Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This is what passes for research these days?

Joseph Wyatt displays an amazing shallowness of thought and reasoning in his recent effort to criticize the Right for their shallowness of thought and reasoning:

There are people who call President Obama a socialist, communist, pinko, hippie, heathen, Muslim, godless, radical, debt-escalating, wannabe granny assassin from Kenya, or somewhere. Aren't they the souls who earlier in this decade advised us that it is unpatriotic to criticize the president in time of war?

You'd think Wyatt would begin his attack with something substantive and well-reasoned, but instead he opts for vague and sophomoric. No examples of anyone actually saying any of these things. No attempt to address any of the underlying criticisms. Just a tantrum: They said it was wrong and now they're doing it too!

Still, let's see if we can break this down a bit. First, let's start by acknowledging that "there are people" who'll say just about anything, so that's not a serious place to begin a discussion. Nor is it serious to attribute a laundry list of disparate statements to these unnamed people, or, having done so, to cast this phantom army of critics as representative of something larger than themselves.

So, Wyatt begins his attack on poor footing. But let's put that aside and consider his assertion that we were advised that it's "unpatriotic to criticize the president in time of war." I think it's no oversight that Wyatt provides no quote, nor even a hint of who might have said such a thing or in which context it might have been said. He's hiding behind vagueness and general aspersions, knowing it's impossible to prove that no one, anywhere, at any time, said such a thing. (For the record, a Google search of the phrase documents a number of liberals attributing the statement to the Right, but no instances of anyone on the right actually making the statement.)

But let's even put that aside. Even in the context Wyatt presents it, the statement that "it is unpatriotic to criticize the president in time of war" obviously refer to criticisms relevant to the war. One would have to be intentionally dense to take this to mean that the president should be free of all criticism, on any topic, until the war in concluded. And notice, none of the Obama criticisms Wyatt refers to have anything to do with the war or the war effort.

Wyatt continues:
If the law should suddenly require that we pause and acknowledge each instance of our self-contradictions, the wheels of industry, education, religion and government would clank to a halt inside a day. My research staff has provided more examples of the human capacity to reverse field:
Judging by what follows, Wyatt needs to find a new research staff, as there's no evidence of any actual research having been done. And, apparently, no instances of liberals "reversing field" were to be found.
Some are convinced that Henry Louis Gates deserved to be arrested for yelling at cops in his own home. But the majority of those philosophers would do a U-turn in a heartbeat, if only Gates had said he believed the officers were there to take his guns.
Now I see why Wyatt keeps his staff. It had to take a lot of "research" to discern how "some" would react in an alternate reality. Too bad they couldn't sort out the facts (Gates was arrested for behavior outside his home) and look up the definition of disorderly conduct while they were at it.
The irony-impaired, many happily dependent on Washington to pay their doctor bills, want the government out of the health-care business. They possess no impulse to burn their Medicare cards.
This is simply poor logic. If the government takes away my money and starts handing out "free" candy, why on earth wouldn't I take some of that candy? It was bought with my money.
Right-to-lifers, aware that insurance like Medicare keeps people alive, often seem to be the same folks who oppose universal health care.
More poor logic. The goal (life) and the means (Big Government) are separate things. It's not contradictory to accept the goal while favoring a different solution. Perhaps Wyatts research team could look up the phrase "more than one way to skin a cat."
Some say that evil activist judges "make law from the bench." However, those folks defend Bush's lawyer John Yoo who, it will be recalled, wrote opinions saying that torture is legal.
I'll give Wyatt some consideration here, since this largely depends on one's perspective. Yoo, didn't "make law from the bench." He simply offered an opinion as to what the law said, which was his job. I'm not a legal scholar, and I have no idea if Yoo got it right. I doubt Wyatt does either.
Feeling their jobs threatened by environmental regulations, it is understandable that good West Virginians may have adopted a you're-not-from-around-here-so-butt-out philosophy toward certain environmentalists. Those same mountaineers quickly did an about face, as they flocked to embrace speakers and musicians from out of state, at the recent West Virginia Woodstock.
I don't know about the whole you're-not-from-around-here-so-butt-out thing. It sounds like something Wyatt made up. Nor do I know who "those same mountaineers" are; Wyatt once again hides behind generalities. But his failure to distinguish between listening to music and speeches on the one hand and having life-changing laws imposed on the other is remarkable. Is he really this thick?
Now that the Logan County global warming denial fest has come and gone, some clear thinking may take hold. The event, which is said to have been attended by the better part of a hundred thousand souls, was nothing but a well-calculated effort to distract us from noticing who, really, has axed nine out of 10 coal mining jobs in the past 50 years. To avoid taking heat, coal industry wheeler-dealers elevate distraction to an art form as they cry out to the few remaining miners, "Look, there's a tree-hugger who is trying to put you out of work!"
Wyatt lists this as a separate bullet point, but I'm not sure why. Seems like he got fired up about the West Virginians wanting to hold onto their jobs and went off on a ramble. I'm really not sure what it's all about. It would have been nice if he'd bothered to provide a link to something that explains or supports what he's saying. All I can make of it is that 1) he's upset that they disagree with him about global warming; and 2) the evil coal mining companies are the real bad guys. I'm not sure how having a different opinion constitutes anybody "reversing field," which is what this is supposed to be an example of.
The health-care debate has revealed the leaders of the GOP as little more than fear mongers, like the boy who cried wolf. We hear tall tale after tall tale. Their hope is to frighten people into conservative extremism.
Fear mongers? Isn't this the same guy who just suggested that "right-to-lifers" were going to kill people because they oppose universal health care? (See above.) And it seems to me that there's been a fair amount of tale telling done by our Fear-Mongerer in Chief. And why is it "extremism" to oppose a radical shift in governance, which would turn nearly 20% of our economy over to the federal government?
Their loony jabber about death panels, death books and health care for illegals is losing steam. As they pretend to be sincere, they now confabulate concerns that a health-care public option will run us into an Everest of national debt.
What Wyatt dismisses as loony jabber has a good deal of substance to it. It's fair to object to the term "death panel" as provocative and incendiary -- I'm sure it was meant to be -- but it's unfair to dismiss the underlying issue so cavalierly. Obama's proposal for an "Independent Medicare Advisory Panel" was real and that panel would have authority over which medical procedures would be approved. This is rationing, and it's a real concern that should be addressed, rather than mocked. It's revealing that the "death panel" provision of the health care bill was removed after Sarah Palin called attention to it. Perhaps there was something to it after all?

Similarly, the loaded term "death book" describes an actual book which allegedly steers elderly patients toward decisions to end their lives. These are serious issues which Wyatt treats in an unserious way when he discards them as "loony jabber"

As for Obamacare covering illegals, suffice it to point out that Republicans have introduced several amendments to explicitly state that illegal immigrants won't be covered by the bill. All have failed along party line votes.
But those same GOP leaders have yet to explain why, if they are concerned about the U.S. debt, they steadfastly resist any effort to reverse George W. Bush's tax breaks for the rich.
Wyatt's "researchers" have failed him once again. Bush cut taxes across the board and left the rich shouldering even more of the tax burden. As for the rationale behind leaving the tax cuts in place, this is widely known: the solution to debt is a growing economy. Since the economy is driven by the private sector, keeping money in the private sector is a good thing. Taking it out (taxes) slows the economy. This is basic economics. Wyatt may disagree or have other priorities, but he's either grossly unaware or disingenuous to claim that this hasn't been explained.
Republican tax gifts to the Paris Hiltons of the world were based on the absurd notion that we can best help the poor by giving more cash to the rich, a policy for which all of us, except the wealthy, now pay through the nose.

Jesus, who was known for his consistency, likely would have tossed a trickle-down economist out of the temple and into oblivion.
Here Wyatt confirms that he doesn't understand basic economics. In the first place, there's no such thing as "trickle down" economics. That's a term used by those who don't understand supply-side economics or wish to mock it. In Wyatt's world, the theory behind "trickle down" economics is that if rich people have a lot of money, it will eventually work through the system and trickle down to the poor. But that's not how it works.

In reality, trickle up is a better description of what happens. If you give a rich person (or company) extra money (actually, you're not giving them anything; you're just taking away less of what is rightfully theirs) he'll want to invest it, so he can make even more money. (Rich people are greedy, you know.) They key is that the investment comes first; the payoff comes later. So he invests: he expands his store, opens a new location, introduces a new product line, whatever. And he needs help with all these things: builders, designers, salesmen, architects, custodians, real estate agents, salesmen, on and on. All these people see and benefit from the rich guy's extra money long before he does. So, in actuality, the money starts at the bottom, with new jobs, better salaries, and increased opportunities for "the little guy," then eventually "trickles up" to the rich guy who sees his profits last.

I'm not sure what Jesus has to do with any of this, but I bet, as a carpenter, he'd appreciate having a little work come his way.

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