Thanks, all, for your Asia suggestions. Please feel free to send more.
I am too swamped to post with any regularity. Nevertheless, as a symptom of pure fatigue, I must give in to the temptation to unleash (unedited and pretty much spasmodically) a tirade about three mendacities:
One outrageous example of monumental right wing hypocrisy.
A bit of lesser left-wing deceitfulness... (for balance).
And more from those who claim to be neither left not right.
And finally, a blast at all of us for letting our impression of events be ruled by our favorite cliches.
PART ONE: GUT CHECK ON THE FEARLESS LEADER
Something happened today. You all know it happened; it was in the news. But no one in the media discussed how “deep it goes.”
First an aside that makes for rich comparison. Remember “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth?” How they slung dirt at John Kerry, mostly in the form of outright, bald-faced, biblical-proportion lies? Kerry’s people whined about the slander. Alas, though, it should never have been about the veracity of that hatchet job, at all!
Because, even if ALL of the SBVFT allegations were true, it would only add up to one conclusion --
-- that a guy who volunteered TWICE for lengthy and terrifying duty in the Navy’s most dangerous job might have been slightly LESS of a major hero than he had bragged about.
That’s it. Big freaking deal. In SBVFT’s worst case scenario, Kerry was still a hero... at least compared to....
Okay. Now comes the utter hypocrisy slammer.
News that our president has invoked the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to transfer presidential authority to VP Dick Cheney, because Bush would be “incapacitated” while under anesthetic for a routine colonoscopy.
For the record, presidential powers have only been thus transferred, formally, twice before. Once when Ronald Reagan underwent major surgery (and the 25th Amendment was not cited). The other time, a couple of years ago, when George W. Bush likewise went under gas to be anesthetized for the same procedure. For a colonoscopy.
For a WHAT?????
Let’s get this straight. The White House has gone to great lengths to emphasize that this is a TOTALLY ROUTINE colonoscopy. A simple probe with a fiber-optic camera, up the length of the large intestine, to see if any more benign polyps (or worse) might be lurking up there. Hundreds of thousands of men over forty undergo this procedure, every year. Possibly millions. I have.
And dig it. Most of us do it without anesthesia. In fact, most of us do it without even local or topical numbing you-know-where. Oh, it ain’t pleasant... at least for most of us. There are some teeth-clenching moments. I compensated by becoming talkative while the two patient Kaiser technicians put up with my bad (and probably un-original) jokes. But here’s the point. A point that’s admittedly macho and perhaps even a bit intolerant, but still totally apropos and to the “core.”
No real he-man would need to be put under gas and rendered unconscious for a truly routine colonoscopy.
Especially not someone who has made macho bluster the theme of his entire adult life. Not someone who threw a great nation into bloody chaos, hurling the world’s greatest military into a meat grinder, in an act of preening overcompensating testicular fury.
Especially not someone who invokes talk of courage in every speech while he berates and belittles the patriotic fortitude of every opponent.
Especially not one whose people have seriously propounded that his being put unconscious for a couple of hours might actually influence the safety of the people of the United States. A man who, for that very reason, ought to grin and bear it, staying awake for the sake of flag and country.
Now, of course, there are possible “outs.” Were I in a forgiving mood, I’d ponder that the use of anesthesia might implythat it’s not “routine” after all and that we all should be worried about our president having to go under, while we’re told that all’s well. (Ah, but it’s been TWICE!) Had this man ever, once, spoken out in a mature and grownup and decent way to opponents, to neutrals, to the now 70% who deeply distrust him, I’d not raise such an embarrassing issue, in such a demeaning way.
In fact, I am on record, having castigated liberals who went too far in making nasty cracks about Ronald Reagan, a man who, despite many faults and unbelievably exaggerated positives, nevertheless was also in many ways worthy of respect. A man who at least showed fleeting moments of distaste for hypocrisy on his own side, as well as others’.
None of which can be said about the neocons - or their present leaders. This emperor not only has no clothes, he hasn’t even the guts to stay awake while his guts are examined. These people have redefined hypocrisy.
PART TWO: THE LEFT HAS ITS... WELL... FIBBERS, TOO.
And yet... they do not have a complete monopoly! Take one Michael Moore.
Oh, I don’t compare him to George W. Bush in magnitude. Or even in most qualities. Moore is no monster. Indeed, he does a lot of good, I’ll posit that. When I see his films, I perceive about a third of the content as right-on, totally righteous, and in tune with things I have independently verified. Another third is generally in the ballpark of true. And thus his arguments seem more than worth pondering...
...despite the fact that about ten percent is flat-out and clearly deliuberate bullshit. Which is tragic, because that’s the part that always hurts his cause, every single time.
I’ll give just one example. Moore says “Is it right that your doctor should have to get on the phone and get permission from some insurance company bureaucrat, in order to get approval to treat you?” And people shake their heads. No! Of course not!
Except that in Canada and France and England and all the nations where “single payer” government programs take care of public health, your doctor examines you, diagnoses, and then...
... has to get on the phone and get permission from some GOVERNMENT bureaucrat, in order to get approval to treat you! And don’t you for a minute think it does not amount to care-rationing. Which helps to keep down government costs, sure, just as the insurance companies try to ration care in order to cut theirs.
With a few differences, of course.
(1) The euro model is vastly more fair.
(2) It is vastly better at preventive care.
(3) It cramps individual decision autonomy in ways that would bug most Americans, even liberals who live over there for very long.
(4) Elaborating on that. At least if you hate your insurance bureaucrats, you can try another company. Government bureaucrats have a monopoly on their rationing power. Is that automatically good?
(5) World medical research is largely driven by the lavishly “wasteful” American system, wherein there are no limits to what the well-off can get, in cutting-edge care, if they are willing to pay. (I lived for extended periods in the U.K. and France and I can tell you that one price of socialized medicine is strict limits on what recent breakthroughs even the rich can ask for. And hence, exactly how is the introduction of rapid breakthrougs supposed to be amortized?)
This last aspect is one that’s never mentioned, never discussed, and yes it’s complex, debatable, and far too involved to get into here. But it is one reason why the rest of the world actually hopes we Americans keep our present system!
Ponder that. Don’t fall for simplistic doctrines. This is an issue where the liberals are right... but... not... perfect.
PART THREE: WE ALL LIE TO OURSELVES
The worst blame doesn’t fall on right or left, since you can expect dogmatic people to lie, by dint of human nature. In fact, the real blame should fall on all of us, on the smartest of us, for swallowing comforting cliches instead of pondering the number of times that the truth is diametrically opposite.
Let me illustrate by picking (unfairly, I admit) on just one side remark made last time by one of you. Last time, Zechariah commented: “See, I know that republicans no longer actually follow through when they promise small government, but at least they still pay lip service to the idea.”
Sorry, friend Zechariah, but your language is weighted and freighted with unmerited and unquestioned assumptions. Forgive me, but this is an example of “ostrich” conservatism at its worst. Looking for an excuse to retain some vestigial loyalty to a “side” that has gone from grumpy to loony to insane to monstrous to outright treasonous in the last decade or so.
“See, I know that republicans no longer actually follow through when they promise small government, but at least they still pay lip service to the idea.”
Um, my friend (and I mean that, so please stay!) Can I ask what your words “no longer” mean?
Can you cite for me an example of the GOP ever... and I mean ever... even before mad neocons hijacked the movement.... and I mean EVER(!)... actually acting to reduce the invasiveness of government in our lives?
In fact, I can! I can name a couple of minor bits of GOP-led legislation that did tweak government just a tad to make it smaller. But I’m willing to bet YOU can’t. Moreover, these were tiny, obscure exceptions to a general rule of claiming to be against big government while doing everything in their power to make government more of a huge, unaccountable behemoth and a cash cow for what Adam Smith himself derided as “cronies of the King.”
Meanwhile... and please dig this very very carefully. Every major PRO-MARKET DE-REGULATION EFFORT, every major - and successful - reduction of federal invasiveness, every single effective and fair lessening of federal non-military manpower or elimination of paperwork, that has been performed in our lifetimes, was instigated, enacted and carried through by Democrats.
Cognitive dissonance time? But it is right there. Trucking, banking, telecommunications, airlines, parcel post. The freaking INTERNET for *$! sakes! And so on, ad infinitum.
The ONLY time the non-military US federal payroll, staffing and paperwork went DOWN since 1939 was as a result of Al Gore’s “re-inventing government program” under Clinton, in the nineties. That’s a pure fact. Same with a slashing of government secrecy, which ought to be a goal of any sane conservative. Moreover, this isn’t just at the margins. It is by big percentages.
I am sick of the press never reporting on “dissonance” facts like these, where a party’s lip service runs completely opposite to its actions.
Want another one?
How about “protecting our borders?” With Clinton preaching tolerance while doubling border patrols... and Bush talking tough while actively and viciously and relentlessly undermining the Border Patrol at every opportunity. Yes, we’ve discussed this before. And if you try very hard, you can see why they would do these things. Why they would say one thing for public consumption by their base and then do the opposite.
But whose fault is it that they get away with it? With letting the public perceive their favorite cliches, even when the facts are directly opposite, and have been, for decades?
Oh, the worst, the very worst self-deluders are my dear fellow libertarians.
They are supposed to be the smarty-pants pro-freedom crowd. And yet, so many of them are so steeped in the worst cliches, so mired in the worst self-deceptions, so indignation-junky obsessed with hating government in abstract, instead of loving freedom in pragmatic fact. And thus, so vastly more full of shit than either the right or the left, that it just makes me want to weep.
A decent, genuinely progressive libertarianism -- faithful to Locke and Smith and Hayek and Franklin -- ought to be our path out of this mess, spotlighting much of our path back toward the Enlightenment and a truly open market-system, where reciprocal accountability is the engine of human success and government lessens as a natural process of withering away, as empowered and skilled citizens take sovereignty and responsibility gently but firmly into their own hands.
That’s how it oughta be. But the wondrous thing ain’t gonna come from that tribe. Not from today’s “libertarians” who are as delusional as any clan there’s ever been.