If you want to see a rational critique of any Obama policy, you have to look to the left.

It definitely seems this way. Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic has a good take.

Can anyone deny that the most trenchant and effective criticism of President Obama today comes not from the right but from the left? Rachel Maddow’s grilling of administration economic officials. Keith Olbermann’s hectoring of Democratic leaders on the public option. Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of Elena Kagan. Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn’s keepin’-them-honest perspectives on health care. The civil libertarian left on detainees and Gitmo. The Huffington Post on derivatives.

I want to find Republicans to take seriously, but it is hard. Not because they don’t exist — serious Republicans — but because, as Sanchez and others seem to recognize, they are marginalized, even self-marginalizing, and the base itself seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking.

It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics,   that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks — these aren’t meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)

Ah, that golden 1880’s before income taxes.

Many libertarians look with hope that we will return to those golden days of yesteryear when the government kept its filthy paw out of our lives; a time when real men could see their dreams come true unfettered by government regulation and constraint. Take it Jacob Hornberger of Reason.

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex.

As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.

Sounds good, huh? It was great if you were not a factory worker, or black, or poor, or a share cropper, or if you wanted good health care, sanitation or safety. But Devilstower at the DailyKos has a good take.

I know some Libertarians and they want to go back to a time of unfettered freedom but, admittedly, minus all those pesky negatives. But it is unfettered freedom that leads to these kinds of problems in the first place.

I think people forget exactly how radical democracy really is.  Democracy is not a great system because it is free. A truly free society will ironically become less free as individuals, exercising their freedom, consolidate power and hence, begin to oppress those less powerful. Some consolidation of power is necessary (almost anything a society needs to do requires consolidated power), but we have the whole “absolute power corrupts absolutely” problem to deal with. The great innovation of democracy was to socialize political power, effectively removing, to a great extent, the possibility that any one person or group would become authoritarian.  In the United States, many of the actual freedoms we take for granted, including the Bill of Rights, the elimination of slavery and the expansion of the vote, came later, sometime decades later, after political power was socialized.

But political power is not all there is. Economic power plays a huge roll in society, in fact, most of our lives revolve around economics. Ironically, although political freedom was socialized (even while true civil liberties would take decades to achieve), our constitution effectively eliminated any serious attempt to socialize economic power. While we can take liberty or life from someone as long as we provide due process, we cannot take property without compensation. And yet, more people are economically oppressed every year than they are politically. Even if we had a true free-market (which we do not) we would eventually see the rise of the super corperations and the rampant oppression of workers. In fact this is what is happening now, although, we miss much of it because so much goes on overseas. We had a near depression because of lack of regulation in the capital markets (with both Democrats and Republicans sharing blame).

But regulation is just a bandaid. Without effective socialization of economic power (capital) we cannot ever achieve a true democratic society.

The South and Slavery

It is not uncommon to hear in the south that the Civil War was not really or primarily about slavery.

Hmm…Let’s look at this a little closer.  ht Barefoot Bum

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. (1861)

It is OK to be ignorant as long as it is based on religion.

Sorry, I know this is not true of all religious people, but this article is truly sad.

In an unusual last-minute edit that has drawn flak from the White House and science educators, a federal advisory committee omitted data on Americans’ knowledge of evolution and the big bang from a key report. The data shows that Americans are far less likely than the rest of the world to accept that humans evolved from earlier species and that the universe began with a big bang.

They’re not surprising findings, but the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation (NSF), says it chose to leave the section out of the 2010 edition of the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators because the survey questions used to measure knowledge of the two topics force respondents to choose between factual knowledge and religious beliefs.

[emphasis mine]

Evolution is a fact. It is a fact that the universe started more than 12 billion years ago in what we call the big bang. Our scientific knowledge, including our technology and medicine, are tied to how well our citizens are educated in science. The same exact scientific method that leads to advances in technology and medicine lead us to our knowledge of our evolutionary past. Why are so many still stuck trying to reconcile some creation myths written three to four thousand years ago?

NPR is a powerhouse.

Interesting.

Yes, it’s true: In one of the great under-told media success stories of the past decade, NPR has emerged not as the bespectacled schoolmarm of our imagination but as a massive news machine poised for what Dick Meyer, editorial director for digital media, half-jokingly calls “world domination.” NPR’s listenership has nearly doubled since 1999, even as newspaper circulation dropped off a cliff. Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly — far more than USA Today‘s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN. It has 860 member stations — “boots on the ground in every town” that no newspaper or TV network can claim.

I am sure that conservatives, employing that peculiar brand of cultural relativism they love so much, will claim that since NPR is popular with liberals that it is morally and culturally equivalent to the popular conservative media, such as Glenn Beck, Rush, FOXNews, Hannity, and O’Reilly. What a joke.

When the truth is right before your eyes…

These are two blurbs from consecutive articles in my Google Reader program. I had to laugh.

In response to increasing worldwide criticism of the Catholic church over the pedophile scandal, the Vatican has blamed just about everyone outside the church, from the liberal media to powerful atheist cabals. But I did not realize just how far outside and just how strong these forces were. Here is just one of the many tribulations the Vatican is facing:

Noted Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, commented this week that the recent defamatory reporting on Pope Benedict XVI, especially by the New York Times, was “prompted by the devil.”

This quote brings many questions to mind, some of which are not very nice, like, “How can anyone take this seriously?” and “Why do we allow this group to lecture us in the area of morality?” (Bonus fun time activity is to read the comments that follow the article.)

But then the answer was right before me in the next Reader blurb.

Scientists have discovered the part of the brain that makes people gullible, it was claimed today.

Please note the date of the Discover Magazine article. Don’t worry, though, they will find that part of the brain someday.

Sadly, the first link is true.

Garrison Keillor gets this one right, at least.

I was always a fan of Garrison Keillor. Lately, though, he has staked out some anti-gay and anti-Semitic positions that I find troubling (it is possible that Keillor is joking in the second link–a piss poor job at joking). But at least in this critique of the republican strategy during the HCR debate he gets something right.

The Republicans fought long and hard for people’s right to wait three hours in an emergency room for someone to take their blood pressure, and they went down to defeat, and now they should stop and rethink their Waterloo strategy. The picture of the grinning GOP congressmen holding “Kill the Bill” posters was not an attractive one. Those guys all get excellent [healthcare] from the government, at bargain prices. If you choke on your shoe during a speech in the House of Representatives, you’ll be whisked away to Walter Reed, and specialists will extract your hoof from your mouth and your head from your colon and clean you up and all for a tiny annual premium. It does not behoove men who are enjoying a huge pork sandwich to deny a few pork rinds to others and to grin in the process…

Now Sen. McCain says there will be no further cooperation with the administration. OK then. Thanks for clearing that up. Now that bipartisanship has been buried for good, Democrats can get about the business of running the government, which is their duty as the majority party, and let the Republicans sulk in their rooms and work on their Facebook updates. They’ve made it clear that if Mr. Obama suddenly decided to come out in favor of Mother’s Day, they would fight against it as a ruthless exercise of federal power and a violation of due process. Fine. Talk to the hand.