When Conservative Memes Clash

A major conservative meme is that the Democrats are a far left political party. Another conservative meme is that liberal bloggers are a bunch of far left kooks who sit at their computers. Suddenly these memes have clashed in the eyes of conservative pundits who believe that both the Democratic Party and Daily Kos are much further to the left than they actually are. Recent stories show Kos taking on Harold Ford and the DLC. If they declare Kos the winner of this match, then they are recognizing power in the netroots.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel decided to call it a loss for Kos, but this means left no choice but to write that moderates have influence in the Democratic Party. I thought these quotes might come in handy the next time The Wall Street Journal writes about the far left Democratic Party:

It was moderate Democrats who won their party the majority last year (the New Democrats now boast 60 members; 13 new additions), and Mr. Cuellar claims few people understand that better than Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I’ve seen her behind the scenes, and I’ve always thought she was liberal, but she’s done a good job of trying to bring us more to the middle.”

For proof, Mr. Cuellar suggests a look at “all the passes” the leadership has given red-state Dems on tough votes like Iraq, missile defense and immigration. This is an obvious recognition by the top ranks of the party that getting moderates re-elected is the only way to stay in power. They know that “if we go the way these Internet groups want us to go, we’ll be the shortest-lived majority in congressional history,” he says.

I’m sure readers will find the flaws in her analysis. I found it much more interesting to see the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal write about how moderate Nancy Pelosi is.

SciFi Friday: Dr. Who, Kristen Bell is Legally Blonde, And Traveling at Warp Speed

I’m afraid tonight might not be a good night for television watching. You might as well watch High School Musical 2 instead of the SciFi Channel tonight. This week’s episode of Doctor Who is 42, which I found to be one of the worst episodes since the series was revived. From my comments after it first aired on the BBC:

Doctor Who returned from a week off with 42, one of the weakest episodes of the revived series. If the story wasn’t bad enough on its own, it repeated many features of last season’s two parter, The Impossible Planet and The Satin Pit, but in a poorer manner. The only good features were that Martha got a key to the Tardis and a phone with the best roaming plan ever. There was also more foreshadowing of the season’s confrontation with Mr. Saxon (who I still predict will turn out to be The Master.)

Prior to the show we thought the title might be a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.Instead think of 42 as 24 backwards as the show takes place in a boring 42 minutes of real time. Fortunately things turn around quickly. The following two stories (one a two-parter) might be three of the best hours of Doctor Who of all time. After those episodes, the season ends with an excellent three part story (although the conclusion wasn’t totally satisfying). For those who want to keep the season permanently (and didn’t already download it when aired by the BBC) the DVD set will be out on November 6.
Flash Gordon is also on tonight. After seeing last week’s episode, I don’t plan to bother watching this week. There are many longer reviews available on line if anyone wants to waste their time.

Last Saturday featured the second episode of Masters of Science Fiction. It was entertaining, but had some of the flaws of the first episode. Yes, we know nuclear weapons are dangerous and we know to be dangerous of hard line presidents. I think they might do better to move on to other issues. A story about a simpler topic might actually be more effective in a one hour story.

The networks just don’t seem to get the fact that not many people watch television during the summer, especially if they have no idea a show they might be interested in is on. Last week I found, to my surprise, that The Nine was back on and a digital recorder programmed to record the series picked it up. At least it was on Wednesday as opposed to Saturday like Masters of Science Fiction. The Nine also aired the following week and now appears to have been pulled from the schedule. Most likely few watched as those who did enjoy the show didn’t know it was on. ABC now lists it as web only. They did change the manner in which shows are played on line and I was very impressed with the quality. They now make watching television on a computer screen like watching a show on a HD monitor.

The Bourne Ultimatum has more of a political message than the first two movies. Bill O’Reilly called it Un-American and I responded here.

Kristen Bell, formerly Veronica Mars, turned down a part as one of The Others on Lost, saying she did not want to move to Hawaii. Instead she will be starring in the Broadway adaptation of Legally Blonde.

This week’s science news sounds like a lot like science fiction. A pair of German physicists claim to have found a way to break the speed of light, perhaps some day giving us the warp drive. There are interesting consequences:

Being able to travel faster than the speed of light would lead to a wide variety of bizarre consequences.

For instance, an astronaut moving faster than it would theoretically arrive at a destination before leaving.

Traveling great distances and going back in time. Have they invented The Tardis?

Fans of The Matrix (the first movie, not those two awful sequels) might enjoy John Tierney’s column this week. Here’s a portion:

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.

There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.

The math and the logic are inexorable once you assume that lots of simulations are being run. But there are a couple of alternative hypotheses, as Dr. Bostrom points out. One is that civilization never attains the technology to run simulations (perhaps because it self-destructs before reaching that stage). The other hypothesis is that posthumans decide not to run the simulations.

Edwards Found To Have Strong Ties To Lenders Foreclosing on Katrina Victims

After several other stories raising questions of hypocrisy, The Wall Street Journal finds a contradiction between Edwards political speech on foreclosures and his ties to lenders. The present several quotes from Edwards on foreclosure:

“While Washington turns a blind eye, irresponsible lenders are pulling a fast one on hard-working homeowners,” Mr. Edwards said a few days later. … It’s time to put an end to the shameful lending practices that are compromising our strength as a nation.”
April 4, 2007, in Davenport, Iowa

“I said, ‘This is not okay that this is happening.’ I don’t know how many cases there are . . . but the right thing is to go back and fix this.”
May 11, 2007, to the Washington Post, explaining his reaction when he found out that Green Tree had foreclosed on Katrina victims

“In Cleveland this morning, I saw something that would absolutely break your heart. … In a one-block radius, 38 homes have been foreclosed. … What I saw first-hand this morning in Cleveland is a perfect example of why we have got to have a national predatory lending law.”
July 17, 2007, in Pittsburgh, on his Road to One America tour

The story begins with a review of Edwards’ ties to lenders foreclosing on Katrina victims.

As a presidential candidate, Democrat John Edwards has regularly attacked subprime lenders, particularly those that have filed foreclosure suits against victims of Hurricane Katrina. But as an investor, Mr. Edwards has ties to lenders foreclosing on Katrina victims.

The Wall Street Journal has identified 34 New Orleans homes whose owners have faced foreclosure suits from subprime-lending units of Fortress Investment Group LLC. Mr. Edwards has about $16 million invested in Fortress funds, according to a campaign aide who confirmed a more general Federal Election Commission report. Mr. Edwards worked for Fortress, a publicly held private-equity fund, from late 2005 through 2006…

On the campaign trail, Mr. Edwards has particularly attacked lenders behind foreclosures in storm-slammed Louisiana. In April, he visited the devastated Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood to voice one of his main antipoverty planks: a proposal to rein in subprime-mortgage companies whose “shameful lending practices,” he said, threaten millions of working-class homeowners. “While Washington turns a blind eye, irresponsible lenders are pulling a fast one on hard-working homeowners,” Mr. Edwards said a few days later.

At the time in late 2005 when Mr. Edwards went to work for Fortress, it already had a stake in one subprime lender that subsequently foreclosed on some Katrina victims, Green Tree Servicing LLC. While he was there, Fortress acquired a second, Nationstar Mortgage LLC. Fortress paid Mr. Edwards $479,512 in 2006 for part-time work, a Federal Election Commission report in May showed.

After leaving the firm, he kept about half of his net worth in Fortress funds. And Fortress employees have collectively made up the largest class of political contributors to Mr. Edwards. Workers there put up more than $150,000 toward his presidential run in the first six months of the year.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Edwards has been confronted with the possibility that Fortress-directed companies might be foreclosing on New Orleans homeowners. In May, the Washington Post said that shortly after Katrina hit, Green Tree sent a letter to a 67-year-old storm victim, admonishing her to get current on her mortgage or face losing her house. At the time, most mortgage companies doing business in the city had agreed to a house-payment holiday for storm victims.

“This is not okay that this is happening,” the Post quoted Mr. Edwards as saying. He added that he planned to speak to the lender about its practices.

Yesterday, Mr. Edwards said he did later speak to Fortress about Green Tree and was told the matter had been taken care of. At the time, Mr. Edwards said yesterday, he didn’t know how many foreclosures Green Tree might have filed in New Orleans. The Post didn’t ask him about Nationstar’s activities in New Orleans, and he said yesterday that he was unaware that that lender was also pursuing.

The Wall Street Journal also reported further on Edwards’ reactions, including a promise to remedy the situation, possibly at his own personal expense: (more…)

Huckabee and Social Conservativism

I was just thinking of the various choices being offered by the two major political parties (a process which can bring on a state of dispair) and began thinking about the liberal response to Mike Huckabee. While none of us would actually vote for him, there is a degree of respect for Huckabee which I, as well as other liberal bloggers, have shown for him which we do not show towards the major Republican candidates.

Part of this is because, from time to time, Huckabee makes sense, such as when criticizing school prayer. There is also more to it than just making sense from time to time. Perhaps the reason Huckabee doesn’t come off as a total kook is that these are his real ideas, as opposed to ideas being adopted to appeal to a voting block.

Republicans have long pandered to the religious right, but backed away after getting elected prior to Bush’s election. Even Ronald Reagan was a moderate compared to Bush if you look more at his record than his rhetoric.

Giuliani and Romney have adopted social conservative positions in contrast to their previously held positions knowing that it will be difficult to win without votes from the social conservatives. Rather than expressing their own views they present  views in the manner in which they believe will bring in the most votes.

In contrast, Huckabee is actually speaking about what he believes, and has thought out these views. He doesn’t feel a need to pander to the religious right. If after considering school prayer he sees no need for prayer in school, and perhaps even understands the other side of the issue, he has no qualms about expressing this.

“Mr. Conservative” Became a Liberal Compared to Today’s Conservatives

In several previous posts, including at the time of the release of the documentary Mr. Conservative, I’ve noted the irony that the modern conservative movement has moved so far to the right that Barry Goldwater ultimately considered himself a liberal. As Barry Goldwater was mentioned in a recent post, and the conversion of the conservative movement to an authoritarian mind set became a major topic in the comments, I noted with interest that another blogger was discussing Goldwater. Jim Lippard viewed Mr. Conservative and had some observations similar to those in my previous posts on Goldwater:

In his later life, he was outspoken in his support for a woman’s right to abortion, for gays to serve in the military, and for the religious right to stop pushing their religious views into politics. The film reveals that he supported his daughter obtaining an abortion before Roe v. Wade, and that he has a gay grandson. Several of the more liberal interviewees say that they thought Goldwater became liberal later in life (and some in the audience seemed to have a similar view), but Goldwater himself is shown making a statement that preempts this claim, back in 1963–that he is a conservative, but that at some time in the future people will call his views liberal.

He was a supporter of individual liberty who wanted the government’s role in private life minimized across the board, on both economic and social issues–it wasn’t he who changed, but the political environment that changed.

Unfortunately there are very few modern conservatives who defend liberty as Goldwater did but a handful remain. In April I quoted from Vic Gold, author of Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP. John Dean has written extensively on how the actions of Bush are Worse Than Watergate. Bruce Fein has been discussing impeachment of George Bush. Bob Barr has left the Republican Party and has also discussed impeachment. Bruce Bartlett, author of Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy has supported putting pressure on both parties to move in a more libertarian direction. Unfortunately the Republican who has spoken out the strongest against the influence of religion in politics is a fictional character, as seen in this clip of Arnold Vinick from The West Wing.

Many of these conservatives might also be wind up considering themselves liberals in their later years as Goldwater did. There has been a considerable change in definition of liberal versus conservative in recent years. Social issues and views on Iraq have largely replaced economic issues in separating liberals versus conservatives. Goldwater would clearly be on the liberal side on social issues. Without having him around to ask directly we can only speculate where the old cold warrior would stand in Iraq. My bet is that his response to Bush for invading Iraq following 9/11 would be, “You idiot, you attacked the wrong country.”

John Edwards, Vague but Fierce

David Brooks writes how John Edwards is basing his campaign upon his connection to the common man:

I came out to Iowa having read that Edwards had swung left this election campaign. He was going to outflank Clinton and Obama among liberals and then sweep his way to the nomination.

But out here it’s clear that the Edwards campaign is based on the same conviction that organized his last campaign: no one understands regular people the way he does. No one else can get out of a bus in places like Pocahontas, Iowa, and bond with the farmers, nurses and hairstylists the way he can. No one else comes from their ranks the way he does.

The theory of the Edwards campaign is that Obama will fade because of his inexperience, and Democrats in Iowa will be left with a choice about electability. Which of their candidates is going to be able to connect with working-class white voters in Ohio, Virginia, Nevada and Michigan? Ultimately, Iowans won’t make the same mistake they made in 2004. This time they’ll choose him.

And so Edwards tirelessly tours this must-win state, delivering presentations that have three major elements, all of them rooted in his working-class roots. First, there is his cultural traditionalism. Edwards will be talking about an issue, and his voice will rise and he’ll punctuate his argument with a ringing declaration of stern common sense. On education: “Parents can’t just drop their kids off at school and forget about it. Parents have to take responsibility for their children!” On immigration: “They have to learn English!”

Second, Edwards exudes a deep distrust of Washington that can sound almost Reaganesque. “Nothing is going to change if we replace one group of Washington insiders for another group of Washington insiders,” he declares.

And third, there is his belief, which is in tension with his distrust of Washington, that the federal government should be there for those who work hard. He is brimming with government programs — to create public-sector jobs, to provide health insurance, to shift capital to rural America.

If you had to put a label on Edwards, you’d say that he is a culturally conservative anti-Washington liberal.

In concluding, Brooks found some qualities in Edwards which may help him get votes, but the underlying problem remains that Edwards has virtually no meaningful experience in government and continues to come off, as Bob Shrum put it, “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”

In a 45-minute conversation, I found him vague about subjects like social mobility and globalization, in a way that Clinton and Obama would not be. Yet beneath the pretty-boy exterior, there is something fierce lurking inside. It comes out in his resentment toward those born to privilege (which helped sour his relationship with John Kerry). And it drives him relentlessly upward, even in the face of illness and tragedy.

It is also interesting to see Brooks describe Edwards as culturally conservative. Edwards is primarily a populist and not a liberal, at least in terms of the aspects of liberalism which I find most important. In considering relatively mainstream views which are lumped together as left of center, a culturally conservative economic populist is about as far as you can get from my views. In reality I think that culturally conservative may not be an accurate description either. He’s primarily a one note candidate who promotes populism without taking a firm ideological stand beyond this. While Edwards is not a cultural conservative, he is not a liberal either, which still makes me unlikely to support him even before considering his many other negatives which I have discussed in other posts.