The Open Mind VI: Riposte and Counter Challenge

by A. Jay Adler on April 6, 2010
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I here respond to ShrinkWrapped’s initial offering in round 6. All previous rounds in this series can be found at the right of the horizontal drop-down menu above.

I played little league baseball. I hit for average, still more for power. I was even on a couple of championship teams. After the second championship, our coach recruited the best players from our league and put together a new team for entry into the PONY League. That was it. At fourteen, I discovered I couldn’t hit high school level fast balls, or curve balls either. After a few miserable multi-strike-out games, I was benched. My baseball career was over.

Fast forward to my twenties and softball, in a corporate league, and in friendly games in Manhattan’s Central and Riverside Parks. The latter were my favorite, on a field dropped below the main walkway level, right along the West Side Highway and the Hudson River. On Little League fields a homerun was basically an inside-the-park dash after lofting one over an outfielder’s head. But here there was a wall, twenty-five feet high, with another foot for the rail on top. One day, I lived my dream. I sent a big fat one higher and farther than I ever had in my life: rounding second base I got to do a Kirk Gibson fist pump, with a hop-skip jump in the air, as that baby descended behind the wall into Riverside Park like the moon goin’ down over Yosemite.

Which is to say I like softballs.

In the matter of the alleged slurs and spitting at the congressman, I have not the slightest difficulty now recognizing and acknowledging that I relied on media reporting that was not sufficiently corroborated to be reported as fact. I could enumerate a host of standard blogging excuses, but why bother. If I had sufficiently checked the reporting before my post, as I have since Shrink’s post yesterday, I would not have posted that particular material.

Let’s be clear, though, about what the circumstances are and what I’m acknowledging. The allegations haven’t been disproven. Of course, it is no one’s obligation to disprove them. There is no obligation to prove a negative. That’s not the way it works, and that is why I shouldn’t have posted what I did in the way that I did. However, I have now watched and listened to the available video, which is not lengthy, and amid the general din of shouting no one is in position to claim what any of so many individuals might or might not have uttered.

Where does that leave us on this one matter? It leaves us with the accusations, the people who made them, the people about whom they were made, and our own differing inclinations to lend credibility. Shrink quotes Andrew Breitbart. There are probably four and a half billion people on the planet whom I find more credible than the snarling, sophomoric Breitbart. In contrast, John Lewis and Barney Frank are people who have earned, in my eyes, a lot of props. Though anything is possible, I am disinclined to believe they would lie in this matter. Undoubtedly, they don’t get the same credit from Shrink. We are left with nothing dispositive. These are matters, one hopes, not of prejudice, but of political inclination, which we all have, and which suffuses all of our perspectives.

It is far too much in the nature of these left-right debates to generalize and simplify. For instance, I do not deny that some of the issues that upset Tea Partiers are matters of great and genuine concern. Many people who are not Tea Partiers are concerned about them too. The national debt and budget deficits; an extraordinarily costly federal program, in the form of the stimulus; the bailout of banks, investment houses, and mortgage and insurance companies, as well as auto companies, all of whom were either the cause of our financial crisis or simply businesses that deserved to fail – all are justifiably matters of great concern, even to people who may have supported those acts as necessary if problematic measures in historically difficult circumstances. But in all this we return very quickly to the issue of credibility.

Obviously, credibility is an issue on the right and the left. For liberals – for me, as I, personally, am the subject of Shrink’s post and of his challenge – credibility is denied by timing. I have heard many conservatives and Tea Partiers say that they were concerned about the debt before Obama took office. That may be – it has been a growing threat since the Reagan tax cuts and defense buildup thirty years ago – but it was only at the very advent of the presidency of the first Black president, whose citizenship, legitimacy, and loyalty to the nation were immediately attacked, that for some people the issue became a matter of mobilized hysteria. For some people, too close a relationship between the centers of political power and of financiers and business interests – historically a hallmark of Republican and conservative government – became a threat to liberty only under the first Black, and Democratic, president. Healthcare reform, a policy matter of understandable philosophical difference, was willfully misused to distort the political atmosphere beyond even the norm: “death panels” was a malignant lie that will haunt the Republican Party through history. And if we were to credit the characterization of the new health care legislation by conservatives and Tea Partiers – as a policy as fully government-run and deprivatized as they claim, which it is not remotely – then we would have to consider that most of the other “democracies” of the world, rather than simply having the wrong kind of healthcare systems, are already freedomless, Nazi states lost behind, not an Iron, but a hospital room curtain.

Shrink quotes Walter Russell Mead about populist movements. In the same post, Mead tells us

That doesn’t mean that everything populists want works out.  Andrew Jackson’s war against the Second Bank of the United States caused a depression in the short term and then left the country with a lousy, crash-prone financial system for the next eighty years.  His immensely popular Indian Removal Act that sent the eastern Indian tribes to Oklahoma was no triumph of justice and compassion.  And while a later generation of populists gave women the vote, it also brought in Prohibition.

Even on Mead’s own terms, these were no minor errors. Populisms are manifested in various levels of our combustible passions, which are not that by which our founders believed we should be governed. It may well be that with the deeper vision of greater distance we will see a connective tissue between the Tea Partiers and the Perot inspired movement that actually got as far as an organized Reform Party, and that political force actually influenced two elections. But it had no comprehensive, coherent, and sustaining philosophy and program distinct from its discontents, so it faded.

We did know, however, honestly, what was the originating force behind the Reform Party besides the sum of its unhappinesses. In contrast, everything in the origination and sustenance of the “grassroots” Tea Party movements has dishonestly masked their true nature, from the promotion and media manipulations of Fox News to the professional background organizing of Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks to the California political operative Sal Russo’s Tea Party Express. Even the Tea Party Patriots, which positions itself as the true grassroots anti-Tea Party Express, has as a leader and its public face Mark Meckler, who has a substantial background working for the Republican Party.

All of this undermines credibility, and, rather than – curious term – prejudicing me, as Shrink puts it, disposes me against the Tea Party movement, as, in the matter of credence granted, Shrink is disposed for it, and against, apparently, the claims of John Lewis and Barney Frank.

Disposition, too, leads us to read the same polls differently or to pick and choose our polls. Here, from Marc Ambinder, is some analysis of the latest Gallup poll.

Gallup’s new survey of the Tea Party movement is instructive for what it didn’t find: the movement does not encompass Democrats, including independent-leaning Democrats, or more than half of true Independents. In other words, the 28% or so of adults who say they’re Tea Partiers are very much likely to vote Republican when the chips are down.

Pay attention to terminology: it’s true that just half of those Tea Partiers surveyed called themselves Republicans. Yes, the lion’s share of the other half say they’re independent. But they’re not: they’re Republican-oriented conservative voters who are dismayed by the direction of the GOP and who don’t want to identify with the party’s brand. That’s not surprising, given how tarnished that brand is. Only 8% identify as Democratic; 7% identify as liberal; 70% percent identify as conservative; two-thirds are pro-life; nearly 90% were opposed to the health care bill.

So Shrink challenges me:

Either find me some evidence that violent or racist threats are a regular occurrence at the Tea Parties (or have even occurred at the Tea Parties) or retract your comments about the unhinged Republicans and re-evaluate your own prejudices that lead you to so easily believe such scurrilous charges.

Well, now, I’ve written before to the point that it is almost venerable Republican tradition to think the republic in peril at the hands of Democrats, but how matters have reached, indeed, an unhinged extreme. Why would we conclude otherwise from the recent Harris poll reporting that 57% of Republicans believe Obama to be Muslim, 45% that he was not born in the U.S., 45% again that he is a domestic enemy of the United States, 42% and 41% respectively that he is racist and anti-American, 41% again that he wants to take dictatorial powers, 38% that he is “doing things that Hitler did,” 22% that he wants the terrorists to win, and the Late Night Top Ten number one reason that Republicans are unhinged: 24% that Obama is the anti-Christ.

A quarter of the Republican Party believes that the President of the United States is the anti-Christ.

Consider that the Harris organization would even think to pose that question.

I believe the evidence is in that despite the healthcare reform he so disfavors, Shrink will be doing booming business in the years to come.

But as to evidence regarding the Tea Parties, the following are the product of about twenty-minutes of googling, and are from Tea Parties nationwide. And I omitted much I might have included.

Now, I have responded to Shrink’s challenge. I have admitted an error in judgment and I have provided, I think sufficiently under present circumstances, evidence of the nature I and others attribute to elements of the Tea Party movement.

I have my own challenge in response. Far from any prejudiced inclination to judge people, parties, or issues rather than give them due consideration, I think any reasonable perusal of the sad red earth will demonstrate that I depart from liberal orthodoxies in multiple areas, thinking issues through independently, to what I believe are reasoned conclusions, regardless of where they take me. I challenge Shrink, then, to tell us from which among the findings of the Harris Poll he departs. I challenge Shrink, and his readers as well, to share with us what positions they hold on significant issues in which, rather than prejudging matters in a doctrinaire manner, they depart from conservative or libertarian doctrine and think independently.

AJA


43 comments

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerda Gottsch June 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

I can’t figure out why yahoo sent me over to your but I might as well say I am now pretty captivated by the blog content you have sourced together. How many week did it take to get that many WWW users hitting to your internet page? I am new to this.

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Kate April 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Mr Adler,

I apologize for not responding quickly – I had to do some googling to research your observations because no matter how widely I read I’m always going to miss things. It is interesting that within 24 hours of the original proclamation Governor MacDonnell had revised the proclamation to include and explicitly condemn the practice of slavery – which is the version currently available on the Virginia Government website. It took me a fair amount of digging to find that information (although I admit I may be missing things. It’s oakpollenpocalypse here, and I’m doped up on antihistamines until the steroid shot kicks in and I stop wanting to claw my eyes out to stop the itching).

I tried to find primary sources online for all your references, and couldn’t. The vast majority of secondary sources match your description, and yes, I agree that positions supporting discrimination based on race, violent overthrow of a legally elected government and so forth are abhorrent.

Frankly, I tend to dismiss anyone, left or right leaning, who resorts to that level of rhetoric. It’s possible that I saw the left’s (and shamefully, even the mainstream media has used this) signature insult for Tea Partiers and didn’t read further. (Yes, I do the same when someone starts frothing about “commie moonbats” and the like or starts in on the literalist Biblical line).

I apologize for interpreting your comments about timing as a smear – I have seen precisely that kind of juxtaposition used to smear anyone who disagrees with the writer’s premises, usually in the format of “general statement using unverifiable qualifiers like ‘some’ or ‘many’” followed by “bad things that happened” in conjunction with “race of the person/people bad things happened to”. Unfortunately, it’s been used deliberately as a smear-by-association so many times that I’ve started to see it that way when it could just be the direction your thoughts were running. (And yes, out of context the storm of protest and objections that broke out around President Obama’s inauguration does appear racist. Some of it probably was. Some was disquiet based on his behavior between the election and inauguration. I can’t quantify because I don’t know.)

I’ve now rambled entirely too long and probably just talked myself into ever-decreasing circles. Suffice to say that I disagree with any racist claims regardless of where they originate.

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Neil April 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Like I said, Mr. Adler, this was the mirror image of your own style of discussion. If you don’t like it…

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Neil April 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I didn’t mention the insult in my reply to that post because I didn’t see any point. I didn’t respond to your reply because I never went back to read it.

I invited you to interpret the idea of “big government” within the framework of the principles you had outlined–principles that, as far as I can tell, include the idea that government can be dangerous if given power (at the very least, you believe government can be dangerous to non-citizens through the mechanism of war). My intention was to illuminate and explore more precisely under what conditions you believe this to be true, and how that differs from what I think.

Your response was that I am simply irrational to concern myself with governmental power at all. You contradicted your own principles, just for the pleasure of insulting me. Your “principles” weren’t principles, they’re just talking points. Or bullshit, as I intemperately called them.

So, debating you on ideas is fruitless because you retroactively change the meaning of your words for the purpose of “winning” the debate. For you this is not about a mutual exchange where we both might learn something. Your definition of “winning” appears to be claiming that your opponents’ viewpoints are invalid because your opponents are personally deficient somehow (hysterical, racist, etc.).

So, in this thread I decided to engage you on the same terms you engage others, just for kicks. Don’t worry, it wasn’t fun.

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A. Jay Adler April 8, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Neil, well, now we know what you’re made of (even as you sneak in more argument) You’re completely graceless.

Fulminate on. You’ll get no further response from me.

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Kate April 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Copithorn,

Re: “Kate came closest and I guess we would score her as sympathetic to the idea that Barack Obama is a Marxist Muslim Antichrist. “, please excuse any lack of coherence in my response here. That comment made me snort soft drink through my nose when I tried not to laugh.

I am hardly “sympathetic” to any of those ideas. Being able to see why someone with a strong streak of paranoia would take the President’s well-documented actions to mean that he is a “Marxist Muslim” is a different matter. The simple fact is that we don’t and can’t know why the President chooses to act the way he does, so unless he comes out and shows his Communist Party membership card, starts spitting fire and brimstone as proof that he’s the Antichrist or does something similarly revealing and ludicrous, I prefer to believe he’s doing what he does for what he believes are good reasons – whether I disagree or not.

Mr Adler,

You used, among other things, the existence of birthers as an argument that diminishes the legitimacy of conservative objections to President Obama’s policy’s and actions. I apologize for the lengthy quote here: “Obviously, credibility is an issue on the right and the left. For liberals – for me, as I, personally, am the subject of Shrink’s post and of his challenge – credibility is denied by timing. I have heard many conservatives and Tea Partiers say that they were concerned about the debt before Obama took office. That may be – it has been a growing threat since the Reagan tax cuts and defense buildup thirty years ago – but it was only at the very advent of the presidency of the first Black president, whose citizenship, legitimacy, and loyalty to the nation were immediately attacked, that for some people the issue became a matter of mobilized hysteria.”

In essence, this statement equates conservatives and Tea Partiers with racists and birthers by association. It’s an ugly smear, and I’d thought that you were above that kind of thing. To associate any group as a whole with their most obnoxious extreme invites the question of whether one considers the inverse associations valid – and the most obvious example for reversing the positions is the truther movement. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it, and I apologize.

You asked me what grounds I have for believing current debt has moved from sustainable to unsustainable, and for claiming that the USA is “ill”. The former is something that’s endlessly arguable – everyone has a different yardstick – but what I look at his how much of the USA income has to go towards servicing the debt. The thumbnail is roughly speaking percentage of GDP. ‘Too high’ is subjective, but ‘more than doubled’ is not.

As for the health of the USA, consider that unemployment measured the way it was measured in the 1930s is above 20%. That in itself is enough to claim the nation is in deep trouble.

Oh, and for what it’s worth? I’m financially conservative, socially liberal. It’s rather difficult to pay to help the less fortunate when you have nothing left to give. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying, but it puts a rather hard limit on what I can do. I don’t want to see my adopted home (the USA) go that way.

Kate

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A. Jay Adler April 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Kate, just quickly, I appreciate your response, and I hope you had a napkin nearby with the soft drink.

I’ll leave the rest as your fair chance at a final word, but I think I’m entitled to reply to accusations of a smear.

You have chosen the broadest possible interpretation of the passage you cite, and even the adjectives I actually do use – “many” and “some” – do not support it. I have never made the sweeping claim that you here, and others, have imputed to me. Along with many others, I have been arguing for some time, in other posts on my blog, that socially and culturally reactionary elements have taken on a significant presence in the Republican party (never mind the Tea Party), many of which are reflective of The John Birch Society, which conservative hero William Buckley pointedly renounced forty years ago. Larger portions of the party are unacceptably tolerant of these elements. Latest highlights: Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, at the behest of Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, declares April Confederate History Month – an honor, in isolation from full Civil War study, objectionable in itself – and does so without any reference to slavery. This is the latest rising star of the Republican Party, chosen by the party to respond to the president’s State of the Union in January. Bragg, himself, in an appearance on CNN, denies that slavery was the principal issue over which the war was fought and refers to the Union Army in Virginia as an invading army. And a U.S. congresswoman, Michelle Bachman, yesterday refers to herself, in Washington, as a “correspondent in enemy territory” and tell people back home in Minnesota to be “armed and dangerous.”

Whatever the percentages, I am smearing no one – people are tainting themselves when they do not vocally and forcefully reject these words and positions.

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Neil April 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

Mr. Adler,

Your first post in reply to my comments characterizes my concerns as “hysteria”. It’s right there in the title.

“hysteria; -noun; an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc.”
Random House Dictionary

You dismissed me as irrational and therefore not worthy of continued rational discussion. As I said, if you did not intend this then you should improve your writing skills. I confess that after seeing how that post went, I did not bother to read your second post, and don’t care to now.

This, I fear, is the real difference between the two of us. I am conscious of the meanings of my words and the effects my actions have on others. I recognize that both actions and words have a continued existence independently of myself after I have performed or written them, and thus it is incumbent on me to do my best to ensure that they have the effect I intend. If things are otherwise, it is my mistake and I must strive to do better.

For you words, at least, mean precisely what you intend they should, no more and no less. As Alice found, it is impossible to have a rational conversation with Humpty Dumpty.

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A. Jay Adler April 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

Neil,

You have a selective, self-confirming memory.

You replied to the first post without any mention of insult. The second post, which you now claim not to have read, you replied to a week later, quoting from it, and stating

So, basically you’re saying that the principles you outlined were just so much bullshit you threw up as a smokescreen.

I gently called you on your intemperance and nonetheless responded to your charges and argument with care. And it was THEN that you bailed on the exchange.

How do you account for these misrepresentations in the superior tone you now adopt with me? And what is it that made you run from the debate – that I had replies for your arguments, that the holy light of the truth of your own argument did not quickly envelop me as you hoped?

I place no cover over my opinion of the widespread extremes of Republican and libertarian thinking today. It is all over the sad red earth. I do think your concerns that Democratic policies will rob us of our freedom are hysterical – just as you, days ago, in the comments section of ShrinkWrapped characterized Judge Crater as a “totalitarian.”

So drop the sensitive, superior pose: return to debating the ideas – or you can retreat to the reassuring comforts of the likeminded. Wouldn’t I have enjoyed that the past few days.

I’d even pretend this never happened. What are you made of?

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copithorne April 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I don’t understand where you are coming from Neil.

Jay cites a poll that suggests many Republicans believe X. He asks people here who identify as Republicans, do you believe X?

“Yes” is a fine answer. “No” is a fine answer. Elaborate in anyway you see fit is fine. Writing 500 words about how offended and aggrieved you are by the personal attack represented by that question is being a drama queen.

Jay is challenged to substantiate a perception that the Tea Party movement flirts with violence and racism. He posts photos of Tea Party people holding racist and threatening signs.

A completely adequate and expected response would be for people viewing those photos to agree that the messages conveyed are inappropriate. You are fully empowered to say that and we’ll believe you. You can say, “those signs are out of line and the Tea Party might try to police themselves a little better, but that’s just a small part of what those gatherings are about, let me tell you about…” and I’ll bet you’ll have passed every test.

It is hard for me to follow your thought process that posting these photos constitute a personal attack on you. If you get any insight into how you came to that conclusion, please share it.

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Neil April 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm

You are correct about the post I made reference to. I was making an effort to understand your beliefs and had asked you, as I recall it, whether or not you agreed with me that there is some hypothetical extreme level of governmental control over economic life which, if reached, would result in a de facto complete loss of freedom.

You did, indeed, construct an entire post around my comment–the point of which was to ridicule me for suggesting that such a concern could be relevant, because people going back to the Founders had expressed this concern and yet here we still have much freedom today! In effect, in response to my serious attempt to determine at what point our philosophies diverge, you petted my head and said “isn’t he a silly boy?” I was holding a serious discussion in good faith, and you were abusing your authorship position on this blog to score cheap points to amuse yourself and your regular readers.

That is acting in bad faith, and I have no further interest in a serious attempt at discerning your beliefs.

As to your repeated denials that your words mean what they mean, you have done it again in this post and the comments thereon.

You appended a bunch of photos claiming they are “evidence of the nature I and others attribute to elements of the Tea Party movement”. “The nature” being, of course, racism. In your comments you said: “I make no implication of racism in the post itself toward anyone other than those holding the racist signs that many commenters do not even recognize as racist.” “Many commenters” being, of course, us. You follow up with a demand that we all demonstrate that we “depart from conservative or libertarian doctrine”, which you seem to define in the comments as the views outlined in the Harris poll (which you imply are insane). You also represented (by proximity, if not verbage) those signs as being proof positive of the prevalence of the Harris poll views within the Tea Party. The clear meaning of this is that you regard us all as holding those views, you regard us all as insane racists, until we prove otherwise to your satisfaction.

If you are not accusing us of racism and insanity, then you are the most spectacularly unclear writer I have ever come across. You will, of course, claim that I am deficient in my reading skills. However, you are the one who claims to be always misunderstood, so perhaps rather than complaining about it you should put more thought into your words. You seem to understand SW’s commenters well enough, so perhaps you should raise your rhetoric to our level.

But there is an alternate possibility, which at this point I think more probable. Perhaps you are not an unclear writer at all–you write what you mean and you do it with both subtlety and skill. It’s just that you are repeatedly surprised when those whom you mean to offend turn out to be capable of comprehending the offense.

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Neil writes,

You did, indeed, construct an entire post around my comment–the point of which was to ridicule me for suggesting that such a concern could be relevant, because people going back to the Founders had expressed this concern and yet here we still have much freedom today! In effect, in response to my serious attempt to determine at what point our philosophies diverge, you petted my head and said “isn’t he a silly boy?” I was holding a serious discussion in good faith, and you were abusing your authorship position on this blog to score cheap points to amuse yourself and your regular readers.

In fact, I constructed two posts around my exchanges with Neil, this one and this one. Anyone is free to read them and judge whether I treated Neil in the manner he states or if, rather, I actually treated him quite respectfully and, in what he chose to make the end by not counter arguing, I simply disagreed with him and thought his dire concerns not dire. The title of the first post, and the earlier exchanges that led to the post, already made quite clear that I did not think the worries he expressed about our freedoms today matters of serious concern.

But Neil is obviously a very sensitive fellow. I understand such sensitivity far better than Neil knows or would ever be willing to warrant at this point. I would be in difficult emotional straights right now, given the words directed at me, if I permitted myself to be similarly sensitive in political debate. And I am never happy about hurting anyone’s feelings. But sensitivity is an egocentric indulgence if it is only self-directed. I posted, among other, similar images, these:

1 2 3 4

to which Neil’s response was

Oops, nobody actually said anything racist, but YOU’RE STILL RACISTS!

So Neil was one of the people I had in mind when I wrote of people who have

hyper-acute insult receptors for themselves, coupled with a total cluelessness to the obvious racial insult of others

Nonetheless, I made an overture. Neil has rejected it. We move on.

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Jimmy J. April 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Jay,
Since you don’t want to take seriously out of country examples of the way governmental sponsored good intentions create unintended consequences. Why not explain why we should give more power to our government so they can create more well intentioned programs like: Social Security (well on its way to insolvency), Medicare (the same), the Post Office (cannot even break even), Amtrak (still in the red after billions in tax payer infusions of cash), Johnson’s “War on Poverty” (billions of tax payer programs over 43 years and poverty has not been defeated), the U.S. Dept. of Education (30 years, trillions of dolars and our education system is still getting worse), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ($787 billion and hardly a new job created). So, we do not have to look far afield. The examples of the inability of our Federal Government to turn those good intentions into reality are right here under our noses.

The Feds do two things good. Spend money and make war. Spending for war is necessary. Anything spent beyond war and foreign relations is pretty much elective. I offer the observation that many of the electives have been a waste of tax payer money.

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Jimmy,

I always like to keep discussions in bounds, so I’m going to decline to debate right now, all at once, nearly eighties years of domestic policy and numerous different social programs.

To follow up, though, on what we discussed before, you write of ” the way governmental sponsored good intentions create unintended consequences.” I don’t deny or fail at all to take seriously the possibility of “unintended consequences.” We barely breathe without them. But unintended consequences are one thing – comparisons to Mao and Stalin are quite another. In all matters, perspective in vision, sound judgment, and proper measure in our words are to be valued. And on that subject, as I write to you now, I have just heard Michelle Bachman say today that she considers herself “A correspondent in enemy territory…. I want citizens back in Minnesota armed and dangerous.”

More metaphor? This is what this whole ugly argument of the past two days has been about.

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Neil April 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Mr. Adler, if you recall I started off addressing you politely, even deferentially, in comments to your older posts. You responded by pooh-poohing my valid concerns with a mere wave of your hand, and repeatedly denying you said what you said even when I provided the quotes back to you. Now you throw up this garbage post insisting that I prove to your satisfaction I’m not the stereotype you wish to force on me.

You have held this discussion in bad faith. Look in the mirror, yourself.

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Neil,

I have no recollection of deference, but if so, it was 1) unnecessary and 2) good of you.

What I do recall is respecting your comments enough to shape two post around them, responding to you. In the second post I said that I thought your most recent objections were not relevant to the point I was pursuing. Is this what you characterize as “pooh-poohing my valid concerns with a mere wave of your hand”? I don’t build posts around the comments of too many readers. But respect does not require that I agree with you. If you thought I was wrong about the relevance of your point, you could have come back again with further argument. I would have welcomed it. Especially when there is actual argument taking place, I’ll pursue it as long as both sides think it fruitful, and when I choose to end it, I’ll generally offer the last word to my reader.

Or am I mistaken? Was there some other wave of the hand you refer to that I don’t recall? Cite it for me. Cite for me the words you say you repeated back to me and I denied even in the face of your quoting them to me. You don’t mind if I’m doubtful, if I think you mischaracterize what I said was a clear misreading of my words with a denial. But let’s see. Let’s get down to the evidence and follow it where it leads.

Charges of bad faith – projections of another’s mind and spirit – are facile, because generally indeterminate. Show me your good faith by providing evidence of that with what you charge me. I’ll show my good faith by accepting what it proves and willingly arguing with you again what it doesn’t.

Or not. I leave it to you.

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Jimmy J. April 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Jay,
As to the TEA Party signs. I find those that are personal attacks on Obama to be juvenile and in bad taste. My signs are always about issues not personalities. However, it is not my place to ban signs that are in bad taste or juvenile whether they are at a TEA Party or a Code Pink rally. IThere’s something about that in the First Amendment, if I remember correctly.

I believe Obama was born in Honolulu. Evidence – Both Honolulu papers printed the birth announcement on the proper day. Not as good as a certified birth certificate, but works for me.

I do not believe Obama is a Muslim. For one thing, he drinks alcohol, which is verboten for Muslims. I believe Obama’s true religious beliefs run along the lines of Black Christian theology as preached by the Rev. Wright. The only thing I don’t like about that is that it is a racist theology that preaches against white people and the USA. 20 years attendance speaks volumes to me.

I don’t believe Obama is the anti-Christ or even an evil person. I even believe he is well intentioned. My problem with that is that such men as Mao, Stalin, Kim Jung Il, Castro, Allende, and Mugabe were/are men who had the best of intentions. Personal accounts of these men have testified to their personal charm and love of their fellow humans. Unfortunately, they all managed to beggar and kill millions through the unintended consequences of their beliefs in using government power to make things more equal and fair. There’s an old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I have come to know why that has been a useful aphorism. What I would like to know is how you and those who support Obama can be blind to those lessons of history?

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Jimmy,

Regarding the Tea Party signs, guilt by association is wrong, we all agree, but we all form opinion of others by their associations. And we all excuse inconvenient associations when it suits our purposes. If one attends an anti-Iraq War rally sponsored by the Trotskyite International ANSWER one is responsible for the message of that association. If one attends a Tea Party rally led by or that features Mark Williams as a speaker, one is responsible for the message of that association.

You offer a reasoned response on the birth issue. However, there is a birth certificate. From Wikipedia:

The Obama campaign released a 2007 certified copy of his short form birth certificate (in this instance referred to as a “Certification of Live Birth”) that states Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. Frequent arguments of those questioning Obama’s eligibility are that he has not released a photocopy of his “original” birth certificate, and that the use of the term “certification of live birth” on the document means it is not equivalent to one’s “birth certificate”. These arguments have been debunked numerous times by media investigations, every judicial forum that has addressed the matter, and Hawaiian government officials, a consensus of whom have concluded that the certificate released by the Obama campaign is indeed his official birth certificate.[8] Asked about this, Hawaiian Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo stated that Hawaii “does not have a short-form or long-form certificate.”[9] Moreover, the director of her Department has confirmed that the state “has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”[10][11]

Nothing, however, will ever satisfy the birthers, whose motive is other, just as no representation of sanity will ever satisfy truthers.

If one wishes, one may believe that Obama is an undercover Muslim enemy of the state excused for his drinking because it is part of his cover, in service of Allah. I’m not joking. If one wishes to, one can cynically rationalize any distortion into a fifth dimension of the credible.

I think you cast too wide a net in your list of names. Mao, Stalin, and Kim Jung Il were and are megalomaniacs. Mugabe became one. I do not believe they were principally motivated by good intentions. To Allende you do a disservice. His only “crimes” were to be the Marxist he always represented himself to be and to be democratically elected. The military dictator who overthrew him, Pinochet, who was responsible for thousands of extrajudicial deaths, does, I believe, fit your description. So does Castro. I am otherwise nearly (but we know not quite) speechless at a mention of Obama in this regard.

To answer your question, then, Wright is a reprehensible fool. I believe Obama, seeking to build his credibility in the African-American community in Chicago for a political career, committed himself to the most influential black Church in the city. If I could have a one-on-one with him, I’d lambaste him for it and call it ill-advised. But he became president, didn’t he? Political careers up and down and left and right – and successful presidencies too, while we’re at it – are marked by this kind of cynical trade off, and far worse. You and I both know this. That’s my take on it. I think it is – in the best sense – the obvious one.

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copithorne April 7, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Wacky Hermit, I did a little research about HCR and autism spectrum. The autism lobbying organizations are pleased with the bill, though it doesn’t go all the way. ABA will be a covered therapy in the plans offered under the state exchanges in 2014. That door is too narrow and the time frame too far off. It is one more reason why I wish they had a true public option.

One of the best things the autism lobbying organizations like is that preexisting conditions are no longer a reason for denying treatment. So, in your son’s case if you change employers or insurance, that’s a big help.

I see you borrowing trouble from the bank of cynicism and discounting the possibility that your family could get better help than they do now. I don’t know you well enough to know where you come by your cynicsm. But it is altogether possible that the people you are listening to who are feeding you cynicsm ARE NOT ON YOUR SIDE.

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Wacky Hermit April 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thank you for your kind words and sympathetic tone towards me, Jay. I understand why you would be suspicious of people who are just now coming out of the woodwork, but I think we would all do well to “never explain by conspiracy what can be better explained by stupidity.” You could just as easily replace “stupidity” by “human nature.” It is in our nature to filter information and to only accept information from sources that we trust. But if you ever allow yourself to get to the point where you reflexively don’t listen to someone because you don’t trust them, you are creating a blind spot in yourself, from which a (political) threat that you will never see coming may emerge.

Copithorne, thanks for your concern. I have looked into getting society’s support, and because funding is tight, that support is just about nothing. The state won’t even take my application for respite care because they only offer respite care for the mentally retarded. The therapies you describe are painfully time-consuming and would prevent my working to earn money for my family (and, as you correctly note, are not covered by insurance). We chose to go with a less expensive and time-consuming treatment: we found a psychiatrist who specializes in meds for autism spectrum. This treatment has made a huge difference in our boys’ lives and in reducing the strain on our family. However, the meds are all being prescribed off-label, because this therapy is very new and even a bit controversial. I fear very much that under the new health care bill, older therapies such as RDI– or when budgets get tight, nothing– will become the standard treatment for people like my boys. And budgets will get tight: the expense of RDI, coupled with the rise in cases of autism, cannot help but grow health care costs; and let’s face it, autism isn’t a life threatening condition. If it came down to insulin for diabetics or RDI for autistic kids, all the concern in the world wouldn’t make us able to pay for both, and we all know which one would be the better choice. So while I appreciate the concern of all the kind hearted people who supported health care reform thinking it would help my boys, I’d rather they didn’t try to help me in a way that may prove to do them more harm than good.

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Sarah Rolph April 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

I can’t tell what part of the comment you addressed to me is meant to apply to me.

I personally did not credit you with a lack of good faith until I had read a lot of your work. Even so, I haven’t asserted it–I said that your attitude makes me wonder about it. I stand by that comment.

I find it amusing that you responded with hostility to my suggestion that you tone down the hostility. This confirms my impression that you are mostly interested in a good fight, not a good dialog.

If you really “sought to uphold the standards of honest debate by acknowledging an error when it was manifest” you would have written a gracious post saying that you regret the error, and making it clear that you don’t condone the lies you unwittingly repeated. Instead you hit back as hard as you could with as much negativity as you could find, and issued your preposterous counter-challenge. Those are not the tactics of someone who respects the truth.

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Sarah,

I find it amusing that you completely missed my comments about the group dynamic and are so completely oblivious to the mass of hostility directed at me from the very start that you believe the reasonable exception to take is to what you perceive as my hostility.

One way to redirect ourselves is to read with care, respond to arguments, and to cease personalized attacks, as you continue with here.

You write:

” Instead you hit back as hard as you could with as much negativity as you could find”

That was the challenge put to me, to support my general claims or retract them – not about that one post. How did you miss that?

” your preposterous counter-challenge”

It’s a debate. You are aware of that, right? Preposterous is clearly in the mind of the thinker.

“If you really ‘sought to uphold the standards of honest debate by acknowledging an error when it was manifest’ you would have written a gracious post saying that you regret the error, and making it clear that you don’t condone the lies you unwittingly repeated.”

In a debate, each side gets a turn. That turn does not consist of a concession, but of the opportunity to state one’s claim and to argue in support of it.

I honestly acknowledged an error. (Let us not speak of graciousness.) Now, you have just termed “lies” what have not been established as such. Would you care to demonstrate your respect for the truth by acknowledging that?

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MaxedOutMama April 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

PPS: And no, I do not believe that our president is either a Muslim or a Marxist, but he’s already a one-term president, so who cares? It’s Congress that matters.

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MaxedOutMama April 7, 2010 at 9:41 am

PS: I literally thought you were joking (you do joke quite a bit) when you mentioned the Harris poll before.

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MaxedOutMama April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

Jay – ah, the Harris poll. ABC News is not the only source to raise an eyebrow over it, but presumably you would accept ABC News as a non-Rethuglican ShrunkHeaded Rightwinger source, so here it is:
http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenumbers/2010/03/polling-on-presidential-pejoratives-.html

There’s a very good reason why the Harris poll has results so different from other polling. No strategy for web-based polling has yet been shown to produce valid statistical results. They all can be gamed, and offering people incentives (money or gifts) pretty much assures that they will be.

I realize that stats and demographics aren’t your thing, but you really should look at your sources a little more closely.

You are not doing yourself any good by claiming this poll as data to be taken seriously. Please at least read the blog post at ABC News about the Harris poll and about other polling.

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Matt F April 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

Jay,
I’m one of the conservatives from SW. If you have the list of conservative orthodoxies I would be glad to respond. I looked at the Harris poll, and I wonder if you are saying that Obama is the anti-christ, muslim, foreign born, illegitimate president are conservative orthodoxies?? Then as a conservative I am 0 for 4, proving that we are an independent thinking lot. I imagine you had another list in mind.

As to your pictures… Some are disturbing, and some I can see how you might be disturbed even though I am not. The birthers are wrong I think, but the underlying issue is legitimate. Obama had half the national experience of the least experienced president from the twentieth century (3 years in Senate compared to 6 for Kennedy), and he was very poorly known. There are many documents that he did not release that are standard for candidates to release. The birth certificate is a trivial one in my mind, but his college records stand out. He has made huge political gains by denouncing anyone who asks about his past as either racist or birther-cooky. He is the only one who has gained from the birther controversy, and he is the one who perpetuates it by not releasing all his records. The birth controversy would be put to rest if he would just do what any other president has done: give us primary documents on his past. This is not racist; rather it is a reaction to not knowing anything about him and being belittled for asking.

The other disturbing images involve fascist images. Here is why I am not nearly as disturbed by conservatives calling Obama a fascist as I am by liberals saying the same thing about Bush. Conservatives are much more concerned by the legality of what Obama has done than the effect. The GM bankruptcy may or may not have helped people, but it was done illegally. O-care may or may not expand healthcare, but it is beyond the legal power of congress to enact. I think that the fascist comparison is apt for Obama because he sees himself as unconstrained by law in the pursuit of power.

BusHitler was more aimed at the outcome. The Iraq war may have been widely approved by the congress (without one legislative bribe, I might add) and war powers are within the constitution, but it was a bad idea. There is a cogent legal argument for enhanced interrogation, but Bush was okay with physical pain just like Hitler. The comparison between Bush and Hitler is what? That they both used force?

Comparing someone to a fascist because you dislike what they do is just name calling. It is a very non-specific use of the term as a replacement for the word bad. It is an appeal to emotion. They could have said Bush is bad and had the same meaning without evoking emotion. Comparing someone to a fascist because they are avoiding legal restraint to expand their own is different. Saying Obama is fascist-like gives further insight into how I think he is bad, not just the degree to which I think he is bad.

Keep trying. It is mind expanding to see how you think.

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MaxedOutMama April 7, 2010 at 5:34 am

Jay – the reason why almost no one responded to your challenge is that it is not a legitimate challenge.

To review the bidding:
SW alleged that you were unfairly categorizing the Tea Party movement.

You replied saying “okay, but I feel I have some reasons for concern” and posted all these images. Fair enough. Then you challenged back with another stereotype – actually several – and demanded that your readers prove that they don’t fit the stereotype you hold. For convenience sake, I am going to call that “Conservatives as dittoheads”.

Any judge or opposing lawyer would call you on this in court.

For the most part, Tea Party affiliates or supporters appear to be very concerned about issues. You keep wanting to shift the debate to groups, on the basis that some groups are good and some are bad, and that if we figure out which group someone belongs to, we can then decide whether that person’s positions on issues are valid based on whether they belong to a “good” group or a “bad” group.

SW’s readers probably are not all standard conservatives (I am not), but regardless, they are apparently not stupid enough to play your game.

This is an unworthy tactic. If you want to discuss issues, you will probably get a lot of interest from SW readers. If you want to sort people into groups and then categorize positions on issues based on group affiliation, the type of readers that SW attracts will not be interested.

I have a very strongly ingrained kneejerk revulsion toward such tactics. They form the basis of great social evils. I do not think you should be doing what you are doing because I think it is unethical.

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A. Jay Adler April 7, 2010 at 7:58 am

Sarah and MaxedOutMama,

To work with a term brought into this discussion – self-awareness.

If you have the honesty and good faith to review the history of these debates, starting with the very first posts, you might discover truths very different from the self-confirming ones with which you comfort yourselves. Beginning with the honesty and good faith with which some of you immediately failed to credit me. Beginning with the condescending stereotyping of liberals to which most of you immediately resorted, including, by the way, Jimmy, who was taken to task for it. A difference in Jimmy is that he acknowledged it as an error and committed to try behave otherwise.

A difference in Jimmy, though he and I have deep political differences, is that he has behaved differently toward me, and I have behaved back in kind. One need only look at yesterday’s exchanges. Throughout the history of these debates, even when there have been angry exchanges between me and another person – generally the product of inferring the worst from my words, meanings I never intended, but which Shrinkwrapped readers were always quick to presume – I have always responded to a better tone with conciliation. If you wish to be responded to like Jimmy, behave like Jimmy.

It takes self-awareness to consider the group dynamic at play in these exchanges. For a number of reasons, these debates have mostly been me against the rest of you. That’s all right. I can clearly take it. But it has frequently produced pack behavior from responders, opening day and yesterday serving as classic examples. It takes self-awareness to separate your own experience with me, whatever it might have been, from the group dynamic to which I respond. It takes, perhaps, a certain kind of empathy, which the non-reaction to the photos I presented demonstrates to be significantly lacking.

I have repeatedly tried to direct ShrinkWrapped readers away from arguing with their internalized liberal bogeyman and toward arguing with me. This has pretty much been a fruitless endeavor. The debates – indeed, the ShrinkWrapped commentary rolls – are replete with demeaning rants against “liberals,” and non-response to my particular arguments, arguments that can reach fine and specific levels, but that is what genuine argument is in contrast to the pleasures of repetitive assertion and posturing. To seek to instruct me, now, in the matter of stereotypes is lack of self-awareness on parade.

The challenge I returned to ShrinkWrapped and his readers was not to disapprove “the stereotype you hold” as MaxedOutMama conveniently misrepresents it of me, but an objective reality, the results of a poll. It was also to challenge a less objective, but for me a manifest reality – a relatively unvarying and doctrinaire uniformity of opinion on the part of my conservative interlocutors. Though SW himself seemed too easily and unreflectively to bandy the term “scurrilous” in his challenge to me – unreflective in light of the calumnies regularly levied against Barack Obama by conservatives – I sought to uphold the standards of honest debate by acknowledging an error when it was manifest. Beyond the rightness of doing so in itself, I hoped that might set an example for further debate. Instead, what was returned was disingenuous evasion, misrepresentation like that of MaxedOutMama today, and, in some cases – ah, self-awareness again – unacknowledged confirmation of those “stereotypes.”

One of the reasons there have been so few liberal participants in these debates was the anticipation on the part of some correspondents of the inevitable course of events and of how the conservatives would conduct themselves. Stereotypes? Perhaps. Or the stern instruction of experience. Nonetheless, I forged ahead, and do, and little I have experienced so far has disconfirmed the fears of those who have not participated.

If you don’t like what is reflected back to you, look to yourselves.

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Sarah Rolph April 7, 2010 at 5:33 am

What I said. Sore loser. Your attitude makes me wonder if you really entered into the Open Mind experiment in good faith.

If you are truly interested in dialog, here’s a tip: study the writing of the people whose replies you appreciate, such as Jimmy J. Then compare it to your own. You will notice that JJ’s tone is friendly, his sentences and paragraphs are clear and orderly, and his entire focus is on providing information. Your writing is hostile, emotional, rambling, and only semi-coherent. That’s one of the reasons you get such a negative reaction.

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copithorne April 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Nobody addressed your challenges, Jay — most pertinently whether they agree that Barack Obama is a Marxist Muslim Antichrist. Kate came closest and I guess we would score her as sympathetic to the idea that Barack Obama is a Marxist Muslim Antichrist.

I think they hate us for our freedoms.

I have the experience that there is a good deal of contemporary conservative rhetoric that is secessionist, apocalyptic and violent. That rhetoric is damaging to the country and I think it better if people were more circumspect about crossing those lines. Jay’s original post was an invitation to Republicans to differentiate themselves from that. I think it is pretty clear that there is no responsible dimension of the Republican Party that is in a position to serve as a moderating influence on that rhetoric. Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are the leaders of the Republican Party. If we hear that in the old days William F. Buckley could exclude the John Birch Society from the Republican Party — there is no elite politician or pundit who can play that role anymore.

Wacky Hermit, you describe yourself as having a son with Asperger’s. My sense was that the health care bill pushed insurance companies to cover ABA and RDI therapies for autism spectrum disorders. Those are the treatments of choice and most insurance plans won’t cover them. I understand that nothing is for free and we all have to pay for that benefit one way or another. My own belief is that it is appropriate for society to offer that kind of support to families with autism spectrum disorders. I wonder if you have looked into it and see any opportunity for your family to benefit. I hope you do.

There is one fact that I would correct the idea proposed by Kate that Barack Obama tripled the deficit. There’s a mendacious chart circulating which attributes FY 2009 to Barack Obama when that is George Bush’s budget. George Bush took the debt from a $200 billion surplus to a $1.3 trillion deficit. Barack Obama added a stimulus package.

For the most part I regard the Tea party with insouciance. I see them as a danger to the Republican Party, pushing them from Charlie Crist to Marco Rubio, from John McCain to Sarah Palin. I’m confident that will not work out for them as well as people who watch Fox News think it will work. The anti war protests were an order of magnitude larger and they seemed to contain great energy, but such protests are not electorally decisive.

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Nightelf April 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I must add, that calling people racists who obviously aren’t is a cheap, tawdry ploy which liberals have got away with for too long. I was talking to an acquaintance a while back and we were discussing Indian gambling casinos in our county. I was saying how they were a bad idea and she gave a few good arguments as to why they might benefit a community. Then her face tightened up and she gave a phony smile and said: “You know, those people who oppose the casinos are racists.”

Now unless she is a complete moron my acquaintance must have that the people speaking out against casinos are not racists. They just don’t want casinos in their neighborhoods. They may be right or wrong about the effects on their communities, but they couldn’t care less about the race of the operators. She thought she could end the discussion by dropping the race bomb. I let her know what I thought of that tactic and left her sitting there.

I consider such race baiting to be as morally disgusting as Holocaust denial or 9/11 trutherism. In both those examples there’s an obvious intellectual dishonesty–that is, a person believes something totally absurd, against all reason and evidence, not from a point of view of disinterested investigation but because of a deep-seated hatred. In the case of Holocaust denial it is hatred of Jews, in the truther movement it was hatred of GW Bush. In fact, it’s difficult to say whether they believe such nonsense themselves, or that it’s merely a vehicle to defame the object of their hate.

I am disappointed that Jay, along with many liberals, has taken this tack. It is a malicious and obvious strategy to avoid dealing with the issues altogether. Jay is skirting the bounds of civil discourse in this matter. Does he really get his ideas from idiots like janeane Garofalo? Is that the level of his intellectual processes? I think it’s time that people of good will stood up to such ham-handed attempts at political intimidation.

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A. Jay Adler April 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm

In sum…

from many, the usual churlishness and insult to which so many of the ShrinkWrapped readers resort so readily,

from some, a determination, as usual, to misconstrue the terms of the particular discussion, in this case, as ShrinkWrapped framed them,

from others, profoundly telling, hyper-acute insult receptors for themselves, coupled with a total cluelessness to the obvious racial insult of others (and, of course, no one acknowledged the threats of violence – including the call for a coup – for which SW challenged me to provide evidence),

and whereas I respond directly to the challenge put to me, almost complete and predictable evasion of the counter challenge is returned. This is not a surprise since from the first debate in this series most responders have been unable to focus on claims and counter claims and the entailments of developing arguments, or the limitations of a single topic – too rabidly caught up they always are in raging against the permanent liberal of their self-confirming imaginations.

Kate, raising the truthers with me, or any of the other demonizing of Bush, as others are also wont to do, is completely bogus. I engaged in none of it, I criticized it, and even if I hadn’t we are either adults making genuine arguments or we are self-rationalizing children only pretending to reason with each other. Truthers are unrelated to the present topic and justify nothing. Also not the present topic was a comprehensive account of the Tea Party movement – hardly, then, the sweeping consideration of the whole Obama presidency you are disappointed I did not attempt. As I have tried quite hopelessly to convey from the very start of this endeavor, meaningful debate takes place in the focus on an established and proscribed topic, not in the freeform venting of grievance and resentment that has been a staple on the conservative side here. I was challenged on a single post I made and on a particular set of opinions I expressed, originally, not even about Tea Partiers per se or in general – go back and read my writing – but about people engaging in certain behaviors. It is only because the particular people in question were apparently Tea Partiers that that group became the focus. (In fact, I have, at this point, no particular criticism of Tea Partiers that I do not make of the Republican Party itself. I have been quite consistent about that.) The topic of my post was Shrink’s challenge, and discussing what particulars necessary to respond to it.

Also, you write, “Now the USA is gravely ill – and you imply that those who are worried about this are racist?” Nowhere do I imply any such thing. I make no implication of racism in the post itself toward anyone other than those holding the racist signs that many commenters do not even recognize as racist. You suggest in your comment that I am critical of conservatives only because of the timing of their criticisms of Obama. This is inaccurate. Read me and represent me more carefully please. Even within the very limited parameters of this post, I offer other reasons. You, on the other hand, fail to acknowledge why the debt has grown under Obama and the wide range of circumstance and policy action on circumstance that entailed that growth in the debt – not necessarily exculpatory, but explanatory, and you choose not, fairly, to mention it. Finally, you make characterizations of the debt as sustainable under Bush, with the implication that it no longer is sustainable under Obama. However, we are sustaining it now, whatever your unconfirmed prediction may be. The real term of consideration for you, then, is your concern, then and now. Otherwise, based even more on your comments I leave unaddressed, you seem to have acclimated yourself wonderfully to a particular strain of American conservatism. You’re not the only one who is disappointed.

Wacky, thank you for a very human communication. I try to stress – I did in this post too – that the nature of these debates leads us into simplification, through omission, sometime necessary generalization, and other reasons. You offer a compelling individual account for yourself, and, of course, every story is individual, even the ones I find objectionable. You write, “But what I don’t understand, Jay, is why you insist that anyone who opposes the current policies has got to prove that they’ve opposed these policies for years and that they don’t march in lockstep with the Republican party platform. Surely you don’t believe that people can’t change their minds?” I don’t insist that – I note, rather, the natural suspicions of circumstance and timing – and of course people can change their minds. As you represent yourself here, I may disagree with you, but I completely respect, as they say, where you’re coming from. The way it ideally should be. Keep feeding those kids crap.

Jimmy, I forgive those who misspell against me as I would have them forgive my misspellings. Thank you for engaging the discussion on its own terms with me as I attempted to do with SW.

MaxedOutMama, you forgot to call me a big stupid idiot – jerk. You’ve finally convinced me. I gave you too much credit.

Gary K., having read your comments at ShrinkWrapped, the mystery of your communication with me is no less profound on my part. I think you should certainly expose the misdeeds I undoubtedly committed with the photos*. Start with the enemy at home. There are so many of us. And we’re worse.

Cap’n, talk about self-awareness. Let me guess your answers on the Harris poll.

And, of course, Nightelf, in the manner of a type known on city streets and back lots all over the world, comes running back to what he perceives as a pile for one last kick at the head he thinks beneath it. The nomenclature, whatever the variant terminology, is punk, but Nightelf should not feel offended as he gives offense, for much as in the manner of “death panels,” I mean that only as a metaphor.

Well done. Bravo.

*They were taken on the movie lot where the moon landings were staged.

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MaxedOutMama April 6, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Jay – if you really think those pictures tell anyone anything about the Tea Party movement, you’re way stupider than you appear to be.

If you really think Congress can vote for huge bills without even reading them and not stir up a firestorm of popular protest, you’re so out of touch you might as well be brain-damaged.

The lawyers in my family sometimes veer into joyous argument for argument’s sake. Perhaps this post is such a diversion – but it does make you look prejudiced.

Btw, my doctor, who is one of the smartest people I have ever met and most definitely not a racist, is heading off to DC for the next Tea Party protest. And I saved down the witchdoctor poster for him – he will get a major laugh out of it. He thinks the “reforms” just passed are an attempt to kill off poor older people, so that’s why he’s heading to DC. He’s outraged. He’s already treating many of these people basically for free – now he thinks the panels will set rules that will prevent them from getting tests and so forth that he can’t provide. If Medicare won’t pay, these people won’t get treated.

He also told me last weekend that Sarah Palin was a saint, that Obama wasn’t really black, and that country would never be the same if we didn’t change direction. Now this guy is a significant person in the medical world based purely on his achievements. For example, he had a clinical research company, and he’s associated with a lot of the top doctors in various NE specialty hospitals. The Tea Party movement is not exploding due to yahoos and racists. I know from yahoos. They are too lazy to get up and go protest. And there just aren’t that many racists.

Here’s an AP article detailing such circumstances as a black Tea Party congressional candidate in Mississippi:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jgsc8tVOOWtYQPQc6d5yLsbzjf4QD9ETR1380

Go to a bar. Get out. Find out what people are saying. This thing’s going viral, and it is because both the Democrats and the GOP have been ignoring the electorate’s legitimate concerns.

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Jimmy J. April 6, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Proofreading has become one of my weaknesses these days. Sorry about all the misspellings of libertarian, and other errors. I got in a hurry to make a point, and now must repent for my errors at leisure.

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Wacky Hermit April 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Oh, and also I didn’t make any of those signs, I didn’t see any of those signs at the Tea Parties I’ve been to, I don’t organize Tea Parties and I don’t control who goes to Tea Parties or what signs they bring, so you absolutely cannot hold me (or anyone else like me) responsible in any way, shape, or form for those signs. If you do, then I’ll hold you personally responsible for every papier-mache Bush burned in effigy at an anti-war protest from 2003 to 2009. Deal?

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Wacky Hermit April 6, 2010 at 4:24 pm

First off, as a Tea Partier I’d like to answer the question of where I was when Bush had his big spending years. I was not then, as I am not now, an expert on economics and I freely admit I have no idea how to run a government, so I happily left the part about figuring out how we were going to pay for all this to our elected officials. I figured that Democrats and Republicans alike might disagree about issues, and of course they’d expect to take their cut of the bacon, but surely they wouldn’t run the entire country off a fiscal cliff in a colossal game of chicken. So it took me by surprise to discover that they were this close to the cliff. I trusted Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett.

As far as disagreeing with Bush, I actually did. Because education is a topic I actually know something about, I hated NCLB with a white hot passion and wrote about it on a blog called Edspresso. I opposed going into Iraq, but once the decision was made (by the process laid out in the Constitution) I respected the decision. I thought the first stimulus, the one where they sent refund checks to everybody, was utterly useless but better than the destructive alternative plans some in Congress wanted. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to Medicare Part D but I figured hey, if Democrats and Republicans agree we can afford it, why not? And quite frankly, I had my hands too full for political activism. I had a son, and then another son four years later, who were later diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and they were extraordinarily difficult to handle.

But what I don’t understand, Jay, is why you insist that anyone who opposes the current policies has got to prove that they’ve opposed these policies for years and that they don’t march in lockstep with the Republican party platform. Surely you don’t believe that people can’t change their minds? And surely you don’t wish to imply that people who happen to have a particular set of political beliefs on other issues are somehow ineligible for protests about fiscal conservatism?

How would you feel if you were told that if you agree with the Democrats on abortion, gay marriage, and the Iraq war, that you should just sit down and shut up because you can’t possibly be right on anything else? If you answer me that one honestly, I’ll tell you how I really feel about gay marriage, abortion, marijuana legalization, and the like. But I get to decide if you’re being honest, just like you get to decide that I’m a sunshine patriot because I just now found my political footing. And just like you did to me in your post, I’ll decide that you’re not credible. Because I’m free of prejudice, you see.

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Cap'n Eddie Ricketyback April 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Mr. Adler admits he posted unproven allegations, so he tries to make amends by digging up images from all over the Internet which may or may not be from Tea Parties. And doesn’t he know that thousands more much more vile, obscene and threatening than these could be dug up about GW Bush (noose around neck, target on back, etc.), Condoleezza Rice, and various other Republicans? And he calls Andrew Breitbart ‘snarling’ and ‘sophomoric’? Does he have no self-awareness at all?

Like GaryK, I don’t know why I bother to respond to this individual, who this post has shown him to be nothing but a leftist shill who is a willing accomplice in the effort to discredit the Tea Parties with a false accusation of ‘racism’. Since they have been unsuccessful up to now, they’re trying to tar them with that brush, which is a damnable lie and they know it.

For my part, the reason I will oppose this administration and Congress for however long I have left is because, “They are a small group who are intent on concentrating into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor – other people’s lives.” That phrase was borrowed from FDR’s acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic Convention, and it is much truer of this administration and Congress than it was about the businessmen Roosevelt was referring to.

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GaryK April 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I do not even know why I bother to reply to someone who talks of “snarling, sophomoric” Andrew Briebart, but thinks that the arrogant, nasty, supercilious, and “ethically challenged” Rep. Barney Frank—the architect and prime mover, along with Senator Chris Dodd, of the “subprime” mortgage crisis that was a major factor in initiating our current economic meltdown—“has earned his props”

But here are just a few things I immediately noticed, primarily focused on the images he has presented as supposedly those from Tea Party protests.

First, if Mr. Adler has not secured permission to use all of the images he has posted, he should be ready to likely receive a lot of angry emails from a lot of people about copyright infringement.

I have personal experience with such protests. I have participated in a number of Tea Party protests, including the massive 9/12 Capitol Hill protest, during which I circulated for roughly five hours through a crowd numbering perhaps more than a million that covered Capitol Hill, crowded all the main avenues of approach—and kept coming, and also filled up much of the Mall near the Capitol. I deliberately noted what was written on the multitude of almost universally home-made signs and banners, and listened to conversations, and I never saw anything even close to the roughest images he has posted, nor did I hear any comments in line with these images, racist or not.

At all these protests, and particularly on 9/12, there were a broad spectrum of people of different ages and economic status protesting—college students, young and middle aged people, older and elderly protesters, even some in wheel chairs and using canes and walkers; they were predominantly white crowds, but I noted that there were Hispanics, Asians and Blacks scattered, here and there, throughout the crowds, and there were lots of families with kids, and it was always generally a very mellow, well behaved crowd, and not in any way an angry, menacing crowd or a mob.

Next, one must ask, what is the provenance of the images he has posted, and how do we know or can be sure that they actually came from Tea Party protests at all?

Finally, I have seen the image of the angry man in the baseball cap and shirt made out of an American flag, holding the large sign with the N word on it before, and it was said on the website where I saw him discussed—Gatewaypundit, perhaps?–that he was actually a well known leftist and agent provocateur.

So, I believe it just boils down to who you want to believe, what Mr. Adler says, what he trawled up from Internet, or what I and others have actually participated in and observed. Play all the “Roshomon” games you want, but I vote for what I know actually happened, I vote for the reality I experienced.

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Kate April 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Mr Adler,

I admit I had hoped for a more cogent rebuttal. You claim that the credibility of conservative commenters is suspect because they did not speak out about the national debt during President Bush’s two terms of office – yet you fail to acknowledge that those same commenters were, for the most part, vehemently against the stimulus package passed towards the end of that presidency, or that in the national debt has tripled since then and shows no sign of slowing down.

In short, for most of the Bush presidency the debt was high, but sustainable. Since then, it has reached levels that would have brought down any nation other than the one that happens to be the principal driver of the world economy. For years it’s been said that when the USA sneezes, the rest of the world gets pneumonia. Now the USA is gravely ill – and you imply that those who are worried about this are racist?

I have no doubt there are racists attending the Tea Parties. There are just as many racists opposing the Tea Parties.

From the Harris Poll statistics that you quote – first, as an online poll, there is an innate self-selection bias that will garner the extreme views on every possible part of the spectrum. Second, on the matters of President Obama being perceived as “anti-American”, “doing things Hitler did”, “a domestic enemy”, “traitor”, I would say that the observed words and behavior of the President don’t go very far towards denying these perceptions: automatically assuming racism on the part of police officers (one of them black) who arrested his friend; excessive deference bordering on outright appeasement to Islamic heads of state while simultaneously snubbing long-time allies of the USA, midnight votes with the kind of back-room deals that I sincerely hope are not standard procedure here (I have only lived in the USA since 2002, so I don’t have much to go by for that), over 30 “czars” of all manner of things, overriding long established bankruptcy law to claim part-ownership of GM (this is the kind of back-door takeover of industry that is typical of fascist regimes, and only slightly less overt than Venezuela’s President Chavez’s takeover of oil companies in his country – or Hitler’s de-facto nationalization of German industry by placing supporters in key management positions), demonization of Israel without regard to facts, twenty years attending a church proposing a poisonous theology (no less poisonous than the white supremacy theology) that just happens to be closely allied with Islam… It’s not hard to see why the more conspiracy-minded conservatives would see trouble – and it has very little to do with the color of the President’s skin. Unless, of course, he chooses to make it an issue dealing with the color of his skin rather than the color of his policies and action.

I will finish with one simple comparison. I would say that the “birther” conspiracists are far less offensive than the “truther” conspiracists – the former believe only that one man is lying about his nation of birth, the latter that one man at minimum allowed, at worst conspired in the cold-blooded murder of thousands of people.

I personally do not care what color the President’s skin is, any more than I care what color his hair is. I do care that his actions appear to demonstrate a complete lack of concern for the desires of the people who elected him because they believed he would be a financial moderate (which was a strong part of his campaign) and would look for compromise (which does not mean stating something one knows is unacceptable and then lambasting those who refuse to accept as bipartisan and enemies).

Regards,

Kate

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Jimmy J. April 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Jay, conservatives and liberarians disagree on many points. Particularly when it comes to social issues. Many libertarians are for gay marriage, abortion rights, and are anti-religion in that they don’t want churches to be tax exempt organizations. Most conservatives take different positions on those issues. Even liberatarians disagree among themselves. Big L liberatarians want no government regulation, no foreign trade, no Federal Reserve system, no standing military, etc. Ron Paul is pretty close to that description. Small l liberatarians are pretty much for all those things as necessary functions of government with teh proviso that they be kept as limted as possible.

Taxes. Generally most liberatarians and conservatives are for lower taxes. They are also opposed to using the tax code to generate certain behaviours. Many are in favor of the so-called Fair Tax, which is nothing more than a national sales tax used to replace the income, Medicare and FICA taxes. They think it would be just dandy because it would eliminate the IRS and increase compliance. What they fail to take into account is that it will, IMO induce some unwanted behaviours. Humans will arrange their affairs to avoid taxes if they can. The Fair Tax, IMO, would kill the real esatate and auto markets because few would choose to pay the 27% tax on a new home or auto if they could buy it used and pay no tax at all. Also a barter and/or black market would quickly be established to avoid taxes on purchases just as has happened in the cigarette market here in Washington State. That is why I oppose the Fair Tax. It would create a whole new set of problems and distiort our economy in unintended ways. My position is that our income tax code needs to be simplified and made flatter. I also believe that since busineses do not pay taxes (their customers do) that the business/corporate tax in this country should be reduced to a token 10%. If we want to compete with China and revitalize our economy, I think that would do it. This is one example where I disagree with many conservatives about tax policy.

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Sarah Rolph April 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

You are a sore loser, Mr. Adler.

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Nightelf April 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

Jay, you seem to want to throw words at issues like Democrats want to throw money at social problems. I notice a lot of deception there. Dealing with the “Death Panels” meme, I can’t believe you’re too obtuse to not recognize an effective metaphor when you see one, but no doubt your opinion of tea party-ers is that they’re all knuckle-dragging morons so they must take the phrase literally. What it means for the metaphorically challenged is that with government control of health care, some government bureaucrat is going to decide who gets needed life-saving treatment and who doesn’t. Rahm Emanuel’s brother has devised a schema by which people’s lives would be evaluated for their worth and medical care rationed accordingly. With inevitable rationing of services such a schema would of necessity be employed to apportion care.

You seem to spend a lot of words suggesting that the Tea Party is conservative. Yes, and…?

You’ve posted a lot of pictures from tea party demonstrations which add up to what? That a few nuts come to big demos? SW already conceded that. “Your side does it too, and worse” is not an argument. Except for a very few none of those pictures shows any racism at all, but you seem to be implying that the tea parties are motivated by racism. I definitely wouldn’t approve of the witch doctor sign, but the witch doctor cliche is a venerable cartoon standby I’d say that there’s a perfectly innocent interpretation, i.e. Obamacare is to health care as a witch doctor is to medical science. But so what? Nuts come to demonstrations? During the Iraq war the liberals and lefties had big demos and there were all kind of kooky signs. I would never suggest that the majority of anti-war demonstrators were there because they believed the World Trade center was blown up by Dick Cheney, or that terrorism was justified, or that Jews were the cause of all the world’s problems just because some of the signs. Most of them were against the war and couldn’t really stop the loons from carrying signs. You might as well equally open minded about the Tea Partys. But I must make clear that the majority of the signs you posted don’t offend me and seem perfectly in keeping with historic norms in American political discourse.

As to defying “conservative or libertarian doctrine” it’s difficult to define what those might be and therefore difficult to say where I’d depart from them. Conservatives tend to be a lot more diverse in their opinions than you’d think. The late William F. Buckley believed marijuana should be legal. If you can say what you think conservative/libertarian is, maybe I could say where I depart from it. We could discuss it over a joint.

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Neil April 6, 2010 at 9:08 am

Shorter Jay Adler:

“Oops, nobody actually said anything racist, but YOU’RE STILL RACISTS!”

Sad.

And your challenge is insulting, too. If it were to happen that I hold all the typical conservative opinions, why does that necessarily mean I am not an independent thinker? What if I were to think through the challenges that face us and decide that the conservatives are correct?

I think my comments to date demonstrate both my independence of thought and the fact that I do not adhere to ANY orthodoxy, as do the comments of many, if not most, of SW’s regular commenters and SW himself. If Mr. Adler has missed that it’s because he’s got his ideological blinders on.

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