The True Agenda of The Left–Not

Andrew Sullivan is critical of the advocacy by Crooked Timber of “the government policing speech to protect minorities.” I totally agree with Sullivan there. Where I differ from him is where he says, “At last they’re honest about the true agenda of the left.”

This isn’t my agenda, and I bet it is not the agenda of a lot of others on the left. This raises the question of whether we what it means to be on the left or right. In recent years my views have been identified more as on the left due to taking positions such as opposing the war, supporting separation of church and state, supporting abortion rights, supporting stem cell research, supporting legalization of same sex marriage, and opposing the authoritarianism of current Republicans. I also am a strong supporter of the free market system and object to George Bush’s fiscal responsibility, which is true of many others currently labeled as on the left.

Sullivan demonstrates the problem with our division based upon left versus right when he states, “Those newish readers who now think I’m some sort of lefty because of my opposition to Bush’s incompetence, fiscal recklessness, and authoritarianism might realize upon reading it that I’m still a proud conservative, fighting a for a tradition today’s Republicans, more than anyone else, have attacked and defiled.” While there are areas where I’ve disagreed with him that aren’t apparent from this brief comment, based upon this short summary our views seem to be too close for one of us to be on the left and one on the right.

The answer to this isn’t to try to figure out whether Sullivan is really on the left or I’m really on the right but to realize the limitations of the terminology. There are many on the left who I disagree with more than some on the right. It certainly is not legitimate to quote one leftist blog as Sullivan did on this post and claim it to be evidence of an anti-freedom agenda on the left.  Both the left and the right include too much variation in views for this to be a valid argument.

Liberaltarians and Wall Street Versus Main Street

Brink Lindsay has a post at Cato-at-Liberty which makes a lot more sense if only certain sections are read. To start with the best part:

Last year, in a piece called “Liberaltarians,” I wrote that conservatism’s crackup had created the possibility that libertarian-leaning “economically conservative, socially liberal” types might shift their loyalties to the Democratic Party. I was urging liberals to meet them halfway, and that certainly hasn’t happened yet. But maybe it doesn’t matter.

After all, if small-government voters come to think of themselves as Democrats because of social and foreign policy issues, sooner or later they’ll try to make their influence felt on economic matters as well. Will they be able to make a discernible impact on the Democratic Party’s longstanding love affair with Big Government? Who knows, but the very idea is giving Harold Meyerson heartburn — and, surely, that’s an encouraging sign.

Whether I continue to vote Democratic depends upon a couple of factors. One is whether they really support liberal positions on social and civil liberties issues, or whether they compromise on these issues in hopes of attracting more conservative voters. The other, which Lindsay stresses, is whether Democratic economic policies will be acceptable to those of us who are “economically conservative, socially liberal.” If the Democrats should nominate someone like Edwards who is conservative on social and civil liberties issues and populist on economic issues, I would have no use for the Democratic Party.

Where I disagree with Brinkley is on the issue of Wall Street versus Main Street. The reason the Republicans have nothing to offer is not only that they are conservative on social and civil liberties issues, but that in recent years their economic conservativism has been a different type than I’m interested in. As Harold Myerson notes there is a difference between Wall Street and Main Street. While I don’t share the knee jerk hatred of Wall Street which some on the left have, my concern is for small businessmen on Main Street who are hindered by big government and not for continuing Republican policies of using government to shift more wealth to the rich.

Many of us who are socially liberal and economically conservative may have some reservations about some Democrats, but that does not mean we desire the corporate welfare policies of the Republicans. As Myerson asks, “Why does America need two parties that represent Wall Street?”

Dogs Help Debunk Creationism

Evolution is a fundamental principle upon which modern biology is based. The increase in anti-scientific claims by the religious right denying evolution and promoting creationism has led one research team to point out how their work (as is true of much of the research done in biology) is dependent upon evolutionary principles and helps debunk creationism:

The St Bernard breed of dogs has disproved the theory of creationism, a UK-based team of researchers has said.

Biologists from the University of Manchester say that changes to the skull shape of St Bernards over the last 120 years “can only be explained” via evolution and natural selection.

The research team analysed arrived at their findings by examining 47 St Bernard skulls donated to the National History Museum in Berne by Swiss breeders.

They claim that modern dogs have much broader skulls and more pronounced ridges, while a steeper angle is evident between their nose and foreheads.

“We discovered that features stipulated in the breed standard of the St Bernard became more exaggerated over time as breeders selected dogs that had the desired physical attributes,” commented lead researcher Dr Chris Klingenberg.

“In effect they have applied selection to move the evolutionary process a considerable way forward, providing a unique opportunity to observe sustained evolutionary change under known selective pressures.”

Dr Klingenberg explained that the features highlighted by biologists were “exactly” the features regarded as desirable by breeders.

“They are clearly not due to other factors such as general growth and they provide the animal with no physical advantage, so we can be confident that they have evolved purely through the selective considerations of breeders,” he writes in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

“Creationism is the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by ‘intelligent design’ and rejects the scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.

“But this research once again demonstrates how selection – whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man – is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet.”

Posted in Evolution. Tags: , . 3 Comments »

First Amendment Defenders Debunk Limbaugh Claims

Despite conservative denial of separation of church and state, the intent is clear in the secular nature of the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, in writings by the founding fathers, and in multiple court decisions. First Freedom First debunks recent claims by Rush Limbaugh regarding correspondence from Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court decisions which cited this. After reporting on Limbaugh’s claims, they respond:

In the first place, Jefferson sent his letter to the Baptists to thank them for their support of him and his stance on behalf of religious liberty. He also intended to assure them that he shared their hope that religious liberty would spread throughout the land. In Connecticut, Baptists were still second-class citizens.

After thanking the Baptists for their “affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation,” Jefferson wrote, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

“Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience,” Jefferson continued, “I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

In other words, Jefferson said the American people through the First Amendment have built a wall of separation between church and state, and he hoped that concept would progress throughout the country.

Limbaugh is wrong that the exchange of letters between Jefferson and the Baptists was focused on prayer proclamations. Jefferson did consider commenting on why he didn’t believe in presidentially issued days of prayer, but decided not to.

Limbaugh is also quite wrong that “nothing could be done” to the Baptist dissenters in Connecticut. At that time, the federal constitution’s church-state provisions did not extend to the states. The government of Connecticut could, and did, favor Congregationalists over Baptists. That’s why the Baptists wrote to praise Jefferson and point to their plight.

“Sir,” they wrote, “we are sensible that the President of the united States is not the national Legislator & also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the Laws of each State; but our hopes are strong that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and Tyranny be destroyed from the Earth.”

Limbaugh’s Supreme Court account is wrong too. Jefferson’s letter was first mentioned in high court jurisprudence, not in 1947, but in 1879. In their Reynolds v. U.S. decision, the justices unanimously held that the letter reflects the intent of the First Amendment.

“Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure,” the court held, “it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured.”

The justices referred to the letter again in their 1947 Everson –not Emerson — decision. And the court unanimously affirmed a high wall of separation between religion and government.

“In the words of Jefferson,” Justice Hugo Black wrote, “the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State’…. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.”

Far from misconstruing Jefferson’s viewpoint, as Limbaugh claims, the Danbury letter exactly captures the Sage of Monticello’s church-state vision. It also reflects the views of James Madison and other far-sighted visionaries among the nation’s founders.

Conservative Finally Finds Problem in Medicare Advantage Plan

Michelle Malkin has a post critical of WellCare which she calls “a shady Medicare insurer…initially funded by far Left billionaire George Soros.” I don’t know the specifics about WellCare and she might be correct in her criticism. However, as I’ve noted in several previous posts, the problems with Medicare Advantage plans are widespread, involving multiple insurance companies. Many of them are now under investigation for fraudulent practices. This has become a serious problem due to George Bush’s Medicare D program which also provided large subsidies for Medicare Advantage programs.

I’ve criticized the entire program in multiple previous posts as being a case of corporate welfare to benefit Bush’s major contributors in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries while using government money ineffectively to benefit Medicare patients. This is true regardless of which individuals might be involved in the company. Interesting that she points out this specific plan due to alleged ties to George Soros. It is also interesting that many Bush-apologists often criticize government programs in general but ignore this flagrant case of using a government program as payback to contributors.

Update I: Steve Benen provides further information, noting that while Soros had sold off his holdings in the company long ago the current executives of the company have had a clear Republican bias.

Update II:  As is noted in the track back in the comments, Health Care BS has linked to this post. As I’ve also found in other dealings with that blog. Health Care BS is an unintentionally accurate description of this dishonest and clueless blogger. As he has done in the past, a segment of the post is taken out of context and he outright lies to attempt to make a point.

He compares my criticism of Bush’s Medicare plan to the conspiracy theories of the “twofers” ignoring both my frequent criticism of such conspiracy theories and my actual criticisms of the plan. He lies when he claims, “According to Liberal Values, this means Wellcare is on the payroll.” No such claim is ever made. My criticism is based upon facts supported in the linked posts and hardly constitutes a conspiracy theory. The actual facts:

  1. The pharmaceutical and insurance companies have been major contributors to George Bush. It is hardly being a conspiracy theorist to suggest that this might have influenced policy, and it is quite naive to ignore this possibility.
  2. The pharmaceutical companies benefit greatly from aspects of Bush’s plan. The plan prohibits Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices. This is especially beneficial to the pharmaceutical companies as many of the beneficiaries are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. Their prescriptions were previously paid by Medicaid at reduced prices, and are now paid by Medicare at full price.
  3. Insurance companies, such as WellCare (which has also been a contributor to the Republicans) benefit due to the large subsidies for treating Medicare patients above what it costs to cover such patients in the Medicare program. Previous posts here have documented how much of this money is being used to increase profits as opposed to providing increased benefits to patients.

He is also dishonest in the implication that I’m only concerned with “conspiracy theories” about Bush while implying that charges against Soros are being ignored. My post actually says Malkin “might be correct in her criticism.” This is a legal matter and we will see who is prosecuted and convicted. If Soros is found guilty I have no interest in defending him, while HealthCare BS sure has a stake in ignoring any Republican involvement and attacking a liberal like Soros. At present conservative blogs are concentrating on attacks on Soros , whose involvement appears much less significant compared to that of Republicans, but ultimately this is something to be decided by the criminal justice system.

Once again, Health Care BS is run by a partisan political hack and liar who has nothing meaningful to say about health care policy.

Some Former Clinton Aides Backing Obama over Hillary

Last week I noted how many of the new Democratic voters brought into the party by Bill Clinton are supporting Barack Obama as opposed to Hillary Clinton. Today The Boston Globe reports that many ex-Clinton aides are supporting Obama despite the Clinton history of bypassing those who backed opponents for government positions.

In interviews this week, half a dozen Obama supporters with Clinton roots said they see the 46-year-old, first-term Illinois senator as the face of the future and the best hope for the party. While they don’t directly criticize Clinton, they said that another Clinton presidency would not represent enough of a change in American politics or its image in the world. Some also said she is too divisive to beat the Republican nominee or to govern effectively.

“One of the chief things that would energize a very dispirited Republican Party is Hillary Clinton on the ticket,” said Eric Holder, who was second-in-command at the Justice Department in the late 1990s and who likens Obama to John F. Kennedy.

Holder said Clinton’s high negative ratings are a result of Republican attacks, not her own doing. “I say this with sadness, but it is nevertheless a reality,” he said. “My feelings of loyalty are outweighed by my concern about the world my kids are going to live in.”

Most of those who served during her husband’s two terms are supporting Clinton, her campaign says. They include former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright – who is stumping for Clinton in New Hampshire today – former chiefs of staff John Podesta and Erskine Bowles, former secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt, former secretary of energy Hazel O’Leary and economic adviser Gene Sperling.

Members of Clinton’s own White House staff, who have long called themselves “Hillaryland,” are also famously devoted to her. They include her campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, policy director Neera Tanden, and top advisers Ann Lewis and Maggie Williams.

“Senator Clinton is honored by the tremendous support she’s received from hundreds of former Clinton administration officials and employees she has known for decades,” campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said yesterday.

A few Clinton alumni have joined other Democratic campaigns, including Miles Lackey, a former National Security Council member advising John Edwards, and Doug Sosnik, a top Clinton aide who is advising Chris Dodd. Both Lackey and Sosnik have longstanding ties to the candidates they are supporting.

But some of the former Clinton administration officials, including Peña, Danzig, and Myers, didn’t know Obama before they considered joining his campaign. Rather, they were inspired by his appeal to optimism and call for less division in politics. Several people said they were deeply moved by his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” and his celebrated speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

Some also cited his youth as a plus, saying it is time for a new generation to take power. At 46, he is the youngest major party presidential candidate. Clinton turns 60 tomorrow.

“He’s a thoughtful, youthful new voice with a new vision for finding common ground, rather than finding a reason for conflict and difference,” said Greg Craig, who defended Bill Clinton against impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and now advises Obama on foreign policy. “I think he represents the future and everybody else in this election is more of same of the past.”

Joe Klein on Immigration

Immigration just has never been as big an issue to me as it apparently is to many others this year. Living in Michigan, we’ve just never had a problem with Canadians illegally sneaking over the border and, as far as I’m concerned, if they were to start taking boats across the Detroit River I’m not too worried about kicking them out. I’ve never taken that close a look on the impact of immigrants in other parts of the country so I may be wrong, but I tend to feel as Joe Klein does on this, even if not as extremist or as wildly in favor:

I tend to be an extremist on this issue. I am wildly in favor of immigration, legal and illegal. I realize that national security–i.e. terrorism–requires that we secure the borders, and that’s a good thing, if almost impossible. But as a New Yorker, I’m deeply grateful to the immigrants, many of them illegal, who saved the city by bringing commerce (and sales tax revenues) to some of the toughest neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve found that any Haitian willing to get in a rickety boat and risk all to get here is going to be an aggressive, entrepreneurial hard-working American when he or she arrives. In an unscientific sample, I’ve also found that 98.9% of all Latinos who cross our southern border looking for work are just fabulous, hardworking people.

I find the tendency of some of the Republicans running for President to play to our very worst instincts–and I mean racism, in this case–is just nauseating. A few months ago, I asked Mitt Romney if he thought illegal immigration was a net economic plus or minus. He said…he wasn’t sure (but, of course, he knows that it’s a net plus).