Weekly Address: Pushing Forward on Jobs

President Obama's weekly address focuses on the job report numbers that were recently released showing 11,000 people become unemployed in November, a better than expected number. Obama acknowledges that unemployment is still very high and that the public is feeling the pain of recession, but he also sounds an optimistic note, saying "our economy's growing for the first time in a year."

Leaving the Right, Ctd

Via DailyDish

A reader writes:

I agree with your reasoning in Leaving the Right, but I am confused as to what you have just left. It forces me to question whether the terms we use to describe ourselves and our beliefs are losing their distinctions? If the right is synonymous with Republican, then I think you walked away many years ago, like myself. But I certainly hope that there is still a distinction between the words conservative and Republican, since I have always referred to myself as the former, and attacked the entirely non-conservative policies of latter.

Do you think that individuals like Bush and Palin, or entire movements like Christian fundamentalism and neo-conservatism, have co-opted the term conservative as well? If we say that the conservative movement has left us, have we not conceded the term to its modern twisted definition? And if so then I have to ask what are we? And what are we entering on our way out?

There's been some confusion here, probably because of the title of the post. The only person who just announced a break with the conservative movement is Charles Johnson. My own spur-of-the-moment manifesto was merely inspired by his. And quite obviously, as I explained in the post, I left that movement many years ago, in so far as I was ever a part of it. (Which "movement conservative" backed Clinton in 1993 and Kerry in 2004, as I did?)

But as I quixotically insisted in The Conservative Soul, I refuse to give up the term 'conservative' and any fair-minded reader of that book would understand why.

I continue to call myself a conservative, of the tradition of Burke and Hume and Montaigne and Oakeshott. I suspect that all four of them would regard the term "conservative movement" an oxymoron anyway, as I do, even if they understood it at all. And although I have deep respect for the liberal tradition, I am much too much a skeptic, and an individualist, and an anti-collectivist to join the Democrats. I try to join as few organizations as I can get away with. And I lived under socialism so know how poisonous it can be.

So my reader and I remain conservatives without a home. That happens in life and politics. Perhaps one day the GOP will return to its saner, calmer roots, and we can feel more comfortable supporting them from time to time. But I suspect that the fundamentalist and neocon take-over will prevent that any time soon. So we carry on without a home but with an argument and a tradition instead. Good enough for me.

Moreover, conservatives of the sort I describe should not be dismayed by the lack of a party. It may even increase our leverage to hover between the two, goading each toward the center-right in the long run, while tolerating various adjustments in response to changing circumstances all the while. And it's certainly more symptomatically conservative not to get too attached to any political party. In fact, factionalism and partisanship has helped destroy conservatism in America almost as much as religion. Burke, one recalls, was not a Tory but a Whig. Churchill was a Liberal as well as a Tory. Reagan began life as a Democrat.

The point of conservatism, you see, is not political. Real conservatives get involved in politics because they have to, not because they want to. And they have to to rectify obvious disasters or utpoian assaults on freedom or radical attacks on established modes and orders. We are conservative in politics in part to restrict the claims of politics and to enlarge the claims of life.

So cheer up. I certainly feel less gloomy about America than I did two years ago, and confident that the good sense of its silent center will navigate the treacherous waters ahead. Yes, America is in much worse shape today than a decade ago - but some of that is the dispelling of illusions, the pricking of bubbles and the consequence of hubris. This will not deflate the conservative. There is always something bracing about rediscovering reality, however grim the disillusionment may be. For conservatism begins in a lack of illusions and builds from there.

The Biggest Lies About The "Global Warming Hoax"

Via Katherine Goldstein

A few weeks ago, hackers broke into the emails of one of the Climate Research Unit of The University of East Anglia, and climate skeptics have been having a field day making mountains out of molehills about what the emails contain. The verdict on global warming is in -- it's caused by humans and it is happening and nothing in the emails remotely challenges that. However, with the internet abuzz about what has been labeled "ClimateGate," we thought we should set the record straight about the rumors, lies and insinuations about what the emails actually contain -- and what they "prove" about climate change.

"ClimateGate" itself is a misnomer, the nickname should be "SwiftHack" for the way people with political agendas have "swiftboated" the global warming reality. As world attention turns to the climate conference in Copenhagen this December, this email hack acts as a distraction from the huge task at hand of getting world leaders to commit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As professor Richard Somerville says, "We're facing an effort by special interests who are trying to confuse the public."

Manipulating Data
CLAIM: Scientists have manipulated data.

Skeptics have been pointing to an email from scientist Phil Jones where he said he used a "trick" with his data. As climate expert Bob Ward writes, "Scientists say 'trick' not just to mean deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something -- a short cut can be a trick." RealClimate also explained that "the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term 'trick' to refer to ... 'a good way to deal with a problem', rather than something that is 'secret', and so there is nothing problematic in this at all."
Scientists Doubt It
CLAIM: Scientists had private doubts about whether the world really is heating up.
TRUTH: Combing through over a decade of personal correspondence, which is then taken out of context can seem to prove just about anything. Skeptics have been pointing to one email from Kevin Trenberth, in which he said, "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." However, this is clear example of cherrypicking quotes. Trenberth was referring to that there was an "incomplete explanation" of the short-term variability of temperatures, but concludes that "global warming is unequivocally happening."
Suppressing Evidence
CLAIM: These scientists worked to suppress evidence and deleted emails.
TRUTH: Thousands of emails from over 13 years were stolen, and edited, and have been taken out of context for those with a political agenda. As blogger Jeff Masters writes,

"Even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true, the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change—which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines—is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three or four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks."

As climate czar Carol Brower says, "I'm sticking with the 2,500 scientists [of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.] These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real."
Silencing Dissent
CLAIM: Scientists have been working to remove skeptical peers from the climate discussion.
TRUTH: Organization politics, disagreement and strife are hardly foreign ideas in university, research and scientific communities. As the blog run by climate scientists Real Climate writes, "Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement." Again, this does not remotely prove any sort of cover-up, and the critiques of these papers were made and debated by scientists PUBLICLY, but perhaps less bluntly than they were stated in the emails. (Here's what the "infamous" line about keeping people out and peer review was ACTUALLY about.)
This Changes Everything
CLAIM: These emails are the final nail in the coffin for the idea that humans cause global warming.
TRUTH: If the denier's wildest claims were true that are bantered around throughout the Internet, wouldn't nearly 15 years of emails ACTUALLY SHOW some of these insipid rumors to be true?

More from Real Climate: "More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though."
Reopens Debate
CLAIM: This reignites the debate about if global warming is real.
TRUTH: There is strong consensus in scientific community that global warming is real and is caused by humans. The top scientists in the world have just released a new report on the realities of global warming. Kevin Grandia summarizes some of the key points about emissions, melting ice sheets, and rising sea levels. The emails don't change any of this reality.

Senate GOPers: It's Al Franken's Fault We're Being Attacked

Via TPM

The Politico reports that Senate Republicans are outraged at Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) due to their votes against an amendment he introduced, to crack down on the rape of employees of military contractors, now being used against them:

The Republicans are steamed at Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers -- and because Franken isn't doing much to stop them.

"Trying to tap into the natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape --and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent and embarrass his colleagues, I don't think it's a very constructive thing," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an interview.

...

"I don't know what his motivation was for taking us on, but I would hope that we won't see a lot of Daily Kos-inspired amendments in the future coming from him," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in the Senate Republican leadership. "I think hopefully he'll settle down and do kind of the serious work of legislating that's important to Minnesota."

No, this is not The Onion.

Zombie Reagan Raised From Grave To Lead GOP

Wingnuts Go Ballistic Over LGF

I thought their big thing is "no name-calling"

Via Eric Boehlert

We told you right-wing bloggers were not going to be happy reading yesterday's Little Green Football fond farewell, as blogger Charles Johnson detailed the reason he could no longer be part of the far-right Internet movement. ("Homophobic bigotry," 'anti-government lunacy," "hate speech," and "conspiracy theories," were among the stated reasons.) And we told you insults, rather than reasoned debate, were going to be the end result.

And oh my, angry right-wing bloggers love to throw around insults. And so they spent all day yesterday denouncing Johnson for being (are you ready?) "illogical," a "lunatic," "leftard," "worthless piece of shit," "leftist asshole," "self loathing," "traffic-whore drama-queen." They mocked "Chuckles," for being an "execrable CAIR tool," with a "sickness of soul," for being "barking moonbat unhinged crazy," a "whiny girly man," the "Driver of Crazy Train," and just plain"crazy,"

Gee, think LGF hit a nerve?

Constitutional Chicanery

Via Tom Schaller at 538.com

Where in the Constitution, sir, do you see it authorized that Congress can be involved with "health care," or fund "health care"? I am asking here about the Constitution, not any court rulings. Thank you.
This was the content, in its entirety, of an email I received last night from John Lofton, editor of TheAmericanView.com, a friend and supporter of Constitutional Party 2004 presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, and—get this—communications director for an organization called the Institute on the Constitution. We heard a lot from last summer’s protesters and people like Mr. Lofton about the sanctity of the Constitution and constitutional principles. Granting that tea partiers and people who send me silly emails should not necessarily be taken seriously as constitutional experts, there nonetheless seems to be an unusually high level of either uninformed or knowing manipulation of the Constitution in service to pre-ordained agendas.

I’m not a constitutional scholar. (N.B.: Protestors and other critics attacking the president ought to take note that he is.) Nor do I want to get into specific constitutional controversies. My aim is to rebut a few of the most absurd fallacies that seem to have gained traction--primarily but not exclusively in conservative circles--about the nature of American constitutionalism. To wit:

First, there is the fallacy that anything not specifically prescribed by the Constitution is unconstitutional. True, the Constitution doesn’t mention health care; but neither does it mention air traffic control. Is the FAA’s safeguarding of our skies from commercial crashes therefore unconstitutional? Of course not. First, there is the matter of the “necessary and proper” clause. And second, just because the Founders clearly meant to avoid the whole business of constitutionalizing specifically policies--see point #3, below--doesn't mean they didn't want the government to have any policies. If they did, why create a legislature?

Second, and conversely, there is the fallacy that anything not specifically proscribed by the Constitution is constitutionally permissible. We have one of those nutty preachers who shows up in the common areas of campus. One of his favorite claims is that because the Constitution makes no mention of the separation of church and state, we are free to infuse church into state. He’s right about the omission, but the Constitution doesn’t mention sex with minors, incest, or gay marriage, and so, by the omission-is-permission logic an adult man could consummate his marriage to his 14-year-old nephew. I mean, the Founders didn’t say anything about not doing that, so it must be OK constitutionally, right?

Third, too few people wrapping their policy arguments in constitutional claims understand that the Founders wrote a short charter dedicated almost exclusively to the design, structure, officers and powers of the government because they wanted to avoid constitutionalizing specific policies. The Constitution has only thrice ventured into the prescription or proscription of a specific public policy: the slavery provisions, the prohibition of alcohol, and the enactment of the income tax. The first was the most glaring, nearly fatal problem with the original document; the second, initiated by amendment, was such a bad idea it led to the only direct reversal of a previous amendment; and the third, well, you’d think anti-tax conservatives would have long ago advanced the argument that constitutionalizing policies is a bad idea, given the establishment of the national income tax. Oh, and since the latter two were policies enacted via amendment, that means only slavery--which the Founders avoided mentioning by name--was an “originalist” policy. That should be cautionary tale enough. Look, the Founders were brilliant, but imperfect, but the part they were near-perfectly brilliant about was not constitutionalizing policies, which is what they designated the elected and appointed branches of government to handle.

Fourth, the federal court system is--brace yourself now--constitutional. The quote from Mr. London implies that a matter decided in some way by courts must be either unconstitutional, or at least inferior or suspect. Come again? Given the four previous points, the business of the courts is to clarify and fill in constitutional gaps, especially on matters where the Constitution is silent or ambiguous. We don’t need the Supreme Court to clarify whether one needs to be 35 years old to be elected president, but we do need it to decide whether torture is constitutional. The sad consequence of the decades-long campaign to systematically denigrate “liberal activist” judges—even though there are “conservative activists” aplenty on the federal bench—has been to delegitimize the court system and judges generally, as if they are impostors who have visited themselves upon our democracy by force and without invitation. So, even if the original or amended Constitution did, in fact, prescribe or proscribe a whole list of policies, that still doesn’t mean federal courts can’t insert themselves. Last time I checked, the federal court system was provided for by the Constitution's Article III; ignoring the courts is ignoring the Constitution.

Fifth, if you want to be a strict constructionist, fine, but be one even when it’s inconvenient. Imagine if the Second Amendment read as follows: “A woman’s ability to survive childbearing being necessary to a free state, the right to abort a fetus shall not be infringed.” Now, do you think the anti-choice movement would simply ignore the leading clause and resign themselves to the idea that a woman has an unconditional right to abortion? Not a chance, and they'd be right to fight because the language clearly implies a conditional right. And yet we almost never hear gun rights advocates mention the actual Second Amendment’s leading clause, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….,” which at least suggests a collective right—indeed, obligation—to an armed defense of the state, rather than an individual’s right to use arms to protect himself and his property. For the record, I support gun rights with some restrictions, but that’s besides my point, which is that you can’t be so selective in citing the language in the Constitution that you chop off inconveniently ambiguous parts of the same sentence upon which you base a categorical claim.

Well, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list of the sort of rhetorical chicanery currently used by proponents of this or opponents of that. I love the Constitution and believe in it. But my ears tend to perk up the moment somebody reaches for the Constitution and the Founders to justify an argument--especially when they do so fallaciously and without an understanding of the historical meaning of the document.

UPDATE: I obviously couldn't know at the time that the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus would be writing today about the supposed controversy over the constitutionality of health care reform and mandates, but sure enough, she has a nice takedown here. (Thanks and a hat-tip to 538 reader Mike in Maryland.)

Constitutional Chicanery

Great read from Tom Schaller at 538.com:

Constitutional Chicanery

Treasonous: Dick Cheney

Via Countdown

Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson discusses how former Vice President Dick Cheney's blunt opposition to President Barack Obama's foreign policy influences the American public's feelings about the new troop deployment plan



Via Atlantic: James Fallows

The former vice president, Dick Cheney, has brought dishonor to himself, his office, and his country. I am not aware of another former President or Vice President behaving as despicably as Cheney has done in the ten months since leaving power, most recently but not exclusively with his comments to Politico about Obama's decisions on Afghanistan. (Aaron Burr might win the title, for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but Burr was a sitting Vice President at the time.) Cheney has acted as if utterly unconcerned with the welfare of his country, its armed forces, or the people now trying to make difficult decisions. He has put narrow score-settling interest far, far above national interest.

A Major Defection in the Conservative Blogosphere

Via Salon: War Room

Charles Johnson, founder of Little Green Footballs, announces a final break

For much of this decade, Charles Johnson was one of the right's leading bloggers. His blog, Little Green Footballs, was famous for its focus on Islamic terrorism, but also for the role it played in "Rathergate" and in exposing various faked photography.

Lately, though, Johnson has been trending back to the left, where he was before the attacks of 9/11. He's been picking fights with some people on the right, arguing with old friends over bloggers like Robert Stacy McCain, a former Washington Times editor who he believes is a racist.

On Monday, Johnson made the split official, with a post headlined, "Why I Parted Ways With The Right." In it, he gave a list of reasons for the break, including:

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.) ....

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.) ....

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

Johnson concluded the post saying, "The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff. I won’t be going over the cliff with them."

At this point, his former comrades in the conservative blogosphere aren't likely to be shedding any tears over his loss. But Johnson was once one of the biggest figures among them.

Andrew Sullivan Finds His Own Purity Test

Via DailyDish

Leaving the Right

It's an odd formulation in some ways as "the right" is not really a single entity. But in so far as it means the dominant mode of discourse among the institutions and blogs and magazines and newspapers and journals that support the GOP, Charles Johnson is absolutely right in my view to get off that wagon for the reasons he has stated. Read his testament. It is full of emotion, but also of honesty.

The relationship of a writer to a party or movement is, of course, open to discussion. I understand the point that Jonah Goldberg makes that politics is not about pure intellectual individualism; it requires understanding power, its organization and the actual choices that real politics demands. You can hold certain principles inviolate and yet also be prepared to back politicians or administrations that violate them because it's better than the actual alternatives at hand. I also understand the emotional need to have a EdmundBurke1771 default party position, other things being equal. But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so - against the conservative degeneracy in front of us. Those who have taken such a stand - to one degree or other - demand respect. And this blog, while maintaining its resistance to cliquishness, has been glad to link to writers as varied as Bruce Bartlett or David Frum or David Brooks or Steve Chapman or Kathleen Parker or Conor Friedersdorf or Jim Manzi or Jeffrey Hart or Daniel Larison who have broken ranks in some way or other.

I can't claim the same courage as these folks because I've always been fickle in partisan terms. To have supported Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Dole and Bush and Kerry and Obama suggests I never had a party to quit. I think that may be because I wasn't born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British - I'm a loyal Tory. But my attachment to the Anglo-American conservative political tradition, as I understand it, is real and deep and the result of sincere reflection on the world as I see it. And I want that tradition to survive because I believe it is a vital complement to liberalism in sustaining the genius and wonder of the modern West.

For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name "conservative" in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). My reasons were not dissimilar to Charles Johnson, who, like me, was horrified by 9/11, loathes Jihadism, and wants to defeat it as effectively as possible. And his little manifesto prompts me to write my own (the full version is in "The Conservative Soul"). Here goes:

I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.

I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt.

Oakeshott I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.

I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.

I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.

I cannot support a movement that sees permanent war as compatible with liberal democratic norms and limited government.

I cannot support a movement that criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs.

I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.

I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.

I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.

I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.

I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.

I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.

Does this make me a "radical leftist" as Michelle Malkin would say? Emphatically not. But it sure disqualifies me from the current American right.

To paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave the conservative movement. It left me.

And increasingly, I'm not alone.