Happy holidays, everybody! The year is almost over. While the sort of angry and/or depressing writing that permeates this blog might give a different impression, this has actually been a good year for me; it's just that my writing on more pleasant and cheerful subjects appears on sites other than this one.
Despite the dark topics that this blog mostly focuses on, I want The Superfluous Man to conclude 2011 and welcome 2012 on a happy note. To that end, I'm dedicating the last Superfluous Man post of 2011 to posting this link to my commentary, which I wrote the original version of in 2009 and have added to each year since, on the legendarily awful late 1970s TV cash-in, The Star Wars Holiday Special. I hope it makes you laugh. And if it piques your curiosity enough to get you to find a copy to watch yourself, remember: I tried to warn you.
Thanks for reading, and I hope I'll see you all again in 2012!
Friday, December 30, 2011
And now, just the thing to make the year complete: The Star Wars Holiday Special!
Happy holidays, everybody! The year is almost over. While the sort of angry and/or depressing writing that permeates this blog might give a different impression, this has actually been a good year for me; it's just that my writing on more pleasant and cheerful subjects appears on sites other than this one.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
The National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Verizon Foundation join forces to demonize abused children
The little girl, of course, remains human.
But no such boy, no traumatized boy who ought to be viewed with sympathy rather than fear and horror, exists in the universe of the ad. None ever could.
I wonder how many of the boys in that class have been abused. I wonder how many of them have been raped. I wonder how many of them go home to a house full of violence and say to themselves, “I won’t be like this when I grow up,” only to have someone like this woman say, “You have a penis. Yes, you will.”
Monday, November 28, 2011
Thoughts on Daniel Klein's studies of economic literacy
Friday, November 04, 2011
Kick him when he's down
In other words, what we today think of as the unintended consequences of laws supported by today’s well-meaning but economically uninformed Progressives were actually the intended goals of some of their intellectual ancestors a century ago. Early Progressive economists understood the effects of these interventions, but they thought those effects were desirable.
Some of the commentary on this issue was amazingly perverse. Consider what Sidney and Beatrice Webb had to say, in their classic Industrial Democracy, on the matter of how "the sick and the crippled, the idiots and lunatics, the epileptic, the blind and the deaf and dumb, the criminals and the incorrigibly idle" and the "deficient in strength, speed, or skill" were best dealt with:
These physical and moral weaklings and degenerates must somehow be maintained at the expense of other persons. They may be provided for from their own property or savings, by charity or from public funds, with or without being set to work in whatever ways are within their capacity. But of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage-earners for situations in the industrial organisation.
Note, again, the perversion of language: A disabled person who supports himself by working for wages in a competitive market, like any other worker, is being "maintained at the expense of other persons."
And yet, if you accept the premise that the class of workers that eugenicist Progressives and socialist considered "fit" favor ought to have a monopoly on wages, without competition from their inferiors, it actually makes sense. In that case, the wages earned by the defective worker actually rightfully belong to his betters, and archaic individualist quibbling about the fact that he earned them with own productive labor for a willing employer doesn't change that.
(It also makes sense if you hold whoever you've identified as defective in such contempt that their attempts to participate in human society as if they were actual people are an unacceptable affront to you, of course.)
(If this post seems especially acerbic and unpleasant, I imagine that's why. Spending hours immersing yourself in the thoughts of people who despised you and what you are to the point of making ridding the world of your kind an integral part of a political philosophy to which they dedicated their lives can do that, particularly when the people in question are widely hailed as moral visionaries and their efforts to create a world that nobody would have to share with anyone like you are considered a noble struggle for decency, humanity, and "social justice.")
Of course, the fact that many of some form of market intervention's biggest intellectual advocates happened to be despicable assholes with appalling motivations who supported the law precisely because they knew that it would serve the appalling motivations that made them despicable assholes in the first place does not, in itself, prove that the intervention is a bad thing. But a huge amount of economic statism's persuasive appeal, at least in the United States, is built less on the arguments for individual policies than it is on the popular mythology of the noble, righteous reformers who fought to create the modern interventionist state and saved us from the horrors of laissez-faire, and one of the most pervasive and pernicious effects of that mythology is that it encourages the presumption that greater government interventionism in the economy is something that favors the weak against the strong.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Compassion grows out of the the barrel of a gun
The lowest point of the evening — and perhaps of the political season — came when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a hypothetical question about a young man who elects not to purchase health insurance. The man has a medical crisis, goes into a coma and needs expensive care. “Who pays?” Blitzer asked.
“That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks,” Paul answered. “This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody. . . .”
Blitzer interrupted: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”
...Paul, a physician, went on to say that, no, the hypothetical comatose man should not be allowed to die. But in Paul’s vision of America, “our neighbors, our friends, our churches” would choose to assume the man’s care — with government bearing no responsibility and playing no role.
Government is more than a machine for collecting and spending money, more than an instrument of war, a book of laws or a shield to guarantee and protect individual rights. Government is also an expression of our collective values and aspirations. There’s a reason the Constitution begins “We the people . . .” rather than “We the unconnected individuals who couldn’t care less about one another. . . ”
I believe that writing off whole classes of citizens — the long-term unemployed whose skills are becoming out of date, thousands of former offenders who have paid their debt to society, millions of low-income youth ill-served by inadequate schools — is unconscionable.
Note that Robinson is making a very different criticism from the- still wrong, but not outright nonsensical- idea that the government's involvement in these matters is indispensable because noncoercive mechanisms would fail and leave the streets choked with the corpses of the cast of Oliver. That would be a purely practical criticism that would have nothing to do with anyone's supposed lack of "Christian kindness" or support for a society of "unconnected individuals who couldn't care less about one another." Such a criticism would directly contradict the one Robinson makes here, since arguing for the inadequacy of voluntary efforts would put Robinson in the position of claiming that Ron Paul's belief in the power and importance of people's concern for one another in our society was too strong, rather than too weak.
Robinson characterizes the philosophy of Paul and Bachmann as one of a country composed of "unconnected individuals who couldn’t care less about one another." He says this in response to Paul's statement that assisting people in need should be done by "our neighbors, our friends, our churches" rather than the government. He describes the idea of helping people through non-coercive means as "writing off" those people.
If Paul had said that he was opposed to compelling people to serve in government breeding camps, I suppose Robinson would be rebuking him for his desire to doom the human race to extinction with this generation.
Now, it's common enough for liberals to fail to grasp the difference between rejecting a particular means for achieving a goal and rejecting the goal. (It's typical of ideologies that focus on whether a proposed response to a problem displays the proper emotions and mindset rather than on whether the proposed solution is likely to actually work. A similar phenomenon can be seen among many drug war supporters, or in the focus on "will" or "resolve" among "War on Terror" hawks.) But the disconnect between Robinson's description of Paul's position and the stated position of Ron Paul that Robinson himself just quoted- and Robinson gives no suggestion that he thinks Paul doesn't mean what he said- is still quite striking. I smoke cigars, but don't smoke cigarettes, so it follows that I never smoke tobacco products of any kind..
But it makes perfect sense once you've accepted one of the central but unstated premises of modern American liberalism: government action is the only thing that has or is capable of having moral value, because there is no alternate means of accomplishing anything worthwhile. It's a vision of society and human life is so state-centric that adherents honestly can't tell the difference between "X should be done, but not by the state" and "X should not be done." (Think of all the dribbling idiocy about the "nihilism" of Obama's critics in the past few years. See also my own previous post.) Without that assumption underlying his arguments Robinson's description of Paul and Bachman is not merely unconvincing but incoherent, built around claims that Robinson himself repeatedly and explicitly demonstrates to be false.
Fortunately, most people who adhere to beliefs like this in politics compartmentalize it pretty well. Just as very few people go around abducting young men to use as slave labor or forcing people whose productivity is lower than the value of a "living wage" to quit their jobs or stealing wallets so they can send the money to Goldman Sachs, even when their political philosophy endorses those things, most people with this sort of mindset usually understand the value of benevolence towards others in private, nonpolitical life while they're in the process of actually living it.
So, it's no surprise that Paul's remarks would inspire such revulsion. Ron Paul advocated a society where the needy are aided by the voluntary actions of others, and not by the government- but if you've bought into the idea that a country's "values and aspirations" are expressed not by what its people choose to do but by what their rulers force them to do, "aided by the voluntary actions of others" is just so much meaningless noise.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
I'm opposed to the existence of sex offender registration lists, such as those created by what's commonly called "Megan's Law" legislation. They do an end run around due process by allowing governments to decree onerous new penalties at will for crimes someone has already been convicted and sentenced for. They devastate the lives of people who have harmed no one or committed some extremely petty crime like public urination. They have far more to do with appeasing public hysteria by showing that the government is Doing Something then with actually protecting the public.There are very good reasons to be against these laws.
I'm not opposed to them because I think holding elementary school children down against their will and shoving your dick in their faces is harmless schoolyard tomfoolery.
A few days ago, there were a number of postings at various places online about 2 14-year-old boys in New Jersey who, after a decision by a New Jersey appellate court, had been permanently placed on the state's registered sex offender list due to a conviction for criminal sexual contact. The predominant response, including some from people I generally think quite well of, seems to be that it is not merely wrong that the boys would be put on a lifetime registry of sex offenders for this but silly or outrageous (scroll down a bit to the comments) that it is even being treated as a serious criminal matter at all, much less “criminal sexual contact.” The action for which the boys were convicted of a crime was, we're told again and again, something trivial, just a "prank" or "horseplay" or- in some cases- the sort of youthful character-building experience that, like vitamins and minerals and fresh air, is something a growing boy needs so that he doesn't grow up to be a complete pussy. The dominant view seems to be that's its the sort of thing that warrants a stern talking-to from dad, or at most some very minor legal slap on the wrist, not something that should be regarded as a genuine crime against the victims.
One of the things conspicuously absent from most reporting and commentary on the case is a thorough description of what actually happened. So, imagine this scenario. (The actual written decision by the court, which describes the complete incident, can be read here.)
You're in front of a local store when someone significantly bigger than you, who you have never met, shoves you against a wall. He and his three friends then pick you up, forcibly carry you across the street, and threaten to beat you up. You attempt to flee but aren't fast enough, and they quickly catch you again. They pin you to the ground and hold you down while one of them beats and head-butts you. Finally, while you're still held immobile and helpless, one of them removes his pants and, nude below the waist, rubs his bare buttocks against your face while his penis presses against your lips.
That's the “horseplay” in question, except that in the real version it was done to two sixth-grade boys instead of an adult.
I agree that children today are frequently overprotected, though I think it would be more precise to say that children are overly “protected” from relatively uncommon or outright imaginary perils so that adults can feel good about how much they care without bothering with the more burdensome task of addressing actual or likely sources of harm. I also agree that there is a bias against boys in the educational system and much of the culture that treats perfectly healthy, harmless behavior and traits common among boys as if they were immoral, dangerous, destructive, or pathological. (Though, as we see here, the conservative Real Men contingent and I tend to differ somewhat on which category “elite group based on superior charisma, physical strength, social status, aggression, and adherence to gender norms intimidates, humiliates, and physically and psychologically abuses lower-status boys with the tacit or explicit approval of adults” goes under.) And I'm opposed to "Megan's Law" registration, for the reasons described above. So I'm sympathetic to some of the concerns raised by many of the people I'm talking about here.
And that is what this was. The fact that so many people are shocked at the idea of even making this a legal matter, much less a serious one, is a testament to just how normalized some types of violence are. Replace the 12-year old boy in the story with someone from a more protected group and this becomes immediately obvious to virtually everyone. If 14-year old boys had done this to a sixth-grade girl- or to a grown woman, for all the hot air blown about protecting kids- that they had run into in front of a local store, virtually no one would have any trouble recognizing that such an act was an actual crime, and not a trivial one. I sure as hell don't think Radley Balko would be saying that the prosecutor should be fired for charging the perpetrators in the first place.
Opponents of registration like myself would still disapprove of it as a matter of principle in such a case, but I certainly don't think many of us would be holding such a case up as an obviously absurd and outrageous miscarriage of justice in the same category as branding a 16-year old boy as a lifelong "sex offender" for having consensual sex with someone a few months younger or prosecuting him for producing “child pornography” by photographing himself nude.
Now, part of that would be for strategic reasons- if you're trying to convince people on the other side of the issue to reconsider their position, "Registration laws can severely interfere with the lives of teenage boys who get their kicks by forcing their anuses and genitalia into the faces of frightened, struggling elementary school girls" is just about the least compelling argument imaginable. But it would also be sheer moral repugnance- the idea of a teenage boy chasing down a fleeing sixth-grade girl, pinning her to the ground, beating her, and shoving his privates in her face while she struggles is so clearly and repulsively not analogous to the sort of victimless crimes usually cited as examples of sex offense laws run amok that virtually everyone would recoil from the comparison.
None of this is surprising; violence against males in general simply don't bother most people the way harms suffered by females do, and this is doubly the case if someone's genitalia is somehow involved. But in this case, a crime against adolescent boys isn't just taken less seriously then the same crime would be against girls or women; it's taken less seriously then the same crime almost certainly would be if it had been committed against a mature man. If a band of teenage boys had somehow seized men in their 30s or 40s off of the street and forcibly did to them what was done in this case, that would be considered- in the probably-unlikely event the victims reported it- shocking, predatory behavior. The men they targeted would probably receive more ridicule and contempt than sympathy, but no one would be suggesting that this was a case of normal, basically harmless boyhood hijinks gone a bit too far.
My guess- or at least my hope- is that a lot of this response is a knee-jerk reaction from people who didn't research beyond the initial news articles, which didn't describe the actual offense in detail and were laden with the sort of minimizing language common in media coverage of events like these. However, even the bowdlerized account in most of the media describes an incident that nearly everyone would have considered seriously criminal- and yes, sexual- if the victim had been anything other than a young boy.
This sort of thing has particular relevance to me as a libertarian, for reasons- which I might get to some other time- above and beyond the fact that it's a form of aggression that would be quickly recognized as criminal in other circumstances but is instead accepted or ignored. Popular attitudes concerning violence against men and boys are also, as people who've been reading this blog for a while know, a recurring focus of mine. But putting all that aside, the notion that a 12-year-old boy should have as much legal protection against being seized in the street, beaten, and forced into contact with his assailant's sexual and excretory organs as other people should not be an idea that one must be some sort of radical in order to accept.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
I'm a few days behind the curve, as usual, but I'd just like to add my voice to those celebrating the news of the impending release of Cory Maye. The end result can hardly be called justice- an innocent man spent nearly a decade in prison, and will spend the rest of his life with a criminal record, for the crime of defending his home and his daughter from violent, unidentified intruders because the intruders turned out to be government employees.
But, until very recently, he was serving a life sentence. Until 2006, he was on Death Row. Without Radley Balko's years of work, it is very likely that he would still be there awaiting death by lethal injection, or else dead already. Instead, he's going home.
I wish Mr. Maye all the best. Take care.
Monday, June 27, 2011
The worst people in the world, then and now
Because I'm nothing if not eager to brood resentfully about the past, I've been thinking back, recently, on the aftermath of the Jared Lee Loughner mass shooting in Arizona. (See my previous remarks here.) It's impressive how quickly that seems to have gone down the memory hole once the accumulation of actual information about Loughner and his motives meant that the “anti-government nut driven to mass murder by those horrid people saying mean things about Democrats” fantasy so many media figures and rank-and-file progressives were luxuriating in was no longer tenable. So frustrating, when reality interrupts a good wet dream that way.
After I published this post last November, I had started to wonder if I'd been overly harsh when I'd referred to the mainstream Left's "fascistic true colors" and described its predominant attitude towards dissent as “berserk, hysterical rage and hatred.” That was then. Now I'm just wondering why I beat around the bush with that milquetoast "-ic" suffix. Many rank-and-file progressives no doubt mean well and would recoil from things they currently accept or support if they fully understood them- but, to paraphrase what I said in that post, a successful statist ideology needs to be good at making sure it isn't understood too well.
The response to the Jared Loughner shooting didn't show me anything that I didn't, at least in broad outlines,already know. The frenzied, triumphant eruption of demonisation and hatred directed by so many liberal commentators, politicians, and everyday folks at anyone with an unkind word to say about Obama, Democrats, or the sacred federal government after the Loughner shooting, before anyone had gone through the formality of actually finding out what the shooter's motives were was the natural evolution of liberal/centrist discourse, and the message is what it always was: Shut up. It has been readily apparent for some time that mainline left-liberal opinion-makers and political figures consider any meaningful dissent to be utterly beyond the pale. If you're on board with the existing state and its continued expansion and want to suggest some tweaks while you're submitting, that's fine, and that's as far as legitimate, responsible “differences” can go. That's been the consistent pattern since Obama took office; at a (usually) less hysterical/gleeful level it's been an ongoing theme in American politics for at least half a century.
(All three of those links are to articles by Jesse Walker that I recommend very highly.)
When attempts to use the Jared Loughner shooting to demonize dissenters into silence were at fever pitch, some people rebutted that all this liberal caterwauling about “civility” and right-wing “hate” was grossly hypocritical in light of the sort of things many liberals were saying during the Bush years. That's true enough, but it wrongly implies the existence of some radical discontinuity between the Bush era and the years preceding it.
I came of political age in the Clinton years, and- unlike the significant percentage of the population that was apparently sent into some sort of amnesiac fugue state by the shock of 9/11- I remember them. As much as the state of pro-war conservative rhetoric during the George W. Bush years repelled me, liberal complaints about being called “anti-American” or the like were always ridiculous to me. I certainly agree that the accusation was rarely if ever true, and that a large proportion of right-wing political speech after 9/11 consisted of shrill, hysterical insults based on nothing but the fact that you had the temerity to disagree about the war in Iraq or the PATRIOT Act or whatever. I was subjected to it myself on more than one occasion.
(There was the time I was accused of wanting "Islamo-Fascists" to conquer America, have women stoned to death, outlaw liquor, and send everyone to gas chambers, for instance.)
But to have taken liberal outrage over the likes of David Horowitz calling people “traitors” or “America-hating” seriously, I'd have to have believed that relentlessly accusing people of being cruel, heartless, greedy, selfish, hate-filled, fascist, racist, misogynistic, violent, or dangerous for daring to disagree with you is just fine, but that calling someone unpatriotic is somehow beyond the pale. I would have to forget the militia scare, when people with much louder megaphones than the likes of Ann Coulter were talking about the ominous, dangerous “extremism” of folks like me, who didn't like the vast power wielded by the national government or thought that things like the government-instigated bloodbath at Waco or the cold-blooded murder of Vicki Weaver were worth being mad about. I'd have to imagine that the shocked, hysterical whining of a spoiled bully outraged to discover that someone was actually willing and able to hit him back somehow deserved my respect.
I also think the extent to which the political Left got nastier during the Bush years is somewhat exaggerated- they were quite fierce, certainly, but the previous baseline was already quite high. There was a genuine increase in liberal acrimony, but the chief difference is that the most hated opponents of liberals during the Clinton years were a more diffuse target, and after a while liberal demonisation of them became the political equivalent of white noise from an air conditioner- loud, but so uniform that after a while you stop consciously noticing it unless you specifically decide to think about it. The Bush administration provided conspicuous specific personalities like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who drew much more concentrated and thus more attention-grabbing hostility. It's like replacing four 50-watt light bulbs lighting a room with two 50-watt light bulbs lighting a room and a 100-watt laser burning someone's face off- getting attention isn't just a matter of raw output.
More importantly, however,the Bush era is much less revealing than the state of liberal and centrist rhetoric after Bush, during the same period when critics of the Obama administration were supposedly being whipped into a murderous rage by antigovernment rhetoric and the ensorcerelled bullseyes on Sarah Palin's evil hypno-map. What has characterized the speech of the Left and the "vital center"? For fairness' sake, let's limit it to mainstream figures and publications.
Mindless, reflexive, sweeping condemnations of dissent as "racism." A litany of accusations that people who oppose a government takeover of healthcare are insurance industry shills and/or causing the deaths of hordes of fellow Americans out of sheer greed or callousness, . Blaming opponents of the new administration for inciting the "murder" of a government employee that, awkwardly, turned out to have never taken place. Comparisons of people at peaceful rallies to Stalin. Description of the Tea Party movement as "small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht." An apparent Jack Chick-like inability to even conceive of someone who's heard their program and yet rejects it for reasons other than bigotry, greed, or sheer wickedness.
Declaring criticism of or opposition to liberal politicians, their polices, or the power of the federal government to be sedition- that is to say, criminal.
And, of course, a seemingly endless series of claims that widespread, significant opposition to Obama's policies represent some sort of rising tide of "fascism" or sinister "extremism" that threatens an imminent explosion of violence. Calling actual, significant expansions of government power instigated and controlled by people who actually hold power "fascism" is absurd, paranoid, extremist, and irresponsible, whereas calling peaceful political speech by private citizens opposed to such expansion of state power "fascism" or "terrorism"is perfectly reasonable. This is probably where liberal hypocrisy about "civility" is most glaring- if anti-Obama groups ever managed to pull off something half as disruptive and noisy as the liberal response to Scott Walker's attempts to weaken government employee unions in Wisconsin, they'd probably be screaming for the President to declare martial law.The overwrought hysteria and terror so many liberals in the media and government display at the prospect of non-liberals daring to actually organize and protest would be hilarious if it weren't so ominous.
In fact, in my experience liberal commentators have been far more vitriolic and eager to demonize opposition since Bush left office than while he was in it. Even if you don't share my assessment that it's actually gotten worse, it's still rather curious considering what it's in response to.
During the Bush administration, Bush and other Republicans (and many Democrats, like Obama's current Secretary of State) launched a pointless, costly, devastating and highly controversial war due to what was at best terrible judgment and at worst consciously perpetrated fraud, severely attacked civil liberties, and assumed office through an extremely controversial election victory that many liberals considered fraudulent or corrupt. Whatever else I may say about liberal discourse during the Bush years, which rarely dared to question liberal statism and put too much emphasis on a few figures like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney while giving short shrift to the decades of accumulated precedents leading up to them, the sheer fury directed towards men like Bush made sense given the situation.
(If not always the reasons for it- in terms of the animosity it generated, Bush's failure to speak with a proper General American Walter Cronkite accent was probably worth at least a few tens of thousands of dead Iraqis.)
The targets of liberal ire during the Obama administration, on the other hand, have been rather less accomplished. Criticism of federal spending has become fiercer and more common than it was during the Bush years. Republican congressmen- some of whom are apparently under the impression that winning the Presidential election only gives the winner the powers of a President and not a Roman dictator- wouldn't vote for Obamacare, causing it to be passed slightly later then would have otherwise been the case. There's a cable network with programming that often portrays President Obama and other Democrats in a hostile light, and many talk radio shows do likewise. Non-liberals have had the temerity to hold peaceful public rallies, lawfully exercise their right to bear arms in public, and even mouth off to their betters during what were supposed to be carefully managed propaganda events.
Even if you don't approve of these things, they still seem rather unimpressive compared to the reasons for liberals to be angry during the Bush years, and yet they produce at least as much rage and loathing as the outrages of the Bush administration. The sheer scale of it has certainly grown since the Bush years, from something directed predominantly at relatively prominent, influential figures such as politicians and media personalities to a more democratized sort of demonisation of far larger groups of people.
The mere existence of significant, outspoken dissent against liberal domestic politics- dissent which was ultimately unsuccessful, since it didn't stop the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress at that time from passing the health care bill, or the bailout of the automobile industry and its associated unions, or hundreds of billions of dollars in “stimulus” spending- provokes at least as much rage and loathing as a pointless war that has killed hundreds of thousands of foreigners and thousands of Americans, the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars and much of America's international reputation, all sorts of outrageous attacks against civil liberties and due process, and a possibly stolen election. During the Bush years- and still today, occasionally- some liberals, usually those of a more radical sort, advocated prosecuting Bush as a war criminal for starting a war of aggression that killed thousands. Now we've got mainstream liberal figures and publications like The Nation talking about prosecuting people for criticizing politicians.
I used to find this counterintuitive. I no longer do. For all the condemnation he received, George W. Bush was never a threat to liberalism/progressivism's core principles.
The near-total evaporation of the anti-war movement has been remarked upon many times, so I won't belabor it here. In addition to that, I would remind everybody that President Bill Clinton's enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq during his 8 years in office killed hundreds of thousands of people. Aside from libertarians, some paleoconservatives, and the sort of leftists who probably find Democratic Party fund-raising letters in their mail and think “I should see if my parakeet's cage needs to be cleaned,” most people didn't care much. Stacks of dead foreigners simply aren't that big an issue.
Bush's attacks on civil liberties and due process at home drew plenty of heat while he was in office. There are still outspoken people on the Left, such as Glenn Greenwald, who haven't let up on the issue. As we've seen since Obama took office, however, most liberals treat those issues as at best a minor sideshow when a Democrat is in the White House. They don't necessarily like or advocate them- I'm sure many devoted liberals would, all else equal, prefer it if the government wasn't claiming the right to assassinate American citizens at will or groping children's pubic regions at airports- but things that Bush was excoriated for, or would have been if he had actually dared to do them, barely register now.
And of course, there's no shortage of liberals who will actually defend these things. (Or, more cleverly, claim nominal disapproval and them and go on the attack against people who demonstrate actual disapproval, a la Mark Ames and Yasha Levine.) If there is an assault on people's freedom, privacy, or dignity so grotesque that large numbers of liberals won't rally to defend it, it has yet to be discovered.
The most conspicuously objectionable things Bush did simply aren't things most mainstream liberals actually oppose all that strongly, if at all.The lie that Bush was some sort of radical free-marketeer has become firmly established now, but when he was in office Bush barely even pretended to have interests in that direction. He was a “compassionate conservative,” not one of those scary anti-government types; he had disputes with liberals about the precise implementation of the welfare and regulatory state, and about the specific areas and rate of its future expansion, but he didn't even pretend to take the anti-statist rhetoric of the Clinton era seriously.
And here we run into a striking difference between Bush and the sort of people that some of the folks at America's oldest and most venerable journal of left-of-center political opinion wants imprisoned for sedition. The tea party movement defines itself by its hostility to domestic statism, or at least economic statism. Many politicians who've associated themselves with it are no doubt just opportunists, and many rank-and-file supporters are no doubt not terribly consistent. Still, I think there clearly is a lot of genuine hostility to domestic statism in the movement, though I remain cautiously pessimistic about the prospects of any long-term effects.
(My default stance is to assume that any seemingly positive development is either a mistake, a trick, or unstoppably careening towards a catastrophic plunge over the side of an unseen cliff, so “cautiously pessimistic” is actually fairly high praise.)
In any case, their harshest detractors usually seem to consider them a genuine menace to the modern welfare/regulatory/cronyist state. Unlike George W. Bush, the Tea Party movement is avowedly hostile to liberal principles that, unlike privacy or not immolating foreigners for no good reason, are not negotiable:welfare statism, interventionism, ever-greater management of the economy and society by government technocrats. Tea Party rhetoric is anti-government, whereas he great bulk of what the loudest right-wingers during the Bush administration had to say was merely anti-Left- and the venom of liberalism's harshest critics during the Bush years was primarily targeted at things that have now been shown to be disposable appendages of American liberalism rather than vital principles. Here there is a strong parallel with establishment conservatism, which forgives virtually any amount of contempt for its supposed principles of free markets and “limited government” if you're sufficiently supportive of the warfare state and is indifferent to any amount of support for them if you're not.
Sincerely or not, consistently or not, the ideas being expressed by people like the Tea Partiers strike at the very heart of mainline American leftist/liberal and centrist values in a way George W. Bush never did. And so it's perfectly natural that peaceful people ineffectually protesting bailouts or health care mandates cause as much rage and horror as government-sanctioned torture, the destruction of habeas corpus, and hundreds of thousands of senseless deaths. Gotta keep your priorities in order.