Archive for April 25th, 2006

So I suppressed my ego and trudged over to Budge’s site to read his rebuttal to my earlier post on government. Interesting stuff, and shows some of the essential misunderstanding — deliberate or otherwise — found in libertarian and conservative camps when considering liberal policies or ideas.

First I would say that our current form of government does not represent the will of the electorate. In fact, a minority of Americans hold sway over the economic, political, and intellectual spheres of the community, and I think it’s time to kick the bums out and rebuild, not the essential structure of government, but the way we pursue public policy.

Budge completely missed my point concerning the relationship between government and governed. We, the people, should not submit to the government, rather it’s time the government submitted to the people.

In any case, the essential misunderstandings of the right when viewing the left are simple. They believe we are in favor of the redistribution of wealth. We are not. They believe we are for more intrusive, regulatory government. We are not. They believe the greatest danger to our current society is still a “Red menace,” a centralized collective controlling all facets of production. This is, of course, not at all true. The essential misunderstanding of “free market” advocates make is that capitalism promotes, encourages, and even births liberties, so that all markets — regardless of effectiveness, ethics, or actual effect — must be free from regulation.

I’ll start with one my later points first. The greatest danger we face today is not from Islamic radicalism — which would likely be on its way to extinction now if the Bush administration had followed a better, more effective foreign policy — not from “Communist” or “socialist” forces. It is from the alliance of big capital and government.

Take the freedom of discourse you are enjoying this very moment that you read this blog. Right now we are probably in the midst of one of the most interesting, eclectic and open eras of debate, discussion, and speech, right here on the Internet. Until now, expressing political opinion to a wide audience was reserved only for those few that enjoyed sanctioned approval from “credible” publications. Yes, those journalists and pundits “earned” their station through study or practice, but it’s certainly true that certain viewpoints or topics or issues were never discussed.

The other day in a “Links…” post I pointed you to a threat to this openness on the Internet, a desire by major telecommunication companies to block content to their subscribers. Basically, unless you pay, you don’t play. In my opinion, the anarchic free-for-all of complete liberty on the Internet is a good thing, and should be protected by our government. The freedom of speech on the Web already plays a crucial role in our civil society.

First, it’s true that private companies are transmitting the data that flows from computer to computer. They own the wires, towers, satellites, servers that bring us our web access. That certainly gives them a right to do what they want with the content flowing through their equipment. After all, if the content gets too dried up, too devoid of entertaining material, we the consumers will find another way to communicate with one another. Right?

Yeah, like what happened to radio after deregulation?

The system works now. Companies make a fine profit off of providing service to consumers now. Why should we relinquish control of the Internet and place it in the hands of a group who don’t care about issues like speech, who fail to act like reasonable, responsible members of the community? Who place profit above people? And can we guarantee we’ll find another technology that facilitates communication as easily as the Internet?

(By the way, there are Democratic Congressmen who are allied with these big telecommunications companies. I am not claiming moral superiority for Jackasses on this issue.)

Is it “immoral” or wrong to dictate to businesses that they can’t restrict or inhibit or block the flow of information to their subscribers? In effect, seizing control of how their property is used for the good of the community? I say no!

I am not against the marketplace. (H*ll knows I’d like to make a tidy turnaround on the sale of my house, for example!) I also recognize how important it is to get out of the way of innovation and investment, that free markets can solve some problems. But I also recognize that in many cases free markets are less efficient and more injurious to human health than a carefully regulated market. Like in the case of health care.

Thanks to Budge for this Jefferson quote:

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

In the case of health care, if it’s more profitable for an insurance company to create an elaborate bureaucracy and administrative process that seeks to discourage people from accessing health care than it is to encourage them to make frequent doctor’s visits and promote prevention and early diagnosis, is that not, according to Jefferson, a case of “men…injuring one another”? Isn’t the health and well-being of, say Budge’s children more important than all the profit of all the insurance companies?

In the case of health care, if an honest, hard-working person with a full-time job can’t afford health care and gets sick and is unable to work, isn’t government in its failure to ensure that the insurance industry operates fairly, according to Jefferson again, “…tak[ing] from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned”?

Practically speaking, too, single-payer health insurance would be more efficient and cheaper. Yes, taxes would be higher, but health care costs…well…there would be no health care costs. Would you rather pay, say, $500 a year more in taxes to save…what? $500 a month in insurance payments? Wouldn’t that, in effect, be putting bread into the pockets of all?

Ultimately Budge misses the entire point I make by saying American democracy celebrates and encourages “equality of opportunity.” Instead of seeing that statement for what it means, no less or no more, he twists it to mean some sort of redistribution scheme to plunder the wealthy for the sake of the poor.

Budge also claims that the extremely wealthy are a minority group at the mercy of the majority. Were it only so: the wealthy actually wield a disproportionate amount of power in our society and government. Perhaps a tyranny of a majority is the worst kind, but a tyranny by a minority still sucks. Our government should ensure that the extremely wealthy, like any individual, not receive unfair consideration, government monies, or freedom from the rule of law. Our government should represent us, as a whole, rather than only those who can afford to pad campaign chests.

No, equality of opportunity means exactly that. It means to ensure the freedom of movement, speech, assembly, and belief, to ensure the opportunity, for those who merit it through work or ability, for education and employment regardless of race or gender or class. No more, no less.

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I finally went out and saw “V is for Vendetta.”

Yes, I know it’s pathetically late. H*ll, even Ed Kemmick’s seen the flick! But what can I do? I have toddler twins. As it was I had to go alone to a 10pm showing, which meant I got about four-and-a-half hours of sleep last night.

Was it worth it? My thoughts:

Portman is back

Many of you probably weren’t aware of this, but Natalie Portman disappointed me recently. Yes, there’s the awful, terrible, no-good rotten Star Wars franchise in which she emotes like a block of wood. But blame director George Lucas and his script. (Let’s just say it’s no wonder he understands ‘droids so well.) She got a free pass from me on that.

No, I dumped her off my hottie-and-good-actress list after indie-dreck, “Closer,” which had a couple of decent scenes, but which also featured a completely unbelievable Portman and a scene of her in a thong that was very un-sexy, which is grounds for automatic dismissal from my list.

(The original hottie-and-good actress was Winona Ryder. Only she got dumped after making “Alien: Resurrection,” in which she had a chance to hold a really, really big gun and shoot lots of aliens, but instead spent too much time cowering. I don’t like my women to cower.)

But Portman in “V”: Va-va-voom!

The “terror” thing

I wrote about this before, but there was some talk that the movie glorifies terrorism, etc & co:

By saying, like David Denby, that the movie “celebrates” terrorism, or, like Mondello, that the movie “mistakes terrorism for revolution,” the critics are claiming – probably unconsciously – that watching the movie is an act of treason. That to even fantasize about responding violently to a political situation is treasonous.

Now that I’ve actually seen V assassinate state officials, blow things up, and take hostages, I still think these people are mad. It’s a violent revenge fantasy, people are supposed to blow things up!

Ultimately, of course, the need for a revenge fantasy was created by the present government when it violated the Constitution and completely ignores the will of its constituency. It’s a helpless feeling watching your government run amok. “V is for Vendetta” allows the average joe to feel a sense of retribution, to feel anger, to feel joy and release at the natural ending of the authoritarian.

The movie reinforces our cultural morality play of perpetual retribution and inherent distrust of government. It also assumes that the people are always stronger than its government, and I like that. That’s why I’m a liberal.

Did I mention…

Portman is a hottie!

Links…

These are the kind of people you find on the right. I haven’t seen many Stalinist trolls on my site…

Support for torture is found exclusively on the right. Haven’t seen many folks on the left who support inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Bush’s approval rating sinks. Lower than Clinton’s ever was…

Digby on the contractor abuses in Iraq. So we detain and torture people because of their “noncombatant” status, yet we’re using “noncombatant” troops in Iraq?

Does anyone take Donald Rumsfield seriously?

Media Matters posted a list of lies propagated by our nation’s new White House spokesperson, Tony Snow.

Neil Young kicks *ss in an interview with a…well…one of those fake journalists who basically questions his patriotism for calling for Bush’s impeachment. Just curious, but was anyone who favored Clinton’s impeachment called a traitor?

And why would anyone want to impeach Bush? Is it because he does things like suspend environmental rules for gasoline? I’m with SusanG: I’d bet the “temporary” suspension will be permanent. As long as he’s in office. Oh yeah, and is the offspring of investigation into rising gas prices? What’s next? Giving the fox a bucket of KFC after investigating the missing chickens?

Condi Rice greeted with open arms in Greece. Just kidding! Are the Greeks the new French?

RIAA sues a family without a computer for file-sharing. Go figure.

BoingBoing also finds a blogger who has a fantastic take on the architecture of contemporary politics.




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