Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back in Business!

After my friend Mike linked to yesterday's blog post, I figured I owed to my dozens, or hundreds, or... two... new readers to write something pithy today.  I have two thoughts so far this morning, basically unrelated.  One is a follow-up on yesterday's post, the other an observation on Super Tuesday.

So, to start with the "Slutgate" scandal, or whatever we're calling it now: I have read some more analysis since then, some of it fascinating.  I'd love to link to a couple of articles, but in most cases, the content, the comments, or both, contain language that I'd prefer not go out to everybody.  Two things jump out at me: despite the fact that I skimmed over the "they do it, too" argument, that's the one getting the most attention.  And the standard comeback is that this situation is far worse than numerous misogynistic things said about Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Bachmann, or whoever, because those ladies are "public figures" and also because Rush has such a huge army of brainwashed dittoheads and wields so much power in the GOP.  That's bull, and bull again.  This Fluke-lady is a professional activist who inserted herself into the debate.  She's no "Joe the Plumber" private citizen.  And Joe got hammered for daring to question the prevailing media narrative.  And besides, how "public" a citizen do you have to be to make it acceptable to suggest hate-rape?  If there's a bright line about that somewhere, I think I prefer being the naive guy who doesn't know about it--that's just vile behavior, period.  As for Rush's "influence," come on.  Sure, he's influential, because he's the best at what he does.  But he's no power broker.  And even if he were, so what?  Until I see somebody in the mainstream left publicly admit that Al Sharpton is a fraud and a hatemonger, I don't want to hear it.  The second thing is that if you read the comments on this, about every third one mentions that Limbaugh is some combination of obese and drug-addicted.  Admittedly, he used to be both.  He currently is neither.  But how does it make a situation like this better to turn up the ad hominem?  And why is it that a Teddy Kennedy (or for that matter a JFK or even a Clinton) can do arguably worse and still be a role model, but any conservative's transgressions live on forever?  If there were a department of double-standards, they would stay busy.

My unrelated thought is about Super Tuesday.  It's not so much about the on-again, off-again "inevitability" of Romney.  But it's about the inbred pessimism of conservatives.  Maybe it's because our side doesn't believe in eternal progress or utopianism.  Perhaps those of us who are theo-cons have a dimmer view of fallen human nature than our progressive friends, who are always one more education reform away from perfection.  But we're a gloomy bunch.  If Romney wins, he'll be the worst candidate ever.  Unless Santorum wins, in which case he'll be as bad or worse.  We had our shot and we blew it.  This is the most consequential election of our lifetime, and we've already given it away.  Yada, yada, yada.  You know what?  That's nuts. Here's a link to something funny about guaranteed losses.  Don't miss the lesson here: it's not that Romney is Reagan.  It's that people really thought Reagan couldn't beat Carter.  And now the conventional wisdom (flavored by hindsight) is that Carter never had a chance.  Once this one is over, there will be analysis.  But it likely won't line up with what "everybody knows" right now.  It rarely does.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Paying the Piper, Calling the Tune

I went out of town for a weekend, and came back to 87 unopened emails and 3 days of news.  Apparently while I was gone Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown coed a slut and caused all holy heck to break loose.  As I understand it, admittedly a day or two late and several dollars short, she testified that students like her need the new mandated zero-copay option for birth control because they cannot afford the $3000 such stuff could cost them during their law school careers.  Limbaugh said something unfunny, relating to the notion that if she wanted somebody else to pay her for having sex, that made her a pro.  A day or two later he apologized, but it's been the topic of numerous editorial screeds and much hand-wringing.

Oh, where to begin?  The low-hanging fruit is to play tu quoque with the various liberal ugly jokes and character assassinations that have been thrown at the likes of Sarah Palin.  That could take days, and once again illustrate the usual double-standard.  Too easy, and it's been done.

Another tack is to zero in on the absurdity of the premise.  Even if the young lady's numbers are correct, $1000 per year is less than $3 per day.  Most law school students spend that much at Starbucks.  And apparently generic birth control pills can be had for $9 per month at a Wal-Mart within walking distance from the University.  I find it surprising that anybody who can afford Georgetown's tuition would have a hard time scraping that together.  And along those same lines, why would there be zero copay for birth control pills, but not for penicillin or zantac or an epi-pen?  For that matter, what makes the pill privileged over viagra or rogaine or even a decongestant?

But the one that really gets me is this: this shouldn't be anybody's business.  Not Limbaugh's, not mine, not yours.  If this young lady wants to make whatever personal choices she does, nobody should care.  And I really don't, at least in theory.  I may generically disapprove of sex outside of marriage, or deplore the way our social standards slouch ever more toward Gomorrah, but that's just crankiness.  I'm not this girl's father, and I have no standing to judge.

...UNLESS.  Unless you make me pay for it.  And that, to me, is the big issue.  He who pays the piper gets to call the tune.  And when you let "the government," which equals, "the taxpayer" be the piper-payer, then the tune gets to be a matter of public debate.  I just returned from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.  Did you know that we have cancelled all of NASA's manned space flights?  Yep.  Budget cuts.  Somebody in a cubicle has decided that it's a waste of money, and that we can develop private-sector space travel or hitch a ride with the Chinese if we need to tinker with a satellite.  So we're too broke to afford astronauts, but our budget priorities include me buying birth control for somebody to whom I am not related.  I like astronauts better. 

BTW, this argument works LOTS of ways.  I'm no fan of nanny-statism.  Even though I hate smoking (emphysema killed my Granddaddy and will one day kill my Dad), I'm OK in theory with smoking being allowed in places that are not going to have secondhand exposure (a no smoking section in a restarant is like a no peeing section in a pool).  I don't like seat belt laws, or helmet laws, or big brother watching my fat intake.  If you want to kill yourself (quickly or slowly), have fun!  But once "society" has a stake in paying for the consequences of your (or my) actions, we get a vote.  This is why I want to reach into the buggy of people with food stamps and say, "put back that steak!"  You earn the money, eat T-bone every night.  But in my house, I earn the money, and steak is rare.  If I earn "your" money, I get a vote on your groceries.

Anyway, none of this is to defend Limbaugh.  He was right to apologize.  And he also owes an apology to those of us on the right side of this issue, whose reasonable arguments are undermined by him making a rude joke that distracts from the numerous good reasons to oppose this new mandate.

Speaking of prostitutes, there's an old line attributed to Winston Churchill.  He supposedly asked Lady Astor, with whom he had a long-running feud, if she would sleep with him for a million pounds sterling.  She indicated that she might.  He then asked if she would for five pounds.  She asked, "What kind of a woman do you think I am?"  The famous answer was, "We have already determined that.  Now we are negotiating price."  I'm afraid that we're in the same sort of a pickle as a nation.  We have already decided, I am afraid, that we choose to be a nation of serfs and subjects.  We are merely negotiating the terms of our servitude.