Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Power And Hypocrisy

I stopped by my conservative counterpart Donald Douglas' blog American Power this morning to see if he could provide me with a laugh or two to start my day and instead I found (sandwiched of course between two posts about what a super-brave, Christian patriot beauty queen Carrie Prejean is for wanting to deny gay people the right to marry each other because she totally read that gay people are bad in some old book once) this libertarian-esque take on personal freedoms:

There's been a lot of debate on health care the last few days. Check out this morning's Wall Street Journal, for example, "Soda Tax Weighed to Pay for Health Care" (via Memeorandum).

A "soda tax" is a "vice tax", like cigarette taxes, that gouges people for making personal choices that may have negaative externalities for the economy. The upshot, of course, is that limiting human freedom is taken as beneficial to the "public good." And it's the Democrats who're always doing it.
The rest of the post is just a cut and paste job from another conservative blogger complaining about health care and socialized medicine so don't bother reading it but it was Don's thoughts on limiting human freedom as it pertains to ingesting certain "vice" substances for the benefit of the "public good" that caught my eye in general, and his opinion that "it's the Democrats who're always doing it" in particular, because I remembered reading something rather similar he wrote about cannabis legalization last month:
This is a response to Will Wilkinson's essay, "I smoke pot, and I like it."

Fine. Good for you.

But I don't smoke pot, and I don't like it. Not only that, I don't like what it does to people, including people I know, and especially people I used to know, before they they fatally OD'd; and I worry that my sons will come under the influence of bad people who smoke pot, snort coke, and God knows what else; and my boys will be too inexperienced in the ways of the drug culture to know that what they're being turned on to could kill them.
Now I don't drink soda (although I do like it) and I don't smoke cigarettes, and I don't like them. Not only that, I don't like what they both do to people. 33% of American adults are obese and obesity-related deaths have climbed to more than 300,000 a year, second only to tobacco-related deaths which number 440,000 a year. I don't have any sons (that I know of, *wink*wink*) but if I did I would worry that they would come under the influence of bad people who drink soda, smoke cigarettes, and Zeus knows what else.

Come to think of it, I would worry that my fictional sons would come under the influence of bad people who do anything, be it doing their laundry, visiting their local library or even praying to a god of their own choosing, because they're bad people. I guess the difference between Don and myself is that I have the ability to realize that doing those things, or even doing harmful things like drinking soda and smoking cigarettes, doesn't necessarily make someone a bad person. And I apply this same logic to those who recreationally and/or medicinally use cannabis.

But Don lacks that ability (in addition to apparently lacking the ability to talk to and educate his own sons about drug use) because he proceeds from a number of false assumptions that he holds either out of prejudice, ignorance or both. One is that cannabis and other recreational drugs are inherently bad in and of themselves, and that it therefore follows that anyone who uses these substances, regardless of their personal level of responsibility or lack of abuse, is a bad person. Another is that since all recreational drugs are bad and therefore rightly illegal, all recreational drugs are also categorized exactly the same and pose the same societal and health risks regardless of their strength or effects on the human body. In other words:

M'kay? Oh, and of course Don has never known anyone who has "fatally OD'd" smoking cannabis because that is physically impossible; it's never happened even once in all of recorded human history. That's right: 740,000 deaths in America every year from completely legal obesity and tobacco, not one death worldwide from illegal cannabis use ever. Later in the same post after relating a story about one of his former students who was arrested for drug possession with intent to distribute Don again applies the Mr. Mackey argument against drug legalization:
Do not tell me, Will Wilkinson, that "Marijuana is neither evil nor dangerous." Fancy-talking libertarians like you have the luxury of expounding on the "failed" war on drugs while kicking back in cozy offices at the Cato Intstitute, or some other free-market think tank. I mean, look at this blather: "the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end."

Hey, man, can I borrow your Visine?
You see cannabis is obviously evil and dangerous because someone Don knows was arrested trying to sell it and rather than promote responsible drug use by consenting adults he would prefer that it remain stigmatized instead, allowing hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding Americans to suffer incarceration or worse at the hands of America's "failed" war on drugs. And also rather than employing scientific data and rational points of thought to prove his case he instead deftly applies the standard Glenn Beck/Cheech and Chong argument at the end there because since drugs are bad there's no point in taking any other argument to the contrary seriously, right?

To return to my original point, this entire worldview smacks of rank hypocrisy. In the world Don lives in the government and everything it says or does is part of an elaborate ploy to take away your rights and freedoms by controlling and taxing everything you personally choose to put into your own body in the name of the "public good", and this is of course all the fault of and only done by oppressive and socialistic Democrats. But at the same time of course recreational drugs like cannabis are so incredibly dangerous and just plain evil that no intelligent adult should ever be allowed to use them and it's entirely necessary for the government to spend $50 billion a year to protect free Americans from their own actions by fining and/or imprisoning them in the name of the "public good". This is a phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" and it makes it very hard for many people to think and debate honestly and logically.

You want to drink soda and smoke cigarettes, Don? Fine, good for you; feel entirely free to get as fat and cancer-ridden as you'd like. I would never suggest that you or any other adult should be denied the right to do pretty much anything you want to your own body, as long as it does not directly harm anyone else's. But by the same token, do not presume to tell me or anyone else what to do to our's because you somehow think you know what's best for us. Conservatives like you constantly bitch and moan about the reviled "nanny state" within our government yet seem to have no apparent quarrels with it when it serves your own purposes and agenda. In a free America we call that hypocrisy, and we call people like you hypocrites of the first order.


Van Zan said...

Quite a serve you're giving the professor there, JBW...his views aren't THAT warped, surely?
What's been written over there lately...? hmm... let me summarize post by post...

Torture issue is actually about how evil Democrats are.
Liberals want to kill babies, it's how they define freedom.
All gay people hate you.
Access to health care equals totalitarianism.
Religious nuts are good for the GOP.
...link link link...
Interview with Michelle Bachmann, who has all her facts straight.
Vid from Hannity.
MORE about the insidious gay plot to destroy Miss California.
The Left alone do all the dirty politics in the world - all conservatives play fair and are universally nice people, but could be a bit meaner...

(sigh...... sorry this is beginning to hurt, and I don't smoke weed...)

JBW said...

I'd say that your analysis of Don's recent posts is quite accurate and succinct, VZ. I've decided to stop trying to engage him on any kind of intellectual level at his place. He's obviously unreachable and it has become an exercise in futility. I'll content myself with merely lobbing bombs from here for now on.

And it's perfectly acceptable to me that you don't smoke. Unlike Don, I don't require that you adhere to my beliefs or way of life. Besides, from what I know of you amigo I'm sure you don't begrudge anyone who does partake.

Love hearing from you in the comments. How's Ozland these days? As an American I'm too lazy to read the news from other countries so you're my principle source of information.

Van Zan said...

The professor...
It's the dark and blindingly aggressive Pollyanna view he has of the world that irks me:
The absolutely non-empathetic certainty that HE is of the righteous... and everyone else is an evil shit or a duped lackey (and I note that the word 'empathy' has come up recently as a negative term in Right-wing dialogue).

I mean I understand the reasoning behind the concept of American exceptionalism, for example, but not only my sense of reason and history - but simply the accident of who I am - makes the concept troubling to me. Now... what if I was not just a foreigner (from a US ally) with centrist-liberal leanings... but also gay, or a teen girl who had had an abortion after being violated, or a Muslim, or unable to pay for health care, or a soldier who went to Iraq, possibly hideously wounded, and came away believing as many do that the war was a mistake..? AmPow is a like a big blackboard with the words "fuck you all" as the lesson of the day.

Well the federal budget just came down and the conservatives don't like all the borrowing. But 20% of our tax revenue has evaporated with the economic situation which is equivalent to an entire portfolio, meaning the conservatives need to explain what they'd give up funding.... umm hospitals? no... police? no... defense?...no transport? no...
And all the empirical data as judged by independent analysts point to the government stimulus packages as having positive results. Unemployment here actually fell last month. So fingers crossed we should ride out the recession at a more shallow depth than most countries.
Back to health care for a sec: I read recently that health care is 15% of the US GDP, and only 9.5% of the Australian one, yet our system mostly works. That's interesting.

Water: It's been raining, the grass is actually green again. Garden plants we kept alive with gray water from the shower, kitchen, anywhere... are looking healthy. You are not allowed to use a hose to water a garden or was your car here, except at set times for set street numbers... I am of probably the last generation to have seen a garden sprinkler used domestically.
I don't recall if I mentioned: my main instructors in my martial arts interests are cops. They did victim ID duty after the fires. Saw some horrible stuff. The fires came up so quick - people often had no time to get out. People called their mother on the mobile, said 'I love you', and then jumped in their own refrigerator, which did not help them of course.
A Royal Commission into the fires is going on currently, identifying what might have been avoidable.

Sport: Australian football season in full swing, and my team has a few injuries and is about halfway up the league ladder.
Haven't caught Star Trek yet, but everyone says "awesome", even non-Trekkers. Me and the lads plan to catch it Saturday.

I'm kind of glad you said you liked my comments, I didn't want to be the overstaying guest.

Anonymous said...

This post illustrates why it's hard for me to believe that there is actually such a thing as a libertarian. It seems like there are aspects of the philosophy that are going to appeal to some people and piss others off and that no one is going to be able to swallow the whole package. So, JBW, you and Don won't be passing the duchie anytime soon?

Thanks for the insight, Van Zan. As the typical American, I'd forgotten there was a world outside the US. I had seen news of the fires there and it kind of passed over me. Belated sympathies for your countrymen and admiration for those instructors of yours who do work that is so demanding.

JBW said...

Thanks, VZ. Always cool to catch up with our allies. And this blog is so under read that I would never consider a kindred soul an overstaying guest.

DLB, I relegate Libertarianism to the same category as every other ideology: great in theory, yet fairly lousy in practise. Ideas are important but they will never be a substitute for real life.

Van Zan said...

Thank you for your thoughts DLB. I went looking for your blog, but it wasn't there. Truth101 and his readers noted it too.
Everything alright mate?

Tim said...

Donald as basically turned into a Dominionist, with the world view of a pinhole. I can't engage him anymore either, as there is nothing left to engage. He refuses to actually debate a subject. He pronounces on a subject, copies someone else's blog post, agrees with it, finds some lefty who uses bad language, then lumps us all in to, what does he say, the "nihilist feverish gutter swamps"? Huh?

He's a smart guy too. Just a shame to see it go to waste with his now officially diagnosed right-wing derangement. I do think the right is prone to this affliction. What's really weird is that Donald was once liberal. He's like a reformed smoker.

I love the fact that Liberals want to expand on the rights of others, and we are called fascists. It's classic Orwellian double-speak.

JBW said...

I understand that you and Don are related (by marriage, if I've gathered correctly) Tim. I'm curious, is he like this at family gatherings and holidays as well?

I myself freely admit that I can become a bit abrasive with some of my own conservative family members after a few glasses of wine but I like to think that I don't come off as any more of an asshole than I do online, and vice versa. I'm just wondering if his clueless shout down persona changes when there isn't digital distance between himself and his target.

Tim said...

Donald is fine at family gatherings as we usually focus on the kids. The first inkling I had of his turnabout was soon after the '04 elections when he said I was crazy to vote for Kerry. I remember he quoted the Duelfer report as his proof about Saddam and his imaginary weapons. (My understanding of the Duelfer report was that there was a certain amount of ambiguity, even uncertainty, by Duelfer.)

JBW said...

Interesting. To be honest Tim, I was never thrilled about voting for Kerry myself but what alternative did I have? Exactly...