Playwright David Mamet on Abuse of Power, Government and Gun Control


I have wrestled over whether to feature Pulitzer Prize winning playwright ( author, screenwriter, director, teacher) David Mamet’s recent essay in what is left of Newsweek on Ethics Alarms. The essay is at least 50% political/ideological, maybe more, and I try, often unsuccessfully, to keep the ethical analysis of political events as separate as possible from the political analysis—some would argue not hard enough, and not well. I also don’t agree with a lot of his piece, but that’s the least important factor. I decided that the essay, titled “Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm” belongs here because I know, from his plays, his screenplays and his essays, that Mamet is driven by a pursuit of ethical thought and action, and it is a theme underlying most of what he writes. He is also a vivid and expressive writer, one of the very best alive, in my view. Mamet is blisteringly smart as well. That doesn’t mean he is always right—he is, after all, a conservative, and in the prevailing view that puts his presumed  brain capacity somewhere between Hulk Hogan and Todd Akin—but he is always thoughtful, and to those few with open minds and good reading comprehension, potentially persuasive and necessarily enlightening.

Mamet’s essay is relevant to current events, of course, due to the sweeping gun ownership restrictions being proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein, and the hysterical over-reaction to the Newtown tragedy, fanned by a shameless media and demagogues of all stripes that cleared the way for it. I’ve written plenty about all that already, alas not as well as David Mamet could. I am less alarmed at the prospect of Feinstein’s effort succeeding (because it won’t) than I am at what its sudden leap to the fore of Obama Administration priorities indicates beyond question: these people really have no intention of taking any serious, responsible and courageous efforts to address the debt and deficit. To only slightly paraphrase the excitable Matt Hooper in “Jaws” speaking to the pusillanimous mayor of Amity,  I think that I am now familiar with the fact that our current leaders  are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites us on the ass. This is unconscionable, incompetent, weak and despicable…but I digress.

The money quote in Mamet’s essay, I think, is this:

“Disarmament rests on the assumption that all people are good, and, basically, want the same things. But if all people were basically good, why would we, increasingly, pass more and more elaborate laws? The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so: and his right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution.”

What ever your thoughts are regarding gun control policies, you should read Mr. Mamet’s essay, and you can, here.


Graphic: All Music

35 thoughts on “Playwright David Mamet on Abuse of Power, Government and Gun Control

  1. “The government, for example, has determined that black people (somehow) have fewer abilities than white people, and, so, must be given certain preferences. Anyone acquainted with both black and white people knows this assessment is not only absurd but monstrous. And yet it is the law.”

    C’mon. Really? I’d say Mamet’s take here is not only monstrous but way off. It was determined that black people not only had fewer opportunities than white people, but white people were actively preventing black people from benefiting from the paltry scraps from any table that were allowed to serve. Affirmative action has nothing to do with lack of ability. That Mamet comes out of the gate with this fallacious view taints the rest of his commentary.
    From wikipedia: Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities of defined groups within a society. It is often instituted in government and educational settings to ensure that minority groups within a society are included in all programs. The stated justification for affirmative action by its proponents is that it helps to compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture, and to address existing discrimination. The implementation of affirmative action, especially in the United States, is considered by its proponents to be justified by disparate impact (which holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate “adverse impact” on members of a minority group).

    I am a huge fan of Mamet’s plays, but not his arguments.
    And, I am not impressed.

    • Wikipedia goes on to note:

      Opponents of affirmative action such as George Sher believe that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen based on the social group to which they belong rather than their qualifications, thus rendering affirmative action counterproductive.[64] Opponents,[65] who sometimes say that affirmative action is “reverse discrimination”, further claim that affirmative action has undesirable side-effects in addition to failing to achieve its goals. They argue that it hinders reconciliation, replaces old wrongs with new wrongs, undermines the achievements of minorities, and encourages individuals to identify themselves as disadvantaged, even if they are not. It may increase racial tension and benefit the more privileged people within minority groups at the expense of the least fortunate within majority groups (such as lower-class whites).[66]

      American economist, social and political commentator, Dr. Thomas Sowell identified some negative results of race-based affirmative action in his book, Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study.[67] Sowell writes that affirmative action policies encourage non-preferred groups to designate themselves as members of preferred groups (i.e., primary beneficiaries of affirmative action) to take advantage of group preference policies; that they tend to benefit primarily the most fortunate among the preferred group (e.g., upper and middle class blacks), often to the detriment of the least fortunate among the non-preferred groups (e.g., poor whites or Asians); that they reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred to perform at their best – the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile – thereby resulting in net losses for society as a whole; and that they increase animosity toward preferred groups.”

      Hmm…good intentions don’t guarantee good outcome in the case of affirmative action? I wonder if maybe the same can be said of gun control?
      Perhaps the empirical results of both should be looked at, just like we do with expensive education programs like Head Start…or the TSA…or (fill in YOUR favorite here.)

    • I said up front that I didn’t agree with Mamet on a lot of issues, and this is one. I don’t think the government knows what it is “saying” with affirmative action. Affirmative action persists because blacks still lag behind whites and Asians in key markers of success and economic advancement. It persists because an entitlement mentality dominates the civil rights movement, and this is one of the groups in the Democratic coalition. It persists because it is easier to blame some or all or the disparity on racism and discrimination rather than admit the possibility that there are structural, social, cultural factors in African American communities and households causing blacks as a group to be less successful. It persists because its easier to do than explain why they are disproportionately under-represented in professions and positions of power to that community. It persists also because the idea that Mamet rejects, but that some studies support, that there are cognitive differences among the races is anathema to American ideology, and you treat what is treatable, not what isn’t.

      It also persists because in some cases and in some sectors it works. It does not work very well in others, and to a great extent the unintended consequences of affirmative action—many people assume that black professionals are less qualified because they assume that they were not subjected to the same vigor academically on the way to their jobs, for example—are as harmful as those successful instances are good.

      But quoting what proponents say about affirmative action does not rebut or even address Mamet’s point, which is, I think, more true than those proponents would admit. And the did disparate impact rule is, to be blunt, also monstrous, illogical, and pretty much indefensible, leading to situations where a color blind exam that results in only white firemen being advanced can be judged unfair and racist even though nothing about the exam is unfair. This is the justification for the ridiculous law suit against American Idol by a group of black Idol rejectees who all hid their arrest records from the show and got bounced. Even if no white contestant ever hid an arrest record and thus was bounced for the same reason, this could be found to be discriminatory under a disparate impact argument. After all, a higher proportion of blacks are arrested. But the bottom line is that no national contest wants to end up promoting an “Idol” with a rap sheet, and has every right and reason to dump a Corey Clark no matter what color he is.

      His essay was about gun control. His affirmative action comments are fair game, but the man doesn’t trust the government, which is more than rational. I don’t think his views on affirmative action undercut his opinion regarding guns. He thinks the government’s reasoning is, on the whole and in many areas, stupid. I agree with him to that extent.

  2. They realized that King George was not an individual case, but the inevitable outcome of unfettered power; that any person or group with the power to tax, to form laws, and to enforce them by arms will default to dictatorship, absent the constant unflagging scrutiny of the governed, and their severe untempered insistence upon compliance with law.

    The Founders recognized that Government is quite literally a necessary evil, that there must be opposition, between its various branches, and between political parties, for these are the only ways to temper the individual’s greed for power and the electorates’ desires for peace by submission to coercion or blandishment.

    This excerpt is one of the most clear and concise summaries of why we chose our Republican form of Federalism that I’ve read.

    His comment about “…will default to dictatorship, absent the constant unflagging scrutiny of the governed, and their severe untempered insistence upon compliance with the law” is a profound measuring stick.

    Do we, as the governed, still exhibit unflagging scrutiny? Or is it just a passive scrutiny? Or a cynical or sarcastic scrutiny? Or is it just scrutiny when partisanly expedient?

    Do we severely and untemperedly insist on compliance with the law, when there is such a multitude and myriad of the laws that it would take a lifetime to fully understand them? Do we insist on these laws even making sense when they are passed without being read or thoroughly scrutinized themselves?

  3. I am less alarmed at the prospect of Feinstein’s effort succeeding (because it won’t) than I am at what its sudden leap to the fore of Obama Administration priorities indicates beyond question: these people really have no intention of taking any serious, responsible and courageous efforts to address the debt and deficit.

    Is your logic here that it’s not possible for the White House to have two policy priorities at the same time?

    Or is it that it the proposed gun control regulations cost so much money that they are incompatible with any possibility of deficit reduction?

    If neither of the above reasons are yours, can you spell out your warrant for saying that supporting gun control regulation is incompatible with having an intention to reduce the deficit?

    In the real world, of course, under Obama federal spending is down and Federal receipts are up. (See the graph at the top right of this CBO report – pdf link). Furthermore, we’ve already taken substantial steps to address the deficit, with the result of a notable improvement in the long-term deficit projections.

    At this point, addressing unemployment is far more urgent than addressing the long-term deficit. Unfortunately, what you wrongly said about the deficit is true about unemployment: Obama is not going to propose any serious measures to reduce unemployment. And neither will the Republicans in Congress, or most Democrats.

    • I’ll accept that both unemployment and debt reduction–reduction, not slower growth—have become unconscionably low priorities, and yes, no administration, especially one as inept at horsetrading and negotiation as this one is, can undertake two major and contentious legislative initiatives simultaneously. Obama and the Democrats essentially ignored unemployment and everything else during the year+ spent on shoe-horning healthcare through, and debt reduction (which has to involve either more taxes or budget surpluses–haha)will be even tougher. Picking a huge, ideological partisan battle is a stalling tactic, or rank stupidity, or both. Gun control isn’t an emergency. The debt, immigration, the deficit and unemployment are emergencies, and competent leadership would never pick now to have this fight if they were serious about any of the rest.

      And anyone who believes projections at this point will buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

      • CBO projections are what they are. I realize that you believe that any statistic that doesn’t fit in with your ideological preferences is biased (remember when you were claiming that polls showing Obama winning handily were ridiculously biased?), but I don’t believe that there’s any reason to disbelieve CBO projections to be a reasonable estimate of what will happen if current policies continue.

        Certainly, I don’t know of any better projection available; and if you can’t discuss projections of the effects of current policies on future budgets, then logically it’s no longer possible to discuss policy to reduce the debt at all. All policies intended to reduce the deficit, or the debt, are to some extent based on projections of the future.

        You could reasonably claim that current policies might not continue; who’s to say what Congress will decide to do five or ten years from now? That’s a fair point, but it’s not fair to hold that point against Obama, who is not a dictator and has no ability to dictate what future Congresses do (or even what the present Congress does). The most any current politician can do is advocate for current policies that push us in the right direction, and then hope his or her successors will do the same. To ask more than that, is to ask for the impossible.

        Finally, I’d say that Obama’s first term has a considerable record of accomplishment. I don’t always agree with his policies, but he’s put them into play extremely well against an unusually united opposition party. Looking back at the past four years, Obama succeeded in getting a large (though not large enough) stimulus package, overhauled the food safety system, passed the Ledbetter act, ended DADT, gotten two Supreme Court appointments, expanded CHIP, passed Obamacare, passed Dodd-Frank, created The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ended the war in Iraq, bailed out the US Auto Industry, passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, changed the government of Libya (in collaboration with our allies), ended the F-22 program, made more progress on gay rights than any previous administration ever has, and led international sanctions against Iran. And that’s just a small portion of the things I could list.

        I’m sure that you have arguments as for why each of those programs was a bad idea, or badly done, or what have you. I disagree with many of Obama’s policies, too, although not as many as you. But that’s not my point. My point is that it is undeniable that Obama is, in fact, able to accomplish more than one thing per term. Therefore your claim – that if Obama supports gun control, then he must therefore not seriously intend to reduce the deficit or debt – is wrong.

        Finally, if your argument is that the Republicans in the House will refuse to deal with Obama on the budget because he disagrees with them about gun control, then I would suggest that it would be more logical to primarily hold the Republicans in the House responsible for that. It’s not reasonable, or responsible governance, to say that you’ll only negotiate on the budget if the other party gives up on all its other policy priorities without a fight.

        • No, I’m saying a rosy, pie-in-the-sky, crap-in, crap-out projection in early November is stale and was never very good to begin with For example, there is this from this month, and CNN:

          “The fiscal cliff deal approved by Congress will increase deficits over the next decade by close to $4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That estimate is relative to a benchmark where all the Bush tax cuts expire and the the fiscal cliff stays in place. Technically, that’s what would happen if Congress had done nothing to avert the cliff.But that was never a likely scenario. For one thing, most economists said that such abrupt fiscal tightening would hurt economic growth in the near term.Plus, few expect Congress to stick to such a strict fiscal regimen anyway. Instead, most expected Congress to largely preserve the Bush tax cuts and cancel or weaken the rest of the fiscal cliff.”

          As to my bias claim—the projections were biased, and I remain correct that Americans don’t vote for weak leaders. Apparently the combination of effective spin and media protection, as well as historical and political ignorance has a majority of the public believing this President is a strong leader according to a recent survey that depressed me even while explaining my error in predicting the election results, This information is just stunning to me as someone who has studied and admired leadership his whole life. Just because a biased prediction and slanted survey turns out to coincide with the results doesn’t mean it wasn’t biased, nor does it justify the bias.

          Off topic, and damn you for sucking me into this, but honestly..yes, every President does something in 4 years, though doing something is not the same as an accomplishment:

          Obama succeeded in getting a large (though not large enough) stimulus package,
          Which increased the debt and deficit, had minimal impact, gave pork to favored Democratic constituencies, and didn’t make a dent in unemployment.
          Overhauled the food safety system,
          passed the Ledbetter act,
          Ended DADT
          Outrageously late.
          Gotten two Supreme Court appointments
          How is having two vacancies turn up an accomplishment? Clint’s cahir would have had the same opportunity.
          expanded CHIP
          Passed Obamacare
          Another flawed law, When the priority should have been the economy, with dubious Constitutional measures, utilizing misinformation, polarizing the nation, and not even accomplishing the primary goal of reducing the cost of health care! And it WILL increase the debt and deficit.
          Passed Dodd-Frank
          A seriously flawed bill addressed at a genuine problem
          Created The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
          Just more expensive regulation and red tape
          Ended the war in Iraq
          Which was ending anyway, and was no longer a war.
          Bailed out the US Auto Industry
          Which should not have been bailed out, and violated basic principles of fairness and economic integrity in doing so
          Passed the Credit Card Accountability,Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act,
          Hardly a big deal
          Changed the government of Libya (in collaboration with our allies),
          Late, fecklessly, after many unnecessary deaths and while doing exactly what Democrats (correctly) accused Nixon of doing in Cambodia for decades, lying that what was a military action wasn’t.
          ended the F-22 program
          Every President end SOME defense programs
          Made more progress on gay rights than any previous administration ever has
          That’s the culture, not Obama
          and led international sanctions against Iran.
          ARGGH! Yes, THAT’s sure been effective!

          It’s also a pretty ambiguous and sketchy list. I’ll resist the invitation to create the damning counter list, beginning with being the most divisive President in memory, intentionally pitting segments of American society against each other for political expediency, a complete failure to meet promises of bi-partisanship and transparency, an imperial lifestyle while preaching austerity,continued use of rendition after siding with those who called the practice a war crime when running in 2008, blatantly illegal exercise of power, like the recently rejected recess appointments, and a program of drone assassination that if Bush had approved it, would be sparking round the clock protests from the Left. And really, that’s without even trying. For example, I didn’t include the debt, the deficit, unemployment, slow growth, and through it all, a reflex refusal to take any responsibility or accountability, blaming everything on an administration that ended four years ago.

          But that really is not the topic. Washington doesn’t work as you seem to think it does. Deficit and debt reform will require dedicated bipartasan effort, and picking partisan fights unnecessarily is a signal that he has no intention of even trying this, because it DOES make it more difficult. A skilled leader would use gun control as a bargaining chip to GET a debt deal. That wouldn’t even occur to Obama. It’s just stalling, when in fact the clock is ticking and time is short.

          • Laws of unintended consequences. Obama, Feinstein, et, al., are burning up a considerable amount of political capital to do what, exactly? The guns indicated in Feinsteins bill are involved in about 500 deaths per year, and there is NO proof that the bill will reduce that. Anyone smoke pot in high school or college? You get my point.

            The last time they pulled this crap, they wound up putting republicans in power for the next TWELVE YEARS. Gun control is an issue that not only galvanizes the right like no other, but splits several key progressive constituencies. as well We practice diversity at my shooting club and I GUARANTEE you our black, gay, single female and labor union members will NOT be voting Democrat in 2014! If Obama had started this “war on some guns” 6 months ago, he would have lost by a landslide.

            Back to the central point: I believe it is HUGELY unethical to start a political war over something like this, PARTICULARLY at a time like this. Obama fans can spin the numbers all they want but we have an additional FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS of debt run up in the past 4 years. If interest rates go up even another couple of points, we are completely screwed.

              • I don’t bother debating these issues anymore. The occasional “shout out” is worthwhile for the undecided or uninitiated, but the minds of most people are made up. If you had argued with the captain of the Titanic that plowing full speed into an iceberg field, at night, was a bad idea, you would have gotten the proverbial brush-off. You might do it as an ethical “necessary fail”, I suppose.

          • No, I’m saying a rosy, pie-in-the-sky, crap-in, crap-out projection in early November is stale and was never very good to begin with

            The CBO report I linked to, you mean? That wasn’t a projection. It was a report on what’s already happened.

            Under Obama’s first term, revenues went up and spending went down. (This isn’t true of his first year.) That’s not a matter of opinion, or a “rosy, pie-in-the-sky” prediction; it’s a fact. And if you’re unwilling to acknowledge facts, then there’s no point in discussing anything, is there?

            That said, it remains true that it’s impossible to meaningfully discuss how proposed policies will effect revenue and spending – i.e., effect the deficit and the debt – if you start out by saying that projections cannot be used. If you say “we should cut spending and raise taxes so the deficit and debt can get lower,” that is a projection.

            I’ve got to go to the library with the kids, but I’ll come back later and comment more.

            • Barry—how can you say this? What does this chart mean. for example? It shows a massive increase in spending, ( on a steeper and steeper curve). Or these ( How about these: look at the difference in the debt from 2006 to 2011. You’re allowing 2008 to distort the picture, because it hides the profligacy of 2009-2012. Nobody’s arguing that Bush’s handling of the budget wasn’t horrible. The fact that your predecessor was horrible doesn’t justify your failing to do any better. In fact, you need to do MUCH better to repair the damage. As far as the debt goes, there is no repair nor effort at repair.
              Or genuine INTENT to repair.

              You may recall that Obama said that he would halve the deficit in four years, or he will have failed. Now you’re representing that self-defined failure as glorious success. Slowing the rate at which you are heading to an abyss is not changing the fact that you’re going over.

              • “Barry—how can you say this?”

                He is a paid shill, most likely. They are all over the internet. Only he knows who is paying him, but most likely someone is.

                • No, Barry is a gentleman, a truth-teller, a fair, intelligent and articulate man who has a lot to teach me and everyone else. I am dead serious. Please don’t impugn Barry’s integrity. I just think he’s seriously mistaken about some things. But then, so am I. It’s just hard to tell which things…

              • I can say it because it’s true. And the charts you link to don’t contradict what I’ve said, or the CBO chart I linked to. The charts that show spending and revenues show a recent uptick in revenues and downtick in spending, just as I said. (In one case, it misses most of the revenues by not including the past year.)

                The way to get to lower debt is to have surpluses. The way to have surpluses is to lower spending and raise revenues until we have surpluses. However, the changes cannot and should not be made suddenly or violently, because the shock to the economy of an enormous one-step policy to much higher revenues and lower spending (which is what the “fiscal cliff” would have done) would be bad. It could even bring back a recession, which would only make the long-term debt worse.

                To ask for instant, huge change is irresponsible, which is why nearly EVERYONE on the left and right alike didn’t favor us going over the so-called fiscal cliff. Gradual and cautious change is a better and more responsible approach.

                I agree that Obama’s promise was foolish, and wrong. But that doesn’t in any way alter the fact that revenues are up and spending is down. That’s a fact regardless of what Obama said four or five years ago.

                Finally, I didn’t say a word about “glorious success,” and I think it’s a lie for you to characterize me as having said that. As I’ve made clear time and again, I don’t agree with all of Obama’s policies, and in particular I think the failure of Obama to fight hard for unemployment relief is despicable.

                But facts are facts. If you want to pretend that spending isn’t going down and revenues aren’t going up, then you’re living in a fantasy world.

          • Washington doesn’t work as you seem to think it does.

            With all due respect, Jack, I’m fairly positive I understand both economics and Washington much, much better than you do.

            For example: To show that projections don’t work, you cite that the fiscal cliff avoidance deal increased projected deficits, “relative to a benchmark where all the Bush tax cuts expire and the the fiscal cliff stays in place.” But absolutely no one expected that to occur, which is why all responsible projections (including some published by the CBO) included scenarios in which the fiscal cliff was avoided.

            So your example of why projections are unreliable – is in fact based on an event that the CBO, and everyone else, fully predicted. It’s an example of how the folks at the CBO know what they’re doing.

            You haven’t answered a question I’ve now asked you twice. I’ll ask you a third time, because it’s important: If you categorically refuse to accept projections, how can we possibly discuss policy paths leading to a lower deficit and debt in the future? It’s logically impossible to discuss lowering the deficit and debt if we don’t consider how today’s policies will change tomorrow’s budgets.

            In the interest of limiting time, I’m not going to get into a point-by-point discussion of the list of Obama Admin achievements (and, as I already said, I’m not endorsing everyone one of these policies – or 20 more I could just as easily name – just pointing out that they do exist). My point, which you’ve now conceded, is that it’s not the case that Obama can achieve only one thing per administration. Whether or not you like the policies he succeeded in passing, is immaterial to my argument.

            I don’t think it’s true that the GOP will refuse to deal on the budget due to gun control (as if they wouldn’t hate Obama regardless!). What matters most in politics is incentives, and the GOP has several strong incentives to cut a deal; they don’t want the huge military cuts that will come about if they don’t make a deal before the sequester, and they don’t want to be blamed if we hit the debt ceiling or if there’s an extended government shutdown.

            Your claim – that it’s irresponsible for Democrats to pursue priorities that Democratic voters want, because it might annoy the GOP – is unfair, holds the Democrats responsible for the GOP’s choices, and ignores how democracies work. People who win elections – and Democrats have won some lately – are allowed to decide what bills they’re going to support. They are not morally or politically obligated to only offer policies that the GOP likes. Nor do I think you have a very realistic idea of how today’s congress works, if you think a “guns for budget” deal would work.

            • Barry, I am absolutely certain that you understand economics as much better than I do as I understand astronomy better than my dog. I do not think you understand politics or leadership at all, and the latter is my field.

              In Washington, economic projections and budget projections virtually never make sense.They make mathematical sense, but they presume predictability of the unpredictable, and they project rational, prudent, political behavior by elected officials, and that is predictably unlikely. Economists did not predict the 2008 meltdown even by a few days, which makes their art rather less respectable than meteorology. I know of no ethics code for economists, and I’m not surprised: my observation is that the discipline is more tainted by bias and manipulation than any other that is deemed a genuine area of knowledge.

              I can’t challenge the calculations of the projections; all I can note is how often Projections forecasting no deficits in large government program or improvements in the employment numbers, growth and the income/expenditures ratio have been wrong. I also know, because I have attended a financial investment program for four straight years that always points out the same fact: the investment experts choosing the best investments for their clients in mutual funds and other vehicles routinely perform worse that the investor who just lets his money ride. Because the economy is unpredictable.

              As for politics and leadership, I know this: Obama is doing exactly what Bush did when he made the major grand push after his re-election social security reform. No Republican will get SS reform…a Democrat has to do it. And no Democrat will get gun reform. Obama will waste time and dissipate his advantage on an ill-chosen goal just like Bush, but at least Bush’s goal was one that addressed a genuine, top tier problem. Obama’s futile effort is designed to avoid taking on a genuine, top tier, indeed urgent, problem.

              I know what I see. You use the numbers to deceive yourself.Spending may be going down and income may be going up, and that is because the US is no longer in a recession and is not spending as much on two wars, but it is still only a weak recovery. Neither the income improvements nor the expense reductions are close to sufficient to address the debt and deficit issue, and what I see are leaders without the political courage or honesty to admit it.

            • Oh—I do owe you an answer to that question. The Washington scam is to make policies that supposedly affect future budgets, though those responsible for those budgets have no obligation to act as they are projected to, and never do. The Bush tax cuts were roundly condemned by the Democrats and were set to expire, but a Democratic Congress and President wouldn’t let it happen. Typical. We will never address the deficits with current policies that are aimed at future budgets, We will address it by policies aimed at current budgets, accepting present pain rather then deferring it indefinitely, as is the present Washington shell game.

              All irrelevant to the post and the blog topic, but you asked.

          • By they way, the polls did exhibit a slight systematic bias – a pro-Romney bias. We know this because Obama did better in the final voting than the polls on average predicted.

            Polls don’t become biased just because you don’t like what they say. If they accurately predict how Americans will vote, and if they use reasonable methodology, then they aren’t biased.

            That you continue to believe that the polls were biased, despite the facts, doesn’t speak well of your ability to put your partisan preferences aside and admit to the facts. Whether or not Obama has a nebulous characteristic you call “leadership” is subjective. That average poll results came close to the actual outcomes (and actually underpredicted Obama’s totals a little) is a fact, not a matter of subjective opinion.

  4. You were wrong about the election. To blame the outcome on the media and our ignorance is a rationalization, plain and simple. The Republicans effectively lost the election by alienating women, immigrants, gays, and virtually anyone who receives a Social Security check or unemployment benefits. We are victims and won’t accept personal responsibility, remember?

    I’ll skip the list, because basically it’s just a summarization of your opinions vs. Ampersand’s. “Minimal Impact,” “Insignificant,” “Late,” “Not a big deal,” are all subjective and may be true to your experience but not to someone else’s. My daughter is really going to appreciate being able to get health care next year without being punished for a preexisting condition.

    I’m with you on the rendition and drone strikes, and if there had been a viable candidate who would have ended them, I would have supported them. But really–do you think Romney would have?

    As to the debt and the deficit, there are respected economists (besides Krugman) who say that they should not be our primary focus in the short term. That doesn’t mean they’re correct, but there are better qualified opinions than yours. It’s pretty universally accepted right now that the austerity imposed in Europe is making things worse, not better. As for bipartisanship, have you heard about the secret meeting on Inauguration Day in 2008? Makes Scalia’s hat look pretty tame.

    Blaming the economy when Obama took office on Bush is perfectly legitimate. It’s Obama’s now, though, and he should be held accountable. So far, I think he’s done a pretty good job.

    • 1. If the public thinks this is what a strong leader looks like, then it is ignorant. That’s not a ratioanalization.
      2. Alienating the recipients of government assistance, I’m with you on. Nothing the GOP of Romney stood for was anti-woman in any way—that was a collaborative smear by Democrats and the media. The GOP’s anti-same sex marriage position is dumb, and it seems anti-gay, is in effect anti-gay, but they don’t see it that way. Gays did not determine the election. Insisting that those who break the immigration laws don’t benefit from it is NOT anti=immigrant, but pro-rule of law. Congrats to Democrats for distorting the issue and the principle for electoral gain—it is, however despicable.
      3. Romney would NOT have been an improvement over Obama regarding rendition and drones. My post was about Obama, not Romney. The fact that Romney was wrong doesn’t excuse the President–he’s DOING it, Romney only talked about it.
      4. “Blaming the economy when Obama took office on Bush is perfectly legitimate.” ‘On Bush, a Democratic Congress and regulators,’ and I’ll agree with you: everyone knows that the housing melt-down was a thoroughly bi-partisan fiasco. I have still never seen any President, not Nixon, not Clinton, nobody, continue to evoke a predecessor to excuse policy failures to this extent. Not even close. It is the very definition of “lame.”

    • Live in your dream world, Jan. And you do live there, as your radical-based predeliction to STILL blame George Bush for the economy exposes. If you want to blame someone for the initial downturn (after 6-7 years of prosperity), I suggest you look in Hollywood and Massachusetts. That’s where Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank hang their respective hats, after having sabotaged the entire mortgage system of the country through two unconstitutional agencies.

      Obama took it from there, creating and taking a whole slew of unconstitutional offices and actions. And he continues to get away with the depraved crimes of he and his lackeys through, 1) a corrupt media on all levels, 2) a corrupt political party and its associates and, 3) a large number of government dependent people who have made the milking of the system (and the productive taxpayers) a self-righteous way of life.

      Oh, yes. There are also those pundits and trolls who uphold these people and lie for them simply because they revel in the idea that they can destroy what America’s founders created… and obviate the word of God Himself by punishing all expressions of faith. Nihilism at best. Degeneracy at worst.

      If that shoe fits you, Jan, then wear it by all means. Just don’t be too sure that the destruction of America and its heritage is a “given”. We may just surprise you. There are just too many of us who took an oath to defend the Constitution… and meant it. And remember this, too; we also shoot back.

  5. It’s a cop-out to call the people who voted for the other guy ignorant. I don’t believe Romney himself is anti-woman, but the Republican stance on contraception, abortion and rape couldn’t be interpreted any other way. Now listen to them on women applying for combat duty. It’s not just their position on same sex marriage that makes Republicans anti-gay, it’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, anti gay adoption, etc. Having a sane process for people who have lived here for decades to become citizens is not despicable, it’s the only way to deal with the problem other than deporting 12 million people. Democrats didn’t have to smear the Republicans; they did a fine job of it all by themselves. On the contrary, people were not ignorant, they were paying attention.

    I didn’t excuse Obama for the drone/rendition thing. I said that Romney didn’t give me any reason to vote for him based on that issue. Nor did anyone else.

    The American people have incredibly short memories. Granted, previous administrations did their part, but it was Bush and his advisors that made it as bad as it was. If voters need to be reminded every day that it was the tax-cutting, war prone Bush administration that took us from a surplus to debtor’s prison, and it will keep it from happening again, then that’s what needs to be done.

    • I am not calling and did not call those who “voted for the other guy”—who happens to be the President—ignorant. I think those who believe he is a strong leader are ignorant. I don’t believe they voted for him because they think, wrongly on the facts, his style and his record, that he is a strong leader: i do believe many more would have voted against him if they understood how weak and inept a leader he is. Those who voted for him did so because they are seeing what they wanted to see, and a divisive strategy paid off—that and the fact that a large proportion of the nation wants its government benefits now, regardless of what the consequences will be to the nation and their children later. This is always the big government advocates advantage, and in this combination of factors, it prevailed. The folly of it will be apparent later.

      The position that contraception should not be a required feature of religious institution insurance was not an anti-woman position, but a pro-religious freedom position (for the record, I wrote that the position was wrong). The Democrats falsely portrayed it as anti-woman: congratulations to them. It worked. But it was dishonest. The GOP anti-abortion position is not anti-woman; it is pro-rights of the unborn. One’s rights do not preclude another’s. Abortion advocates have always twisted this position into being anti-woman. Some who hold it are in fact sexists, but the position itself is ethical and, of the two, by far the more defensible. Again, congratulations to the Democrats for a successful smear, but a smear it is. There was no anti-woman Republican position on rape; Romney clearly rebuked the idiotic statement by Akin—that’s a smear of a different sort—pure, unadulterated slander.

      And no one advocated deporting 12 million people. The GOP believes that the nation should not put in incentives to attract another 12 million law-breakers, which is the only position consistent with the rule of law and sovereignty.

      This post has nothing to do with Romney, who is irrelevant. It had to do with a President lying to a nation in his inaugural that spiraling debts would make it stronger, and people being willing to believe him because that is easier than accepting the task ahead.

      • It is your opinion that Obama is a weak and inept leader. Just an opinion. Held by many others, I’m sure, but disputed by many more. I think the guy who kept changing his position on just about every issue showed much more weakness, and I’m glad he didn’t win.

        Contraception is a women’s health issue, and resisting including it in insurance coverage is inherently anti-women’s health. My daughter takes birth control to control her endometriosis, not because she wants to have wild sex. Abortion is also a health issue. Women will continue to get abortions whether they are legal or not. It’s just that more will die. Until we solve the problem of economic inequality and create a support system for women with children, abortion will never go away. Republicans will never, ever get this. It’s all about morality until their girlfriend needs one.

        Although you insist that Romney rebuked the positions on rape of Akin, Mourdock, et al, they were supported by the Republican party and platform. Their insertion of the word “forcible” every chance they get shows their disdain for women who are victims of the crime. The latest fiasco in Arizona shows they haven’t learned anything.

        Romney advocated a policy that would encourage “self-deportation.” Enough said.

        Again, many respected economists disagree with your solutions to the deficit and the debt (and again, not just Krugman). To state in the President’s Inaugural a position that is not your own is not lying, it is disagreeing with you.

        The Democrats don’t need to smear the Republicans. They just need to let them talk.

        • 1) It’s an informed decision, based on an extensive study of the Presidency and the American leadership model. But yes. An opinion.
          2) You’re ducking the issue. Nobody opposed including contraception in insurance. What was opposed was forcing religious institutions that believe abortion and some contraception is morally wrong to have to pay for it through insurance. There was nothing anti-woman about that position at all. One should not be called anti-woman because one adheres to a moral code.
          3) Nobody reads the platforms or sticks to them in either party. We hold people to what they promise, not documents that they had no control over. Romney was essentially nominated before the GOP platform existed.
          4) Self-deportation means not making it attractive for people here illegally to stay here. I’d love to hear an explanation of what is ethically wrong with that.
          5) The president’s comment suggested that spending resources on social programs and entitlements made the country stronger. I have never heard any economist say THAT. That was the lie. It is unequivocally false. If he said spending more on projects, roads, research and development, etc. made us stronger, THEN he would have been backed by Barry, Krugman et al., and yes, that’s a position. Paying money to rich seniors who already have assets, for example, does not make us stronger. It makes us wasteful, cowardly and stupid.

          • If your moral code prevents women from getting the health care they need, it is anti-woman.

            Romney changed his position on literally every issue, sometimes on the same day. No one could possibly predict what he would actually do.

            Self-deportation may conform to the letter of the law, but it is cruel and destructive to families making up the 12 million people already here. Not ethical in my book. The Republicans are giving themselves whiplash today reversing themselves on this.

            Krugman has defended entitlements over and over, both in terms of strengthening the economy and preventing further harm. You can disagree with his arguments, but you can’t say he doesn’t say investing in them doesn’t make us stronger.

            • 1.If your moral code prevents women from getting the health care they need, it is anti-woman.
              Really? My moral code rejects stealing food from supermarkets. Does this mean I’m anti-hungry people?

              2. “Romney changed his position on literally every issue, sometimes on the same day. No one could possibly predict what he would actually do.” I don’t see what that has to do with anything. Anyone familiar with Romney knew he was a technocrat, not an ideologue.
              3. Please. Not making it comfy for law-breakers is not “cruel,’ and the number of law=breakers does not make their misconduct more acceptable, the burdens they impose on the nation less justifiable, or their position more defensible. Nobody asked them to come, and there is no obligation to make it profitable to stay. The GOP is reversing itself because too many people have a vested interest in encouraging illegals
              4. The last statement is too ridiculous to argue with you on. Krugman supports insane spending on the theory that it will create growth, but sinking borrowed money into more and more entitlements are not part of his formula.He has written many times that entitlements are a problem, potentially a catastrophic problem. He has never said spending more and more on them makes us “stronger,” nor could he.

              • 1. Huh? But I will admit that statement was over the top. I’ll take it back.
                2. You’re the one who said people expect candidates to keep their promises. I don’t see why you let technocrats off the hook.
                3. We do ask them to come. They pick our vegetables, watch our kids, mow our lawns and clean up after us. Kicking them out is cruel.
                4. Krugman may not want to sink “more and more” money into entitlements, but he doesn’t want to cut them, either. And he does not see them as an immediate catastrophic problem. He thinks dealing with them now would be a mistake.

                • 1. Thanks
                  2. I don’t expect any politicians to keep promises, but they still should, and I still hold it against them when they don’t. With a technocrat, the promise that matters, and that must be fulfilled, is “I’ll fix the problem, whatever it takes.” That was Lincoln; that was FDR.
                  3. I really hate that argument—it’s so dishonest. “We” make the laws that say don’t come; anyone who aids and abets illegal immigrants is as bad as they are. And it’s exploitive. “We” should pay enough so that citizens can do those jobs, and be willing to pay more for the goods and services as a result.
                  4. Still, he admits it is a problem, potentially a huge and destructive problem. Nowhere has he said that it makes us “stronger.”

    • Yes, many people do have a short memory. If it weren’t for that, liberalism would be nothing more than a bad short memory. But your drumbeat of historical revisionism- right out of the playbook- still doesn’t make it true. Nor does it make you holy. Just the extreme opposite, in fact. I didn’t call you ignorant (as you know) nor would I have. You are, in fact, knowingly evil. You are a member of one of the most false and perverted political movements ever to disgrace the name of human affairs. And you seek to masters over the nation and all of us here. But you still have a number of bridges to cross first. We’ve conducted a resistance movement before in this country.

  6. I think one of the important points touched on by this essay is the fact that only YOU can protect yourself from crime. Many politicians like to talk about police preventing or stopping crimes, but that rarely happens. Police mainly are just there to keep track of the score. They file reports after crimes are committed. Most crimes are never solved (the success rate for solving property crime is usually less than 20%). Where were the police in Newtown? Where were the police at Aurora Colorado? The police were standing right there in Arizona, but a Congresswoman was shot and six people killed right in front of them.

    Don’t think banning firearms is going to stop crime. The people involved in the tragedies above were all very troubled individuals who were intent on killing people. Denying them access to their preferred weapon is not going to stop them. Making it illegal for them to possess weapons at all will not stop them. There is a city ordinance declaring a $100 fine for detonating a nuclear weapon in Ann Arbor Michigan. That is probably the last thing anyone planning on nuking a small city is worrying about, but it makes everyone feel safer, I guess.

    • Search for Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s public service announcement.

      When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

      Civil society is an *active* team effort, it doesn’t magically emerge. It must be actively maintained on all levels. That means each level must behave in a trustworthy manner as well as be trusted..

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