Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Slaughtering cows to get butter: Continuing evidence that the right wing has lost its marbles

1. At Real Clear Politics, David Warren, who is also a columnist for The Ottawa Citizen, manfully wields his keyboard to attack the two recently released Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig not only for cowardice but also for ‘doing the enemy’s work’. Warren apparently believes their willingness to make a videotaped ‘conversion’ to Islam while being held captive by Fatah symbolises all that is wrong with the weak-kneed, ‘chestless’ West.

While one should definitely take a sufficient pause to emphasise the disgusting gall it takes to heap scorn on these two captives from his safer base-camp in Ontario (ah, the bravery of being out of range), it’s worth noting that Warren is not alone in needing to project a (compensatory?) hypermasculine image through his prose. His macho typing seems to exemplify a certain trend amongst the Right’s growing ranks of armchair warriors. Glenn Greenwald, at Unclaimed Territory, explores this trend and nicely dismantles Warren’s arguments. As Greenwald argues:.
David Warren really is a poster child for so much of the forces driving our country to endless wars and reckless destruction. It's the same mindset that allows people who have never sacrificed or risked anything for their country to accuse those who have risked their lives of being cowards and appeasers (see Jack Murtha, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, and on and on and on).
Quite so.

Perhaps these guys would be better off simply buying a Hummer if they have, uh, masculinity issues to work out.

2. Right-wingnut Rush Limbaugh identifies rising rates of obesity as caused by…liberalism. There are a lot of bizarre things in Limbaugh’s statements, as ever. It's so difficult to keep up with them - and he's just turned into such a self-parodying joke that it's not really worth spending the time on it - but every once in a while something really special emerges from the nasty little swamp of his thinking. For example (via Crooks and Liars), he said the following, after some comments about UNICEF being a ‘scam’ to get people to love the UN:
UNICEF got it all started. We’ve seen the babies with the extended tummies, the walking skeletons, told that kids can’t learn unless they’re fed. We’ve been guilted into pouring resources on the problem. And now, now, the latest crisis is that there is obesity among those who are impoverished. Because we are sympathetic, we are compassionate people, we have responded by letting our government literally feed these people to the point of obesity. At least here in America, didn’t teach them how to fish, we gave them the fish. Didn’t teach them how to butcher a — slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter. The real bloat here, as we know, is in — is in government.
OK. I admit I was born and raised in a suburb and don’t know all that much about farming. I do think, though, that Mr. Limbaugh is somewhat confused about how butter is made. Furthermore, since the report he’s talking about here deals with American obesity, I’m not sure what the connection is with UNICEF, which provides food assistance to poor and developing countries. (You know, places where an overabundance of Big Macs would be a health crisis they’d be happy to face.)

However, there is another problem with Rush’s outburst, one which emerges quite regularly in right-wing arguments about the multifarious evils of the welfare state. It is simple: if government spending on poverty were the cause of obesity and ill-health, then one would expect to find at least a recurring correlation between the size of a country’s welfare state and its obesity rates. According to this logic, European societies (or, say, Canada) should be currently facing much higher rates of these problems than the US. Which is…decidedly not the case, as these figures (via the International Obesity Task Force) suggest.

I find it helpful to repeat this exercise whenever an argument comes up that the welfare state has caused all sorts of Very Bad Things in the good old USA, such as violent crime, family break-up, teen pregnancy etc. It’s not that all liberal policies over the last half century have always made sense, but let’s distribute blame and credit where they’re due. What might help here is a kind of political Elk Test to be applied to Evil Welfare State arguments before they are allowed out on the road.

The test is simple. Ask yourself: ‘Has Problem X been significantly worse in Sweden than in America?’. If not, back to the drawing board.

3. At, David Corn has an interesting discussion of what might be the growing ranks of the Bush-is-an-idiot camp…among conservatives.

Like Corn, I’ve long thought that simply labelling George W. Bush stupid was perhaps not politically wise. I’ve also wrestled with the problem of whether his demonstrated inarticulacy and ignorance is real or some kind of folksy act to make him seem like a regular guy. But, as Corn points out, this is a serious problem, and not just for those who oppose him.
If the commander in chief cannot talk more articulately about his strategy for winning an elective war he initiated, the problem is serious. It’s become a truism tossed about by partisan Democrats looking to score political points, but it actually is true: Bush has little to offer but stay-the-course-ism. And he shows no signs of considering other options. His plan once was rather simply stated: The United States would train Iraqi security forces and when the Iraqis can take over the United States would leave. But as sectarian violence spreads—and the security forces become part of the conflict—that basic plan becomes thinner by the day.
With a lot of things going badly wrong and a potentially disastrous mid-term election on the way, I can imagine that there are a lot of disappointed and angry conservatives out there.
In the meantime, the plan-free war continues, and the Bush-backers mainly duck that uncomfortable issue: whether this war is too much for the man who launched it. That does appear to be the big elephant in the room. And it seems that even conservatives and Republicans are finding it difficult to ignore its smell.
4. And, in Germany, far-right extremists made an embarrassing faux pas during one of their recent publicity campaigns:
Ironically, the photo in question is of an attractive blond in a tank top and short skirt next to the slogan: "German is Hot!" But in an embarrassing faux pas for the German nationalists, a Berlin Web blog found out that the Teutonic hottie is actually a Czech lingerie model. So much for offering a "free-patriotic point of view," as was supposedly the remit of the less-than-objective Objektiv.
The photo was also used without permission, and copyright infringement proceedings might be on the way….

1 comment:

Tracy W said...

Doesn't the detail of spending matter as much as the actual level?

Eg I've never heard of food stamps outside the USA.

Personally I think the reason people are getting obese around the developed world is that food has gotten cheaper and exercise relatively more expensive (ie less jobs requiring lots of physical work meaning you got paid to exercise). This is probably a good thing overall, as being on the fat side is better than dying at age 40 because a tractor rolled over you. And teenage males who are physically active are capable of eating phenomal amounts so cheaper food must save their parents fortunes. But it does have some costs.