Aug 22nd 2009

Liberals: Take the gloves off!

by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni served as a Senior Advisor to the Carter White House; taught at Columbia University, Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, and is a University Professor at The George Washington University. He served as the President of the American Sociological Association, and he founded the Communitarian Network. A study by Richard Posner ranked him among the top 100 American intellectuals. He is the author of numerous op-eds and his voice is frequently heard in the media. He is the author of several books, including The Active Society, Genetic Fix, The Moral Dimension, The New Golden Rule, and My Brother’s Keeper. His latest book Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy was published by Yale University Press in the Spring of 2007. His regular blog is Amitai Etzioni Notes.

The looming defeat of a progressive health care bill is a much greater disaster than meets the eye. The right wing will learn, as they already surmised from previous skirmishes, that they can blow the Democrats out of the water. They will use the same smear tactics, emotional lies, and talk radio campaigns to defeat whatever other progressive moves of any significance are left on the diluted and impoverished Obama agenda. And they will further water down whatever laws have been passed, the weak cap and trade bill for instance. Moreover, the right wing will use the same tactics during the forthcoming mid-term elections, as a dry run for 2012. By that time they will have convinced the masses that Obama was born on Mars, is a Soviet agent, and will take away the people's right to shoot each other.

The liberals in response have been lame beyond belief. They have set up web pages that clarify the facts and provide corrections to misinformation-as if this was some kind of scholarly debate and the right and its followers will yield to the kind of corrections editors of scientific publications are prone to make. Liberals have called for a "stable, quality care" system, a phrase which has less appeal than last week's dish water. They favor "evidence based policies," a term that may excite a handful of policy wonks in a handful of think tanks. And they have been "negotiating": making grand concessions to the other side without getting anything in return, just to show how conciliatory, bipartisan, and reasonable liberals can be.

The time has come for liberals to take off their gloves. A good place to start is to conduct hearings (Henry Waxman, where are you when we need you?) and town hall meetings fully dedicated to the ill doings of the private, profit-making sector. Lets hear about the sick who were denied care by insurance companies using one technicality or another; about private hospitals and clinics that pay recruiters to bring in patients from across the country in order to subject them to surgeries they do not need; about the health care dollars that are pocked by high salaried executives, their mistresses and sons in law, and back room backers; about elders allowed to wallow in their own waste to increase profits at nursing homes, and about other senior citizens who were refused treatments in order to hasten their deaths after they paid the assisted living facility's high entrance fees. In short, liberals need to show that the private, profit-making sector is riddled with abuse, corruption, and malpractice. Only then will a public option shine.

If you feel at this point that such accusations are unfair, that one cannot generalize, that there are good people in the private sector, that public institutions also have some failings - then you should look in the mirror and see one reason the right wing is winning. This is not a theoretical debate which can be settled by checking the decimal points. At issue are overarching conclusions and basic sensibilities: is the profit-making sector a more trustworthy provider of health care than the public one? Should it at least face some public competition? The debate has to focus on this level and employ a language most people can be affected by-or we may as well wave another white liberal flag and not bother to join the fight. And a fight it is, with much more than the future of health care at stake.

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Apr 29th 2022
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Apr 24th 2022
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Apr 3rd 2022
EXTRACT: "From 1807 to 1814 on the Iberian peninsula, Napoleon had to fight Spanish, Portuguese and British armies while beset by ubiquitous, ferocious insurgents. He described this war as his “bleeding ulcer”, draining him of men and equipment. It is the west’s aim to make Ukraine for Putin what Spain was for Napoleon. In the absence of a negotiated settlement, Ukraine and Nato will continue to grind away at Russia’s army, digging away at that bleeding ulcer and prolonging Russia’s agony on the military front, as the west continues its parallel assault on its economy. If Putin’s plan is to proceed with the Korea model, he will fail. There is a strong possibility that Putin has only a limited idea of how badly his army is faring. So be it – he’ll find out soon enough that there is now no path for him to military victory."
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EXTRACTS: "Policymakers expected that the country would be able to secure its energy supply entirely from renewable sources, so they resolved to phase out coal and nuclear energy simultaneously. The last three of Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants are set to be shut down this year." ---- ".... the share of wind and solar power in Germany’s total final energy consumption, which includes heating, industrial processing, and traffic, was a meager 6.7%. And while wind and solar generated 29% of the country’s electricity output, electricity itself accounted for only about a fifth of its final energy consumption." ----- "If Germany suddenly halted Russian gas imports, gas-based residential heating systems – on which half the German population, approximately 40 million people, rely – and industrial processes that rely heavily on gas imports would break down....."
Apr 1st 2022
EXTRACT: "For Putin, the past that matters most is the one the dissident author and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn exalted: the time when the Slavic peoples were united within the Orthodox Christian kingdom of Kievan Rus’. Kyiv formed its heart, making Ukraine central to Putin’s pan-Slavic vision. ---- But, for Putin, the Ukraine war is about preserving Russia, not just expanding it. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made clear, Russia’s leaders believe that their country is locked in a “life-and-death battle to exist on the world’s geopolitical map.” That worldview reflects Putin’s longstanding obsession with works of other Russian emigrant philosophers, such as Ivan Ilyin and Nikolai Berdyaev, who described a struggle for the Eurasian (Russian) soul against the Atlanticists (the West) who would destroy it. ---- Yet Putin and his neo-Eurasianists seem to believe that the key to victory is to create the kind of regime those anti-Bolshevik philosophers most detested: one run by the security forces. A police state would fulfill the vision of another of Putin’s heroes: the KGB chief turned Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov."
Apr 1st 2022
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