Differing Views of Freedom on The Left and Right

Liberals have one thing in common with tea baggers and other people on the right. We all talk about supporting liberty. What differs is what we mean by freedom. While liberals fight to restrict infringements upon liberty by the government many on the right are unable to distinguish between legitimate functions of government and infringements upon civil liberties. Conor Friedersdorf points out some examples, discussing with a case in which the Bush administration allegedly covered up the 2006 murders of three Guantanamo Bay detainees:

Beyond the fact that laws were broken and lives extinguished, the Gitmo Three may provide additional proof that the United States perpetrated extreme abuses of power in recent memory—a painful fact that we must acknowledge if we’re to prevent its recurrence.

And yet conservatives are so far content to ignore the story.

If I may address the skeptics on the right directly, it is penny wise and pound foolish to worry about creeping tyranny via government-run health care or gun control when we’re another terrorist attack away from popular support for an archipelago of secret prisons where anyone can be whisked away and tortured without any evidence against them. Look to Europe if you doubt whether government-run health care or black sites run by secret police are a more immediate threat to the liberty of innocents.

Do you think that I exaggerate?

Know that one of the Gitmo Three was arrested at age 17, held for some years without being charged, and scheduled for release at the time of his death due to the military’s conclusion that no evidence linked him to al Qaeda or the Taliban. We may never know exactly how he and his fellow detainees died: A conclusive, independent autopsy is impossible because their bodies were returned to their families with their throats missing.

Many (but fortunately not all) conservatives overlook such abuses, along with other infringements upon civil liberties which they see as part of the “war on terror.” They ignore such abuses while they distort measures to reform abuses by the insurance industry and provide private health insurance to those who cannot now obtain it as a government take over of health care. They speak of imaginary conspiracies to take away their guns and bibles while ignoring the infringements upon civil liberties which are actually occurring.

When Megan McArdle discussed this case she even felt it necessary to respond to the inevitable complaints of a “liberal sellout” which she anticipated from her conservative readers:

My conservative readers are no doubt winding up to tell me I’m a liberal sellout.  But I don’t think it’s particularly bleeding heart to think that we shouldn’t have to fake suicides to cover up for abusing prisoners.  In fact, I think that’s the stance of a hard core believer in law and order.

Supreme Court Blocks Campaign Finance Reform

The Supreme Court has thrown out limitations on political spending by business and unions:

A bitterly divided Supreme Court vastly increased the power of big business and unions to influence government decisions Thursday by freeing them to spend their millions directly to sway elections for president and Congress.

The ruling reversed a century-long trend to limit the political muscle of corporations, organized labor and their massive war chests. It also recast the political landscape just as crucial midterm election campaigns are getting under way.

In its sweeping 5-4 ruling, the court set the stage for a wave of likely repercussions — from new pressures on lawmakers to heed special interest demands to increasingly boisterous campaigns featuring highly charged ads that drown out candidate voices.

The White House has issued this statement:

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

Can we expect to see conservatives protest this decision by an activist court which went against years of legal precedent?

Amy Fisher Stripping For Haiti And Heating Up Google

Occasionally I first find that a person has made the news because of search engine hits. After my first post on Carrie Prejean I often first found that there was a new development on her story by a surge in hits for her name. Today I suspected something must be going on as there were suddenly lots of hits on this post with a picture of Amy Fischer.

A quick Google search provided the reason:

Amy Fisher, famous for her disastrous affair with Joey Buttafuoco, is baring all for the people of Haiti.

Fisher will be stripping at Scene Restaurant & Lounge in Commack, LI today through Saturday, and will donate a portion of her wages to charity.

The former “Long Island Lolita” launched a porn site last year and has been touring the country as a stripper.

This should give Letterman a few new jokes this week. My remaining question is why so many people are going to the picture on my old post on her. A Google image search results in many nude pictures of her which I would think most guys would rather see than the one I posted.

Andrew Sullivan Argues That We Still Can

Andrew Sullivan responded to a letter from a reader who feels the frustration many of us feel regarding how a small number of Senators can block reform. The reader argues that Obama cannot change the system and he says he is done. Sullivan  begs him not to give up:

We supported Obama precisely because he was trying to combat this system, to attempt governance that was not hostage to news-cycle Rovian politics. And this he has tried to do, operating within a system that is the one we have, in a climate that the last four decades has created. He has achieved, despite the carping on the left and rage on the right, many good things. Health insurance reform is one of the toughest. And the more I have studied this subject, the more sensible the Senate bill actually appears – given the exigencies of the system and the economic distress of the moment.

I don’t think ramming the Senate bill through the House and trying to get through reconciliation will work. I do think Obama has a golden opportunity at his SOTU to do what he did last September, and patiently explain why some reform is necessary, that he is open to constructive criticism, but that he was elected to get difficult things done. What he needs to do politically is expose the vacuity of the opposition, by hanging back a little and letting their politics of no and never sink in. If he can credibly explain how he will bring the budget back to balance, and how healthcare reform is actually partly a means to do this, he can regain the initiative.

This is the GOP’s high water-mark. They have abdicated any responsibility to tackle the problems we all acknowledge, while indulging in extremist rhetoric. They live for the spin and the rage. So this is the moment they have been waiting for. Most Americans don’t think this way. They are legitimately worried that health reform is too costly right now. They’re wrong if we find the will in the coming years to ensure that the Medicare cuts are real and the cost controls are followed up. And we need to do our part in persuading them.

This is not over. In some ways, it is only just beginning.

Which is why Obama needs us breathing down his neck, and galvanizing support for necessary reform – now, more than in the campaign. If we give up, we will be copying the hysteria and nihilism of the right. Do not give up. Focus. Argue. Mobilize.

Yes. We. Can.

Sullivan is right that Obama must sell the country on any plan before it is passed. Obama might not be able to succeed but this is what he needs to try to do. We cannot expect any good results if we try to ram through a bill which is both flawed and unpopular as many liberals are demanding. This no longer even appears to be an option with Nancy Pelosi stating she does not have the votes to pass the Senate plan.

Obama should have stuck to his initial instincts from the start and stayed away from any plan with mandates. There are plenty of other ways around the free rider problem. If we are to get past the right wing noise machine which blocks legislation by distorting it, health reform needs to be sold in smaller bits and pieces which people can understand. It is okay if we do not get everything at once if we are making progress, but a mandate makes partial reform which forces everyone to purchase private insurance with no guarantee of affordability unpalatable to far too many voters.

Paul Krugman Returns To Obama-Bashing

Is the Barack Obama who exists in the real world even the same person who Paul Krugman sees in his head? Krugman, a long time Obama-hater who frequently copied the tactics of the right in his smears against Obama during the primary campaign, tries to make news by announcing he doesn’t like Obama.That is sort of like Lex Luthor putting out a post saying he doesn’t like Superman.

Krugman’s latest shock regarding Obama comes from this statement in an interview with George Stephanopoulos

I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment because if we don’t, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill. Now I think there’s some things in there that people don’t like and legitimately don’t like.

Obama repeats his support for insurance reform and cost containment yet Krugman mischaracterizes this as “Run away, run away”!

There are lots of things in the Senate bill that people don’t like, and I’m not talking about the tea baggers who oppose it without any understanding of what the bill contains.  House liberals do not want to pass the Senate bill. Labor opposes passage of the Senate bill.

The White House is making it clear they are not running away from health care reform. For example, this statement is on the White House Blog:

On Next Steps for Health Reform

Right now there are a lot of discussions going on about the best path forward. But let’s be clear that the President’s preference is to pass a bill that meets the principles he laid out months ago: more stability and security for those who have insurance, affordable coverage options for those who don’t, and lower costs for families, businesses, and governments.

Tuesday’s results in Massachusetts do provide reason to repackage health care reform and to show that Obama understands there are aspects of the bill which people do not like. What is also notable is that polls show that as many people oppose the current legislation because it does not go far enough as oppose it because of believing it goes too far. Many people who oppose the plan do so based upon major misconceptions as to what it contains. It just might not be a bad idea to try to get Americans behind health care reform by revising the bill and explaining it better to the American people as opposed to trying to ram it down their throats and pretend everyone will love the bill in November (before they can actually see the benefits).