone’s situation is the same, cuts to housing benefit instead of regulating landlords, and proposing that all young people should be deprived of housing benefit altogether.

US: Reluctantly renewed all the Bush tax cuts so that the unemployed could continue to receive the unemployment benefits held hostage by Republicans. The Obama Administration also offered states waivers from the work requirements in Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

UK: Passed NHS ‘reforms’ which will create massive amounts of bureaucracy, put patients’ interests lasts, open the door for privatisation of the NHS which will lead to more of this awfulness, and saddle doctors with responsibilities they don’t want at the expense of doing their actual job of treating people.

US: Passed healthcare reform which will expand healthcare coverage to millions and act as a foundation to eventually progress to a single-payer system. In other words, Britain and America are now moving in opposite directions on healthcare.

As for those American liberals who think the Democrats are too awful to vote for this November, I’d like to point our ‘Liberal’ Democrats aided and abetted all of the above horror stories - in some cases after having campaigned for the exact opposite – which are helping keep Britain stuck in the mire along with Europe while the rest of the world pulls itself out. And that your Democrats voted for all the good stuff on that list. You have no idea what betrayal of principle is, so grow up.

So America, you have a choice. You can vote Republican this November and go the same way we in Britain have. Or you can vote to keep climbing out of the well towards the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With Cenk Uygur…

…that a straitjacket and a lot of alone time in a padded cell wouldn’t help.

Basically, if you thought Cenk jumped the shark with that hilarious “RAWR! FEEL THE WHINY WRATH OF ME, OBAMA!” rant at the Huffington Post, our boy is here to tell you: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

So yeah. For defending Obama, putting his actions as President in a rational context that actually, you know, makes a lot of sense, Andrew Sullivan is more dangerous than, to name just a few: the actual 9/11 plotter currently rotting in an American jail cell; the 20 to 50 serial killers that are on the loose at any given time; the Republican candidates who would start World War 3 in Iran, Dick Cheney, Nancy Grace. and the people who take this deranged, uber-retarded mush-mouthed clown seriously. Whoops – that last one’s dangerously stupid, not dangerous. My bad.

Oh, by the way, Cenk’s foaming-at-the-mouth response to Sully’s Newsweek article puts him in the company of Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. Now, I’m not saying that Mr Uygur has a predilection for engaging in sexual relations with a particular variety of rodent, but those rats sure don’t fuck themselves, ya know?

[cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]

Quote Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan, on Hardball, in a great follow-up to his must-read Newsweek piece robustly defending President Obama and extolling his successes:

SULLIVAN: [Liberals] invested into Obama a whole bunch of fantasies, that he was some kind of far-left radical who is going to transform the world. He never was…And there`s a sort of purism on the left that if you`re not that, therefore, we must stay home. If I hear another person in their 50s with a pony tail tell me they are not going to vote this year because they couldn`t get a public option, I will scream.

Watch the whole thing:

 

Not Sure How Much More Of A Beating Irony Can Take, Folks

Posted without comment.

The founder of a movement to increase racial diversity within the Republican Party told a crowd of tea party supporters on Sunday that they weren’t racists because “the Democratic Party is the party of the KKK.

Speaking at the first ever South Carolina Tea Party Convention, Raging Elephants leader Apostle Claver explained that Republicans would need to attract black and Latino voters if they intended to win elections in the future.

“Look around,” Claver told the mostly-white crowd. “Y’all hear me? Turn around and take a look. Where’s our black brothers and sisters? Where’s our Hispanic and Latino brothers and sisters? Our Asian brothers and sisters?”

I will however, note that the Onion’s continuing sustainability is the greatest unsung success story of our time.

No, The Obama Team Did NOT Claim They Would Raise $1 Billion

Hackery in a nutshell:

1) Make a false and exaggerated claim as to the amount the Obama campaign expects to raise this election season.

2) When a very healthy quarterly fundraising figure is announced, use the exaggerated claim to try to cast what is actually very good news for President Obama as very bad news for President Obama.

Noah Ashman of Ology.com, hang your head in shame.

Here’s his post claiming Obama’s campaign raising $68 million last quarter sucks because it means they’re way off target to reach their supposed target of $1 billion.

On Wednesday night, the president attended several fundraising events in Chicago, but it will be an uphill battle to get to the much ballyhooed “billion dollar” campaign that the Obama White House had claimed they would mount in 2012. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama raised $745 billion for his election effort.

At this rate, Obama’s reelection team would need to raise nearly $200 million per quarter to get to $1 billion by November. When asked about the lackluster total, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said that “the billion-dollar number is completely untrue.”

Wondewhat I was reading that led me to believe that was the Obama teams goal? Once again, the White House reaches for the “who should you believe; me or your lyin’ eyes” argument. It must sting when you’re underperforming George W. Bush’s fundraising pace at this point in his presidency – in the fourth quarter of 2003, Bush had raised $47.5 million for his reelection effort.

If, unlike Rothman, you actually read any of the links he’s provided in his post, it would be immediately apparent that nowhere does Obama or a member of the Obama team claim that they’re aiming for a target of $1 billion dollars. The only mentions of this mythical figures are: a completely sourceless claim that ‘advisers are hoping’ to raise it, and this:

[On Obama raising $1 billion] It’s definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time,’ said Michael Malbin, executive director of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Non-partisan institutions apparently speak for Obama’s campaign. Now we know why Gingrich and co want to do away with the CBO.

The truth is, as this ABC report states, the Obama campaign never came up with this $1 billion figure, it’s purely an invention of the media and has absolutely no basis in fact. So, yes, Mr Rothman, it appears your eyes are deceiving you. Or you’re too lazy to read beyond a headline. Or you’re a deliberately dishonest hack.

Also: George Bush raising more in the 4th quarter of 2003 can’t have had anything to do with the fact the economy hadn’t crashed at that point, leaving people with greatly reduced disposable income, if any income at all. Nah.

 

We All Live In A Post Racial Era, A Post Racial Era, A Post Racial Era…

Thank God President Obama’s election ended all the issues America had with race…wait, WHAT?

Christopher Braxton told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that he couldn’t believe the assignment his 8-year-old son brought home from of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross.d graders in in Gwinnett County, Ga., were given math homework Wednesday that asked questions about slavery and beatings.

“It kind of blew me away,” Braxton said. “Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He’s not answering this question.”

The question read, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

Yeah.

Whoever the hell thought that this was a good idea shouldn’t be within a 100 miles of a school.

The Stimulus Is The New Public Option

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which staved off utter disaster for the US economy and which started and has kept it along the road (albeit at a sluggish speed) to recovery, is in need of recovery itself. Because at the moment, it is being falsely represented as a failure. It’s not surprising to hear that come from conservatives, who are against any spending that actually benefits people, but the real damage is being done by idiots on the left who scream that because it was  ‘not big enough’, it was a total failure. No ifs, no buts, just 100% fail (naturally, these same people also whine about President Obama giving into right-wing framing, while achieving the exact same result by battering the stimulus from the left. Such is the hypocrisy of this crowd).

Today in the Guardian, in an article entitled ‘Obama’s Stimulus Failure’,  Dean Baker, a liberal American economist, basically lays the blame for the size of the stimulus entirely at President Obama’s feet while lying about the effect the stimulus had:

If President Obama had been doing his job, he would have immediately begun pushing for more stimulus the day after the first one passed. He should have been straightforward with the American people and said that the stimulus approved by Congress was an important first step, but that the severity of the downturn was so great we would likely need more.

………..

It’s not surprising that they don’t have the political support for more effective stimulus when they abandoned the effort to make the case almost two years ago.

As you can see, Baker simply cannot comprehend why President Obama could not simply create enough stimulus to feed the battered economy, like Jesus created enough food from 2 fishes and 5 loaves to feed 5000 people. And he has a point…if you ignore the obstructionist GOP which necessitated 60 votes for the bill, the fact moderate Republican votes were needed due to the ongoing battle in Minnesota over Al Franken’s seat, that the Democratic Party caucus in the Senate includes conservatives who wrongly view spending with scepticism, and pretend for one moment that President Obama is not Dumbledore. And then he talks about how this is why he has no political support for ‘more effective stimulus’ now, when he didn’t actually have it 2 years ago either. Although he doesn’t use the by now hackneyed term, what you see here is the Bully Pulpit Fallacy – the deluded idea that if only President Obama took the case to the American people, votes would suddenly appear for his policies in Congress. Let’s just say Baker has as good a grasp of the realities of politics as his better-known fellow economist, Paul Krugman.

Baker’s views on the bank bailouts are equally revealing. But before we get into discussion of the bailouts, let’s observe the opening paragraph:

Most authors of books on politics or economics are happy when they get one or two prominent members of Congress to endorse their work. It looks like I’m about to get majorities of both chambers to endorse my book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (free download available). There is no other way to describe Henry Paulson’s $700bn bail-out deal.

This could be the first paragraph of any article written by any professional media liberal at any point during Obama’s presidency. In fact, you could summarise everything ever written by the professional left in three words: “Buy my book!”

The rest of Baker’s anti-bailouts column is an argument that the bailouts were wrong, that the banks should have been left to fail because the Federal Reserve would have taken over and all would have been well:

The best argument that the bail-out proponents had was that the failure to do the bail-out could lead to a collapse of the financial system, leaving us unable to use credit cards or ATMs, or otherwise conduct normal financial transactions. This would indeed be scary, since it would imply a complete economic collapse. (I had actually accepted this line.)

Actually this was entirely an idle threat. In the event the banking system really did freeze up, then the Federal Reserve would step in and take over the major banks. (It had contingency plans for such a takeover in the 1980s, when the money centre banks were saddled with billions of dollars of bad developing country debt.)

I don’t pretend to know much about economics, but to argue that nothing serious would have happened if the banks hadn’t been bailed out is completely insane. Putting ideology above everything else at either end of the political spectrum is dangerous, and while they may be more common on the right, left-leaning ideologues must be equally marginalised.

I chose to blog about this piece not because it’s particularly outrageous, but because it’s symptomatic of a wider problem among media liberals – a tendency to ignore fact, reality in favour of misty watercoloured memories of a non-existent past where Utopia could have been a reality, if only Barack Obama had done X, or Y, or Z. It’s been going on for literally his entire presidency, and I’m fucking tired of it.

 

On Troy Davis And The Death Penalty

Many who live deserve death, and some that die deserve life – can you give it to them? Do not be so quick to deal out death and judgement.

Gandalf – Lord of the Rings

 

Troy Davis is dead. The fact the death penalty is itself alive and well after this and many, many other dreadful injustices, is not a hopeful sign for the abolitionists. For Troy Davis isn’t close to being the first, nor will he be the last innocent person to die by state mandate.

The whole Death Row system puts me in mind of the Roman emperors, deciding the fate of prisoners with a signal: thumbs up or thumbs down. At least the Romans were honest in using executions as entertainment, whereas America, supposedly a civilised Western nation, tries to cloak the savage nature of executions with the trappings of a long and drawn out judicial system, in which ultimately a mere handful of people decide the fate of a convicted criminal, while still allowing the public to witness them.

You need only look at the attitudes of the governors who condemn people to death to see how utterly morally unfit we are to decide whether our fellows should live or die. Who can forget George W Bush’s mocking of the terrified Karla Faye Tucker’s pleas for clemency? And now we have Rick Perry, who has overseen more executions as Texas governor than any American governor in history, and takes perverse pride in this while claiming he loses no sleep that an innocent person may have been killed (the case of Cameron Todd Willingham proves that this is a certainty). What is frighteningly clear is that neither treats the act of ending a person’s existence seriously.

How is it that those with power to condemn can do so with such callousness and lack of awareness of the gravity of the act? I don’t suggest they think that killing a person isn’t a serious step to take, but that they do not appreciate the full awfulness of what killing involves: destroying a person forever. Why is America alone of all Western countries, such a proud and eager enforcer of this terrible and barbaric punishment? Christopher Hitchens pretty much nails it here, I think:

Nobody had been bothering to argue that the rope or the firing squad, or the gas chamber, or “Old Sparky” the bristle-making chair, or the deadly catheter were a deterrent. The point of the penalty was that it was death. It expressed righteous revulsion and symbolized rectitude and retribution. Voila tout! The reason why the United States is alone among comparable countries in its commitment to doing this is that it is the most religious of those countries. (Take away only China, which is run by a very nervous oligarchy, and the remaining death-penalty states in the world will generally be noticeable as theocratic ones.)

And this is the crux of the matter. The overwhelming majority of death penalty supporters in America are Christians. It’s tempting to claim that as usual, these Christians aren’t following their own faith, but in fact they are. The Bible declares the wages of sin to be death, and the fact we all have to die someday is deemed punishment for our inherent sinfulness. So it is entirely natural for an intensely religious country to see death as an appropriate punishment for particularly evil crimes. And it also explains the lack of comprehension as to exactly what executing a person is doing. When you firmly believe that there is an afterlife, you cannot grasp the fact that by killing a person, you may have destroyed them for all time, and you cannot grasp the incredible awfulness of that fact. Add to that the fact that we just don’t know what happens when we die. There may be indeed a heaven and hell, but it is just as likely that death is literally the end for us. It’s all very well for religious people to claim that the guilty executed will go to hell, and the innocents executed will be well compensated for their suffering in Heaven (providing they accept Jesus as their saviour of course!), while being just as ignorant as the rest of us as to what comes next. It is precisely because we don’t know that no human being should have the power of life and death over another.

There’s a strange kind of moral blindness in those who support capital punishment. They claim that murder is such a heinous crime that only death is a punishment sufficiently severe enough for it, while completely failing to see the inherent paradox of the deliberate taking of a human life necessitating the deliberate taking of another human life to balance the books, as it were. It is supposed to deter people from murdering, yet no statistics have ever backed that claim up. On the contrary, instead of acting as a force for good, as its supporters insist, the death penalty is a great force for evil in that it is the result of our very worst instincts, and brings out the very worst side of us. The cries of ‘Fry him!’, the savage braying for blood, the demand for vengeance, and worst of all, the sickening gloating satisfaction after the execution betrays what America’s ultra-civilised system tries to conceal: that capital punishment is primitive, barbaric, and completely uncivilised.

For those of us who naturally oppose the death penalty, there are still traps and temptations that we risk falling into. The most obvious is to make exceptions: clearly, innocent people shouldn’t die, but when we read about a child rapist and killer, it becomes very tempting to say, “Well, this person deserves it, because what he did was so terrible.” In fact, the very same day Troy Davis was executed, this man was too:

White supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday evening for the infamous dragging death slaying of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.

Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.

There was no doubt about his guilt. He committed a hate crime and murder as evil as any ever committed. This crime makes it easy to see why the death penalty has so many supporters. Yet Brewer did not deserve to die either, because nobody deserves to be put to death. We must always remember that.

 

 

 

Man, Do Anti-Abortion People Have Issues Or What

You know, I thought it’d be impossible for anti-abortionists to get sicker than their effort at continuing the Saw series, but was I ever wrong:

Greg Fultz, 35, is causing controversy in his hometown of Alamogordo, N.M. To get back at his ex-girlfriend, Fultz erected a billboard on the town’s main drag in May claiming that his ex had an abortion.

The $1,300 anti-abortion ad shows Fultz holding the outline of a baby and reads: “This Would Have Been a Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To NOT KILL Our Child!”

The kicker? This psycho ex-boyfriend isn’t even sure if his ex did have an abortion, or had a miscarriage. Not that it matters if she did in fact terminate her pregnancy, because it’s her body and only she has the right to make decisions regarding it, whatever this sick lunatic thinks.

Oh and, he claims he did this not out of spite (yeah riiiiiight) but to highlight pro-life issues he had in the first place:

“My original intentions when I started this campaign were quite simple,” Fultz told ABC News. “I just wanted to shed the light on pro-life issues and fathers’ rights. I have had no closure over my own personal loss and that’s where the billboard came into play.”

Let’s get one thing straight: fathers have rights when their child is born. Not before, because they aren’t the ones who are pregnant for 9 months, going through physical debilitation, running the risk of life-threatening complications, before giving birth in agony. Yes, it takes two to tango, as it were, but the mother bears the whole burden of carrying a child.

 

Palin Fans: We Can’t Fix Stupid, So We Must Fix History

Remember that guy in the Bush Administration who said this:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

That is how the entire right wing from the foot soldiers to elected officials operates, culminating in today’s hilarious attempt by Sarah Palin’s devoted slaves to edit Paul Revere’s Wikipedia page to fit their idol’s completely mangled interpretation of basic American history.

Right now, Revere and the rest of the original Tea Partiers are rolling in their graves because this band of idiots associate themselves with them.