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February 26, 2011

Posted by Patrick at 10:17 PM *




Comments on Civilization:
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2011, 10:47 PM:

Nice idea. From your mouth (fingers?) to G-d's ears (eyes?).

(Though I'm still not at all sanguine about the idea that there is a need to cut Government--especially when it's mostly transfer payments--in the face of demographic realities.)

#2 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2011, 10:49 PM:

But what would we call it?

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2011, 11:07 PM:




#4 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2011, 11:31 PM:

I was just wondering why I haven't seen any commentary from ML about this. (Or have I just missed it?) Thank you for posting!

It's not just collective bargaining though, and it's disgraceful what's happening here. I am convinced Walker snuck things into the bill knowing full well that the union-busting efforts would grab the media's attention, and hoping that nobody would notice the rest. I've been watching the Assembly proceedings while they were in session and one of the Democratic lawmakers pointed out that this should have been TWELVE bills, not one.

Additionally, what the Assembly Republicans did on Friday was absolutely shameful and disgusting. I had sent an email to Speaker Pro Tempore, Bill Kramer earlier in the week commending him for the way he had been presiding over the session and his fairness -- after the stunt he pulled Friday night though I wanted to email him again to tell him "I take it back" though.

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2011, 11:45 PM:

No, no, no.

The People Spoke last November.

Americans are angry about the deficit runaway spending and want smaller government.

Labor unions are to blame.

Elections Have Consequences.

Repeat the above to yourself until you believe them, and drink Victory Gin until the shame and pain no longer stings.

Try it! You'll soon have plenty of influential friends who think just like you.

#6 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:08 AM:

Why, we would call it the Gaspee Party, of course.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:38 AM:

I kind of like the 'Highball Party': lead, follow, get out of the way, or be run over by the oncoming history train.

Also, kiddies who play on the tracks when the train is coming get picked up and sent home to their parents ... once. After that, they're expected to know better.

#8 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:41 AM:

Stefan @5

They've increased my gin ration until I'd have to save it up for a whole year to get that drunk, though.

#9 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:59 AM:

For a party name, I'm partial to the Forward Party or maybe the Badger Party, but I'm a little biased toward my adopted home state.

#10 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 03:36 AM:

You might have more sympathizers than you'd expect. Speaking as a (UK) libertarian, I don't love government tax-and-spend - including, be it noted, its privatized aspects, where we get to pay money to companies we would rather leave alone. And speaking as a man who is not stone bonkers: a lot of things the government does, I'd work an hour overtime a day if they'd only cut those things out in return. But. But. But.

However much bread the government needs, it might at least have the justice and decency to look first to the rolls the Drones' Club are throwing at each other, and last to the crust on its way to the street-sweeper's mouth. This is the reverse of the present situation, or indeed any situation that has obtained during my lifetime. That is not on. Nor is the oligarchs' playful habit of passing round the Government Hat so they can put it on in order to take from anybody handy, then take it off again in order to trouser the proceeds. Anybody who defends our welcome plutocratic masters in the name of the free market is on ground almost as substantial as those who want the Gummint's hands off their Medicare - or, for that matter, those who condemn free exchange as a euphemism for rule by fat cats.

I don't want people paying lots of taxes! But I do want any taxes to be raised equally and impartially. If offshore tax-havens are an important way of keeping government honest, very well. We live in the internet age, where remote transactions are profoundly trivial. Let me, on my humble basic-rate salary, also incorporate myself on some lucky 5% tax island as an international education and bottle-washing strategic consultancy; and let everybody else from baron to barrow-boy do likewise.

The excuse will be made that this would be catastrophic. Okay. Then why do our rulers' bankrollers and boon companions, who need the odd tenner a lot less than I, get to do it either? Because to achieve our present paradise, we have a tax code that reaches from here to the Moon and back again, so that only the obscenely rich and lawyered-up can reap its rewards.

No. No. No. I'm only in favour of half UK Uncut's programme, but arguably even that's more of the Tea Party's actual, manifest programme than I can be having with. They are spontaneous disobedience to squawking nonsense, and I hope that good things may come of it.

#11 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 05:19 AM:

Even more than before in the US, if you don't have money you don't matter. Here's Matt Taibbi calmly explaining why no one one Wall Street served time for the massive fraud that almost brought down our financial system, or ever will, which includes some interesting background on the Governor of Wisconsin:

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 06:06 AM:

The difference between socialism and capitalism is that in one the politicians run the country on behalf of their cronies, while in the other the politicians run the country on behalf of their cronies.

#13 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 08:23 AM:

@Rob Thank you for the link!

#14 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 08:30 AM:

It should also be noted that among Walker's first acts in office was to turn down over a billion in federal funds for high speed rail -- a project that would have brought a whole bunch of good solid jobs to his state plus built up badly needed infrastructure.

When I see an administration like Walker's voted in, I go back to Richard Nixon's "The American people get the government they deserve." Alas.

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 09:47 AM:

And just to rope in Patrick's Sidelight, What is conservativism?

I don't agree with every point, and even today the tone sounds a bit shrill... but Phil Agre's essay doesn't sound nearly as alarmist or bizarre as it would have when it was written in 2004. :-( (I wonder if his going "off the grid" represented his final political prognostication!)

#16 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 10:44 AM:

David @ 16: I disagree with more than half of it - starting with its definition of conservatism - and I still think it's so interesting and useful that I immediately committed my own blog post about it. Many thanks to Patrick for drawing it to my attention!

I wouldn't call it shrill, alarmist, or bizarre, particularly given the provocative nature of its thesis. Polemical, sure. I wonder if generalized 'conservative' suspicion of government actually makes arguments about sinister conservative government designs sound inherently more reasonable to its possessors than they might to moderate liberals? That would make sense to me, but the phenomenon isn't as obviously widespread as I'd wish, so I conclude that it only works for me because I'm not a conservative.

Which - the restricted applicability, I mean - is rather a shame, really.

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 11:43 AM:

The task of government is to serve the people. Present-day conservatism is engaged in redefining 'the people' to mean 'the rich'.

#18 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:05 PM:

The Coffee Party does exist. It doesn't have billionaire backers or a "news" network pushing it, though.

#19 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Dave Bell @ 12: What is this, political dadaist hour? Free-style cliche battle? I would think that unions fighting for their right to collectively bargain against politicians cutting corporate taxes in the midst of a recession would offer the clearest possible distinction between socialism and capitalism.

#20 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 01:04 PM:

Rob, #11: That's depressing. If he's right, then we're already hosed with no hope of being able to fix the problem, and all our efforts in WI and elsewhere are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2011, 04:18 PM:

I'm in. It makes me completely crazy to dread the list of American companies that pay no US taxes. ExxonMobil. GM. Bof A, Wells Fargo, the list goes on. No taxes. None. While paying their executives obscene amounts of money.

#22 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 02:41 AM:

Looks like we've started.

#23 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 11:56 AM:

Lawrence @ 18 -- I'd watch US Uncut before I'd look to the Coffee Party for leadership. Early days yet, but US Uncut seems a little more grounded and well-organized at the top.

#24 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 02:00 PM:

Margaret, #22: Interesting! Especially given that one of the Teahad talking points is "millions of [poor] people who don't pay a single penny in taxes" (false on the face of it, as even the poor have to pay sales tax), pointing out that billion-dollar corporations are paying no taxes at all is a good counter-argument.

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 03:46 PM:

Political joke that's floating around online:

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 07:27 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 17:

The task of government is to serve the people.
Present-day conservatism is a cook book.

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 07:38 PM:

The first order of business of any progressive party has to be breaking the cone of silence the MSM has built around progressive actions. There would be a lot more support for progressivism, and a lot less apathy about conservatism, if the extent of the dissatisfaction with the way things are going to the right in this country were made clear. Demonstrations need to be reported on and the truth about the use of Shock Doctrine needs to be made clear to everyone in the US. The lies about how the current economic crisis occurred need to be shown up for their falsity, and not just on Naked Capitalism and FireDogLake, but also in the NY Times and on network TV news. I don't know how to do this myself; I keep hoping someone out there does know and will start working on it soon.

#28 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2011, 09:57 PM:

Bruce Cohen wins the Internetz for #26.

Regarding #27, the problem is that the media outlets are in the swill up to their eyelashes. On the Internet itself, we can get our message out to anyone who wants to listen -- and that's the rub. Online, the key will be getting the messages out of our "bubbles" and into other peoples' bubbles. One key there is to be cross-pollinators: put your knitting articles on the same blog as you put your political rants, or have links back and forth.

In meatspace -- that's a tougher story, because the big media companies still have damn big establishments and lots of money. Maybe start printing small-scale "indie newspapers" fed from online content?

#29 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2011, 04:06 AM:

Perhaps one of the Teabaggers are doing is demonstrating an apparent possibility of causing change by getting organised. They're fake as all hell, and the media bias is huge, but maybe more people are going to try, and they'll start noticing the bias and fakery.

It's not much of a benefit.

#30 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2011, 06:31 AM:

David Harmon @ 28: Indeed, the best you will ever get most of the MSM to do is play catch-up. This gives you three other constituencies.

One is 'moderates', i.e. people who believe or wish to believe that the status quo would be fine if a few egregious villains were reined in. These are the audience whom the MSM are mostly chasing, and in great part satisfying.

The second is a bloc of cynics and indifferentists who either don't believe anything better is possible, or lack the time, energy, or heart to care. The traditional way of getting people out of this bloc is to scream hell and doom until they are panicked into paying attention. You presumptively don't want to do this, and that niche is amply populated already.

The third and most fertile IMO are those people who already share part of your interests and discontents, but presently draw hostile rather than friendly conclusions from them. These definitional fellow-cranks are the ones you can reach, via the net of a thousand turnings - even though they mostly inhabit your political opponents' bubbles. But there is a cost to this sort of wedge-driving, and that is operating in a damned abrasive environment in order to do it. It hurts; it drains; it requires a huge effort to refrain from the natural instinct to snark at the stupidly snark-worthy. And when done honestly - the only way - it requires a level of faith in one's interlocutors, and openness to the corruption of one's own notions, that is all too nearly the very devil to sustain.

I am not good at this. I am also not coming from a lot of the same places most Fluorospherians are coming from, and getting a bit better at it is one of my reasons for trying to engage a bit more fully over here. I hate making heat, especially in the kitchen I am standing in; and it is just too easy to lurk profitably without - in either sense - giving anything back.

But I think it's the only way, or a big part of it. You can have duelling spin machines, but you can't fight the reduction of things to spin by building anything like a better ping-pong robot. Balance, wherever any of us thinks it lies, is a short-term defensive answer at best. Networked peer-to-peer engagement; ragged rabble concerts like your imagined indie-newspaper swarm; creating safe spaces and attractive channels where audience and speakers can come out of their existing alliance-based comfort zones - those aren't the optimal way to win an existing contest, but I think they're the way to getting a prize worth the struggle.

Here more than most places, I see a lot of awareness of how desirable and hard such things are, even amongst people who agree on wide swathes of things already.

So I'm moved to put myself forward a bit more, to subvert and be subverted.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2011, 09:46 AM:

Bruce Cohen #26: True, with a strong preference for fricasee.

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