07 Sep 2009

Van Jones Must Be Fuming

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He was brought down by this guy?! (Just watch the first 50 seconds; you’ll see.)

07 Sep 2009

Van Jones Had to Resign Because He Was Black

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I can’t believe I am so naive that I didn’t see this coming. I guess that shows how deep-seated my bigotry is. Anyway Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, has now explained:

Thursday evening I got worried. Friday I put in a call to ask Van Jones how to help. Saturday I started writing a blog post, which would have appeared this morning…But on Saturday night, Van resigned, and this morning I was sick at heart. Collectively we — the environmental community, progressives, and the Obama administration — blew this, and we let our cause, our president, and Van Jones down.

This was a lynch mob and, when it started forming a month ago, we didn’t take it seriously enough. When I saw the first Glenn Beck piece on Van Jones and the Apollo Alliance as the new vast left-wing conspiracy, I could not take it seriously…I assumed it would blow over.

Well, that was a mistake. So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics — I don’t think Fox News really cares about Jones’s ethnicity — but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a “crack-head” is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him “addict-in-chief” because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president.

This is really annoying. The same people who supposedly hate Obama (and Van Jones) because of their skin color, also adored Colin Powell (before he turned on the war) and Clarence Thomas. The same supposed bigots who blindly listen to Rush Limbaugh, also tuned in with great joy last Friday when the guest host was Walter Williams and he (as usual) had Thomas Sowell call in for an interview. And I think they like Condoleeza Rice a whole lot more than Joe Biden.

Oh, I know, that stuff doesn’t count because those people aren’t really black, since they are Republicans and/or libertarians. And come to think of it, it doesn’t count either if a corporate boss promotes somebody who was literally born in Africa and speaks with a British accent, and thinks Mozart is devil music.

Let’s make sure you understand, this isn’t about objective behavior (like cursing) this is about cultural imperialism:

What was the reactionary right up to on Friday? They sent operatives out to San Quentin prison to obtain videotapes of workshops that Van Jones conducted there while he was working to help prisoners transition back to society. (The inmates wouldn’t let them get their hands on them — they knew, before I did, how serious this was.) They were cuing up video clips from teenagers that Jones taught in the Oakland ghetto in 2000. If you watch the infamous “a**holes” video carefully, it’s clear that what Jones was saying was that Republicans play hardball better than Democrats, and that we need to start playing by their rules. He said it, though, in the language of his own community — and that, at the end of the day, was his crime. He spoke to and was of a part of an America that Fox and the reactionary right would like to put back on the plantation or pretend is not part of our nation.

Last point: I fully admit that if a white Democrat were in power and doing the exact same things as Obama, that many of Obama’s harshest critics would not be quite as scandalized. But that admission is a far cry from saying, “Van Jones had to resign because he and Obama are black.” Give me a break.

Middle-class white people like me obviously don’t really know what it’s like to have shopkeepers assume you’re a criminal, and to have to worry that a cop will shoot you for no reason. I grant that, and man that must suck. So when some loud mouth white guys say that black people should quit belly-aching all the time, those guys are idiots and don’t know what they’re talking about.

But it can swing the other way too. The furor over Van Jones was because he claimed he had become a communist. The mainstream media and politicians channeled the outrage into irrelevant a-hole remarks because that’s what they do, they make sure the American people don’t think too hard about what’s going on with the federal government. This has very very little to do with Van Jones’ skin color.

07 Sep 2009

Potpourri

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* My interviews (part I and part II) on Freedom & Prosperity Radio, where we talk about cap and trade etc. These are actually fairly in-depth interviews; we get into a lot of issues that a standard interview doesn’t allow for.

* Bob Higgs reports that real wages are rising during the recession, which helps explain the unemployment rate. (Note that Jeff Hummel and I are arguing over email about the 1921 depression. We agree that money wages fell sharply, but I had thought they fell more quickly than prices in general, while Jeff provided a quotation from Vedder and Galloway suggesting otherwise. So anyway, I’m not sure Higgs is correct at the end of his article when he says real wages fell during the 1920-1921 depression.)

* A reader sends in this story about Government 2.0. I’m trying to think of a joke about the first release having way too many bugs, but nothing sufficiently clever comes to mind. I set a high bar at Free Advice for political humor.

* This is so ludicrous. Steve Horwitz links to this story where Obama is urging workers to save more, and has even set up new rules to help. (He must have just read Nudge.) Ironically, a lot of the new rules seem to steer taxpayer money into Treasury bonds and the stock market. Go figure.

* Some comforting examples of where the stimulus money is going. It’s not just roads and bridges.

07 Sep 2009

Irony in Van Jones Resignation

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I think we can safely say that were it not for Glenn Beck’s constant attention, Obama’s “green jobs czar” Van Jones would not have resigned over the weekend. Yet what’s amazing is that the primary “sins” which made him a political liability are:

(a) Calling Republicans a-holes, and

(b) Signing a petition calling for an investigation into whether top government officials purposely allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur.

Now here’s why this is funny: The most hardcore Glenn Beck fans–the ones who don’t merely find him entertaining and enlightening, but who literally thank God that Glenn Beck is on the radio and TV, trying to wake up the country to the bloodless coup that has occurred–would agree that the Republicans are a-holes (think TARP and “not securing the southern border”). And though they might not agree with the particular conspiracy theories regarding 9/11, they certainly can’t fault someone for believing it possible that high-level federal officials would sell out the country for their own sinister reasons.

Note, I am not saying Glenn Beck’s criticism of Van Jones has been inconsistent; I don’t remember Beck ever saying something like, “And what kind of nutjob would sign a 9/11 petition?” (Maybe Beck did; I’m just saying I never heard it.) When I’ve heard him discuss Van Jones, it has always revolved around his self-avowed belief in communism, and Van Jones’ public statements that could be interpreted to mean Van Jones is part of a long-range plan to overthrow capitalism. In fact, when Beck quoted the infamous a-hole line, Beck said something like, “Now everybody is going to go on and on about the a-hole line, but that’s not what I want to focus on. Listen to what he says after that, and you tell me folks…Is Van Jones just referring to his plans for the Republicans here, or is he talking about what he has in store for the whole country?”

Man I can’t stand our political system. Even when I like a particular outcome–in this case, Van Jones having to resign–it’s for reasons that I find irrelevant. It’s like when Ron Paul got mad that people were wanting to impeach Bill Clinton for the wrong reason.

UPDATE: Google Alerts brought this post to my attention because one of the commenters is a “robert murphy seattle.” (It’s not mine baby, really!) Wow those progressives have potty mouths! Am I just innocent for traveling in family-friendly blog circles? E.g. are there right-wing blogs where every other comment is, “Let’s close the border and keep those effin Mexicans from stealing anymore more of our jobs”?

06 Sep 2009

Hard Cases Test God’s Laws

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In the comments of my post on the Jaycee Dugard abduction (a post that my mom hated by the way), a wiseguy anonymous commenter said:

It’s God’s Will. After all, if it happened, God arranged the world just so for it to happen. It’s for the greater good.

Presumably the comment is referring to my Panglossian views as I’ve explained them on Free Advice, Sunday edition.

Yes, the commenter is right. I don’t know how God would be able to turn this guy’s sins around for good, but I know that He can and He is doing so. I know that when I die and finally understood the full scope of God’s plan, then it will make sense to me, and I will see why those poor girls had to endure that awful experience.

In fact, I’ll double-down and challenge the Christians who are reading, especially those (like me) who have young children: Can you bring yourself to admit that Jesus loves the guy who did this? (I’m not using his name because I think it’s a ridiculous incentive our culture sets up, whereby serial killers and assassins are household names.) OK, if you can do that, now the real test: Could you possibly bring yourself to feel love for him, knowing that he too is a child of God?

If you can do that–and I’m not saying I can, because I keep reminding myself of what he did and don’t want to forgive him for it–then you would have the ability to love anyone and everyone. Just like Jesus does, and just like He commanded His followers to do.

So the question is, why are you afraid to become more like Jesus? Is it to prove to us how much you care for kids, by publicly proclaiming how much you hate kidnappers?

Isn’t that odd? We want to prove how much we love one group of people, by expressing our feelings of hatred for another? Is that really what Jesus’ message is?

05 Sep 2009

Progressive Thought: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

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So Bob Roddis got me into the bad habit of checking Matt Yglesias’ blog every few days. In this post he follows the all-too-easy pattern–and right-wing pundits do this too–of disposing of an argument by pointing out that the federal politicians making it are (surprise surprise) a bunch of hypocrites:

[A]ll the Republicans plus Senators Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Cantwell (D-WA), Landrieu (D-LA), Lincoln (D-AR), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), and Tester (D-MT) thought nothing of adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit when the beneficiaries were a tiny number of already wealthy households. But quite a few of these people seem very concerned about the idea of spending similar amounts of money on making health insurance affordable to middle class Americans.

I was curious to see if anybody in the comments would point out that the deficit (and long-term forecast of the debt) was a heckuva lot lower when the death tax was phased out. (I assume that’s what they’re talking about; I didn’t follow the link to be sure.) After all, using Yglesias’ argument as-is, I could “prove” my new next door neighbor was a hypocrite by asking why he didn’t buy any house in the city that was as expensive or cheaper than the house he just bought. He can afford it, right?

Anyway, one guy (Brad) in the comments said:

I love it when liberals characterize not confiscating wealth from taxpayers as a “cost.” By that logic, failing to confiscate the entire GDP “costs” the government $13 trillion every year. Those bastards! Blowing a hole in the budget! Liberals really do see every dollar in the US economy as belonging to the US government first.

Not bad, not bad. Some liberals on that thread shot back decent (from their POV) responses (and again I point out that minarchists really have nothing good to say here, except pointing to the vision of some dead guys who wrote the Constitution). But then I read this response that took my breath away:

“Liberals really do see every dollar in the US economy as belonging to the US government first.”

Yes, Brad, I for one, do. Who prints the dollar in the first place? Who issues it? And whose collective will imbues the dollar with its value?

Whoa.

05 Sep 2009

They hate you for your freedoms, Paul.

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Krugman can’t understand why some people get so upset:

…I get spitting, incoherent rage over articles on, um, health care economics or macro modeling. What enrages people so much about these pieces? Usually, it’s impossible to tell — in fact, I often have the sense that the enraged correspondents haven’t read the things at all. But that’s OK — they know that I’m corrupt, a liar, a Nazi, and have been spewing my evil in my writings.

The point is that whatever is driving all this doesn’t have anything to do with the realities of what I, or, much more important of course, Obama say or do. Obama could have come in proposing to pursue an agenda identical to Bush, and he would still be a socialist/Commie/fascist, with those of us who don’t see it that way lying Nazis ourselves.

I submitted a comment that is in Moderation Limbo at the moment; you saw it here first:

Paul Krugman wrote: “The point is that whatever is driving all this doesn’t have anything to do with the realities of what I, or, much more important of course, Obama say or do.”

I think we should test this theory. When you’re back from vacation, write an op ed saying that you think the government should cancel the unspent stimulus and cut the tax rate on capital gains. See if Glenn Beck still calls you a communist for it. —Bob Murphy

05 Sep 2009

Potpourri

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* The SEC’s inspector general has released its report as to why the SEC missed the ball on Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, even though private citizens were warning them for years that he was cooking the books. And it turns out–phew!–that the government wasn’t corrupt, it just made an honest mistake (or twelve). Robert Wenzel notes that the IG released this report after 5pm EST on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. (I guess the IG’s office wanted to knock it out and not have the final editing hanging over their heads while they went boating; I like to wrap up big projects before a 3-day weekend too.)

* Talk about regulatory arbitrage!!

* Will Wilkinson gives a very Kinsellian answer (in terms of his “Against Intellectual Property” article) to a thought experiment raised by Amartya Sen.

* This is a very provocative blog post in which Lew Rockwell calls the bankers’ bluff and says that if there’s going to be a Fed, Congress should have oversight. Somebody else noted on the LRC blog the strange inconsistency in the elites’ position on this. After all, if we can’t trust Congress with our money, why should we trust Congress with health care? Now some people here aren’t being inconsistent; for example, my old classmate Mike Feroli (who works for JP Morgan and is quoted a lot in the WSJ) has publicly said that the Fed needs its independence, and I would be willing to bet a kidney that he is also against ObamaCare. But even so, it would be great if journalists asked Ben Bernanke or Timmy Geithner if doctors should be able to maintain their independence from Congress too, lest medical decisions become politicized. What could they say? Barney Frank knows about open heart surgery, but not open market operations?

* A reader has asked me to shred this NYT article, but unfortunately that one about the Civil War is going to take precedence. All I’ll say is that this shows the danger of minarchism. This writer plausibly says:

In truth, despite the deeply ingrained American conviction that government is bumbling when it is not evil, government intervention has been a step up in some areas from the private sector.

Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting.

So almost every country moved to what today’s health insurance lobbyists might label “socialized firefighting.” In effect, we have a single-payer system of public fire departments.

We have the same for policing. If the security guard business were as powerful as the health insurance industry, then it would be denouncing “government takeovers” and “socialized police work.”

What do you say, minarchists? This guy’s challenge poses no threat to me. I can say, “Yep, just like socialized medicine leads to death panels, socialized policing leads to widespread tasing and prison rape. Mar-kets! Mar-kets!”