Poor, Poor Bigots and other short notes

Whenever human rights advance, bigots feel victimized because they are no longer entitled to treat people badly. Case in point: This editorial is “concerned” about the rights of anti-gay military chaplains now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is history.

Glenden Brown wrote a full takedown on One Utah, so I’ll just sum up: At the root of the chaplains’ complaint is a fundamental misunderstanding of their role. Their paychecks are not issued by God or by their denominations. They work for the U.S. military and their duty is to serve our troops. If you bear that mission in mind, all their issues evaporate.

Chaplains who aren’t right-wing Christians have always felt a tension between serving the soldiers and pushing their own beliefs or the dogma of their particular sect. (Examples: this Quaker chaplain and this Unitarian Universalist.) If right-wing Christian chaplains are feeling a tension now too, that isn’t discrimination.

This weekend I attended (via the Web) Lawrence Lessig’s Conference on the Constitutional Convention, which was interesting both for outside-the-box thinking about political change and because it raised the possibility of a left/right alliance for basic reforms. (Lessig’s co-host was Mark Meckler from Tea Party Patriots.) Details next week.

Surprise! Some of the things said by the Republican candidates in Thursday’s debate were not true.

In fact, the moment that “won the debate” for Herman Cain was also the most outrageous lie of the evening: He claimed that if ObamaCare had been in force in 2006, he would have died from colon cancer because “government bureaucrats” would have delayed his treatment.

Reality: Cain is a multi-millionaire businessman with private health insurance. He will continue to have the same insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And even if insurance-company (not government) bureaucrats get in his way, nothing in the ACA prevents Cain himself from paying for whatever treatment he wants.

Kate Conway elaborates:

It’s kind of twisted that Cain uses his against-the-odds recovery to condemn a policy that could help others less fortunate than him beat similar obstacles.

And Kevin Drum draws the conclusion:

[T]his is a real problem for liberals. Sure, we cherry-pick evidence, we spin world events, and we impose our worldview when we talk about policy. Everyone does that. But generally speaking, our opinion leaders don’t go on national TV, look straight into the camera, and just outright lie about stuff. Theirs do. … It’s awfully hard to fight stuff this brazen … especially when the mainstream press no longer seriously polices this stuff, and isn’t much believed even when it does.

I used to worry that the Republican primary campaign would dominate the airwaves the way Obama/Clinton did after McCain locked up the nomination in 2008. But so far that’s working in the Democrats’ favor. Each debate offers new evidence that the GOP has left mainstream America far behind: cheering for executions, calling to let the uninsured die, and (Thursday) booing an American soldier in Iraq because he has come out as gay now that the law allows him to do so.

William Kristol reported getting an email from “a bright young conservative” saying “We sound like crazy people.” Noticed that, did you?

Crazies can infiltrate any crowd, but here’s the real problem: At none of these moments did a candidate stand up to the mob and defend basic decency. How hard would it have been to tell the gay soldier: “Although we disagree on some issues, I honor your service to our country”?

Rick Santorum’s actual answer to the gay soldier was incoherent, and raised the “special rights” canard. David Tharp refutes:

[DADT repeal] doesn’t give gay and lesbian soldiers any “special privileges;” it only allows those soldiers to be honest about who they are. Straight soldiers are allowed to wear wedding rings, talk about their spouses and acknowledge their sexuality. Now, finally, gay and lesbian soldiers have the same rights.

Conservative commentators were ready to bury Rick Perry after three bad debates, and his nationwide standing against President Obama is slipping. There was some question whether rank-and-file Republicans agreed with their commentariat, but after Perry lost a Florida straw poll to Herman Cain and a Michigan poll to Romney, maybe they do.

I ran across a lot of amusing political images this week, like this Rick Perry poster (“because George W. Bush didn’t do enough damage”). Or this pie chart explaining the consequences of gay marriage. The most amusing same-sex marriage signs are collected here.

This looks cool as a poster: “I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.” And I loved: “They only call it class warfare when we fight back.

You should never read too much into the phase-one trials of any treatment, but this NYT story of a miraculous leukemia remission via an immune-system treatment is pretty amazing.

Pro Publica looked at the question of whether regulations kill jobs. Conclusion: Not really.

Add this to my continuing series on Libertarianism: SF author David Brin uses conservative/libertarian principles to argue against “the idolatry of property”.

For Brin, markets are a means, not an end. The Soviet failure taught him that an economy is too complicated for central control; markets allocate resources better through distributed processing. But when a handful of corporations come to dominate an economy and their CEOs all play golf together, you’re back to central control.

Jon Stewart covers the plight of “this nation’s most vulnerable wealthy”. If only a Subway mogul could find some inexpensive way to feed his family …

If you’re feeling excessively cheerful today and want fix that problem, look at Doom by TNR’s John Judis. The governments of the world are repeating the mistakes of the Great Depression, and the only policies that might turn things around are politically impossible.

Surely everybody on FaceBook has seen this by now, since it went viral sometime last week. But new Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has captured the liberal-populist message better than anybody so far.

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  • Kim Cooper  On September 26, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Has the other side been watching the Elizabeth Warren video too?

  • Anon  On October 18, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    This is an awesome take down of all of those who believe that there should be no taxes and that there should be no roads funded by the government. So, that is about a dozen people. As for the rest of us who merely believe that taxes are too high, and the government has shown time and again it is a very poor steward of our money, this says almost nothing.

    Seriously, if this “captures the liberal-populist message better than anybody so far,” you might want to consider the substance of the message. It’s not at all persuasive to someone who is not already persuaded.

    • weeklysift  On October 20, 2011 at 6:42 am

      No message persuades everyone. We don’t need 100% of the vote. A mere landslide will be adequate.

      • Anon  On October 20, 2011 at 11:31 am

        Well, at least you can defeat all of the strawmen.


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