Friday, February 6, 2009

A critique of Obama's critics

Originally I had intended to write a critique of Barack Obama, (which I still have every intention of doing, because frankly it needs to be done,) but before I can do that, I feel as though I need to take a look at some of the idiotic right wing talking points that you can't seem to escape in these glorious days of CHANGE. If you listened to the right wing blowhards on Fox News and AM talk radio, you'd think the Americans had elected Joseph Stalin sometimes. He's going to let terrorists run loose and they'll kill us all! He's going to abolish capitalism and throw is all in gulags! Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?!

First, he signed an executive order to shut down that luxury terrorist resort at Guantanamo Bay. HOLY SHIT! The terrorists will be walking among us, maybe even picking up your sister at the local dive bar and slipping Muslim conversion pills into her drink. WE ARE FUCKED. That's right, not just the United States is fucked, WE ARE ALL FUCKED.

Except not really.

The big talking point right now, most recently spewed from beak of the now former Vice President Dick "The Penguin" Cheney, is that 61 of the people released from Guantanamo by the Bush administration have "back into the business of being terrorists." There are a couple of ways to look at this. The first thing to keep in mind is that these people, like most of the detainees at Guantanamo, were never charged with anything. Years in custody, and never charged with anything. The evidence against them was scant at best. It stands to reason, then, that some of these people might not actually have been terrorists. We don't know, and anyone saying they were has no way to prove it. So if they are terrorists now, we should probably ask "Why?" Well, when you lock someone up with no real legitimate proof that they should be locked up in the first place, then you just hold them and don't bother to really do anything (you know, like put them on trial) except maybe torture a couple of them once in a while, you're probably going to piss some people off. Shocking, right? On the other hand, assuming they actually were terrorists to begin with, and they're released, "Who's responsible?" the caped crusader's nemesis inquires? (Psst, Dick...that would be you and your former boss.)

But then when you look at it from another angle, the whole "61 terrorists" claim is...what do you call--BULLSHIT. At least according to the Seton Hall Law School's research on Guantanamo detainees. In fact, when the author of the research was on The Rachel Maddow Show, he said "Their numbers have changed from 20 to 12 to seven to more than five to two to a couple to a few--25, 29, 12 to 24. Every time, the number has been different. In fact, every time they give a number, they don't identify a date, a place, a time, a name or an incident to support their claim." In addition to that, Media Matters noted that "according to the Pentagon, the 61-detainee figure includes 43 former prisoners who are suspected of, but have not been confirmed as, having 'return[ed] to the fight.'"

Quoth the great Stephen Colbert, reality has a well-known liberal bias. Incidentally, bullshit seems to have somewhat of a conservative bias. Weird.

The other idiotic right wing talking point that has carried over from the presidential campaigns and seems to be amplifying is "ZOMG! OBAMA IS A SOCIALIST!!1!"

John McCain was saying it, Sarah Palin was saying it, Joe Lieberman was saying it, Joe the Plumber was saying it. Of course, my first reaction to all this was "I wish!" The problem here though, as I mentioned in my first post on this blog, is that these people have no idea what socialism is. I saw a clip on YouTube of Glenn "The Stupidest Person on Television" Beck talking about the "road to socialism!"

(How the hell does this guy even have his own show? Seriously. And a fanbase? Does the American public really like reactionary bullshit that much? But I digress.)

Let me set the record straight on this one: Barack Obama is not a socialist. Sorry Glenn, NOT A SOCIALIST. Nor is the United States anywhere remotely close to becoming a socialist country. "The government is moving to nationalize banks" Beck shudders. He laments the "move toward universal healthcare" and the employee free choice act, and postulates that this parallels, I shit you not, the rise of socialist fascist states. Yeah, you heard me, socialist fascist states. Would someone please buy this dipshit an Intro to Political Theory textbook?

Obama has called for a $500,000 salary cap on executives of companies that have used funds from the bailout. I personally opposed the bailout for a few reasons, but if you're going to socialize the risk and failure that have skullfucked the American (and world) economies, let's have these guys make some concessions. Why? Because if the taxpayers are paying for this stuff, theoretically, the taxpayers should have a say in how this stuff is run. If the taxpayers aren't getting any kind of actual return for their investment, why should the executives who are in part responsible for this situation in the first place be allowed to reap the benefits. $500,000 is still TEN TIMES your average middle class income. Clearly, this is the end of capitalism as we know it.

Now, I think Beck's healthcare comment speaks for itself. It's hilarious (and by hilarious I mean really sad) how terrified conservatives seem to be of the idea that the government might somehow be involved in it. Clearly their current private, for-profit system is working wonderfully. No one has any problem getting the help they need because the market loves you. Costs are so much lower than in countries with universal health care because the market loves you. Insurance companies aren't fucking people over constantly because the market loves you. Yay capitalism! He whines about it considering children to be "Up to 30."

The union card check comment might need a little explanation. He's talking about the Employee Free Choice act, which basically gets rid of the secret ballot when voting to unionize a workplace and things of the sort in favour of a card check for each employee. The purpose of this is to provide transparency that would prevent companies from tampering with union votes. That is the basic premise. A little simplified, but you get the idea. Ironically, as much as I support unions, they are one of the key factors in preventing a more widespread support of socialism. If unions can get workers a better deal, socialism might not be quite so necessary in the eyes of the workers. The same thing goes for government social programs, in fact. The New Deal was more or less a compromise to shut down widespread socialist sentiment resulting from the Great Depression. Nevertheless, unions are evil and so is government spending (read: the stimulus bill) because these neo-McCarthyist morons insist that the market is the only true solution to any of our problems.

The absolute best part of that Glenn Beck clip however, is this part that comes near the end: Without even a hint of irony, Beck proclaims, "Our very country is at stake when people use emergencies to quickly shove programs down our throats without any discussion. But why would I expect otherwise? After all, isn't global warming--they all say 'Oh the discussion is over, you flat-earther, you Holocaust denier.'"

Okay, two levels of genius to this one. The global warming comment is pretty hilarious because frankly, he's a moron. The discussion IS more or less over and there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that not only is global warming real, but yes, it is our (humanity's) fault. Accept it. That's a discussion for another post, however.

My favourite part of of the comment is how he decries the use of emergencies to cram programs down our throats. Ironically, he's actually right about that one in a certain context. Emergencies HAVE been used to crap all kinds of incredibly unpopular policies down the throats of a population. He is absolutely right. It was done in Chile in 1973 when the United States backed a coup to overthrow Salvador Allende and prop up the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, one of the worst socialis--oh wait...Pinochet was put in place to enforce strict free market capitalist rule. Then there was Argentina, Russia, China, Iraq, the United States after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. This has been the modus operandi for neoliberalism for a long, long time. (Praise Milton Friedman!) In addition to that Intro to Political Theory book, can someone also get Beck a copy of this?

"When did socialism become a happy thing for us?" Beck squeals. In the first post I made on this blog, I referenced Howard Zinn's conceptions of anarchism and socialism, and I want to go back to that:
I see socialism, which is another term that I would accept comfortably, as meaning not the police state of the Soviet Union. After all, the word socialism has been commandeered by too many people who, in my opinion, are not socialists but totalitarians. To me, socialism means a society that is egalitarian and in which the economy is geared to human needs instead of business profits.
(Source: Z Magazine)

The military has free insurance. I was once in the military. I got pneumonia, which is easier to get in the military. I got pneumonia. I didn’t have to fool around with deciding what health plan I’m in and what—you know. No, I was totally taken care of. I didn’t have to think about money. Just—you know, there are a million members of the armed forces who have that. But when you ask that the government do this for everybody else, they cry, 'That’s socialism!' Well, if that’s socialism, it must mean socialism is good."
(Source: Democracy Now!)
So no, Barack Obama isn't destroying the national security that was created by Bush and Cheney, and no, Barack Obama is not leading the United States down a road to socialism. If he actually WAS a socialist, that, despite the shrill objections of Glenn Beck and every other asinine right wing blowhard who has a microphone or camera in front of them, that would not be a bad thing.

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