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February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, dead
Posted by Patrick at 11:51 AM * 395 comments

“The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”
—William F. Buckley, National Review, August 24, 1957
There’s your “refined, perspicacious mind” for you. The one that, we’re told, “elevated conservatism to the center of American political discourse.” Racism and power-worship—and, from first to last, uncompromising defense of the idea that society should be structured into orders and classes.

A poisonous, wicked man. Good riddance.

Comments on William F. Buckley, dead:
#1 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Good riddance indeed!

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Thanks for that reminder, Patrick, since we're going to be deluged with a ton of de mortuis nil nisi buncombe.

#3 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:27 PM:

I think dancing on his grave to pack the earth down is called for so he can't crawl back out.

#4 ::: Dave Lartigue ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Guys, you're only allowed to say nice, respectful things about the deceased. That's why when Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton die, there will be no harsh words spoken, merely gentle reminiscing about what honored statesmen they were.

#5 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:43 PM:

Thanks, Patrick, I was looking for someone to give Buckley the honor his life's work really warrants, as opposed to what his fans might wish for.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:48 PM:

Watch while they lower him to his deathbed,
And dance on his grave 'til we're sure that he's dead.

With apologies to Bob Dylan.

I think it was also Buckley who said "If everyone were homosexual, tomorrow there would be no one at all." Well, Bill, it's equally true* that if everyone were male tomorrow there would be no one at all, but I didn't see you trying to stamp out the scourge of maleness. An evil, bigoted hypocrite is dead. Hallelujah, Allahu akbar, so mote it be.

I caught some flak last time** (Falwell, I think) for gloating over the death of an enemy of me-and-mine, but now I have Fragano's phrase to quote at them. I'll Americanize the spelling, I think, to 'bunkum' at the end, but that's good, Fragano, thanks.

The death of a good person (like Robert L) diminishes us all. The death of an evil person (like Buckley) magnifies us all. I quietly rejoice.


*That is, not very.
**Not here.

#7 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:49 PM:

I wouldn't use the word "elevated". But he did bring conservatism into the center of American political discourse; and on its own terms, it's quite an accomplishment -- in the way that, say, Robert E Lee was a good general regardless of the merits of his cause. Whatever you think of the conservatism that he championed (and sure, my response would be similar to Patrick's), his *effectiveness* was remarkable. It seems a fair tribute to say that he did what he set out to do (for better or worse).

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:54 PM:

I still think of him as 'William Fastbuckley'.

#9 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:58 PM:

The evil that men do lives after them...

#10 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Here's an interesting remembrance from Rick Perlstein, who, I think it's safe to say, knows as much about -- and is as hard on -- the movement Buckley was so instrumental in advancing as anyone.

#11 ::: Andrew K ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:06 PM:

That gushing NYT obit reminds me of Not The Nine O'Clock News' take on the press coverage of Oswald Mosley's death in 1980. So it could be worse, of course.

#12 ::: Joshua Clark ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:14 PM:

Did Buckley ever repudiate (or reject or renounce or . . . aw, fuck it) that quote?

#13 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:15 PM:

That's a very interesting piece by Perlstein, a writer I respect a great deal.

However, Buckley wasn't my friend; all he did for me was make the world a worse place. With great energy and effectiveness.

#14 ::: Kynn ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:18 PM:

But but but ...

BYRD WUZ A KLANSMAN!!!!11!

</parody>

#15 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Chumbawumba seem particularly appropriate, too.

Though this version has better sound quality

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:28 PM:

Stephen 10: I got as far as "He was a good and decent man" and had to stop. My gorge was rising.

Perlstein is mistaken. Well, you will say, he knew him personally and you didn't. Yes, I will reply, but lots of people who were neither good nor decent were friendly and personable one-on-one, could be charming even to their enemies, and were positively kind to their friends. One such figure in history was famously good to his dog; I'm sure you know who I mean. Rudy Giuliani is famous for his personal charm, and he's a total psycho.

Buckley was NOT a "good and decent man," and it nauseates me to hear him called one, even with sympathy for Perlstein's reasons for doing so. One cannot be both a good and decent man and a racist; Buckley was a racist. One cannot be both a good and decent man and an arch-homophobe, not if one is intelligent and well-read and capable of using (albeit frequently unwilling to use) logic. Buckley was an arch-homophobe.

There are many words for people who ought to know better embracing their prejudices instead of fighting them, and trying to persuade other people to join them by using arguments too spurious to credit them with believing themselves. I'll just use one: scumbag. Buckley was a scumbag, and I'll personally try to vomit on anyone who tries to tell me he was a good man.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:30 PM:

While I was writing that, Patrick got in and said what I was trying to say, shorter and better.

What he said.

#18 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:33 PM:

I'm with Xopher on this one. Buckley had his talents: he was elegant, witty, clever, capable of some swell rhetoric and good use of history and culture to support an argument, and like that. But none of that is moral.

#19 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:35 PM:

As I commented at LGM,

It was a black president, in the library, with the clue stick.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:41 PM:

Buckley gave an address at a conservative conference last year. He railed against the war in Iraq, and said you'd have to be delusional to find anything positive about it.

Audience members interviewed afterwards said he must not be a true conservative.

Man, that must have stung.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Stefan 20: I sure hope it did.

#22 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:02 PM:

Audience members interviewed afterwards said he must not be a true conservative.

Hey, this has inspired the vague glimmerings of a brilliant new aphorism: If you indiscriminately plant wind seeds in your backyard, don't be surprised when a whirlwind turns up at harvest time.

#23 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:20 PM:

So he never renounced those writings from the 50s? I'm not up on that "school" of "thought."

It really is appalling that someone who could publicly express those ideas could be lionized by anyone who isn't way out on the fringe. I think his ideas should be spread far and wide as the underpinnings of true conservatism: racist, reactionary, avaricious, and unworthy of this stage of human history.

#24 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Perlstein:

He knew exactly what my politics were about—he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary—yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless.

That's easier for the privileged elite interacting with aspiring members privileged elites; they want to recruit. No matter how bad politics got in America, Buckley was never going to be starving, or in jail, or in a cardboard box, or dead of a treatable disease because he lacked medical coverage. For Buckley, winning or losing a political battles meant, for him, the difference between buying three homes or two; for millions of others, Buckley winning would mean poverty, Jim Crow, pestilence, the closet, and death.

Buckley did advocate drug legalization--one of the few prominent conservatives who did--and for that he deserves some praise. But I hope he spent his last years in misery and horror at what he wrought.

#25 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Paul: No, he never did. It's conservative policy to pretend that such things weren't said, or weren't meant if said, or can be excused if meant. How directly they lead into modern racial politics must never be pointed out, as that would be rude.

#26 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:29 PM:

@#7 Stephen Frug in the way that, say, Robert E Lee was a good general regardless of the merits of his cause.

(self-deprecation)
Hey now, don't be down on the hero of the War of the Northern Aggression! Wait, what? We lost? Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Keep forgetting that. Flag still looks good on that orange car in the Dukes of Hazzard, tho!
(/self-deprecation)

I was born in NOLA, my family has been Southern since we came over on the boat, and I may interpret the General's "cause" differently than you do. That's not to say I support slavery, or the KKK, or any such thing, just saying there's different veiwpoints out there and I have a right to poke fun at myself! :-)

Later,
-cajun

#27 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Well, he's joined the great proletariat now; whatever "them" he defended his "us" again are his equals in the twining of the worms. If there is any form of eternal judgment, may there also be mercy for him, as for us all.

Don't let me stop your discussion, guys; his reputation should not be hallowed because he is dead. Wrong is wrong, whether or not the sparks still fly in the grey matter that conceived it.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:35 PM:

I don't believe Buckley renounced his racist utterances of opposition to civil rights, or his sexist utterances of opposition to civil rights, or his homophobic utterances of opposition to civil rights, since he most certainly made all three.

I never met the man. My closest encounter to him, was the doorman of a building on the Upper East Side recounting a 'joke' that Buckley had told him, during the 1984 election campaign to the effect that Reagan had a Bush, and so did Mondale. Regular man-of-the-people, Bill Buckley was.

#29 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:38 PM:

The idea that one's political opponents must be rotten all though without anything redeeming in them is, of course, a staple of Buckley's flavor of conservatism. His heroes like McCarthy and Nixon used it all the time in their campaigns to destroy opponents of their hairbrained schemes; in these latter days it flourishes among College Republican veterans like Rove, for whose campaigns Buckley and his organization always had time.

The more relevant idea is not that someone like Buckley must be a monster all through but that his occasional good points (like support for drug legalization) don't actually matter in the overall scheme of things. He was right, early and often, about drug legaization...but he supported the presidents who appointed the justices who constantly rule against it. It's good to be a decent chap to a hundred or a thousand friends, but it's not nice to set up ten or thirty or a hundred million of one's fellow citizens and human beings as enemies who must be corralled or eliminated if they can't be forced into abject subjugation.

It doesn't help to be a fine fellow in certain regards when the weight of your life is on the side of monstrousness.

#30 ::: McMartin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Stefan@20, Xopher@21:

I found this mirror of a TNR article ... somewhere. Probably some other comment thread. Is this the case you were talking about?

#31 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Buckley was instrumental in creating the political climate that has made me bitter and ungenerous enough to smile upon hearing, on the radio this morning, of the death of a fellow human being.

I hope that parses.

#32 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:04 PM:

Lo, these many years ago, the first time I had to use the Salmon of Correction over on the dearly departed SMOF-BBS was over a piece of Buckley slashfic.

#33 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:06 PM:

#30: That's it. A bit different than I recalled, but the audience tsk-tsking was there.

Man. Where's an iceberg when you need one?

#34 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:08 PM:

I agree with everything Patrick wrote in #13... it's just that part of that means I agree with the "very interesting... writer I respect a good deal part"; hence my linking.

SF

#35 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:09 PM:

About, not by...

#36 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Earl, you have now given my mind whiplash twice in the space of five minutes. Ow.

#37 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:14 PM:

As far as Joshua's question (#12) goes... It happens that an entire chapter of my soon-to-be-completed-if-I-can-get-off-the-internets dissertation is about precisely that question.

The short answer: it's complicated.

The just slightly longer answer: He said a number of different things on a number of occasions (not all *that* many, since it wasn't a subject he liked to return to), some of which could be taken as repudiation, some of which are weaselling, some of which are even defenses of it (as right then, but times have changed -- that sort of thing). They don't fall into any neat chronological order, so that one can say he first defended & then repented (or vice-versa). So he responded in different ways, to different people, at different times; there didn't seem to be an overall response that he always had.

(The even longer version? Let me finish the dissertation and then I'll get back to you :>)

SF

#38 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:19 PM:

SF, please picture me sitting here with genuine curiosity how that chapter turns out. I'd like to know more about the matter than I do; when you have something worth sharing, please do, at whatever length seems suitable.

Thanks!

#39 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:23 PM:

I'm reminded of "He Was A Crook" by Hunter Thompson. There was a man who knew what to write on the occasion of a death of a monster.

For what it's worth, Richard Nixon counted Buckley as one of his friends too.

#40 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:27 PM:

And I, of course, have to argue.

What's the difference between Buckley's rhetoric and goals, and those of all the judges and technocrats who dismantled segregation in the public schools? In both cases, the argument is "I'm right, so to hell with democracy."

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:33 PM:

Stephen 37: Would a medium-length answer be "He was a weaselly lying hypocrite and he said whatever would get him the most credit, or cost him the least, at any given time"?

In a world where people who learn better about something ("Last year you said you didn't know the difference between Sunni and Shi'a, but now you say you do"), or even where facts change ("In 1968, you said that no human had walked on the moon, but in 1970 you said that someone had"), are accused of "waffling," I see no reason to give the benefit of the doubt to a man like Buckley when he gives different answers at every turn. After all, he helped create that world.

#42 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Earl@35: You've raised a great question that shall forever be unanswered: would Buckley rather write about Hermione hooking up with Malfoy, or slumming with Crabbe and Goyle?

#43 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:44 PM:

Bruce Baugh: I appreciate that! (Enough people have expressed interest in my topic in the years I've been working on it that I've often thought that I wish the author measured up better to the quality of the question. Of course that's a standard grad student experience; on the third hand, *someone* has to be below average. All I can say is, you go into research with the brain you have, not the brain you want...)

I honestly, no-kidding hope to finish this summer. At that point the dissertation will be (of necessity) in worth-sharing form and, really, part of the public record. So if you ask again then (I'll try to remember, but gang aft a'glay and all that), I'll email you the chapter in question. Until then, I think I'd prefer to forebear to say more than I said, since I might change my mind/find new evidence/whatever in the meantime.

Xopher: the fact is that, as someone who is trying to study the matter academically, I'm making an effort not to pass judgment. I'm trying to find, and understand, and put in context, what he said. Whether what you say is a fair interpretation of it... well, that's probably something I shouldn't say. (There: if that makes *me* weaselly, so be it.)

SF

#44 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:48 PM:

#16 Xopher: I'm with you, save for one thing... I reckon that just about everyone is bigoted in some manner, and saying that all racists are damned is just going to make the smalltime operators deny that they're racists. There are degrees, and I agree with you that anyone who sets out to make it so that whites dominate blacks is damned. So Ha! to Buckley.

#45 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Kevin J. Maroney at #24 said what I wanted to say about Perlstein; his (Perlstein's) admiration for Buckley reminds me of the MSM's admiration for McCain. Of course he's going to be nice to you, dummy--it serves his purposes.

Anyway, it's hard for me to take comfort in this kind of death, at an old age, surrounded by opulence. If I needed proof that there's no such thing as justice, that's it.

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Madeline 44: I guess I'd say that people in the grip of false beliefs (of the factoidal type, that is not like "whites should rule" but like "blacks have smaller brains") can be excused for a certain amount of false belief of the prescriptive kind, until the factual errors are dealt with.

But a man like Buckley, with unlimited access to facts and one of the best educations money can buy, highly intelligent and extremely articulate, has no excuse whatsoever. If he had false factoidal beliefs, it was a willful thing; I doubt that he did. He knew the truth and yet rejected its implications, because it did not serve the interests of his race and his class.

And such people like to draw false equivalencies, too: comparing George Wallace and Martin Luther King, saying "they're both fighting for the interests of their own race." No; one was fighting to keep another people subjugated, the other to free his own people from subjugation. These are not the same thing.

We all fall into evil from time to time, it's true. But when the evil is knowing, deliberate, carefully devised, and indulged in over a lifetime, as Buckley's was, it's not unjust to say that the person himself was evil.

#47 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Sam@40: Well, a few things, like the difference between overturning local law on the basis of controlling national law (namely, the Constitution), and overturning national law based on, well, that whites know best.

(Or, to quote from Buckley's editorial, "If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, although undemocratic, enlightened." The "socially atavistic" horror being referred to here is school integration.)

Indeed, the spurious "what's the difference" comparison seems to have been one of Buckley's favored gambits. Later in the same editorial, he dismisses the claims that blacks should have the same voting rights protections as whites by first equating that with "Universal Suffrage", and then equating *that* with allowing 20-year-olds to vote. And since we don't allow that (this was before the 26th Amendment), then what's the harm of not letting unenlightened darkies vote? "The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro-- and a great many Whites-- to cast an enlightened and responsible vote," Buckley says. You'd think that things like, oh, the Fifteenth Amendment, just happened to slip his mind as he wrote this.

#48 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:05 PM:

My first awareness of him was when he repeated this sentiment on a talk show:

"Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals." -- William F. Buckley, Jr., New York Times, March 18, 1986

It was helpful, early exposure to evil costumed as compassion.

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:06 PM:

I'm sure there's going to be a lot of bleating about "Well, we can't agree with his positions, but Buckley was an intellectual and thinker." I call hogwash on that. Yes, he put his brand of conservatism in the center of American thought. He did it by dragging the center as far right as it would go, primarily by repeating his arguments, all of them as specious as his defense of racism, over and over, long after they'd been refuted and re-refuted. That's not any form of intellectual honesty I'll accept.

There are people who start out holding untenable beliefs like racism, discover their mistake, and truly recant their positions. Buckley wasn't one of those people; he just wanted everybody to forget he'd said any of that, unless of course they agreed with him.

Dance, Xopher, dance! I'll join you.

#50 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Sam Chevre (#40): Are you really equating arguments that the white race is superior to all others with attempts to promote equality? And are you really arguing that simple majority-rule "democracy" is (and should be) the foundation of all decisions?

#51 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Is he gonna get a urinal instead of a tombstone, to make it more convenient?

#52 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:25 PM:

#51: Why grant him the dignity of a urinal-tomb? Urinals exist to channel pee into the sewers where it doesn't stink up the joint. I say stink up the joint. And bring the dog.

#53 ::: Ian Randal Strock ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Did you notice the number of this entry? It's a roll-over number. Kind of like the dead rolling over.... Aw, forget it. [grin]

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:33 PM:

The "Buckley Stomp" dance could create a new dance game craze: "Dance, Dance, Dance, Recrimination".

#55 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:39 PM:

Abi @ 27:

Wow. That was really well said.

#56 ::: Uncle Kvetch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:40 PM:

A poisonous, wicked man. Good riddance.

Amen. Thank you.

#57 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:50 PM:

And are you really arguing that simple majority-rule "democracy" is (and should be) the foundation of all decisions?

No, I'm arguing that "Bill Buckley didn't think majority-rule democracy should be the foundation of all decisions" is not a very sensible criticism.

#58 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 04:59 PM:

#40: "What's the difference between Buckley's rhetoric and goals, and those of all the judges and technocrats who dismantled segregation in the public schools?"

Buckley's rhetoric was in defense of his goal, the preservation of a society of hierarchal orders and classes, with severe limits on social mobility.

The rhetoric of the people who dismantled segregation in the schools was in defense of their goal, a society in which more people have more opportunities to advance themselves regardless of the accidents of their birth or the color of their skin.

Different rhetoric. Different goals. HTH!

"In both cases, the argument is 'I'm right, so to hell with democracy.'"

Democracy is an important thing. It's not the only important thing. Injustice imposed by a majority vote is still injustice.

#59 ::: Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Every man's death diminishes me.

#60 ::: esb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:04 PM:

It would seem that you haven't bothered reading much about Buckley or his opinions or you would surely have noted that he referred to his his earlier opinions on race as a mistake and, in fact, greatly respected Martin Luther King later in his life. Not to imply that you should research your statements, of course.

#61 ::: DannyK ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:05 PM:

I have to confess I rather liked the first couple spy novels. And I liked God and Man at Yale, too, at least the descriptive parts. Of course, what stands out to me now is his call to have the unreliable atheistic faculty culled from Yale.

And that's the core achievement of the man, I think: he saw McCarthy and realized that a smarter, more sophisticated, buttoned-down McCarthyism would make a tremendous political movement, as long as it took care to not quite touch the extremes, whatever they were at the time.

#62 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:13 PM:

Oops, just realized I scored at least a 1 on Flamer Bingo with my #26... I'm currently reading the Flamer Bingo thread which I found while trying to look up "heresiarch's rule". I'm a n00b, and apparently acting more like one than I'd prefer. I'll just take my off-topic self back to that thread...

Later,
-cajun

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:15 PM:

esb @60:
Links? Citations?

#64 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:17 PM:

#40 Samchevre: In both cases, the argument is "I'm right, so to hell with democracy."

Uh, no. In the case of school segregation, the argument is, "The Constitution protects even the rights of those who are in the minority, and we will require you to respect that." Brown v. Board of Education and all the other desegregation actions are predicated on the concept that Equal Protection under the law means everyone, not just the white folks.

And local governments -- democratic as they may have been, for values of democracy that include interfering with black voting in various tawdry ways -- are obligated to comply with the 14th Amendment, the same way the federal government is.

#65 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:18 PM:

He comes across as the type who would never stint you another glass of his best port but would lash the slaves all the harder in the morning to keep the cellar filled with more of it. People who knew him praise his grace and wit, but he never showed that side to the people his ideas were harming. Which I guess is another way of saying he never sought to understand the problems of the day, as to learn from them might make him change his mind.

#66 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:18 PM:

"It would seem that you haven't bothered reading much about Buckley or his opinions"

True. Also, I've never played poker before.

"or you would surely have noted that he referred to his his earlier opinions on race as a mistake"

You mean: "that by the 1980s he found it expedient to disassociate himself from some of the more blatant racist appeals he'd earlier used in the process of building modern conservatism."

"and, in fact, greatly respected Martin Luther King later in his life."

Once King was safely gunned down, sure.

#67 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Damien Neil #59: That is patently untrue. I am not diminished by the death of a murderer, a rapist, a thug, a torturer, a sadist, a racist, or the propagandists for such.

#68 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:18 PM:

I'm baffled by the backhanded complements of, "well, at least he was an intellectual." Bullshit.

He was good at using fancy words to dazzle simpletons, nothing more. He said all the same, tired old arguments against equality that Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Anne Coulter repeat today, he just kept a thesaurus handy. That doesn't make him an intellectual. Intellectuals learn from what they read, they don't just fish for quotes to use as ammunition against decent human beings. He was rehashing the same elitist crap at 82 as he did when he was 30.

Some graves are made to dance on. I think I'll choreograph a jig, just for him.

#69 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:26 PM:

If I needed proof that there's no such thing as justice, that's it.

Yes, but as a flawed human myself, there are times when I take comfort in that notion - I don't suppose many of us would be left standing and sane if we got justice.

There are people enough who will dance (or piss) on his grave with you, although I hope not at the same time. Be happy in the light which may come through now he is not there to cast a shadow, and speak about fairness, equity and better things in the silence he has left.

#70 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:27 PM:

#26: so long as you see "the cause" as treason in defense of slavery, we're on the same page. moving away from the south has allowed me to see that much more clearly. now when I see a rebel flag on a truck or cap, I wonder how a german WWII-era flag would look in Paris or London or a Japanese imperial navy flag in the philippines or china.

#71 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:29 PM:

cajunfj40 @62:
Heresiarch articulated the rule here.

(To find it, I did a View All By and searched for the word "last". Sometimes I think we need better way to keep track of these things.)

</digression>

#72 ::: Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:38 PM:

Fragano @ #67:

Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Every man's death diminishes me. Yes, even murderers and rapists.

#73 ::: Goya's Ghost ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:39 PM:

Nielsen Hayden, you are a fucking idiot and a fucking asshole. When you die, they'll remember you as a shitty editor and untalented hack who tried to remold the genre to conform to his Marxist ideology. You are the worst sort of hypocrite, someone who preaches tolerance and compassion but then drops the curtain to reveal a coldhearted cruel bigot. Fuck you, and fuck your retarded band of parrots in the comments section.

#74 ::: Xopher sees stupid asshat trollery ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Counting down to disemvowelment/deletion...5, 4, 3...

#75 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Damien 72: Well, then, you should rejoice the more at the death of Buckley, whose political influence led to many, many unnecessary deaths.

#76 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:45 PM:

than @45: No memory of having starred/ Atones for later disregard,/ Or keeps the end from being hard.

(The final triplet may or may not apply.)

#77 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:53 PM:

Oh dear. Patrick, you haven't, perchance, recently rejected a story from a foul-mouthed pseudonym who doesn't even have the courage to post under their own name?

(or there's the other reaction - yeah, Nielsen Hayden - just where do you get off, expressing your own opinions in your own blog?)

Ahem.

#78 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Damien Neil #72: Please consider the quotation which Patrick placed at the head of this thread. Then tell me, in the name of every one of my ancestors who suffered the Middle Passage, how I am diminished by the death of a racist bastard like Buckley? Please do.

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Still, full marks for spelling the surname correctly. So many trolls can't manage that.

#80 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:59 PM:

I vaguely recall Buckley actually flat-out admitting that his stance on the civil rights movement was wrong. However, I don't recall the specifics, and I suppose anything he wrote that appears contrite can be interpreted either way: either he actually did change his mind and feel remorse, or he was just repositioning himself in order to preserve his relevance in modern political discourse.

I don't know which it is. I'm told Governor Wallace eventually repudiated the segregationist stance he took that caused the mobilization of the National Guard, and asked for forgiveness from a few of the civil rights leaders of that time. I don't know if that was genuine either. But it's nice to think so.

#81 ::: Kevin Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 05:59 PM:

Here, here, Patrick! That he was a libertarian conservative means he got a very few things right. His reformed racism - after all the blood was spilled - was the convenience of necessity. He was, as Bruce Baugh noted in #29, a rabid McCarthyite, a homo-hatist and an all-around vicious man, the privileged son of an oil baron born with a silver spoon up his ass.

Saying he was better and more principled because he was more erudite than Limbaugh/Coulter/Malkin/Savage, etc sets the bar lower than a worm's knees.

You want a principled conservative? Try James Kilpatrick. Buckley had the best of everything and used it to sow hatred.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Or it's just a fan of Buckley, and/or a de mortuis nil nisi bullshit person. That would explain, though not justify, the 'coldhearted' and the 'cruel'. The 'bigot', however, remains a mystery. I see no criticism of Buckley for what he was, only for what he said and did. Very odd. And there's nothing on that comment to indicate that it's about this thread; it could well be here just because this is the top thread on the front page.

No, vian, I think you must be right. And I bet the novel was a right-wing piece of Randism or dare-I-say-it jne cbea, and that it was titled Goya's Ghost.

Anybody fading me on that?

#83 ::: Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Fragano @ #78:

Perhaps you aren't. I, however, am.

#84 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Actually, I'm such a clever Marxist ideologue that I'm inclined to leave #73 exactly as it is, a perfect specimen of something or other.

(I'm also such a wild-eyed Marxist ideologue that I edit and publish David Weber. Cunning and subtle are my plans for Communist world domination!)

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:08 PM:

abi 79: Art thou not a moderator? Hast thou lost thy disemvoweller? Or do we wait for Jim to ascertain the IP address, that we may heap derision on this troll most foul?

#86 ::: esb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:09 PM:

@60 - I've attached a link.
@66 - I'm glad to see that you took my suggestion to research the topic... I would assume that a person that admits to making a mistake should be respected and given the benefit of the doubt -- you certainly seem to be giving him a fair chance.
NY Times Q&A About Buckley

#87 ::: Mark Gritter ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:12 PM:

I've heard plenty of excuses for Buckley today.

One is that he was just a product of his time--- it's been 50 years. Bull-crap. There are octogenarians today who opposed Buckley. They were right and he was wrong.

Another is that we shouldn't be so hasty to criticize the newly dead. Again, bull-crap. Obituaries should serve not merely to praise but also criticize. If it is wrong to speak ill of the newly dead, how much more the living (who can be offended) or the ancient dead (who cannot defend themselves.)

Plenty of people convert; some even ask forgiveness. Very few ponder why they arrived at the wrong conclusion, and what else they might be wrong about. There is no sign Buckley achieved the slightest bit of self doubt from being so egregiously wrong in the 50's.

#88 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Kevin, #81: I don't actually think Buckley was any more of a "libertarian" than I am. Less, in fact. The most positive thing I can say about him is that he was in fact a consistent advocate of authoritarian conservatism, a man who genuinely believed that a more hierarchal society was good for human character.

#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Um...I wrote that before seeing PNH's post at 84. No usurpation was intended, Comrade Stalin Nielsen Hayden! Please don't have me shot!

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:15 PM:

Xopher @85:
I see Patrick has answered already.

I was going to say, This is something the Captain has to do for himself.

#91 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:21 PM:

vian #69: I understand and don't entirely disagree with your point, but if for no one's sake but your own, I would suggest that there's a vast chasm of difference between being flawed and being William F. Buckley.

Death comes to everyone. Had his come more unpleasantly, it would not exactly be cause to rejoice, but it would be closer to what he deserved than what he got. He made the world a worse place than it would have been without him. Then he died as well as anyone could hope for, and with legions of followers to carry on his work. I cannot take comfort in that.

#92 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:23 PM:

from the NYT Q&A:

...
Q: Did Buckley ever change his 1950’s pro-Segregation stance? —Bill
A: See above. He did, strenuously. He debated George Wallace quite strenuously in the late 1960s. It may seem odd, but Buckley, whose parents were both Southerners, actually inherited views on race that were fairly progressive for his time and place.
...
Q: How would you characterize in general Mr. Buckley’s relationship with the Jewish American community? What about his relationship with leading American Jews (e.g. the Kristols) commonly identified as neocons? —Michael Presant

A: In the 1950s, when American conservatism still bore the taint of anti-Semitism, Bill Buckley moved forcefully to erase it. One important step was banning anti-Semitic writers from National Review, the magazine he founded in 1955. Many of his allies included Jews — from Marvin Liebman, the publicist who helped organize conservative rallies and events, through his great friend Richard M. Clurman (of Time magazine) and also, as you point out, neoconservatives like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Buckley was also a champion of Henry Kissinger, who remained one of his dearest friends.
Q: What was Buckley’s view of the current Bush administration? What was his opinion of the performance artist (my term) wing of the Republican party —e.g., Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter? —Richard French

A: He was most distressed by it and once said if the United States had a parliamentary system, President Bush would be subject to a “no confidence” vote. He was highly critical of the war in Iraq and wrote eloquent columns on the subject in his last years. He liked Rush Limbaugh, who was published in National Review, but was more skeptical of Ann Coulter, whose book “Treason” he reviewed.
...
Q: I understand that in the 1960s Mr Buckley publicly backed Southern segregationists even though he crusaded against anti-Semitism. How did he reconcile this difference in his own mind? Did he ever formally renounce or apologize for his backing of the segrationists? —John Fuller
A: In the 1950s Buckley did indeed support segregationists in the South but later changed his views. He wept when he learned of the Birmingham church bombing that killed four black children. Later he became an admirer of Martin Luther King.

#93 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:24 PM:

The demise of the man whose picture appears in the dictionary under the definition of "Pretentious blowhard" does not sadden me even a trifle.

Ain't I a meanie? :)

#94 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:25 PM:

ethan, you're having what I call a "right now I wish I believed in Hell" moment.

#95 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:32 PM:

Xopher, you've just left the nail's head split open and bleeding.

Yes yes yes, in other words.

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:34 PM:

I'm not touching #73, which is a type specimen of its kind. It has a sort of crystalline perfection, like a kidney stone.

Meanwhile, I'd like to say something positive about WFB:

For the vast majority of right-wingers, conservatism is their ideology. In William F. Buckley's case, conservatism was his kink. He really got into it.

#97 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Per the troll in 73 - Is "Retarded Band of Parrots" too obvious a name for a band?

#98 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Patrick's a Marxist?!?

Well, now... This is going to make Christmas shopping a little more difficult.

#99 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:36 PM:

esb @ #86: Thank you for posting the link to the NYT Q&A. I will be interested in saying the response to my question: if Buckley wept when he heard about the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, did he also reject the conclusion of the National Review that the bomber "set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur - of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro"?

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:40 PM:

Wirelizard 97: Yes, because 'band' is redundant. 'Retarded Parrots' would be a good name, provided it's a very sophomoric punk band.

#101 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:46 PM:

I don't actually think Buckley was any more of a "libertarian" than I am. ...he was in fact a consistent advocate of authoritarian conservatism, a man who genuinely believed that a more hierarchal society was good for human character.

Buckley was (IMO) less authoritarian than hierarchical. He was pretty consistently hostile to the strongly-religious conservatives, who I'd view as the authoritarians.

It's possible to think that liberty is good, and will result in hierarchy/class distinctions.

#102 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:46 PM:

moe99@#92:
When quoting an answer that consists of "See above", it is usually helpful to include the above that should be seen. For reference, here is what I assume was meant by "above":

Q: Did he ever recant his opposition to the civil rights movement? —Chris

A: Yes, he did. He said it was a mistake for National Review not to have supported the civil rights legislation of 1964-65, and later supported a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he grew to admire a good deal, above all for combining spiritual and political values.

I must say that I find that rather weak, on the order of excusing Reagan's racist 1980 campaign by saying that he signed the bill making MLK's birthday a national holiday.

#103 ::: Retarded Parrot (Kbcure) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Braaawk! Patrick is right! Patrick is right!

Braaawk! Workers must seize the means of production! Workers must seize the means of production!

Braaawk! Parrots of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your crackers!

etc.

#104 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:55 PM:

@Paul #70: I'm not sure exactly - it's been a while since I did any critical thinking on that subject. Come to think of it, I may not have done any at all... I'm remembering parents and uncles etc. talking about how it was a war about property rights (that slaves were considered property was conveniently set aside in such discussions, or dismissed as "beside the point") and/or about the right of a State to secede from the Union. I personally know of no reasonable defense of slavery, and most discussions I've been in about the Civil War try to sidestep the slavery question because it is a topic that can so easily quash any rational discussion about the rest of the War, which I know little about in any case.

"The War of the Northern Aggression" was an attempt at humor originating with or introduced to me by, most likely, a relative of mine. I find it tends to get a snicker when used in conversation with people who know me. I should probably re-examine whether it actually is humorous before continuing to use it.

The Confederate Flag pushes so many buttons in so many painful ways for so many people I don't really relish seeing it, but that contrasts mightily in my head with my remembered boyhood joy at seeing (on TV) that flag on the roof of an orange Dodge Charger cornering at high speed with the tires squealing *on dirt*, jumping often, etc.

So, I don't know if we agree or disagree - my statement implied that I may have a different opinion than others do, but I failed to remember that I don't have a well thought out opinion to disagree with in the first place!

Maybe I'll think on that and get a well thought out opinion. More likely I'll forget about it and be embarrassed again next time I post with my foot in my mouth.

@abi #71 - thanks! The little bit I took time to read there explains it enough to tell me I need to read much of that thread. Alas, I am overstaying at work for no good reason (my internet connection at home is just as good, and there are no co-workers or employers to annoy...) and best be on my way, so maybe I'll read it there.

Thanks for the heads-up from both of you - ML is raising my expectations of myself, and this is a good thing!

Later,
-cajun

#105 ::: esb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:57 PM:

@102 - You seem to have ignored the first part of the sentence, "He said it was a mistake for National Review not to have supported the civil rights legislation of 1964-65..." I imagine that you have made mistakes in your life, do you generally have the decency to admit those mistakes?

#106 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:57 PM:

I'm just a retarded parrot pinin' for the fjords!

#107 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 06:59 PM:

No, I'm arguing that "Bill Buckley didn't think majority-rule democracy should be the foundation of all decisions" is not a very sensible criticism.

Fair enough; fortunately, almost all of the criticisms here of WFB are over entirely different points.

#108 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:03 PM:

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with BRAAWK!

#109 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:05 PM:

(Excuse me, it's just that I haven't been accused of being a commie in way too long.)

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:06 PM:

esb @105:
It appears you haven't posted here before. Since you're writing in a relatively contentious thread, could I advise you to watch the tone you use?

Each of your comments has verged on the ad hominem. I know you may have been sincerely impressed by Mr Buckley, and be grieved at his passing, but you aren't going to persuade this audience of his gentler nature by trying to back-foot them. Quite the opposite.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:07 PM:

Why, what do you know! This:

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with BRAAWK!
...is so RIGHT! Yes yes.

Just parroting you, Patrick.

#112 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:08 PM:

From each according to his abilities!
To each according to his needs!
BRAAAWK!

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:09 PM:

From each according to his abilities!
To each according to his needs!
BRAAAWK!

#114 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:10 PM:

From each according to his abilities!
To each according to his needs!
BRAAAWK!

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:11 PM:

abi 112: Wow, abi, I've quoted that so often as a good social* principle that I almost forgot that it was Marx.

I guess I'm a pinko, huh? A PINKO PARROT!!!!

Now that's a band name.

*not even ist

#116 ::: Dave Trowbridge ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:14 PM:

Rather than "nil nisi..." I'd say instead, with Chesterton, that "charity is a reverent agnosticism towards the complexity of the soul."

#117 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:14 PM:

That was a genuine, but fortuitous, router hiccup. I think I'll leave it for posterity.

#118 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:17 PM:

"This is going to make Christmas shopping a little more difficult."

Bombs. Marxists like bombs. The kind that look like little bowling balls with a stem that has a fuse sticking out of it.

Also, beard grooming tools, leather hats with ear flaps, and hard black bread.

#119 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:17 PM:

To prove that no man is all of a piece, I recall him skewering Ann Coulter for her book on Clinton. He called her a vapid twit, in that way which only he could.

Doesn't make up for the rest of his bile but it was pleasant to watch.

#120 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:19 PM:

abi, you're too honest by half. I was quite admiring your wit for posting that three times in a row.

#121 ::: Neil B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:28 PM:

This may be another indication of WFB's character: on page 185 of How to Win Arguments by William A. Rusher (1981), Rusher quotes some advice by various commentators in response to a list of questions. Note #5: "When an arguer is caught in a mistake, what is his best course?" Buckley's response: "When an arguer is caught in a mistake his best course of action is to trivialize its significance." Michael Harrington said, "Admit the mistake quickly and openly." Harold Miller: "Admit it. ..." Daniel Patrick Moynihan: " ... a person of any integrity admits it right off." Pat Buchanan indicated one should try to press on in similar vein to Buckley - how ironic.

#122 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:32 PM:

cajun@104, I apologize for coming down like a ton of bricks on you there. the treason in defense of slavery crowd get my back up very quickly. You're plainly not of that stripe.

If you really want to get into this, drop into "the edge of the american west" which is written by a couple of young history profs who cover the history of the civil war/war of northern aggression/late unpleasantness pretty regularly. It's hard to refute that slavery was a key issue for the confederacy if it was specifically mentioned in its constitution. But I don't want to lecture: you can find what you need in various places.

On to the topic at hand, was Buckley sincere in his recantations? I don't know that he was all that vocal about them. And the kind of mind that can commit such offenses in print -- to claim that humans are divided into upper and lower classes, based on genetics -- has a lot of atoning to do. Of his 1400+ TV broadcasts, up until 1999, did he spend anytime refuting these ideas and challenging those who still hold them, even if they did so under his leadership?


#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Stefan 118: Mmmm, hard black bread. Yummm.

Xlebiy chornie, xlebiy strasnie,
Xlebiy zguchie i prikrasnie!
Kak l'ubl'u ya vas,
Kak bayus ya vas,
Znat' uvidel' vas i pridol'briy chas!

(I'm sure Terry will correct me if any of that is wrong.)

#124 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:36 PM:

I wonder how a german WWII-era flag would look in Paris or London

Pretty stupid, although in London people have a tendency to mock the Nazis as we weren't actually occupied, and, after all, they were foreigners so you can't expect anything better from them.

A closer approximation might be how would would look in Berlin, assuming it weren't illegal. Through a long and uninteresting chain of events I happened to be at a birthday party where one friend had acquired a replica SS officers cap, and a German was offended simply by it's existence; that it had turned up to the party was just adding insult to injury.

Goya's Ghosts appears to be a film from last year; what this has to do with anything I don't know.

Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with BRAAWK!

David Weber's exposition has never been so well edited.

#125 ::: Terry Karney (retarded parrot) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:39 PM:

Goya's Ghost: that was one of the most chuckle worthy drive-bys of late.

Patrick (if I may make so bold as to speak for him, from observation) has never preached tolerance and compassion as some abstract thing to which all get, without any question.

Did Patrick wish for his death? I don't think so. Does his not rending his garments and papering over the evils that the man did make him a hypocrite? No.

Maybe you'd like it better if he stood mute, and let those who want to do such papering over create the myth of an enlightened conservative thinker... I don't think so.

As has been said in other threads, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and the folks who dislike Obama, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, Alan Dershowitz, or whomever your bogeyman of choice may be, aren't going to be sitting on their hands, wishing the folks who like them were better informed.

No, some of them are going to be having parties. So, until I see evidence that your bilious rants on the failure of people to be polite to the dead are evenly spread; because you think the death of any diminishes all..., you can, most kindly, bugger off and wank to your heart's content, because I shan't pay any more attention to you.

Good Day to you.

#126 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 07:41 PM:

One way of looking at Buckley's legacy is that he did a huge amount to make sure that no current young man or woman with the desire to apply moderate erudition and upper-class style to politics will be welcome anywhere near power in conservative efforts. He helped enthrone the barbarians he saw everywhere but where they actually did gather, right around him.

#127 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:21 PM:

Prole wanna cracker.

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:27 PM:

Kevin, #24: No matter how bad politics got in America, Buckley was never going to be starving, or in jail, or in a cardboard box, or dead of a treatable disease because he lacked medical coverage. For Buckley, winning or losing a political battles meant, for him, the difference between buying three homes or two; for millions of others, Buckley winning would mean poverty, Jim Crow, pestilence, the closet, and death.

IMO that should be his epitaph.

Stephen, #37: Please add me to the list of people who'd be very interested in seeing that chapter when it's been polished up.

ethan, #91: Take some comfort in this -- with his death, modern conservativism loses one of its greatest pillars of credibility. Who is going to pick up the banner -- Limbaugh? Coulter?

cajunfj40, #104: FWIW, your original comment didn't come across to me as anything but satire and some self-deprecatory humor.

About the causes of the Civil War... one of them appears to have been the South's insistence that a couple of territories which were about to achieve statehood be required to be slave states, even though the people in them didn't want slavery. So much for the "states' rights" argument.

Paul, #122: Good point. All we have right now is hearsay evidence -- the assertion of a good friend and admirer of Buckley's that he did indeed recant those positions, rather than statements from Buckley himself. And it's quite possible that he did... but I'd still like to see some public statements to that effect. As you point out, it would also be nice to find examples of him actually challenging those who still hold similar positions. Perhaps Stephen's dissertation will answer that question more completely.

All: I went poking around on Google for some Buckley quotes, and all I found were the same dozen or so repeated over and over again. Anybody got some quickly-found links to stuff that's not quite so sanitized, preferably more recent than 1957? I don't have the gumption to go plowing thru the TNR archives at random; it would be bad for my blood pressure. I'm hoping that someone, or someones, may have saved a link or three for other reasons.

Oh, and why does everyone persist in calling Buckley an "intellectual"? He hated intellectuals -- AFAICT from what I've been reading, he had nothing good to say about scholars or scientists either one. As he himself seems to have been a fairly intelligent man, this would seem to suggest that he was at best an intellectual Uncle Tom.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Oh! I just remembered my favorite Buckley story. He was arguing with Gore Vidal, who kept calling him a crypto-fascist. Buckley finally lost his cool and told Vidal that if he didn't stop calling him a crypto-fascist he'd punch him out!

The irony of this was not, I assume, lost on the audience.

#130 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Fragano @ 78:

I'll take a shot at that question, but first, let me ask you to read this comment elsewhere so you have some idea where I'm coming from.

I agree philosophically with the idea that every death diminishes me, or at least with the idea that every human life has some value. I don't see any way around that, if I'm to believe that any life has value. That said, I can imagine a circumstance in which I might've been obligated to kill some odious creep like Buckley, and that his life had some value wouldn't have stopped me.

Now, that's all very abstract. In the concrete, I'd have to say that Buckley was probably irredeemable. One never knows, though. The next item on his to-do list might have been "Invite Henry Kissinger over for arsenic cocktails". More likely it was "Sacrifice some more small children to raise Benito Mussolini from the dead." Still, you never know.

I figure thousands of people, mostly children, died today from conditions Buckley helped, in a conscious, knowing, efficient, and ambitious, manner, bring about. Their deaths most certainly diminished me in ways that Buckley's did not, and I wouldn't trade one of them for a dozen of his ilk. But he was still human, if only barely, and his death is still sad.

I'm not, though. Good riddance to him.

And now, I think I'll focus for a bit on my daughter. She just brought me in her bedtime snack, a big old strawberry on a small plate, and said, "Look, Daddy! It looks like Hello, Kitty!"

Damned if it didn't.

#131 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:54 PM:

Xopher @ 129:

I think the full quote as I know it should be recorded here for the record:

Listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll pop you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.
#132 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:00 PM:

I have fond memories of Buckley -- none personal, but it was he who opened my eyes to the way words can be used as tools. I saw him as a fascinating artist, who could take apart an oppposing argument, shift the focus of discussion and spellbind an audience with just his wit.

Neil B @ #121:
Note #5: "When an arguer is caught in a mistake, what is his best course?" Buckley's response: "When an arguer is caught in a mistake his best course of action is to trivialize its significance." Michael Harrington said, "Admit the mistake quickly and openly." Harold Miller: "Admit it. ..." Daniel Patrick Moynihan: " ... a person of any integrity admits it right off." Pat Buchanan indicated one should try to press on in similar vein to Buckley - how ironic.

I get this, I do, but I love the difference between Buckley and the rest. To me, he's responding as an .. arguer? agh, cannot think of the word. advocate? help? .. while the other respondents are speaking as humans. Their responses show their priorities. Buckley's priority was always to win the point, and I think a lot of the time he simply didn't care to notice how that point might connect to the suffering of the wider world. And if he did, he brushed it off as a consequence of the "natural" segregation of society into classes. The romantic in me likes to think that Buckley was in love with Argument (and love is blind).

All I'm trying to say, rather clumsily I admit, is that he was one of my first tutors in the power of language, and for that I respect him. I had other teachers later on, more connected with human morality, thank goodness, to wean me off his influence.

For all the damage that his words caused, well, he lived long enough to comprehend it, and his role in it. That's my hope, anyway.

#133 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:06 PM:

Damien Neil #83: If you want to deal in empty phrases (hundreds of thousands die every day), be my guest.

#134 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Xopher: I love you, but that hurts my brain (have I mentioned that I hate transliterations? If there was only one system, then it wouldn't be so bad, but I know of at least six, and the best is probably Nabokov's, save that it's as precise as the international phonetic alphapbets, and harder to learn than Cyrillic, but I digress).

I think I see an error, but I'm having to pore through a couple of dictionaries to find the root word I think has been typoed.

So, if you can post it in Cyrillic, so I'm not having to actually translate it, that would be swell.

John A. Arkansawyer: I think the great tragedy of Buckley isn't that he was some devil incarnate, but all too human, and prone to seeing his advantages as worth trampling all the world to keep.

He wasn't an intellectual, and it's a sad commentary on the modern world that someone who is merely well-educated, and intelligent enough to use it is accorded the status of great thinker, mostly, I think, because he had a way with words, and a brilliant speaking voice; combined with an aristocratic manner which caused those whom he looked down upon to feel somehow elevated because he said things they thought were clever.

#135 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:12 PM:

@70: "I wonder how a ... Japanese imperial navy flag [would look] in the philippines or china"

The ensign of the present-day Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is the same as that of the WWII Imperial Japanese Navy.

Putting it on a baseball cap and going to China or the Philippines (or Korea) would probably be pretty offensive, yes. I just think it's interesting that despite the baggage, it was re-adopted as the flag of the Japanese military.

On Rick Perlstein - I think they probably were friends, and that's good, because even monsters and evil men need friends; particularly friends with more liberal views than them. The only hope that they'll ever moderate comes from their personal experiences with people of relative sanity. So what he says about Buckley is admirable in the way that the loyalty of anyone to a friend after their death is admirable.

But we don't all have to be Buckley's friends, or pretend we would have wanted to be, or make the kind of allowances that a friend would about his terrible record, so I'm happy to remain constant in my opinion that Buckley was a very bad person based on his public record, whatever his friends say.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:15 PM:

John A Arkansawyer #130: I agree that all human lives have value. I just can't see how the death of someone like Buckley diminishes me in any way. Or, for that matter, why I should be asked to even consider that it does by anyone for even a moment.

#137 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:25 PM:

@Paul #122: I didn't take it as you coming down on me like a ton of bricks - I felt it as more of a written mental prodding, which made me think (always a good thing), leading me to remember that hey, if I'm going to espouse that I may have different viewpoints on the matter, then I darn well ought to have them. If anything, it's my own conscience that came down on me like the ton of bricks that it is - don't fret about it, it is a part of me and does these things so that I may I learn. Learning that way is significantly less painful than some other ways are! So I thank you for the think-inducement, and the followup comment with further information pointers.

@ Lee #128: Thanks for at least one anecdotal viewpoint that my attempt at self-deprecating humour was at least partly successful. It wasn't meant really as satire - I honestly hadn't really thought out the positions that much and thought it a simpler joke than that. Both your comment and Paul's reminded me that I ought to think such things through before posting. Some day I may utter what I feel is a "harmless joke" and get a really nasty response. I'd like to avoid that, thankyouverymuch.

It's embarrassing to be misunderstood to the point that someone takes offense. It's far more painful to realise that one has done so out of sheer ignorance and thoughtless use of disproven arguments, etc. That nobody appears to have taken offense here is good - I learned a number of things and I may yet learn more, as well as increasing my value as a poster.

Again, thanks.

As I know little about Buckley, I'm offtopic. I'll respond to further comments directed my way, but otherwise I'll catch y'all later.

-cajun

#138 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Teresa@96: like a kidney stone.

score!

;)

#139 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Terry: It's the lyric of a Russian song that was very popular in the US at one time (in translation), with the word for 'bread(s)' substituted for the word for 'eyes'.

#140 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Lee @ 128: I went poking around on Google for some Buckley quotes, and all I found were the same dozen or so repeated over and over again. Anybody got some quickly-found links to stuff that's not quite so sanitized, preferably more recent than 1957?

I remember him writing something odious about the Jacobo Timmerman case in the early Eighties. My google-fu didn't turn up the goods, but maybe someone else's will...

#141 ::: Greg M. ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Still around, esb? Repeating darkrose @99's question

"if Buckley wept when he heard about the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, did he also reject the conclusion of the National Review that the bomber "set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur - of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro"?"

#142 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:41 PM:

And, as Unfogged reminds us, let us not for an instant forget his role as alternate-history thrillerwriter; of which the undoubted tour de force was his description in Saving the Queen of his CIA hero bedding the (alternate universe) queen of England -

"He rose, extended his hand, and brought her silently into the bedroom. She pulled away the covers, dropped her yellow gown, and lay on her back as with her left hand she turned off the bedlight. The flames from the fireplace lit her body with a faint flickering glow. She arched back her neck and pointed her firm breasts up at the ceiling, and he was on her, kissing her softly, saying nothing. Her thighs began to heave, and she said in a whisper, "Now." He entered her smoothly, and suddenly a wild but irresistible thought struck him, fusing pleasure and elation—and satisfaction. He moved in deeply, and came back, and whispered to her, teasingly, tenderly, "One."

And a second,

And third,

Fourth,

Fifth,

Sixth—her excitement was now explicit, demanding, but he exercised superhuman restraint—

Seven…

Eight—she was moaning now with pain—

and, triumphantly, nine!"

As the Unfogged comments pointed out, anyone who thinks six strokes constitute superhuman restraint may have issues, but the really flamingly odd bit was that - and the fact that I remember this from reading the book in the early sixties says something - the irresistible thought in question was a recollection of being caned with nine strokes by a sadistic master at his English boarding school. Buckley presented it as the Yank finally getting an appropriate revenge on the Brits, which is one way to think of sex, and I suppose that there are some other interpretations which are even more unlikeable.
After Saving the Queen his thriller universe dropped pretty well back into the usual one, which I suppose makes it more likely that the alternate universe bit was added in specifically to let him write that scene.

#143 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:42 PM:

There is a difference between nil nisi bonum mortuis and rejoicing over someone's death. There's even a difference between rejoicing that someone will no longer cause more evil and rejoicing that they are dead. And "conservatives rejoice over the deaths of liberals" is not a great argument that rejoicing over the deaths of conservatives is a good thing for liberals to do.

#144 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:42 PM:

Fragano @ 136: I wouldn't have said it, myself. If I had, I wouldn't have phrased it in that way.

I am hard-pressed to articulate a way in which I am diminished by Buckley's death, but I suspect I am, if only by the fact that it rouses a certain satisfaction in me to see the old bastard kick off while Gore Vidal can still enjoy it. It is petty of me to feel that way, I guess, but I do, and I don't regret it, but I know that I should, and that satisfaction, perhaps, diminishes me a bit.

A bit. Or maybe not. I sure don't feel diminished.

#145 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:44 PM:

Have to say, when I heard the news of Buckley's death, my exact reaction was "Good riddance". He was a talented and eloquent man, who put his gifts to evil uses. I won't miss him.

#146 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:53 PM:

@131: Thanks for posting that. I had forgotten it. What a priceless way to be remembered . . .

@135: I suspected Japan's flag had not changed in any great degree. The loyalty of friendship is too precious to be trivialized, but I think it would be wise to consider who we call friends. I think friendship confers a sense of commonality of thought and values that Perlstein and Buckley cannot really have shared. If I had a friend whose reputation was tarnished with these ideas, assuming he no longer adhered to them, I would urge him to repudiate them and if he did not, I would have to wonder which he valued more, the friendship of people who really knew him or a reputation that was built on hatred and demagoguery.

I was puzzled/amused when he decided to learn a musical instrument in his later years. It's a great idea for anyone who is a lover of music, as most educated people are. And I can see how many people would take up the piano or perhaps the violin or the cello. Buckley chose the harpsichord, an instrument as obsolete as his ideas, or so it struck me at the time.

How does it go again? To stand athwart history, shouting STOP? That about sums it up.

#147 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Perlstein's piece makes me think of nothing so much as the expression "Someone who is nice to you, but mean to the waiter, is not a good person."

#148 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:04 PM:

I'm a big fan of Democracy, tolerance, progressive ideas, equality, compassion, love, and all that. But that doesn't mean I have lost the ability to judge right and wrong, fer chrissakes.

If you've got a favorite lynching rope, you're out of my clubhouse. And don't expect a refund on your deposit, either.

Since when did "tolerance and compassion" mean "having no moral compass"? I mean, really.

#149 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:13 PM:

Greg: As with a really huge fraction of Republican rhetoric, it's projection. Their leaders are themselves almost all people of genuinely awful character - they divorce wives in the hospital, they screw their secretaries while denouncing affairs as a threat to the Republic, they cheat and lie about everything from finances to pets, they abuse their children far more often than most groups, they practice all kinds of vices they denounce in public, and on and on. Basically, everyone they know is likely to be a rotten bastard. So they do what they always do in such cases: accuse their opponents of having those faults.

They know that they have no moral compass and are constrained only by external threats. They figure that the whole society works that way, and seize on any indication that it may be so while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. Broadly speaking whatever one of these guys says is true of liberals is what's actually true of the speaker.

#150 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:29 PM:

Xopher: That's what I thought it was (Очий Чëрние/Dark Eyes).

Ok, now to the corrections,

strasnie should be stratsnie

zguchie should be sguchnie

l'ubl'u should be lublyu

And the one which gave me fits,

i pridol'briy chas!

should be

ya, v' nyedob'rie chas

It's a swell song. I like it a lot, archaic dialect and all. If you'd like, I can type it in Russian and post it.

Marc Moskowitz: I don't see Patrick rejoicing at the death of Buckley, more a sense of good riddance to bad rubbish.

Are there those who do rejoice in his death, sure. But so what? I won't demand that all of the people in the world whom he wronged, (or merely offended) stand mute on his demise, nor yet demand they take the high road and pretend to some generic sadness they don't feel.

If the entirety of the "liberal" community all stood up and left the room when he was being memorialised, that would be worth clucking over, but the things I see here ain't that.

#151 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:31 PM:

#130 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 08:50 PM.

Fragano @ 78:

I'll take a shot at that question, but first, let me ask you to read this comment elsewhere so you have some idea where I'm coming from.I agree philosophically with the idea that every death diminishes me, or at least with the idea that every human life has some value. I don't see any way around that, if I'm to believe that any life has value. That said, I can imagine a circumstance in which I might've been obligated to kill some odious creep like Buckley, and that his life had some value wouldn't have stopped me.
Now, that's all very abstract. In the concrete, I'd have to say that Buckley was probably irredeemable. One never knows, though. The next item on his to-do list might have been "Invite Henry Kissinger over for arsenic cocktails". More likely it was "Sacrifice some more small children to raise Benito Mussolini from the dead." Still, you never know.

FIRST: I absolutely agree that WFB was a shthd and I see no reason to mourn for his death (or indeed no reason not to dance/piss on his grave. . . in fact if you'all are planning an ML-along, let me know where and where).

SECOND: I worked in a men's prison as a volunteer educator in an accredited program for a long time. I'm a woman and I worked my ass off for many years working to educate (among others) rapists and wife murderers. I hope I did a good job.

I never knew what my students had done to land them there unless they told me (which they mostly didn't.) I hope I taught them all the same (despite my own private guesses).

MY POINT: I believe in the power of redemption: of confession and sincere regret (do I believe WFB qualifies? HELL no.) To quote one of our great novelists, Edith Wharton "In this world, even the wicked get worse than they deserve."

To which I might add, "In this word, sometimes the wicked get better than they deserve and THATS when it really sucks." Please don't let them corrupt the word "forgiveness." Although they're more than welcome to nil nisi bonum.

I guess, like abi (a few times) I'm just asking us all to moderate our feelings about repentance. (Although, sadly, nothing I will ever write is as damn funny as abi's 3 duplicated parrot posts.)

#152 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Allow me, by the way, to echo Paul's recommendation, in #122, of the blog The Edge of the American West, which has become one of my favorite daily reads at land-office speeds.

#153 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:44 PM:

J A Arkansawyer @ #131: That's how I remember it. The ever-prissy Buckley breaking butch on Vidal. Vidal's been a hero of mine ever since.

#154 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:01 PM:

I don't feel diminished by Buckley's death. I did feel diminished by his life and by what he chose to do with it.

I had to admire his skillful and clever use of language and rhetoric, but considered the purposes to which he put these talents to be reprehensible, as a prostitution of some of the greatests gifts or skills a human being can possess.

#155 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:04 PM:

I also want to say that Jacob Davies #135--"I think they probably were friends, and that's good, because even monsters and evil men need friends"--is going to have me thinking for weeks. Likewise Dido's #151.

Really, what an amazingly smart, insightful crowd the ML commentariat is. When we unleash them against the forces of international capitalism, the bourgeoisie won't know what hit them. All power to the blogging soviets!

#156 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Terry 150: That would be cool! I learned that song before learning Russian, and even before learning Cyrillic, so I'm going on memory. And...wow, about 30 years ago. More, because I was in high school.

*suddenly much older*

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:20 PM:

Yes, Patrick, the Dictatorship of the Commentariat is just around the corner! Today the blogosphere, tomorrow the world! And the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world will be the FATWA* of our revolution!

*First Against The Wall, Assholes

#158 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Meanwhile, the unforgettable sex scene in Saving the Queen is discussed at length by Unfogged's commentariat, here.

The Provisional People's Army of Making Light approves of Unfogged. Come the revolution, they'll get the top-quality bread scraps.

#159 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:33 PM:

Xopher: Do you know what the lyrics mean?

#161 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:35 PM:

Elsewhere on Unfogged, JP Stormcrow reminds us of this observation by Lars-Erik Nelson: "Bill Buckley exists to wrap up peoples' base, greedy, low-life, mean and nasty views into high-faluting language so that they don't have to go around thinking they are just mean, stupid and nasty, but instead have a philosophy like Buckley's."

#162 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:35 PM:

Oh oh oh! I have been reading Unfogged's discussion of WFB's sex scene in Saving the Queen, and I am hyperventilated from laughing too hard.

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:36 PM:

We should get PPAML badges!

(Cue the Treasure of the Sierra Madre quote here.)

#164 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:39 PM:

In case anyone's curious, that comment from "Goya's Ghost" up there was posted from IP address 70.56.165.213, which seems to resolve to a Minneapolis-area user of Qwest.

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:43 PM:

Terry: Eyes dark, eyes passionate (?), eyes something and beautiful, how I love you, how I fear you...then I'm not sure. Fill me in!

#166 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:44 PM:

I've been thinking about what does and does not earn my respect (and support) when it comes to changes of heart, and I think it comes down to what the possibly repenting person insists still must be accepted.

Good: "This isn't where I ever wanted to end up. I don't understand how it happened, but I want to do something to fix the mess this became."

Bad: "This isn't where I ever wanted to end up, and there just can't have been any flaws that big in my original agenda. I want you to help me fix things to turn out the way I intended all along, and I'm not about to entertain the possibility that there were fundamental flaws in the plan."

When you're staring at a calamity that's there partly because of what you've been doing, I don't think you get to fence off your starting point as exempt from any serious criticism. If you're serious about repairing the harm, you have to be open to seeing the causes, no matter where they turn out to be.

This turns out to be one more reason to get in the habit of regular reflection and attention to criticism, so that you don't find you spent your whole adult life on a fundamentally doomed-to-evil course. If you ever find out that you're in that mess and you're open to change every so often, you can fix it in time to go on to do a lot of good. But no matter how often you do this, "my heart is pure" is still not a sufficient response to "there's no practical way this can do anything but the harm you see".

What I see again and again in movements that start off with suave people and end up with vulgarians is that the suave ones insist there must have been some way to keep spewing their hate and bile in classy ways. No. That's repentence, that's trying to save face, and it's part of the problem.

#167 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:44 PM:

William F. Buckley. Pompous, hateful jackass supreme. Man who gave his "conservative" voice to the people of my generation who sold all of our ideals out to the generation of Nixon. Poisonous viper, lying in wait for the honest expression of ideas and strongly-held principles. Single-handed cementer of the new class distinctions that followed the WWII hardly makes one a hero.

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:50 PM:

Bruce Baugh #166: Yes.

I think if you build a movement based, in large part, on harnessing racist hatred, and then once it's in place you say "OK, now I feel bad about the racism. Oh well. Moving forward!", then you've got a credibility problem. If you build that movement and then say "Oh my god, this movement has serious structural problems because of its history of racism and they need to be fixed", then that's a little more believable.

I'm sure I could have phrased that more elegantly.

#169 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 11:54 PM:

Actually, ethan, your #168 seems to me to be phrased just exactly right.

#170 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Hmm, if I agree with Comrade Patrick here, I'll look like a sycophant (or a retarded parrot). And if I agree with Ethan again, I'll look like a sock puppet.

Fuck it. Retarded sock parrot puppet says "Yeah! You go boy!" to Ethan and "Yeah, he nailed it, didn't he" to CHAWEPNH.

#171 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:03 AM:

I should add that I think a lot of the time it's possible (and desirable) to repent of very serious problems without getting into a life of misery and drudgery in an effort to repair as much of the harm as possible. The thing is that one doesn't get to decide in advance "I'm only going to go this far" and still be serious about repenting.

#172 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:06 AM:

Xopher, what's all this about syphilitic sock parrots?

#173 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Xopher, what's all this about syphilitic sock parrots?

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Xopher:

It is by me:

Очи черные, очи страстные
Очи жгучие и прекрасные
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час

Dark eyes, passionate eyes
Burning eyes, so full of splendor
How I love you, and how I fear you
It was a cursèd hour, when I first saw you

2.
Ох, недаром вы глубины темней!
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нем сердце бедное.

Not for nothing, are you darker than the Depths
They shall mourn my soul for you
My poor heart consumed by you;
In those triumphant flames of yours

3.
Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Всё, что лучшего в жизни бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам!

I am not sad, nor am I sorrowful
my wyrd it comforts me
What God has given us, is all the best in life
I offer it up, to those burning eyes, a willing sacrifice


I think you can even make that translation scan to the melody, by repeating a phrase of the last line... and then moving, with all the passion one can muster, into the resolve.

Want the music?

(p.s. one could opt for dreadful eyes in the second line of the first verse, in lieu of fiery. It's a contextual thing, the lyric does a direct translation as, "eyes which burn" but the later senses of fate being sealed gives a lot of leeway for the foreshadowing of his diving into his fate)

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:13 AM:

Don't be silly, Bruce.

Parrots can't get syphilis.

#176 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:18 AM:

They can get chlamydia though.

#177 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:21 AM:

Terry, my music memory is better than my lyric memory...I can still sing this song, even if I botched some of the lyrics. But if you have a link to sheet music for it, that would be very welcome.

#178 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:25 AM:

PNH #169 and Xopher #170: Hey, thanks!

#179 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:27 AM:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a moderator disemvowelling a human face, forever.

#180 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:29 AM:

hmn fc, frvr?

#181 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:31 AM:

Xopher: Dark Eyes

It's a gypsy melody.

#182 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:07 AM:

Patrick @ 155: This is the kind of thing that keeps me speaking up when I'd rather be quiet. Thank you.

For those who'd like further information: I was as Boston University's Prison Education Program. Last time I checked we had a less than 2% recidivism rate over 30+ years of the program.

("No one would do something wrong if they knew it was wrong." Sorry, I was a secret platonist in my youth.)

#183 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:30 AM:

I read God and Man at Yale when I was 14 or 15. I was studying formal logic at the time, and I felt Buckley abused it deliberately. He used flagrantly faulty syllogisms, ad hominem arguments, everything that, I had been taught, had been considered bad thinking since medieval times. I did not see how a student at Yale could not know the simplest matters of logic, known to a jr. high student, but I understood that a devious smartass, who thought he was brighter than the rest of the world, might try to snooker the hoi polloi. I decided that he was a con artist, and was contemptuous of the people he considered inferior.

I have seen nothing to make me doubt that interpretation of Buckley's character.

Thank you, Patrick, for starting this discussion. I'm disappointed that the NYTimes dropped the ball on this. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, blah, blah, blah, but I'd like to see De mortuis nil nisi verum. (Jim MacDonald, correct my Latin, if you would.)

#184 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:32 AM:

Thinking about life, death, and possibly pertinent quotes, I remembered last Friday night. While suffering simultaneously from chemotherapy and an eviction notice, brain-dead and body barely hanging on, I slumped down without the energy or will to shut the TV off after the show I turned it on for, and ended up watching the British police detective program Dalziel & Pascoe. Pascoe says, at the end of a strangely-ramified and difficult case*, as he walks upstairs away from us and Dalziel (“dee-ell”): “Every existing thing is born without reason and dies by chance” — a condensation of Jean-Paul Sartre's classically existential statement: “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.” [To which I can only add “BRAAAWK!”]

At the moment I think I'll concentrate on something of his that's slightly more cheering: “Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.”

Apologies if this isn't pertinent enough. Still struggling.

*I've noticed a bit of a tendency towards odd & downbeat stories in UK mysteries. One of the most depressing was a Silent Witness about Eastern European people-trafficking. Definitely designed to help those struggling with an overdose of joy-of-life.

#185 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:42 AM:

If thinking the world is a better place that has no William F. Buckley in it is rejoicing over his death, then I so rejoice. If this makes me crass and insensitive, then so be it. I cannot grieve for a man who worked his entire adult life to make the world a more unhappy place. I would much rather grieve for those whose lives he made worse, or who died prematurely so that he and his class could have that much more power, wealth, and security.

#186 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:48 AM:

Mez, At the moment I think I'll concentrate on something of his that's slightly more cheering: “Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.” is the sort of thing that keeps me going. Being me I tend to remember Camus' version, which amounts to the idea that since you are at every moment choosing not to die, choose reasons to live that make your life worthwhile.

#187 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:57 AM:

dido @ 182

("No one would do something wrong if they knew it was wrong." Sorry, I was a secret platonist in my youth.)

Hey, no problem, we all were. It's one of the diagnostic symptoms of late adolescence. You show your true character by not drinking the hemlock and moving on with your life.

#188 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:11 AM:

Sitting here, high atop the Great Throne of Aesthetic Judgement, I'm awarding the internet to Ronit for 127, along with the medal for Hero of the Cybernetic Socialist Republic. Not Hero First Class, comrade, this is a classless society!

#189 ::: dido ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:32 AM:

BC, StM @ 187: Well, I still think that the platonic socrates deserves to get kicked in the shins hard (hopefully this will kick the majority of the shit out him as well). For the rest I'm not so sure. Republic:? Pure BS. Phaedrus? Real Deal. Timeaeus: Don't know what you think but think you're bonkers.

Plato didn't think it was wrong to deliberately martyr ones' self to the political ideology of the time.

#190 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:31 AM:

Kevin J. Maroney @ 24: Agreed.

I recently read Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon trilogy over vacation. I wasn't expecting them to be quite so meaty on a political/philosophical level. (Which isn't to say there weren't the requisite 2.5 sex scenes and 5.7 gun fights per book. Oh yes there were.) There were a couple of quotes from the resident philosopher/authorial stand in/hot revolutionary* babe that really resonated with me. One of them was something like, "If anyone tells you politics isn’t personal, make it personal." (It have just been "Make it personal.")

Which is to say: I don’t read a genteel willingness to extend a hand in friendship to your equally privileged opponent (at the same time as real human beings are suffering and dying as a result of the polices you advocate) as a mark of class or dignity. Rather, I read it as a mark of a profound insulation from reality that makes me want to do nothing so much as punch you in the face repeatedly yelling “Is it personal enough for you yet? Huh? IS IT PERSONAL ENOUGH YET?” Because I can guaran-fucking-tee it’s pretty fucking personal to those that are doing the dying.

*Comrade Morgan's works are certainly Literature in Service of the Revolution.

Seth Gordon @ 179: "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a moderator disemvowelling a human face, forever."

Oh. My. Awesome. I laughed like a little child.

#191 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:37 AM:

Mez @ 184: "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

Wonderful. That's going in my Big List o' Quotes.

#192 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:52 AM:

The Provisional People's Army of Making Light approves of Unfogged. Come the revolution, they'll get the top-quality bread scraps.

As Emma Goldman would have said, had she posted on Unfogged: "If I can't make adolescent cock jokes, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

#193 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:18 AM:

Quellcrest Falconer (as reported by Richard Morgan):

The personal, as everyone's so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it PERSONAL. Do as much damage as you can. GET YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous makes the difference, the ONLY difference in their eyes, between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it's just business, it's politics, it's the way of the world, it's a tough life and that IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.
Things I Should Have Learnt by Now, Volume II

I note that the protagonist Kovacs, while quoting and approving of Quel, also describes her as a complete fucking maniac (from memory).

#194 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:47 AM:

abi @27, that's beautiful, thank you. The ultimate revenge on an elitist (racist, homophobic, etc) scumsucker is the total equality of death!

I'm similarly inclined to hope for mercy even for the truly evil. dido @151, thank you for being part of that mercy, and in this life, practically, putting yourself on the line to repay evil with kindness. Which is far harder than a pious wish for divine mercy after someone is safely dead, and I am somehow comforted to know that a world that contained Buckley also contains people like you.

About de mortuis: I agree that it is morally important not to whitewash political figures because of their death. History matters, and making sure that future generations hear the truth about past evils is far more important than any kind of prissy politeness. At the same time, I think rejoicing in someone's death diminishes the rejoicer, and doesn't do anything for justice (either hurting the deceased wicked person, or helping his victims).

Good people and evil people die, and everybody else in between, and evil people are just as likely to die well as good people to die in misery and pain. So it doesn't make sense to see death as a punishment (or a reward either). Perhaps the cause for celebration is that the world no longer has that evil person in it? But that's not an idea I find comforting.

#195 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:00 AM:

re 193: I don't want to get involved in the Buckley-hate gloat-fest, in either direction. But "take everything personally" has always struck me as a ignominiously self-destructive philosophy, liable to reduce the soul to a white-hot point of frustrated anger.

#196 ::: Bll ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:13 AM:

Bckly ws grt mn! Mst f y r jst bnch f lft-wng, slss, scm bg lbrls...nthr grt Cnsrvtv Bb Grnt sd, "t th hrt f Lbrlsm s slf-lthng fr yr wn wht flsh", lk t mn f th bv cmmnts! Bckly nd Grnt r tw grt rsns m Cnsrvtv!

#197 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:27 AM:

That was so dull that I disemvoweled it lest anyone fall asleep reading it.

Saving my Making Light comrades from keyboard face, five and a half vowels at a time, that's me.

#198 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:39 AM:

Abi: Saving my Making Light comrades from keyboard face, five and a half* vowels at a time, that's me. We really appreciate your valiant service against the Welsh and/or Generic Fantasy hordes.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:50 AM:

Bruce @198:

Th hmr thrds r swtr
Bt th pltcs r fttr
nd s w dmd t mtr
T trll mng th lttr.

#200 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:00 AM:

Abi: Burma Shave.

#201 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:06 AM:

C. Wingate @ 195: The point isn't "Take everything personally." The point is don't let other people get away with pretending that destroying your life is "just business." Make it as personal for them as it already is for you.

#202 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:08 AM:

Bruce @200:
Too obscure? Once again, with vowels:

The humor threads are sweeter
But the politics run fatter
And so we deemed it meeter
To troll among the latter

#203 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:10 AM:

No, I got it, Abi, it just seemed like the sort of quatrain that needed a true blue American fifth line.

#204 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:13 AM:

Xopher and Terry Karney, perhaps the eyes can shoot lasers. Either that or it's a love lament to Sauron.

I feel there may be a Wormtongue parallel somewhere here, but I leave it to others.

#205 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:26 AM:

Tangential question for Terry Karney @ 174:

How did you get the cyrillic in? That was kewl.

#206 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:27 AM:

Bruce Cohen, Sitter Atop The Great Throne of Aesthetic Judgement, @187:

Comrade Bruce, the award is not mine alone: it belongs equally to all my fellow comrades in the Provisional Punsters' Army of Making Light.

#207 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:30 AM:

Bruce@166: Bad: ... "and I'm not about to entertain the possibility that there were fundamental flaws in the plan."

(drawl)

yep.

#208 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:39 AM:

When I was about 12 years old -- which would've been around 1975 -- I told Mom that I wanted to be writer when I grew up. She beamed, and said that she had always hoped I would grow up to be a great writer like William F. Buckley. So, in an effort to please my mother,* I began reading Buckley's columns to understand his approach to writing.

So, when other boys my age were playing sports and pulling on girls' pigtails, I was closely parsing Buckley's columns and watching Firing Line.

At some point during this period, Buckley was a guest on Carson's Tonight Show, and the conversation turned to the invasion of Cambodia. Johnny was having trouble rationalizing the invasion, and Buckley said something like, "When the stakes are very high, blah, blah, sometimes the ends do justify the means." Monster!, I thought.

Johnny stared at him at moment, and in his completely guileless way, asked Buckley what the ends of invading Cambodia were. I do not recall that Buckley had a response.

I learned two important things about writing from William F. Buckley: 1) Writing well, contra Zinsser, is not necessarily thinking well. 2) It is trivial to couch morally repugnant views in facile prose. /* looks pointedly at Christopher Hitchens */

* Never underestimate the desire of prepubescent boys to please their mothers. Take Jonah Goldberg. Please.

#209 ::: James Goodman ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:50 AM:

Oh, yeah! Good riddance indeed. What a horrible man. The world is a little brighter today...

#210 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Neil #193:

So, what groups in the US today are seen as most the dangerous, scary ones. How are they doing? Is this strategy of being perceived as dangerous working out for them, do you think? Or would that be the group that has the highest rates of incarceration and dropping out from school, the shortest life expectancies, etc.? It's hard to overstate the amount of harm done by the idea that respect and fear are the same thing.

One problem I see with making politics extremely personal is that it becomes very hard to understand anyone else's position, or to see your opponents as human. That is a tactical mistake, and I think it's apt to lead to moral mistakes, as well--to treating your political opponents as subhuman, not deserving basic kindness or decency. It's not hard to see the fruits this has borne for the country when it's been done by the Right.

I find this whole discussion distasteful, to be honest. I am not inclined to defend Buckley's positions, or his actions, but something about the discussion just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But maybe that's just me being weird.

#211 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:02 AM:

So many other things that have been brought up in this thread have been addressed, and well-addressed, but no one had given a thought to Dan's observation at #98.

Clearly, this is the answer to those Winter Solstice Holiday shopping dilemmas that confront PNH's devoted revolutionary lackeys.

Although I suppose they're mostly anarchists, if you consider their style.

BTW, of course Buckley didn't like intellectuals and academics--they were trained to spot his abuses of logic and argument. As such, they were a threat to the edifices of self-justification he constructed.

As for Buckley's parents being southerners, and exposing him to more enlightened view of racial relations than was common at the time he was growing up--but of course! All that business with lynching and and the KKK and so on is something white trash do, and from the perspective of the Lords of the Delta and their ilk across the south, the only distinction between black people and white people of the lower classes is the best way to employ them as tools to maintain a sure grip on power and wealth. It is entirely possible to be a member of that group and find Condoleeza Rice preferable to Trent Lott--but neither Dr. Rice nor Senator Lott are their equals, in the minds of the Lords (a group not limited to a single gender, but southerners have damaged the word "lady" enough already that I won't use it here).

#212 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:06 AM:

Dang it, I missed the original 196 before the vowels were drained away from teh swamp. In trying to reconstruct the original, I'm a bit flummuxed. This is what I got so far (I think there were a couple of spaces that were missing, so hopefully I was able to successfully reconstruct):


Buckley owes great moon! (A native american reference, maybe? Did Buckley have a big gambling debt at a casino somewhere?)

Mist if you ire (cry if you're angry?)

jest bench (sit in a funny way?)

if lift-wing, asless (as above, so below)

scam big ulbrils (ulbrils are notoriously deserving of being scammed)

... neither grit Can serve tv (There's nothing good on television anymore)

Babe Grint said, "it 'ath a hurt foe Liberalism (Baby Grint said Liberalism has a hurt foe)

so self-ale thing (get your own damn drink)

free year win what flush (win a free years supply of toilet cleaner?)",

alike it mean if the beave comments! (It means the same thing if the Beave says so? Maybe Buck was a big fan of the Beave and has been upset ever since they took him off the air.)

Buckley need a Grunt or two (He was a rather gassy man)

great raisens (a good source of fiber for the gassy man fighting a blocked colon.)

me Can serve tv! (I believe he thinks he can come up with some better television programs)

Not sure why it was disemvowelled. I do agree with his assessment of current television.

#213 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:07 AM:

Bruce Baugh, who is a pretty smart guy*, says @29:
"The idea that one's political opponents must be rotten all though without anything redeeming in them is, of course, a staple of Buckley's flavor of conservatism."

Patrick, with Bruce's comment in mind, and reading your original post, would it be unfair of me to ask why you're acting like a Buckley conservative?

I don't want to get into any pro-or-con on Buckley*, or whether or not his death diminishes me, but I felt that your post diminished you.

#214 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:30 AM:

FWIW according to Jeet Heer, in the 1980s Buckley said that if he were a black South African he would support the African National Congress.

Grand Heresiarch of the Order of the Shrill Brad DeLong, who cited Heer, also reminds us of Buckley's attempt to posthumously rehabilitate Joe McCarthy.

#215 ::: Andy Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:31 AM:

I think the gist we can get from both the folks who admired the man and those who reviled him, is that all men and women are both flawed and gifted. Whether his flaws outweigh his gifts is something that is inevitably subjective. You can debate his (de)merits all you like but for myself I find comfort that somebody with such views as he had also had traits worthy of admiration. If you're going to have evil in your world at least it should be respectable.

#216 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:29 AM:

Buckley's Cancel Your Own Goddamn Subscription is a collection of his "Notes and Asides"--a column of replies to the more interesting letters he got at the National Review.
It impressed me that he generally didn't use joke templates. It was as though he was inventing genuinely new wiseass replies. This is quite a rare ability.

However, there was one area where his inventiveness and intelligence was absent. He used "liberal" as an insult which required no explanation or evidence. In other words, he was doing his bit to make America stupid. I don't know whether I'm diminished by his death or not, but aside from anything else he said, this is enough to leave me permanently angry at him.

As for not speaking ill of the newly dead, this is a kindness to those who grieve. It's arguably more appropriate for the private than the public sphere.

A general question about the opposition to Jim Crow: a good many of the people who supported Jim Crow were proud of their courtesy and hospitality. Did anyone try pointing out that, along with everything else wrong with it, Jim Crow was just plain rude?

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden:

In what sense is it positive to say that conservatism was a kink for Buckley rather than an ideology?

Pink(o) Parrot. This is the first time I've regretted not being able to post a picture into ML comments.

#146 ::: paul:

Early music on original instruments is *not* dead. And trying to do that sort of accurate recreation is a fairly modern thing.

#217 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:34 AM:

albatross @ 210: The Religous Right, pretty damn well, yep, and not really. What, you were expecting me to say blacks?

"One problem I see with making politics extremely personal is that it becomes very hard to understand anyone else's position, or to see your opponents as human. That is a tactical mistake, and I think it's apt to lead to moral mistakes, as well--to treating your political opponents as subhuman, not deserving basic kindness or decency."

It's weird, but I see making politics personal as the solution to all those problems. The vast majority of the suffering in this world doesn't come about because poor people just don't get the pain of rich people, and don't see them as human. It's remarkably one-sided, actually: it mostly comes from privileged people dehumanizing the disenfranchised. They can get away with it because they are insulated, mentally and physically, from the consequences of their actions. Breaking down those barriers, and making those consequences immediate and personal is radically humanizing. Make them treat you like an equal. Make them treat you like a human being. They certainly aren't going to do it out of the kindness of their heart.

(I don't think that physical violence is a good way to get this kind of respect. But pretending we're engaged in a genteel debate when one side is dying and the other is sipping cocktails is a bit lopsided.)

#218 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:35 AM:

When Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter dies, conservatives are going to dance in the streets, and they'll fill the Internet with ranting, raving garbage about how Bill and/or Jimmy was the worst human being in the world, and deserves to burn in hell.

Conservatives have no decency. They're ideologically/religiously driven assholes who believe that it's perfectly acceptable to be a total jerk in service to that ideology/religion. Your typical conservative will happily attempt to turn someone's grieving family into a major propaganda victory. I don't doubt that within minutes of Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton's death, people like Rush Limbaugh will attack their memory, their grieving families, and their legacy.

I hate that shit. Conservatives won't even wait until the body is cold, or better yet, decently buried, before they launch their disgusting attacks. But it's okay when we do it, because we're so obviously right, and they're so completely wrong.

Next. Time. Wait. Until. The. Body. Is. Cold.

Alex

#219 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:42 AM:

Vian @69: How many angels can dance on the grave of a pinhead?

Stefan @118: I remember when the little oil torches that sat around near road work looked just like Anarchist Brand Bombs. Spherical: check. Black: check. Little protuberance: check. Flaming: double check! Wonder why they stopped using those, eh?

Lee @128: Who is going to pick up the banner? I'm guessing PJ O'Rourke. He's been positioning himself as a book-readin' kind a guy.

Terry Karney @174: "Ich grolle nicht..."

Alex @218: That body's been cold for years.

This whole thing reminds me of something I said over 30 years ago about being influenced by someone because they write well. It made as little sense, I said, as getting your opinions from a plumber because he plumbs real good, or from a doctor because she docts real good.

Awk! Polly wanna... duh, salty thing.

Comrade.

#220 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:06 AM:

abi @ #199:

My favorite book. I think I've read The Sword in the Stone at least 15 times since 1950; it never palls.

#221 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:37 AM:

Bruce @213: I think Patrick is behaving entirely appropriate regard to someone whose public work was in fact bad all through without any particularly redeeming value. There are bad people, even with old-fashioned Mid-Atlantic accents.

#222 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:47 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer #144: Let me put it this way: when Gore Vidal dies, I will feel diminished by his death in much the same way that the death of Isaac Asimov, or Robert Graves, or John Hearne affected me. Buckley, definitely not.

#223 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:48 AM:

heresiarch 190: Many good things, concluding with Because I can guaran-fucking-tee it’s pretty fucking personal to those that are doing the dying.

BRAAWK! (Oops, I meant:) Hear, hear!

Neil 193: That's the most eloquent defense of terrorism I've ever read. Yes, that means I'm in two minds about it.

Andy 215: If you're going to have evil in your world at least it should be respectable.

I disagree, in fact I can't find words to express how strongly. Evil that is allowed to be respectable is evil that is allowed to flourish. This is why there's been so much talk of pissing on his grave etc. Disrespecting this man is a positive good for the world he left behind, because in order to eradicate his kind of evil from the world, we have to (among other things) discredit him. So PISS on him and everything he stood for. Piss, I say.

#224 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Dido #151: I understand, respect, and to a large extent agree with your point of view. I have a lot of trouble with bland, vague (and fundamentally empty) statements like 'every man's death diminishes me'.

#225 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:03 PM:

I do think it's true that there's always a loss of potential good when anyone dies. We're all capable of choosing to help make the world better rather than worse. But some people have made it really clear that they don't want to do that, and the loss there didn't begin with their deaths.

#226 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:06 PM:

albatross: I personally (and this is perhaps the greatest condemnation I can make, actually) don’t feel happy, nor sad, no joy; nor even relief that he’s dead. I don’t miss him at all.

But your distaste is probably the best measure of the, pernicious, effect he had on the culture in which he worked. People have decried the damage he did. They explain their sense of the world being a better place that William F. Buckley is no longer around. One of his defenders came in and called us race-traitors.

That so many have such feelings as a result of his life’s work, is probably the best measure of him. It’s a sad thing.

I think the “be thought of as dangerous” is a bad idea. It also presumes a more vigorous suppression of people than I, perhaps in my naivté, think takes places. The idea of getting one’s way through violence is a trifle repugnant too me.

Where that system works (in our society) is finding the levers of interest. The RR have made the republicans think they can’t be elected without them. That’s personal. They’ve convinced the networks they will lose audience if they don’t pander to them. They’ve convinced businesses they have to consider them. So much so that when companies like Kraft stand up to them, we rejoice.

Scott H: I have a Russian typewriter keyboard map. When I want to use it, for small things, such as tags on tags on flickr I use the java applet here so I can see where the keys are, instead of having to refer to a paper chart. It’s not the best, because you can’t go back and edit mistakes. All new text is appended to the end.

I also have to cheat because the russian keyboards don’t have the letter ë, so I had to go and add it in. There are a lot of places where I didn’t make the substitution (the word черные ought to be чëерные) because I was being lazy, and contextually one can, usually, suss it out; if one speaks Russian. If one doesn’t, no information is lost, it just looks less different.

But I cheated on that one, and entered the phrase “Очи черные” into Google and then cut and pasted the text I felt most like translating (it’s a folk song, there are lots of verses).

#227 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:13 PM:

Crap: чëерные should be чëрные. You will never see a ëе combination. It would sound siller than the name, "Ya-yo" in "Get Shorty" (which I realise was probaly spelled, Jayjo")

#228 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Albatross @210

1. This is the full text that Heresiarch mentioned at 190 (according to Wikiquotes) which I hoped would illuminate the issue. I feel complete fucking maniac is a good response, although that doesn't stop this particular articulation of rage from having some value to it.

Sidenote: Another Quellism from Altered Carbon - "They come to me with progress reports, but all I see is change, and bodies burnt." - which feeds back into: violence is not a short cut, but takes you to a different destination entirely, as discussed here previously.

2. I'm not an American, but I'm aware of some of the problems. I appreciate the point.

3. On the other hand politics should be consequential. If politician makes mistakes, they should be held accountable; if the mistakes are large, it should be the end of their career; if their deeds are illegal they should be prosecuted. The consequences of their advocating and enacting policies should be personal, as personal as the consequences to those their policies effect. Politicians should respect the people they effect, and the consequences their policies create.

Xopher #223 - Quite. I'm still in two minds about it and I read it in 2003.

#229 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:03 PM:

abi @197: Did you really mean "Saving my Making Light Comrades from keyboard beak..."??

xopher @223: Neil's 193 post is an eloquent defense of armed insurrection not terrorism. I don't see anything in there that defends or promotes harming other "little people" (his term) in order to fight those in power. The sentiment seems to be more in line with Howdershelt's overused quote "There are four boxes to use in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, ammo. Use in that order."

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Bruce 225: Yep, in fact one might say that the tragedy of Buckley's life is not that he died, but that he lived at all. Or that he lived so wickedly, but I'm thinking of how much effort it would take to change that vs. how much it would take to change him being born.

Time-travel fantasy: transport the 1968 Buckley to Memphis in April, and push him in front of the bullet at just the right moment. I don't know exactly how that would change the world, but on the surface it sure seems like a good trade.

#231 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:08 PM:

Heresiarch #217: The RR is feared by a small minority of people who think that, under rule by the RR, they'd be treated very badly. That's a sensible concern, though I suspect their fears are mostly worse than the reality would be. (But then, the last few years have demonstrated to me that my HowBadCanItGet predictive model sucks.) They're powerful politically because they've been able to unite to bring people to the polls, get letters written, show up to volunteer for campaigns, donate money, etc. The implied threat of violence has played a part in black/white politics in recent years, and it's pure fking poison. The threat of violence against abortion clinics and doctors (which is from a fringe of the RR) has almost certainly done more harm than good to their cause.

#232 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Lance 229: I think it's ambiguous on that point, since it says nothing about HOW one goes about "getting [one's] point across" and being seen as dangerous. You may have more context than I do.

We may also differ in that I consider political assassination a form of terrorism.

#233 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Lance 229: I think it's ambiguous on that point, since it says nothing about HOW one goes about "getting [one's] point across" and being seen as dangerous. You may have more context than I do.

We may also differ in that I consider political assassination a form of terrorism.

#234 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:13 PM:

Rats! I went and checked and refreshed the page, and that post was NOT there. Go back and hit Post and it's there twice. Drat.

Sorry.

#235 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Heresiarch #217: The RR is feared by a small minority of people who think that, under rule by the RR, they'd be treated very badly. That's a sensible concern, though I suspect their fears are mostly worse than the reality would be. (But then, the last few years have demonstrated to me that my HowBadCanItGet predictive model sucks.) They're powerful politically because they've been able to unite to bring people to the polls, get letters written, show up to volunteer for campaigns, donate money, etc.

...all of which gets them recognition as a potent, dangerous force to be reckoned with by the Republican party. They are not feared by a "small minority." They are both loved and feared by Republicans as a whole--loved because they bring victory, feared because they can take it away. That fear is what prompts the Republicans to make deals with them and give them concessions and appease them continually.

"Dangerous" does not, in fact, mean "violent." It just means having the ability to deliver consequences. Which the religious right has in spades.

#236 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:33 PM:

Heresiarch #217 (again):

You made this comment, which I wasn't quite sure how to read:

The vast majority of the suffering in this world doesn't come about because poor people just don't get the pain of rich people, and don't see them as human. It's remarkably one-sided, actually: it mostly comes from privileged people dehumanizing the disenfranchised.

I'm not sure I buy this, but maybe I don't understand what you're saying. In places where widespread crime or ethnic hatred are major sources of suffering, the people imposing the suffering are typically no richer (often poorer) than their victims. In wars (a common cause of horrible suffering), there are often some rich and powerful people profiting, but for most, it's either a loss (if it affects their lives, employees, family, property) or neutral (if it doesn't). Many countries are criminally misgoverned, horribly poor places where the powerful are very corrupt and take a share of what little the really poor would have had. Perhaps the rich and powerful of those countries could make things better if only they knew and cared, but it's not obvious--lots of attempts to reform societies to make them better have ended very badly, and it's not obvious that anyone knows a good general way to approach this. Perhaps the rich and powerful of the US and Europe could make things better in those countries, but our track record doesn't inspire confidence. Most Bangladeshis and Salvadorans and Kenyans aren't poor because of the wealth of Europe, Japan, or the US, after all. (Note that places which are cut off from trade with the developed world don't flower into wonderful economies, they stagnate and their kids starve.)

#237 ::: Jeff Wartman ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:52 PM:

William F. Buckley was a real Conservative, and modern Republicans are big government Liberals.

http://www.jeffwartman.com/2008/02/modern-analysis-of-sharon-statement_6096.html

#238 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:53 PM:

The more I read here, the more apparent it becomes to me that WFBjr was the Dennis Miller of his era: A man in love with his own words, so much so that he developed a large vocabulary in order to expound his (tiny-souled) ideas and pontificate more while not considering the meaning in the real world of the effects his ideas would have on anyone unlike himself. He preened and strutted across a stage where the audience was generally either made of clones of himself, or of the ones who, in school, used to sit in the back row and shoot spitballs, never once comprehending or even considering the idea that those outside his audience were even real people or worthy of consideration.

But, as the existence of Miller (and many others) proves, there's always someone waiting in the wings.

#239 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:53 PM:

The more I read here, the more apparent it becomes to me that WFBjr was the Dennis Miller of his era: A man in love with his own words, so much so that he developed a large vocabulary in order to expound his (tiny-souled) ideas and pontificate more while not considering the meaning in the real world of the effects his ideas would have on anyone unlike himself. He preened and strutted across a stage where the audience was generally either made of clones of himself, or of the ones who, in school, used to sit in the back row and shoot spitballs, never once comprehending or even considering the idea that those outside his audience were even real people or worthy of consideration.

But, as the existence of Miller (and many others) proves, there's always someone waiting in the wings.

#240 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Xopher @223:
I'm assuming the overall objective of the sentiment is that you, as a Little Person, must use the weapons of the Power Player to defeat them without disregarding the impact of your actions on your fellow Little People lest you become a Power Player yourself.

Terrorism is a game strategy by Power Players that attempts to destabilize the power base of opposing Power Players by victimizing Little People. Political killings may or may not be part of such a campaign, but Power Players consider terrorism in general as a strategic game move, not a personal attack.

Political assassination* on the one hand is just another Power Player game move but unlike terrorism it is highly personal in nature for all involved parties. It's objective is to remove a specific piece from the board, usually to accomplish a tactical goal as part of a larger Power Player game.

If your goal as a Little Person is to make a conflict with a Power Player PERSONAL, it seems to me that terrorism is going to be far less effective than other acts (ie, assassination).

-----
*For these purposes I'm not labeling every murder of a politician as political assassination. Many attempts (especially by crazies) should probably be considered akin to celebrity killings.

#241 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:57 PM:

#7 - and Mussolini made the trains run on time... so what? Our dear friend Adolf was very *effective* at solving the Jewish "problem." The effective accomplishment of evil goals does not make one worthy of tribute in any form whatsoever...

#31 - Janet {{{hug}}}, it's Okay to feel glad when a monster dies. There's no need to justify it. Take ownership of it. We are not Luke Skywalker struggling not to give in to the Dark Side. The old saws about not speaking ill of the dead, or Liberals not being allowed to hate anyone without feeling guilty, are just plain wrong. Take my hand, click your heels three times, and join me in a Virginia Reel to the tune of, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."

#242 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:57 PM:

When I was about 10 I began watching adult talk shows: Mort Sahl, David Suskind, Jack Paar, the Tonight Show stand out. These are the people who influenced my nascent political views and from whom I learned about liberalism, civil rights and so much else.

I remember watching WFB on Firing Line and other shows and thinking how funny he looked -- the teeth, the tongue thing, how he widened his eyes and that the language he used, all those big words, was really a weapon because he thought his guests wouldn't know them and using them made him sound smart. I figured he was an arrogant bastard on top of everything else.

The world, or rather, the United States, is a worse place because of his influence.

#243 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Meditating on Neil @ 193 and albatross @ 210...

Arch-liberal Dan Wakefield interviewed Buckley for the 1992 book New York in the Fifties. In his book, Dan Wakefield describes Buckley's friendship with the leftist journalist Murray Kempton -- Wakefield knew them both -- adding:

"Back at the White Horse Tavern with some of my left-wing liberal friends, I was called upon (or seized by the lapels of my corduroy jacket) to defend Murray for being a friend of Buckley's. Raging arguments over ethics, politics, responsibility, credibility, and other issues personal and political foamed over pints of arf'n'arf in the great debate. Should they be friends? How could they be friends? How dare they be friends? Similar internecine wars were waged, I am sure, over sherry in the inner sanctums of the Yale Club and the New York Yacht Club, wherever supporters of Buckely tried to defend his friendship with Kempton of the high-liberal New York Post, his pal the former Red who left the Communist cause but didn't turn right, refusing to follow the course of so many from the thirties... who found a conservative home at National Review in the fifties."

Dan Wakefield even interviewed Buckley on relationships between conservatives and liberals in the fifties (see pp. 260 ff.), and after quoting Buckley fairly extensively, Wakefield adds this comment:

"In that window of time, from the end of McCarthy's power to the beginning of the Vietnam War protests, the last years of the fifties and the first few years of the sixties, young people of the right and left lay down together like the lion and the lamb -- sometimes more like the boy and the girl. I can testify to its happening.... The socializing and the friendships that came about between right and left were possible in part because we of the fifties generation had no political pasts to live down."

Whereas we now in 2008 have some serious political past to live down. Socializing and friendships between right and left are simply not possible, not the way Dan Wakefield describes them happening in the late 50's. Politics has become very personal; not as bad as it was during the McCarthy era, when leftists and liberals could find themselves out of a job due to McCarthy and his conservative cronies; but like it or not, in 2008 politics has become very personal. For me personally, while I'm not rejoicing over Buckley's death, as a leftist I feel no sadness or remorse. None.

Such is the political situation today.

#244 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:13 PM:

#59 - Okay, Teresa might dismenvowel me for this, but that's just plain silly. Maybe I'm missing something there, but how could the natural death of an unmitigated ass-hat like Buckley possibly diminish you? Are you sharing some of Janet's angst over feeling happy at this monster's death?


People... it really isn't psychologically damning to feel relief, satisfaction or even down right glee over the death of someone evil. As Xopher said so eloquently upstream, Buckley had no excuse for his hideous beliefs, therefore he really, really WAS evil! We should ALL want to first dance upon/pack, then piss on, his grave... Let it out -- it's healthy...

#245 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:14 PM:

I honestly don't think that increased pressure on liberals and left-wing people not to pal around right-wingers would be a bad thing, if I thought there were any such increased pressure. I think it's really important to deny the sanction of conviviality to people doing monstrous things. It's not a game people get to stop playing at the end of business hours when it's other people's lives, dignity, hopes, and well-being at stake. Tolerance for that kinds of thing leads directly to - among other woes - the problem of media capture we've got now, where reporters will not report on bad things being done by their buddies, because they're really such lovely people.

If someone can actually keep up the friendship and a serious push against the evils being done, okay. But there should be a huge presumption against it, and constant scrutiny. I would, right now, grant an exemption for Rick Perlstein, because he isn't pulling a single punch anywhere I can detect it. But I have to admit that I now trust his work a notch less and am on the lookout for it.

#246 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Bruce Baugh #245: A-frickin'-men.

#247 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:31 PM:

Edward 241: I agree with your point, but Mussolini actually didn't make the trains run on time. It was just that no one was allowed to say they were late.

Which may actually strengthen your point, come to think of it.

#248 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:42 PM:

#68 - Keith, you are closer than you'll ever know. In my early teens, I began reading National Review, and was completely suckered in by it. I became a good little Nazi and believed every word Buckley said. I worshiped him, and tried to make my own philosophy a mix of Buckley Conservatism and Heinleinist Libertarianism. I couldn't wait to cast my first Presidential vote for Reagan in 1980. I wasn't a racist even then, but I was a terrible homophobe, so I was willing to let his racism slide in the face of all the other "Good" he stood for.

What the fuck was I thinking?!?! By 1983 I had a great understanding of why Conservative economics can't ever succeed in building a better nation, and I had learned tolerance by working with a wonderful and witty crew of all-gay waiters at a restaurant. I kept growing up under Melody's tutelage, and now only admit to my shameful past when it helps make a point: Buckley used his gifts to recruit and lobby for a cause of bitter hatred.

If Buckles the Dancing Clown had been slowly beaten to death by luggage-wielding gorillas, I still would not forgive him for the damage he did to me, my friends, and the nation as a whole. Nor would I cluck and say, "Ain't it a shame!" over the passing of such an evil, sick and twisted waste of protoplasm.

To paraphrase the Joker, "You're a vicious bastard Buckley! I'm glad you're dead!"

#249 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:54 PM:

100 - Xopher, how 'bout "Retarded Dead Parrots"? Then we could pull in the Python crowd as well...

#250 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Reading the above few posts, I had this song pop into my head. Scroll down.

#251 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:03 PM:

Vote for BRAAWK Obama!!!

#252 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Bruce #245:

I can't find words for how wrong that suggestion seems to me. More shrill nastiness and name calling across partisan divides by people who know that liberals/conservatives are evil traitors/evil bigots, more putting on of blinders to avoid seeing data or arguments from the other side. Maybe we can get the whole country acting like a bunch of goddamn dittoheads and Ann Coulter readers. What could be a better recipe for a healthy society?

#253 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:16 PM:

albatross @ 231

I wish I could be as sanguine about what the reality might be under the religious right, but I read about this, or see this, and I lie awake at night wondering if I would have the courage to take my own life before they came for me, or if I would sell out my beloved in an attempt to save myself, if the American Taliban really came to control in this country. Even without that much control, they still diminish my life--I am afraid and hopeless (and in therapy), because it's terrifying and alienating to feel like you're surrounded by people who hate you, or who think you're somehow less than human, just because of something like your plumbing, the color of your skin, or who you love.

#254 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:21 PM:

I see it as taking off blinders, Albatross.

Look, when someone is doing bad things, we have a limited range of viable responses, assuming you're not in favor of vigilante justice, and I'm not. We can argue with them. But not everyone argues fairly or even honestly, and in fact one of the key features of modern conservativism is a complete nihilism when it comes to inconvenient data. There are no truths for them, there are only useful tools. So then what do we have? Not much but our social sanction to give or withhold.

I'm in my 40s. I've been watching social sanctions given and taken for a long time. As nearly as I can tell, giving it only ever reinforces the bad guys, the ones who lack principles, and sets up the good guys, the ones who have any morals to speak of, to be used as tools themselves. It doesn't work. It feeds propaganda mills. It creates potential conflicts of interest where people ought to be free of them. I could be persuaded otherwise, but man, it'd take a lot of persuasive evidence at this point.

#255 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:35 PM:

#228 Neil: I agree with you about consequences. One thing we voters have been lousy at, with much assistance by the MSM, is remembering the bad behaviors and failed policies of politicians. As many other people have pointed out, a lot of the clowns running the country into the ground now were involved in Watergate and Iran Contra. This is the third time we've let them back into a position to do nasty stuff after they've shown us what they were. ("Well, yes, the guy I hired as an accountant has embezzled from me twice before, but I know he'll be okay this time.")

That includes at least 2/3 of the people likely to end up as president. McCain's involvement in the S&L crisis is pretty much down the memory hole, as is Hillary Clinton's absolute botching of healthcare reform, which is pretty much the only large thing she's ever run. (Somewhere, Brad DeLong has some interesting comments about this. I assume they're Googleable.) I don't know of anything comparable by Obama, but that is less reassuring than I'd like--I assume that it just won't come up unless it's dug up by the other candidates, because God knows no reporter is going to trouble himself remembering or researching stuff that happened a decade or more ago.

#256 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:48 PM:

#239 ::: Carl: How do you tell the difference between someone who uses big words because they like big words and someone who is using them mostly as a tool for bullying?

#253 ::: alsafi: For what it's worth, Islam has a history of misogyny which isn't matched by Christianity. I can't see any reason to think a Christian theocracy would go that far. On the other hand, a Christian theocracy would be quite bad enough to be worth a lot of worry and opposition.

#257 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:17 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz: You can tell by how they treat the audience. I like big words, and wordplay. I love a clever turn of phrase.

I also know not all the people with whom I interact understand all of things I like to play around with.

The Defense Department built a scale of fluency in language. It goes from 0-5, in half step notations (because the scale isn't linear).

O = Is that a foreign language?
0+ = Ooh... I think that chinese, I know how to say, thank you in chinese.

1 = I can find a cop, the toilet, order food from a menu and holler for help.

1+ = I can get by.

And so on, a 3-level speaker is equivalent to a high-school educated speaker.

3+ and up moves one into educated native speaker range (unless I can live in Ukraine, or Russia; though I'd prefer Ukraine) for at least six months, I'm never going to get to 3, much less 3+, in Russian, it's a really high level of skill).

One of the criteria for a 5-level speaker is that they can tailor their speech to the audience, so that no one feels they are being slighted, talked down to, spoken over the head of, etc.

A person who likes words, because they enrich the conversation, will try to attain that end. A person who likes words because they impart a power (my means of exclusion, bafflement or mere snobbery) won't be trying to attain that end, they will, in fact, be do just the opposite.

One of Buckley's (and people like him) great weaoons was that people who didn't understand him thought that meant he was being "deep" and people who did felt that meant they were better than the great unwashed.

#258 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Terry: Wow, that's a neat scale. My dad worked with mentally ill and retarded adults (now I think they're called "developmentally delayed," but I may be a euphemism behind by now) for years, and I remember him noting this phenomenon. He would have psychologists working on staff with him from foreign countries--for some reason, I recall that he was talking about a guy from Africa. Now, these guys were very smart--smart enough to come to a foreign country and get a PhD in a psychology program in their second (or nth) language. But my dad had noticed that they couldn't *talk* to a lot of the patients, the aides at the institution, etc. They could converse with my dad, and he could translate, but they just had a terrible time dropping their language level down to that of someone who'd stopped going to school at 14 because it was just too damned *hard*, and who'd been raised by and surrounded by people who were at the same level. Or even someone who'd barely gotten through high school and gotten a job at the mental institution as a bottom tier worker.

I hadn't thought about this before, or about why I find it so much harder to talk with a child in Spanish than with an adult. Of course, this makes sense thinking about it--the adult is adapting to my limited language skills, while the kid is not. (This is also why eavesdropping is harder than conversation, though I'm getting better at this by listening to the radio in Spanish a lot.)

Can you suggest a link for reading more about the scale?

#259 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Terry #257:

I think there are "attacks" on the human brain using language which are analogous to the attacks you can mount on a networked computer. You can't overflow my buffer and change the return address on the stack, but you can do other tricks with speech that are almost this powerful. I think really effective speakers and writers (different techniques) have a whole toolkit (or rootkit) full of techniques for doing this.

One of the common ones is to make the listener believe that not understanding the argument being made is an indication that the listener is just not smart enough (or morally upright, or among the Elect, or whatever) to get it. You somehow set up the listener to *have* to agree with you, or undermine his own self-confidence. (Or fear that those around him will suddenly know he's not smart/educated/upper class/one of us.) It's the Emperor's New Clothes, spun into the spoken word. Another is to use smart-sounding reassuring words and phrases to leave someone with the impression "We very smart people have thought all this through, and you needn't worry about whether this is right."

#260 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:01 PM:

#256 Nancy Lebovitz

I'm not sure that I'd agree that between Christian and Muslim fundamentalism there's much distance in terms of misogyny (and homophobia)--I linked to those instances as being ones of scary religious fundamentalism in our current time, but I also considered and rejected linking to items on witch-burning, the torture of heretics, and the execution (by burning alive) of gay men in Venice during the early Renaissance.

#261 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Terry @ 257 - Fascinating scale - I've saved that to one of my notes files, as I'll be working with some ESL students by the end of this year. (Not as an ESL teacher, as such, but it's going to come up...)

Are there any publicly available docs on the US DOD's language proficiency evaluations?

(We can move this over to the new open thread if the Buckley discussion is still ongoing...)

#262 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:46 PM:

re 201: All general discourse tends to contain such pretenses, or at least can be imagined to contain them; it is always possible to decide that one is being harmed.

#263 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:53 PM:

C. Wingate #262: And always impossible that one is being harmed, right?

#264 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:15 PM:

albatross 259: One of the common ones is to make the listener believe that not understanding the argument being made is an indication that the listener is just not smart enough (or morally upright, or among the Elect, or whatever) to get it.

In my day, we called that the Voice of Saruman.

#265 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:01 PM:

More shrill nastiness and name calling across partisan divides by people who know that liberals/conservatives are evil traitors/evil bigots, more putting on of blinders to avoid seeing data or arguments from the other side.

"Shrill nastiness" is often due harshness. "Name calling" is often naming evil for what it is. Both of these things are, unfortunately, called for in a lot of cases. Especially in American politics, wherein the rules of civility work to prevent important points from being made. The right wing is very, very good not only at demonizing its opponents but ALSO at tarring any harsh criticism directed at them as mindless, deranged "demonization" and "Bush hatred."

And many people, in the name of "seeing data from the other side," will pretend such data exists when it does not.

The rise of the right wing is not just about the triumph of extremist rhetoric--it's also about the culpability of "moderate" rhetoric, especially amongst "moderate" Democrats. It's about the culpability of those who insist on treating overtly fascist screamers with kid gloves and who direct their ire at those who criticize an unrepentant racist and not at the racist himself. The forced apologies from any Democrats who use rhetoric much milder than those the Republicans use on a daily basis (see: Durbin and Slack), the incessant pretense on the part of the media that there are two equally legitimate sides to every story including whether or not John Kerry was honest about his service in Vietnam and whether or not global warming is really happening and whether or not there are WMDs in Iraq...all of these are as culpable as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter in our current predicament.

The right wing would never have risen to power if not for their "moderate" enablers who simultaneously downplayed and gave cover to right-wing extremism while tarring any display of spine from the left as "hysterical" or "deranged."

#266 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Fragano @ 222/224:

dido says what I was hoping to say, but (unlike her) I don't have the experience to back it up.

Anyway, on reflection, you are right and I was wrong. My reaction to Buckley's death may diminish me; Buckley's death does not. You were right to call out the original comment as an empty platitude.

Bruce @ 245:

I don't think you're wrong, but I do think some proportion is needed.

I had a boss who, during the late eighties, had some fairly homophobic things to say about AIDS and those who'd contracted it. I spent a long time arguing with him, as he was one of those good bosses who'd perform manual labor right next to you when things were busy, and that gave us a lot of social talk time. I worked on him, as I thought him a basically good guy, and I changed his mind.

If you don't think you can succeed in doing that, perhaps you're right to cut a friend off. I wouldn't buddy around with Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, but not everyone is at their level.

#267 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:08 PM:

John A: Yeah, individual circumstances are always going to complicate a smooth picture, and I'm in favor of taking chances to do good or at least not do harm where you can.

I think too that there's a difference between how it's good to deal with people at large versus with the actual architects of bad policies and other people with real society-wide power. Your ex-boss and a lot of other people are subject to bad influences, which reinforce defects in the human condition. But that's a far cry from concocting the "Who lost China?" campaign to destroy the State Department, or creating and spreading the welfare-queens myth, or manufacturing entirely bogus defenses of DDT to poison the general public view of science, or any of the other wrong things the conservative movement's various branches have done. Being deceived is better than choosing to deceive others, and easier to fix most of the time.

(I think that almost everybody in the public at large has a muddled but morally way better set of underlying intentions than the sort of political villain we're talking about here, more understandable and addressable fears, and in general much less actively pernicious blights on their souls.)

I didn't make anything like that clear in my earlier comments, though. Thanks for the opening to do so now, you obliging supplier of straight lines! :)

#268 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:07 PM:

A fine mind, ruined by being born into wealth.

#269 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Alex@218: But it's okay when we do it, because we're so obviously right, and they're so completely wrong.

I occaisionally run into someone that says some bad guy runs roughshod over the system, breaks the rules, breaks the law, and commits some evil deed. And what the observer takes away from that is that the evil deed was "breaking the law", not the evil deed itself.

Right and Wrong isn't defined by committee. The evil deed isn't that the law was broken. The evil deed was the actual deed, whether it was legal or not.

But there is a stripe of folks who adopt a sort of legalism, that the law defines what is right and wrong, that they merely get input into the system by what politician they vote for, and anything that is legal is an inappropriate target of condemnation. Because they are acting within the law, our condemnation of an evil act must be withheld and muted as a matter of differing opinions.

Don't ask, don't tell, is legal, and absolutely morally wrong. And I don't need some committee-mongerers coming at me and downplaying my personal assessment, my moral compass, just because it didn't get vetted through some formal, bureaucratic process.

The mistake is in thinking that since "they" flaunt the law that the evil of their actions becomes the flaunting of the law, not, say, that they tortured prisoners of war. But some see the "flaunting the law" as the problem, not the torture, so they decide that the law is the giver of moral absolutes, and their own moral compass is just some sort of "personal opinion".

I don't know if it's true or not or if I'm about to distort a real story or some urban legend, but at some point during the 1600's or 1700's, some european country had an interesting training exercise for its junior military officers. The basic program was to give an officer two sets of mutually exclusive orders, two commands that could not both be possibly satisfied. The goal was to see if the officer would freeze in a sort of mental conflict trying to figure out a way to satisfy both orders, or to see if the officer would immediately act on whatever higher purpose had driven those orders in the first place.

(I'm mangling this, I'm sure.)

The crux, of course, is whether the officer could divine the higher purpose, and more importantly, have the self confidence to act without permission from his superiors. Since he had to disobey at least one set of direct orders no matter what, he obviously could never have "permission" for whatever action he would take. Or he would freeze due to self doubt because he deferred to his superiors' orders, it became more important to "follow orders", so he'd rather choose to do nothing (which would also fail to accomplish whatever the orders wanted), but at least it wasn't an active disobediance.

I believe that to pass the test, the main measure was not whether the officer succeeded at the task at hand (because the orders were mutually exclusive anyway, and impossible to satisfy), but whether he took self generated action.

(Note that reprogramming the simulator at this point would probably get you kicked out for missing the f-ing point, but that's just my interpretation)

But, the legalists will argue, this active disobediance of orders will result in complete chaos on the battlefield. To which, the senior officers will say something to the effect of "Yeah? Have you seen a battlefield lately?" Tactically, at a small-unit level especially, it's all about flexibility, adaptability, and remaining in action.

(Of course, this was also in the 1600's or 1700's, when the world waged third generation warfare (I think it was third.) And we're on fourth gen now, or something. But whatever.)

Anyway, the point is that just like these officers can't always defer to the orders of their superior officers, we cannot always defer to the law to give us our moral compass. We cannot withold our sense of right and wrong as a matter of differing opinions just because the law allows it. Buckley was a racist bastard, among other things, and even if in his entire life he never broke so much as a traffic law, he was still an immoral sumbitch.

"But they flaunt the law. We can't flaunt the law too, or we'll be just like them!"

Unless you're a racist bastard too, then you are NOT just like them.

"But if we don't have law to tell us right and wrong, it's completely arbitrary!"

No, it's completely a matter of personal responsibility, personal accountability, personal choice, personal action. And deep down, that isn't arbitrary. You know what is right and wrong for you. If you don't have the self confidence to trust that your own moral compass is pointing you in the right direction, you'll defer to what the law tells you is right and wrong.

And if you defer your moral judgement to the law, if you defer to the committee, if you defer to what other people tell you is right and wrong, then the bastards on the other side will steam roll you while you're frozen in indecision.

#270 ::: CJSmith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:59 PM:

I recall one of Buckley's last appearances in the public square was his eulogizing of his "good friend" E. Howard Hunt. Nauseating.
Buckley will not be missed.

#271 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Greg @ 269: Where do you see the idea of rule of law fitting into your argument?

#272 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Bruce, #225: I saw that concept expressed in a piece of glurge as, "Never give up on anyone. Miracles happen." Two thoughts occurred to me immediately:

1) One reason things are called "miracles" is that they are unlikely to the point of near-impossibility. (For example, it is a miracle if you are not wearing your seatbelt and as a result survive a collision by being thrown from the car, when being strapped in would have killed you.)

2) There is no requirement that you wreck your own life while waiting for someone else's miracle. If it's going to happen, it will happen whether or not you're around to see it.

For someone like Buckley to have had the kind of awakening that would have led to him doing real good in the world... that's the sort of miracle that you shouldn't sit around waiting for.

albatross, #231: The RR is feared by a small minority of people who think that, under rule by the RR, they'd be treated very badly.
And not feared nearly enough by a much larger group who think that their own Christianity would protect them from receiving the same treatment. I assure you that once the gays and the pagans and the atheists have been Dealt With, the heretics (which includes all versions of Christianity more liberal than their own) would be next up against the wall.

Serafina, #235: However, it seems that this was at least partly a smoke-and-mirrors effect, which is now starting to come apart. Notice in particular the way Huckabee, the darling of the Christianists, is trailing McCain, who has been formally disowned by several influential Christianist leaders. One of the best things that may come out of this election, in the long term, is a Republican realization that they don't need the religious loonies as much as they thought they did.

Bruce, #245: It's not a game people get to stop playing at the end of business hours when it's other people's lives, dignity, hopes, and well-being at stake.
Hear, hear!

Nancy, #256: I know you read Suzette Haden Elgin's LiveJournal (she's ozarque, for anyone else who's curious); that should give you a pretty good head start. Look for common usage of Verbal Attack Patterns along with the big words; if you find it, you're probably looking at a verbal bully, not just a verbal pyrotechnician.

#273 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:04 PM:

John@271: Where do you see the idea of rule of law fitting into your argument?

Where do you see the idea of military orders fitting in with that training exercise for junior officers? I don't think the point is to train officers to disregard all orders and all chain of command.

I think the point is that total individual responsibility isn't possible as long as an individual will defer to whoever he has assigned as his "superiors", be it a military officer or a government. Someone who will "follow orders" when those orders are in complete violation of his personal sense of right and wrong is acting irresponsibly.

#274 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:17 PM:

Does modern US basic military training cover how to deal with conflicting orders or how to deal with improper orders?

#275 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:35 PM:

albatross/Wirelizard: I have a link to a PDF here It lists the evaluational criteria out to 4 Level.

I reccomend opening it in IE, because it's the only thing I can see crashing my Firefox, twice.

Albatross: re tools, I have some rhetorical practices which I use, allusion, paraphrases of ideational subtext (the King James and Shakespeare are great for this), slightly archaic phrasing.

All of them are designed to make it seem my words have a greater weight of merit. Some of them are done with intent, some are just the side-effect of a wide ranging appetite for words.

Earl Cooley III: Regarding training

Yes, we do get training, but it's a difficult topic. It's difficult because orders are orders, and the illegality of it isn't always plain. Tell me to torture someone, I'll refuse, because it's illegal. Tell me that waterboarding is a legal procedure, and therefore I can be ordered to do it and...

The usual response is to ask fr questionable orders to be put in writing. If it's a legal orde the officer will mutter, but do it. If it's not a legal order the usual response is to see the order withdrawn.

The illegality of it doesn't, per se, remove the obligation to perform it; in that refusing to obey an illegal order can get one tossed in the brig, for the JAG to sort out.

But we are told to refuse to obey unlawful orders.

#276 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:35 PM:

@257: A person who likes words, because they enrich the conversation, will try to attain that end. A person who likes words because they impart a power (by means of exclusion, bafflement or mere snobbery) won't be trying to attain that end, they will, in fact, be doing just the opposite.

So Buckley was only a 4+? I have my doubts about that, I think people who are interested in power are also interested in influence, and that includes finding your audience's level.

Interesting scale, can't find anything about it online, just Defense Department sites which want me to log onto their intranets with elliptic curve cryptography and harmony. If you've got a (link to a) full breakdown I'd also appreciate it.

#277 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:37 PM:

Ooo, right, just as you posted, thanks.

#278 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Adrian: It's a complex gradation (and purportedly logarithmic).

I probably don't top out at more than a strong 4+. If Buckley was more than that, I'd be surprised. I suspect (not having had the chance to speak to him in a testing setting) he might not be more than a strong 4.

#279 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:56 PM:

I guess I'm a bit uncomfortable with the idea of mapping speakers (who have widely varying strengths and repertoires - think of Obama and Clinton (not Hillary), say) onto a single scale, logarithmic or otherwise. Similar to the unease I feel about IQ, though I know how libertarians get excited about 'g', linear regressions yadda yadda. One parameter is meaningful for this stuff? Really?

#280 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:12 AM:

Greg @ 269:

I absolutely agree with most of the comments about Buckley. There's no way to see him as a decent or moral human being. But when any human being, no matter how evil, dies, there are people who care about him. Their feelings and mourning should be respected. Not because it's "the law" or "an order" but because it's the decent thing to do.

If I spend 48 hours not publicly hating Buckley, it does me no damage, and it doesn't do anybody else any damage. I know I've done my best to be a good person. Meanwhile, I don't worry at all about history's opinion of Buckley - he'll be treated as an apologist for evil even if I keep my mouth shut for the next couple days.

#281 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:47 AM:

Adrinan: It's a complex thing.

To get a score one has to take a test. My score, at present, is 2/2/blank.

The testing is a listening exam (hear a piece, answer the question, x 60 questions, you get about 30 seconds to reply). A reading portion (read a piece, answer the question x 60, in a given time frame, for Russian it's about 2 hours). An Oral exam. That's a two-hour conversation, with trained interlocutors; who are native speakers of the target language, and have a rating in excess of the highest level they can confer (for the standard test, for 5 level testing, the standard is they have to be 5 level speakers, and the test is more than two hours).

The conversation is recorded, and a third examiner reviews the tape to verify the assessment.

Think of it as raindrop shape, with a zero at the point. The higher the rating, the more of the raindrop one shades in, until a five has all the raindrop.

#282 ::: melospiza ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:03 AM:

Thank you, Terry Karney, for the link in #275. (It opens fine in Safari.) The upper edges of language use are fascinating. Erudition and articulate, formal speech in the Buckley style have little to do with the ability to shape speech to the listener's needs, to persuade, calm, or raise a smile. Buckley's words were all about himself.

#283 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:36 AM:

Alex@280: But when any human being, no matter how evil, dies, there are people who care about him.

Ah. I misunderstood your previous post to be focused on Buckley instead of his survivors. My mistake.

Their feelings and mourning should be respected. Not because it's "the law" or "an order" but because it's the decent thing to do. I know I've done my best to be a good person.

Well, I don't know if they "should" or not, or if it's "decent" or "good" or not (it's a bit too far past midnight for me to ponder that level of refinement). But you certainly have every right to follow that path and argue for it if that's what feels appropriate for you.

#284 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:02 AM:

albatross @ 231:

What Serafina said @ 235, especially ""Dangerous" does not, in fact, mean "violent." It just means having the ability to deliver consequences." I think that is an important point being missed by a lot of people here. Seizing the means of produc--er, seizing the means to make yourself heard isn't necessarily violent. In fact, I'd say it rarely is.

albatross @ 236: "In places where widespread crime or ethnic hatred are major sources of suffering, the people imposing the suffering are typically no richer (often poorer) than their victims."

That's actually a fairly common pattern in rigidly hierarchical societies: one disenfranchised group (men, whites, christians, heterosexuals) gets to beat the shit out of another even more disenfranchized group (women, blacks, non-christians, gays). The first group gets to say to themselves, "Well, at least I'm not one of them," and the other group lives in mortal fucking terror all their days. Neither plots revolution. Meanwhile, the elite maintain their grip on power, and sit around sipping champagne and clucking about the utter savagery they are surrounded with. How important it is, they say, to keep power in the hands of Civilized Folk like ourselves to avert total chaos. Crucial to this set-up is maintaining the illusion (in both the minds of the elite and the disenfranchized) that this horrific state of things is Simply The Way It Is, and that it is certainly in no way an ideology designed to maintain drastic disparities in wealth and power. (Even abusive, tyrannical elites like to think of themselves as good people.)

"Perhaps the rich and powerful of the US and Europe could make things better in those countries, but our track record doesn't inspire confidence. Most Bangladeshis and Salvadorans and Kenyans aren't poor because of the wealth of Europe, Japan, or the US, after all."

I really wonder how you can say this with a straight face. No, the soul-crushing poverty of half the world's population has nothing whatsoever to do with the affluence of the other half! Do you have any idea how much time and effort the US has spent crushing the shit out of any country attempted to challenge US economic dominance? We overthrew a democratically-elected government and flooded the country with US-trained death squads because they threatened to nationalize a fruit company. A fruit company. We haven't managed to make things better because we've hardly even tried. When we did try--Germany, Japan--we actually did quite well. But now they compete with us! Clearly a bad move.

Please, read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.

albatross @ 252: "I can't find words for how wrong that suggestion seems to me. More shrill nastiness and name calling across partisan divides by people who know that liberals/conservatives are evil traitors/evil bigots, more putting on of blinders to avoid seeing data or arguments from the other side."

I'm astounded by the speed with which you translate "deny[ing] the sanction of conviviality to people doing monstrous things" into "more shrill nastiness and name-calling." Do you really not see any difference there?

#285 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:28 AM:

Greg #269: You say flaunt. You mean flout. Apologies for the nit-picking.

Interesting point 'On Buckley's Civility' here: 'one way to judge someone’s real civility is to see how he reacts when he’s losing a debate.' Not well, as it turns out.

#286 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:36 AM:

Greg London @269

I occaisionally run into someone that says some bad guy runs roughshod over the system, breaks the rules, breaks the law, and commits some evil deed. And what the observer takes away from that is that the evil deed was "breaking the law", not the evil deed itself.

I see your point, but I disagree in part.

There are two evil deeds. One is the crime itself - murder, theft, lying to Congress, whatever. But the breaking of the law is an evil deed in itself, because the law is structure of our society. It's the social contract we sign as a community to prevent the rule of vengeance, or survival of the fittest.

Breaking an individual law may be a necessary evil in some cases. But it is never an unmixed, objective good, because it erodes something that we should not lightly weaken.

#287 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:17 AM:

A lot of confusion on this thread. PNH is in my opinion perfectly right to say what he said about Buckley. Contra some of the objections, (i) Buckley was a hugely intelligent man who used his intelligence to support immoral causes and did so by crafting fallacies that he must have known were logically incorrect and he used them anyway; (ii) Buckley was not just some poor schmuck who happened to be homophobic but could be talked out of it over time -- he was immensely influential and he did not have the excuse of never having been exposed to counter-arguments; (iii) that Buckley had some admirable traits (eg. being nice to Rick Perlstein) does not mitigate the harm he did; (iv) despite claims that he came to regret some of his older views, a brief look at TNR shows that it is still pushing the same fallacy-rich arguments it has always pushed.

abi #286: breaking the law is *not* an evil deed in itself. The Underground Railway and the Germans who protected Jews from the Nazis were breaking the law.

#288 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:25 AM:

Chris Lawson @287:
breaking the law is *not* an evil deed in itself. The Underground Railway and the Germans who protected Jews from the Nazis were breaking the law.

I'm afraid I disagree. See the last paragraph in my comment, about necessary evils.

Sometimes it is worth the damage to that part fabric of civil society to fix something else that is broken; slavery and genocide are good examples of a deep brokenness that required lawbreaking to address. That's not the same as pretending that breaking the law doesn't damage society.

An analogy: cutting into the human body weakens it. One may do surgery to remove a cancer, but no surgeon would pretend that cutting into the body did not damage it.

#289 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:56 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer #266: I understand your point. Thanks.

#290 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:05 AM:

abi #288: Respectfully, I disagree entirely. Breaking the law by helping escaped slaves is not a necessary evil. It is not like letting one person die to save 10 or any of those other scenarios that philosophers enjoy torturing themselves with. I'm not advocating wanton lawlessness, but helping people escape slavery is a good thing in and of itself and if the law says not to do it then 100% of the evil is in the law, 0% is in the defiance of said law.

And I guess you picked an unlucky analogy, being as I'm a medical doctor and I feel that comparing the cost-benefit analysis of surgery to the moral quandaries of civil disobedience makes for a rather strained equation.

#291 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:10 AM:

#279 ::: Adrian Smith:

Some libertarians get excited about g (general intelligence-- the idea is that there's an underlying general ability which can be measured pretty well by IQ tests). I don't. My intelligence is uneven enough that I'm very dubious about a single capacity. And also dubious about how much can be discovered from a very artificial test.

As for vocabulary and intellectual bullying: I understand Buckley's words, so I'm not spooked by them, and have a hard time judging what emotional effect he'd have on other people. I get the impression that it wasn't so much that people who didn't agree with him were spooked as that people who did agree with him thought he was cool because of the big words.

I've seen intellectual bullying in a different mode: someone who insisted his somewhat idiosyncratic definitions were the only allowable ones, and who'd go to theories I couldn't follow about what argument ought to be. I can't be sure he was wrong in his specifics, but I was pretty sure he was cheating.

As for the rule of law, I understand the importance of limiting private vengeance, but I'm not sure that carries with it a strong obligation to obey laws about matters other than vengeance.

Law is *not* the fabric of a society. It's part of the fabric, and imho, not the most important part. Societies are made of the interactions between their members, and especially those interactions which promote stability and/or trust.

#292 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:30 AM:

Chris @290:
About the medical analogy: fair enough. I was working from my own experience of surgery. And expert view will be clouded by a set of ancillary facts.

I have my own semi-specialised view, because I come from a family of lawyers. My parents take the title "officer of the court" seriously; it guides their behavior and forms their ethics. They - and I - share a holistic view of the law as an entity that is more than simply the sum of a given set of laws.

So we don't break it lightly, any more than we call an accused or acquitted person "really guilty", or read anything into someone exercising the right to silence.

I believe, in short, that even a bad law is part of a worthwhile institution. I'll believe it even if I break said bad law. If you don't, that's an area that we're unlikely to resolve.

Nancy @291:
Law is *not* the fabric of a society. It's part of the fabric, and imho, not the most important part. Societies are made of the interactions between their members, and especially those interactions which promote stability and/or trust.

The problem is that personal interactions don't scale. I harm my brother, and my mother can arbitrate. I harm my friend, and our social circle can make peace. I harm my neighbor, and my other neighbors can intervene. But what if I harm someone where we have no other form of interaction, or accountability?

I'll back off of the idea that the law is the [implicit "only"] structure of society; that was an overstatement. I agree that it's simply one part of it. Ranking of importance may differ.

#293 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:38 AM:

abi @ 286

Breaking an individual law may be a necessary evil in some cases. But it is never an unmixed, objective good, because it erodes something that we should not lightly weaken.

There's one thing that the civil disobedience tacticians of the 60s said and did that's been largely forgotten: "You are going out there to break the law. You have a moral justification for breaking this law, but recognize that you are still breaking the law. Own that. Allow yourself to be arrested; do not try to evade or resist except passively. You will be tried and sentenced; accept the sentence because you have in fact broken the law. Our cause is not to destroy the rule of law but to make it stronger by removing bad laws. But we must be careful to respect the institution of the law while doing so."

These are my words, but they're a reasonable amalgam of speeches I've heard organizers of civil disobedience demonstrations give.

#294 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:12 AM:

Terry #275:

I am not sure what to think of the rhetorical tools. I have and use them too, though there are some I've explicitly decided to stop using, because I felt like they were dishonest.

We've talked about propoganda here before. I think there's a critical decision you make, in any kind of communications, about whether persuasion is your goal, and whether it's important enough to sacrifice honesty, clarity of presentation, etc. I think of propoganda as communications where the slider bar is pushed all the way to "persuade," to the point that anything that gets in the way of that is ignored. And I guess I try not to push the slider bar to the point where I start compromising on clarity[1] or honesty.

[1] Thus, when my posts are unclear, that's probably my native incompetence as a writer, not my attempt to dazzle 'em with bull---t.

#295 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:22 AM:
Breaking an individual law may be a necessary evil in some cases. But it is never an unmixed, objective good, because it erodes something that we should not lightly weaken.
We shouldn't *lightly* weaken it, but there are some times when we should think about it for a while and then decide that weakening the law, in this case, is the right thing to do. I don't think that makes it a "necessary evil"; I think that makes it a necessary *danger*.

The law is not an absolute good. It is only as good as the content and consequences of that law. (And as the creation of fallible, corruptible human beings, the law is itself both fallible and corruptible.) There are societies in which the law is a force for evil and if you happen to live in one of those societies, weakening the law is necessary and right.

If you allow respect for the law to supersede your moral compass you may end up presiding over the trials of witches - or *on* trial in Nuremberg. (If you think that's an unfair reductio ad absurdum: at what point would you stop respecting and upholding the law? Why then, and not sooner or later?)

#296 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:31 AM:

So Buckley was only a 4+? I have my doubts about that, I think people who are interested in power are also interested in influence, and that includes finding your audience's level.

Note that the ability to find your audience's level also includes the ability to deliberately not meet it. I've never really listened to any of the man's speeches myself, but if he generally used big words as a form of obfuscation, that means he had to have a feel for what a given audience would and wouldn't understand first. It's also possible he was too much of a snob to "talk down".

That is, the ability to do something includes the ability to misuse it, and does not necessarily include the willingness to do it.

#297 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:35 AM:

Fragano @ 289: I hope that means you also got the apology I was having a hard time squeezing out.

(Usually, that's not hard for me, but when I'm trying to work on being kinder and it screws up and hurts or offends someone or defends the indefensible...well, I need to work on that, too.)

abi @ 292: I've been undergoing a very unpleasant change, ever since I found myself arguing, in student senate back around the middle of my college days, for obeying both the letter and the spirit of a court decision ruling on our funding processes (I liked the short-term result that the group which sued got funded, but the decision ripped the guts out of student self-governance.)

Then I got that Kronos Quartet CD Howl USA, the one with I. F. Stone set to music, and one of the pieces had him repeating the phrase "rule of law" almost hypnotically.

The last straw was reading Lawrence Lessig's Code, realizing as I went that I was reading one of those books that changes your life, and being drawn into his world of argument.

Now I, like Joe Roberts, work for the state, which I could not have imagined in my anarchist youth, and when some idiotic law needs broken in my personal life, I struggle, hard, with it. It's changed both my behavior (though I still follow my conscience when it yells) and my attitude. It's the damnnedest thing, and I'm not sure I like it, but there I am.

ObHeinlein Reference: Grant Cowper is the secret hero of Tunnel in the Sky. N.B.: Wikipedia's Heinlein article refers to this novel only in the context of race.

#298 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Chris @295:
You are conflating an individual law with Law as a force within society, what I called "an entity that is more than simply the sum of a given set of laws".

there are some times when we should think about it for a while and then decide that weakening the law, in this case, is the right thing to do.

In the case of an individual law, such as the Fugitive Slave Law, you don't go far enough. It shouldn't be weakened, it should be destroyed. Voted out, marched against, disobeyed.

But in the matter of the Law as a force in society, I disagree entirely. We weaken that at our peril, unless we have a better system to put in its place. Law is what means I can buy a thing and have redress if it is deadly. Law gives me, a relatively weak woman, defence against a very strong man who wants my wallet. Law means that if I vote my vote must be counted.

Disobeying even a bad law weakens that force. I can redress that weakness by serving the penalty for my disobedience (see Bruce @293). I can judge that the overall impact of my actions will be to create a better system of laws by removing bad ones. But I can't pretend there is no wider impact to my choice to break the law.

I said it in 292, and I stand by it (you did read the rest of the conversation before jumping in, didn't you?): I believe, in short, that even a bad law is part of a worthwhile institution. I'll believe it even if I break said bad law.

#299 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:18 AM:

abi@286: But the breaking of the law is an evil deed in itself, because the law is structure of our society.

Breaking a law may inflict damage on the society that created it. But sometimes NOT breaking a law inflicts a greater damage on some other group.

And at every moment, we must choose.

Some folks can't stand that responsibility of choice and will convince themselves that the choice is out of their hands somehow. They defer their choice to the law. They defer to someone else. They defer to their orders. They defer to whatever they think everyone else tells them to do. They defer their morality to what is legal.

Don't tell me someone's actions were moral becaue they were legal. Tell me his actions were moral because his action inflicted less damage than if he had done nothing, or that his actions inflicted less damage than if he had done anything else.

The only way that junior officer can fail his test is if he does nothing. Because if he does nothing, he has defered his own volition to his supperiors. He is unable to choose his own actions when there is nothing around him to tell him what to do. He is unable to lead. He can only do what he is told to do.

From this, the idea that "I was just following orders" becomes laughable as a defense. You never defer to orders, you follow orders because you choose them. And you take personal responsibility for that choice.

Breaking the law is not evil per se. It is only evil relative to how it compares to the damage you'll inflict if you follow the law instead. And I refuse any argument that presents the law as the giver of morality and that breaking the law is always evil. We choose every moment. Anyone who says otherwise is avoiding that choice.

#300 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Disobeying even a bad law weakens that force.

I disagree with this. I'd say that passing a bad law in the first place weakens that force (if it exists; I'm not convinced it does), leaving good people little choice but to break that law frequently. The onus is not on the good people who break the law for acceptable reasons, but on the people who fight to keep the bad law in place.

#301 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:23 AM:

And at every moment, we must choose.

Exactly. Even if you want to view the capital-L Law as a "force," which I am inclined to think is a mistaken and dangerous way of viewing it, it's never an overriding force. At most, it's a factor to be considered amongst others. It never relieves you of the duty of consideration and the personal responsibility you bear for choosing to follow it.

#302 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:24 AM:

abi@292: I'll back off of the idea that the law is the [implicit "only"] structure of society;

Aw shoot. I didn't see that when I wrote 299. adjust 299 as neccessary.

#303 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:10 AM:

Greg @299, Serafina @300 & 301:

I agree entirely that the law cannot absolve anyone of their responsibility for moral choice. A legal and immoral act should not be performed. An illegal and moral act should be performed, particularly in order to challenge the law that forbids it.

Breaking a law may inflict damage on the society that created it. But sometimes NOT breaking a law inflicts a greater damage on some other group.

Yes. And that damage must be evaluated and included in the morality of your choice. I'm simply enumerating one aspect of that damage.

I really do not have time to argue the existence of the Law as an abstract concept from first principles right now, nor its utility in society. Sorry. I have a dinner party to throw, two kids to take care of, and a house purchase to negotiate. If you don't believe in it, fine; that may or may not change with time.

It is worth noting, though, that many people -- voters, activists, citizens -- do believe it. And on a practical basis, do you think that persuading people of the immorality of a particular law will be more or less effective if you demonstrate a carelessness of law in the abstract? Who is more effective as an advocate of change, an anarchist or a housewife who broke only one law?

#304 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Who is more effective as an advocate of change, an anarchist or a housewife who broke only one law?

Comparing the impact of someone who got martyred for something with that of someone who didn't seems unfair somehow,

#305 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:06 PM:

I'll have to side with Abi here: breaking even bad laws is not costless. And if we are discounting abstract moral value (e.g. sinning against God), then the practical moral effect is rather variable. The extreme cases talked about here are only useful against a Javertian kind of legalism. While helping black slaves and Jewish refugees escape is something I think all of us would agree is worth the costs, let us back up a second and ponder how those costs eventually end up including the Civil War and WW II.

re 263: No.

#306 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:12 PM:

It occurs to me that fighting bad laws and working to eliminate them is necessary precisely because of the importance of law in the abstract. If you're going to have a set of basic principles we can all agree to abide by, it's important that they in fact be basic principles we can all agree to abide by, and not forcible impositions of immoral ideas.

#307 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:09 PM:

I don't think I quite agree with abi, though I definitely see the value in the existence of the rule of law.

Some laws strike me as being worthy of only contempt, despite the fact that there is no moral obligation to violate them. When I was growing up, there were antisodomy laws in force in Missouri. I have to admit that it never seriously even occurred to me to factor those laws into decisions about my actions. Even if they had been commonly enforced, I don't think I would have taken them into account beyond worry about the consequences of getting caught.

I distinguish this from laws requiring you to behave immorally (say, a law requiring you to kick puppies[1]) or forbidding you from doing something morally required (say, a law forbidding Catholics from taking Communion). Or even laws where their structure is imposing some great evil, and you're eroding the edges of it by violating the law--like a law against serving blacks in your restaurant. In this case, I'm just talking about a law where there's no justification for a law to be, and ignoring it because it's worthy of contempt.

This is kind of a problem, right? When you look at how our laws are created, and what they contain, it's impossible to walk away believing that the law is much of a gauge of morality, or even has much to do with it[2]. (You can assert that there is a connection by definition, but then you end up needing to deal with all kinds of Godwin-esque cases in which the law requires or encourages evil behavior, and you seem to me to create moral dilemmas that don't make much sense.) And yet, society functions (women and children dare show their faces outside without armed guards, stores full of valuable things have plate-glass windows and doors, I don't strap on a gun and don a bulletproof vest before heading out the door in the morning) largely because there's some set of rules that almost everyone obeys and agrees with. And those rules are basically impossible to enforce everywhere, nearly all the enforcement is social pressure and expectation, but ultimately those rules are backed up with the possibility of escalation all the way up to calling out the National Guard and imposing martial law to restore order.


[1] The first half dozen examples that come to mind for this are Godwinian in nature, either directly or within a hop or two.

[2] Think of the DMCA, the FISA revision with liability protection, the laws forbidding medical use of marijuana, etc. You could come up with a very long list of laws that serve little good purpose except to demonstrate the great distance between law and morality.

#308 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Fighting bad laws and working to eliminate them is one thing, and breaking them is another. Breaking them is one technique (if done reasonably publicly and so on), but not the only one.

I certainly have participated in mild civil disobedience. I wore a "Georgia Felon" button at the Atlanta WorldCon, and made sure I violated the Georgia sodomy law while I was there (of course, my motives for doing so were not entirely political). I was not arrested, and that illustrates another point: if enough people declare themselves to be violating a law, and are not arrested, it shows that the law is unjustly (selectively) enforced at best, and may be a completely archaic holdover.

I think abi's right about the fact that this does damage to society. But it's a kick in the shins, not a club to the head. "Responds to painful stimuli" is a good criterion for health in a society as well. I wouldn't stick you with a pin, ordinarily, but if you're difficult to awaken and the house is filling with smoke...sorry, pin goes in.

Also, there are circumstances in which the social order has itself become an evil thing. Anything that creates chaos in such a society is worth measuring good against evil. Mass turnstile jumping? Yep. Bombing grade schools? Nope. Most things are somewhere in between.

Finally, I'm reminded of my reaction to a line from Law and Order. It's one of the ones that made me decide that Jack McCoy was an ethics-free slimeball. He said "The law isn't always about justice."

Well, I thought, when the law is not in the service of justice, and when the letter of the law fails to take a back seat to the pursuit of justice (which is what he was saying IIRC), then the law is a corrupt thing and must be corrected; and if it can't be corrected, opposed in its entirety; and if it can't be opposed, destroyed.

#309 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:46 PM:

What I get from abi's posts on lawbreaking as necessary evil--or, perhaps, the thought process this debate over her posts sparked in me--is this:

* Faith in Law as a process for the smooth operation of society, the arbitrator of conflict, and the protection of the weak from the strong, is an absolute necessity in society.

* A situation in which lawbreaking is necessary to justice weakens that faith.

* Lawbreaking becoming necessary to justice is a bad situation; it was caused by a bad law. It's symptomatic of a situation in which faith in Law has been made a bad thing because of laws one shouldn't place faith in. Laws that don't serve the purpose that laws should.

* If lawbreaking damages our faith in Law As Good, but it is swiftly followed by bad laws going bye-bye and good laws replacing them, then the damage caused by the lawbreaking is quickly healed.

* If civil disobedience is not followed by an improvement in the body of law, then the situation in which lawbreaking remains necessary due to bad laws not worthy of our faith staying on the books... worsens. Rule of law itself will eventually die out because it's unjust laws that are doing the ruling. So it'ss entirely appropriate to lose faith in rule-of-law, much as a high fever is an entirely appropriate response to an infection. But both are coping mechanisms, not healing mechanisms. Anarchy and fevers can both kill.

So... I agree with abi. I can't see civil disobedience as an unmixed good. It is an act that in the long run can prompt the healing of a corrupt legal system (by bringing attention to bear on bad laws and pressure on the government to replace them with good laws), but in the short term does damage to the value a society places on rule of law. But recognizing the ideological damage done by lawbreaking is not the same as blaming lawbreakers for the damage. The damage they do is in reaction to the damage already done by the bad laws and to the unresponsiveness of government actors to pressure on the legal law-changing channels. The bad law damage necessitated the civil disobedience damage. I rather think abi's analogy of damaging the body in order to remove a tumor is a good one: the doctor does damage with a scapel, but we blame the preexisting damage-causing tumor for that, not the doctor.


It occurs to me that desire to change the law is, technically, a form of law breaking. Say the law currently prohibits X. One wants X not to be prohibited. One must agitate for support for an illegal thing in order to cause it to be made legal. It's sort of a civil disobedience in thought, not deed.

Civil disobedience is disloyalty to current law out of loyalty for what law should be.


Ok, I'll stop maundering now.

#310 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:24 PM:

On the question of whether or not unjust laws should be broken in the interests of justice, there is one position I find pretty hard to assail.

#311 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:36 PM:

Fragano @ 310: Thank you for that link.

#312 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:38 PM:

Fragano 310: that would be the classic case, wouldn't it!

#313 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:50 PM:

re 307: I think the specific examples listed are sufficiently varied as to suggest that multiple principles have come into play. For example, copyright law is based in a pair of conflicting moral principles: that the worker (in this case, author) is worthy of his wage, and that eventually a work becomes a public good. These are moral principles because they involve ownership. The problem of course is that right next to ownership of income stands greed. The perception that the recording industry is greedy (which it is) enables individuals to override checks to their own greed. Everyone thinks the law should express a moral principle; people don't respect the law partly because of their own sinful nature, and partly because when they are being more rational about it they don't respect the moral standard that the particulars of the law are supposed to embody. The line between rational disobedience and plain old theft is anyone's guess.

Sodomy laws are an entirely different matter. Yeah, they encode morality, but do so in a way that is manifestly unfair. The penalty is for being insufficiently private that one gets caught. I would tend to not even count it "civil disobedience" if one doesn't ensure that one does get caught-- otherwise, isn't it "private disobedience"?

Laws like FISA that don't have a "break a law/pay the penalty" form for citizens don't fit this discussion very well, as it has advanced. Something like the act which created NASA doesn't fit at all. But in the relevant cases, we seem to have some laws which are established to enable or enforce immorality (e.g. Jim Crow); and we have cases where the law seeks to prevent immorality, but the morality itself is disputed (e.g. sodomy and a whole list of current social conflicts); and we have laws which embody societally accepted moral principles, but about which there is disagreement on the details (e.g. copyright). I think the first group is amenable to a straightforward cost-benefit analysis, and that the last group is most likely to fall victim to rationalization and therefore should be biased towards respect of law. The middle group, however, is all over the map, because there we get put between the principle that the law shouldn't be too nosy and the need to pursue the moral argument.

#314 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:00 PM:

The law (positive law, as opposed to the laws of nature) is not handed down from on high by angels, it is the construction of myriad fallible, frequently dishonest, always self-interested (not merely the lawyers among them) and (alas) often-uninterested in anyone else's welfare, individual human beings across the timespace continuum.

I do not worship The Law - although I consider the Platonic Ideal of a lawful society to be generally (that is to say, in a qualified way) a good thing and am likewise generally a law-abiding person - because I do not worship my fellow human beings, not even en masse and down through history, nor any of their works nor promises; nor am I willing to hand over my conscience entire to any other's custody, any longer. (If this sounds like the corollary of CSL's "Why I am a democrat" it probably is. And WFB was a perfect example of what happens when you combine the Inquisitor with the Robber Baron...)

#315 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:19 PM:

I don't worship the law. I don't know that I love it, which is one of the many reasons that I am not a lawyer. I do value it as the best tool that we have -- at the moment -- for the difficult task of living with one another. That doesn't mean that it's perfect, or that any individual law is ideal. Politics is compromise; legislation doubly so.

Show me a better tool, and I'll pitch the law out without a second thought. Until then, though, I prefer a system of laws to any alternative I've seen in history.

Valuing the law does sometimes require breaking laws, but doing it mindfully, carefully and for good reason.

From Fragano's link:
In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

#316 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:52 PM:

Justice is a goddess.

The law is one form Her worship may take. Like all religions, however, it is formulated, practiced, and disputed by humans, who are notoriously fallible. The greatest authorities may be incorrect or even corrupt.

When the religion of the law fails to serve the will of Her who is (or at any rate ought to be) its Goddess, it must be circumvented, flouted, or, in extreme cases, dismantled. The catch is, you have to be right. A belief that you have an obligation to serve Justice by flouting the law may lead to King in jail in Birmingham, or to Rudolph shooting doctors—or worse.

As in all things, judgement must be exercised. And a strong rebuttable presumption that one should obey the law is no bad thing.

#317 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Xopher, I love you.

Just sayin'.

#318 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:59 PM:

abi, back atcha.

#319 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:02 PM:

abi #315:

The other large mechanisms I can think of for living together are the market and social norms. Both of those interact heavily with the law, and it's hard to see how you'd have a well-developed market (beyond Firefly-like trading with a hand on your gun) without both law and social norms. Also, it's worth remembering that law can look quite different from what we're used to--as with rules/laws that are known and enforced, but which might not be written down, might be enforced by someone other than a government, etc.

The MLK essay was worth rereading, but I have to disagree with the quoted part. Sometimes, you may want to violate a law openly to make a point, but it's probably much more common to just ignore a stupid or evil law and violate it quietly, remembering the Eleventh Commandment[1] and keeping it wholly.

For example, I believe interracial sex was illegal (certainly it could get one or both participants killed) in many places. And yet, it's certain that this law was quietly ignored by many people, which strikes me as perfectly legitimate and right. Similarly, a black person passing for white could (and I assume many did) ignore a lot of the Jim Crow laws; again, this wasn't done in the open, but I can't seem to think of anything wrong with doing it other than the risk that you might get your head busted for being caught. To put this in more current terms, if someone were to obtain a supply of a useful, worthwhile-to-them drug that had been taken off the market in the US, I can't seem to think of the moral downside to using it. And many dozens of similar examples come to mind.

I will admit I don't have a good general way to explain when this is and isn't right. The best I can do is a kind of pragmatic rule: The law often does correspond to morality, and sometimes, that correspondence isn't obvious. You are a human, with a tendency to justify things you want, and you may not have thought through the consequences of your actions fully, both to yourself and to others. Really think it through before you decide to break the law.

[1] Thou shalt not get caught.

#320 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:06 PM:

abi @ 315... Show me a better tool, and I'll pitch the law out without a second thought.

Mind you, that other tool, of course, would be a different kind of law, but one with a better definition of Justice.

#321 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Yesterday, "Fresh Air" rebroadcast an old interview with Buckley. I was strangely delighted when, in answer to Terry Gross asking him whether he felt out of touch with ordinary people because of his multimillionaire (in early/mid 20th-century dollars) boarding-school upbringing, he said no, not at all-- like any sensible person, he'd learned everything he needed to know about the lower classes from reading Dickens :b

#322 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Fragano 310 - Wow-freaking-wow! And he wrote that all off the cuff from a jail cell... To call it moving is my Understatement of the Day. If you can't find your answer to the Good law/ Bad Law dilemma here, then you will die confused.

THANK YOU for that link!

#323 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:43 PM:

I think, abi, that there's a subtle shift in meaning between "laws" and "law" in your last sentence. It seems to me that the "law" that must be honored is abstract, and that the "laws" are the concrete realization of that law. So why do we need concrete laws? Well, some law (like the greater part of traffic law) is simply to provide structure: it doesn't matter that Britain and the US have quite different rules in some respects, because the important thing is that the rules facilitate highly desirable order. Those laws have to be realized because the abstract notion of "everybody needs to be driving on the same side of the road" has to be realized in a public agreement as to which side to drive on.

The other kind of laws are realized because of the reality of law-breaking. People steal and injure and kill, and laws are necessary to put some structure upon dealing with those people. But the reason why the structure is needed is because it isn't true that most people have working moral compasses and others have compasses which are broken; everyone's compass works imperfectly to some degree or another.

That's why I don't think it's possible to establish rules for "legitimate" law breaking that are better than the formal laws. Indeed, I think they have to be assumed to be worse until proven otherwise. Looking at the "Letter from Birmingham Jail", I observe that besides potentially setting off Godwin's Law, it assumes that the readers agree with MLK about the Law, and also that they accept the Augustinian calculus about laws. It's really a "just war" argument, and it relies completely on establishing such consensus before trying to make the tactical justifications which are its real point. BUT the issue he completely skips is one which I think has become increasingly dominant, because I think it hadn't become an issue when he wrote the letter (though it was soon going to). He by castigates "the hatred and despair of the black nationalist", but he does not (in this letter at least) envision the professional protester-- that is, the person whose elevation of protest itself surpasses his criticism of the causes for which he protests. (Take Ralph Nader--- please.) Nor does he really quite step up to CSL's point. Lewis could just as well have substituted any system of philosophical absolutes for "theocracy". I'm not aware of CSL's writings or lack thereof on the American civil rights movement, but surely his call for "wholesome doubt" applied. None of this is meant to be a specific criticism of the tactics used, BTW. I'm not saying that MLK's reasoning took him to the wrong answer or even that beyond the letter he failed to address these points. In the context of its writing it was perhaps necessary to ignore those points. But I'm saying that his argument, abstracted to general principles, has to be tempered by other considerations. Without those principles, tyranny or even self-indulgence can (and I think do) take over the consideration.

#324 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:45 PM:

The italicized portion of 319 is the summary of my long-winded discursus.

#325 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Nancy @291,

Your comment and others has been making me think about Buckley, and charisma in speech, and people who have skills at hacking the emotional states of listeners...

People like Buckley bother me because I can (often) see, or feel, that their logic isn't sound, that their arguments include some handwaving. But I don't have the ability to name what they're doing, to answer back at them, at least not in realtime speeds.

Give me a transcript and a couple of hours and I can diagram out their attack and find the references that refute the painted styrofoam trompe l'brain they base their arguments on.

Because TV promotes speed of argument without a corresponding speed of refutation [chain of arguments here] therefore the listeners learn to think that Buckley's style is a fine way to argue. It isn't.

#326 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:31 PM:

I think -- in theory -- that people who break a law, and are found guilty of breaking a law, should suffer the penalty of that law. (I get kinda weak in practice when someone's granny dying of cancer is locked up for growing marajuana.)

That includes lawbreaking for the purposes of civil disobedience. This serves two purposes. First, it serves the protester's purpose, by demonstrating that the law leads to injustice (a minister is locked up for trying to eat a sandwich; men are beaten for making their own salt). And second, it sets the bar for protest at a high enough level to weed out causes that no one thinks are important enough to pay the penalty for.

The problem with the "ignore the bad law and don't get caught" approach is that it's so easy to mistake principle for convenience. Public scrutiny, like the realistic expectation of consequences, focuses the priorities. The recipients of King's letter also served a purpose.

In other words, although I appreciate the strong moral, ethical and philosophical components of the tradition of civil disobedience, I don't think that it deserves a privileged place in the legal system.

(Compare with whistleblowing, which I think should have a privileged place. I think. Still considering.)

#327 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:35 PM:

C Wingate @323:
I think, abi, that there's a subtle shift in meaning between "laws" and "law" in your last sentence. It seems to me that the "law" that must be honored is abstract, and that the "laws" are the concrete realization of that law.

Yes, this is the distinction I've been making since 292, when I talked about the law as an entity that is more than simply the sum of a given set of laws.

Not everyone in this conversation thinks there is such a thing, or that it is a thing to be protected if it exists.

#328 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:40 PM:

MLK Jr's position is the hard one that justice requires confronting injustice and taking the consequences.

C. Wingate, you should note his argument is based on Aquinas and Cicero(that there is a principle of law -- divine or natural -- on which positive human law should rest, and when human law deviates from that principle it should be brought back to it), not on Augustine which is that justice is really only possible in heaven, that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ, just war being another issue entirely.

Edward Oleander: He wrote the first draft in prison, but admits that he revised it afterwards.

Ginger, you're welcome.

#329 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Kathryn, the toughest position in two-on-two debate is first negative, the person who has to speak in response immediately after the other team finishes delivering their prepared opening statement. Background knowledge helps, there are skills and standard gambits you can learn, and it helps to be one of those people who automatically compile argument flowcharts in their heads in realtime. That said, first negative is still a bitch.

What saves you, in real life as in debate, is that new arguments are relatively rare. (If they've never been advanced before, it's usually because they're screwy.) This is where prepared talking points come in. You know the arguments the other side is likely to make, and you have good, fast, convincing counter-arguments waiting in your pocket.

Many people have conversations, but few of them are using 100% newly-coined sentences. The same goes for high-end public argument: it only sounds like it's custom-made for the occasion.

#330 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:00 PM:

I sometimes live in a world where, explicitly, "laws" and "ethics" are the same:

Law 72A1:
Duplicate bridge tournaments should be played in strict accordance with the laws.
Law 72A4:
When these Laws provide the innocent side with an option after an irregularity committed by an opponent, it is appropriate to select that action most advantageous.
Law 72A5:
[with small exceptions] after the offending side has paid the prescribed penalty for an inadvertent infraction, it is appropriate for the offenders to make any call or play advantageous to their side, even though they thereby appear to profit through their own infraction.

These laws, and the rest of the Proprieties (which was a section ancillary to the Law until the Lawmakers realized that there were people who didn't mind being thought of as boors, provided they were thought of as boors who win), make it clear that if you follow the Law you are being ethical, and not following the Law is unethical.

It makes for an interesting environment, especially when what most players consider "ethical" and what the Laws consider proper are not congruent (because most players haven't actually read the Laws). It's fun to play with semantics in that environment.

It is not Real Life. There is no such equation of Laws and Ethics in Real Life. This is a good thing - it's confusing enough in Duplicate Bridge.

#331 ::: Serafina ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:04 PM:

abi @ #236: I agree that in some cases the civil disobeyer should serve his/her sentence. But I wouldn't say that's true as a general rule. Even leaving aside my skepticism of the idea of capital-L Law, I have trouble with this:

The problem with the "ignore the bad law and don't get caught" approach is that it's so easy to mistake principle for convenience.

Okay, but convenience matters, and sometimes the sentence is more than just an inconvenience. I don't think a recreational pot smoker is doing himself, his society, his family or anyone any good by turning himself in for a five-year prison sentence. I think he's doing a lot of harm by doing that.

More dramatically, in cases like the underground railroad, getting arrested is counterproductive because it means you can no longer serve your cause and what you do might not be easily replaceable by other committed activists.

#332 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:09 PM:

heresiarch (@284): I took it to be focused on violence from the way in which it was phrased.

re the law: I am, in general, with abi on this one. Part of what led to the US Civil War was people breaking the laws on fugitive slaves. Were they justifed in breaking that law? I think so.

Did they, as Bruce (StM) said, own that violation of the law? No. There were reasons for that, but it was rare to find a Thoreau asking his friends why they were outside the prison cell.

Could the War have been averted? Maybe. But at what cost? I don't think The Law is sacrosanct. I do think that breaking it, damages the fabric of all laws. Where a law is in drastic contravention of norms, then there will be two directions of contempt. In the first case the people will see the "leaders" as having contempt for them. This breeds unrest.

In the second, the people will come to doubt not just the laws which are out of keeping, but all the other laws. THey will become contemptous of the system.

Take that far enough and the system will break.

Chris said, "We shouldn't *lightly* weaken it, but there are some times when we should think about it for a while and then decide that weakening the law, in this case, is the right thing to do. I don't think that makes it a "necessary evil"; I think that makes it a necessary *danger*"

I think that conflates a couple of things, the law, and The Law. The first is the statute, the second is the ideal that we have Rule of Law. I have no problem with taking a statute and weakening, or changing it.

To make an analogy, one can take a garment, rework and have something which is, while different, as strong as it was.

But take the same garment and just cut the seam of the armpit to make it move more freely, and it will not bear up.

Adrian Smith (#304)

Who is more effective as an advocate of change, an anarchist or a housewife who broke only one law?

Comparing the impact of someone who got martyred for something with that of someone who didn't seems unfair somehow,

Somehow I don't see that was what was done.

I think the comparison is someone who cares not a fig for the law, and a person who does, as a force of moral suasion when the question of why a law was broken comes up.

#333 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:21 PM:

Mycroft, I hate to sound dense, but I feel dense. I don't actually understand what you're talking about in #330. Is this an altered perception you experience without being able to control it? Something that used to happen uncontrollably but that you are now able to control? A conceit you just play around with? The belief that you actually shift between worlds?

This is mostly my fatigue and sorrow speaking, but I'm spending a lot of time being slammed repeatedly against the awareness of how many of the thing most important to me are utterly outside my control right now, and I find talk of doing games out of what's a desperate struggle for me more baffling than usual. But I never really deeply get what people mean by usages like yours. (I have lost any clear recollection of what I meant, decades ago, when I said anything similar, and I have no particular expectation that what you're talking about is anything similar anyway.)

#334 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Ken@285: You say flaunt. You mean flout.

zoot.

#335 ::: greensmile ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:28 PM:

Goya's Ghost:
You are the sort of creature, more embarrassing to WFB than was the war in Iraq, who, like Rush or Coulter, give a bad name to conservatism. Buckley was a fair opponent one-on-one and fierce in a way your foul spittle could never hope to match. He was also deeply wrong but favored by the fates with the wit [as distinct from wisdom ] to make it all sound good.

Those of you with Civil comments:
I find in the uncanny parallels of the careers of William F Buckley and William Sloan Coffin the very heart of the mystery of why some of us turn out liberal and others less disposed to random humanity.

#336 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:08 PM:

Julie L. @321: [..] in answer to Terry Gross asking him whether he felt out of touch with ordinary people because of his multimillionaire (in early/mid 20th-century dollars) boarding-school upbringing, he said no, not at all-- like any sensible person, he'd learned everything he needed to know about the lower classes from reading Dickens [..]

So, in his version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge's viewpoint was affirmed when the Ghost of Christmas Future showed him his grave, and he saw the multitudes praising him as one of the leading lights of Institutional Scroogery?

#337 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:13 PM:

Abi 303: Off topic, note the use of [citation needed] in the Wikipedia article you linked:

During this period, bad taste was on display when the January 15, 1966 edition of the Birmingham News published an ad offering Liuzzo's bullet-ridden car for sale. Asking $3,500, the ad read, "Do you need a crowd-getter? I have a 1963 Oldsmobile two-door in which Mrs. Viola Liuzzo was killed. Bullet holes and everything intact. Ideal to bring in crowds."[citation needed]

Since when is "the January 15, 1966 edition of the Birmingham News" not considered a citation?

#338 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:33 PM:

They need a link to a reliable online source which states that that ad was in the January 15th, 1966 edition of the Birmingham News.

(I'm not entirely certain that that's a joke.)

#339 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:50 PM:

C Wingate @323: the "law" that must be honored is abstract, and that the "laws" are the concrete realization of that law.

abi@327: Yes, this is the distinction I've been making

I don't think there is an "abstract law". At leeast not one that can hand down moral commandments and override my own moral compass. Some folks are drawn to religion because having a God hand you moral absolutes makes the horrible mess of deciding for yourself moment by moment go away. I'm having difficulty grabbing onto what exactly your talking about here that would distinguish this "abstract law" from some sort of absolute compass that overrides my own or that I'm supposed to defer my choices to.

Law is nothing more than the moral compasses of the people who created them captured and frozen in ink. That doesn't give it any special power in overriding your own compass. You have to decide if it's right or not. No one else can tell you.

Yes, breaking an unjust law may have negative affects on the whole bureacracy that created the law, including the public as a whole. That is a consideration for choosing your action, not something that affects which way your compass points.

People have a compass and it points in a particular direction. The laws written last year or last decade, and the current opinion of the public, doesn't change it. People may defer to the law, may defer to public opinion, but even then, I think your compass points true, even if you ignore it.

And law is nothing more than a representation of the moral compasses, self interests, selfless intersts, and other interests, of the people who created them. It is a communication between people saying this is what we will accept. It's sort of a marker for the public at large. It says "We say North", which doesn't make your compass turn north, but it may cause you to change your actions. But if you remove law into some abstract idea where there are no people at all, it loses all meaning.

#340 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Abi, every society maintains some sort of rules for proper behavior. Their written laws is any, are at best a subset of the society's "informal" rules, written down just so everybody can agree on what's allowed. The "inherent respect for law" is really a respect for the rules of the community, as represented by law.

But whereas the "social rules" arise from the accumulation of individual behaviors, the official Law is set by the rulers -- and that makes it vulnerable to abuse, because "protecting social order" can all too easily turn to "protecting the social order" -- that is, making sure the folks on top stay there, and nobody else gets a chance to challenge them. And that's why the Law must not be taken as sacred, because it's a tin god (with feet of clay).

The classic example here in America is our infamous drug laws, which not only don't match the social mores, but provide a convenient excuse to imprison and disenfranchise the poor, nonwhites, and "uppity kids".

The presence of such laws actively corrodes public respect for not only the written Law, but for the ethical and moral precepts which Law is supposed to codify. When (rich, white) kids grow up seeing that they can snort all the coke they want, while the "darkies" get busted for a mere joint... well, the lesson they'll take is "laws are for other people". That way lies scandal and abuse from Watergate through Enron et al, and on to the neocon coup....

Worse, the drug laws had so little genuine public support, that they imported and created a whole slew of criminal groups to help people break them. (These joined the Mafia, which had gained their foothold during our prior Prohibition of alcohol.)

I'm not saying that Law isn't important -- but it's not a fundamental principle, it's just something that humans do. We mark our privileges, responsibilities, and taboos in the same spirit as we mark our territories. Our natural instinct is to defend all those borders, but that doesn't make them Eternal Truths. Borders can, and sometimes must, change over time, and if they can't be negotiated, they'll be fought over.

Indeed, most of the point of "representative government", was to provide avenues for such negotiation. The closing of such paths is a big part of what's currently broken in American politics.

#341 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:56 PM:

#336 Rob:

Institutional Scroogery would make a good blog name. Or maybe a new major in school. "I majored in Institutional Scroogery, with a minor in Harsh Justice."

#342 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:16 PM:

YAHR: From the largely unavailable Gore Vidal piece on Buckley to which an acquaintance sent me a link:

It is true that at one point Myra [Breckenridge] makes a case for homosexuality on the ground that it might help contain the population explosion.

I wonder if that's the source of a vaguely similar argument in I Will Fear No Evil? I vaguely remember someone knowledgeable saying Myra Breckenridge was in Heinlein's library.

Greg @ 339:

Yes, breaking an unjust law may have negative effects on the whole bureaucracy that created the law, including the public as a whole.

The public as a whole is neither a bureaucracy nor a portion thereof. A minor point on its own, but tied into a major point, which is that bureaucracy does not create law. It may enforce it, and it is certainly supposed to be governed by it, but bureaucracy does not create law. Policy, yes, it does create that. You're playing games with emotive language.

Me, I'm coming to like bureaucracy. Bashing it is, I am beginning to think, part and parcel of the libertarian Luddism that wants to smash up government. (Again, Grant Cowper, secret hero.)

#343 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:33 PM:

#332:

I think that conflates a couple of things, the law, and The Law. The first is the statute, the second is the ideal that we have Rule of Law.

But we don't get to live in ideal societies, only in real ones. Loyalty to ideals is dangerous when there's something that looks like your ideal, but isn't. (And since the ideal is an ideal, therefore idealized and not realistic, *everything* that looks like your ideal isn't.)

Loyalty to The Law is only as good as the actual laws that you are actually supporting by your deeds, because it's your deeds that you and those around you have to live or die by.

Individual laws can be useful tools for any number of goals (good or bad). The Law seems to me to be mainly good for getting people not to question the law - which is useful in direct proportion to how questionable the law really is.

#344 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Haiku being my preferred form, I offer this one on the occasion of this particular death of a monster:


Should I be forlorn
He died without receiving
A discreet tattoo?

(h/t tristero)

#345 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:16 PM:

John Arkansawyer: Bashing it is, I am beginning to think, part and parcel of the libertarian Luddism that wants to smash up government

I partly agree... bureaucracy is a government's mechanism for "getting stuff done". At the same time, it can also be used to keep stuff from being done. The difference comes from above (in our case, the executive first, then the legislature).

The key point, however, is that bureaucracies tend to be stocked with careerists, which makes them slow to change, especially when compared with our regular elections. Thus, Shrub took the trouble to replace a whole bunch of agency heads (and sometimes replaced the replacements), but he still got serious blowback from a lot of those agencies, because the rank-and-file hadn't changed nearly as much. (E.g. FSEEE within the Forest Service.)

Of course, the flip side there is, Bush has had going-on-8 years to trash things, and fixing them will cost a lot of effort and political capital for the next president (surely intentional).

#346 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:22 PM:

Chris: Loyalty to The Law is only as good as the actual laws that you are actually supporting by your deeds, because it's your deeds that you and those around you have to live or die by.

No, I am with abi (as said). The Law is like paper money, only as good as the faith and credit it is given.

One of the things that an ideal of the Rule of Law gives us is a better place to live.

I've been places where "The Law" is bought and paid for. As a result people have no respect for it.

I look at the loss of respect the US has suffered in the past eight years, and the reason is we have allowed our leaders to to tell us, "The Law" is for little people.

It's a difficult thing (and I've had to make some painful decisions about how loyal I am to "The Law", I think I made the right choice, with what I knew, what the laws were, and what the options I had were... I chose to deploy to Iraq, despite my reservations. [I'm not going to get into a debate about the rightness or wrongness of that decision], in part because the rule of law made the orders legal.), but chucking the idea of The Law, because some of them are bad, well where do I get to stop?

Who gets to pick and choose. There's already a problem in that the cops get to choose how they enforce it. Driving while poor gets one hassled.

Driving while black is more likely to get one arrested.

Those things, are rents in the fabric of society. I don't know how to disobey other laws in the interest of fixing that aspect of the one's we have.

So, since you think having an Ideal (or, perhaps a better word would be aspiration) isn't enough... what would you suggest we have, because what I see you saying is breaking laws is neutral to the health of the body politic.

#347 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:54 PM:

Bruce Baugh #200: Good idea, but it's a little-known fact that, canonically, you need six lines:


Bnxs pstrs
Crsd
Nd hwld
T fndng thy'd bn
Dsmvwlld
Making Light

#348 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:19 AM:

Terry@346: I look at the loss of respect the US has suffered in the past eight years, and the reason is we have allowed our leaders to to tell us, "The Law" is for little people.

If "The Law" has no influence on our compass, then our leaders telling us "The Law" is for little people still has no influence on what we know to be right and wrong.

If we defer to "The Law" for which way is morally right, then "The Law" becomes a lever with which to alter our alignment. If a person subscribes to this, then making something legal makes it moral.

The problem seems to stem from the deferal to the law. If people do not defer their sense of right and wrong to others, then they can't be turned by legal loopholes.

The problem then becomes getting the person to uncover and identify their own personal compass, develop it, learn with it, experiment, try to navigate, adjust, etc. until they find the principles within to tell them what's right. It's another problem, but results in totally responsible individuals who are much less likely to be swayed by legal tricks and sytem gaming.

#349 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:15 AM:

re 328: Point taken-- I wasn't intending to refer to Augustine's systems as a whole, but the single principles which MLK cites.

re 331: Recreational pot smoking isn't civil disobedience. It's just disobedience without effect except maybe to the law-breaker's conscience.

304/332: As to anarchists and housewives, the question has to be, agent of change to what? The obvious risk of letting anarchists be your agents of change is that the change may be to no more than anarchy.

re 336: I think this raises the point of whether one can understand the rich by reading Fitzgerald, Knowles, and Salinger. As far as a catalogue of character all around, I think you're better off with Dickens, whatever the social strata concerns you.

re 339: You say "compass", I say "abstract law". They are the same thing. And the law is more than the paper realization of those compasses/abstractions, because as we've been noting all along here, they do not all point in the same direction. Indeed, American law represents compromised and often patchwork versions of those compasses-- it say so right there in the constitution.

It's also true that the effect of breaking a law doesn't stop at the law or the bureaucracy that created it, and I think the omission of the other consequence is at the center of the disputation here. The omitted consequence is self-affirmation and the other psychological rewards/penalties of being a lawbreaker, both in general and in any specific instance. Breaking laws is potentially very self-rewarding; civil disobedience, for instance, allows one to reward ones self with the belief that one has righted a wrong, even if the ultimate consequence is in fact detrimental to the cause. On the other hand, there is a thrill to be had (if one's temperament runs in that direction) in breaking a law and getting away with it. We resist illegitimate authority, but we also resist legitimate authority.

Ineffectual civil disobedience and protest has the nice combination of ratifying expressions of anger, affording endless self exaltation for continuing the struggle, and avoiding the twin risks of running out of situations for getting these ego boosts and being blamed if success doesn't turn out to be congenial. I think this is a lot of what helps keep Fred Phelps going-- that and the press, and as Adam Young thinks in Good Omens, "Notoriety was not as good as fame, but it was heaps better than obscurity." I don't think it is possible to consider civil disobedience (or "righteous" law breaking in general) accurately without considering the degree to which this sort of self reinforcement can pervert one's actions.

re 340: I don't think the drug laws are such a good example, because the hypothesis that repealing them would get rid of the accompanying destructive behavior isn't plausible enough. Possibly it would make things in one way better, but it might be that "better" meant that the same people would simply destroy their lives through intoxication, but without shooting innocent bystanders. And it might be that those chasing riches through drug-running might simply turn to a different kind of illegality. The class warfare theory is just too simplistic, and one might as well argue that legalization is defensible to the upper classes because they are unlikely to bear any adverse consequences. It's all extremely speculative, and meanwhile the human organism does as it pleases.

Also, to be blunt, I don't think we are so stupid as to not be able to tell the difference between taboos, privileges, and responsibilities. But amorally it is obviously to our advantage to obscure the differences. All of these discussions are part of themselves of the phenomena being discussed, so it's impossible to achieve an entirely objective position free of special pleading. The best we can do is acknowledge the likelihood of such contaminated thinking, and try to maintain an awareness of it as it happens.

#350 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:56 AM:

abi @ 315

Valuing the law does sometimes require breaking laws, but doing it mindfully, carefully and for good reason.

Being a junior-grade Buddhist, I'd say the second clause of that sentence is an excellent recipe for doing just about anything. "Mindfully" is the description of how the Buddha taught that we should live, and I've yet to see a situation where it wasn't damn good advice. I know I've tried not doing it on occasion (not for any good reason), and found that it was a mistake every time.

Living in the human world is often a delicate balancing act between the practical and the ideal, between what is and what we think ought to be; balancing is an act of feedback, which is how I interpret "mindfulness": constantly watching the results of your actions to ensure that they correspond as closely as possible to your original intentions. That's why the excuse, "I had good intentions" cuts no ice with me.

#351 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 02:02 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale #325: Dennis Perrin posted two videos of Buckley debating Noam Chomsky on television (back in the days when people like Chomsky were occasionally allowed on television), and it had me thinking exactly that same thing. The great thing about it is that not only is Chomsky able to respond quickly and cogently, but he's also able to turn the problem on its head, leaving Buckley far behind, mouth gaping, trying to muster a counterargument and failing.

#352 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 02:03 AM:

Greg: I think you mistake my point. If the leadership discards the law, then the law loses it's worth, and anarchy, or differential law, becomes the norm.

If we fail to uphold The Law (which our representatives have been failing to do) democracy will fail; because the lynchpin of such systems (be they direct, or represtentative) is that we are all in it together.

No system can long function in the absence of shared ideals. Those ideals may be the divine right of the king, they may be the Declaration of the Rights of Man, they can be The Proletariat, but they have to be something all subsctibe to. If that isn't the case, the system will fail.

Right now, what I see, is that we are at the crux of keeping the law, or moving to some other way of running things. So far as I can tell, the way in which we are lurching is one which the denizens here are not in favor of; because the rule of law is what they are used to, and what they favor.

I am no starry-eyed idealist. I am probably far more pragmatic in my outlook (Not quite Bismarckian that politics is the art of the possible, and like sausage making should not be seen by those who are weak-stomached and like either laws or sausage, but in that vein). I'll settle for the good enough, in lieu of the perfect.

But the perfect has to be aspire to. Rule of Law is the best principle I can see to get there, so long as it is applied evenly.

Are there bad laws, you betcha. Do I despise them? You betcha. Do I do what I can to get them struck from the books? You betcha. Do I break them casually; just because they are bad laws? No. If I am going to break a law, in the interest of seeing it changed, it's not going to be causual.

#353 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Here's a thought: civil disobedience could be codified by a citizen's "signing statement". It would probably have to be notarized, or presented to a court as a civil suit.

I'm not sure how that could be used to fix problems such as America's blanket immunity to international war crimes prosecution, or telecom immunity to privacy violation prosecution, though.

#354 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 05:42 AM:

Serge @ 320: "Mind you, that other tool, of course, would be a different kind of law, but one with a better definition of Justice."

I think that's the point of what abi is saying. One can have a belief in the need for law that is distinct from any opinion about what those particular laws ought to be. To put it another way, it is the understanding that only real alternative to the rule of (some) law (or another) is the rule of force,* and that to degrade the rule of law, however bad, is to strengthen the rule of force.

*Feel free to substitute "whatever I can get away with" for "force" in this sentence.

abi @ 326: "That includes lawbreaking for the purposes of civil disobedience. This serves two purposes. First, it serves the protester's purpose, by demonstrating that the law leads to injustice (a minister is locked up for trying to eat a sandwich; men are beaten for making their own salt). And second, it sets the bar for protest at a high enough level to weed out causes that no one thinks are important enough to pay the penalty for."

Agreed. Those moral compasses are tricky things, really, and they rarely agree. I'm perfectly happy with racist and homophobic s.o.b.'s treating black people and gays politely because the law makes them do it.

"The problem with the "ignore the bad law and don't get caught" approach is that it's so easy to mistake principle for convenience. Public scrutiny, like the realistic expectation of consequences, focuses the priorities."

More importantly, I think, is that ignoring the law is elitist and anti-democratic. You're demonstrating that you don't care enough about your fellow citizens to work to make the law better for everyone, as long as you aren't inconvenienced. You're implicitly assuming that no one else is going to understand the moral justification behind your actions, which is a good indication that either your moral justification is crap or you have very low opinions of your fellow citizen's moral acuity.

C. Wingate @ 349: "You say "compass", I say "abstract law""

If you think this is so, then I don't think you've been understanding what abi has been saying. When Greg talks about his moral compass, he's talking about people's individual judgements of right or wrong. When abi talks about law in the abstract, she's talking about the existence of a social compact we've all agreed to abide by, distinct from its particular implementation. They aren't the same thing at all.

#355 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 09:57 AM:

heresiarch #354:

More importantly, I think, is that ignoring the law is elitist and anti-democratic. You're demonstrating that you don't care enough about your fellow citizens to work to make the law better for everyone, as long as you aren't inconvenienced. You're implicitly assuming that no one else is going to understand the moral justification behind your actions, which is a good indication that either your moral justification is crap or you have very low opinions of your fellow citizen's moral acuity.

There are two ways I can see this being elitist and anti-democratic:

a. I form my own moral opinions, which may be quite different from those of my community, the written law, the teachings of my church, etc.

b. I act on them, even when they violate one of these other sources of morality.

As far as the first one, I don't really perceive it as a choice. I am not able to farm out my morality to anyone else--not the government passing the laws, not the Catholic Church, not my community. I don't just mean I won't[1], so much as that I can't--it's like not being able to believe that Genesis is literally true or the sun circles the Earth, or that there are a finite number of primes, no matter how many authorities tell me I must believe those things. That's elitist, in the sense that I'm assuming my moral judgment is better than the output of the legislative process, community norms, and religious teachings. I'm okay with that.

The second part is to ignore the law (and community norms, and church teachings) when my own sense of morality says something different. Many times, people talk moral conflicts, like the law says do X, and my morality says don't do X. I think most people think this is a reasonable thing to do--this is the guy moving escaped slaves along the underground railroad. But another category is where my morality says X is okay, but the law, community standards, or church teachings say it's not. Imagine using birth control in 1950, in some state that banned its use with widespread popular support. My sense is that a lot of the arguers here are saying that was wrong, that people should not have quietly used birth control despite the law, but should instead have either obeyed the law or violated it openly in protest. I don't see the sense in this. Civil disobedience is a political/social tactic, but it only works if there's support for your position. The same tactics would have almost certainly failed bloodily in 1920. Yet, I assume that there were blacks who quietly skirted those stupid, evil laws, and I can't find anything wrong with that.

As several people have pointed out, there's a danger with this that you will find excuses to let yourself do things you want to do, despite morality. That's a reason to have your own sense of morality, and to establish rules for yourself that you don't revise in the heat of the moment. But honestly, neither the written law nor my society's consensus positions strike me as being better than my own moral sense.

[1] But I won't.

#356 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:19 AM:

C Wingate @#349: re 340: I don't think the drug laws are such a good example, because the hypothesis that repealing them would get rid of the accompanying destructive behavior isn't plausible enough.

Sorry, that "hypothesis" is nowhere in my argument. As I pointed out before, Prohibition brought in the Mafia... but when it was repealed, the Mafia did not just pack up and leave -- by then they were established enough that they could indeed "turn to a different kind of illegality". The ill-considered law had permanently damaged American society, infecting it with a destructive parasite. Indeed, (I would be surprised to find that the Mafia haven't used their own political connections to "encourage" the "War On Drugs".)

Possibly it would make things in one way better, but it might be that "better" meant that the same people would simply destroy their lives through intoxication, but without shooting innocent bystanders.

So, you're saying that "without shooting innocent bystanders" doesn't really count as "better", because that doesn't stop people from getting high? Sorry, but nowadays the shootings, organized crime, and police misconduct fed by the WoD have become far bigger problems than "intoxication" ever was.

#357 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:23 AM:

heresiarch @ 354... One can have a belief in the need for law that is distinct from any opinion about what those particular laws ought to be. To put it another way, it is the understanding that only real alternative to the rule of (some) law (or another) is the rule of force,* and that to degrade the rule of law, however bad, is to strengthen the rule of force.

Yup. The Rule of Law is indeed needed. But, within that framework, the details aka the laws can and should be changed without throwing the baby out with the bath water, if I may mix my metaphors. Can a person own property? Can a person own a property that is human in nature? Can a woman own property, and be her own person and live as she sees fit and not as a man's extension? I bet you that some people thought that women being given the right to vote would bring on the collapse of Civilization. That being said, I'm surprised that nobody has yet brought up a certain famous exchange that is usually quoted here when describing the Dubya Gang's contempt of Law in the War Against Terror:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

I've got to watch that movie again.

#358 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:29 AM:

Cultures evolve (or, alas, devolve), and their laws can develop or decay with them, so even the abstraction of Law is still a living thing. Most of the big religions came with lists of rules: some are as relevant/worthy of discussion as ever ("Thou shalt not kill"); others, like the institutionalized persecution of women, should just be relics of a dark past. That's why talk of "worship" for Law makes me nervous, and the mindfulness Bruce Cohen mentions seems vital to the whole process.

I'm not really disagreeing with you, abi, but reverence is a tricky thing when the revered concept isn't (and can't be) set in stone.

#359 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Serge @#357: Amen!

Also, the point of "Rule Of Law" is not that "Law is needed to preserve social order". A smart dictatorship (a.k.a. Rule of [a] Man) can do "social order" perfectly well! The purpose of "Rule Of Law" is to constrain the leaders, declaring that even a President or Senator has to follow the same laws as the ordinary civilians they represent.

#360 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:43 AM:

C@349: You say "compass", I say "abstract law". They are the same thing. And the law is more than the paper realization of those compasses/abstractions, because as we've been noting all along here, they do not all point in the same direction. Indeed, American law represents compromised and often patchwork versions of those compasses

If "abstract law" represents some aggregation and record of which direction everyone's compasses points, then at least I get what you're all saying.

But it still isn't something to defer your own personal compass to. Maybe you end up defering your actions to the group compass, but you can't defer your personal measure of right and wrong.

The group compass relies on the individual measures to get some final heading. If you defer your compass to whatever the group compass is saying, the group compass has no grounding anymore, and it starts spinning.

Individuals are the only source of what's right and wrong. You can choose some formula that integrates those individual readings into some group reading. And then you can develop laws based on that group reading. And then you can choose to act in accord with those laws. But all those layers are built up on teh individual readings.

This whole thing started because some people were declaring that Buckley was an evil man. Then some others came in and said you can't do that. Someone sarcastically said something like "We can do it because we're clearly right."

Well, yeah, we can. Anyone can say that Buckley clearly walked a path opposite of the direction of their own personal compass. If the idea of Free Speech is meant to be a component of the formula for calculating the group compass heading, it is in that Free Speech is how the individual compasses are measured, are made known.

Buckley was wrong. Don't tell me we're supposed to defer that judgement to the group compass.

If there is an ideal form for democracy, I say it would be individuals calling out their individual headings and the group finding a common way. Which means the individuals must not shirk what they see as right and wrong. That is the sole input into the democratic process: Individuals rendering their judgement.

It was to those who were saying we cannot judge Buckley because that makes us just as bad as the Republicans, that I say we cannot defer our individual judgment or it will make us worse than the republicans.

#361 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:56 AM:

I do think that breaking it, damages the fabric of all laws. Where a law is in drastic contravention of norms, then there will be two directions of contempt. In the first case the people will see the "leaders" as having contempt for them. This breeds unrest.

In the second, the people will come to doubt not just the laws which are out of keeping, but all the other laws. THey will become contemptous of the system.

Take that far enough and the system will break.

Terry, thank you for this. This is what I was trying, clumsily, to enunciate in my agreement with abi and my response to the conversation.

#362 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Faren @358:

I specifically said (in comment 315) that I do not worship the law. This isn't nitpicking; I don't revere it either, nor pray to it, nor whatever flavor you want to give that. I don't think it's magical, or special. I know other people in this conversation think I do, but I don't quite know where they're getting it, and it kinda bugs me.

What I do is value the law* as a useful tool for making society work. I think that a society that does not have the rule of law would be a much worse place to live in. And I learned years ago that if you take care of your tools, they are there when you need them.

I no more worship the law than I do my best bone folder.

-----
* or, if you prefer, the rule of law: the concept that the basic structure of our interactions can be codified, agreed upon, referred to and reformed by the community, and that obedience to those rules is equally binding on us all

#363 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Terry, heresiarch, Serge and Nicole, I'm with you guys. Busy, underslept, not holding my end of the conversation up, but nodding as I read your comments.

#364 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:38 AM:

Serge #357: That lays out the basic problem: Law exists to protect us both from each other and from those who enforce the law. There are always those who want to go 'above' or 'around' the law in the interest of security or safety. Do that, and there is none sure as Shiretalk.

Curiously, a descendant of More and Roper emailed me the other day to ask about my thoughts regarding the retirement of Fidel Castro.

#365 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:48 AM:

Serge: It was on TCM (IIRC) just this past thurdsay. I came in late (where the servant was telling his wife they'd not stay for a reduction in wages). So my favorite exchange (which is that one) was misssed, but I did get to see him ubraid Rich with the question, "and for Wales?".

#366 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Nicole and Terry: This can be put another way, which avoids reifying "The Law":

Any given set of rules for society applies, in particular, to a corresponding community. If those rules are to be actually enforced, they need to be accepted by the community! Not necessarily liked, but accepted -- even under duress.

But, the inclusion of "under duress" above, reveals the point that such community acceptance of a ruleset isn't just a matter of logical analysis, or conformance to Ideal Justice; it also depends on the underlying balance of power.

When the rule was "blacks ride in the back of the bus", that could be enforced not only because of police power, but because of the bus lines' monopoly -- blacks "had no choice", because all the buses had the same rules, and could tell them "follow our rules, or you can walk, ha ha". When they did walk, that had the effect of not only shifting the power balance, but scaring the hell out of the top dogs -- because those people were effectively abandoning that part (bus-riding) of the community.

And if they were willing to walk rather than use a segregated "public" bus, who knew what other rules they might flat-out reject? Given the economic "ground truths" and political divisions of the era, even the segregationist leaders were facing a "bend or break" test. (And some of them indeed broke!)

#367 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Terry Karney @ 365... Drat. I think I'll buy the movie's DVD. Until I lay my mitts on it, here is a YouTube link to More's defense of the Devil... er... of John Hurt.

#368 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:31 PM:

abi @ 363... I thought you were doing fine myself. How is the househunt going?

#369 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:32 PM:

albatross @ 355: "Imagine using birth control in 1950, in some state that banned its use with widespread popular support. My sense is that a lot of the arguers here are saying that was wrong, that people should not have quietly used birth control despite the law, but should instead have either obeyed the law or violated it openly in protest. I don't see the sense in this. Civil disobedience is a political/social tactic, but it only works if there's support for your position. The same tactics would have almost certainly failed bloodily in 1920."

There's an relevant quote here from King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively....Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

The use of birth control didn't magically become acceptable in the second half of the twentieth century. It became acceptable because people, beginning as far back as the 1920s, spent their lives advocating for it.

I'm not going to demonize those who chose to silently use birth control. One of the bedrock parts of my political philosophy is that no one can be a warrior all the time--you fight when you can, and survive when you can't. But I wonder how many conversations deploring the use of birth control occurred where both parties had a little secret of their own, and how much faster birth control would have gained acceptance if they'd had the courage to speak out.

I'd also like to point out that it's exactly the sort of absolute faith in one's own moral judgement that many are advocating here that allows people to authorize illegal wiretaps on their fellow citizens, torture their enemies, and treat human misery as just another business expense. None of those would survive public scrutiny. King's protests did. It's very easy to tell everyone to follow their own moral compass; it's much more difficult to deal with the fact that some of those compasses belong to sociopaths.

Serge @ 357: Wow, that sounds like a good movie. Would I be exposing my ignorance too much if I asked what it's called?

abi @ 363: Trying to hold up one's end in this conversation surpasses any mortal's capacity. =)

#370 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:42 PM:

Heresiarch @ 369... It's called "A Man for All Seasons", from 1966. You won't regret seeing it.

#371 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:04 PM:

abi #362: I no more worship the law than I do my best bone folder.

I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the fact that abi needs to fold bones often enough that she has more than one bone folder, or that the technology exists at all.

#372 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Earl @371:
The cover story is that bone folders are shaped pieces of cow bone, smoothed and polished, that bookbinders use to fold paper (and do numerous other binding tasks).

The reality, of course, is that I find troll management on Making Light to be a far, far gentler alternative to my other pastimes, rather like a brigand who also maintains an Elizabethan knot garden.

#373 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:16 PM:

abi @ 372... numerous other binding tasks

Dare I ask what those might be, or what an Elizabethan knot garden is?

#374 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 01:28 PM:

David Harmon: The bus is a bad analogy. One couldn't break that law in secret, and boycotting wasn't breaking the law.

So in both respects the examples are in support of the Rule of Law.

Am I reifying it? Some. But I'd rather moderately reify an ideal of the common good, than reify the idea the individual is gets to decide which aspects of the social contract to avoid.

If I want to live apart from laws, I can do it; pretty much. The hinterlands of Montana, or the wilds of the Manitoba will afford me lots of freedom from pesky interaction with others. Absent that level of remove, I have to interact with others.

Those interaction need regulation; lest we slip to Hobbseian war of all against all.

Look at the idea that the President gets to say, "these people were working for me, Congress can't questionm them." Thats a violation of The Rule of Law, more than it's a violation the actual law.

That his lap-dog says, "He says it, that settles it." is worse. What else will he aceded to? The Saturday Night Massacre was glorious, in it's tragedy, because Nixon had to go down to Bork to find a person willing to say he was entitled to get his way, just because he was president.

If each man is to be his own moral compass... who then can say what is wrong? "Some folks just need killin'" isn't untrue.

To quote Nanky-poo, I have a little list. People I am morally certain the world would be better off without (not just those whom the absence of would ease my life). Wherefore should I refrain?

abi: Thanks, it's hard. It's a funny thing, to be in a place where the violations of the rule of law are being decried, to see that same rule cast as a lousy thing to hold in high regard.

#375 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 12:41 PM:

When this was first resurrected, I thought Buckley had died again.

I move we retitle this thread "William F. Buckley, still dead".

#376 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 07:49 PM:

There's something wrong with the site, I think. But last night there was no text coming up for me at all in the central column, so things are improving.

#377 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 07:53 PM:

Oh, right, ahem. Hadn't looked at the open thread.

[whistles]

#378 ::: Janus Daniels ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 03:08 PM:

As seconds spent checking confirm, Buckley did repudiate incredibly stupid and destructive things that he wrote half a century ago, and incredibly stupid and destructive things that he did more recently. Far too late for any good, but he did it. He devoted his public life to an ideologic edifice, and began to publicly recognize it as a Halloween horror house (but for real) before he died. May we die better.
We all suffer from some delusions that lead us to do harm, even when we intend the opposite. Buckley suffered from more than his share.
We have a duty to seek, expose, and repair delusion. Buckley had Chomsky on TV once.
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=BUCKLEY+CHOMSKY&search_type=
It consisted of Buckley talking, and Chomsky correcting him, for an hour. Buckley didn't shout over Chomsky, or turn off Chomsky's mic, or doctor the tape, or lie about what Chomsky said; that beats any right wing talk show today... and Buckley never brought Chomsky back on TV; that flunks.
Buckley: good friend and failed citizen.
May we seek the mote in our own eye, as well as exposing the beam in his.
Most importantly, may we find ways to persuade people to accept the truth, and even appreciate the truth, instead of denying it.

#379 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 03:52 PM:

You say good friend and failed citizen.

Well, that's the bloody point isn't it; failed citizen, who is known for his public life, and who left for the rest of us the fruits of his failure.

Accepting, arguendo, that he did repudiate the things he said (though the evidence of the thread calls your facile comment that, "seconds spent checking confirm(s)" any such thing) he didn't do it with any great publicity.

Elstwise the natterring nabobs of the Conservative Movement (his practical heirs, who carry on the worst aspects of the things he needed to repudiate) wouldn't be so eager to keep his sainted memory to their bosom.

By his deeds is he measured, and his deeds, do his memory no credit.

#380 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 03:57 PM:

Sigh...we're missing a lot of the comments here. Noted for future retrieval.

#381 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 04:02 PM:

I've retrieved it from the cache; the last comment was March 11.

Time to start looking through old threads again.

#382 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 04:05 PM:

I take it that thread #106 will be repopulated later. I only ask because I wanted to mention that Jay Lake (jaylake.livejournal.com) recently found that he has cancer.

#383 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 04:28 PM:

Anyone feeling like a quest, see Brooks Moses' comments on Evilrooster Crows and continue the track back into the past. Save as html, zip, and send to me, Patrick and Teresa.

(Crossposting this to the relevant restoration thread as well.)

#384 ::: Rich Gonzalez ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:51 PM:

There's nothin more racist than Liberals' policy of low expectations and lowering standards when it comes to dealing with minorities. The liberal racists and their minority lemmings who run our major cities are the ones you guys should be going after. Generations lost and being lost because of their policies and you guys are harp on words uttered in 1957...19 freakin' 57. lol

Hypocrites.

#386 ::: Carrie S. spots a troll ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:06 PM:

I count seven Troll Bingo squares. Anyone else care to give it a go?

#387 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:38 PM:

A genuine conservative would know that the past matters. Even the distant hazy reaches of 1957.

This one is probably just a hero-worshipper, likely in the sulks because, despite our alleged "racism of low expectations", the current candidate for the Supreme Court is both a minority and well-qualified.

The conservative reaction, of course, has been to call her a "Quota queen," harp on her ethnicity, and ignore her qualifications. Because, as it turns out, the past matters to them too. Even the distant hazy reaches of 1957.

#388 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:51 PM:

Yeah, 1957. There's no statute of limitations on racism.

Moron.

#389 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 04:39 PM:

Abi @ 387... the distant hazy reaches of 1957

1957..
Sputnik.
"Earth vs the Flying Saucers"

#390 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 05:07 PM:

I'm hearing Eddie Izzard's voice in my head.

"This hotel was built <tone of significance>over fifty years ago...</tone of significance>"

*listener gasps* "No, surely not! Nobody was alive then!"

#391 ::: OtterB sees non-English spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2010, 08:40 PM:

Only "Visa" "Mastercard" and a gmail address are readable by me

#392 ::: [спам удален] ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 07:11 AM:

[столб от 91.214.45.103]

#393 ::: Mary Dell sees Russian spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 07:15 AM:

"NachniZarabotai" is not, alas, a Clark Ashton Smith character.

#394 ::: Xopher HalfTongue says "O gods, another massive wave of spam" ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:18 AM:

Spam

#395 ::: Cassy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2014, 10:20 PM:

Insulting spam @395. I think that's a first...

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