Political Flame Wars

I always tell myself I won’t get into these things. However, I think I’ve lost a solid year of my life arguing on the Chicago Tribune’s political forum, because these arguments are seriously addicting. As soon as you feel that you have made your perfect response, adequately defending your own statements and attacking your opponent on their stances with a nuanced argument, you find yourself looking at a huge reply to your reply that simply demands answering….

That’s how it goes until you end up having replies back and forth that could be considered small essays on the arguments for and against certain political ideologies. If you’re lucky, when you get into lengthy political discussions or emails back and forth, you will arrive at some semblance of common ground with an acceptance to disagree on certain points. You may come out of the process slightly more educated on the arguments of your friends or opponents, and feel like it has been a rewarding and worthwhile engagement. However, more often, when two people passionate about their beliefs debate them with each other, they will find themselves yelling back and forth the same tired arguments with little acceptance or acknowledgement of facts brought forth by either side.

I am fortunate to have conservative friends who may disagree with me on points that I believe in, but do me the courtesy of researching their arguments and acknowledging when a valid point has been made. I try to do the same and ultimately over time, we’ve found more common ground than I thought possible back in our days of yelling back and forth for hours on end (not to say that still doesn’t happen from time to time).  While, I do enjoy debating with my friends, I mentally separate those kind of open minded debates, from the more hostile, personal kind which I’ve been trying to avoid recently. 

However, due to a combination of personal vanity and a desire to argue for what I think is right, I found myself yet again getting in the middle of a flame war. I’m posting the exchange because I do enjoy verbal fencing and arguing the finer points of what I believe in.  However, I’m posting my friend’s final comments on the matter because at the end of the day, it’s probably wiser to stay out of these things altogether.

Here it is, I’m gonna post it from the first entry to the last for readibility


Subject: Yesterday

1. Outgoing President George W. Bush quietly boards his helicopter and leaves for Texas, commenting only: “Today is not about me. Today is a historical day for our nation and people.”

Eight years ago yesterday:
1. Outgoing President Bill Clinton schedules two separate radio addresses to the nation, and organizes a public farewell speech/ rally in downtown Washington D.C. scheduled to directly conflict with incoming President Bush’s inauguration ceremony.

2. President Bush leaves office without issuing a single Presidential pardon, only granting a commutation of sentence to two former border patrol agents convicted of shooting a convicted
drug smuggler. He does not grant any type of clemency to Scooter Libby or any other former political aide, ally, or business partner.

Eight years ago yesterday:
2. President Clinton issues 140 pardons and several commutations of sentence on his final day in office. Included in these are: billionaire financier, convicted tax evader, and leading Democratic campaign contributor Marc Rich; Whitewater scandal figure Susan McDougal; Congressional Post Office Scandal figure and former Democratic Congressman Dan Rostenkowski; convicted bank fraud, sexual assault and child porn perpetrator and former Democratic Congressman Melvin Reynolds; and convicted drug felon Roger Clinton, the President’s half-brother.

3. The Bush daughters leave gift baskets in the White House bedrooms for the Obama daughters, containing flowers, candy, stuffed animals, DVD’s and CD’s, and heartfelt notes of encouragement and advice for the young girls on how to prepare for their new lives in the White House.

Eight years ago Yesterday:
3. Clinton and Gore staffers rip computer wires and electrical outlets from the White House walls, stuff piles of notebook papers into the White House toilets, systematically remove the letter “W” from every computer key-pad in the entire White House, and damage several thousand dollars worth of furniture in the White House master bedroom.

Headlines On This Date 4 Years Ago:
“Republicans spending $42 million on inauguration while troops Die in unarmored Humvees”
“Bush extravagance exceeds any reason during tough economic times”
“Fat cats get their $42 million inauguration party, Ordinary Americans get the shaft”

Headlines Today:
“Historic Obama Inauguration will cost only $170 million”
“Obama Spends $170 million on inauguration; America Needs A Big Party”
“Everyman Obama shows America how to celebrate”
“Citibank executives contribute $8 million to Obama Inauguration”

———-Send this to anyone you suspect might not know what a class act looks like.


From David:

If 42 million for President Bush’s inauguration celebration is “extravagant,” what word should have been used to describe Obama’s $170 million price tag for his?


From: Mario

Necessary. Change and hope aren’t free.


From: Daniel

Hey Mario,

Can you come to my uncle’s farm. He is having trouble growing crops and I figured that since you were so full of shit maybe you could spare some for fertilizer.


From: Mario


Your teacher called. You skipped recess. Leave the political talk to the big boys.


From: Daniel

Oh you mean those big boys who rather than admit their err of hypocritical condemnation of one man revel in the lies, delusions, and excess of the next, who by their own standards should been chastised over three times a much. Maybe you big boys should have been held back a grade.


From: Ben

I don’t want to jump into the middle of a flame war here, but Daniel, I have absolutely no idea what that first sentence meant.

Sorry for the length of this reply, but I started writing and couldn’t stop. I’m very liberal with the amount of characters I use to compose my emails.

Now separating the truth from the fiction, the cost of the inauguration was only footed by the federal government up to about 49,000, the rest was covered by private donors. Here’s some more information:


In addition to some of these other statements in the original email, much of it makes no sense other than some of the charges against the Clinton administration. Yes Bill was corrupt too. He definitely abused his presidential pardons whereas George Bush used them more sparingly than most ( 189 person who had served their sentence, and he commuted the sentences of 11 more, including Scooter Libby).

But the comment at the beginning about George Bush quietly boarding his helicopter to fly off into a sunset, a poor misunderstood hero, is just simply too patently ridiculous for me to let go. This past administration had a new scandal every day of the week, drove our economy into the ground, and got us stuck in a long term occupation that cost billions of dollars, as well as American and Iraqi lives. All the while they doled out the profits to special contracting groups with ties to the White House that treated Iraq like the new wild west. Reconstruction tax dollars went to bribe certain groups for safe passage of Blackwater personnel, which were then turned around and used to buy bombs to blow up troops with and finance their own civil war.


Even if you don’t believe that we were deliberately lied to and led into this war, as I do, this administration has been a fucking disaster as evidenced by the outcome of the last election. The comparison between Bush and Obama is fairly laughable. Here’s some comparison of the first 100 days of Bush and the first month of Obama’s presidency.

Obama (less than a full month)

  • First day in office drafted order to shut down Guantanamo Bay, working to bring a close to a shameful chapter in American history where we were holding people without right to trial and torturing them.
  • Freeze salaries of white house personnel making more than 100,000 a year.
  • Prohibit the use of water boarding by CIA.
  • Poorly vetted several members of his cabinet and apologized publicly for it.
  • Signed first executive order closing “revolving door” practices of moving from government official to lobbyist
  • Helped put together and sell a stimulus package to aid the struggling economy during one of the potentially worst economic crises of recent history.

Bush: (first 100 days)

  • Block federal funding to family planning groups that offer abortion or abortion counseling
  • Offer government money to religious groups that provide social services.
  • 1.6 trillion dollar tax cut, mostly to the wealthy, as well as a 4% spending increase
  • Rejected the Kyoto treaty and efforts to fight global warming
  • Biggest spending increase ever for education ( 11%). (Hey he can’t be all bad, although No Child Left Behind was a joke.)
  • Standoff with China over crashed spy plane, showing some spine in a conflict with the next most powerful foreign nation.

In addition, over the course of Bush’s presidency he took the largest amount of vacation time of any president (30% of his 8 year term, 879 days.) Not only that but when warned about a possible terror attack from Bin Laden while on vacation, snapped at the person, “All right, you have covered your ass”. Classy, huh?

Some other more biased observations:


  • Would lose to a 3rd grader in a spelling bee. Consistently mixes his words and metaphors, bumbles and dances idiotically across the globe. Foreign leaders don’t know whether to laugh at him or be very very afraid that this is the man who commands the strongest military in the world.
  • Only seems to speak in front of military crowds where he won’t be booed off the stage or at pre-screened press conferences.
  • Doesn’t read the news or seem to gather output outside his own little world.


  • Rallies held around the world for his inauguration, despite not even holding citizenship in our country. Eloquent moving speeches.
  • Speaks at town hall gatherings across America, fielding non-screened questions from ordinary citizens who may or may not agree with his vision of the country.

I could go on and on about this, but have already practically written a small novel on the subject.

Obama is still a little more to the center of me, and I’m sure there are going be things he does that I dislike. Already, his poor vetting process struck me as one. I also feel like he should have been more critical with the stimulus package, removed some of the more outlandish provisions and replaced them with more understandable ones as I think it’s irresponsible to abuse the need of this stimulus to pass any extraneous legislature. However, all in all, most of the package goes to creating jobs, building American infrastructure and reducing federal energy costs. If you want to read how the stimulus plan can help to pay for itself, go here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-pettifor/the-fiscal-stimulus-will_b_167119.html

Overall, I’m impressed with the guy, and personally I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt for a while.

The fact of the matter is there’s plenty of ways to criticize Obama without trying to breathe life into the political corpse of George W Bush.

Hopefully, when the Republican party recovers from his presidency, it will return as a saner more reasonable option than it has been the for past 8 years.


From: Daniel


Firstly, you act like ending funding to the abortion groups was a bad thing. How is it you liberals will fight to the death to keep a serial killer off death row but demand people should have the “right” to kill off innocent, unborn children? Secondly, I want to know how in good conscience you can still slam Bush’s wasteful spending when the new guy’s inauguration was over three times as much? Not to mention the 800 billion or whatever the number is now he wants to throw at the problem which most economist have said won’t fix it. And have you asked yourself where that money is coming from? Now I’m not saying Bush was the best, but liberals will try to blame every single thing the can on him. I’ve even heard them try to blame him for global warming. Ironically enough it was libbies like clinton and obama who basically tried to socialize the housing/lending markets which screwed our economy in the first place! Now I know you liberals hate the war, and nobody really likes it, it’s just that we assumed you guys had a conscience or at least a soul, but the next time an insane tyrant is committing genocides on his own people and working on nuclear weapons (and yes we found evidence of that but I’d probably shit myself if the new york times ever mentions it or even a retraction) maybe we should just sit on our hands. That way you liberals can bitch about how we didn’t go in (since we know you need to bitch about something or else your lives are meaningless) but secretly be happy you didn’t have to get your hands dirty. Do you applaud when we stop an attack, no, only bitch about them being prisoners. And I know Bush isn’t the most articulate person out there, but then again he is from Texas, but I would rather have a befuddled person I trust then a sliver tongued (or was it forked) charlatan any day. It does seem a little familiar doesn’t it; an eloquent, enthusiastic speaker takes advantage of a country in a period of economic stress, gets them to go along with his lies because it feels better then the truth. Oooh what was his name? He came from Austria…went to Germany….something about a master race and killing the Jews…Well in anycase if you want to throw on your cult robes and treat this new guy like he is the messiah that’s your business I guess. I’ll be over here with the real one. Oh no, he didn’t just mention religion did he? I better check with our founding fathers. What’s that Mr.Washington? “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.” Well you sure said that George. Anyways Ben sorry if you couldn’t understand the big words of my last email, maybe no child left behind didn’t work so well after all.



From: Ben

Wow Daniel. That’s a seriously emotionally charged e-mail there.

Let’s recap some of your insinuations:

  • I don’t have a conscience or a soul
  • My life is meaningless without complaining
  • We actually found weapons of mass destruction, but it has been systematically repressed by every news organization excepting perhaps extreme right wing fringe conspiracy theory groups
  • Obama is Satan
  • Obama is Hitler (See Godwin’s law)
  • I belong to a cult
  • I am uneducated because I couldn’t understand that string of words you duct taped together to try and form a coherent sentence.

Now, that’s a lot of ground you’ve covered there Daniel, so I’ll do the best I can to respond to this. In my email I compared some of the major accomplishments of each administration in their first 100 days. When I was comparing some of the accomplishments of Bush and Obama, I attempted to include at least a couple things I approved of and disapproved of. Hence, the inclusion of a spending increase under Bush, his strong response to China, and his increase in education spending. Now, granted the list is heavily weighted towards Obama because I like the guy and I hate Bush with a passion, but hey, it’s my email.

As for the stimulus, the real danger is that we aren’t spending enough money on this problem. If we can have American citizens building up our infrastructure with energy efficient solutions, receiving a paycheck, paying their taxes, and buying goods for their families we have a benefit on multiple levels. We pay less for federal resources, as they now consume less energy, people in these jobs have money to inject back into the economy, people are taxed on their income. In addition, less money has to go out to pay for unemployment.

Onto the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It’s really funny watching conservatives try to spin this one, because this whole disaster hits so close to home to their cherished idea of an unregulated free market, to keep the government out and let the invisible hand make the calls. But to be truly fair, the sub-prime lending crisis is a complicated issue and there’s a lot of blame to go around. What you’re referring to is the policies during the Clinton era that were originally designed to help low-income minorities from being discriminated against when applying for a loan. The end result of that policy was that the government was encouraging banks to make some risky loans to low-income borrowers. This practice was perpetuated by the Bush administration, as increasing home ownership was important to them. Since the banks were having success with these sub-prime mortgages, more banks invested in offering riskier sub-prime mortgage loans, because they offered potential high reward for the risk. The banks became more predatory and offered very high interest loans to risky candidates performing little to no background checks beforehand. Other contributing factors to this crisis were that the predatory lending practices allowed more people to buy homes that couldn’t afford them, which went on to increase overall demand for housing, and drove prices up. More Americans were buying using debt to finance their purchases since housing prices kept rising with this wave. Speculation was also common, flipping houses for profit and using debt to do so. But we would have seen this crisis coming from miles off if we had any kind of decent regulation in the banking industry. Now, Bill Clinton is just as guilty as anyone in this picture for encouraging deregulation as much as he did, and for his role in creating incentives for banks to lend at subprime rates to low-income families. However, both parties have been guilty as hell in letting the banks engage in these predatory practices and to allow an entity to exist in the free market that is “too big to fail.” It pisses me off that we, the American people, have to be responsible for bailing out the banking industry, which has been making a fortune preying on lower income Americans for years, in order to keep the market from crashing down around our ears.

The war. This is where you really lose me. I know you and Dave are on the same page on this one, and although I don’t know you nearly as well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt of assuming that your arguments for US international intervention are as noble and substantial as his. That being said, here is how I see it. The idea that we liberals are so hateful of America, and want to see terrorists thrive and play in their terror fields while we spit on every American soldier we come into contact with, is patently ridiculous and needs to stop now. We just simply have a serious ideological difference on this war. Here is a good question. Why Iraq? I know that Saddam Hussein was a dictator who brutalized and repressed his people, but we have supported brutal dictators in Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan as well as Saudi Arabia (where the terrorist money comes from). We installed Saddam Hussein in power in the first place. In addition, women under Saddam Hussein had better rights than in most other middle eastern countries, and they only paid lip service to the Islamic faith. So why Iraq and not other more deserving places? What about stopping genocide in Darfur? By moving into Iraq we violated something that is important to me as an American, and that’s the idea that we don’t invade other countries for no real reason other than for personal gain. Because that’s why we went there. All the evidence pointed to the fact that they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but the Bush administration cherry picked their intelligence to get them the war they wanted. In addition, our invasion opened the way for Islamic extremism to start to flourish in that area, and got us stuck occupying a country in a war that has already cost us billions of dollars. Lots of innocent people lost their homes, friends, families, and lives as a result, and the fact that some of them aren’t American shouldn’t mean that Americans should deaden their hearts to the suffering they’ve been through as a result of our foreign policy.

We don’t applaud when we stop attacks at home? Did you learn that at junior conservative brainwashing camp? We don’t want America hurt. However, we do fiercely believe in our freedoms and are leery of a government slowly taking them away and continually vesting more power in the executive branch. I want the Patriot Act repealed yesterday. And I hope Obama will do the right thing there, as I want him to. If he does not, then he’ll be in the subject of my angry rantings.

As to the rest of your reply, I don’t know what to say. I guess I can just recommend not to put a, “Yes, that’s right. I went there,” comment in anything you write to anyone, unless the point is to poke fun at yourself. Following it up with your imaginary conversation with George Washington did not improve the strength of your argument. I’ll be fair and not write a Bush/Hitler comparison the way you did with Obama. Other than that, I guess it always got under my skin that a lot of people were so leery of being “tricked” by a smart candidate, that they would vote for an absolute imbecile. I guess this quote from the book, NightWatch, sums up my frustration:

“People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness.”- Terry Pratchett, NightWatch

Most of all, I get angry when people conflate questioning our government with being un-American. The second amendment was designed to allow citizens to have the power to overthrow their own government if it became at odds with their basic rights and freedoms. That’s why, while I may not agree with what you say, I understand that the force of opposing ideas is an important part in the political process and keeps the country somewhere in the middle where it likely belongs.

Sorry again for the long winded response, but as Dave can attest, that’s pretty much how I operate.


– Ben Hussein Alton (8th Circle member of the Yeswecaanites)


Benjamin Franklin:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

James Madison:

“Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad”


From David:

First of all, thanks to Ben for keeping this email to the “interested parties.”

Secondly, I agree with Ben’s point that the purpose of political debate is not to demonize the other side, but to substantively debate the issues. I have a passionate dislike for Obama that is rivaled only by Ben’s antithapy for President Bush. But painting the man as a monster just isn’t going to accomplish much except polarize the opposing sides. (It is for this same reason that the Far Left got under my skin for depicting Bush as a famous fascist tyrant.) By debating substantive issues, it allows each side to understand each other better and discern some areas where there is common ground. That’s why I don’t restrict my forwards to just like-minded individuals. Now, as much as I would love to “convert” Ben or Mario to the Right side (pun intended), I am realistic that this is a decidely unrealistic proposition. The reason I include them on my forward lists is because I want to share a perspective with them. Even if they may not agree with my perspective, at least they have a greater chance of understanding where I’m coming from. I think the idea is to intellectually challenge one another, not tear them down.

Well, I’m getting off the soap box now and washing my hands of this debate. You all are welcome to continue it, of course.


Wise words Dave.

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