Monday, August 30, 2010

One Last Thought

The Facebook status that started it all...

Matthew Rozsa
I have a question for people who believe any of the following:
A) Obama wanted to create death panels.
B) Obama wasn't born in Hawaii.
C) Obama is a Muslim.
Do you have the courage to publicly pronounce your views to your intellectual betters (i.e. anyone who doesn't believe those things) or will you only bandy about your drivel to gaggles of fellow hatemongers, who you know will reinforce your imbecile dogmatism?

Quick question: do you have any friends that believe any of that? I mean, I'm definitely more conservative than you and I can only name a couple that believe that. On an off note, I got invited to a militia meeting. Mad, huh?

Oh, they have plenty of "courage" my friend...and they pronounce quite loudly.

remember you aren't an intellectual are a Socialist for disagreeing with their dogma...HEY MATT! It's been forever!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's mostly fringe elements that believe that. My friends who are conservative don't believe those things. Neither do I.

And yes it has been far too long Ms. Zelda. Hope all is well. I hope to be in NYC more this year. I'm living in South Carolina this year.

That's awesome! I'm in DC for law school - stay in touch. I went to the Tea Party Rally this weekend...we might not be friends with them but there are more of them than I am comfortable with...ignorance is terrifying.

I know people who believe that stuff.

Law school!?!?! Yay you! I'm doing cardiac rhythm management training. And on the ignorance note, yes. That's why I'm an armed moderate. Slice and dice lightsaber FTW.

I have relatives who believe in all of those. We're not in speaking terms.

Matthew Rozsa
To Doc and Joe: I have a couple of friends who have openly declared belief in Opinion A, to say nothing of the ones who I suspect adhere to that position more covertly. While nobody in my social circle (online or real-life) has actually admitted to me that they agree with Opinions B or C, there are several whose general wont to embrace the faux facts propagated by the radical right makes it so that, if I was a betting man, I'd place greater odds on them holding those views than not.

To Zelda: I don't think the Tea Party protesters and other right-wing conspiracy theorists are courageous at all. When I said that they only share their views with "gaggles of fellow hatemongers" who they know will provide validation for their "imbecile dogmatism," I did so because I don't believe there is anything courageous about proudly squawking one's hateful fatuity to fellow dittoheads. Indeed, I don't even think there is anything brave about those Tea Partiers who participate in the protests and other public demonstrations, since there seems to be a direct correlation between the brazenness of their rhetoric and the size of the angry mob they have at their side.

Of course, one point matters far more than any of the others I've just mentioned:

Although Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement, and the rest of the radical right loves to claim that they are persecuted, in danger of losing their freedoms, and engaging in valiant campaigns comparable to those waged by the founding fathers and other great American patriots, the reality is that none of them are in any real danger when they engage in their protest movements. No one is ordering law enforcement personnel to drag them off to prison or threatening violence against them (which is more than can be said of how they treat their various targets); no one is jotting their names down on lists to be used to prevent them from getting a job or buying a home, and no government agents are wiretapping their phones or investigating their personal lives in order to find ways of smearing and thereby discrediting them. Their claims of being victims and martyrs notwithstanding, neither the leaders nor the grassroots followers of these movements have ever incurred any real risk as a result of their self-expression.

What's more, none of them are fighting for causes that actually involve their sacred rights and liberties. Some of the evils against which they fight WOULD be very serious if they were real- see the death panels in the health care reform bill, the advent of an Obama-led dictatorship, or the plan to indoctrinate children with Socialist ideas via a presidential back-to-school speech - but invariably their claims are either exaggerated beyond all proportion or fabricated entirely. What few real-life battles are then left in their crusade involve outrage over matters that are remarkable in their pettiness and lack of perspective, like whey they fulminate about having to pay tax increases to help the unemployed and poor because they are in a higher income bracket (and yes, surveys have found that Tea Partiers tend to be more affluent than average Americans) or when they rant because they feel too many Latinos are immigrating to this country and too many people choose secular lifestyles and too many homosexuals are thinking about getting married, raising children, and joining the military.

Now compare all of this with the historic freedom fights with which right-wingers often juxtapose their own silly missions (and in this case I feel deeming them "silly" is pretty objective):

The American Revolution, from which they get so much of their rhetoric and symbolism. The real American revolutionaries were men and women who, if they were lucky, only risked dishonor and disgrace at being forever branded as treasonous rebels; if they were unlucky, the penalty was death on the battlefield or at the end of a hangman's noose. They fought for the cause of democracy and the right to self-rule (not just over higher taxes, as some believe; that was the catalyst, not the cause).

The Civil Rights Movement, including the famous March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King which Beck and his supporters pretended to emulate from their safe perch of historical retrospect and lilywhite affluence. Of course, that wasn't the only battle fought for civil rights - there were countless other protests at diner counters and school courtyards, on buses in Selma and at voting booths in Mississippi. These were people, white and black, who were fighting to end segregation, job and housing discrimination, voter intimidation, laws that prevented black people from marrying whites or from serving in public office, and the countless other manifestations of systemic racism that caused unequal treatment for African Americans. In the name of this cause they risked (and often suffered) death, serious bodily injury, the loss of their livelihoods and homes, and the destruction of their personal reputations.

Now you can see why it's so hard for me to respect the Becks, Limbaughs, Palins, and Tea Partiers of this country. In a way they are incapable of understanding, they don't even respect themselves.

Liana Rozsa Chernoff
I made the hopeless mistake of arguing with some idiot woman on Dan Reagan's page. I think she was demented.


I have a friend who wishes the president would "just show us the birth certificate." I asked how many other presidents' birth certificates needed to be seen.

There was no response.

Also, this same friends, and number of others, are sincerely convinced that President Obama is a hardened socialist.

I'm not sure how to talk to them about anything other than Apple Computer products.

Liana Rozsa Chernoff
I gave up. I try to avoid having long conversations with irrational people.

Matthew Rozsa
The next time people accuse Barack Obama of being a hardened socialist, feel free to borrow liberally from the arguments I use in one of my old blog posts on that subject.

On a tangential note...

As of today, America's military presence in Iraq is over. President Obama has fulfilled one of the defining promises of his 2008 presidential campaign and pulled out all of our armed forces (leaving behind only a contingency of 50,000 advisors).

Even though I am critical of Obama's performance in many areas (especially the scope of his economic policy), the reality is that he has racked up an impressive array of substantive achievements during his White House tenure. Among them:
- He passed a health care reform bill that will provide insurance coverage to 32 million Americans, reduce the budget deficit by more than $1.3 trillion over the next twenty years, and eliminate various forms of injustice perpetrated by insurance companies (including charging higher premiums or denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, establishing annual spending caps, dropping policyholders once they become sick, charging co-payments or deductibles for Level A or Level B preventive care and medical screenings, etc.)
- He passed a Wall Street reform bill that gives regulators the authority to liquidate large financial firms that are failing, creates a council of regulators to be watchful for risks in the financial system, and establishes a consumer financial protection bureau within the Federal Reserve to write and enforce regulations regarding lending and credit.
- He passed a financial stimulus package that prevented the rapidly worsening economic crisis with which Obama was confronted when he was inaugurated from further deteriorating, and resulted in unemployment merely plateauing rather than continuing to rise.
- He passed a series of other important economic measures, including bills that helped struggling homeowners avoid losing their houses, protected credit card users from exploitation (viz. arbitrary interest rate increases, due date gimmicks, misleading language in credit contracts, etc.), and extended federal programs to help citizens afflicted with AIDS.
- He has worked diligently to repeal the military's homophobic "Don't ask, don't tell" provision and allow homosexuals to openly serve in our nation's armed forces. In addition, he passed a bill to expand federal hate-crime laws to include offenses influenced by an individual's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, making it the first bill to protect the rights of the transgendered.
- He has improved our relationships with many of the countries who felt alienated from the United States during the Bush presidency, particularly those in Europe and the Middle East.
- He has made great progress toward global nuclear disarmament, which was one of the main reasons he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
- He ended President Bush's policy of prohibiting the use of federal dollars for embryonic stem cell research.
- He has worked diligently toward closing down the military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay (although his initial effort to shut it down completely was stymied by a military judge at the facility, he has still significantly reduced the base and is moving toward a date when it will be completely shut down).
- He has successfully handled international fiascoes from the Somali pirate hostage incident to the earthquake in Haiti.
- He was able to get British Petroleum to provide compensation for Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were negatively impacted by the oil spill.
- He passed legislation to protect two million acres of wilderness and a thousand miles of rivers, establish new national trails and parks, and provide legal status to the National Landscape Conservation System.
- He appointed as many women to the Supreme Court as all of his predecessors combined, as well as appointing the first Latina to that body and the eighth Jew.
- Oh, and yes... as of today, he ended the war in Iraq.

The major errors of Obama's presidency are that he has been too timid in his economic policies, thus causing an unnecessary prolongation of this recession; he has failed to get us out of the military quagmire in Afghanistan even as he has succeeded in doing so in Iraq; he has failed to capture Osama bin Laden; he was too slow in dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; and as a result of these various failures (most important the economic one), he has allowed for a weakening of both his own political clout and of the ability of Democrats to reshape America's ideological-political paradigm. Yet despite these mistakes, he has achieved more lasting good in less than twenty months than his four predecessors did during the sum total of their administrations (and I am including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as well as the two Bushes).

If nothing else, Obama deserves better than Glenn Beck.

Dude, you can write.

Matthew Rozsa
Thank you. I can also sing, dance, and act.

Oh wait. Scratch all of that. But I can write.

I often sing. I like to sing about about Glenn Beck. But I also like to read your status updates.


Matt Rozsa said...

I forgot to mention that Obama has also valiantly fought against Arizona's racist anti-immigration law, stuck his neck out by supporting persecuted minorities from Henry Louis Gates to the Muslims trying to build a Mosque near Ground Zero, and has been much more aggressive than President Bush in fighting global warming.

Like I said before, he has made several serious mistakes during his presidency, most notably his timidity in fighting our economic problems and his continued focus on fighting Afghanistan instead of aggressively pursuing Osama bin Laden. At the same time, his achievements are more substantive than many of his critics recognize - and while I fear that, given his economic failures, he is destined to lose in 2012 to a Romney-Brownback or Romney-Thompson ticket, I don't believe he has earned that fate.

Matt Rozsa said...

From a Facebook status update I posted on August 31st:

Drudge Report is advertising a Tea Party book which claims Obama is a "serious threat to your freedoms and your family" with "policies that trample our Constitution and our heritage." This drivel isn't just radical; it's deliberately incendiary. If, God forbid, someone who believes all of this makes an attempt on the president's life, the Tea Party movement and its right-wing enablers will have blood on their hands.

Five additional points:

1) Here is another choice passage from the book that summarizes its major theme of how Obama is "recasting the nation of Washington and Jefferson into his own socialist image":

"Here’s a sampling of how President Obama... is re-shaping our nation in his image:

• The most radical, leftist presidency in modern history, perhaps in our nation’s history.

• The formal transition from the last century (the American century) to a new globalist era — the first Post-American President.

• Taxation and more taxation in the pursuit of class-envy based wealth redistribution and global “planet saving” strategies.

• Government control over the economy and endless deficit-laden bailouts as the final solution to our economic woes.

• Amnesty for millions of illegal aliens, open borders and weakening of our national sovereignty.

• The federal courts stacked with leftist judges ensuring that judicial tyrants will rule from the bench for decades to come.

• Unprecedented expansion of the nanny state for everything from healthcare to home loans.

• The end of marriage and the desecration of the sanctity of life.

• The rollback of the War on Terror in pursuit of a foreign policy that blames America for the intense hatred coming from our enemies."

Apparently everything from fighting unemployment and expanding health insurance coverage to not adequately hating Latinos and homosexuals constitutes a "serious threat to your freedoms and your family."

Matt Rozsa said...

2) Although it is well-known for having a conservative bias, Drudge Report is still considered a relatively mainstream online publication, and as such is one of the most widely viewed news sites on the Internet. The fact that it is allowing Grassfire Nation (which authored the book) to advertise on its website means that this can't be dismissed as a "fringe" action.

3) The book definitely makes subtle but unmistakable attempts to exploit racism against the president. Why else does its advertisement refer to him as "Barack Hussein Obama" and why, when criticizing what it perceived to be the fulsome praise that facilitated Obama's election, did it just so happen to choose Colin Powell and Oprah Winfrey, instead of any of the number of other prominent figures who made equally laudatory statements about the man?

4) One of the best critiques of this hateful rhetoric comes from David Frum, a prominent neoconservative intellectual and former speechwriter for George W. Bush who, sadly enough, is one of the few voices of reason and basic decency coming from conservatives:

"It's not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him.

But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health-care ideas are too over-reaching and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable."

I may not agree with his conclusions about the president's policies, but I can respect that he is an opponent who uses his mind to fight for his convictions instead of his spleen.

5) For a look at the first three pages of the book, see this website:
Tuesday at 1:23pm

Matt Rozsa said...

Addendum - I would like to add that I am reminded, once again, of a quote from John Avlon, a speechwriter for the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani:

"Race has always been a fault line in American politics but what I believe is at work here is something more subtle than simple racism, and it is what I call the birth of white minority politics... an anxiety underneath this that President Obama represents the rise of a multicultural elite and the rise of a non-white majority in America."

Maybe there is a better explanation for why so many right-wingers, despite the evidence irrefutably proving otherwise, insist that Obama is a Muslim, a non-native citizen, and a dangerous would-be autocrat. I have yet to hear it.