Thursday, May 27, 2010

You Can't Have It Both Ways

At the blog Be John Galt (no, thanks), Ayn Rand disciple bc3b claims that BP had been contemplating the top kill maneuver as early as May 9, but didn't attempt it until now because President Obama was playing golf.  No, I am not making this up.  (bc3b also confuses the top kill maneuver with the junk shot manuever, but that's another matter.  Here's some help for you, bc3b, if you're interested.)

Andrew Corsello does a fine job of stating what I think about Ayn Rand.  My negative feelings about her have been more intense lately, since we can blame what Corsello calls Ayn Rand Assholes, or ARA's, for the last few years of economic trauma:
Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. It's metastasized. You, me, all of us, we're living it. Because it's the ARA Army of antigovernment-antiregulation puritans who have spent the past three decades gleefully pulling the cooling rods out of the American economy. For a while, it got very big and very hot. Then it popped. And now the rest of us have to spend the next decade scaling the slippery slopes of the huge suppurative crater that was left behind.  
Anyway, some pack of adolescent Rand disciples is trying to find a way to criticize Obama for the screw-ups of BP, and this is the shit they come up with.  Hey, bc3b, why don't you take the advice of your hero and check your premises?

Given the intimate relationship between the previous administration and oil companies, perhaps bc3b might be forgiven for thinking that Obama is an oil company executive.  But he's not, so you can't have that particular premise, bc3b.

Ayn Rand called her "philosophy" objectivism.  Academic philosophers have virtually no respect for Rand or objectivism.  Now, I'm wondering why bc3b, who I assume is an objectivist, would blame Obama, a public official, for the oil spill in the Gulf, when objectivists believe that government regulation of the private sector is wrong.  To assume that Obama is responsible for this mess is to believe that government ought to regulate and control business.  I have no problem with that premise, but you can't have that one, bc3b, because you are a stinking objectivist.

So why would bc3b and Republicans in general want to hold Obama responsible for BP's mess?  Because they all believe that the private sector can do no wrong, and that government is responsible for everything that ails us.  Remember the health care reform debate?  Republicans like Rep. Mike Pence warned against a "government takeover" of health care:
Folks know a government-run option would result in tens of millions losing insurance they have with their employer now and millions of Americans losing their jobs, and the idea now that piling on top of all that big government takeover of health care are going to be tax increases on businesses and employees is just astonishing. . . . Republicans are coming together around conservative values. We need the American people to ride to the rescue. We can stop this government takeover of health care, and we request demand this Congress take action that will get this economy moving again.
Months later, Pence is changing his tune. "The American people deserve to know why the administration was slow to respond, why necessary equipment was not immediately on hand in the area and why the president did not fully deploy Cabinet-level federal officials" to the Gulf Coast until April 30, Pence recently said.

Pence wants government out of the health care business, but he wants government all over the oil business.  Why?  Republicans can be counted on to defend the interests of big business every time, and the little guy can go fuck off and die (literally).  So Pence and the rest of the Republicans did everything they could to kill health care reform, since they saw it as antithetical to the interests of the health care corporations and their profits.  Now they're defending BP by trying to blame their royal screw-up on President Obama, since bad PR for BP is antithetical to the interests of oil companies and their profits.

And let there be no doubt: this catastrophe in the Gulf is BP's fault.  According to the Associated Press, "Dozens of witness statements obtained by The Associated Press show a combination of equipment failure and a deference to the chain of command impeded the system that should have stopped the gusher before it became an environmental disaster."  And that's not Obama's fault.

In addition, President Obama's response to this catastrophe cannot be compared to President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, no matter what Republicans looking for a political advantage say.  According to the Associated Press,
The Gulf region, ravaged five years earlier by Hurricane Katrina, was on the verge of a second ecological disaster. Would there be a repeat of the bureaucratic bungling that marked President George W. Bush's response to the hurricane?

While the Obama administration has faced second-guessing about the speed and effectiveness of some of its actions, a narrative pieced together by The Associated Press, based on documents, interviews and public statements, shows little resemblance to Katrina in either the characterization of the threat or the federal government's response.
Lemme guess, Republican, the reporting of the Associated Press suffers from liberal bias, right?

And if you stop and think about it, the differences between Katrina and BP are stark.  Government is responsible for responding to natural disasters like Katrina, and government was responsible for the construction and maintenance of the levees protecting New Orleans from Lake Pontchartrain.  BP is responsible for the man-made disaster in the Gulf that BP itself caused, and BP is also responsible for cleaning up its own mess.

Some Republicans and adolescent objectivist bloggers might want to blame the catastrophe on lax government regulation.  Consider the following lead paragraphs of an Associated Press story:
At a 2005 workshop, a senior official in the U.S. government's Minerals Management Service raised concerns about ultra-deepwater drilling and included the bullet point, "Few or no regulations or standards." Within two years, Jim Grant left his post as chief of staff of the government's Gulf of Mexico region to take a job with BP PLC – one of the companies his former agency regulated in its oversight of offshore drilling.

Grant's change is one example of the revolving door between the Interior Department's MMS and the oil industry, which increasingly has the attention of Congress, the Obama administration and watchdog groups after the disastrous BP oil spill at an ultra-deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Just this week, a government report said drilling regulators have been so close to the industry they've been accepting gifts from oil and gas companies and even negotiating to go work for them.
For someone like me, this is disturbing.  But haven't Republicans and ARA's wanted to deregulate the private sector and get government off the backs of corporations so that they could make more money?  Sorry, assholes: you can't on the one hand insist on deregulation, and then fault Obama for regulatory failure.

Republicans like former FEMA "director" Michael Brown have even gone so far as to claim that the spill was a conspiracy on the part of Obama to provide an excuse to reestablish the ban on offshore oil drilling.  Sorry, Brownie, but that just reeks of desperation and stupidity.

So, what have we learned?

John Galt can go fuck himself.  

Playlist 1

I discovered yesterday that Meghan McCain publishes playlists on her blog.  Her latest playlist includes "Neat Neat Neat" by The Damned and "Ahead" by Wire.  That's impressive.  Anyway, I was inspired to post one of my own.  Shuffle play on my iPod produced the following playlist last night.  Not surprisingly, it's prog-heavy.
  1. King Crimson, "Eyes Wide Open," The Power to Believe
  2. The Fall of Troy, "We Better Learn to Hotwire a Uterus," Doppelgänger
  3. Radiohead, "In Limbo," Kid A
  4. Yes, "Cinema," 90125
  5. Ben Folds Five, "Underground," Ben Folds Five
  6. The JV Allstars, "Roleen Wa Baka Desu," Take Me Back to Spectre
  7. Talking Heads, "Pull Up the Roots," Speaking in Tongues
  8. Public Image Ltd., "Careering," Metal Box (a.k.a. Second Edition)
  9. Frank Zappa, "Pick Me, I'm Clean," Tinseltown Rebellion
  10. Electric Light Orchestra, "Easy Money," Zoom
  11. The Decemberists, "Margaret in Captivity," The Hazards of Love
  12. They Might Be Giants, "Spine," The Spine
  13. Genesis, "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," Nursery Cryme
  14. Minutemen, "Ack Ack Ack," "The Politics of Time"
  15. Planet P Project, "Static," Planet P Project
  16. Adrian Belew, "Ampersand," Side One
  17. Pinback, "Syracuse," Summer in Abaddon
  18. David Bowie, "Wild is the Wind," Station to Station
  19. The Beatles, "Yesterday," Help!
  20. Dead Can Dance, "Black Sun," Aion

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A lesson in Glenn Beck's unorthodox logic

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Irony, Indeed

From Lori Ziganto's May 25 blog entry regarding Meghan McCain, "Meghan McCain and the Irony of the Pot Calling Kettle Black":
I admit that when she tweeted that a new article at The Daily Beast, on Rand Paul no less, was forthcoming, I giggled with schadenfreude-y anticipation. I knew it would be snicker-worthy and I wasn’t disappointed. The only problem is that when I read her reputed writing, I hear things like “ZOMG! Why all the H8rs!!111 Oh, look! Cute shoes!
From Lori Ziganto's Twitter Feed:
@MelissaTweets I have to take 2 advil *before* I go to Walmart as a preventative measure. The aggravation and the lights bother me.
3:34 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@JennQPublic Under a girls 14, yes. But girls 14 and 16 are good length. I was wearing high wedgies that day, too. I'm only 5' 5"
3:33 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to JennQPublic

@BigDaveP I can imagine! She must have been thrilled to find one! :)
3:31 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to BigDaveP

@CorinnaBeck Old Navy! Forgot about them, thank you! They sometimes have great clearance prices.
3:31 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to CorinnaBeck

@MelissaTweets Yes, it is. In my 20s,probably would have thought it awesome (the girls sizes) At 39? Not so much. Heh. Oh well. C'est la vie
3:30 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@MelissaTweets Yes, some of Target's Juniors stuff works. Today, made mistake of trying to buy pair at Walmart (was there for kids shoes)
3:28 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@MelissaTweets Yep. Ticks me off. I mean, GIRLS clothes; that's pitiful. My Mom has opposite problem and hard for her to find clothes too.
3:24 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@JennQPublic Hee hee. It's just that the cheap stores do the vanity sizing really bad and don't have below a size 4. Cracker discrimination!
3:21 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to JennQPublic

@MelissaTweets That's actually my complaint.The cheap stores, that I can afford, don't have small women's clothing. Only fancy stores do
3:19 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@MelissaTweets Oh! Oh, no. Those are super cute, but way too pricey for me. #poor
3:18 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@JennQPublic Ha! No, it's not a plus. Bad enough having to buy trampy juniors clothes (have you SEEN that section) but now girls? Not. Fair.
3:14 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to JennQPublic

@MelissaTweets I don't know that store. There's a store called 7? #unhip
3:13 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@MelissaTweets Plus, only at cheapie stores like Walmart and Target. It's like they are discriminating against the scrawny! I must protest
3:12 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

@MelissaTweets It's annoying! I don't want to MATCH my 7 year old!
3:10 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets in reply to MelissaTweets

On the plus side, this means I can now get jeans on clearance for like 3 bucks. #silverlining
3:09 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets

Due to the insane vanity sizing of clothes nowadays, I just had to buy GIRLS size jeans. At 39 yrs old. #somecrackersareskinny
3:07 PM May 19th via Endless Tweets

Rush Limbaugh: BP's best friend

This morning, I briefly listened to Rush Limbaugh, one of the original loudmouthed right-wing clowns. And Limbaugh was discussing the BP catastrophe. (By the way, just in case you are wondering, Limbaugh has asserted that the dangers of the spill have been overstated.)  And he somewhat predictably blamed the spill on "environmentalist wackos." (I believe that is the phrase he used.) You see, if it weren't for environmentalists, oil companies would be able to drill in shallow water, closer to the shore, where a catastrophe like the one we're witnessing could have been easily avoided. Since the law does not allow for that, the oil companies must drill in far deeper water, for us!

Hey Rush, as Mom used to tell me, you don't have to do anything but die and pay taxes, you bastard.

And another thing, Rush: is it really accurate to blame this spill on environmentalists?  Let's think about this, you bastard. Government can't do anything right. Isn't that so? If you want anything done right, you have to hand it over to the private sector, and just get out of their way. Isn't that right? Surely even a prescription drug addict such as yourself can see that. Now, here's the problem. First, you can't say on the one hand that oil production ought to be left to the private sector but then on the other hand absolve them of any responsibility if things go wrong. Second, this whole BP spill is yet more proof that the private sector can fuck something up just as badly as government can, if not worse.  Handing everything over to the private sector is not going to solve all of our problems.  Take your copy of Atlas Shrugged to the recycling center and grow up, asshole.

And finally, it seems to me that if anyone is ultimately responsible for this catastrophe, it's people like you, Rush, and all those Republicans who have fought against raising automobile fuel efficiency standards.  You see, had we been able to make car companies produce more fuel-efficient cars, we might not have needed BP to drill in the deep Gulf water to get oil for our ridiculous-looking gargantuan trucks and SUV's.  So actually, the environmentalists are our friends since they support more fuel-efficient automobiles, you repulsive bastard.

Limbaugh's rant against environmentalists came in a segment in which Limbaugh claimed that Obama has been so slow to respond to the catastrophe because he has no idea what to do, as if Obama is somehow responsible for this mess.  How do the folks on the right complain about government regulation on the one hand, and then also complain when the government is too slow to clean up a corporation's mess?  Isn't that BP's job? Or is is that BP can't handle the responsibility and the Nanny State has to come save the day? Oh, I see how it is now: privatize the profits, socialize the catastrophe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sullivan is right

Soon after Elena Kagan was nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court, questions were raised from both the left and the right about her sexual orientation.  Slate's William Saletan discusses some of the internet chatter about her sexuality as well as the comparison some want to make between the current controversy and the controversy over Robert Bork's religious beliefs.

My initial reaction to those who wish to know Kagan's sexual orientation was one of disgust.  In judging, one is to be guided by the facts and the law and nothing more.  Therefore, sexual orientation is simply not job-relevant.  Those who believe that it is question the very foundation of our legal system, i.e., the idea that judges can be impartial.  I have no doubt that some social conservatives believe that so-called activist judges are not guided by precedent but rather by their preferences, that their rulings are designed to achieve predetermined results.

And I personally couldn't care less whether she is gay or not.

But I came to realize that I simply had not thought this matter through, because my initial reaction is actually inconsistent with my views about Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

I wrote last year that Sotomayor's sex and ethnicity are job-relevant.  I endorsed a view articulated by Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.  Lithwick writes,
[I]t strikes me as intuitively obvious that in order to succeed in a white man's world, women must learn to see both sides in ways that men do not. If that is true, it just might make them "better" judges, at least in some circumstances.
Why would women be better than men at seeing both sides?  Researchers have studied a phenomenon known as imaginative identification:
[I]n order to get ahead in the world, you learn to see life through the eyes of those who have already succeeded. According to at least some anthropologists, women have had to get awfully good at understanding what it would be like to be a man.
Then what makes Sotomayor's ethnicity relevant?  I like to present the following thought experiment to the people I know: all else being equal, who is more likely to have a better understanding of the lives and experiences of African-Americans, Barack Obama or George W. Bush? Common sense tells us that the correct answer is Obama.  Obama has an insight into the African-American experience that George W. Bush very likely does not have, simply because Obama has lived the life of an African-American man.  Now, I don't claim that a white person could not gain such insight; I just claim that such insight is much harder to come by for whites.

But does it follow that judges cannot be impartial, that they are guided by their preferences rather than the facts and the law?

I believe that some conservatives assume that people who are other are incapable of ruling impartially.  People worry about Kagan's sexual orientation because they believe that if she is gay, she will rule in favor of gay marriage simply because she is gay.  And there was this gem in the pages of The New Yorker about Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings (emphasis mine):
There was something distasteful about Sotomayor’s being lectured on civil rights by the likes of Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, whose own retrograde views on race back in 1986 led to his being rejected for a federal judgeship by the very committee on which he now serves. (One of the more cringe-worthy moments of the hearing was Sessions’s expression of incredulity that Sotomayor might disagree with another judge on her court even though he was also Puerto Rican.)
And, speaking more broadly, we have the reprehensible Glenn Beck claiming that Barack Obama hates white people.  (And why wouldn't Obama hate white people?  Just look at the man!)  The hateful prejudice behind both these comments and the aforementioned assumption is thinly veiled.  Those who accept the assumption also assume that those who are white possess an inherent ability to be impartial.  This belief in an inherent difference between white men and all others is as reprehensibly mistaken as can be.  If one denies that others lack this ability by virtue of their ethnicity or sex or what have you, then there is obviously every reason to think that whites are similarly impaired. 

No, the fact is that one's life experience can actually enhance one's ability to be impartial, due to the phenomenon of imaginative identification.  Judges from all walks of life can be guided by the law and the facts in their rulings; one's life experiences give one a greater appreciation of and sensitivity to certain facts, which can certainly make one a better judge.  Still, those who are members of marginalized groups have an edge on those who are not because of the very idea of the rule of law: everyone, we are told, is equal before the law, but those who are less likely to be treated as equal before the law are more likely to be members of marginalized groups, and judges from marginalized groups are, all else being equal, more likely to ensure that members of marginalized groups will be treated fairly.

So I find myself in agreement with Andrew Sullivan.  According to Sullivan, the question whether Kagan is gay
is no more of an empirical question than whether she is Jewish. We know she is Jewish, and it is a fact simply and rightly put in the public square. If she were to hide her Jewishness, it would seem rightly odd, bizarre, anachronistic, even arguably self-critical or self-loathing. And yet we have been told by many that she is gay ... and no one will ask directly if this is true and no one in the administration will tell us definitively.

In a word, this is preposterous - a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort. It should mean nothing either way. Since the issue of this tiny minority - and the right of the huge majority to determine its rights and equality - is a live issue for the court in the next generation, and since it would be bizarre to argue that a Justice's sexual orientation will not in some way affect his or her judgment of the issue, it is only logical that this question should be clarified. It's especially true with respect to Obama. He has, after all, told us that one of his criteria for a Supreme Court Justice is knowing what it feels like to be on the wrong side of legal discrimination.
Sullivan is right.

If conservative senators want to block Kagan's confirmation simply because she may be gay, let them.  Allow their hateful prejudice to show itself, let them try to further marginalize their fellow Americans who might benefit from having Kagan on the Court, let them try to deny Obama his right to nominate someone who is by all accounts perfectly qualified for the Supreme Court, and I predict that they will suffer yet another Waterloo.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maybe Female Judges Are Better

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The following post is a revised version of a post I originally published elsewhere July 16, 2009. It concerns the controversy last year over Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment.  I reproduce it here because of its relevance to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. I shall explain its relevance in a future post.

According to Dahlia Lithwick, our male-dominated culture has forced women to acquire skills that make them better judges. And now that I read Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 "Wise Latina" speech, I think that Sotomayor may have been presenting a version of Lithwick's argument. (See below for the context of the "wise Latina" remark.)

Sotomayor is not going to defend the comment now, because being confirmed is more important right now than debating a bunch of senators who are feeling defensive. But I think the comment is worth defending because I think Sotomayor is probably right.

I have accepted and articulated a view from which a weaker version of Sotomayor's view follows. Ask yourself, "All else being equal, who is more likely to have a better understanding of the lives and experiences of African-Americans: Barack Obama or George W. Bush?" Common sense tells us that the correct answer is Obama.

What follows from this common-sense view is the following: All else being equal, there is a better chance that a Latina woman will know more about what life is like for Latina women than a white man would know; and if judging requires an understanding and appreciation of the relevant facts, then all else being equal, there is a better chance that a wise Latina judge will be a better judge than a white man in a case involving Latina women.

I've had a number of thoughts about these Senate confirmation hearings, and I wish I had the time to go into them. For example, it's good to see Senator Coburn finally get the smackdown he's been begging for since yesterday when he asked what was in Sotomayor's gut with respect to the Second Amendment—as if Sotomayor's gut is somehow relevant.

From Judge Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 address to the 'Raising the Bar' symposium at the UC Berkeley School of Law (emphasis mine):
No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, "to judge is an exercise of power" and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives -- no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging," I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that -- it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father's visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women's claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants' claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging. 
In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment. 
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life. 
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown. 
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why Ziganto's For The Women card has been pulled

Last month, Lori Ziganto attacked Jessica Valenti at Feministing for cheering the "anonymous pro-choice hero" who defaced the following ad somewhere in the New York City subway system:

The defaced ad appeared thus:

Ziganto was apoplectic:
Want to go to college, but there is a pesky baby growing inside of you? Abort! A life is far less important than your co-ed fun and career plans, right? Your dreams are all that matters, baby be damned. Can’t let that get in the way! Follow President Obama’s thinking and don’t let yourself be “punished with a baby!”

Jessica Valenti called the ad “heinous.” Do you know what she said about the defaced ad promoting abortion for convenience? She called the vandal a “pro-choice hero” and then said:
Love. It.
Loves encouraging abortion for convenience. Loves encouraging abortion because a baby, a human life, doesn’t fit in with your super fun college plans. Denies the trauma that abortion may cause to the woman, but rejoices at the thought of killing a baby who isn’t timely.

But you want it to be safe, legal and rare? Baloney. Willy nilly matters of convenience are not part of that definition. You have devalued life to the point where *convenience* over-rides a life itself, in your minds.

That is heinous.
The careful reader will notice that Ziganto resorts to the straw man fallacy.  Again. According to Ziganto, pro-choicers believe that abortion is justified whenever completing a pregnancy is inconvenient.  Now, inconvenience is what one might call an elastic concept: what one person considers inconvenient might not be considered inconvenient by someone else.  But it's clear from the tone of her rant that Ziganto would perhaps never consider completing a pregnancy inconvenient.  And she also seems to think that pro-choicers would always find completing a pregnancy inconvenient.  To Ziganto, women who abort are sociopathic narcissists. 

There are two important points to make about Ziganto's rant.  First, as Valenti points out, women often have "complex, personal, and often selfless reasons" for obtaining abortions. And where Ziganto offers only snark in support of her claims, Valenti offers actual scientific evidence.  According to a 2005 study that appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,
Women give many reasons for having an abortion; the most frequent are that having a child (or another child) would interfere with their ability to care for their existing children, their work responsibilities or their education, and that they cannot afford a baby right now. . . . Women’s reasons for ending a pregnancy have been consistent over time and often focus on their responsibilities to the children they already have and considerations for the children they plan to have in the future.

“There is a misconception that women take the decision to terminate a pregnancy lightly,” says Finer. “Women’s primary reasons for making this difficult decision are based on a lack of resources in light of their current responsibilities. Typically, more than one reason drives the decision, and these reasons are frequently interrelated.”
Now, one might argue that I've been unfair to Ziganto.  Perhaps I have.  She doesn't believe that women who abort are sociopathic narcissists, some might say; rather, given that abortion ends human fetal life, which is a very serious matter, abortion could only very rarely be justified.  Wanting to go to college and fulfill one's dreams certainly wouldn't justify abortion. 

But this won't do either.  As Valenti points out, "It isn't that anti-choicers don't understand why women get abortions—it's that they care so little about women's lives that any reason given to obtain an abortion is seen as 'convenient.'"  Pro-lifers compulsively insist on the rights of the fetus, but they curiously silent about the rights of the women carrying fetuses.  If a woman is obligated to ensure that the fetus she carries has an opportunity to fulfill its dreams, why do pro-lifers ridicule the woman's insistence that she have the very same opportunity?  Ziganto asks the pro-choicer, "A life is far less important than your co-ed fun and career plans, right?"  But we could just as easily ask her, "Your fetus's co-ed fun and career plans are far more important than your life, right?"

If Ziganto weren't so busy trivializing the reasons women typically have for obtaining abortions, she might have supported health care reform, since it appears that universal health care actually cuts the abortion rate.  But this business isn't about improving the lives of women; it's about raising money for herself and other responsibility-free bloggers.

I guess preventing abortions doesn't fit in with Ziganto's super-fun blogger plans.

sigur rós, "ára bátur"

Lori Ziganto, liberal feminist

What is old is new again.

The following rules appear in Helen B. Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood (Santa Barbara: Pacific Press, 1963).  (Source:
  • Accept him at face value.  Don't try to change him.  
  • Admire the manly things about him.  Don't show indifference, contempt, or ridicule towards his masculine abilities, achievements, or ideas.  
  • Recognize his superior strength and ability.  Don't try to excel him in anything which requires masculine ability. 
  • Be a domestic goddess.  Don't let the outside world crowd you for time to do your homemaking tasks well.  
  • Work for inner happiness and seek to understand its rules.  Don't have a lot of preconceived ideas of what you want out of life.  
  • Revere your husband and honor his right to rule you and your children.  Don't stand in the way of his decisions, or his law.  
These rules and the vision they offer of the proper role of women are opposed to the kind of feminism I accept.  Lori Ziganto appears to accept these rules.  And yet Ziganto calls herself a feminist.  (And war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.)  Among Ziganto's confessions are the following:
  • "I enjoy being able to cry and win an argument by default."
  • "I don’t like math. Icky. Oh, so icky."
  • "I like not having to mow the lawn. I like pretending to be so mechanically impaired that I can’t even figure out how to put gas in it, never mind pull that string thing to start it."
  • "I like being able to run screeching from the room at the first glimpse of a spider and have a man come running to save the day."
  • "I like staying home with my child without feeling as if I am not 'fulfilling my potential' by not having a career. If I were a feminist, I’d beat myself up daily over that fact."
  • "I like dressing up and looking pretty and I like when men notice."
And if that weren't enough to establish that Ziganto accepts Andelin's 1963 view of the proper role of women, Ziganto also writes:
While [you feminists] were busily pant-suiting yourselves and trying to become men, other women were out there raising families and learning through actual living. You old school Feminists forgot (or chose to ignore; y’all are big on paying lip service to “choosing”) the greatest thing that sets us apart. Being a Mommy.
As I have said before, I am a feminist, and I have nothing against the choices Ziganto has made.  I only hope that she made those choices autonomously.  But the important point of feminism is that women have in the past been expected to make the same choices Ziganto has made.  Women haven't always enjoyed the freedom that Ziganto now enjoys, and Ziganto enjoys that freedom thanks to feminism.  Ziganto appears to be completely oblivious to that fact.  Ziganto further reveals her obliviousness in this rant against liberal feminist pro-choicers:
The fact that you care more about my uterus and its “rights” than I do is kinda gross. Why the heck are creepy, middle-aged men and militant lesbians so obsessed with my reproductive rights? I have never, not once, woken up thinking “Gee, I hope my reproductive rights are protected today”. What are reproductive rights anyway? Wouldn’t that mean the right to reproduce?  
(Note Ziganto's implicit identification of liberal feminists and militant lesbians.)  The reason Ziganto does not wake up worrying about her reproductive rights is that feminists have fought to ensure that she has those rights.  Those rights guarantee (within reason, for no right is absolute) not only the right to reproduce but also the right not to reproduce.  Ziganto's ignorance about this point is, I believe, feigned: her column is a celebration of the freedom to be a non-autonomous bimbo, after all, and she's trying to play the part.  (Perhaps she thinks that certain men find that attractive, for one of her workaday concerns appears to be increasing the likelihood that men fantasize about copulating with her—as if her feelings of self-worth depend on it.)

But I wonder whether Ziganto is really being completely forthcoming with her readers.  If she really wants to take the word "feminism" back—and by that, she means "reject feminism entirely"—if she really believes that the proper role of a woman is that of mother and homemaker, and if she really believes that women can all lead completely fulfilling lives by raising children and keeping house, then why is she wasting valuable time working on her blog? Shouldn't she be tending to her husband or her child or her home?

Now, I know you're busy begging for money, Lori, but let's dispense with the bullshit, shall we?  And let's talk plainly.  You and I reject radical feminism, the only kind of feminism you and the rest of you responsibility-free talkers and bloggers want to talk about, since you all are so skilled in the art of the straw man fallacy.  So that leaves a more moderate feminism, i.e., the one I've endorsed, as up for debate.  Now, your going outside of the home to find fulfillment as a blogger (for money!) suggests that you are actually a liberal feminist like me.  If you really want to deny that, then you should hand your blog over to a man (and change its name to Snark and Balls?) and devote your full attention to your husband, child, and home, yes?

(I wonder why the conservative bloggers like to end sentences with "yes?"  I mean, I just did it and I didn't really get a thrill out of it or anything.)

The tension in Ziganto's beliefs and behavior is really indicative of the fundraising function of her profession.  She is in the business of raising money, and what raises money won't necessarily cohere with her behavior or her actual beliefs.

What I am really trying to do here is compel Ziganto and other self-professed "true feminists" to reject the straw man that all feminists are radical feminists.  I want her to admit to being a liberal feminist.  Her ridiculous post about being a mad non-feminist notwithstanding, she actually rejects the patriarchal vision of the proper role of women.  How else can we account for her assertion that she and other "true feminists" "are angry at being treated like children who aren’t capable of running their own lives, even down to what foods we eat"?

(I thank my spouse for valuable discussion which contributed to this post.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The misogynist post-abortion syndrome propaganda of Lori Ziganto

Fundraiser and blogger Lori Ziganto loves to say that liberal feminists are anti-women:
[W]e’ve all known for some time that while the left trots out the For The Women ™ meme constantly, they are anything but. The same way that self-avowed modern day feminists are anything but feminist. In fact, they are diametrically opposed to feminism, by it’s very definition, because their entire agenda is actually harmful to women. This is why I now call them Femogynists and I’m taking the term feminist back.
Ziganto calls liberal feminists "Femogynists" (surely intending a similarity to the word "misogynist") not only to distinguish between her view and liberal feminism but also to poison the well while she's at it.  I am a liberal feminist, so I was rather surprised to hear that I am also anti-women. Why does Ziganto make such a surprising, counter-intuitive claim?

Well, for one thing,
We are tired of femogynists claiming that they speak for us. We are tired of being sneered at as gender traitors for not toeing the faux feminist line and by daring to be pro-life. We are tired of the attempts to diminish Motherhood. We are tired of women being painted as perpetual victims by the left, in need of Big Daddy Government to save us.
And you know what? I can dig this. I really can. Motherhood and child-bearing is perfectly compatible with feminism, or at least with the kind of feminism I endorse. To say that I am a classical liberal feminist is probably roughly correct. I merely insist on the legal and moral equivalence of the sexes, except in those few possible cases in which sex is morally or legally relevant. I demand only that women have the same rights and privileges that men have.  For me, the key is that women who choose to be mothers have the opportunity to do so autonomously. So I naturally abhor certain right-wing pro-lifers who try to prevent women from having abortions by deceiving and coercing them.

And this brings me to another of Ziganto's reasons for bashing liberal feminism.

According to Ziganto, "an ad campaign aimed at helping women learn about post-abortion syndrome exposed the fact that modern day Feminists rejoice at abortion for convenience and that they are anything but 'pro-women.'" According to Ziganto, "It’s clear that [liberal feminists] don’t care about the dead babies, but they also need to stop insisting that they are For Women ™ , when they most obviously are not. You see, feminists, an unborn baby is not just a clump of cells. Many women who abort their babies, therefore, suffer intense pain and immense guilt. Their entire lives." The problem with liberal feminists, then, is that they "rejoice at the idea of abortion for convenience" with reckless disregard of the dangers of post-abortion syndrome.

Well, what reason does Ziganto give us for thinking that post-abortion syndrome is really something to worry about? "While feminists sneer at the idea of post-abortion syndrome, it does exist," writes Ziganto. And if you follow her link, you will be directed to Jill Stanek's blog—specifically, Stanek's entries on the topic of post-abortion syndrome. Roughly thirty entries. No, I did not read them all. But PajamaMama's attempt to draw parallels between abortion and the Milgram experiment is interesting, and a bit amusing.

So, what's wrong with this?  As many college students have been told, when justifying empirical claims, one ought to find objective, non-biased sources.  Take, for example, tips offered by the University of North Texas Libraries.  Students are advised to ask the following questions about a source, among others:
  • Does the author have expertise in the field?
  • Is the article intended for an academic or popular audience?
  • What point of view does the author present? You want to support your research with objective (non-biased) information that is based on research, not individual opinions.
  • If your research is on a controversial topic, is the content fair and balanced? Is more than one view represented?
While Stanek claims to be a nurse, her blog is not a satisfactory source.  It's intended for a popular audience, and it presents only the pro-life point of view.  And ask yourself this: what kind of evidence would support the view that post-abortion syndrome is a real danger?  Only one kind: some sort of scientific study.  Well, why didn't Ziganto cite scientific research in this area?  Because the scientific research does not support her point of view.

According to a 2008 Johns Hopkins University review of the scientific evidence,
[T]he highest quality studies had findings that were mostly neutral, suggesting few, if any, differences between women who had abortions and their respective comparison groups in terms of mental health sequelae. Conversely, studies with the most flawed methodology found negative mental health sequelae of abortion.
("Sequelae" is the plural of "sequela," which is defined as "an aftereffect of disease, condition, or injury.") According to Reuters,
A team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women and found the high-quality studies showed no significant differences in long-term mental health between women who choose to abort a pregnancy and others.

"The best research does not support the existence of a 'post-abortion syndrome' similar to post-traumatic stress disorder," Dr. Robert Blum, who led the study published in the journal Contraception, said in a statement.

"Based on the best available evidence, emotional harm should not be a factor in abortion policy. If the goal is to help women, program and policy decisions should not distort science to advance political agendas," added Vignetta Charles, a researcher and doctoral student at Johns Hopkins who worked on the study.
Now, I'm sure that Ziganto and Stanek find the stories of individual women who have been traumatized by their abortions compelling.  Anyone who attends to them would.  But to infer from such anecdotal evidence that post-abortion syndrome is a real possibility is to commit the "I know a person who" fallacy.  And don't we also find compelling the stories of people who had many other kinds of medical procedures that unexpectedly produced undesired outcomes? Are we to ban the practice of medicine altogether in order to prevent these outcomes?  Any medical procedure involves risk.  A patient must be given information about those risks so that they can decide for themselves, autonomously, whether to assume those risks.  Instead, conservatives would rather have the government regulate the flow of information from doctor to patient in order to manipulate a woman's choice. 

So, where does that leave us?
  1. Ziganto claims to be a real feminist.  
  2. Feminism surely includes the view that women ought not to be prevented from making autonomous decisions. 
  3. One way to prevent a person from making an autonomous decision is by deceiving them.  
  4. Ziganto's argument that post-abortion syndrome is a serious threat is deceptive, since it is based on biased sources and not sound science.  
  5. Therefore, Ziganto really isn't a feminist after all, and she should stop claiming that she is.  Rather, she is a responsbility-free blogger who uses any means necessary to raise money for her right-wing political causes.  

Steven Wilson, "Significant Other"

Bertrand Russell, "A Liberal Decalogue"

What follows sums up my intellectual outlook well.  I endeavor to live up to this decalogue, though I am sure that I often fail.  This explains why I am so opposed to the responsibility-free talkers (and writers) and their ilk, for they routinely violate every single one of these commandments (in public, at least).  
Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
"A Liberal Decalogue" is from The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 3: 1944-1969, pp. 71-2.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Word Vomit Redux

Lori Ziganto recently singled me out for ridiculing her personal motto, "Walk softly, but carry a big lipstick."  I wouldn't say that I ridiculed it; rather, I tried to express my inability to grasp its meaning.  And I did so in a rather abusive post in which I ridiculed Ziganto's absurd interpretation of a statement recently made by President Obama.

The perceptive reader would have noticed a similarity between the abusive language I used in that post and the language Ziganto uses when attacking liberals.  In my post, I talked about Ziganto's "hysterical, dimwitted screeds," and bemoaned her "predictable conservative shrieking about Obama."  I called her an "hysterical conservative blogger" and openly wondered how her "overworked, sputtering brain" could square her "hysterical little essay" about Obama with the facts. 

This similarity was intended not only to parody Ziganto's writing but also to show that Ziganto herself is guilty of the hysteria she imagines in the liberal opposition.  In a post about abortion, Ziganto calls the blog Feministing a "hot bed of predictable feminist shrieking."  And in the more recent post in which she singles me out, Ziganto complains about what she calls the "irksome hysterical screeching" of feminists.  In fact, a search of Ziganto's blog for the word "hysterical" yields ten entries, a seach for "shrieking" yields ten entries, and a search for "screeching" yields a dozen.  However, as my post about Ziganto's criticism of Obama's statement shows, if anyone is guilty of hysterical shrieking, it is Ziganto herself.  "Only in the mind of an hysterical conservative blogger is acknowledging the costs of war a condemnation of military strength," I wrote.

This hysteria seems typical of Ziganto's writing.  Take the post about abortion that I mentioned.  According to Ziganto, pro-choice feminists who believe that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" actually want to "make sure that as many children are aborted as humanly possible."  To Ziganto, pro-choice feminists "don’t care about the dead babies" and believe that "an unborn baby is . . . just a clump of cells."  She ridicules pro-choicers who in her mind "[love] encouraging abortion because a baby, a human life, doesn’t fit in with your super fun college plans."

I myself recently wrote that abortion ought to be safe, legal, and rare.  But I don't believe anything Ziganto claims I believe.  And I took some offense to being caricatured in such a crude manner.  (But Ziganto has money to raise, and to hell with getting the stupid facts right.  More on that later.)  Ziganto's post is what they call a strawman in the rudimentary critical thinking textbooks.  She caricatures the pro-choice position as being a lot more radical and therefore a lot less plausible than in actually is, so that it is easier to "knock down."  If you want to know why conservatives are often thought of as being dim-witted and uninterested in subtleties, Ziganto's post is Exhibit A.  To be pro-choice is not to be pro-abortion.  To be pro-choice is not to think that the fetus deserves no moral consideration.  To be pro-choice is not to think that abortion is justified in all circumstances.  And that is why it is plausible to characterize Ziganto's criticism of pro-choice feminists as . . . hysterical

I understand why Ziganto's writing tends toward the hysterical.  She is trying to raise money, not only for herself, but for RedState, and one way a blogger can raise money is to fire up the base, and one way a blogger can fire up the base is by making all kinds of hysterical non-factual assertions the blogger might not even accept.  Here is one difference between Ziganto and me: I am not in the business of raising money.  There are no ads on my blog.  And if I ever encourage you to donate money to anything, it will be for reasons that I actually accept, and I will explain those reasons to you. 

But there is another reason why I wrote such an abusive post.  As my profile states,
I believe that it is time that we stop demonizing those with whom we disagree and discuss our disagreements in a rational and respectful manner, though I also believe that those who willingly employ irrational means of persuasion in such discussions deserve no respect.
I believe that I have just shown that Ziganto indeed employs irrational means of persuasion and is therefore deserving of the abuse I have heaped on her.  She may be a perfectly pleasant and decent human being, but as a blogger she has not earned my respect. 

Let us return to Ziganto's personal motto.  The phrase, "Walk softly, but carry a big lipstick" recalls a statement popularized by President Theodore Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."  At least, that's what it reminded me of.  And the similarity between the two suggests that further similarities are intended.  And this is where I become confused.  If wikipedia is to be trusted, Roosevelt is to be interpreted as advocating "negotiating peacefully, [while] simultaneously threatening with the 'big stick,' or the military."  So, the stick is to be thought of as a weapon of some sort.  But in what sense is a lipstick a weapon?  A lipstick cannot be usefully employed as a projectile or a club or a sword.  Does Ziganto intend the lipstick to symbolize the use of sexuality as a weapon?  And in what alternate universe would that be considered feminist?  The point is this: once you try to understand just what the phrase means, you realize that it's not clear at all what it means.

Perhaps Ziganto will do us all a favor and explain what her personal motto means.  I've given it some thought and I really don't know.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dick Cheney is wrong, again

Fred Kaplan of Slate draws three lessons from the attempted bombing of Times Square last weekend.

The first lesson is that Dick Cheney is wrong, again:
[T]he event further discredits the Dick Cheney-Newt Gingrich view of terrorism—that it's "an act of war" and that, therefore, fighting it as if it were a "criminal act" is foolhardy.
We don't yet know whether Saturday night's car bomb was the work of a one-off loner or a terrorist organization. But, in one sense, that's the point: Regardless of who tried to bomb Times Square, the New York City police (and, presumably, much more behind the scenes, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies) would be doing exactly the same thing that they're doing in response—scouring the forensic clues, scrutinizing video footage, questioning witnesses and the usual sources, double-checking electronic intercepts, and all the rest. 
Terrorism, in some of its forms, may be a campaign of war—but it manifests itself in criminal acts. And while the military has a role in combating terrorist organizations (see the war in Afghanistan, the drone attacks on al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, etc.), the acts are often best pre-empted, foiled, and punished by the routine procedures of a well-trained police force and intelligence organizations.  
Read the rest of Kaplan's piece here.

I hope that John McCain gets the memo; it appears that the loathsome Glenn Beck did.  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

At a certain point, you have made enough money.

 Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling testifies before Congress in 2002. 

Fox "News," the propaganda arm of the Republican party, is devoting air time to the following quotation attributed to President Obama:
I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.  
I saw them talking about it this morning, with text along the bottom of the screen implying that Obama is making war on capitalism itself.  Think about that.  What would Fox "News" have you believe?  This: the claim that some amount of money is enough for an individual is antithetical to capitalism.  Which is to say that no amount is ever enough.  Not one million dollars, not one billion, not one trillion.  All the money in the entire world isn't enough for a single person.  Is this even plausible?  Does it even make sense?

To endorse the view that no amount is ever enough is to endorse a pointless and evil sort of greed.  I acknowledge that the profit motive is important to capitalism, and I acknowledge the importance of capitalism itself.  But the insatiable desire for more and more money is not necessarily good for capitalism.  In fact, it can be bad, as our recent history has shown us.  Compulsive greed leads individuals to make irrationally risky decisions in the pursuit of money; it blinds individuals to the importance of the health of the economy to their own economic well-being; it encourages a sociopathic disregard for law and morality.  And both law and morality are important to capitalism.  Both Adam Smith and Milton Friedman said as much, no matter what the Republican friends of corporate sociopaths would have you believe. 

Fox's election year maneuver here is just another example of the radicalization of American politics.  What do I mean by this?  Radicals accept general principles without admitting any exception whatsoever to them.  For example, pro-life radicals claim that abortion is never permissible under any circumstances.  The NRA lobby wants absolute rights to private gun ownership and argues fallaciously that any restriction would put us on a slippery slope to complete gun control; meanwhile, the mentally ill make the innocent pay for this freedom with their lives.  Fox "News" radicals claim that greed is always good and should be nurtured and encouraged, without exception.  The Fox "News" audience, without realizing it, comes to accept extremist thinking over time.  Those already inclined to extremist thinking watch Fox "News" for confirmation of their views.  The results are obvious: the health care reform debacle was rife with extremist thinking, and it made finding compromise virtually impossible in the end.

But let's get back to the President's statement.  It is always good to ask about a quotation this brief, "What was the context?"  And here it is (emphasis mine):
We had a system where some on Wall Street could take these risks without fear of failure, because they keep the profits when it was working, and as soon as it went south, they expected you to cover their losses.  So it was one of those heads, they tail  -- tails, you lose.  
So they failed to consider that behind every dollar that they traded, all that leverage they were generating, acting like it was Monopoly money, there were real families out who were trying to finance a home, or pay for their child’s college, or open a business, or save for retirement.  So what’s working fine for them wasn’t working for ordinary Americans.  And we’ve learned that clearly.  It doesn’t work out fine for the country. It’s got to change.  (Applause.)
Now, what we’re doing -- I want to be clear, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned.  I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.  (Laughter.)  But part of the American way is you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or you’re providing a good service.  We don't want people to stop fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow the economy. 
I’ve said this before.  I’ve said this on Wall Street just last week.  I believe in the power of the free market.  And I believe in a strong financial system.  And when it’s working right, financial institutions, they help make possible families buying homes, and businesses growing, and new ideas taking flight.  An entrepreneur may have a great idea, but he may need to borrow some money to make it happen.  It would be hard for a lot of us to buy a house -- our first house, at least, if we weren’t able to take out a mortgage. 
So there’s nothing wrong with a financial system that helps the economy expand.  And there are a lot of good people in the financial industry who are doing things the right way.  And it’s in our interest when those firms are strong and when they’re healthy.  
But some of these institutions that operated irresponsibly, they’re not just threatening themselves -- they threaten the whole economy.  And they threaten your dreams, your prospects, everything that you worked so hard to build.  
So we just want them to operate in a way that’s fair and honest and in the open, so that we don’t have to go through what we’ve already gone through.  
Now, to any rational person whose thinking has not been distorted by extremist thinking, these are hardly the remarks of someone making war on capitalism.  Why didn't Fox "News" bring any of the following statements to the attention of their viewers?
  • "[W]e’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned."  
  • "[P]art of the American way is you can just keep on making [money] if you’re providing a good product or you’re providing a good service."  
  • "I believe in the power of the free market."  
We all know the answer.  And we all know why the mainstream media has ignored the comment and Fox "News" compulsively repeats it.

Note the laughter after the statement Fox "News" has taken out of context.  Is this the evil laughter of communists plotting the overthrow of American capitalism?  Of course not.  It is the laughter of those who recognize that, at a certain point, the pursuit of money is the manifestation of a mental disorder.  Obama is not targeting the Warren Buffetts of the world: he is targeting the Jeffrey Skillings and the Andy Fastows.

And he's pointing out that corporate executives and those in the financial services industry do not operate in a vaccuum.  As the Great Recession has shown, what they do affects virtually everyone.  Those who in the compulsive pursuit of money behave irrationally and irresponsibly at the expense of providing a good product or service are threats to capitalism, not practitioners of it. But one must resist the extremist propaganda of Fox "News" to see this.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson