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January 4, 2012

Politics open thread 1
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:30 PM * 579 comments

It is the privilege of the moderator to pull excellent comments onto the front page. In that spirit, I direct your attention to this contribution by John A Arkansawyer in the Open Thread:

I’ve been thinking about something since giving a talk at the local Occupation about lessons from the Civil Rights Movement for Occupy, and this is, I think, the place I have to share it.

There were three great rights movements in America with material causes stemming from World War II: the human rights of Blacks, women, and gays and lesbians. There’s a working consensus, ranging from a huge majority to a bare one, for equal rights for those classes in principle; in practice there’s still a fight, but now it’s about how to get what’s right, not what is right.

At the same time, the relative prosperity of the post-war labor truce allowed a more comfortable living for more Americans. Eventually, that truce broke down and economic inequality began its rise.

During this period, those rights movements were still able to make progress, but this progress came at a price. More and more, some of us found ourselves defending the rights of people to enter, on a non-discriminatory basis, an economic and social elite which we considered illegitimate in the first place. Is it progress when Empire is furthered by Colin Powell or Hillary Clinton?

The logic of equal rights under an unfair system means exactly that. I personally find the end result distasteful, but then, that’s how I felt about the result of the N*z*s marching at Skokie. Human rights are absolutes. If defending that principle means some people who benefit from it do bad things with those rights? That’s on their conscience and a new addition to my fix-it list.

Defending those human rights comes at a personal and political cost, and I’ve been happy to pay it over the years, especially during the ones when it seemed nothing would end plutocracy and war.

Now, right now, there is suddenly, for whatever reason, a resurgence of unrest which has broken the frame of market fundamentalism. Through that break, other things than an awareness of economic inequality have come through. Some of them are just plain bad, some are trivial, and a few are fundamental. Civil liberties in a broad sense is one and ending the endless war is another.

Right now, those appear to be possibilities, items on the agenda, that haven’t been there for some time. Those three biggies—economic inequality, civil liberties, endless war—are no less important to me than the rights movements (for which I will also continue to fight) and no less important to others. I want those on whose side I’ve put myself, for good, in this with me.

This is a time to take risks.

There is no one piece of progress, I think, so precious that it may not be risked for any other.

The historical example making that point in my talk was the Birmingham civil rights battle of 1963, where a depleted leadership sent children onto marches and into attack dogs, fire hoses, beatings, and jail. It was a terrible thing to risk, and taking that risk was the right decision, both tactically and morally. It has become one of my touchstones when I am troubled.

I would ask those of you who focus yourselves on various worthy causes you and I both support to consider what changes you might be willing to risk at this remarkable time in history.

On the one hand, I agree with John: this does appear to be a chance for some of the big issues of our day to make it back into the national discourse. But my agreement is balanced by a concern for the fate of reforms left half-completed. As I said in the ill-fated Ron Paul thread:

…there’s no reform deader than a half-completed and abandoned one.* If we lose this stuff now, we lose it for years. There are people who already make it their electoral platform to ensure that we do.

It would have to be a pretty iron-clad guarantee of tangible progress in the other issues [genuine engagement with the wider world on an equal basis, the reining-in of corporatocracy, and reversing the steady erosion of civil rights for the population as a whole] to make me risk what we have and what we are building. I probably would, though, if it were in the offing. But I don’t know that other liberals would, particularly not gays, not at this stage of things.

But I’m not seeing that kind of chance in any candidate, not even Paul.

——-
* ERA, anyone? And health care was an order of magnitude harder because of Clinton.

In my more pessimistic moments, I think that the tension between these two concerns is the civics equivalent of trying to choose between predestination and free will: if they’re not both true, we’re screwed anyway, so why pick?

In a more optimistic turn of mind, I know that it is choices like these that make politics more of an art than a science. Furthermore, since the pursuit of excellence in art is one of the classical roads to wisdom, these are the moments that show us not just what we are, but what we can become.

Comments on Politics open thread 1:
#1 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Repeating my comment from Open Thread 168, minus the anchor tag that got it gnomed.

John A Arkansawyer:

I think that the times when the most progress was made on human rights was when all the issues were confronted at once. The 1960's was such a time; it's not merely rhetoric that led the movement to be called "Peace and Freedom", and Martin Luther King, Jr. was explicit in his pleas for freedom that it must include economic equality and the end of imperialism.

One of the objections to Occupy has been that it lacks focus, that it must find some one issue and concentrate on that to the exclusion of anything else in order to be successful. I think that not only is that a veiled attempt to derail the movement, as we've discussed here, but that it's fundamentally wrong. All those issues of rights, equality, and peace are tangled together1, and trying to deal with just one or two at a time has often meant that we lose ground on the remaining ones.

1. Some of the reasons I believe this will sound like conspiracy theories, so I don't want to get into that discussion just now. Suffice to say that activism in these areas attacks the privilege of a relatively small group, and that the group is approximately the same for all the issues.

#2 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 04:46 PM:

Is it progress when Empire is furthered by Colin Powell or Hillary Clinton?

This is a riddle I've been wrestling with for a while. The only reason Powell and Clinton were let into the inner circle is because they showed an aptitude for furthering the cause of the ruling class. The Princes said,"yes, they can come in." but only because Powell and Clinton already believed in what Empire was building. The Princes were never going to let Malcolm X or Emma Goldman into the temple, and short of that happening, no real change was ever going to come form the inside.

We deluded ourselves into hoping that Obama would be our champion, an outsider who could walk like an insider and really push for change. But it turns out the Ring really does have but one ruler.

So the answer to that riddle is no, it's not progress. It's a political moonwalk where it only looks like you're moving forward but are really walking backwards.

I'd like to think that it doesn't have to be so, that we could have real change in this country without having to resort to revolution to get it. But I'm starting to have my doubts.

#3 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 04:58 PM:

Abi:

"If we lose this stuff now, we lose it for years."

But will you lose it? Remember that Bush's cabinet was more diverse than Clinton's, and that the Log Cabin Republicans ended DADT, not Obama, and for a brief moment, the frontrunner for both the Tea Party and the Republicans in general was a black man whose campaign was derailed for a classic "white male" reason: a sex scandal.

Keith:

"We deluded ourselves into hoping that Obama would be our champion, an outsider..."

What outsider? Obama has been true to his class all his life. What Adolph Reed Jr. noted of him in 1996 is true today: "In Chicago, for instance, we've gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices: one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous to repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program - the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle class reform in favoring form over substances."

#4 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Keith Kisser... We deluded ourselves into hoping that Obama would be our champion, an outsider who could walk like an insider and really push for change

I don't think I'm the only one who did not delude himself. Yes, I breathed a sigh of relief when he won because I could easily imagine how BAD things would have with the other bunch in the Oval Office. Or am I deluding myself when I think he's not as bad?

#5 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:18 PM:

Serge -- I'd say you're deluding yourself. Obama is the first 'Democrat'* who is actively advocating cutting and/or changing Social Security. He's blissfully happy at the idea of gutting the safety net, and he has no problem with vacating the entire Bill of Rights as well.

The only change Social Security needs is to raise the cap on income subject to the OASDI tax -- right now we only pay taxes on income up to $106,800 -- this change alone would insure that we would be able to pay full benefits up to 2075.

The only reason there's a cap is that those who designed said cap believed that anyone making more than $106K wouldn't file for benefits when they became eligible. (Riiiiiight)

I voted for Obama because I didn't want Caribou Barbie a heartbeat away from the Oval Office. Otherwise, Zero was NEVER my candidate.

*This is the reason I call him a Republican in a donkey suit...

#6 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:25 PM:

I see two radically opposed views in play here.

One, pushed by the power elite, considers "all this equality stuff" to be so much power politics, just a collection of separate groups each fighting to gain power. And their attitude is, nobody gets power without paying for it or fighting for it. The basic motivations are fear and greed -- "they're trying to take our power".

The other view comes repeatedly from below, and it's simpler: These are all human beings. Human beings should be able to live their lives, love who they wish, and seek to better their fortunes, without being arbitrarily smacked down for "getting above their station". Indeed, their proper "station" is equal to the folks who are trying to keep them down. The basic motivations here are empathy (from which springs charity and generosity), and community (that "goodwill towards all" thing).

Seems to me, this comes down to an ancient moral choice... yep, that classic conflict of Good vs. Evil (at least, aspects thereof). Evil wants to exact a price for every gain, and keep out-groups permanently subordinate. Good wants to actually stand by both America's promise of equality, and the American Dream.

This does not mean the forces of Good can't, or shouldn't, sully their hands with power politics -- there's no other way to take the fight to the finish but to go onto hostile territory. But when doing so, we need to recognize that we are fighting on hostile, and very dangerous territory. And we need to be careful about what weapons we pick up, lest we be corrupted ourselves....

#7 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:33 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 5... Serge -- I'd say you're deluding yourself.

I'm not sure I can live with myself after having had the unvarnished truth thus forced upon me.

#8 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:05 PM:

Let's face it, there hasn't been a Democratic President since Carter who had any real connection to the party's liberal tradition. Clinton was a moderate Republican in terms of his political positions. Obama is a centrist Republican, more conservative (in the modern sense of the term) than even Clinton. The modern Democratic Party, whatever its history, is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Which is not to say that it can't be used as a tool when necessary; I agree that it was necessary to vote for Obama to prevent McCain and Palin from being elected. It's important to remember that while Palin is nutbar crazy, McCain isn't crazy, he's evil; a military officer who wants war (and no, that's not a requirement for the job, just the opposite), and is willing to send America's youth into battle for his own aggrandizement. If he had been elected I'm fairly certain we'd already be at war with Iran. It may be we've only delayed that war by a few years, but there was no way to know how quickly Obama would cosy up to the imperial strategy of forever war; McCain's already in bed with it.

Which means that the changes that need to be made in America's political and economic fabric can't be made completely within the system; neither major political party wants those changes, and the game is rigged to keep the minor parties out. But I think it's always been necessary to have a large component of the movement for change outside the system, to act as a lever and a threat of what could happen to those running the system if they don't make some changes. And to act as a resort if it proves impossible to get those changes from inside. That's been the role of groups like the Black Panthers, the Communist Party (before it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the FBI), and the Wobblies. The Powers That Be understand that, which is why those groups come under attack as soon as they become visible. It should be clear from the attacks on dissent in Minneapolis during the last election cycle and the reaction to Occupy in the last few months that the PTB believe they are under attack, and that they're not going to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules.

#9 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:17 PM:

When I referred to Obama as an outsider, I meant to say he's not a member of the ruling class. He grew up poor, unlike his predecessor, George II.

I, along with lot of people, hoped that having that poor upbringing would bring President Obama a certain perspective, that he wouldn't forget where he came from and the hard times had by many Americans still in that place. Turns out, those of us who thought this were deluding ourselves. The process that turns you into a legitimate presidential contender removes all perspective, surgically.

In order to become a politician in 21st Century America, you have to believe in the Empire. Turns out absolute power is not only corrupting, it's self sorting.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:19 PM:

On how to get things done in politics: long ago, a fellow who knew a thing or two on the subject said 'it is better to be impetuous than cautious' after advising knowing what you were doing, and making sure that you had the common people rather than the wealthy on your side. Wise fellow, Machiavelli.

#11 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:24 PM:

Keith @9, Obama didn't grow up poor. When he lived abroad, his mother had servants. His grandmother, the bank VP, got him into an expensive private school in Hawaii, and he continued being educated at upperclass schools for the rest of his academic life. He went into the White House from a million dollar house.

#12 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:41 PM:

Obama?! Grew up poor!!! It is to laugh -- IIRC he attended Punahou* -- one of the most expensive private schools in Hawai'i.

Ooops I see Keith Kisser beat me to the punch...

*See Michener's Hawai'i.

#13 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 07:43 PM:

ARGH -- the dread misattribution strikes -- I meant Will Shetterly...

#14 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 08:36 PM:

From somebody who lives here, a note about Punahou School, the private school which Obama attended (on a scholarship): it's always been expensive and it's always been exclusive.

As to servants when he lived in Indonesia, I would imagine that many people of Ann Dunham's economic class had household help in that country, which was far poorer in the 1960s than it is today. Hell, when we lived in Puerto Rico in 1954 we had a maid. We were living on a Navy lieutenant's salary, which looks to have been $326.04/month.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 08:37 PM:

The gnomes have gotten me for either two URLs or use of a non-obvious Word of Power.

#16 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:25 PM:

So apparently I'm not just hopelessly idealistic, I fell for the propaganda too. I'm going to just... go sit over here and cry. Just a little.

#17 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:30 PM:

Keith, if the gnomes release my comment you'll learn it wasn't all propaganda. He went to Punahou on a scholarship, not on a cash basis.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 09:39 PM:

5
I'm with you on that. Including Mr O being a Republican with the wrong label. (I keep telling people in my newspaper's comment sections that he isn't Communist, Marxist, or socialist: he's a Reagan Republican. He's even said so himself.)

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:06 PM:

Linkmeister @15, a lot of spam is of the form "My sister makes [amount of money]/[week|month] working from home with her computer!" I can't imagine the spam-guards being happy with dollars-per-month as linked text.

#20 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:17 PM:

I'd really like someone to tell me ONE way in which McCain was better than Obama. OK, experience, but experience being a dumbass about things like deregulation.

Because that was the choice. I didn't support Obama because I thought he was an avatar of Vishnu; I supported him because John McCain was a fucking lunatic who wanted to be at war with everyone forever, and because Republicans don't fucking know how to govern (viz. eight years of the stupidest decisions EVER).

Remember that we can only choose from the alternatives we're given by our insane political process.

#21 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:21 PM:

On the bright side, I'm reminded why I love Making Light so much: reality checks like this. Also, it reinforces that I need to do a bit more in depth research and be more skeptical, especially when I want to believe something that sounds too good to be true.

And how sad is it that the concept of a Populist Lefty Democrat is now a thing of fairy tales?

#22 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:40 PM:

#20 Xopher: Yes! Thank you for saying it so succinctly

#23 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:53 PM:

re 20: That's really what it is coming down to for me, depressingly. The Republican congress is so, well, bad in pretty much any way possible that having a Democrat for president is trumping every other consideration.

#24 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:57 PM:

In the original Democracy, the Greeks voted by dropping black or white stones into a jar. White for yes, black for no. A simple majority took the vote.

How hard would it be, in modern times, to allow every citizen to register on-line, simply, freely, instantaneously, and to vote on a certain number of ballot issues brought before the people by its own government?

The logistics of implementation, when you consider them, are complex, but not overly daunting in the grand scheme of things.

This "general referendum" would open up a whole new strategy in Congressional talks. (You could require a 60% popular vote if you wanted.) Also, perhaps, a more advanced system of checks and balances.

#25 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:00 PM:

Falling in love with your spouse is a great idea. Falling in love with politicians, not so much.

#26 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:07 PM:

DanR: it would be extremely, extremely difficult.

The problem with online voting is this: all of the ways that we have to validate the *integrity* of the data depend in some fashion on knowledge of *identity*. We know this 'vote' on the central server is good because it matches to this 'vote' sent by this client at this time.

A lot of people have said, in my industry, that there's a three way trade off between speed, quality, and cost. Anything you do to maximize one undermines the other.

In online voting, we have a three way trade off between security (is the vote counting accurate), secrecy (not knowing who cast a particular vote), and usability (there are systems which are both secure and secret but they all involve convoluted user interfaces which the average person won't want to use.

#27 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:07 PM:

DanR, too many of the decisions are too complicated. People can't spend all their time studying up on them; that's what we have politicians for. And we'd get decisions made by stupidity and have to put up with "issue ads" 24/7/365.25.

This would SUCK. The fact that the politicians aren't doing their job of representing us means the system is profoundly sick, but direct democracy would be a disaster.

#28 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:52 PM:

Xopher,

The popular vote wouldn't work for the vast majority of bills, but it could work for some. I agree, we are politically inundated already; why not focus our attention onto issues instead of caricatured candidates and hollow rhetorical jib-jabbery?

Robert West,

Extremely difficult, yes.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:56 PM:

Xopher@#20: Yes, exactly.

I'd rather have to accept broken promises, some spinelessness, and a bit of hypocrisy than a president McCain who fully accepted, right from the get-go, the neoconservative agenda. With a running mate who was an absolute ideological loon.

I am not happy with Obama. But between him an any of the Republican candidates? There is no question.

And I think we've all know by now how "Well, if they win and run the country, things will get so bad there will be a revolution" worked out. And how "I'm going punish them by not voting!" works out.

Making things better will take a generation of concerted effort. We've got to be as tenacious as the conservatives have been. And, face it, as smart as the conservatives have been.

#30 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:56 PM:

David Atkins' piece at Hullabaloo exemplifies my fears about how liberals will respond to the challenge Paul poses. Atkins argues that the single unifying principle of liberalism is "intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless," ranging from Lincoln's intervention in the South to Clinton's intervention in Kosovo.

This is an account of the True Heart of liberalism quite divorced from the actual history of liberalism, which as often--and earlier--fought to minimize government intervention in people's lives as to increase it.* That balance is to my mind the most valuable part of the liberal heritage: not a slavish devotion to the beneficent power of government nor a mindless loathing for it, but a measured, thoughtful attempt to intervene where intervention is preferable and to leave alone that which the government has no business in. Getting government out of our houses, our sex lives, our communications and all the rest is one of the great liberal accomplishments, and it doesn't flow from the principle of "interventionism."

Atkins' aim is clear enough: it is the Democrats' failure to prune government power as assiduously as they fertilize it that Paul highlights by contrast. By disavowing that half of liberalism's heritage Atkins seeks to shield liberals from criticism on the grounds of curtailed freedom--quietly consigning the meaning at the root of the word "liberal" to the etymologist's dictionary. Yet he does not recognize the damage he does to the the very thing he is trying to defend. In denying the relevance of Paul's critique he slides inexorably towards the big-government caricature that Paul accuses him of being.

The challenge Paul represents to liberals isn't "are the principles he represents more liberal than the president's"; that's a false dichotomy. Rather: why has it been left to this man to articulate stances that have been bedrock liberalism for hundreds of years? Why don't we have a candidate who is solid on civil rights and civil liberties?

* Atkins lays out the argument but cannot turn its analysis on itself: "Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so." Yes, well, and does that not apply to the power, weapons and money of the interventionists? Liberals have long argued that the best way to keep government from creating injustice is to curtail its capabilities; longer than libertarians have.

#31 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 12:10 AM:

Re - popular democracy via teh interwebs:

I've thought that a proxy system might work well: if I like your views and I don't care to spend the time to pay attention all day, I could give you my vote proxy and my vote would be cast however yours was. I would design it with a failsafe reversion: whenever I chose to cast my own vote, I would always be able to. It could be very customizable, with the ability to give your proxy to different people for different issues: I could designate Chris Clarke my environmental issues proxy, Paul Krugman my economics proxy, and so forth. Voting would be anonymous unless you were a proxy-holder: then it would be a matter of public record, though proxy-holders wouldn't know whose proxies they had. Access would become a huge issue: the system wouldn't work without pervasive, free internet access.

It would be interesting to see how it settled out: a few big names with huge numbers of proxies, or swarm of people with a few? A distribution curve like blog readership is my guess.

#32 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 12:20 AM:

Whenever you consider direct democracy, take a moment to read about what the initiative system has done to California. In short, it blows.

Here's a recent Daily Show bit that has a lighter view of it.

#33 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 12:56 AM:

linkmeister, the point of scholarships to elite schools is to bring fresh blood into the elite. It succeeded very well with Obama. And yes, there are countries where you don't have to be more than relatively rich in order to have servants; my point is that Obama was taught that hierarchy is natural at a very early age.

Xopher, you have noticed that the eternal war hasn't ended? And, a bit like it took Clinton to give us NAFTA, it took Obama to give us NDAA?

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:23 AM:

heresiarch @ 30:

Unfortunately the term "liberal" has been eroding for several generations now. Sometime in the mid-20th Century liberalism became disconnected from progressivism to the extent that self-identified liberals could argue that the Civil Rights movement was demanding too much, that the country wasn't ready for "equal" rights, just "better" rights; and that it wasn't good tactics to oppose the Southern power structure so directly. I think you can see a parallel with the argument that civil union is a practical goal and that demanding equality in marriage isn't really necessary.

I also cite Phil Ochs, "Love me, love me, love me, I'm a Liberal".

#35 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:29 AM:

will, yeah, I'm none too happy with Obama. But McCain would have kept us in Iraq past the date established in the SOFA, regardless of the Iraqis' wishes in the matter—or at least he said he would. I've had a bellyful of an America the International Bully. I've had enough of American soldiers dying on foreign soil so that Halliburton can suck money out of the Treasury, so that oil prices will stay high, and so the fucking BUSH family and their fucking loser cronies can roll in money instead of sleeping on a wet concrete floor for the rest of their miserable lives like they deserve to.

*deep, calming breath*

You keep pointing out how Obama isn't what we hoped, and isn't what we want. True enough, but SO FUCKING WHAT. What alternative did we have? What alternative do we have now? Romney? Don't make me laugh...and it's a damned bitter laugh, with the taste of bile in it.

It completely sucks that there's no reasonable alternative to voting for Obama again. But there isn't, and that's what I'm going to do.

It's like this: I wasn't happy about having half my tongue cut out. I didn't want that to happen. It sucks to lose half your tongue, believe me. But you know what? It's better than dying of cancer.

Obama may be disfiguring surgery. The Republicans, without exception, are cancer.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:33 AM:

Xopher @ 27:

I've lived in California and Oregon, states that have ballot initiative systems, for 40 years come this June. In my opinion, both systems are extremely susceptible to gaming by groups with either lots of political influence or lots of money. In particular, national interests have been known to spend large sums to get initiatives on the ballot and approved, or to get their opponents initiatives voted down. And there's been a great deal of faking of signatures on initiatives (mostly by the conservative side on anti-gay and anti-tax initiatives, as it happens).

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:37 AM:

will @3:
But will you lose it? Remember that Bush's cabinet was more diverse than Clinton's, and that the Log Cabin Republicans ended DADT, not Obama, and for a brief moment, the frontrunner for both the Tea Party and the Republicans in general was a black man whose campaign was derailed for a classic "white male" reason: a sex scandal.

I think we still can. I think you're putting way too much weight on your examples.

Frex, being a Republican (or even Tea Party) frontrunner at that point in the race isn't really significant. Many people take their turn in the yellow jersey, but the guys who cross the finish line always look pretty much the same.

I saw Cain's status as a moment for the Right to reassure itself that America is now a post-racial society (a common line in that community's shared discourse) and that there's no more need to worry about racism. Back-patting to lend legitimacy to their loathing of Obama.

And his downfall—which would have come one way or another—doesn't leave me convinced that the battle on sexism is won, either. His campaign wasn't derailed by the persistent and credible allegations of sexual harassment. Rather, it took consensual sex to bring his campaign to an end.

What does that say about the value of the women in the situation? What would the parallel narrative of a female politician look like? Is this the equality on which I'm supposed to rest?

Also, Presidents appoint Supreme Court judges. Supreme Court judges are going to be ruling on a lot of things, including a number of matters around marriage equality (DOMA, for one, but a passel of one man-one woman state constitution amendments as well). In that field, about which I care a hell of a lot, I think we're right about where blacks were when Reconstruction turned into Jim Crow. They thought it was in the bag then, too.

#38 ::: Spiny Norman ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:54 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue @27, I agree on all points, but there were two more things that concerned me about McCain. One was his age -- the odds that he would be showing signs of senile dementia by the end of his term (as we now know Reagan was in fact doing) were too high. Moreover, there was a very real possibility that the stresses of his job might worsen his health severely enough to hand the football to Sarah Palin. The second possibility was by itself a definitive argument for an Obama vote.

#39 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:11 AM:

Yeah, anyone who could contemplate President Caribou Barbie without horror is probably too insane to be allowed out without a leash.

#40 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:21 AM:

Serge at #4 - I really don't think you're deluding yourself.

While Obama hasn't entirely alienated his base, he's spent the last three years trying hard to play to centrists, moderates, and undecideds so they're not sorry they voted for him.

But the centrists, moderates, and undecideds aren't the people who are going to be out tirelessly knocking on doors, signing up voters, and handing out bumper stickers. The people who did that three years ago were the loony-toon progressive base, or what's left of 'em.

Now he needs to hand a couple of wins to that base to re-energize the people who might otherwise just stay home under a blanket in a fog of depression and apathy, come election night, and to remind those same people why they worked so hard to put him in the White House in the first place...because it's time to do it again.

He's always been a long-game strategist (or his handlers have been...it's sometimes hard to tell the difference) but the administration has let the clock run down pretty far in terms of re-igniting the level of fervor that got Obama elected initially.

And this is where things have a great deal of potential to get really interesting in the next three years -- my suspicion is that the Occupy movement and the Tea Party crowd have WAY more in common than not, in spite of some glaring social-ideological differences.

If there are a handful of smart and cynical strategists who can figure out how to play to the current populist zeitgeist and tap that vein to win local elections in the next year, with an eye towards state, then national, elections one and three years out? And can figure out how the hell to finance it?

I think that's got some actual game-changing possibility.

#41 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:41 AM:

MacAllister @ #40, the Obama campaign isn't leaving a lot to chance or the remnants of unrequited love from the progressive base of 2008, or so this article which appeared in the current Newsweek says. The GOTV machine and volunteer training is up and running.

Consider the numbers. In January 2004, George W. Bush’s aides bragged that they’d held a grand total of 52 training sessions around the country for precinct leaders. The Obama campaign, by comparison, held 57 ... in a single December week ... in a single state, Iowa. Right now, there are more than 200 paid staffers working in Chicago—double Bush’s head count at the beginning of 2004, and more than double Romney’s current total.

#42 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:43 AM:

#30: I agree that the proposition "Liberalism = Intervention" is an oversimplification. I'm not that comfortable with the proposition that Liberalism -> Intervention, either.

I liked Atkins' essay because he pointed out that Ron Paul's policy agreements with liberals (on some issues) seem to come from thought processes that have little to do with what we generally recognize as liberal principles. So it's a mistake to generalize from his policy statements that overlap liberal objectives that Paul actually has any common sense about human relationships and government.

I associate liberalism with willingness to accept change in the existing social order, and with the translation of empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings into public policy. I'm uncertain about about Atkins' redactive proposition that liberalism necessarily mandates government intervention designed to prohibit "bad behavior." Conservatives also sometimes espouse government intervention; but they differ on the nature of the "bad behavior" that mandates it.

#43 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:47 AM:

Another thing: I don't think Obama has been playing to moderates, centrists and undecideds as much as he has been trying to get some bipartisan support for his legislative agenda. I don't think he was prepared for the absolute refusal of the Congressional Republicans in both houses to put aside partisanship and try to get things done for the good of the country. I've griped that he was slow to recognize that, but I can see why it was a surprise. Ordinarily you'd be able to peel off a few Republicans to vote with the Dems for some programs, but not these past three years. It goes to show how few moderate Republicans are left, even in the Senate.

#44 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:01 AM:

Linkmeister, I'll agree that it's gobsmacking to realize just how far to the right the GOP has gone - we're in an environment where Orrin Hatch is having to re-establish his conservative cred in the face of a primary challenge, after all.

But Obama's recess appointments suggest to me that the administration does recognize the need to score some points for a disaffected base, with all the urgency of a team recognizing the imminent buzzer (if I can be pardoned a half-baked sports metaphor...)

#45 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 06:42 AM:

To summarise the McCain vs. Obama concept - would you rather vote for a competent, more long term thinking dictator or an incompetent insane one?

(Note - I don't think the President is a dictator, I used that term to try and sharpen the analogy)

#46 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 07:12 AM:

heresiarch #30: Atkins is carefully ignoring all multi-axis views of politics in order to present his claim that "everybody" intervenes, just for different reasons. Notice how he explicitly lumps Communism, Democratic Socialism, and Neoliberals together with "But in all these cases, the question is only a matter of degree." I call bullshit -- he's pushing a power-politics cartoon of liberalism.

#47 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:41 AM:

So much to say and so little time to say it.*

heresiarch @ 30 asks:

The challenge Paul represents to liberals isn't "are the principles he represents more liberal than the president's"; that's a false dichotomy. Rather: why has it been left to this man to articulate stances that have been bedrock liberalism for hundreds of years? Why don't we have a candidate who is solid on civil rights and civil liberties?

Xopher @ 20 anticipates the question:

Remember that we can only choose from the alternatives we're given by our insane political process.

My central claim is that we may be at a point in time where we can change the process itself. It's my belief that change of the sort we need is driven from outside the process, which is broken.

I am not claiming certainty. I am staking quite a bit on it. It's a risk I judge worth taking.

So, let me imply my question again:

I would ask those of you who focus yourselves on various worthy causes you and I both support to consider what changes you might be willing to risk at this remarkable time in history.

abi has grasped the nettle of this argument. My disagreement with her is one of degree and of judgement. However, I, too have had exactly this thought applied to a variety of issues:

In [marriage equality], about which I care a hell of a lot, I think we're right about where blacks were when Reconstruction turned into Jim Crow. They thought it was in the bag then, too.

I think about Reconstruction a lot and that observation drew blood.

For abi, this is an argument for relative caution. That's sensible and I can't know she's wrong. For me, it's an argument for relative boldness. That's sensible and I think I'm right.

Still, she says in the original post:

It would have to be a pretty iron-clad guarantee of tangible progress in the other issues [genuine engagement with the wider world on an equal basis, the reining-in of corporatocracy, and reversing the steady erosion of civil rights for the population as a whole] to make me risk what we have and what we are building. I probably would, though, if it were in the offing. But I don’t know that other liberals would, particularly not gays, not at this stage of things.

Despite her caution, she's willing to be persuaded, willing to risk what she values for the sake of what she values. I'm with her. What about you?

*because I have to go to work, silly

#48 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Linkmeister @ 41:

Interesting article. Of course, when I read this part:

Don’t reach out to a supporter who donates $5 during the State of the Union the same way you’d reach out to a supporter who donates $5 during a Republican debate; they respond to different incentives. To figure out who each of us is, and what each of us wants, Slaby and his team are constructing a “microlistening” and computer modeling program that will comb online and off-line behavior patterns for voter information, then use it to personalize every interaction we have with the campaign: fundraising, volunteering, persuasion, mobilization. “The voters we need to reach and the donors that we’re trying to raise money from and the supporters and volunteers we’re trying to activate—they’re all the same group of people,” Slaby told me. “And for us to communicate with them in an integrated and intelligent way, where all of those things get met and we listen effectively, it requires us to evolve.” In 2012 the Obama campaign won’t send its backers a video and say, “Share this with everyone you know”; it will say, “Share this with your four Facebook friends in Pennsylvania’s crucial Lehigh Valley swing district who are worried about the president’s tax policies.”

all I could think of (and I know, or hope, it's cynical and hyperbolic) is "Your Patriot Act at work."

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're all taking the campaign seriously, but this level of "getting to know you" creeps me out, just a little.

#49 ::: Dave DuPlantis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:17 AM:

Linkmeister @43: I think that highlights the second-biggest weakness in the overall Democratic strategy over the last decade or two. (The biggest one is their inability to recognize the rules by which Republicans were playing: assuming that it was enough to say "That's not fair!" when the Republican machine would resort to underhanded tactics against a Democratic candidate. That's not to say I endorse those methods, but it is important to understand how your opponents are playing.)

It's fine to focus on the presidency, and certainly Obama's campaign did an excellent job of getting people involved and out to the polls. I can say from personal experience and inference that there were significantly more Democrats voting in my precinct in 2008 than there were in 2007. (I volunteer as a judge, so as part of that role, I see the votes for each candidate for each office when we print out the tapes at the end of the night. I don't see anyone's vote, and just recognizing someone as a "new" voter doesn't necessarily mean they're voting D.)

However, there wasn't a similar turnout in 2009 or 2010 ... and from what I've read, local and state campaigns have complained that they didn't get as much help from Obama's team as they thought they would. That, I think, is the heart of the problem within the current system. The balance of power comes from outside the presidency - from state legislatures that draw up ridiculous districts and from representatives and senators - and yet Obama's machine has not focused on those races. I get info about local races from local people (such as they are: I live in a deep-red county where many local offices are unopposed), but this month, meaning January, is the first time I remember getting a direct request to help with races in other parts of the country.

And I suppose that ties in with their biggest weakness. In 2010, there were significant efforts to boot moderate Republicans and replace them with some of the same extremists that are voting down pretty much everything that comes to the floor of the House, so clearly the Rs have been organizing national efforts, in some form, for at least two years, or alternatively Citizens United meant that the deep-pockets people were able to manage it themselves. Either way, the Rs in general and the Tea Party specifically were able to have a significant impact within the current system by knocking out candidates in the primary and then marshaling the party's resources for their candidates in the general election, and as a result, they could control policy without controlling the White House.

The Ds must use a similar strategy to avoid four more years like the last two: it's not enough simply to reelect Obama. They must also swing enough seats to be able to get legislation through the House. If that happens, we should expect something less conservative from Obama - I'm one who believes that some of what he's done the last couple of years is in hopes he can get it through the House. (It's hard to say how much of what he's doing is to highlight the intransigence of the Rs and how much is because he doesn't have to listen to us now that he's the president.)

And for me, that's a prerequisite for more action. There are certainly significant problems with the current system, but I am deathly afraid of trying to change it now and ending up with the Tea Party in charge.

#50 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:24 AM:

The thing I find hardest to believe, and keep facepalming about whenever I hear my dad make his nutball assertions, is this:

Who in the WORLD who had ANY idea what it was like would WANT to live in a world where the New Deal didn't happen ... and actively work towards it?

Did my dad not listen to his grandmother's stories? *I* did, and he had an extra 40 years with her past what I got. Did he not listen to his MOTHER'S stories? His entire life couldn't possibly have happened as well as it did if not for reforms FDR put into place that he now thinks are morally repugnant, wasteful, and unrealistic ...

Why can I see it and he can't? Does he think we could 'never again' have a Great Depression because that was a weird one-off? News flash -- we are. :-/

#51 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:42 AM:

Elliott Mason @ 50

No he heard them, but first those stories are new and the current anti-social net stories are new, and second, he has bought into the general view that those reforms, as implemented were good, but they have grown bloated and been altered out of all recognition from what they had been, which is why they are now (supposedly) wasteful and unrealistic. It is the legacy of talk radio and Reagan's "Young Buck" in the southern strategy: Those reforms aren't helping you anymore, they've been hijacked by the liberals, and now instead of providing a net for those who've worked hard all their lives and need a little help, they're giving away your money to lazy and ungrateful people who don't deserve it, and use it to either A) buy drugs and alcohol, or B) use your tax money to live better than you do.

#52 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Look I voted for Obama in 2008, I worked to get him elected, and I donated money. He lost my vote when he sold his fellow citizens to the health care and insurance industry.

The ONLY thing that would persuade me to vote for him again is an Executive Order instituting Medicare for All. And THAT ain't happening.

I will be looking at America Elects. My plan to vote in the Republican primary here is to try and get a relatively sane Republican in the race.

Maybe I am throwing away my vote by going Green or Socialist (wish the IWW would put up a presidential candidate). I have reached the point where I refuse to vote for the lesser of two weevils...

#53 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:11 AM:

Xopher, I voted for Obama, too, just because I didn't have the opportunity to vote for Shirley Chisholm or Jesse Jackson. Despite that, my solution for lesser-evilism has not changed: stop supporting the two-party system. Maybe OWS will be the wedge to crack it.

Glenn Greenwald's column today seems especially relevant:

http://www.salon.com/2012/01/05/democratic_party_priorities/singleton/

abi, Gary Hart and Bill Clinton fell because of consensual sex--that ain't a black thang. As for women in comparable situations, it's true they get a pass--see Nikki Haley.

#54 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:13 AM:

Okay, Bill Clinton didn't *fall*. But he sure took the heavy hits.

#55 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:16 AM:

Okay, Bill Clinton didn't *fall*. But he sure took the heavy hits.

#56 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:18 AM:

Stefan, #29: One very specific way in which the conservatives have outsmarted us is in taking control of the discourse. They set out to make "liberal" into an insult and a swear-word, to make science and technology (and, for that matter, intelligence) suspect, to reinforce racism and xenophobia, to divide and conquer... and they have accomplished all of those things. Do you think Reagan would have been able to push thru something like the Patriot Act in the wake of a 9/11 event? Of course not -- but 30 years of shifting the Overton Window later, GWB didn't even have to work for it.

We are finally, finally starting to see some pushback in the area of discourse control. It works slowly, and we have decades of damage to undo, but we dare not let that slide again.

Xopher, #39: And yet, there are thousands of people who idolize Palin who are still perfectly capable of functioning in the real world -- they have jobs, families, social lives. Our entire society has become irrational, and a large part of the reason is that our media now grant lunatics equal footing with the sane, by which tactic ordinary people learn that believing and supporting lunacy is an acceptable option.

Lenny, #42: Precisely. As I am fond of saying to people who say they're conservative because they favor "smaller government" -- the Left wants the government out of your bedroom and in your office. The Right wants the government out of your office and in your bedroom.

Now, I happen to think that having the government in your office isn't necessarily a bad thing; can you say restaurant health standards, food-safety laws, worker-safety laws, construction codes, truth in advertising/labeling, anti-discrimination laws? (And yes, I've heard self-identified Libertarians argue against every one of these things, although the last one is their particular bete noir.)

In the bedroom? I find it difficult to come up with a reason for that which doesn't sound like "because what you want to do is Icky, and Icky things should be forbidden by the government".

Elliott, #50: I think the reason we're seeing this stuff happening now is precisely that the people who actually remember the Great Depression are pretty much all dead. To their children, it's a fairy-tale -- in the sense of "something they've been told and can repeat, but not something which really applies to them", and part of the reason for that is precisely that the laws and regulations enacted in the aftermath of the Depression worked.

It's the same phenomenon as people looking at our relatively-much-cleaner air and water now and saying that we obviously don't need all those tedious waste-disposal regulations -- or complaining about "hysteria" over things like flu vaccinations when the epidemic they were intended to prevent is in fact prevented. There are a lot of people who just flat don't have the imagination to play "what if" scenarios.

#57 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:33 AM:

Last time, my better half voted in the Green primary for someone he viewed as "the only person the Greens are fielding who isn't a nutball." He felt horribly betrayed when, 2-3 weeks after our primary, 'his' candidate made a speech to the effect of, "Ok, I'm probably not going to win a majority, so I'm throwing all my electoral votes to Nader." My husband's view? "If I'd wanted to vote for Nader, I'd have VOTED for @#(*&$ing NADER, not for you, you )(*&#%&!!"

I may be taking a Libertarian ballot (I live in Illinois, you get to say what you want when you get to the polling place), because Gary Johnson strikes me as, while not 'my candidate', possibly the only person on the other side whose stated policies wouldn't throw the country straight down the toilet in less than four years, and I want to reward that.

In Illinois, parties are accorded Real Political Party Brownie Points based on how many people actually bother to vote in their primaries, so there is some point in voting in a minor-party primary if you aren't attracted to the majors, for whatever reason, even if you go on to vote for a major in the general.

Also, there are absolutely no Democratic primary races I both care about and qualify to vote for -- all my local and state stuff have one candidate running unopposed except my US House race (due to redistricting, a lot of Illinois' house races actually have primaries in the incumbent party this year for once), where I genuinely do not care which of the two noms win, either would suit me quite well.

That said, our New House is in Illinois' 4th Congressional District, aka 'the earmuffs'. I am very, very not pleased about the stupid degree of gerrymandering [we are specifically mentioned in the Wikipedia article ON gerrymandering, which is fame of a sort] involved, though part of me is kind of tickled that all three people running for the seat (two Dems and a Republican) are native/bilingually-fluent speakers of Spanish. It's still Very Very Wrong, what they did to that map, and not just because they're trying to make uni-ethnic congressional districts in a city that's already one of the most segregated in the entire country ...

The ironic thing is that the neighborhood we're moving into is one of the most diverse I've ever seen in Chicago -- the businesses along the local mini-arterials involve at least 4 separate character sets, let alone languages, and have halal meat shops next door to Korean salons next door to taquerias next door to a lovely Morrocan sandwich shop next door to a travel agency serving the Greatest Hits Of Eastern Europe next door to a great Italian place that's been there since 1936. But because it's something like 40% Latino, it was shoehorned into a district with Humboldt Park, parts of Logan Square, and Pilsen ... guess they needed to make up the numbers.

#58 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:38 AM:

pedantic peasant @48:

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they're all taking the campaign seriously, but this level of "getting to know you" creeps me out, just a little.
But that's what advertisers have been doing, with a fair amount of success, for years; and they're already using those same tools now. (Case in point: Facebook.)

#59 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:49 AM:

geekosaur @ 58:

Oh, I know it's what they're doing, and as PNH's post said earlier this month, while I'm aware people like Facebook are doing that, I am at least comfortable that I have the option to limit my interaction with those companies so as to protect my privacy. As Patrick says, "If I'm not paying for it, I am the product," and I have to accept that freight.

My complaint where the campaign is concerned is two-fold. First, in my paranoid moments I am not sure they are solely using marketing tools to collect their info. Second, and more importantly to me, if I am making a campaign contribution, that DOES make me a customer, and does not constitute an invitation to invade/infiltrate my privacy to identify my friends, occupation, and other interests.

#60 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 12:38 PM:

I'm much more concerned and agitated over the state and Federal election campaigns than I am the Presidential one. I feel confident that a majority of voters will see whoever's Obama's opponent and say "oh HELL no", but there's a huge need to reverse the Republican gains from 2010 in local government and Congress.

Just in my state alone, local politicians have gerrymandered the voting districts, passed a bill making it more difficult to vote, mandated state worker layoffs while spending MORE money on private contractors to do the same work, reversed a bill allowing death row inmates to ask for retrial after the state SBI was found to have lied in many of their trials, tried to add a state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, relaxed environmental regulations, given tax breaks to corporations, and that's just the issues I'm aware of. I'm a registered Republican and it's to the point I wouldn't vote for a GOP candidate for dog catcher.

#61 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:01 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 47:

My central claim is that we may be at a point in time where we can change the process itself. It's my belief that change of the sort we need is driven from outside the process, which is broken.

I agree with both of these statements, the latter more than the former because the last 30 years of watching hard-won gains being thrown into the crapper have left me somewhat pessimistic. I'm certain that the changes we need to make cannot be driven from inside the existing political system because it's been too badly perverted by the gaming of rich and powerful oligarchic interests.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't work within the system. I believe that we must in fact work both within and without it; that if we don't push hard on both we can't get the changes we need without violent revolution, a last (and desperately long odds) chance I'm not ready to resort to, and may never be.

But we need to have some sort of credible political force, whether it's the Occupy movement, a third party that's committed to fixing the breakage in our political system rather than promoting an ideology that requires spherical humans to work, or the ghosts of Joe Hill and Eugene Debs. An outside force can provide solutions that an inside force can't, and it can apply pressure to the system to make the inside force's agenda more acceptable to the system.

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:25 PM:

will @53:

I didn't say that Cain fell on his *ahem* sword because he was black. I contend that he was gonna fall somehow, and it just happened to be sex that got him.

My problem with how he fell is a problem with sex roles in our society. It's not that an affair felled him (which is where Nikki Haley would be relevant); it's that the repeated and credible allegations of harassment didn't. It underlines that there's work to be done; we're still living in a society where women can be harassed with impunity and their reputations trashed if they complain (see also Dominque Strauss-Kahn).

Cain's story is a stew of racial and sexual issues. It's not easy to tease them apart, but it does show that neither is settled business yet.

#63 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:48 PM:

will shetterly @11: Keith @9, Obama didn't grow up poor. When he lived abroad, his mother had servants. His grandmother, the bank VP, got him into an expensive private school in Hawaii, and he continued being educated at upperclass schools for the rest of his academic life.

Keith Kisser @32: On the bright side, I'm reminded why I love Making Light so much: reality checks like this. Also, it reinforces that I need to do a bit more in depth research and be more skeptical, especially when I want to believe something that sounds too good to be true.

Keith, I'd suggest starting your skeptical in-depth research right here.

Linkmeister already pointed out in #14 that Obama attended Punahou on a scholarship. My comment is rather tardy because I went to sleep before #14 was ungnomed, and I was waiting to see what it said. In the meantime, I'd found this link within a minute or two: back in 2008, Senator Daniel Inouye also slammed Obama for elitism on the grounds of attending Punahou, and ended up writing personal letters of apology to both Obama and the school after the scholarship status was pointed out.

What caught my eye was that this angle seems particularly ironic from this particular source.

will shetterly, iirc some years ago, you yourself were defending yourself from charges of elitism/privilege by saying that your attendance at Choate had been enabled only by a family trust fund. In the same blog post, you mentioned an old flame whose parents had "a driver, a butler, a cook, and a maid, I think, or maybe the butler also chauffeured them sometimes" (and your uneasiness about their status).

I don't have any previous knowledge of this issue, or any attachments to either Obama or Punahou. I don't have any particular animus against will shetterly. It's just a matter of random curiosity and fact-checking.

#64 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:53 PM:

The higher quality horse-race sort of coverage of the Republican nomination often pointed out, back when Cain looked like a serious candidate in terms of polling numbers, that he didn't look like a serious candidate in terms of organization set up in the important states after Iowa. I wouldn't be surprised if Cain ran this year with the thought that he might manage a cabinet appointment or VP pick, or that he might be able to run successfully next time.

#65 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:57 PM:

Bruce #61:

One additional thing I'd point out: Be careful who takes over your insurgency's internal communications. If it happens to be Fox News and conservative talk radio, you may find that your insurgency is pretty quickly turned toward the aims of the powerful, or at least turned away from the stuff the powerful don't want discussed.

At some level, the MSM is the internal communications of Americans with one another--it tells us how everyone else feels, how people and groups we see little of live and think and feel. And the picture it portrays is riddled with lies and errors and inaccuracies, ranging from subtle blind spots to blackholing of large groups of people. Finding ways to route around this, and to ensure that future internal communications aren't so easily subverted, is probably a necessity for any kind of positive change in the future.

#66 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:04 PM:

@ 52 & 57 - Once upon a time, way back in the 20th Century, a few of the voters of Minnesota decided that the election was enough of a lock (for one side or the other) that they could give their vote to a third party candidate, just to voice their displeasure at the mainstream candidates.

We woke up the next morning with a Governor who was a worse leader than he had been a wrestler and actor.

In 2000, a few voters decided to give their votes to Ralph Nader and a few others, just to voice their displeasure at the mainstream candidates.

We woke up the next morning to the Black Powder Presidency: 2 parts Cheney, 1 part Rove, and 1/2 part Bush. It exploded in our faces, as all unstable mixtures are like to do.

Karl rove is still out there. So is Darth Cheney.

Be like Xopher, hold your nose, and help bail water instead of wishing for a patch.

It pisses me off as much as anyone. Obama's campaign fired me up like no ones' before it. Today I feel betrayed, but helpless in the face of the overwhelmingly worse Republican choices. If I had the luxury of casting a vote of conscience, I would write in the Half-Tongue. But I don't, and neither does anyone else, so I won't (sorry, Xopher), and neither should anyone else. Sometimes reality sucks, and leads us to the Perfect being the enemy of the Not-As-Bad-As-THEM.

Unfortunately, not liking the necessity of voting for the less evil choice won't make it go away.

@5 - Hehehe... Caribou Barbie. I'd forgotten that one...

#67 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:07 PM:

re 57: Well, we in Maryland have been gerrymandered in both of the last two redistricting cycles, I suspect in part because of the way the Democrats gave away District 6 in 1992 when Beverly Byron was defeated in the primary. You can see from this interactive map that they've taken the knotwork we already had and made it even worse, apparently with the intent of unseating Andy Harris in the 1st District and maybe even Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th (much less likely though). My neighborhood, which though diverse ethnically is dominated by Republicans, has been shuttled first into the 4th District (dominated by PG County blacks) and now into the 5th (formerly Helen Bentley's seat, now turned Democrat). Of course the result of all this cracking is that districts which used to have some geographical meaning no longer do, except for 1 and 6. I suppose it would be possible to make a hash even of that by somehow threading districts in parallel across the Susquehanna and down the eastern shore, but apparently that's either futile or too much trouble.

#68 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:15 PM:

One thing we are not going to do in this thread:

We are not going to personally blame third-party voters for past election results. Feel free to express the opinion that the third-party votes changed a given election result, but then also listen to people who disagree. And do not claim that Nader voters are to "blame" for Bush, particularly not to the Nader voters in this thread.

We've been round that racetrack more times than I can count. It never leads anywhere at all productive. So enough, already.

Argue about third-party results in the future, but let the dead bury their dead.

#69 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:23 PM:

Nor was Obama's Indonesian stepfather wealthy by the standards of Indonesian's small elite, wealthy class. They lived very modestly, particularly at first, and slowly did better. Then, of course, the marriage failed.

This is described in detail in Obama's Dreams From My Father, which I've read, and in many other places, including, even wiki, which isn't always to be trusted.

Love, C.

#70 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:27 PM:

(Belatedly)

Avram @ #19, I'll bear in mind your theory of linking to $ amts and refrain from doing so again. Thanks.

#71 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Open threadiness: How words like "extremist" and "moderate" get used as propaganda.

I've long been convinced that "crazy" and "extreme" are used in US politics and media to mean "stuff we're not used to hearing from the folks at the top." The big media sources largely determine what is and isn't crazy. So stuff that offends the owners of those companies, or their advertisers, or their important sources of information, tends to get caught in the crazy filter.

If you'd asked me abiut this ten years ago, I might have said yes, there is such a filter[1], but it probably does more good than harm, because it keeps a lot of bad ideas out of public discussion. The last decade has shown me that this was wrong--the crazy filter initially filtered out reports that we were torturing people, then reports that we were doing it very often, and now filters out as crazy and extreme the idea that anyone ought to go to jail or suffer any other consequences for building or running a worldwide torture program.

Our crazy filters, like much of the rest of our media, are serving us poorly. How can we do better?

[1] This sounds cnspiracy theory like, but I don't think there's some secret cabal deciding what will and wont be treated as crazy, what points of view will only be put in the mouths of evil or crazy or stupid characters, what stories will be blackholed and which will be promoted to the front page. There clearly are stories spiked from on high, and political biases of editors or reporters that influence stories, and advertiser pressure driving changes in coverage, and fear of lawsuits, and fear of loss of access, and all sorts of other stuff behind this. I suspect the most important drivers involve social pressure and informal back-scratching and shared values/wordlview and ideological capture.

#72 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 04:23 PM:

albatross @ #71, "the most important drivers involve social pressure and informal back-scratching and shared values/world view and ideological capture" of which the strongest is ideological capture, I think. How else to explain the descent of the Washington Post from great newspaper to neo-con apologist on its editorial pages?

#73 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 06:24 PM:

The Washington Post editorial and op-ed shift rightward seems to be a combination of Overton Window because of the Washington Times, and the changing of the guard in the since Katherine Graham left.

There's also the 'balance' problem, attempting to appear un-biased by providing outlets for right-wing views, in addition to the left-wing views.

Oddly, you don't see that at papers like the Wall St. Journal.

#74 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 06:26 PM:

Lenny Bailes @ 42: "I liked Atkins' essay because he pointed out that Ron Paul's policy agreements with liberals (on some issues) seem to come from thought processes that have little to do with what we generally recognize as liberal principles."

I think that abandoning positions you believe in because the people who are willing to work with you on it have disagreeable ideological motives is the height of political folly, and one of the harshest criticisms I level against the modern conservative establishment. I am a critic of all sorts of libertarian philosophy, but its strong conviction that freedom is really really important isn't one I contest.

I mean, look at this ad. Laying out a case against the war in Iraq by encouraging viewers to put themselves in the shoes of the Iraqis, by encouraging empathy and compassion for their suffering and anger. Why isn't this coming from the mouths of liberals?

John A Arkansawyer @ 47: "My central claim is that we may be at a point in time where we can change the process itself. It's my belief that change of the sort we need is driven from outside the process, which is broken."

Isn't that exactly what I'm arguing for? The process keeps giving us the choice of Bad and Worse; Paul just drives that point home by the strange alchemy presenting us with a marginally less awful Worse. I'm objecting to the idea that being "willing to risk what you value for the sake of what you value" is necessarily anything more than a conman's trick for ensuring that you never get both.

#75 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 06:53 PM:

edward 66: If I had the luxury of casting a vote of conscience, I would write in the Half-Tongue. But I don't, and neither does anyone else, so I won't (sorry, Xopher), and neither should anyone else.

If I ever dreamed of being POTUS I would probably wake up screaming in a cold sweat, and take a strong narcotic to make sure I didn't dream it again!

That said, thanks.

#76 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 07:15 PM:

Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, Buddy Roemer has been blasting the state with robo-calls and is claiming "roementum" since he's gotten all the way up to 3%.

More interesting have been the robo-calls urging me, as a "patriotic, courageous American" to write in Jeb Bush.

#77 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:04 PM:

#63 ::: Julie L.

Thanks for this.

I'm feeling embarrassed mainly because I still fell for some of the Obama Hope and Change crap, and I'm normally imune to this sort of image manipulation. Just goes to show how low we all were after eight years of W.

Thin is, I've publicly defended Obama for the last 3 years against accusations of not-doing-enough and then he turns around signs the NDAA. The worst part is, at some point in the next ten months Obama or someone speaking on his behalf will go on an other round of hippie punching or just generally go on about how us idealistic liberals are so out of touch and I'm still going to hold my nose and vote for him (and then get drunk) because there's no alternative.

#78 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:20 PM:

#47: I don't understand the comment about abandoning positions. I didn't say, (and I don't think David Atkins said) anything about abandoning anti-war and pro-civil liberties positions because a skewed Republican Presidential candidate also supports them.

Atkins' point was that you shouldn't think of Ron Paul as a responsible, sane human being just because he advocates a few positions that progressive liberals also support.

I do understand distress at the perception that some politicians are calling themselves liberals, but that they no longer seem to be actively supporting anti-imperialist and pro-civil liberties positions. To the extent that Ron Paul raises awareness of these issues in a non "Black Helicopters Are Coming!" style, I agree that it's a good thing.

#79 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:33 PM:

Lenny Bailes #78: The problem is, that kind of "ally", we don't need. As I tried to note on Avram's ill-fated thread before he closed it, Ron Paul's role in the Republican campaign is precisely to poison the well for those goals (and split liberal opposition to the Republicans).

From here on in, if anyone, especially a genuine, old-style conservative, tries to bring up stopping the Endless War, backing down on the War on "Those People"'s Drugs, for bringing the Federal Reserve to heel, the Republican mouthpieces can say "well, you should vote for Ron Paul". Or if they're too influential for that, taint them with Paul's other views -- "oh, you wanna go on the gold standard, huh?" being the least of it.

For the effects on liberals, just look at how Greenwald has been played into drawing fire from his own side, most of whom are not willing to take a select handful of his views in isolation, even as a talking point.

#80 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:34 PM:

In that last sentence, should have been "... Ron Paul's views ..."

#81 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 08:55 PM:

David Harmon, Greenwald is blinkered to the point of narrow-mindedness, as far as I can tell. He's gotten so hepped on civil liberties that he thinks they're the be all-end all of American politics, and he's willing to get into bed with anyone (cough, Paul) who agrees with him about that issue. Worse, he's ignoring the fact that Paul is blithe about states' infringing on those same civil liberties.

I used to read Glenn, but I've given up on him.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 09:12 PM:

76
Oyyyyy. I am sorry you have to hear that kind of stuff.

#83 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 09:14 PM:

heresiarch @ 73:

Isn't that exactly what I'm arguing for? The process keeps giving us the choice of Bad and Worse; Paul just drives that point home by the strange alchemy presenting us with a marginally less awful Worse.

Rather than judge the Less Worseness of Ron Paul--others have done that--let me step away from him. He--or any candidate right now--is not the "outside the process" change I think of.

The sorts of changes that have to come will originate in peoples' hearts and minds, but they won't stay there. They take time to grow and mature

Now, for some reason, a brief moment of Robert Creeley.

I'm objecting to the idea that being "willing to risk what you value for the sake of what you value" is necessarily anything more than a conman's trick for ensuring that you never get both.

If you don't like my phrasing, how about Van Morrison's "In order to win, you must be prepared to lose sometimes, and leave one or two cards showing"? I don't think that's controversial.

#84 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 09:22 PM:

David:

It seems to me Greenwald has been played into taking fire from Democrats for some time now, since he has been bitterly criticizing Obama and Congressional Democrats each time they've dumped on the issues he cares about, which has been pretty continually since the telecom immunity vote. Neither Ron Paul nor the Republican party as a whole have much to do with that--the only people playing Greenwald so he says bad stuff about Democrats, including comparing them unfavorably to Republicans in some cases, are Democrats.

Further, I don't think Ron Paul is being allowed to say these things as part of some plan to discredit his ideas. The party has been pretty hostile to him for quite awhile now, including turning off microphones to his delegates in Minneapolis and not letting him speak. My impression is that he hasn't been actively shut out (excluded from the debates like Johnson, gotten off the ballots using some procedural trick) for a couple big reasons:

a. He has a lot donors (thus a lot of money), a lot of volunteers, and a loyal bunch of supporters. Those make it hard to f--k with him, since he has the resources to both fight back legally and to make a big stink.

b. If he is f--ked around too much, he has a credible threat: He can almost certainly capture the libertarian nomination, or just run as an independent. That would almost guarantee Obama returning to the white house.

c. His son is in the senate, and could plausibly inherit his enthusiastic followers and organization, without his baggage. Dumping on the dad of the guy who might be a serious power i future elections could have consequences long after Ron Paul is dead and gone.

My strong sense is that a bunch of the powers in the GOP really wish they could shut him up, but can't afford to.

#85 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:25 PM:

Linkmeister:

You know, some people might have imagined that the constitutional law scholar we elected would be so hepped up on civil liberties, he would have thought it was the be all and end all of American politics. They might even have been misled by this rhetoric to think that, back when he was running for President the first time.

Well, we sure dodged a bullet there.

#86 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 10:45 PM:

Keith Kisser @ 77: "I'm feeling embarrassed mainly because I still fell for some of the Obama Hope and Change crap, and I'm normally imune to this sort of image manipulation."

It wasn't the Hope and Change part that was crap--it was the part that came after the swearing-in that stinks. Don't be embarrassed that you believed in something worth believing in: be angry that the person saying it didn't.

Lenny Bailes @ 78: "I don't understand the comment about abandoning positions. I didn't say, (and I don't think David Atkins said) anything about abandoning anti-war and pro-civil liberties positions because a skewed Republican Presidential candidate also supports them."

Well, exactly. Atkins entirely erases anti-war and civil liberties positions from his account of what liberalism is really about. He's so intent on diminishing Paul that he creates a false genealogy for liberalism denying huge swathes of liberal philosophy. Where, for example, does the right to privacy fit under his "interventionist" framework?

"Atkins' point was that you shouldn't think of Ron Paul as a responsible, sane human being just because he advocates a few positions that progressive liberals also support."

That's an elaborate ad hominem, not a rebuttal of his critiques. I mean, obviously Paul is a crazy old racist who shouldn't be allowed within twenty nautical miles of the presidency--that's what makes it so appalling that he's the only one making these very basic, sensible, liberal arguments on the national stage. This bothers me; doesn't it bother you?

David Harmon @ 79: "The problem is, that kind of "ally", we don't need."

Interestingly enough, neither "aye" nor "nay" votes record the ideological reasons behind their casting. It's a form of political mysticism to disdain people who support your issues because they support them for the wrong reasons, a delusion that intent matters more than outcome.

#87 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:16 PM:

I don't agree with Mr. Arkansawyer, or with our gracious moderator, that we are now presented with any new possibilities to achieve significant advances toward a progressive agenda. The way I see it, the cultural hegemony in America is deeply conservative, and nothing on the horizon is posing any credible challenge to that cultural hegemony.

- The trade unions, what's left of them, are consumed with fighting to defend the right to eat their own seed corn before the bandits steal it and leave them to starve.

- The religious Left is an ineffectual parody of the religious Right, and can't get any airtime anywhere. Even the blogosphere doesn't know what to do with them.

- The so-called Occupy movement is salted quite heavily with right-wing libertarian nutjobs along with the usual Trotskyist suspects on the Left. Enough so that anyone with new and fresh ideas in their ranks must be worn down to the bone by having to contend with old factionalisms that aren't any closer to a new breath of life than they were twenty years ago.

- Academia is busy burying the hard-won knowledge that previous generations carved out of the stone with back-breaking hard labor. Whole fields of academic study— like economics, political science, law and business management theory, for example— have degenerated into little better than astrology. Other fields, like science, technology, engineering and math, have essentially been sapped of all energy by the financialization of research and development.

- The elites continue to enjoy impunity for their various crimes. They feel comfortable and secure, free to move about the country at no real risk to their personal liberty, uncowed by any serious approbation from ordinary people. And they feel no compulsion to pretend otherwise when they make public appearances on the traditional broadcast media.

- Popular culture is as decadent as ever, but look closely: there is basically no popular appetite for anything remotely like subversion of the cultural hegemony. Subversion isn't cool; it's hopelessly goofy. There are no subversive heroes. Subversives are most often presented as villains, and only occasionally, at some authorial risk, they are presented for comic relief, to be derided for their naïveté, and not to be lauded or admired for their courage and public service.

I just don't see it. It doesn't look like the green sprouts of recovery to me. It looks only like a brief diversion in the long, slow and terrible devolution of imperial America, right before the fast approaching and obviously impending Minsky moment for American democracy. This is not a time to take personal risks on advancing a progressive agenda. This is a time to keep your head down, stay out of trouble, look after your personal interests above all else, and wait for the current generation of pinheads to grow old and die off. Maybe the system that replaces the current one will be easier to overthrow in a revolution and to replace it with a real progressive society. One can hope, but one shouldn't waste too much energy with it just now.

Shorter jhw: the owners have almost finished with their bust-out, and there has never been a better time to short the American political system. Sell, sell, sell.

#88 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:17 PM:

Also, not to put too fine a point on it, a number of people often held in rather high regard in the left end of the blogosphere have managed to make common cause with far-right figures now and again. For example, both Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich worked with Ron Paul on stuff they agreed with him on. For another example, Barrack Obama cosponsored a bill with Tom Coburn, who's pretty far to the right. For still another, Teddy Kennedy famously cosponsored bills with all sorts of people, notably including NCLB with Boehnner (after it was proposed by W). Barney Frank cosponsored a bill with Ron Paul to get rid of federal laws against marijuana. And so on.

#89 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:19 PM:

There's a potential value to the Occupy movement which is epochal and mostly unnoticed. Between the Railroad Strike of 1877 and those god damn fool air traffic controllers in 1981, there was a continuous class consciousness among at least some of this country's workers. The cultural continuity, the chain of transmission, has been broken.
The young Occupyers are the last chance for the future of the country to connect directly with that side of its history. If the veterans of the Sixties pass on some of the practicalities they learned, personally and from their forebears, it can be an enormous benefit to the Republic. If not, there may be that much less hope for the continuation of the Republic.

As for the previous comments . . .
Obama is the best Republican President since Clinton.
Anyone who claims to know what McCain would have done as President doesn't know what they're talking about. Well before his national campaign, I was describing him as having a triangular mouth, because he talks out of three sides of it. I doubt there is a stance on an issue he has not come out against.

#90 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:38 PM:

Julie L.:

Being middle class or upper doesn't bother me; I am, after all, a great admirer of Marx and Engels. But if anyone wonders why Obama is such a willing tool of Wall Street, first look to his education. Some people get an upper class education and use it to work against the class system, but most people use it to secure their position within it.

I trust you noticed that I addressed the scholarship issue earlier in the thread.

And I still don't quite know how to interact with people's servants. Seems to me that if you're a healthy adult and you can't take care of your property, you've got too much.

edward oleander:

Regarding the liberal belief that Nader gave the election to Bush, Wikipedia has a reasonably balanced write-up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader#The_.22spoiler.22_controversy

Whenever I think about 2000, I remember Republicans sending their people out in the streets to protest and Democrats telling theirs to stay home. And, of course, Gore telling the Black Caucus to stop trying to contest the result.

#91 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:14 AM:

David Harmon @79: The problem is, that kind of "ally", we don't need.

There are so many anti-imperialists in US politics that we can afford to pick and choose?

I've got a friend who's the legal director of a public advocacy firm. He's a committed liberal, but if he finds (as he occasionally does) a conservative or libertarian who's interests align with his, he'll work with them, because in politics, that's how things get done.

#92 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:16 AM:

will shetterly @90, me? I remember the Brooks Brothers Riot.

#93 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:25 AM:

albatross @ #85, Oh, Obama has disappointed me in that area and several other ones, don't get me wrong. But look at the world he's working in. The Republican party has concluded whatever he's for, they're against, so he may have decided to pick his fights (not enough of them, in my view, but there you go).

For example, the deficit hawks have been howling for two years that we have to cut spending. So Obama and the Joint Chiefs announce today that the Pentagon is going to downsize to the tune of $489 billion over ten years, which ain't all that much, and immediately the Republican party has gone ballistic, saying "America will be unsafe if this goes through" and blah blah. "Forget the deficits! Save us, O Armed Forces, from the unidentified threats which are so surely out there," they say.

How in hell do you work with people like that?

#94 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:30 AM:

j h woodyatt, yup, that's what I meant--can't remember if I ever knew its name. If the DLC had a passion for democracy, there would've been a Blue Denim Riot in response. But the Dem Talking Heads told people to let the courts decide, which was undoubtedly part of the Repub game plan all along.

#95 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:44 AM:

Linkmeister: "The Republican party has concluded whatever he's for, they're against"

If only it was that simple. My favorite movie critic invariably loved movies I hated and hated movies I loved. True polarization can be mighty useful.

I would agree that the Repubs have decided that whenever Obama follows his instincts to go right, they'll go further right. What've they got to lose? Remember, he never promised to end wars in the Middle East or provide universal health care or do anything that could reasonably be called leftish. Alas, I never realized how long his list of things he didn't promise was.

Has he ever taken the bully pulpit for something that mattered? If he did, I must've blinked and missed it.

#96 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:07 AM:

Linkmeister @ 93: "But look at the world he's working in. The Republican party has concluded whatever he's for, they're against, so he may have decided to pick his fights (not enough of them, in my view, but there you go)."

But in a number of areas--government secrecy, illegal violations of civil liberties, and unchecked executive power among them--Obama has pursued Cheney-esque policies not under pressure from Republicans but for his own reasons.

will shetterly @ 95: "Has he ever taken the bully pulpit for something that mattered? If he did, I must've blinked and missed it."

Weren't we just criticizing Obama for talking big and failing to deliver? I enumerate for you: A More Perfect Union, A New Beginning, and what must be dozens of speeches calling for health care reform, not to mention the whole hopey-changey thing. To my mind race relations, US-Muslim relations, HCR and a vision for a better politics are "things that matter"; you may disagree.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:34 AM:

The following comments have been released from the clutches of the gnomes and are commended to the assembled masses for perusal:

John A Arkansawyer @83
jh woodyatt @87 *
heresiarch @96
---

* Can you please, if you are gnomed in the future, post a brief comment to that effect immediately afterward? That way when I restore the lost text I can unpublish it, and don't face the invidious choice between meticulously fixing up-references and leaving SOMETHING WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!!1!eleventyone!!
Thank you.

#98 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:58 AM:

#52: Lori, Digby has some thoughts here on the implications of voting for a third-party candidate on the grounds that the Democrats are intolerable. She cites even Noam Chomsky as advocating choosing the "lesser of two evils" in swing states.

The way I feel about Obama can be summed up by my reaction to his statement upon signing the "Indefinite Detention" bill, when he announced misgivings about the signing and promised he wouldn't actually use its powers. Right. Why waste money violating the Constitution to detain "bad guys" in prisons when he can give secret orders to kill them, instead? Someone should ask him which way of violating the Constitution he prefers as more cost effective.

But despite my disappointment with Obama, I'm going to vote for him in the General Election, assuming that he's the Democratic nominee.

I'm in the middle of reading Terry Pratchett's "Snuff" and struck by a discussion of what Pratchett calls "the dreadful algebra."

"Classically we have the shipwrecked sailors adrift in an open boat far on the ocean with succor extremely unlikely. Generally, the procedure is to eat one another's legs, although sooner or later the supply of legs is gong to run, if I may use the word, out; and then arises the question of who will die so that some may live. Dreadful algebra, Captain."

[....] "You may think that this view does not stand up to scrutiny, but when you're faced with the dreadful algebra, the world becomes quite a different place."

In "death-before-dishonor" situations, people of strong moral character may choose to reject "dreadful algebra" calculations. And you might want to classify Pratchett's point (or, more accurately, the point made by his character, A.E. Pessimal) as another "Cold Equations" scenario. For most of us, failure to stop the Republicans from regaining control of the country won't be equivalent to our deaths. We'll live to fight another day -- maybe organizing on a new social network created by the Occupy movement.

But I feel fear for what failure to stop the Republicans in the next election may mean in terms of preserving the metaphorical life of our country. I think about Supreme Court Justices and Franz Kafka.

I hope this response isn't pouring salt into a wound. Digby is a more eloquent spokesperson for the point I'm going after. I'm an s-f reading geek who has a tendency to mix up artistic metaphors with pragmatic wisdom.

#99 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:23 AM:

Linkmeister, thanks for those links.

But was there anything substantial in any of them? All I see in the A More Perfect Union speech are forceful platitudes; there's no call for a new War on Poverty or free higher education for poor folks or anything that might actually improve the lot of 25% of the country's black population living in poverty. In A New Beginning, he seems to be calling for the same "new" beginning American Presidents have been calling for for decades: fewer settlements and a two-party solution. And on his health care call, he started by taking Single Payer off the table and pushing for Mandatory Support of Insurance Companies instead.

He's great at making speeches. But there's nothing in them. Adolph Reed's '96 observation continues to apply: "His fundamentally bootstrap line ... softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community..."

I think I'm voting for the Canada Party this year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrhA0sEkuaM

#100 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:31 AM:

I can't trust any politician who doesn't say "hey, you know what we should do in an election? Make sure everyone who is qualified to vote is able to vote if they try, and then COUNT THE GOD DAMNED VOTES. The reason we got W. is that we forgot that that's how elections should work." 2000 was the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in. My first real election, and my faith in the American political system was damaged, possibly forever. It probably won't be restored until I live in a country where a viable political candidate feels like he can talk about this publicly. Considering how people roll their eyes whenever I bring it up, I think that's a long way off. Heck, I considered posting this under an alias, because I believe my view that in elections we should count all the votes might be too controversial. I wish I were joking.

I definitely stopped being a kid and lost most of my hope in 2000. And what caused that horrible scar deep within me? Republican judicial appointments.

That's why I can't support Ron Paul, and that's why I can probably never vote for anyone who chooses to ally themselves with the republicans for the foreseeable future, unless drastic changes occur within the party. They are the party that appointed Justices who decided we should not count the votes cast in an election, and I have no doubt that if Ron Paul was elected he would nominate more Justices who would continue that legacy.

Every single terrible thing that has happened in the twelve year aftermath of G. W. Bush is the direct result of people thinking that Reagan or the first Bush "weren't that bad." No. They were part of the party that does not want votes counted if it meant they would lose. They appointed Judges who agreed with that.

I live in a world where that was my first lesson in political participation: the bad people have prevented the votes from being counted. There was nothing I could have done to stop it: the non-counting of votes in my first election was the direct causal result of republican party judicial appointments. Every time someone says that it doesn't matter what party holds the presidency, it's like someone stabbing my heart with that 2000 election dream-killing knife.

I will spend the rest of my life fighting people who don't want votes counted, and people complicit in that betrayal.

Ron Paul has chosen to ally himself with them, wear their sigil, and he dreams of being their bannerman.

The Iraq war and the War in Afghanistan happened not because Democrats and Republicans are so similar and both support war and blah blah blah. They happened because in the past people thought that electing Republican presidents wasn't that bad, despite the fact that those presidents are in charge of supreme court appointments. They happened because a Supreme Court appointed by people elected before I got a chance to participate told me that I couldn't have the president who got the most votes, because counting votes takes too long.

I'm young and foolish a lot of the time. This post is super emotional, probably too emotional to be really effective.

I just cannot comprehend how anyone who lives in a world where Bush v. Gore occurred could minimize the importance of judicial appointments made by presidents, yet I see that occurring constantly in threads both here and on other forums.

Am I disappointed by Obama? Yes. Would I have been disappointed by Gore? Most likely, to at least some extent.

But I sincerely believe that Obama and the Democrats want to see votes counted, and want to see that everyone who is eligible to vote and who wants to vote gets their vote counted. The other party does not care about things.

For me, it's all about trying to make sure no future kid gets screwed over like me. If there are two candidates, and I think one of them is more likely to appoint a justice who will want votes counted, I have to pick the one who will appoint justices who want votes counted. It's that simple.

#101 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:44 AM:

Avram@91: There are so many anti-imperialists in US politics that we can afford to pick and choose?

Sure. Westboro Baptist is opposed to our current wars, but I'm not seeing anyone propose an alliance with them. Clearly there is a threshold of acceptability, and the question is whether Paul is so directly advocating the needless death and misery of, say, me and people I care about that he should be on the other side. I think we should be thinking of him as more like Fred Phelps than as someone it's worth allying with.

In case folks haven't seen it, Ta-Nahesi Coates wrote fascinatingly about Paul just the other day. Coates recalls how it was that he and a lot of others who knew, or should have known, how bad a guy Louis Farrakhan was and is nonetheless supported him, and sees something similar going on with Paul support. I think he's got it just right, as he often does.

#102 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:10 AM:

Lenny:

I don't claim to have any answers here, but there is a pretty fundamental problem with memoryless lesser-of-evils voting: It creates the opportunity for your candidate to be very evil, as long as he has an even worse opponent. It leaves you unable to push back on betrayals, as long as the other side is worse. For any nominee other than Paul, the Republican is guaranteed to be worse on civil liberties and executive power and sociopathic foreign policy than Obama. Where, then, is Obama's incentive not to push right up to the edge of the Republican positions in those areas, knowing that however bad It is to have Obama appointing the star chamber and giving orders to the death squads, it would be still worse to have Santorum doing so.

Now, I can see what a disaster Santorum would be as president. I have no desire to see how much more quickly and efficiently we can finish up shredding the constitution with a bunch of Republican nominees to the supreme court who are even more ideologically committed to unlimited government power rhan the Democrats' picks. But where is Obama's incentive not to shift right on all those issues, when his base will keep supporting him so long as he's an epsilon less crazy and evil than the Republican nominee? It seems to me that we are in a game that says "Your principles are subject to compromie, mine aren't" with a bunch of madmen. How does that game end?

#103 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:19 AM:

Leah:

Enough votes are clearly counted that the Democrats could win big victories in 2006 and 2008. It looks to me like 2000 was an extraordinary case where the result was so close, there was advantage in trying to game the counting rules. And in 2004, Bush beat Kerrry largely on war-driven support-the-boss-ism.

My sense is that redistricting is much more important as a way of effectively denying people a voice than gaming the counting rules on a party-line vote in the Supreme Court. That is done enthusiastically by both parties, even though the whole point of redrawing districts to make a maximum number of safe seats for yiur party is to deny people in those districts any practical choice.

At any rate, the elections in 2006 and 2008 suggest that votes for Democrats are indeed being counted.

#104 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:29 AM:

j h:

One hopeful thing you have left out. The internet is, more and more. making the MSM irrelevant. That means their control over public discussion, deciding which ideas will and will not be discussed in public, which facts were irresponsible to report, etc, is ending. I think a lot of the brokenness of our piolitics comes down to the systematically distorting filter on the world provided by our media. In a world where facts and issues and topics can do an end-run around the gatekeepers via the blogosphere or Youtube, where Americans can read/watch outside-the-US news sources (BBC, The Garuniad, The Telegraph, El Pais, Al Jazera) or nonstandard but high quality inside-the-US ones (Democracy Now), where we can get access more and more often to the raw data (Pew Center, CDC, BJS, YouTube) or read the whole transcript of the debate or interview, a lot of good and bad new ideas and movements can become wodespread.

#105 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 10:28 AM:

Open threadiness with wider applications: This popehat post talks about the use of takedown requests by police departments who don't want footage of their cops beating the hell out of someone all over the internet.

We currently have the opportunity to have hard-to-control information sources, but of course that's not something we can always rely on. SOPA appears to have bipartisan support, for what it's worth. I doubt the left end of the ruling class has any more inherent love of citizens seeing stuff their betters would rather they didn't see than the right end.

#106 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 11:24 AM:

re 33: This is really too cynical an outlook on scholarship students at these schools. I went to one of them (St. Andrew's in Delaware), and to the degree that they were trying "to bring fresh blood into the elite", it should be understood that at least at the school where I went (and Obama is a year younger than I am) "the elite" was understood to mean the people staffing professorships and the foreign service, and of course law offices and the like. The point is, these were all professions suitable for elite liberals; their interpretation of a liberal arts education inevitably leaned towards embracing the double meaning. It was understood that the well-rounded individual should play a sport, should go to an elite college, and should take up a place in the directorship of the world established by FDR and LBJ (with a definite dash of JFK "ask not" on top), making suitable endowments back to his school and college as well as to the parish of the progressive church of which he was an upstanding member (and eventually vestryman). Noblesse oblige was a foundational part of that ethic, and it was the other reason for scholarship students. At SAS, for instance, in my day the school worked with a recruiter to pluck black kids out of the ghetto and place them among their nascent upper middle class white peers, not so much because it looked upon them as an untapped resource, but because they felt the moral obligation to do something for the black community.

Now, this wasn't what SAS was like in the 1960s. One can look through the yearbooks and see precisely what was going on: the assistant headmaster (nicknamed "Bull", apparently with his approval) ruled the place with an iron hand and fought valiantly to keep the place locked in 1940. He retired around 1970, and two years later the headmaster, who I gather had been waiting for the chance, turned the place upside down. But it should be kept in mind that this happened with the approval of the board of directors, chaired nominally by the Episcopal bishop of Delaware and in actuality by one of the duPonts. Punahou's website is not as forthcoming about the details of its development, but I strongly suspect that it was passing through the same sort of change around the same time if not earlier: SAS was in my day considered somewhat retarded in the march of academic cultural progress (which is one of the reasons my parents were willing to send me there). A fair number of my classmates went on to become Republicans, but we were hardly the Republican party at school.

#107 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 11:24 AM:

Now here's a candidate for the Republican nomination who would be truly fabulous.

#108 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 11:54 AM:

Article in Salon misleadingly titled: it's really about Rand Paul's possibilities as a successor Libertarianoid force within the Republicans.

#109 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 11:56 AM:

re 107: After having two curates and a deacon at our parish named Melanie, Meredith, and Madeleine, a number of us opined that the most important qualification for a successor would be that they not have a name beginning with "M".

#110 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:02 PM:

I used to find the US's insistence on simply numbering congressional districts rather than giving them proper names endearingly unimaginative.

Now, it just reminds me of The Hunger Games.

#111 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:04 PM:

My best-case scenario for some years has been:
1) The Repub party completes its self-destruction without taking the country down with it.
2) The Democratic party resumes its traditional place as the party of the right and the home of rational conservatives.
3) Progressives can then in good conscience depart for a new party of the left.
And it would be nice if this shift became an opportunity for us all to recognize that there is no such ideology as "Conservatism", that in this country we are all (almost) adherents of Liberalism, and that what divides progressive Liberals from conservative Liberals is tiny compared with what separates Liberals from Anti-Liberals* such as those who had recently taken control over the Repub party.
*There is a more common word for them, but I don't want to Godwin this thread).

#112 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:13 PM:

re 104: the flip side of this is that, let out of the MSM compartment, it seems to me that the multiplicity of outlets has been paralleled by increasing compartmentalization in reading them, and especially in choosing advocacy voices over (ostensibly of course) reportorial voices. I know a fellow who is in the local newspaper business and therefore ought to know better, but it seems like all the news he gets, he reads in Lew Rockwell. A lot of neocons seem to get their news reading direction from NRO. Some others seem to go to Salon first. And of course, there's Fox. I'm a weirdo who insists on tracing sources back, so I end up reading not just the advocacy mouthpieces but also their sources, and my media base-of-operations is the Wash. Post (which continues to at least give the appearance of objectivity) and the Atlantic (which is sort of schitzoid centrist, and which encourages a lot of pushback). But if people always did incline towards reading the news with a eye towards reinforcing their biases, the internet has evolved towards providing them with outlets to encourage and reinforce that bad practice.

#113 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:39 PM:

A lot of people get their news only from All Things Considered, which despite all the proof to the contrary is still believed by most to be liberal and non-MSM. With David Brooks their paid favorite political spewer commentator how anyone would believe that escapes my understanding entirely.

Here in NYC the enormously wealthy public station isn't even a public one. The station is really independent, having bought the license from the city, which originally owned it. Since then it has made a business and pov alliance with the NY Times, which too is anything but truthful or liberal, repeating the Times' party lines, employing the Times' rightwing columnists and so on.

To get the real skinny on the NY Times and its staunch, unblushing advocacy of the 1%, there's a very interesting new web paper, called the NYTimes eXaminer, which dissects all sorts of the constant conning shenanigans the grey lady gets up to, including tiering commentators to their open comment articles and opinions -- the first tier that get published immediately without moderation are usually sock puppets for insurance companies, lobbyists, etc. The rest of us, who even dare to criticize and call out the outright lies, many of us will no longer have their comments published at all, no matter how thoughtful, etc. Then there's the labor issues: labor gets fired and pay and pensions and bennies constntly cut, while the management rakes in more compensation every fiscal period.

In the meantime they've raised the price of the weekday issue again, to $2.50. I have been offered a deal for a digital subscription that forces me to have the apps for phones, etc., none of which I want or have use for, for 99 cents @ 8 weeks. Doesn't matter. I will never ever give the NY Times a cent of my money again. Ever, ever, ever. The same is true for NPR and public radio. I've never forgiven them, as they've never apologized for their shame of cooperating with the WMD bs. They lost me forever.

This is what MSM has come to, and nothing else.

The NYTimes eXaminer here.

Love, C.

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:52 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 87: "Popular culture is as decadent as ever, but look closely: there is basically no popular appetite for anything remotely like subversion of the cultural hegemony. "

No appetite for subversion? I'm sorry but am I just missing the bunch of rom-coms where the heroine chooses her job over romance, dramas where the rich lawyer/manager/businessman is the hero and not the villain, where the punchline is hey everybody state capitalism is great! Atlas Shrugged tapped into such a popular vein? Because what I see is a popular culture where the basic operating assumption is that business as usual is evil to the core, screwing over everyone in the world not wearing a three-piece suit, and most of them too. Take, for example, Shooter: a thoroughly mediocre movie featuring a soldier-done-wrong-by named--I am not making this up--Bob Lee Swagger, taking his revenge with his manly he-skills against the villain, who is a sitting US Senator. A senator whom he assassinates at the climax of the film. I point to this film not because it is some daring edge case but because it is a totally run-of-the-mill action thriller.

Bruce Baugh @ 101: "Clearly there is a threshold of acceptability, and the question is whether Paul is so directly advocating the needless death and misery of, say, me and people I care about that he should be on the other side. I think we should be thinking of him as more like Fred Phelps than as someone it's worth allying with."

There are two questions here that keep getting collapsed into one: the first is about whether we liberals ought to be positively inclined towards or even ally with libertarians like Paul on the issues where there is some material overlap in goals. To me, this has a lot more to do with who has votes in Congress than whether I think they are good people. The second, though, is of a different sort: what does the remarkable singularity of Paul's rhetoric on the national stage say about us liberals and how we have allowed our priorities to be shaped by our leadership? I am tired of asking the latter and being answered as if I had asked the former.

Coates is making a subtler point than you hint at.

As surely as Ron Paul speaks to a real issue--the state's broad use of violence and surveillance--which the America's political leadership has failed to address, Farrakhan spoke to something real, something unsullied, which black America's political leadership failed to address.
Paul and Farrakhan are flawed in such profound ways, and their excellence in truth quite narrow; for them to rise to prominence shows not a madness on the part of their supporters but a monumental failure on the part of the political establishment.

#115 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:15 PM:

will shetterly @ 99: "He's great at making speeches. But there's nothing in them."

Ah, and now we're back at standard-issue Obama critique No. 1. Next we can proceed to No. 2: "He's too caught up in policy; we need some moral leadership!" then we can cycle all the way back to "What has Obama ever done that matters?" Whee!

#116 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:18 PM:

C Wingate:

Yeah, I'm assuming some cross-fertilization. But then, I do some of that.

I don't just read or listen to one viewpoint. Rather the opposite, in fact. One of the most important things for anyone who doesn't want to be lied to or to deceive himself to do is to find good, honest, thoughtful sources of information and ideas and discussion with whom he disagrees in important ways. It's shockingly easy to miss elephants in the room when you only talk to other people who think the same way you do.

Once you find sources of information that don't agree with you or each other in important principles, you can also cross-pollenate between them. You can take the insights you gained reading something from a libertarian or antiwar progressive or paleocon perspective, and discuss it in a liberal venue, or take something you started thinking about because it's a big issue among socialists and bring it up with the paleocons.

I find this enormously valuable all around. It's one thing that drives me nuts about demands for ideological purity that you see in much of the modern conservative movement, and demands that people with real and interesting ideas be repudiated (and the discussion about their ideas go away) because they also have bad or offensive ideas or associates.

#117 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:43 PM:

Fragano @ 107:

Yes! Let's elect a Queen! If for no other reason than to get a little sartorial style in the White House.

#118 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:52 PM:

heresiarch @114

No appetite for subversion? I'm sorry but am I just missing the bunch of rom-coms where the heroine chooses her job over romance,

I'm probably getting confused by the multiple layers of negation here, but the parallelisms suggest that you think a heroine choosing romance over her job would be culturally subversive. If I've untangled that correctly, you may want to re-examine that interpretation.

#119 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:04 PM:

Bruce:

All will love her, and despair.

#120 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:10 PM:

albatross @ 116:

I don't just read or listen to one viewpoint.

I think it's vital to pay attention to what everyone in the political discourse is saying; if you don't understand what they want and why they want it you can't deal with them on any basis but antagonism, which immediately removes all the non-confrontational means of resolving conflict like negotiation, persuasion, compromise, etc.

There's another level of this that's really vital in our present situation: paying attention to what people in other countries and cultures are thinking and doing. As a rule native-born citizens of the US are uninterested in learning about other cultures, or following what's happening elsewhere in the world, and this has greatly contributed to our descent into military imperialism. I have Al Jazeera English and BBC feeds on my google homepage, and experiment with other foreign sites on a regular basis, trying to keep myself open to what other people think, and especially what they think of us.

#121 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:43 PM:

Bruce,

Yeah, I think understanding other peoples' views and concerns is one very important benefit of reading widely. But another one, at least as important, is that reading widely gives you some extra bonuses on your saving throw vs. self-deception and blind-spots.

This is, in some sense, an extension of the useful insight behind privilege discussions. To recognize that the world looks different when you go through it in a female body or a black skin is to understand more of the world, including why other people act and think they way they do. This may allow you to make common cause with women and blacks and gays and whomever else. But at least as importantly, you'll see stuff that's important, but that isn't so easy to notice among people like you. Look at TNC's blog's occasional discussions of interacting with the police, for one example. There is a set of experiences and distilled wisdom being shared there that is not remotely what I grew up with, or something I and my friends would normally notice.

Note that this doesn't require agreeing with the people who are pointing out your blind spots on whether what they're pointing out is good or bad, or what policy would best address it. It just means better seeing parts of the world you hadn't known were there.

#122 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:46 PM:

albatross @104 ::: "One hopeful thing you have left out. The internet is, more and more. making the MSM irrelevant. [...]"

I'm not very hopeful about that either. I am more than a little bit familiar* with the technical details of how retail Internet services are actually operated, and my take on your point is that the cultural hegemony is not ever likely to be presented with any significant challenges that emerge from alternative media via the Internet. The Internet is mainstream now, and if anything it enables the cultural hegemony with even more power to monitor, influence and control social networks than ever before. Alternative media is just as powerless to attract eyeballs there as it has ever been. The MSM isn't irrelevant; it's taking over the Internet.

I know a lot of people here loved Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, but I have way too much engineering knowledge about how the technology that he was fantasizing about actually can be made to work, and while the story was fun and lively, it may as well have been about elves and unicorns as far as I was concerned. It was not a blueprint for using realistic technology for liberating anybody from repression or overthrowing the cultural hegemony.

* Link goes to the RFC that broke my heart on this topic during the process of writing it.

#123 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:17 PM:

Montana supreme court blows off US supremes re Citizens United

The majority argument? "The copper kings bought all our politicians for decades. We cannot tolerate that again." Of the 5-2 decision, one of the dissents basically was, "the majority is right on principles, but we're going to get overruled on review."

#124 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:31 PM:

#68 - abi - Gore's loss had many causes, and was ultimately his own fault. I wasn't "blaming" anyone (I neither know nor care who on ML voted for who in 2000), but was instead invoking the Law of Unintended Consequences (LUC) on one of the facets of Gore's loss. Nader was mentioned only because he had the most third-party votes in Florida. Sorry I didn't take time to make that clear in the post. Because he's a decent and intelligent man, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on his intentions. The Wiki article Will suggested @ #90 supports that (somewhat), but doesn't refute a LUC argument. Sorry if it's a sensitive issue for you, but you can't learn for the future without referencing the past, and heading off future scenarios where the Perfect is the enemy of the Not-As-Bad-As-It-Could-Be was the entire goal of my comment.

#98 - Lenny - Re: Digby.... Excellent link, thank you!

#86 - heresiarch "...he's the only one making these very basic, sensible, liberal arguments on the national stage..."

One of the issues for me is I don't feel RP is actually making a sensible, liberal argument. While his conclusion is roughly the same as would be arrived at from a liberal base point, RP is not using a liberal thought process to get there (see Lenny @ #42). That makes him dangerous to work with, even superficially, and even if we appear to agree on these points, because at some point he will "turn" on us, using the gains we make in common to further other goals which are complete anathema to liberals. I fear the future cost of giving him even slight acknowledgement now. The enemy of our enemy is not our friend, and all that...

#125 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 04:25 PM:

edward oleander @124:

I was intervening before the wank started. I apologize for the implication that your comment was part of the problem.

It's not actually a sensitive issue for me, but it is for other members of the community—both those who blame Nader voters for the final outcome and those Nader voters who feel unfairly blamed. We've had these discussions on almost every thread that gets into third-party issues, and they're always all-heat, no-light affairs.

So, as I said, not somewhere we're going this time round. So far, we've managed to keep the discussion abstract and not personal. That's what I'd like to see continue.

#126 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 04:46 PM:

I dunno, I'm not following the argument (for lack of an explanation which I will get to in a moment) on this "we have nothing in common with RP". Part of it is that I'm reading from the discussion here the implicit allegation that Paul is really a disguised paleocon state-righter whose libertarianism is a smoke screen for allowing the troglodyte states to go back to sinning in all the ways they did between 1865 and 1965. This bothers me if for no other reason that Rand Paul turned two years old in 1965; hanging all that old baggage on him is not plausible, not the least because he didn't pick it up himself. There comes a point at which I think the stated principles of libertarianism need to be addressed at face value. And I think that, at face value, the Libertarians do have common cause with the liberals on some issues, even though they to some degree do not argue from the same principles. As far as working within a real government I don't see how the latter discrepancy matters; by sticking rigidly to principles, you have a lack similar to that of, well, Ron Paul, who as far as getting anything passed has next to no footprint in the law of the land.

Now what I'm missing here is an operational picture of being liberal, as contrasted with being libertarian. Some of it I can pick out: that corporations need policing, that Austrian economics isn't an accurate picture of reality, and so forth.1 But the larger picture, so far, runs too close to Atkins's caricature: that liberalism is paternalism combined with certain notions of personal freedom and not others. Right now I'm not being moved off my centrist/pragmatic personal position.


1 Based on what I've seen it could be argued that RP is conservative and not libertarian on certain issues, such as @b0rt10n. I don't know his position of homosexual marriage but I gather that a lot of libertarians don't have a problem with that either. Obviously where there is a direct conflict of principles none of this discussion applies.

#127 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:24 PM:

Leah Miller @100: The Iraq war and the War in Afghanistan happened not because Democrats and Republicans are so similar and both support war and blah blah blah.

That argument can maybe be made for the Iraq War. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 passed with the support of a large minority (39%) of the House Democrats, and a majority (58%) of the Senate Democrats. (And at the time the Democrats did have, just barely, control of the Senate, thinks to Jim Jeffords.) With more Dems in Congress, maybe it could've been blocked, but it would depend on whether they were anti-war Democrats, and in times when the Dems have control of Congress, it's usually because a bunch of right-wing Dems got elected in conservative regions. A couple dozen more Zell Millers and Joe Leibermans wouldn't have helped.

That argument cannot be made for the Afghan War, which was supported enthusiastically by both parties. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (14 Sep 2001) passed in the House with 420 Aye, 1 Nay, 10 Not Voting; and in the Senate with 98 Aye, 0 Nay, 2 Not Voting.

And the previous Democratic president, Clinton, wasn't reluctant to use military force in Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Haiti.

#128 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:35 PM:

Bruce Baugh @101, so, if you were elected to the House, and found yourself on a committee with Ron Paul, and he came to you with a piece of prospective legislation he wanted to work together with you on, would you examine the legislation and make a decision on its merits? Or would you reject the alliance on principle, before examining the bill, because Paul is more like Fred Phelps than someone it's worth allying with?

#129 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:44 PM:

edward 124:

It seems to me that thinking about how our foreign policy looks on the receiving end, something Paul has been doing and being bashed for by all serious foreign policy thinkers[1] in the media, is precisely the kind of thought process that many liberals go down when deciding they don't really think the next hundred Afghan and Pakistani civilians we incinerate with drone-fired missiles will finally calm down the hatred toward the US in those countries. It is, additionally, one of the reasons I think our ongoing endless wars are a bad idea.

Similarly, arguing that laws like the Patriot Act and the NDAA threaten our freedoms at home, even the freedoms of people who aren't terrorists in any way at all, is there some reason that isn't reasoning that would come from a liberal critic of these laws?

There are many places where Paul may come to different conclusions that almost any liberal (abortion, gold standard) or may come to similar conclusions for different reasons (drug legalization, though his arguments in that direction would also not sound weird coming from a liberal).

[1] The definiition of a serious foreign policy thinker is that you must have wholeheartedly supported the invasion of Iraq.

#130 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:46 PM:

Taking this a bit wider, I think a lot of the emotion in this issue is generated by the vagueness of the word "support". Glenn Greenwald can write 800 words about how he doesn't support or endorse Ron Paul's candidacy, and receive a host of responses all predicated on the notion that he's "supporting" Paul, because nobody really knows what "support" means.

#131 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 07:03 PM:

He's so intent on diminishing Paul that he creates a false genealogy for liberalism denying huge swathes of liberal philosophy. Where, for example, does the right to privacy fit under his "interventionist" framework?

Have to admit, don't follow your logic here. What kind of meaningful right to right to privacy doesn't imply government intervention in the free market for scandals, nip-slip photos, hacked phone messages, etc?

As far as I can see, 'Intervention' means simply a decision, based some some rational argument of principle or pragmatism, to act to change the status quo. On the other hand, support for the status quo for it's own sake, especially without being able to make an explicit argument as to why it is good, is, more or less by definition, conservatism. Which is not a worthless philosophy, but is a thing almost entirely missing from the current Republican party, except perhaps on the single issue of gay marriage. Presumably why they stress it so.

Every pretty much other issue, the idea that, say 'I kind of like our constitution, legal system, economy or climate the way it is' is not a sentiment you would ever hear from a mainstream Republican.

Obama's guiding strategy appears to be that, if looking for political allies, conservatives are the place to find them. Which is reasonable enough, as that is presumably going to be a pretty large constituency whose only reason to vote Republican will look pretty damn flimsy when it is arrayed against all those other things.

Some will be happy with that, if it succeeds; 4 more years of things not getting worse, as the Steve Earle song has it.

Alternatively, the easiest way to manifest a change would be if the next time his team ran the numbers, they found they added to something different.

Thing is, that's not something that will happen by itself. On the other hand, if you can't organize an intervention to do even that, then anything more ambitious is pretty definitely not going to work out.

#132 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 07:44 PM:

C. Wingate: "Part of it is that I'm reading from the discussion here the implicit allegation that Paul is really a disguised paleocon state-righter whose libertarianism is a smoke screen for allowing the troglodyte states to go back to sinning in all the ways they did between 1865 and 1965." That's not my intent at all. I don't think he's a disguised paleocon bent on restoring state-level tyranny and misery. I don't think he's in disguise; I think a lot of people desperate to believe otherwise are ignoring the evidence. It's not like Paul is shy about explaining all the things he's fine with states and private parties doing, from outlawing contraception to restoring all racial discrimination this side of complete chattel slavery.

Heresiarch, I take Coates' point to be that that when you're hungry enough to hear some obvious truths finally acknowledged, you can turn aside from a whole lot of unpleasant context. I don't see him blaming himself or his fellow erstwhile Farrakhan supporters, nor dumping on Paul supporters now. That works for me. I mean, I'm in favor of civil liberties at home and peace abroad, too, to put it mildly. It's just...

In recent years I've been thinking that "first, do no harm" really is as good a guide to politics as to medicine. I worry about unintended consequences - externalities, to use some jargon. When the problem is A's failure, rewarding B may not help if B has even worse failures over in area C. And there just isn't support for any stronger affirmation of Paul's stance of basic liberties than "He opposed federal tyranny, but is fine with it at all lower levels, and by private parties of all sorts." That's not what the people in the center and left saying good things about him want, and I think it'd be better to say "this is what we want, and we are tired of the leadership of the allegedly not-right-wing-loony party ignoring us" without bringing him in.

#133 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 08:03 PM:

Avram: I don't have an answer to that, partly because I don't think any good reliable defense of civil liberties or any of my other political priorities can be had in anything much like our current Congress. I have a feeling that change will require the kind of multi-decade effort the right put into subverting legislatures from the ground up.

As for an overview of liberalism, I'd tend to say that it's an often deliberately jumbled set of priorities that can be summed up as "actual well-being". So it's got a lot of "this until that becomes more pressing" kinds of statements, and few "this at all costs" ones. I've come to feel about absolute assertions in politics a lot like I have about assertions about aesthetic absolutes - maybe so, but I'm stuck with a consciousness-mediated window on the world, and so's everyone else I know, and in the world with perceptions taken into account, harm builds up when we stop considering side effects.

I know that some people would say this means "ah ha, there are no liberal principles". I don't think that's true, any more than, say, the fact that e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot weren't writing sonnets means that they weren't writing poetry. There are different ways to formulate the rules that guide our decision-making, and "Greatly increased misery means that something has gone wrong and needs to be adjusted" is as valid as "We must never cease from advocating A no matter how bad it's making B and C".

#134 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 08:49 PM:

heresiarch @115, on Obama, that's where I've always been, thanks to writers like Adolph Reed. Identitarians see a black President who disappoints them because he doesn't live up to their preconceptions about black people; the rest of us see a neoliberal who acts exactly like a neoliberal.

C. Wingate @126, I think it's useful to distinguish between right-libertarians and conservatives, and between liberals and left-libertarians. The first two get lumped together as Republicans and the second two as Dems, but on issues like foreign war and civil rights, the libertarians find common ground, because liberals will invade other countries and repress those at home who disagree with them.

Avram @130, excellent point.

#135 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:11 PM:

107
Fragano, getting that one in would probably be a big improvement.

#136 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:22 PM:

@ #177 --

If you don't think our current First Lady has brought terrific style to the White House, I give up on you!

Love, C.

#137 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 09:34 PM:

[a big & very different approach to this problem]

I've decided that the biggest political process problem we have is a failure to deal effectively with mass media. It seems that anyone who owns enough media these days (or who can afford enough time) can buy an election, a law, or just about anything political.

[edited repost from my comments over at tnc's blog] I think the thing that makes it possible to present a man as a savior is centralized and centrally controlled mass media. That's how the totalitarians of the last century did it. There were Soviet citizens who sincerely believed that Stalin was their great savior, not their scourge, and Germans who thought that Hitler would save not just the Germans but the Aryan race. Historians seem to think that this was accomplished by some magic of rhetoric, but it does not seem to be so. Some fairly persuasive arguments, good presentation, and, above all, centralized mass media make it possible. Reagan, who began the end of the white middle class, is still seen as savior by many surviving members of that class. And such an alchemy has been worked with Paul, who is, so far as can be determined, an actual fascist.

I think the hope, if it is anywhere, is in the many-to-many media: the internet, the blogs, if these are allowed to continue. In the consensus process of the Occupy Assemblies. Perhaps in the on-going transformation of production by new technology. In, finally, the decentralization of public thought.

If I am right, the extensive reforms of the world's democracies are required if they are to remain democratic. I wonder what form they would take.

#138 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 11:28 PM:

The Raven @137: And such an alchemy has been worked with Paul, who is, so far as can be determined, an actual fascist.

The actual fascists --- by which I mean the Italian Fascists (because they were the originators of the movement) and German Nazis (because they were the ones we fear the most) --- believed in aggressive military expansion and strongly centralized government power in the hands of a single dictatorial leader. Whatever obnoxious beliefs Paul holds, those particular ones do not seem to be among them.

The fascists were strongly opposed to communism and socialism, so Paul's got that in common with them, along with every other major candidate. But the fascists also opposed the free market, in favor of a system they called "corporatism", which bound labor unions and businesses together into a centralized economy. (Some people use the same word to describe our current economic system, but what we've got relies upon the weakness and dissipation of labor unions, while true corporatism requires them to be strong-yet-subservient. A better term for what the US is moving towards is "cheap-labor capitalism".)

#139 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 12:16 AM:

136
I hate some of her dresses. I'd like to see her in this, though.

#140 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 12:17 AM:

I've been Gnomed.

#141 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 01:27 AM:

I think that I said in a thread here just after Obama's election that it meant that now we could start the process of unwinding the damage that W and Darth Cheney had done to our political system and the rule of law. And I said that I thought it might take a generation or more to undo it all.

I now believe that I was optimistic both as to time and as to the will that Obama, and probably any future president, D or R, would have to forego the powers that W and his friends took for themselves. I'm not sure we'll ever see an administration under the present 2 party system that's serious about restoring either the rule of law or the practical application of Constitutional rights and safeguards.

So that means that change has to come from outside the current system. It could come by peaceful means, but I really don't know how, as so much political power has become concentrated in a few hands. It could come from violent revolution, except that, as Rocky says to Bullwinkle, "But that trick never works!" Or almost never. The aftermath is all too often as bad as or worse than the original.

The good news is that if our Galtian Overlords continue to have their way, the end result will a nation that's too poor to support the kind of imperial military we have now, and we'll not-so-gracefully decline to minor power status. At least we won't be killing other people with our drones, just ourselves.

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 01:33 AM:

Umm ... pardon my angst. I'm feeling low today; Eva and I have been passing a nasty cold back and forth for a couple of weeks now, and it's getting to me. And this discussion, while very important, is depressing. But I'm not quite that depressed, not really. Occupy Wall Street has given me some hope that there are people in this country, some older and experienced in that sort of political operation, and some younger and full of hope and determination, who may be able to cause some change. If they can avoid being co-opted and keep up the pressure on the oligarchy, rather than just on their tools, they have a chance to get us out of the hole we're in.

#143 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 03:38 AM:

Avram, #138: on the other hand, Franco was not expansionist. US fascism in the 1930s was isolationist rather than expansionist and, IIRC, also very much in love with states rights, and for much the same reasons as Paul: they wanted the states as authoritarian preserves. I call it a US variant. There is also the possibility of the worst of both worlds, where a nominally isolationist administration encourages and supports "private" international adventuring. There is, again, a long history of this in the USA.

#144 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 04:58 AM:

The Raven @143, Franco's generally not considered a fascist, at least not in the US, but I'll grant that the falangists were pretty close. It's possible that he would be counted among them if he hadn't made nice with the US in the '50s.

I hadn't thought much about the American fascist movements, because they never really amounted to anything. Yeah, I can see Paul's resemblance, but when you pull the F-word on someone, in the modern world, you're associating them with Hitler and Mussolini, not, say, Ezra Pound, or, um, I can't even think of another one. Father Coughlin?

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 08:39 AM:

Are there any facist movements where the participants are primarily concerned with individual liberty and limiting the power of the government? One might as easily call Paul a Communist, because in his critique of our foreign policy and crony capitalism, he echoes some things some Communists also have said. (Wouldn't Paul's description of US foreign policy get substantial agreement from Fidel Castro?).

#146 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 09:50 AM:

Constance @ 136: I think Ms. Obama's great for who she is, but let's face it, she's no drag queen.

Here's my thesis on Ron Paul: That he's the only meaningful candidate with certain policies fundamental to a humane politics is an argument that the system itself is broken.

To tie this back to the past: Where was the opposition to the War on Iraq? What meaningful input did the large minority opposed to war have in the process? When was our case made? Public opinion was bent when the Democratic Party rolled over and pissed itself in a war frenzy, and the mainstream media, from the odorous Fox to the odious NPR, followed suit.

A majority of Democrats in the Senate at that time voted for the invasion: Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Breaux, Cantwell, Carnahan, Carper, Cleland, Clinton, Daschle, Dodd, Dorgan, Edwards, Feinstein, Harkin, Hollings, Johnson, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, Miller, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Reid, Rockefeller, Schumer, Torricelli

What can you do in electoral politics with a party like that? You're going to get the reforms the wealthy and powerful will allow you and not one bit more.

Some political power can't be gained through electoral politics. Maintained, yes, but it's gotten through extralegal means. The Civil Rights Movement was less about gaining court and electoral victories than about demanding enforcement of the former and making possible the latter. Their show of force, mostly non-violent, that made those legal victories real.

#147 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 10:38 AM:

Are there any facist movements where the participants are primarily concerned with individual liberty and limiting the power of the government?

Are there any national fascist or falangist movements that weren't all about emphasizing the most traditionally distinctive features of the nation they were from? So expanding Germany was expansionist, imperial Rome imperialist, Orthodox Romania religious, and so on.

America probably has the smallest government, most active religious people, and most commonly-referenced constitution of any developed country. So naturally any successful american fascist movement would be small-government, Christian and constitution-quoting.

The only true common element of all expressions of fascism is the use of mass-media propaganda to legitimize private violence in defense of the status quo, in particular private property.

In US terms, the Klu Klux Klan, not the fringe wierdos of the 1930s, or the occassional WWII fetishist, are the authentic fascist tradition. And obviously the core of their rhetoric was anti-(federal) government; the free exercise of the right to private (human) property, and limiting the power of the government (to stop them lynching people).

Not that Ron Paul is anything like a supporter, but his occasional resemblance to someone who might be is hardly a source of comfort.

Ref:
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/Anatomy_Of_Fascism.html

#148 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Avram, #144: "I hadn't thought much about the American fascist movements, because they never really amounted to anything."

albtross, #145: "Are there any fascist movements where the participants are primarily concerned with individual liberty and limiting the power of the government?"

Fascists always--always!--couched their brutal authoritarianism in positive terms. So they talk about freedom quite a lot. Modern US neo-Nazis often employ libertarian rhetoric. The freedoms fascists claim, though, invariably turn out to be the freedom of one group to oppress another, much like the "states rights" ideologues in the USA. "States rights," though a legitimate legal and political idea with some value, was one of the rallying cries of the Southern slaveholders and the Confederacy, after all--it is troublesome to see it invoked by national political leaders.

The USA has long had an authoritarian streak and fascism was popular in the USA in the 1930s. It was the period, after all, when Sinclair Lewis wrote "It Can't Happen Here." Look up the American Liberty League, a radical-right faction of the period. It included major US business leaders, and bore a resemblance to European fascist movements, but it failed as a popular movement. Their rhetoric has a kinship with Paul's. Then, too, Hitler and Mussolini had their US sympathizers. There was the German-American Bund, who were American Nazi sympathizers, and relatively popular in the period.

US authoritarianism, as Avram says, has a somewhat different character than European fascism: it seeks to arrogate itself within the USA, and is therefore isolationist, rather internationalist, as in Europe. And it always talks of rights, especially states rights, and usually of Christianity as well. But there are also huge similarities, notably in its promotion of the corporate state and its bigotry. With those qualifications, I think it's a fair characterization of Paul to say he is a US fascist.

I agree that there is not so much risk that Paul will become President, though I do not entirely rule out the possibility, but his influence over the Republicans is troubling. I am much more concerned, as I have said, that Paul has articulated policies which other Republicans will attempt to put into practice. His popularity has to be making the political leaders sit up and take note.

In any event, I was hoping we could also have some discussion about media in politics as well as Paul. While responding to Paul's challenge is important in the short term, in the long term, we need long-term solutions that will tame the US authoritarian streak, too.

#149 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 02:40 PM:

*omnibus post; sorry*

C. Wingate @ 126: "And I think that, at face value, the Libertarians do have common cause with the liberals on some issues, even though they to some degree do not argue from the same principles. As far as working within a real government I don't see how the latter discrepancy matters; by sticking rigidly to principles, you have a lack similar to that of, well, Ron Paul, who as far as getting anything passed has next to no footprint in the law of the land."

Hear hear; though according to Matt Stoller "any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war."

albatross @ 129: "It seems to me that thinking about how our foreign policy looks on the receiving end, something Paul has been doing and being bashed for by all serious foreign policy thinkers[1] in the media, is precisely the kind of thought process that many liberals go down"

Yes--here's a video of him making exactly that argument. (Neat kinetic typography too.)

Bruce Baugh @ 132: "In recent years I've been thinking that "first, do no harm" really is as good a guide to politics as to medicine."

I've often felt the same, but more and more I think that politics and medicine are too different for that to be a good guide. The difference is, I think, about positionality: in medicine, the doctor is generally not the patient nor the illness, so it's easy to say first of all don't become part of the problem. But in politics, we're already part of the problem: we are the patient and the illness and the doctor all at once, and not doing harm is impossible from the start. I am in general uncomfortable with the idea that not-acting is a different kind of thing from acting, and here the distinction seems particularly unclear--not-acting is inevitably part of what led to the problem; part of the harm.

John A Arkansawyer @ 146: "Here's my thesis on Ron Paul: That he's the only meaningful candidate with certain policies fundamental to a humane politics is an argument that the system itself is broken."

Yes, precisely. And it is the brokenness of the system (and the liberal establishment that is part of it) that demands serious attention, not Paul's candidacy.

The Raven @ 148: "Fascists always--always!--couched their brutal authoritarianism in positive terms. So they talk about freedom quite a lot."

To treat this as dispositive evidence of fascism is to dilute the term far, far below the level of usefulness. I mean, show me the political movement that doesn't couch their ideals in positive terms, that doesn't try to fit its principles within local traditions. What fascism is, more than anything else, is the ideal of total state-society interpenetration, so that every aspect of every individuals' existence is surveilled and disciplined to the utmost by the government. It's about subsuming every form of social organization, including markets, within the state. Insofar as there is individual freedom, it is the freedom to perfectly serve the state.

Libertarianism emerged as a direct antidote to this vision of society; it was explicitly designed to counter fascistic tendencies. Its ideology exalts the market precisely because it is *not* the state, and relies on free exchange, not coercion. (Yes, I know.) It has nothing whatsoever to do with fascism. To pretend otherwise is to perpetrate a left-wing incarnation of Goldberg's masterpiece Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. This isn't to say that libertarianism isn't quite often wrong, and quite often awful, but it is wrong and awful in its own special way, not some attenuated echo of fascism.

#150 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 02:58 PM:

The Raven:

I am finding your argument indistinguishable from that of conservatives who go around calling Obama a socialist, both in quality of thought and in apparent intent.

#151 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 03:09 PM:

heresiarch:

The thing about the youtube piece you linked to is that it is offensively outside the mainstream. When have you ever seen or heard any national level politician, or any prominent media type or talking head, make that argument? I haven't seen it.

That's why he's valuable to have in the race. We need a hell of a lot more people thinking like that, asking those questions. The questions don't answer themselves--maybe there are good reasons to have our troops on foreign soil for decades on end, despite how much that makes enemies of the locals. But the whole question just doesn't come up in mainstream political debate. They hate us for our freedoms, even the ones who write long, detailed manifestoes explaining that they hate us for what we've done to their countries, or to other members of their religion or their ethnic group. Even they guys who joined the insurgency after we blew up their little sister and mom trying to kill other insurgents. To say otherwise is awful, blaming America for 9/11, it makes you practically a terrorist and at least a propagandist for terrorists--as the other candidates and various pundits have said about Paul.

There should be dozens of people making these arguments in public. Why aren't there?

#152 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 04:18 PM:

soru @147, the page you linked to, the excerpts from "Anatomy of Fascism", does not support the thesis you laid out in the comment that included it.

Specifically, while you claim that "The only true common element of all expressions of fascism is the use of mass-media propaganda to legitimize private violence in defense of the status quo, in particular private property", the excerpted matter has a list of fascism's "mobilizing passions", which include: "the primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, whether individual or universal, and the subordination of the individual to it" and "the superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason".

Both of those are anathema to libertarians. And while I have known libertarians who were willing to ignore their reasoned principles for some gut instinct, I've also known liberals willing to do the same.

#153 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 04:37 PM:

The Raven @148: US authoritarianism, as Avram says, has a somewhat different character than European fascism: it seeks to arrogate itself within the USA, and is therefore isolationist, rather internationalist, as in Europe.

That's not what I said. American authoritarianism is quite expansionist and interventionist. I'm sure you've noticed that US domestic policy over the past dozen years has concentrated ever more power in the hands of the executive (that's authoritarian), and US foreign policy has involved invading more and more foreign lands (that's interventionism). That doesn't make it fascism; there's no reason to expect history to repeat itself that precisely.

#154 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 08:41 PM:

I'm constantly amazed at how many people are willing to take Ron Paul at his word on civil liberties. We scoff at Obama when he talks along these lines and giggled every time Bush mentioned the word Liberty (that was a drinking game sure to bring about liver damage) yet Ron Paul lays down the Civil Rights mumbo jumbo and everyone takes him at face value.

Paul proposed the We The People Act, which would prevent federal courts form hearing cases regarding abortion, same-sex marriage and religious discrimination. He also proposed the Sanctity of Life Act, which would overturn Roe v. Wade. He hides behind that tired old shibboleth of "States Rights" but he still wants to outlaw gay marriage and abortion, and make non-Christian's into second class citizens, just at the state level rather than the federal level.

And while he was opposed to the Iraq War, he sponsored the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2007, which would make it legal for the president or congress to issue letters of marque and reprisal against terrorists. So yeah, instead of sending the Army into Iraq he'd rather just let Blackwater/Xi/Academi/whatever their name is this week run around collecting bounties on foreign nationals. I'm sure no international incidents would ever be created by that.

On the surface, Paul talks like a libertarian with a mixed bag of daffy ideas that makes him attractive to a variety of non-orthodox political types. But if you dig into his record even a little bit you find that he walks just like a Republican, (albeit one with a byzantine mind and a super villain's fondness for overly complicated gambits).

Add in his obsessions with the gold standard and he's a shark tank away from being a Bond Villain.

#155 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 09:40 PM:

"American authoritarianism is quite expansionist and interventionist."

Good point, Avram. There are two factions: the imperialist faction and the "isolationist" faction. The isolationists seem to be closer to historical fascism in many other ways. They also aren't exactly isolationist; they're all right with private or corporate internationalism. It might be better to call them anti-Federalist authoritarians. They're fine with power, as long as it doesn't come from the Federal government.

#156 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 09:54 PM:

Heresiarch, "To treat this as dispositive evidence of fascism is to dilute the term..."

I did write more than the sentence you are quoting. There seems to be a line from the thinking of the US proto-fascism of the 1930s to Ron Paul's "libertarianism," but a full analysis seems like far to much work for very little result.

"Libertarianism emerged as a direct antidote to this vision of society; it was explicitly designed to counter fascistic tendencies."

Historically the enemy in capitalist libertarianism is communism. Where did you get the idea that it was fascism?

#157 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 10:17 PM:

I don't want to argue Paul's merits further. Ron Paul--he has said--is perfectly all right with all manner of authoritarian policy from state governments and corporations; his only problem with authoritarianism seems to come when the Federal government gets involved. I don't think he is libertarian in any meaningful way. Call him pseudo-libertarian.

The claim that this exceptionally dishonest and uncompassionate politician is a believer in freedom has been refuted at length by David Neiwert, link. Digby has highlighted his failures of compassion, link.

Now, could we please go back to talking about how to fix the problems of the US national and global world order?

#158 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 10:22 PM:

I think I see how isolationism and fascism get along in the USA. The key is to see the "nation" which is to be arrogated above all others is to consider it as loyal to a region like, say, the South or the inland Northwest.

Next, I'll start talking about hexapodia.

#159 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 10:42 PM:

The Raven at # 156: Historically the enemy in capitalist libertarianism is communism. Where did you get the idea that it was fascism?

That's a narrow reading. Any kind of heavy-handed centralized authority is frowned upon in libertarianism, no matter what ideology it uses to justify itself.

Historically, some libertarians such as Murray Rothbard emphasized anti-communism and anti-socialism in order to form coalitions with paleocons. See this essay at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

#160 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 11:03 PM:

The Raven @156, modern American libertarianism was strongly influenced by FA Hayek, who was so freaked out by Hitler and Stalin that he came up with a rhetorical model that erased the differences between them.

Also, fighting Hitler was so much fun that it's all anyone in the US wants to do anymore. Why do you think the Iraq War and the War on Some Terrorism have been described in WW2-evoking terms? ("Islamofascism", "the Axis of Evil", etc.)

#161 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 11:34 PM:

Allan Beatty, #159: "Any kind of heavy-handed centralized authority is frowned upon in libertarianism, no matter what ideology it uses to justify itself."

But he is still talking about Rothbard and markets and capitalism. These days the macroeconomic arguments which underpin anarcho-capitalism has been comprehensively disproven and some serious rethinking is called for. Keynes objection to Communism applies equally here. Keynes wrote that Communists could not deliver the utopia they promised and no amount of violence would deliver it without deeper economic knowledge. Equally, here, the libertarian utopia cannot be delivered without deeper economic knowledge. If what calls itself freedom is only the freedom to die young of illness or starvation, it calls itself by a false name.

#162 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 11:55 PM:

Hexapodia? As in "Ron Paul is a chitinous hexapod?"

#163 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2012, 11:57 PM:

Avram, #160: but Hayek was wrong. Comprehensively so, though it took many years for the full scale of the wrongness to become apparent. But, really, all that was needed was honest study of the history. His claims about free markets were never well founded.

I agree that there is a nostalgia for the Second World War in US foreign policy thinking. the USA is still working to maintain a military capable of fighting World War II, despite there being a need for a very different sort of military.

#164 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 12:11 AM:

The Raven @163, yeah, but Hayek's wrongness doesn't somehow retroactively cause him not to have been an important, even foundational, figure to the modern libertarian movement.

#165 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 12:42 AM:

The Raven @163 : I agree that there is a nostalgia for the Second World War in US foreign policy thinking.

I don't disagree.

It's odd that the people that harken back to this and America's strength of purpose (and hardware) during that era, aren't willing to adopt the 90% upper bracket tax rates that financed that effort.

#166 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 01:39 AM:

Avram, #164: but he was also wrong about social democracy, fascism, and communism, and that wrongness became more and more apparent as time went on. However little libertarians like it, social democracy does not lead to authoritarianism and, indeed, the current outbreak of authoritarianism is much more similar to 1930s-style fascism than to Stalinism. This outbreak has also shown up the intellectual connections that have grown up between capitalist libertarianism and right-wing authoritarianism--discouragingly many libertarians have jumped to the right.

#167 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 02:30 AM:

The Raven:

The best suggestions I have for finding our way out of this mess involve creating incentives for politicians not to sell out or values. Right now, the awfulness of the Republican party makes it prrtty low-cost fof Obama to sell out the part of his base that cares about civil liberties, in order to seek a few more votes from the middle. Even so, I think (and very much hope) that Obama is seeing a serious loss in excitement and individual donations from the folks who most enthusiastically supported him in 2008. I hope that weighs on his mind, and that it also weighs on the minds of the next several presidents.

Another way to push back within the political process is to mount primary challenges, as with Accontability Now.

Still another way is to push on the edge of the Overton window w.r.t. issues like executive power, police-state-friendly laws and insitutions, drug legalization, and our ruinously expenive wars and gold plated military. So long as candidates can ignore those issues, they probably will--but if the issues come out often enough, and especially as they leak past the blockade of respectable news sources and become common fodder for dicussion, maybe we can force politicians to commit to some better course of action on some of this stuff.

One other piece of advice I'd offer very broadly: . It may be possible to build a coalition that pushes back on our sociopathic foreign policy (drug war, executive power grabs, homeland security nastiness), but probably not without mkaing common cause with people who pretty fundamentally don't share your values. The way it looks to me, a lot of the way protests (antiwar protests, Occupy protests, tea party rallies) are covered really maximizes the offensiveness to outsiders. I dont know whether that's an intentional tactic or just the way media works, but it's been pretty effective at keeping largish groups of people who agree on some key issues from being able to work together.

#168 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 03:38 AM:

The Raven @ 156: "Historically the enemy in capitalist libertarianism is communism. Where did you get the idea that it was fascism?"

The enemy is both. From the wikipedia article on the Road to Serfdom:

"Hayek challenged the general view among British academics that fascism was a capitalist reaction against socialism, instead arguing that fascism and socialism had common roots in central economic planning and the power of the state over the individual."

Von Mises:

"The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is 'left' and what is 'right'? Why should Hitler be 'right' and Stalin, his temporary friend, be 'left'?"

The distinction between communism and fascism isn't one libertarians give much credence to--their basic argument against socialist democracy is that it leads to fascism. Now, you can argue that this is wrong--I do--but to pretend that libertarianism isn't violently opposed to fascism is laughable.

#169 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 04:00 AM:

heresiarch @168, the bit where von Mises describes Stalin as Hitler's "temporary friend", as if the horrific warfare (30 million killed!) along the Eastern Front never even happened, is a sign that he's trying to pull a fast one. The US and USSR were temporary friends against the Axis. By von Mises's logic, that means there's no point distinguishing between the two countries.

(Not disagreeing with you about modern US libertarians opposing both fascism and communism, just sitting here amazed at the "temporary friend" thing. Holy crap.)

#170 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 06:49 AM:

Xopher @162, no, as in "Hexapodia is the key insight". From a different discussion about an impending catastrophe and how to identify the enemy...

--Dave

#171 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:28 AM:

Stalin and Hitler did have a temporary alliance for awhile, and so, like Stalin, FDR, and Churchill, they were temporary friends. I have no idea if that's what von Mises was thinking about, though.

I don't claim any deep thought here, but Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia sure seem like they had a lot in common, despite their very different underlying ideologies. Similarly, extreme fundamentalist Christianity and Islam end up looking similar in some respects, despite being based on rather different religions. I think he's making a valid point about the inappropriateness of the left/right model, at least when applies to extreme cases like Hitler and Stalin.

#172 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:37 AM:

Avram #144: Franco's political party (the Falange Española Traditionalista y de las JONS), or the Movimiento, brought together under his control three parties that supported the military uprising against the Republic: the Falange (fascists, modo Italiano), the Traditionalists (Carlists, extreme right monarchists who supported an alternative pretender to the throne),* and the (JONS -- Juntas de Ofensiva Nacional-Sindicalista, Spanish Nazis). This was intended to mobilise a section of the middle class behind Franco both during the Civil War (when the Movimiento was created, or forced together) and afterwards. I'd say that it was a fascist party.


* One of my great-grandfathers was a Carlist, this resulted in his loss of preferment and status (the other branch of the royal family was then -- as it is now -- firmly in control).

#173 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:38 AM:

I think Hayek saw social democracy as a moderate form of central planning, and so predicted (at least in The Road to Serfdom) that it would concentrate power in the same ways. And this was simply wrong. Social Democracy has a tendency toward paternalism (which should be pushed back on), but that is a very different problem than sticking the central planners of a socialist state in a position where they almost can't help taking charge of more and more of life, and becoming more and more about strictly telling everyone what to do and punishing noncompliance, just to keep things running.

#174 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:42 AM:

Didn't facism mostly evolve from socialist movements, adopting more nationalism?

#175 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 01:45 PM:

albatross @174, that's what right-libertarians say. I think a more accurate view, given the internationalism of socialism and the opposition of fascists to socialists (look at who the Nazis locked up first), is that fascism's velvet glove is a promise to take care of the people it approves of. It wears a very-limited form of socialism, a some-socialism-for-some, like a badly-fitting mask.

#176 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 02:54 PM:

Avram @ 169: "the bit where von Mises describes Stalin as Hitler's "temporary friend", as if the horrific warfare (30 million killed!) along the Eastern Front never even happened, is a sign that he's trying to pull a fast one."

No question.

albatross @ 171: "I don't claim any deep thought here, but Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia sure seem like they had a lot in common, despite their very different underlying ideologies. "

In a very real sense, the technology of social control has a logic of its own that is quite divorced from typical left-right distinctions, much in the same way that military or communications technology does.

#177 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 03:14 PM:

albatross @ 174: "Didn't fascism mostly evolve from socialist movements, adopting more nationalism?"

I would say that it evolved in parallel to socialist movements, in response to many of the same historical trends. There's an essential difference though: fascists' goal is to shape society in service to the state, whereas socialists' goal is to shape the state in service to society.

#178 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 03:45 PM:

An interesting think piece in salondotcom, "The Anti-Obama Cult."

The author works hard to effectively untangle all the dog whistles in the amorphous howl of "Big Government." Here's a pull -- it's a fairly long piece:

[ " Because “big government” does not have a fixed meaning, attacking it can simultaneously serve as a rallying cry for racial resentment, an impassioned demand for personal liberation and a marker of class- and region-based solidarity. This is why when the Republican candidates inveigh against big government, which they do approximately every time they open their mouths, their rants have all the weird, malevolent imprecision of a Stalinist attack on “running dog lackeys of the bourgeoisie.” They are the ravings of True Believers, of cult members.

Also lurking in that black hole was the one right-wing card that Bush did not destroy, because it is indestructible — the “culture war.” The far right’s free-floating hatred of America’s liberal, secular culture waxes and wanes, but it never goes away, and it is responsible for the rise of Rick Santorum, the GOP’s latest Dispose-a-Candidate. For Santorum, sinful modern life is to blame for everything, and it is our duty to always sound the alarms and remain vigilant against it. Thus, when the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal broke, Santorum blamed, not the church that covered it up or the individual priests who disgraced themselves and abused their position, but – Boston. " ]

The description of Michelle Bachman's divine call to the presidency that comes at the top, is truly scary, as the author does such a good job of breaking down how her ilk have by now conflated the Founding Fathers with angels and the Constitution with Holy Writ -- as we've been saying for a long time.

Love, C.


#179 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 05:55 PM:

Constance:

Just as a nitpick: It can also mean that the speaker actually thinks the federal government, or all govenment, should be substantially less powerful, less involved, and smaller in all dimensions than it is now. I agree with the quoted bit that this isn't what most politicians mean when they talk about it, but it's important to remember that the fact that some bad people use this language doesn't mean that everyone using it is one of those bad people.

#180 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 06:55 PM:

Just got a robo-call from "catholicvote.org" urging me to vote for Rick Santorum this Tuesday.

Robo-call? Really? That's how you spell "desperate."

#181 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 07:17 PM:

James, I hope you're right. Santorum give me the willies.

The more closely I look at the Republican candidates for President, the more terrifying they seem. I haven't bothered to look closely at Huntsman because it's evident that he has no chance at the nomination -- hell, the guy speaks Mandarin! That's enough to disqualify him. Santorum's a theocrat, Paul -- okay, I've said my piece on Paul elsewhere, not going to repeat it, Gingrich...words fail me, just go read Charles Pierce; and Romney is a zombie vampire: soulless, AND he wants to suck your blood and eat your heart.

#182 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 07:48 PM:

Lizzy:

Huntsman and Romney appear to be more or less sane. I dont think a Romney presidency will be a disaster, though perhaps that's wishful thinking aided by the fact that the man has held a great many mutually inconsistent opinions over the years, mysteriously tracking with his short term political interests.

Reading the debate transcript, two things struck me:

a. The debate format is roughly as well adapted to any kind of real discussion of issues or ideas as talking head shows. There is no way anyone could make a substantial point that wasn't obvious in that format. And the way the debates work in practice is as quote-mining opportunities for the other guys' attack ads, which means that these relatively bright, informed guys who have bee heavily coached and have spent a lot of time practicing sound like idiots or robots a lot of the time.

b. The Republican base requires stated allegiance to a bunch of utterly nutty stuff as almost the cost of admission to be a serious candidate. I think all political movements do this to some extent, but it's really overpowering in the current Republcian race. This makes otherwise sensible people say goofy things, in trying to at least hedge around the required bits of irrationality.

My sense is that one reason Paul comes off as well as he does in the debates is because he's not actively spouting what he knows to be bullshit. Much of what he's spouting is indeed bullshit, but it's bullshit he believes. That's easier to do convincingly than spouting bullshit you know is bullshit, and even that is easier than tryinog to somehow hedge around the required bullshit, so that you can not say something stupid, but can still leave the audience thinking maybe you meant the stupid thing they wanted to hear. (I'd say Huntsman's weird hedging on global warming awhile back is an example of that.)

#183 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 08:33 PM:

The other reason Paul comes off well is he's the only candidate who:

1. Opposes the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama War in the Middle East. When we're weighing evils, remember that foreign men, women, and children are being killed, raped, and impoverished.

2. Opposes the drug war and it's penalties that hit America's urban poor, black and white, hardest. Y'all do know how many black men are in prison today, and what percentage of that is because of those drug laws?

3. Opposes the unrestrained power to arrest and kill anyone declared an enemy of America. Sure, Obama says he won't use it. But even if he's sincere, how comforting is it to think that he'll hand that power to the GOP candidate when he leaves office?

It's true that the enemy of your enemy is not your friend. But the enemy of your enemy may be your ally. Being a socialist, I've got a lot of problems with Ron Paul, but I've also got a lot of problems with liberals who wave away those issues.

But fortunately for everyone, it'll be Obama vs Romney, so those three points are moot.

#184 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:03 PM:

#181 Lizzy L: "hell, the guy speaks Mandarin!"

I have read that he doesn't speak it very well, if that's any consolation. ("Ou est la plume de ma tante" level.)

He had a lot of ads on the Boston stations (which bleed over into NH) broadcasting the NFL playoffs this weekend.

#185 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 09:32 PM:

Will: Ron Paul may be an ally if anyone else out there in Congress wants to limit the depredations of the military-industrial complex, or cancel the damn War on Drugs, or push back against the Obama administration's stance on civil liberties. Were I in Congress, I'd have no problem working with the man. I think he's a nutter and I don't want him to be President.

Albatross: will Romney be a disaster as President? For whom? Do you mean he won't bomb Iran? I wouldn't bet on it. This is a man who will say anything to get elected: how do I know he won't do anything to remain in power? Also: he's a soulless zombie vampire.

#186 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:02 PM:

Lizzy:

Given rhe last four years, I am not convinced that Obama is less likely to bomb Iran than Romney. I very much wish I were. Indeed, I don't see a huge amount of reason to suspect Romney of being inclined to do much different n the war on terror than Obama, who is mostly just continuing the Bush policies with some modifications around the edges, Probably, Romney will be w little worse on those things, but not radically worse.

#187 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:23 PM:

Lizzy @ 185: The flaw in your reasoning is that voting for a Presidential candidate who supports the Permanent War* and the continuing assault on civil liberties is itself a bit nutty.

(I say this as someone who did exactly that nutty thing in 2008 with few regrets.)

The problem isn't the nuttiness of Ron Paul. The problem is the hard-headed realism of the Democratic Party. If it weren't a party of War and Repression, Ron Paul would be insignificant.

*Special bonus quote about the drone war and the embedded anthropologists:

"What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?"

#188 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:36 PM:

Keith Kisser @ 154: Add in his obsessions with the gold standard and he's a shark tank away from being a Bond Villain.

Thank you for this, so very, very much. It has brought light to a drab and cheerless day.

#189 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:38 PM:

186
Romney has show every sign of not having any fixed opinions on anything - he's pretty much for whatever will get votes with that audience. He doesn't seem to have any memory of his own previous positions on anything, either, even when the previous position was a few days earlier.

My feeling this year is that there are no good candidates at this time, and I don't see any improvement between now and Labor Day. And the Republicans have gone crazy and are trying to drag everyone else over the cliff with them. Voting for any third party candidate is not good. Neither is voting for someone like Paul, who is batshit insane.

#190 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:57 PM:

Whenever I hear people on the right hand side of the aisle say things about Obama, or express their displeasure, or their extreme dislike, I'm tempted to say, "Oh, you hate this guy. This man. Whom you've never met. Never talked with. This man, father of two young girls, husband, president of these United States? You, who's never had a moment's contact with this man, or read anything beyond soundbites, you've determined that he's worthy of hatred?"

I think about saying that, but I don't, because it's a silly thing to cudgel someone with. Because they don't really hate him, they're just expressing a shorthand emotional reflex that doesn't mean anything like real hatred, right? It's something human, right?

And besides, it can't be anything like we say or feel about the GOP, right?

Because they're them, and we're us, right?

#191 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 11:17 PM:

albatross @182 and will shetterly @183, when you say that Ron Paul "comes off well" in the debates, are you talking about your own opinions, or your guesses about why he polls as high as he does, or applause from debate audiences, or what? Because I think the two of you are talking about different things. (Or Will, do you really think the audience for a GOP debate feels badly badly about how many young black men the US puts in prison?)

#192 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 11:33 PM:

Steve C @190, you need to meet someone to hate them? You can't hate Hitler, Stalin, Walter O'Malley, Fred Phelps, Osama bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, Anne Coulter --- their words and actions aren't enough?

Granted that the president of the US (any of them, not just Obama) attracts much stronger emotions than an ordinary person does, but that goes with the job. When you say "Make me the most powerful person in the world for four years and I'll solve some great big problems," you're asking to be the focus of powerful emotions.

#193 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 11:36 PM:

Avram @ 191: I think you're close to right that the audience* for the GOP debates doesn't care particularly that (for instance) the War on Drugs puts young black men in prison at sky-high rates.

When it comes to the GOP primary voter, yes, I think that's true, by and large. When it comes to the Ron Paul voter who is not a Republican**, I think it's not true, by and large.

So it depends on who's really in the audience and on what exactly you mean by audience in this case.

My problem is the Democratic Party's failure to effectively confront this issue, among others.

*I would love polling figures breaking down exactly who the audience for those debates is

**those are the Ron Paul voters that give me the worst of the terrible, terrible headaches

#194 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 11:56 PM:

Avram @ 191, I suspect it's a little of both, because the issues I mentioned resonate with me, while things like the states' rights approach to abortion and marriage resonate with religious conservatives.

As for the racism of the drug war, sometimes it's easier for me to talk with conservatives than liberals because conservatives, with exceptions like Santorum, are more willing to discuss the world in class terms--though they, of course, rationalize our class system. So I would agree that for many Ron Paul supporters, the racist aspect of the drug war is irrelevant--what matters to them is that the drug war is expensive and ineffective, and good capitalist business sense says you should tax and regulate a profitable and relatively harmless human indulgence.

But when I say "many", I don't mean "most." I suspect most conservatives hate racism as much as most liberals do.

#195 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 12:16 AM:

Avram @ 192 -

I was pretty sure someone would play the Hitler card.

Are you saying that the emotions are the emotions and they are valid no matter what direction they come from? That pretty much gives the stamp of approval to all political discourse today, no matter how strident, and no matter from which side it issues.

#196 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 12:21 AM:

Avram, Walter O'Malley? Really? In the company of those other people?

#197 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:02 AM:

Steve C @195, I was pretty sure you'd play the playing a card card. I'm just puzzled by your argument. Politicians routinely stir up unjustified hatred against people they've never met, for no better reason than to advance their careers. The people victimized by this behavior can't vent about it in public until they've shaken the hands of their persecutors?

Linkmeister @196, an old joke they used to tell around these parts: "If a Brooklyn man finds himself in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and O'Malley, but has only two bullets, what does he do? Shoot O'Malley twice."

#198 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:11 AM:

Avram, oh, okay. I thought you might have been serious, which seemed over the top, considering that's a Brooklyn grudge from 50+ years ago.

Besides, had they never moved to LA I'd probably never have become a Dodgers fan (which, for all the good it's done in the last 22 years, might not have been so bad). That's where I learned to love baseball, listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on KFI.

#199 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:14 AM:

Avram@192: you need to meet someone to hate them? You can't hate Hitler, Stalin, Walter O'Malley, Fred Phelps, Osama bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, Anne Coulter --- their words and actions aren't enough?

I can't speak for Steve C., but hatred for me would require a personal connection, and I have no direct link to any of those people. (Also, hatred is hard work--it requires constant tending and stoking to keep it hot. And I'm lazy. Despising somebody is easier to do; you don't have to keep on thinking about them all the time in order to keep it going.)

Surely, hatred is not required in order to oppose someone whose chosen course of action is plainly wrong.

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:21 AM:

So here's the mastodon in the room: we're all talking about what various politicians or wannabe politicians are saying about what positions they'll take and what they'll do if they're elected. And we damn well know that most of them, and possibly all of them, are lying about most of what they say, and possibly all of it. Anybody have citations for research on how much of a presidential candidate's promises have historically been fulfilled? Is it any better than the prediction rate of Midnight Sun psychics?

Consider Obama, who promised to halt and if possible reverse the slide towards executive disregard of Constitutional rights and obligations. He has in fact gone even farther than the Bush administration did in some respects, and has not reversed the ones he promised to. Does anyone really believe that any of the Republican candidates is likely to do any better on their promises, given that most of what any of them say is pandering to the lunatic fringe of the party?

I include Ron Paul in that question, because I have no way of knowing his level of integrity, and even giving him benefit of some doubt by starting him off at a higher level than is common in Congress, that doesn't leave him at a level much above used car salesman.

#201 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:55 AM:

Bruce @ #200, The other day I saw reference made to a paper some poli-sci academics had written which reported on the results of a study they'd done on politicians' promises. I think the gist was most had at least tried to fulfill many of them.

Ah, this is probably what I saw: Campaign Promises: What they say is how they'll govern.

#202 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:55 AM:

Steve C. @190: Consider that people here who are valued regular posters have expressed open hatred towards George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. If you say that to the right-wingers in question, I think you need to say it to us as well.

#203 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:55 AM:

Bruce @ #200, The other day I saw reference made to a paper some poli-sci academics had written which reported on the results of a study they'd done on politicians' promises. I think the gist was most had at least tried to fulfill many of them.

Ah, this is probably what I saw: Campaign Promises: What they say is how they'll govern.

#204 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:57 AM:

Bah. I got some weird error talking about renaming the comment to ML's archives, so I hit Post again. Sorry.

#205 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 03:20 AM:

David Goldfarb @202, he did say it to us. That was his point.

#206 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 04:30 AM:

Steve C. @190, the difference between me hating George W. Bush and a right-wing lunatic hating Barack Obama is that my reasons for hating Bush are based on real things, that he actually did, that have damaged the country in clear, measurable ways. The usual right-winger reasons for hating Obama are based on easily-demonstrated falsehoods, on meaningless gabble.

It is okay to hate a politician who threw the country into a ten-year-long war based on lies. It is less okay to hate one "because he's going to take our guns," when he hasn't said or done one single thing indicating that he wants that.

#207 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 07:44 AM:

will @ 194: The majority of the Paul supporters I know (which is not by any means a representative sample) are not exactly conservatives. A lot of them don't think of themselves as right-wing, and there's enough truth in that to distinguish them from your mainstream twenty-first century Republican. Quite a few of them at least think of themselves as concerned about racial issues.

And they are, sincerely. They just have a crackpot solution to a real problem.

#208 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 08:52 AM:

John:

Yeah, Paul's support does not come mainly from the main body of Republicans, with whom he has differences on policy almost as large as he has with Democrats.

As far as racial issues in the US, among black men between 20-29, we are currently putting one in nine behind bars. (Pew Center Report). If we could end the drug war, I'm pretty sure that number would drop dramatically, and it's hard to think of anything else we could do that would make things better for the average black person in America than to stop locking so many black men in prison. (Maybe fixing urban schools in poor neighborhoods?).

Now, Paul would want to get rid of federal laws wrt drugs, but leave states to manage their own laws. That's not the same as total legalization, but it is probably what can be done in US politics--even a politician without Paul's ideas wrt federalism would have a hard time forcing the states to get rid of drug laws from the white house. On the other hand, the feds currently use grants, threats of withholding money, and occasional raids of legal-in-the-state marijuana dispensaries to push back on any attempts to legalize or decriminalize drugs. Stopping that would have a huge positive effect, I think. The last several years have seen a lot of local initiatives pushing back on the war on drugs from the states, and massive pushback from the feds.

#209 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 09:04 AM:

Avram 191:

I'm saying I think Ron Paul is rather befuddled sounding and has pretty odd ideas. But since he's overwhelmingly expressing ideas he actually believes and cares about and has thought about a lot, and his opponents are often saying stuff they don't believe but think they have to say to get elected, I think he comes off relatively well in the debates--he seems more coherent and intelligent than he really is, relative to his opponents. And he correctly comes off as sincere in most of what he says.

Even for conmen, used car salesmen, and politicians, who must lie convincingly for a living, it is a lot easier to sound honest and smart and coherent when you're saying what you actually believe than when you are trying to say what your marks want you to believe. You get a bit of a bonus there when you're telling the marks what they want to hear (America is the greatest, Obama is evil, the only sacrifices necessary to get what you want will be required of people you don't like, white Christians are being persecuted and so need to be treated better by the government).

Perhaps I am judging Paul too kindly because some of his ideas do appeal to me, though others definitely do not. And I may well be overestimating how well he comes off, because I don't particularly want to be told the set of comforting lies that seem to appeal most to Republican voters.

#210 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 09:18 AM:

Steve C:

I think most of the hostility against Obama seen here is coming from people like me, who voted for him hoping that he meant some of what he had said about civil liberties and executive power. My hostility (which is not personal, but which makes me utterly uninterested in helping him retain power or supporting him anyplace except where, by chance, he happens to be doing something I value) is not based on imagined threats he's going to grab our guns, impose Sharia law, and nationalize the Fortune 500 all on the same day, but on the actions he and his administration have done and failed to do. A good starting point for that was voting for telecom immunity--this made it pretty clear that whatever his words, he wasn't going to take a stand against domestic surveillance or for seeing it investigated and revealed to the public.

He has earned my scorn and lack of support, as W did before him.

#211 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 09:23 AM:

Bruce:

Paul has never had any power beyond that of a congressman--he's pretty much always been outside the mainstream enough that there was no hope of enacting most of the stuff he cared about, So we don't have any evidence either way about what he would do if he somehow got power, and was in the position of, say, needing to quietly kill investigations into torture and domestic spying in order to keep his intelligence services from becoming his sworn enemies, or ending up with a healthcare reform bill that looks nothing like what he or his supporters started out wanting, in order to at least come home with half a loaf.

#212 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 11:35 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 200: "So here's the mastodon in the room: we're all talking about what various politicians or wannabe politicians are saying about what positions they'll take and what they'll do if they're elected. And we damn well know that most of them, and possibly all of them, are lying about most of what they say, and possibly all of it."

Following on Linkmeister @ 201, I don't see the pandering politicians engage in as being the problem nearly to the same degree as the inevitable distortions that emerge out of being in power in Washington D.C. There's the compromises that one makes with the opposite party, the compromises one makes with one's own base, the iron law of institutions, which makes people self-aggrandizing and self-serving in turn, and finally the Stepford-like Washington consensus.

These factors explain nearly every dislocation between campaign promise and presidential action we've seen from Obama. Obama's (lack of an) immigration policy results from the first, the weird shape health care reform ended up taking was a combination of the first two, and the retention and expansion of government surveillance and detention power is a product of the latter two.

Looking at these factors, it's not very hard to imagine how a Ron Paul presidency would go. First off, he'd be accountable to his (Republican) base in Congress to get any of his priorities into law and would have to compromise with them. Democrats would stonewall what they could, with little incentive to compromise with Paul in places where there was policy overlap. Therefore, we'd see the most action on those Paul initiatives which are more popular with Republicans: shrinking regulation, ending the federal reserve, dismantling the social safety net. and increasing the power of the states; undoing the New Deal in other words. The places where Paul differs from the Republican and mainstream orthodoxies would get left by the wayside; maybe he'd horse trade a reduction in Drug War intensity for something or other, but mostly issues of foreign war, civil liberties and governmental power would be left to slowly gather dust. Since it's such a big thing for Paul, maybe you'd see some rollback of government detention, but my guess is that it would be only for citizens and only for the time Paul was in office. I doubt Guantanamo would close.

That's why I'd never even consider voting for Paul. Even if he were somehow to make it to the presidency, I just don't see how the incentives would ever line up for him to accomplish any of the goals that we share, and lots of opportunity to do the things I abhor.

#213 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 11:40 AM:

Once again Charles Pierce has warmed my heart, this time by providing me with several moments of sheer hilarity envisioning Mitt Romney
dressed up as a chicken.

albatross at 186, I am afraid we are going to have to disagree here. While, as I have said, I don't agree with all of Obama's policies, I think he will continue to make more decisions that I do approve of than any Republican. John J, if that makes me a bit of a nut, so be it. Romney is a soulless zombie vampire who made a great deal of money destroying other people's livelihoods.

My grandfather Samuel Null was a Jewish immigrant who started out a feisty New York labor lawyer in the 1920s, and ended up a state court judge courtesy of FDR. He would haunt me if I were to even considered voting for Romney, or any of these clowns, even Huntsman, who is, I agree, probably sane. Couldn't do it.

#214 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 12:15 PM:

History demonstrates that entire populations can be terrified by a single man, thus calculating every word they say and move they make to keep themselve from the notice of this person and his minions, such as Stalin, who none of them had ever met. So why can't we have a very deep hatred of men we've never met -- hating them for the very reasons that we fear them?

I fear all these men very, very, very much.

Love, C.

#215 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:15 PM:

albatross, #211: "we don't have any evidence either way about what [Paul] would do if he somehow got power"

We don't actually know if this bomb will explode until we light the fuse and wait.

#216 ::: Tim Bartik ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 01:34 PM:

I think the tone of these comments here is unduly negative towards Obama. He's not a dictator. His choices and accomplishments are dictated by the political power balance, which makes it very difficult to advance any liberal cause.

He should be given high marks for finally accomplishing the progressive goal of universal health care reform, after failed attempts from FDR to Truman to Clinton. Was it an ideal bill? No. But it's amazing that anything so far-reaching passed, given the political opposition. And if Obama is re-elected, and the health care bill is fully implemented, it can be built upon into something considerably better.

He should be given some credit for getting at least some bank regulation and consumer protection in financial markets accomplished. Is it strong enough? No, but again, given the political forces, it is amazing that it was enacted at all. And it can be strengthened over time.

He should be given some credit for a fiscal stimulus package that was much larger than any previous fiscal stimulus package in U.S. history. It should have been even larger, but again, given the political forces, achieving a Krugman-level stimulus would have been much more difficult. I have some technical quarrels with the design of the stimulus, and think that some technical changes could have provided more stimulus over time at lower economic and political costs. But he did a lot on fiscal stimulus.

Obama is a moderate liberal President with pragmatic and cautious instincts. If people want to achieve a more progressive agenda, changing who is in Congress is of prime importance. And reforms to Senate procedures are also of key importance. If Obama had a more progressive Congress, and if it didn't take 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything, I suspect what he would propose, as well as what he would accomplish, would change considerably.

#217 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 03:27 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers)@200:

Thank You! Exactly the point I was trying to make with regards to Ron Paul earlier. He talks about ending the wars, and everyone takes him seriously, as if he could or even would really do it. Like he has a magic button that, were he president, he would push that would suddenly turn all his fellow Republicans (and a fair number of Democrats) off the idea of waging war for profit.

This will not happen.

In the unlikely event Paul would get elected, he'd either have a Come-to-Jesus moment with the Hawks in Congress or would have an accident in Dallas. Given his track record and the fact that, he's you know, a Republican, the former is more likely than the latter.

Paul only differs from his fellow Republicans in that he's opposed to the existence of the federal Government and obsessed with gold. He still wants to ban abortion and gay marriage, privatize everything that moves, etc., he just wants it to all be done at the state level.

#218 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 05:08 PM:

Rivals turn up heat on Romney as New Hampshire primary closes in

Huntsman started Monday in Lebanon, in the northern part of the state, before working his way south to the coast.

Lebanon? Lebanon?! Huntsman would have to drive north for another two hours to reach the northern part of the state! Newt has been here. Romney has been here. Paul has been here. Sorry, Jon, but you aren't in the race. You can shut down your campaign now. It's over.

#219 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 05:15 PM:

fivethirtyeight.com says that the Huntsman could come in third in NH.

Huntsman third place

I agree it won't make much difference in the end.

#220 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 06:40 PM:

will 194: I suspect most conservatives hate racism as much as most liberals do.

I was going to say "I see no reason to believe that," but then I realized I'm not sure what you mean by 'conservative' and 'liberal'. These days the term 'conservative' is applied only to people on the crazy right, who believe that the War on Terror justifies discarding all civil liberties (except for those of the very wealthy, which are more sacred than ever), while 'liberal' refers to people who think we should look at each civil liberty before discarding it, just in case it's not quite as worthless as it seems.

If you mean what I would call "real" conservatives (who today are pretty much all Democrats) and what I would call "real" liberals (who are pretty much completely out of power because the Democratic Party no longer tolerates them), I'd agree with your statement. BUT I do not think that Gingrich and Santorum hate racism one bit, I'm not sure about Romney, and while it's hard to know what's in Paul's heart of hearts, his history of open racism makes me think that 'hate' may be too strong a term for his feelings about racism, to say the least.

Keith 217 Paul only differs from his fellow Republicans in that he's opposed to the existence of the federal Government and obsessed with gold.

That is, he's unAmerican and crazy. UnAmerican, because the Constitution of the United States is the foundation of the nation, and to oppose its entire reason for existing is to oppose America itself; and crazy, because anyone with a basic understanding of foreign exchange and its associated economics knows the value of floating currencies, to know that and still advocate a return to the gold standard is crazy, and it's implausible that he does NOT know that.

#221 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 07:04 PM:

Xopher @ 220:

The gold standard is a religion, much like free market capitalism. As such, belief in it is a matter of faith, immune to reasoned argument.

#222 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 07:09 PM:

@Xopher, there's a reason why Bush's cabinet was more diverse than Clinton's, and it had to do with appealing to his base, not to the Dems' base. I believe racists prefer the Republicans, but that's not because the Republicans are the party of racism; it's because racists tend to be conservatives, not because conservatives tend to be racists. If the polls are right--and I've trusted polls since they said Gore won Florida--Cain really was the frontrunner for the Tea Party and the Repubs until a good old-fashioned consensual sex scandal brought him down.

Now, I also say this because the conservatives I know aren't racist. My brother's a truck driver who is about as traditionally Republican as you can imagine; both of his kids married people who weren't white, and he never had a moment of trouble with that. I should ask him what he thought of Cain before the scandal came out.

That said, maybe "hate" is too strong a word. But I would argue that if so, it's too strong to use for Democrats, too. See their indifference to sending a disproportionate number of brown-skinned folks to war and prison.

#223 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Will Shetterly @222: That reminds me of the first time I ran into someone crying "Godwin!" before he'd been Hitlered (decades before Godwin's Law was even coined). I said, "It's true, the supporters of (anti-gay) Measure 9 aren't all Nazis -- but all Nazis are voting for Measure Nine".

#224 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 09:39 PM:

Re the gold standard, its instructional to look at the complete bollocks-upped U.S. economy when Ol Hickory beat down the U.S. Bank and put us on specie only. Financial disaster for everyone who wasn't well off -- but good for the coming Confederacy where wealth was reckoned in people, not in the bank. Credit disappeared.

We still hadn't had the California gold strikes and the the silver and copper etc. that came soon after. We didn't have specie.

Love, C.

#225 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 10:07 PM:

Linkmeister, 198: I thought you might have been serious, which seemed over the top, considering that's a Brooklyn grudge from 50+ years ago.

Ahem. It may be a fifty-year-plus grudge, but dat don't mean it's a grudge from fifty years ago, capeesh? We Brooklynites have an inferiority complex a sense of pride going back to The Great Mistake of 1898, and the Cyclones only do so much to ease the pain.

Constance, 224: I'm currently reading Lords of Finance, about the central bankers who broke the world economy via the Great Depression, so this sort of historical info is really interesting to me right now. Do you have any suggested reading on it?

#226 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 11:02 PM:

Arkansas had two more deaths from the War on Iraq this week:

Officials with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department have determined that the cause of death for two people who died over the weekend in a house fire was actually a murder/suicide.

According to Maj. Andy Shock, a preliminary report from the state medical examiner’s office indicates that Abby Robbins, 8, was stabbed to death before her grandmother, Janice Robbins, 63, took her own life.

Why do I say those are casualties of war? As a previous story explained:

A neighbor told investigators that Robbins, a widow, had been raising the child following the death of Robbins’ son in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. William T. Robbins died Feb. 10, 2005, of non-combat injuries in Taji, Iraq. He was an 11-year veteran and a full-time employee of the Arkansas National Guard.

If George W. Bush killed these people--and I say he did--then Joe Biden loaded the gun and Hillary Clinton handed it to him, along with twenty-seven other senators, a majority of Senate Democrats.

With two parties of War and none of Peace, Empire is the reality. I remain optimistic.

#227 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 12:00 AM:

Bruce B., #132: What continues to becroggle me is how people can say with a straight face that Ron Paul supports civil liberties.* If you are willing to accept racial, sexual, and anti-gay discrimination as a matter of policy or principle, you do not support civil liberties. Perhaps we should borrow a phrase and talk about RP's support for "Civil Liberties For Some People". (And I see that Keith Kisser has already made much the same argument @154.)

and @133: I have a feeling that change will require the kind of multi-decade effort the right put into subverting legislatures from the ground up.

Exactly. The current state of affairs isn't something that's happened to us overnight, or even since GWB and 9/11. It's the result of a concerted effort that started as far back as the New Deal era, and there is no Magic Bullet that's going to get rid of it in any time frame as short as a single Presidential term. We (meaning liberals in general) made a huge mistake at the end of the Vietnam War; we assumed that people would be able to see why they were better off under liberal policies and continue to support us because of that. We didn't expect the huge blackwhite campaign from the Right, and we didn't do anything to counteract it early on, and now... well, it may not be too late, but it's going to be a lot harder than it should have been.

I didn't expect everything plus a pony from Obama -- I knew he'd been handed the equivalent of the Augean Stables to clean up. I'm disappointed that he doesn't seem to have made much of an effort to do so -- but much of the blame for that falls directly on the Republicans in Congress, who more or less announced that their primary objective was to make Obama fail, and have spared no effort to achieve that goal.

Rob, #165: Excellent point! Right now, I'd settle for returning to the tax rates of the Reagan era. The Republicans think he was such an idol, they could hardly complain about reviving his own policy there.

Bruce C., #200: If I had any reason to think that any of the Republican candidates might turn on their base the way Obama turned on his... well, that would be the one thing which might convince me to vote for that candidate. Alas, I think the odds of that happening are somewhat lower than the odds of the sun going supernova tomorrow.

heresiarch, #212: Therefore, we'd see the most action on those Paul initiatives which are more popular with Republicans: shrinking regulation, ending the federal reserve, dismantling the social safety net, and increasing the power of the states; undoing the New Deal in other words. The places where Paul differs from the Republican and mainstream orthodoxies would get left by the wayside; maybe he'd horse trade a reduction in Drug War intensity for something or other, but mostly issues of foreign war, civil liberties and governmental power would be left to slowly gather dust.

I think that's a very cogent analysis.


* Not accusing you of having said this; your post was a convenient jumping-off point.

#228 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 01:29 AM:

I know that I'm looking at something that is none of my business - US politics. I mean no offence, and I'll shut up if I cause it, except to make an outright apology.

But...

Look, I don't understand. Where I come from, we elect a party to power, not a person. That party is elected to government on the basis of previously stated policy. When elected, they are expected to carry that policy out, or do their best to get it through. They can be thwarted by hostile other parties in either House, or even by tetchy independents, (although the latter is rare), but if they are the majority party, they enact their stated policies unless there is overwhelming good reason not to - and the electorate has to endorse that, at the next election.

So, over here, an individual candidate's policy or promises are almost irrelevant. He or she probably has various special interests, and there is an electorate bias, but he or she stands for the stated policies of a party - all of them - or doesn't get endorsed by that party.

Americans seem to expect that individual candidates will have individual policies, and that these will align with the general politics of the major parties only in a loose way. I must admit that I can't see how this expectation can be held at the same time as the expectation that election promises and stated policy will be enacted.

Surely it must be plain that policy is not predictable from this process? The actual policies that even the President will actually enact will not proceed from his stated positions in the election campaign, but from what he can negotiate with other people who are not in any way bound to help enact those policies, even if those people are members of his own political party. Given that, how can any elected candidate be held responsible for non-performance of his undertakings, or co-operation in agendae not his own? Why would anyone expect that he should do otherwise?

I hoped that Obama would simply close Guantanamo and either try or release its detainees. I hoped that he would reinstitute habeas corpus, no ifs, buts or maybes. What part of "right to a speedy trial" doesn't apply here? How about "cruel or unusual punishment"? That is, I hoped from his campaign speeches that he would restore the Constitution of the United States, a document I consider, from outside that nation, to be one of the most enlightened and pivotal of all human achievements, to its proper place at the centre of American justice and politics.

It turned out that he could only achieve far less. I think this is not what he wished; and I think the reason is the transaction I described above.

#229 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 02:49 AM:

Dave @228: There is a tension between competing power-bases in the US party system.

Top-Down: The national parties (and state party organizations, etc) can raise a huge stonking amount of money. If you as a candidate for office want them to spend it on helping you get elected, you have to play nice with them and espouse opinions sufficiently useful to them that they are motivated to do so.

Bottom-Up: Some individual politicians, especially after they are no longer newbies, grow their own power-bases, which bring votes and money. They become well enough known and seriously enough cared about by their electorates that the national party really can't say boo to them without making itself look bad (and harming the electoral chances of all its other nearby candidates).

Some power-bases are also issue-related, hence why politicians in the races under discussion are dog-whistling as hard as they can to get those power bases to give them their money and votes. The national party cannot, in practice, say things that annoy the large issue-related power-bases that are traditionally allied with their own party (anti-brtn and evangelical Christianity and DO NOT RAISE MY TAXES for the Republicans, at the moment, among others).

The votes, and to a larger extent the money (because money can sway votes), are in the main not loyal to parties, they are loyal to issues or individuals, and the national party has to court them if it wants them.

There are individuals in the legislative bodies referred to as 'the party Whip', but it doesn't mean for us what it does in the UK (I don't know enough about Australia to venture an opinion, though I imagine it rhymes with the UK's system). In the US, laws are made by building coalitions of enough legislative votes to pass them. Sometimes it's a bill that the party feels strongly enough to risk spending its own clout on (on pain of displeasure from the vote-and-money-givers, possibly); the Repubs have been doing a good job of getting their members to line up for certain classes of bill in the past year or so. Other classes of bill, not so much, which is why there's been that sort of tragicomic-opera thing going on with Boehner, where the Dems negotiate something with him behind the scenes and then his rank-and-file hang him out to dry and vote against it anyway, because they know if they vote FOR it they'll be booed publicly by the forces that elected them ...

A significant subset of the last batch of freshman Congressmen (who are up for reelection this November, as Congress' term is only 2 years and the whole house is elected every time) signed a 'We will never ever raise taxes or engage in new deficit spending, we pinky-swear' pledge, and there's an individual with megaphone powers promising to personally name-and-shame anyone who breaks ranks, so no 'balanced' deficit-reduction plan (involving cuts AND revenue increases) can possibly pass, because none of them will vote for it and without them there aren't enough votes.

And then there are the Blue Dog Democrats, who claim the umbrella of the donkey party but vote with the Repubs on most economic issues. They are individually very popular in their districts, so cannot be forced out by the national party even when they vote out of step with the rest of their nominal peers. I suppose the party could throw them out and force them to run Independent, but I can't recall that happening recently; some people quit their parties in dudgeon, but I don't remember anyone being ejected for insufficient team spirit (as it were).

Does that help any?

#230 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 02:55 AM:

I forgot to add: the real reason we have two amorphous billowing masses of contentious individuals pretending to be coherent 'parties' is that the US electoral system is utterly rigged to strongly favor only two parties in power -- third parties either fizzle (through inability to elect enough people to make a difference) or rise up to take over one of the Big Two spots, in which case one of the original parties dies off.

I am too far from high school civics to be able to coherently explain why this is anymore, but it's a well-known feature (or bug) of our system. The Republicans were the last party to rise up from Third-dom to majority ... and they did it in Lincoln's time.

Insurgent coalitions of politicians are terrified of being swatted by the system, so often end up being subsumed into one or the other of the Majors in order to have any influence at all.

Does it help to visualize the Red Group and the Blue Group as 'really' being two competing coalitions of smaller parliamentary-style parties? They kind of are, it's just not declared, codified, and delineated.

#231 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 02:57 AM:

It also occurs to me suddenly that the US primary process effectively sorts out what platform planks are really sought-after by the electorate at that moment, and which dogs won't hunt ...

#232 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:37 AM:

Dave Luckett #228:

The key difference is that in the UK and in other parliamentary democracies, the government is a committee either part of or reporting to the legislature. In the US and other presidential democracies the government is really one person elected by the people (in the US indirectly, in, say, Brazil directly) who appoints the members of the executive subject to legislative confirmation.

As a result, in the UK and other parliamentary democracies, party is central, since it is political parties and their platforms that matter overall. In the US and other presidential democracies, the central figure of the president overtops the parties. In the legislatures, because the party leaderships do not have plums on offer to give to legislators (such as being able to reward them with ministerial and sub-ministerial office) and cannot threaten them with dissolution party is weak and individual legislators have considerable leeway.

#233 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:56 AM:

Elliot Masin @ 230:

rise up to take over one of the Big Two spots, in which case one of the original parties dies off.

And as you say, this hasn't happened in more than 150 years. I conjecture that it won't happen again short of another secession crisis. It was predicted 50 years ago as a consequence of the revolt of the Dixiecrats (Southern Democrats) over civil rights legislation in the 1960's; the assumption was that the Democratic Party would split into liberal and conservative wings, and the conservative wing would push the Republican party out and take over as the right-wing majority party. What happened instead was that the South kicked out the Democratic party and went predominantly Republican, leaving Southern Democrats to go Blue Dog, switch to Republican, or retire to their plantations to sip mint juleps. So now the Republican party, rather than the Democratic Party, is the party of Confederate revanchism. It's enough to make Lincoln (who was a Republican, though I don't know how much longer they're going to be willing to admit that) spin in his grave.

#234 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 08:27 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 228: In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers distrusted party and faction. I translate that as "distrusted those not of their faction of white male property owners".

It's not the original sin of America that slavery was, but it's still something rotten at the heart of the system. It's why Charles Schumer can have (D-Finance Industry) after his name and yet be the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The political system is built so that cooperation is between autonomous power brokers and beyond democratic control. It's a feature.

In church, I might call this an idolatry of radically atomized individualism.

Or maybe not. But it's a thought.

#235 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 08:48 AM:

It seems to me that much of the damage the Republicans did the nation during the W years was because they were pretty good at party discipline.

#236 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:13 AM:

will 222:

From everything I read, I think W was very comfortable putting nonwhites in important roles and trusting them--notably, Condoleeza Rice and Alberto Gonzales were not just appointed to important cabinet positions, they were both apparently trusted confidantes of the president.

This poll from 2007 said that about 6% of Americans would refuse to vote for a black man for president, comparable to the number who would refuse vote for a Catholic or Jew for president, and much less than the number who would refuse to vote for an atheist or a homosexual. That's a decade ago, and presumably the numbers have gotten better.

Breaking down by ideological self-identification, 95% of liberals said they'd vote for a black person for president, and 92% of conservatives. And that seems pretty consistent with what we observed in 2008, when a fair number of pretty conservative states went for Obama, and in the beginning of this campaign, where Cain was doing pretty well in the polls.

#237 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:19 AM:

Lee:

The term is overloaded. On enforcing antidiscrimination laws, Paul is awful--preferring that these matters be left to the states, even if that means the states do nothing. (I think that has been the de facto policy w.r.t. discrimination against gays for quite some time, now, though. Has this changed?) On executive power to detain and kill people, everyone but Paul running is awful--preferring that these matters be left to the administration with no oversight or review.

I would like a candidate who wasn't awful on one or the other of these meanings of the term. Indeed, three years ago, I mistakenly thought I'd found one.

#238 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:39 AM:

Tim 216:

In many areas of the war on terror, Obama has had a lot of freedom of action. No Republcan congressmen forced his administration to put American citizens on a hit list, or to mistreat Bradley Manning and refuse access to the UN monitor on torture, or to ignore the War Powers act and send US forces to bomb Libya, or to start a covert drone war in Yemen, or to try to negotiate a longer stay for our troops in Iraq, or to vote for the telecom immunity bill, or to revise the FOIA to make sure he didn't have to release informiatin abiut torture policies he promises aren't going on anymore. Those were his actions, or those of his administration. As have been things like hammering whistleblowers, "looking forward, not backward" on torture, presssuring state attorneys general to settle with banks on lawsuits related to failing to follow stare laws on registering mortgages and systematic document forgery.

Those all happened in an environment of political conflict, but they were decisions the administration didn't have to get past Republicans in congress. Whom should we blame for those decisions, if not the president?

#239 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 11:06 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 146: Where was the opposition to the War on Iraq? What meaningful input did the large minority opposed to war have in the process? When was our case made?

I’m not sure that’s quite fair. I recall a fair amount of opposition – or at least a lot of “Let’s get our facts straight before we go haring off” resistance – to the war, well before the vote. Te MSM didn't like it, and didn't broadcast much, but it was talked about, and disregarded. I’m from the northeast though, so I don’t know – maybe that was a geographic distinction?

Public opinion was bent when the Democratic Party rolled over and pissed itself in a war frenzy, and the mainstream media, from the odorous Fox to the odious NPR, followed suit.

Again, my recollection is the other way around: The mainstream media pissed itself in a war frenzy, and the minority voices calling for delay and study were lost. And the population followed suit, in part due to the strategy of “the Big Lie.” Having been told there was evidence of a link, many accepted the claim and pushed on, and many [mostly Democrat] politicians either swallowed the lie, or were pushed to support the war by their constituents who had.

A majority of Democrats in the Senate at that time voted for the invasion.

Out of curiosity, how many of those were up for re-election (or in Kerry's case, presidential election)in the next six months? Remember, the Repugnicants were pushing the false dichotomy of: “If you’re not a patriot supporting the war, then you’re supporting the terrorists.” I remember being frustrated and flabbergasted by how much and how many people bought into that little argument. Certainly it is self-interested and morally cowardly, but I am sure many politicians were asking the same questions we’re asking here: Is it better to stand on my principles if that means losing the election and allowing the other side a larger majority to push through worse changes, or to bow to the inevitable and hopefully keep my office and thus some control on the process and act as a check on further insanity?

Avram @ 160: fighting Hitler was so much fun that it's all anyone in the US wants to do anymore

It’s not that it was fun, so much as inarguable. There were few – or at least, there are, looking back – shades of gray in fighting Hitler. He and his programs are pretty close to an absolute evil, and no one likes to look too closely at how much we didn’t want to get involved before Pearl Harbor. If you can forge (force?) the connection to Hitler and WWII, then you also get a bit of shine that this is another fight that must be fought, that we are good guys and they are evil, and by so doing can shut down some of the debate.

Bruce Cohen (StM) @ 233: It's definitely a two party country, and 150 years is a long time, but there were several other changes that didn't take so long. I think there is an inverse relationship between change and widespread media, so it takes longer to generate big change when there are channels to spin events quickly.
I'm not sure we aren't (potentially) due for another shift soon. The combination of Tea Party, Occupy, Overton Window and Partisan extremism is a sign of a lot of political unrest. There are lots of people looking for a more moderate choice. It's possible that we may get something else (A Constitution party?) in the next, say 25 years. It'd be ironic since, IMO, the shift would ultimately be resulting from the polemics put in place to guarantee stronger parties.

#240 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 11:37 AM:

@ 225 Chris Quinones

The interstate slave and the making of the U.S. economy from the colonial eras, the early Republic, through the Jacksonian era and up to emancipation, is the central subject of our new book, The American Slave Coast: The Interstate Slave from the Chesapeake to the Gulf and the Making of the United States Economy. Thus the bibliography is very long, but there's no book that deals with this and this only.

Among the source materials however, Benjamin Franklin's writing on currency, banking and land are important. For the last 6 years or so I've been reading many accounts of the years betweeen Washington and through Lincoln, focusing particularly on the post-Jackson administrations through the Mexican War and after, i.e. the so-called Manifest Destiny presidents. The Atlantic North American former colonies and then states were always cash poor. The currencies were hit-and-miss. Banking was a mess because of the lack of capital and credit for nearly everyone. What we had was land -- land that was dominated by Native Americans -- land that was worthless without labor.

We didn't have a national currency until the Greenback -- which not coincidentally arrived at the same moment as Emancipation. The reasons for this are deeply complex and all tied up with the Southern domination of the federal government and its quest to keep it, though threatened by its often allies, the west. It's all tied up with slavery.

But truly until FDR changed the system, the history of national economy was a rapid cycle of financial panics and busts. The one after the Civil War, the Panic of 1878, was very long and ruinous, during which the monopoloists became entrenched. The other one that long was naturally in the Jackson administrations.

And when the regulations became weakened and removed from the time of Nixon and Reagan, you see these panics, depressions recessions and busts as our economic system all over again.

Love, C.

#241 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 11:48 AM:

A DailyKos blogger identifies four factions/subparties within the Republicans; an interesting read.

#242 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 12:47 PM:

Constance @ 240:

Thanks. That's nicely packaged.

When is the book due out?

#243 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 12:56 PM:

Elliot Mason, that is very interesting article, thanks for the link.

I disagree with Pericles, however, when he/she says that Corporatists want a weak government. I think it would have been more accurate to say that Corporatists want a government which will support the interests of corporations in whatever ways are necessary. If that means intervening militarily in Guatemala to support United Fruit, or in the streets of American cities to suppress unions, great; if that means avoiding or banning all consumer-oriented or worker-oriented regulation, also great.

Nevertheless, a good read.

#244 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 01:08 PM:

Yeah, I agree with Lizzy that corporatists tend to be pretty cool with large and powerful and interventionist government, they just want it working for them instead of for anyone else.

One identifiable group I don't see in this list is paleocons--folks like Pat Buchannan, who aren't primarily theocons, aren't big on war, and would like tight immigration restrictions and a much more isolationist foreign policy, along with trade barriers to protect US industry from competition. Paul is somewhere about halfway between being a Libertarian and a Paleocon, I think.

#245 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 01:31 PM:

albatross, #237: "Overloaded"? That seems to be splitting hairs IMO; I don't see civil rights as being divided into multiple distinct categories. Also, it doesn't do anything to negate the perception that Rand's supporters are okay with throwing everyone but straight white Christian males under the bus.

#246 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 01:51 PM:

Lizzy L @243: Crosspollinating threads somewhat, a friend of mine posted that link on Facebook. :->

#247 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 02:24 PM:

I think it's strange that Huntsman is an okay candidate to speak favorably of, because he said that thing about global warming and science and speaks Chinese and appears somewhat sane, but that saying anything nice about Paul is just totally inappropriate. If anything, Paul has been a much more substantive and full-throated supporter of (certain) actual progressive policies than Huntsman. It's not like Huntsman is being forced to run as a Republican: he agrees with their political vision as much as Gingrich or Romney does.

Anyway.

albatross @ 238: "Those all happened in an environment of political conflict, but they were decisions the administration didn't have to get past Republicans in congress. Whom should we blame for those decisions, if not the president?"

Yes, this is why I find Obama's behavior on issues of civil liberties a particularly cutting disappointment: I can't account for the shift between his campaign rhetoric and presidential action by any method other than "he didn't care enough." I know why there hasn't been enough stimulus, why there wasn't a single payer option, and I'll offer some defense of Obama on those. On drone assassinations and whistleblower harassment: no. The buck stops with him.

#248 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Lee @ 245:

Also, it doesn't do anything to negate the perception that Rand's supporters are okay with throwing everyone but straight white Christian males under the bus.

Which is, I guess, the difference between Rand Paul and Pat Buchanan: Buchanan wants to be driving the bus.

#249 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 03:00 PM:

I agree with heresiarch and albatross that Obama is responsible for the all those actions and omissions that he didn't have to contend with Republicans over. My suspicion is not that he didn't care, but that the morning after his inauguration the big kahunas of the intelligence and defense establishments treated him to a Powerpoint 'n Video presentation about suspected terrorist operations that scared the living shit out of him and left him nodding in agreement to anything they wanted. Why should he be different from the 80% or so of Americans who'll agree with just about anything if it's billed as anti-terrorist1? Of course that would have the beneficial effect of stopping birds from crapping in the water, but is that really worth $6 E6?

1. If that's not the case, explain to me why the city of Portland is being required by the federal government on pain of losing police and public safety grants to build a dome over the city reservoir to protect it from terrorists?

#250 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 03:21 PM:

@ 242

Probably not until 2012 - 2013. We're still not finished with it, and we're still deciding which publisher -- which we'd better do darned soon.

But my co-author was the lead in an opera this fall, and now he's busy doing the orchestration for a piece of his to be played at the initiation of the Arturo O'Farrell Latin Jazz Orchestra season in a few weeks at Symphony Space. And he's teaching three courses and I'm teaching one, so we're kinda busy!

Love, C.

#251 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 03:31 PM:

Lee:

I'm not 100% certain that the people most at risk of being assassinated or indefinitely detained on the president's authority are white Christian males. Nor am I entirely convinced that we're the most likely victims of the war on terror massive surveillance that apparently is going on. And I am even a little tiny big skeptical that white Christian men are the most common recipients of SWAT team raids and long prison terms for drugs.

It's almost like those are *different* issues than brtn[0], gay marriage[1], federal antidiscrimination law, or applying the bill of rights to states via the 14th amendment[2].

[0] On which Paul is, I think, the most liberal Republican candidate, though that's saying less than it sounds like.

[1] On which Paul's position is more liberal than any Republican candidate other than Huntsman--he supports letting states decide, and allowing states to refuse to recognize other states' gay marriages. As far as I can tell, Huntsman and Obama have about the same stated position on gay marriage, though I suspect Obama would be for federal recognition of gay marriage, if not for the political cost.

[2] My understanding is that all of the non-Paul candidates support all these things, along with supporting indefinite detention, the drug war, etc.

I'm basing these statements both on what I've read and heard, and on this link. My guess is that a Fox News summary is unlikely to be shading things to make people seem more liberal than they are, but I'm open to correction if you have better information.

#252 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 03:42 PM:

heresiarch @ 247, for me, it's not that people are "saying anything nice" about Paul, so much as it is the perhaps unconscious ugly undercurrent in some of what's being said. It gets my back way up when I see it presented as, "admit that you're a hypocrite who isn't really against endless war and doesn't care about the lives of being destroyed by the Wars Against (Terrorism/Drugs), because you don't think Paul is better than Obama."

As I say, I think (I hope) that's not really what's intended, but I catch enough of a whiff of it in there that I react to it angrily. I think Fred Clark at Slacktivist nailed it right out of the park yesterday, when he pointed out that Paul isn't for civil liberties, he's for individual liberties, and while those overlap somewhat, they are not the same. I do think it's great that he thinks the "Drug War" (frex) is a crock--so do I. But I don't think that decriminalization on the Federal level, but leaving all the states free to enact whatever patchwork of crazy shit they think they can get away with (and I'm looking at you, my home state of Tennessee) and continue to lock up people (especially people of color) at egregiously out-of-whack rates for selling a little pot because we're Good Godly Folks like that, is going to solve anything. It's also not something I see progressives-who-like-Paul addressing as a problem, which makes me wonder how they think that would actually go down out here in flyover land, because my guess is that it'd get pretty ugly.

And being (however subtly) called out for being insufficiently altruistic and progressive for not liking a candidate who's endorsed by people who hope his presidency would allow them latitude to enact state laws instituting capital punishment for queers like me... well, it makes me a little irritable towards Paul, and also toward anybody who wants me to say nice things about him.

Whereas Huntsman is sort of where Paul was before he got so well-known and popular, in that I've heard that he's said some sane things, and I'd like to hold out the continuing flame of my tiny hope that maybe not everyone in the GOP is a complete whack-job nutcase, so until I learn more (like I did with Paul), I'm willing to extend him, however hesitantly, the benefit of the doubt.

#253 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 04:35 PM:

alsafi:

Perhaps we can find a kind of stable point, here. Some people, like me, look at Paul and see someone who we're not crazy about in a lot of ways, but who we also think is worth supporting at some level, because of the issues he's pushing into the mainstream political debate. Other people, like you, see some of those issues as important, but can't bring yourselves to support Paul at all, and in fact may oppose him, because of his many important flaws, bad ideas, and ugly associations.

Neither of us is throwing anyone under the bus. We're just doing the best we can with a lousy set of choices.

#254 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 04:41 PM:

albatross, #251: What I see, in the distinction you presented, is that RP is all for "supporting civil liberties" in cases where they also apply to straight white Christian males, but doesn't give a shit about anything which has no chance of affecting anyone in that group. It's "Civil Liberties for the Right Some People".

Off on a different tangent, I think one of my friends has just nailed the Republicans' biggest problem:

Reagan was a charismatic candidate with a solid conservative record and a message of hope. The current right wing that runs the GOP has made "hope" a word to be mocked, and when it comes to charisma, these people are not only not Reagan, they're not even Dan Quayle.
(emphasis mine)

They've made "hope" a thing to be mocked -- not just the word, but the concept itself. They're running on a platform of despair, and the only things they can appeal to are fear and anger.

#255 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 06:08 PM:

albatross @236, things may even be better now. According to a writer at the Nation, "In 1958, 53 percent of voters said they would not vote for a well-qualified black candidate for president; in 1984 it was 16 percent; by 2003 it was 6 percent; now it stands at 3 percent."

From http://www.thenation.com/article/165032/whats-race-got-do-herman-cain?rel=emailNation

#256 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 06:33 PM:

Lizzy L@181 - "Romney is a zombie vampire: soulless, AND he wants to suck your blood and eat your heart."
He's not unreasonable - he's not going to eat your eyes.


Keith Kisser@154 - "Add in " [Ron Paul's] " obsessions with the gold standard and he's a shark tank away from being a Bond Villain."
The gold standard made sense compared to most alternatives of its time, but in the years since the US got all the way off of it and became free to inflate its currency, the economy has changed so radically that there's no way to get back onto a commodity-backed standard. Ron Paul looked at the issue back when it was starting to cause trouble, and saw the inflation happening under Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, and really hasn't paid attention since then. He did find it profitable to publish investment newsletters for the paranoid right-winger market, and subcontracted those out to people who were better at exploiting their audience. It's not so much the Bond Villain tvtrope as a deep abiding conviction that there are too many of you meddling kids on his lawn.

(I'll try to write something more productive and serious later...)

#257 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 06:50 PM:

albatross @253: Some people, like me, look at Paul and see someone who we're not crazy about in a lot of ways, but who we also think is worth supporting at some level

I still don't know what the word "support" means in this context.

* Intending to vote for?
* donating money to the campaign of?
* Seeking a job with the campaign of?
* Volunteering for the campaign of?
* Saying "Hey, he's got a good point about that" and immediately following up "but of course he's horribly wrong about other issues"?
* Saying "Hey, he's got a good point about that" without immediately following up "but of course he's horribly wrong about other issues"?
* Something else?

I've noticed that the word "support" gets tossed around a lot in political discussions without much attention to what it means. Notice how "support our troops" often gets used by hawks to mean "don't criticize the war in which our troops are dying", which you'd think would be the opposite of supporting the troops.

#258 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 06:57 PM:

Lee @254: What I see, in the distinction you presented, is that RP is all for "supporting civil liberties" in cases where they also apply to straight white Christian males, but doesn't give a shit about anything which has no chance of affecting anyone in that group.

Hold on a minute. The particular issues for which Ron Paul has been attracting praise by progressives are things like shutting down our string of endless wars in the Middle East, and stopping our indefinite detention and unreviewable assassination programs. Those are all things that affect Arabs and Muslims (and people who resemble Arabs and/or Muslims) more than they affect white Christians.

This isn't the first time someone in these conversations has acted as if racism somehow isn't racism if Arabs are the victims.

#259 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:01 PM:

Notice how "support our troops" often gets used by hawks to mean "don't criticize the war in which our troops are dying", which you'd think would be the opposite of supporting the troops.

Hear, hear. That's why I used to say "support the troops - not the war" a lot. I got funny looks and some people telling me that was impossible.

The particular issues for which Ron Paul has been attracting praise by progressives are things like shutting down our string of endless wars in the Middle East, and stopping our indefinite detention and unreviewable assassination programs. Those are all things that affect Arabs and Muslims (and people who resemble Arabs and/or Muslims) more than they affect white Christians.

I don't see those as civil liberties issues. They're issues of "it's not OK to kill foreigners just because they're not white" issues, but I really don't see the connection to civil liberties.

#260 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:04 PM:

Wait, indefinite detention is. Duh. But not the wars in the ME.

#261 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:22 PM:

I would vote for him in the primaries, but I can't because I am not a Republican, and registering as one would send rather the wrong message given how little I like their policies otherwise. I would consider voting for him in the general election, but probably not if I thought he had a likely shot at winning. I think he would make a pretty bad president, but I very much like the idea of his broad message becoming part of the mainstream political dialogue.

I've often made positive comments about him, usually but not always with caveats, here and elsewhere.

I might consider sending him money, but probably not. The only political donations I have made in the last several years (not exactly political donations, more politically motivated ones) have been to the ACLU and Amnesty International. I have no interest in joining any campaign as an employee or volunteer--my very limited available volunteer time goes to my church.

However, I don't think it is any less reasonable to support Paul in any of those ways than to support Obama.

#262 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 07:40 PM:

albatross @253

I have some problems with the idea that it's "worth supporting Ron Paul" to get his topics into the mix. Since Ron Paul came on the scene, the quality of discussions about civil liberties on most forums I regularly visit has gone down markedly. It's nearly impossible to have a conversation about civil liberties anywhere without it becoming a conversation about Ron Paul.

Any time a thread about civil liberties is started, no matter what else it is about (it could be a call for students to participate more, and swing the democratic party back to caring about civil liberties), Ron Paul is brought up, usually by someone who identifies as a libertarian.

Then the discussion stops being about how to further civil liberties without Ron Paul, and becomes focused heavily on Ron Paul himself. In the last five years or so, I have seen this happen dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, on vastly different forums or sites. Most of the sites I frequent skew nerdy and liberal, so that may be a factor, but it is rampant.

I have almost never seen a discussion about civil liberties free itself from the shackles of Ron Paul once Ron Paul is introduced. I think that, as a political figure, he impedes discourse on civil liberties, at least among the young and nerdy. He may be the reason why no other politician can attempt to appeal to that crowd via the lever of civil liberties: anyone who makes the effort will be violently trolled online by Ron Paul folks. I honestly think that's why more dems don't go after that issue: they know it's pointless, because any attempt to enter the discourse about civil liberties will result in being shouted down by Ron Paul supporters. I've seen it happen before, where someone tries to start a conversation about a local or small-time candidate who is pro-civil liberties, only to get buried in the inundating Paul Storm.

I have never seen the introduction of Ron Paul into a discussion enhance that discussion's focus on civil liberties. I've only seen his name poison debates and drive people away, tire them out, and make them sad.

That may just be because the places I most frequently engage in political discourse are the internet and nerdy gatherings. It could be that he has more of a positive effect on, say, the mainstream media. I can't tell.

But his poisonous effect on internet discourse about civil liberties is part of my reason for opposing him so strongly. Eight years or so ago, I was perfectly able to start a thread about civil liberties pretty much anywhere and have it remain focused on civil liberties for as long as it lasted. Now that seems impossible, so I try far less, at least when I don't know for sure that I'm in a safe place where the conversation won't morph.

#263 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 08:29 PM:

Well, Mitt the Vampire appears to be winning in NH, and Ron Paul is coming in second according to NPR. The staffer they interviewed sounded pretty happy about it. Huntsman is third, okay. Perry appears to be pretty much at the tail end of the pack, but I don't expect it to make any difference, since I believe he expects to place or show in SC. If that doesn't happen, I believe he'll fold.

I'm curious about what Gingrich will do. I hope he stays in.

#264 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 08:54 PM:

Xopher @259, might not be a civil liberties issue (though it's hard to disentangle war from civil liberties --- how about the effects on the lives of Americans with ties to the warred-upon country?), but it's still a racial issue. It's not Scandanavia we just spent two decades bombing.

#265 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:22 PM:

The Atlantic North American former colonies and then states were always cash poor.

Shays's Rebellion was one of the results. (Nothing like asking people to pay taxes in cash when they don't have any.)

#266 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:34 PM:

alsafi @ 252: "It gets my back way up when I see it presented as, "admit that you're a hypocrite who isn't really against endless war and doesn't care about the lives of being destroyed by the Wars Against (Terrorism/Drugs), because you don't think Paul is better than Obama.""

Well, the level of energy and focus put towards opposing endless militarization and collateral damage from the Wars on Terrorism and Drugs in liberal circles has been depressingly, offensively low in the Obama era. People like Glenn Greenwald, who have insisted that unaccountable government power is just as bad when liberals are in the White House, have become increasingly seen as "monomaniacal" and obsessive, and the focus of the left has been mired in legislative bickering. Paul is, objectively, better on a number of issues than Obama--if that fact doesn't strike horror into your liberal soul and demand a re-orientation of the left wing's focus then I don't know what will.* I submit to you the way that this keeps getting misconstrued as accusations of hypocrisy has as much to do with the defensiveness of liberals who know they haven't been as on top of civil liberties as they ought to be as it does with the holier-than-thou attitude of the questioners.

This, to me, is particularly evident in the way that Paul's racism is deployed. I've had this conversation more than once: "It's so amazing to hear someone speak out against the War on TV!" "Yeah, but didn't you hear about all that racist stuff he wrote in the nineties?" I've been on both sides of that conversation. It's a form of ad hominem, really: being a racist legitimately disqualifies him as a candidate, but it's used to disqualify his other ideas from serious (and for liberals, uncomfortable) consideration as well.

* For crying out loud, I was nodding in agreement listening to Rand Paul--Rand Paul!--speak about the indefinite detention bill. This is my sole demand: STOP MAKING ME AGREE WITH RAND PAUL.

On the Slacktivist post:

"Paul gets a bit more attention because he’s perceived as more out-of-line with his own party on those issues, and thus he’s regarded as more exceptional and notable in a man-bites-dog sense."

No, Paul is drawing more attention because he's polling at twenty plus percent. He's been beating the same drum for years, and only now are liberals going into paroxysms of existential agony over it.

"The biggest difference between the two is that Kucinich really does believe in civil liberties. Ron Paul doesn’t. He just doesn’t. Ask him. Ron Paul believes in individual liberties — and that is not the same thing at all."

It's a valid ideological distinction to draw between what liberals mean by civil liberties and what Paul means, but Fred really just made up the terminological distinction. The term "civil liberties" has historically referred to the things Paul means by it for just as long--longer, actually--than it's referred to what liberals mean by it.

Leah Miller "But his poisonous effect on internet discourse about civil liberties is part of my reason for opposing him so strongly."

I dunno. I feel that on ML at least, albatross has been more or less alone in beating the drum about Obama's increasingly obvious failure to pay civil liberties the least heed. Glenn Greenwald has been more or less the only liberal blogger sounding the alarm about the increased rate of erosion of civil protections under this administration. Now is the first time that (for me, at least) liberals have collectively paid much attention at all to this pretty big gap between what we say we believe and what we're actually doing. If nothing else, Paul has been useful for that.

(and: thanks, albatross.)

#267 ::: Strigophilia ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:43 PM:

Perhaps it's just that I read a different flavor of blog-dom, but Digby covers civil rights stuff constantly. Not surprisingly, the ACLU blog is also quite good on the subject. Glenn Greenwald is hardly the only one out there.

#268 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 09:48 PM:

heresiarch @266, I think this'll all go better without phrases like "paroxysms of existential agony" and "holier-than-thou attitude".

#269 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 12:43 AM:

Bill, #256: *splort* Thank you! A little humor really helps.

Avram, #258: Go back and read the entire exchange. albatross seems to be arguing that gay marriage, women's medical rights, and racial discrimination are in a separate class from warrantless wiretapping, assassination, and detention camps, and that using the phrase "civil liberties" to apply to both groups is "overloading" it. I disagree, and I think it's telling to notice which of those groups RP supports and which he actively opposes.

#270 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:32 AM:

Lee @269, sorry, I think I may have aimed a criticism at you that was better aimed at, uhm [clicks back through thread], crap, I've totally lost track.

#271 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:42 AM:

STOP MAKING ME AGREE WITH RAND PAUL is right up there with "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist."

#272 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:52 AM:

heresiarch @ 266:

No, albatross hasn't been all alone. I started talking about it here not long after Obama started talking about "looking forward" (I've heard that song before). Sometime after the telecom immunity fiasco I stopped talking about it except very occasionally because I had about given up on Obama (by that time he'd clearly made a botch of the health care issue and was committed to letting the banksters run free). I must admit that the drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan brought my outrage back, and I said some things about that, but in general I've given up on expecting anything good from the current administration, and am really tired of talking about it and having people say, "But he's gotten as much as he could given the Republican opposition", which idea I think albatross and heresiarch debunked thoroughly upthread. The best I expect to get out of the next 4 or 8 years is to slow down the rate of our slide into authoritarianism and a police state.

I'm resigned to having to vote for Obama to prevent someone like Romney or Gingrich who's owned in fee simple by the oligarchy as opposed to having been rented for the duration being elected. But that doesn't mean that I don't recognize how corrupted the liberal establishment in the US has become in terms of actually trying to work towards their own goals.

I get the impression that some people here think this is something new for liberal politics in the US. I assure you that it is just the same as the liberal attitude in the 1960s that Phil Ochs satirized in his song "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I'm a Liberal". It was liberals, often Democrats (though there was such a thing as a liberal Republican in those days) who warned the Civil Rights movement to "go slow" so as not to frighten the segregationists into oppression and violence (and we all know just how well that worked).

#273 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 02:36 AM:

TNH @271, ever considered creating a taxonomy of nutbar conspiracy theories, with the various categories named after nut-based candy bars?

#274 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 02:43 AM:

Strigophilia @ 267; Bruce Cohen @ 272: Those are both good counterpoints; let me moderate my statement and say instead that large and important chunks of liberals and the liberal establishment have let civil liberties and anti-war stances move from a central priority to a tertiary one, and that this discussion is the first time I've seen that subtle shift brought out in the light of day.

#275 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 06:33 AM:

Avram, there aren't enough candy bars in the world.

#276 ::: Gray Woodland ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 07:08 AM:

Teresa @ 275: Perhaps we're thinking of this the wrong way around. Suppose one were to market a premium line of nut-based candy bars, in which each individual bar came wrapped in its very own Theory?

I'm thinking of 'Truthies' for the overall brand name. One could have Truthie parties, and everything. (Buy carton of Truthies. Amuse and edify oneself by passing around wrappers as they are consumed. Wash down with Beverages Of Choice, until at least one guest finds at least one wrapper plausible. Active internet session optional.)

#277 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:07 AM:

Re: Nutbars, @ 273, 275, & 276: All I can think of is the current "renaming" advertising program Snickers has been doing, where they create a new name for the bar in its traditional lettering, like "Nutropolis." And combine it with the way Snapple and a couple other companies put trivia under the lids. So now you have one bar that comes with a hundred fake names for nutbar conspiracy theories [NCT (tm)], with a detailed dossier on the inside, listing definition, description, identifying phrases, and famous members.

#278 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:50 AM:

Lee:

I'm using the word overloading in the programming sense, like the + operator is overloaded in Python, because it means different things in different contexts. Much of what you're discussing wrt civil liberties is what I'd normally think of as civil rights (antidiscrimination laws, frex), but a policy of not applying the bill of rights to the states also involves issues that normally get the label of civil liberties. We're usng the same word to mean many different things in different contexts, which makes it hard to communicate.

heresiarch:

I'll second Bruce--I've seen a number of other people complaining about the Obama administration's Bush-lite policies. I think I have been among the most vocal people here on the issue, but I'm far from alone. And I hope that has had a good effect--often, I'm more expressing my despair about the situation, or my frustration with partisans whose deep commitments on issues of civil liberties and war seem to change depending on who's in office.

As far as blogs discussing this, I'd add Scott Horton's No Comment blog, Andrew Sullivan, Radley Balko's Agitator blog, and at times,Ta-Nahisi Coates's blog and Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism blog. Notably, TNC has continued to support Obama while periodically calling him out for the crap way he's handled civil liberties and war on terror issues. One important thing to note: Civil liberties are not a left/right issue--Andrew and Radley (and other people, like Connor Friesdorf) are not on the left. My sense is that one bitter pill for a lot of folks on the left who do care about civil liberties is to have to listen to attacks on their side from the right, but that's a guess--to quote Treebeard, I'm not entirely on anyone's side, because nobody's entirely on my side.

Leah:

Hmmm. I've noticed ths too, even though I've been contributing to it some here. Sorry about that. I think RP is a natural "attractor" for discussions of this kind because it draws the disucssion from hard and uncomfortable stuff (what the f--k do we do when one party is evil and the other is even worse, are flying killer robots and massive surveillance and porno scanners in airports and flying killer robots incinerating people the only ways to deal with terrorist attacks) to fairly straightforward identity stuff--at some level, I still identify with libertarians, though I've got some pretty big disagreements with them on some issues. Tribalism makes us all stupid, I think--it is easy to ignore your guy's baggage and see the other guy's baggage, regardless of which guy you see as yours.

The thing I have found most dismaying in the last few years has been watching how many people whose stated principles agree with mine turn out to only hold those principles when they don't contradict with their political allies. Seeing people on the left complain that Greenwald is a civil liberties extremist, when that thought would never have crossed their minds during the Bush administration, is painful in much the same way as watching lots of "small-government conservatives" somehow decide that W's massive power grabs, massive illegal surveillance, torture, aggressive war, nation building, propaganda operations, etc., were not really anything to worry about.

#279 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:51 AM:

Like many here, I'm disillusioned by a lot of what Obama has and has not done, but I'm trying to keep up hope (or delude myself). One theory I don't recall having seen here is similar to the one Bruce Cohen complained about in 272, but of a slightly different flavor.
One of Obama's promises was not just to champion a number of liberal policies and restore civil rights (and yeah, his record there is slower than I'd like and straight as a snake's trail... ) but to attempt to restore a sense of civility to politics and (re-)build bi-partisanship. This has been very difficult to do with the various politicians on the other side playing "I'm taking my ball and going home," but part of me believes (or some days just wants to believe) that part of what the president is attempting to do is to honor that promise, and that he is resisting the urge to steamroller the other side partly to highlight the contrast of mature adult vs. petulant kid, and partly to try to move politics back to the realm of compromise and cooperation rather than the purely partisan bullying that many were complaining about four years ago.

I remember there were people on both sides around 2008 who were seeing the future as "The dems come in and bludgeon the system, take out all the stuff they hate, force through their pet projects, which the GOP will hate as much as the dems hated everything Bush/Cheney did, and then in 4-8 years, the GOP will be back in, grab a bigger club, devastate all and more of the dems platform, and rebuild their own even bigger than before. Wash, destroy, inflate. ad nauseum. It is possible this slow frustrating conciliatory president is an attempt to sooth politics back to the middle. Os so I tell myself in the dark of night, clutching my blanket in the dark. :)

The other thing I think may have happened is what Bruce Cohen (StM) alluded to in #249 regarding the "big kahunas of intelligence and defense." But not in the sense of scaring or fooling him. Instead, I think it goes along with someone's sidelight from a couple months ago (I thought it was Patrick's, but can't seem to track it down), about the intense mind-change that goes along with receiving the clearance to see top level national security documents and suddenly having six or seven onion layers of info you didn't have before and having to say, "Oh, so THAT's the real reason so-and-so is doing that, and THIS is just a cover story. Well crap, then there's no way I can do THIS safely."

I can (somewhat) easily imagine that on being sworn in Obama could have become privy to two or three pants-wetting secrets that can't be released without causing mass-panic on a "thousands trampled to death" scale, and that these forced a revision to some of his goals.

It is entirely possible this is too much "benefit of the doubt," and that Al Francken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them is far closer to the truth, but is it possible? Sadly, yeah, I think so.

#280 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:08 AM:

re 269: The problem, Lee, is that to varying greater or lesser degrees, they are in different classes. That doesn't change the merits of any of them; it just changes the way that they have to be talked about. The kind of civil liberties that most of the early amendments talk about are "the government cannot"-implemented rights. When you start talking about some of these other issues, yes, some of it one can talk about in terms of "the government cannot", but then one starts moving out into "the government can make everyone else not". Instrumentality abjures restriction for intervention. I think one can justify abstractly that public accommodations have to accommodate all the public, but (a) the commerce clause is a pretty weak peg to hang this on, (b) we did, after all, fight a war to get the interventionist British government out of here, and (c) it's hard to contain the principle and draw lines across the government's authority to tell people how they are to do business. And when people say things like "health care is a right", we've gotten out into territory where reality can trump rhetoric. Any time implementation of a right translates into "make big government program", critics are entirely justified in asking whether it can be afforded (in a variety of ways).

Ron Paul is of the minarchist libertarian flavor that restricts all action to the first class of "government cannot" rights. I think there is reason for the government to step into the second class, for reasons I alluded to in the discussion above. But it seems to me that one has to appeal to a different line of reasoning to make that justification.

#281 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:19 AM:

heresiarch, I think (entirely without researching this) that the understanding of civil rights has been warped by two groups in the last thirty years:

1. Right-libertarians want to redefine "civil liberties" as "money talks".

2. Authoritarian-leftists want to rationalize hate speech laws and other forms of thoughtcrimes.

#282 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:54 AM:

re 281: From what I see, the right libertarians I know are impressively tone-deaf to the idea that "money talks". They all seem to think that it is so economically disadvantageous to be a bigot that all racists etc. would quickly find themselves out of business. The real twist in this is that the ones I know are almost all traditionalist Catholics. You would think that they would have heard of "sin" by now.

#283 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 12:03 PM:

... which, BTW, is why they serve as useful idiot allies to paleocon bigots. They share most conclusions as to what they want the government to do (with the most conspicuous exception being in family law sort of stuff-- the libertarians tend to head off into "as long as they don't frighten the horses"), but the reasons why they both want the government out of an interventionist stance on civil rights are entirely different.

#284 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:33 PM:

albatross, #278: Ah. Thanks for the clarification, which makes your original statement much less of an eyebrow-raiser. I still disagree that there's a real separation between those two groups, though; they're all part of the same continuum, and supporting one group but not the other makes RP disingenuous at best when he claims to support civil liberties.

And C. Wingate @280, I'm still unconvinced that this is a difference that makes a difference. If it is agreed that the group of rights which involve equality under the law is a good thing, then it is the responsibility of government to support them when others won't.

pedantic peasant, #279: resisting the urge to steamroller the other side partly to highlight the contrast of mature adult vs. petulant kid

The problem with that is that it ends up looking (to both sides) like the wimpy parent who folds when the kid has a temper tantrum. IMO, what was needed was for him to do the equivalent of the parent removing the screaming kid from the store without buying the toy, just once; after that, he'd have been credible in saying, "You know there will be consequences if you don't start acting like adults." I'm guessing that he's never been around the kind of people who are simply incapable of learning from a good example, and didn't realize that sometimes (like the farmer with the mule) you have to get their attention first.

#285 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:55 PM:

Lee @ 284:

Yeah, I can see that interpretation, and I know there's a lot of people who see it that way. And, in my more disappointed moments I agree that's the actual version.

But remembering the sheer venom I heard from many on the right after his election to the effect that they expected him to follow Bush political doctrine, and push through the agenda of the (radical) left regardless of the wishes of Congress, and their turn would come around again and they'd undo everything he did and "push things even more right than they are now," I wonder if he doesn't think he's working to make his legacy seem more bipartisan, agreed on rather than forced. (And then I see things like SOPA and say, no he's just a lying politician, but that cynicism is for another thread).

Also, since he wants to be re-elected (and I think, actually, that the US needs him to be re-elected) he also needs to be careful about pushing stuff through. He was already being labeled as a socialist and et cetera before he got anything done. If he doesn't force people to notice the "party of no" he -- and his policies -- are in danger of being branded as things pushed through against "the will of the people." He has avoided that specific pitfall, but not gracefully.

I think, instead of the weak parent, he may see the situation as being the parent of the teenager who goes stomping into his room screaming "You don't understand anything! You can't make me!" and instead of barging in the room after to "prove" they can, they wait out the tantrum and make the kid do the work later.

It remains to be seen which way it plays out ...

#286 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 02:54 PM:

@282, The civil rights struggle prob'ly was the diverging point for the various camps. Many right-libertarians say they oppose racism, but they also oppose the government's power to force public businesses to serve everyone. Left-libertarians think that when the government intervenes in discriminatory business practices, the government is supporting civil rights.

#287 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 05:24 PM:

C. Wingate, #282-283: IMO, a great deal of that is because their ideas of Libertarianism are largely taken from fiction (Ayn Rand on the one hand, and Heinlein on the other), and they don't realize that the only reason those stories work out so well is that there's an author standing over them making SURE they work out well. They don't look at history, and they don't stop to think about how plausible the concepts are in a real-world scenario.*

And your second point gets us back around to "choose your allies carefully". If you accept their help for Your Agenda Item X, what happens when they demand your help for Unconscionable Agenda Item Y in return? Molly Ivins** notwithstanding, sometimes it really is true that there is no spoon long enough to sup safely in that company.

Hell, for that matter, the Republican Party is learning that lesson the hard way from the Teahadists. Or at least they should be.


* This is similar to the way a lot of urban legends get propagated. I once stopped someone short who was fulminating about some mythical "regulation against cutting your back lawn in California" by asking him to consider how much such a law would cost to enforce, and whether California, a state with notorious budget problems, would be able even to consider doing so. He'd never thought about that.

** "If you can't take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in the Legislature."

#288 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 08:01 PM:

Paul is, objectively, better on a number of issues than Obama--if that fact doesn't strike horror into your liberal soul and demand a re-orientation of the left wing's focus then I don't know what will.

I can't really agree. There's a lot of issues. The chance of one candidate being better than another on EVERY SINGLE ONE is rather small. (Setting aside, for the moment, the question of what "better" means in this context, let alone "objectively better".) The only thing that ordinarily keeps it from being indistinguishable from zero is the fact that a lot of issues are correlated with each other. But then someone like Paul comes along and breaks the correlations. I don't see that as a sign of the apocalypse; I just see him as a weirdo.

If you went down a list of issues and picked positions completely randomly on each one you'd probably come up with a candidate who was better than Obama on some issues and better than Paul on others. That doesn't really say much other than that they're both imperfect. And Sen. Random would end up being horribly, rage-inducingly wrong about some things too; maybe the same things Obama or Paul is wrong about, maybe something else.

Curate's eggs are the only game in town.

Anyway, it's far from proved that if Paul actually took office he would (a) try to do anything serious about security theater, let alone (b) succeed. What if he's too busy disassembling the safety net and repealing civil rights laws? If all candidates have lots of different priorities, you can't ever really know which ones will focus on the things you want them to focus on, can you?

My theory of why Obama punted on security theater issues (you might notice that the genuinely big time national-security-affecting issues of the Iraq war and Osama bin Laden he actually *did* find time to act on) is that he believes (1) it would be too politically damaging to take a non-Washington-Consensus stance on security theater and (2) there are other issues that affect more people's lives more profoundly, such as everything he actually has been focusing on for 3 years.

But maybe my attributing those positions to him is colored by the fact that I agree with them myself.

Ultimately, I don't really need that argument to feel good about voting the way I do because I already believe that voting isn't about the candidates' positions, it's about the *difference between* the candidates' positions. So these issues won't become an actual strike against Obama in an electoral sense unless the Republicans actually nominate Paul or adopt his ideas as their platform, which pretty definitely won't happen.

Until the Republicans take actual action on those high-minded positions of Paul's (which most of their party doesn't even share in the first place) I retain (and exercise) the right to cynically dismiss them as a smokescreen for what the party is actually *doing*. John Boehner's actions speak louder than Ron Paul's words.

#289 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:21 PM:

266
You might also want to check emptywheel's blog. It's been covering civil rights and the expansion of presidential powers fro quite a while.

#290 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:29 PM:

279
on being sworn in Obama could have become privy to two or three pants-wetting secrets that can't be released without causing mass-panic

I understand they start giving the electee 'security briefings' after the election and before the inauguration - sometime in December, I think. Which would explain part of the about-face on so much stuff right after the swearing-in (although I don't believe he was ever as liberal as he was made out to be by his campaign publicity, and I wish that had been more honest so we wouldn't have had so much belief that change for the better was going to happen).

#291 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 09:41 PM:

The past is a different country

Or at least a different view.

#292 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:07 AM:

Avram, #273, "ever considered creating a taxonomy of nutbar conspiracy theories, with the various categories named after nut-based candy bars?"

tnh, #275, "Avram, there aren't enough candy bars in the world."

Every nutbar conspiracy theorist is nutty in their own way?

#293 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 07:29 AM:

pedantic peasant @ #279 writes: I can (somewhat) easily imagine that on being sworn in Obama could have become privy to two or three pants-wetting secrets that can't be released without causing mass-panic

Yes, on his first day, the Joint Chiefs tell the President about the Stargate program and the threat from the Goa'uld. Hard to cut defence spending when you can't let on that the money is actually defending the entire Earth from eradication or enslavement, and you can't stop the security theater when you find out that the TSA are actually scanning for aliens.

#294 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 07:50 AM:

Steve C @ 291: Please note that I am among those silent in that thread. I was and remain pleased that America elected a black man. I knew better than to think he was Martin Luther King.

I've been reading a lot of King in preparation for a sermon I'm giving Sunday morning.

It's bracing stuff to read--it has been since I first started buying his books cheap and giving them away--making clear exactly how utterly, completely failed King's vision for America is.

My main takeaway?

Americans have exactly as much moral legitimacy in claiming Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday as the Romans did in making Jesus into a servant of empire.

We are sitting here arguing the relative virtues of the "Lots of war and some cheap circuses" party versus the "A little less war and a little more bread with those circuses" party.

I'm clear that the Democrats come out ahead when calculated in the devil's arithmetic. You don't have to convince me to vote Obama versus McCain or Romney, once that's the choice. I'm not stupid.

What's also clear is that there will not be, on the part of either of the two wings of the Property Party, any progress toward a better society for all. The best we can hope for is a reform like the Affordable Care Act, which does some undeniably good things, but gives the wealthy a free ride while putting the payment burden strictly on the so-called middle class.

We saw this yesterday. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against the rule of law in forcing credit card debtors out of the court system and into arbitration. Thank you Kagan and Sotomayor.

It's a fundamentally corrupt and evil system. It cannot and will not be fixed by band-aids.

#295 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 09:03 AM:

Niall McAuley @ 293: Yes, on his first day, the Joint Chiefs tell the President about the Stargate program and the threat from the Goa'uld.

Ah, if only it was that simple. And while you are, presumably, being sarcastic, that's part of my point: we can't know. Do I really believe there is a "hide the aliens" conspiracy, a la Men in Black? Umm ... No.

Do I believe there could be a whole bunch of extenuating circumstances and backroom shenanigans we don't know about, where one little tiny fact can totally change your perspective on a problem? Oh, yes.

And the worst (or best) part is, it could be predictable, or literally something we cannot imagine. My instinct says that aliens are ... implausible ... but there could be easily be more common, everyday concerns that are so against our assumptions and prejudices of how the world works we could never imagine them. History is full of this sort of miscalculation and misunderstanding, and I'd much rather intelligent non-action, than a stand on prinicple based on "what everyone knows" that turns out not to be true.

#296 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 09:12 AM:

It just this moment came to me (thus making me late to work):

Supporting a problematic candidate for short-term tactical reasons is an unwise risk.

Creating better candidates _without regard to their +short-term+ electability_ in the long-term pursuit of a better system is a risk worth, at the very least, serious discussion.

That latter is part of the Wellstone method. Over a period of years, he went everywhere in the state and involved himself in everything. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one. He took a long-term approach to his candidacy, didn't take craven or unprincipled positions, and slowly over time built an immense amount of trust and goodwill beyond anything money could possibly buy.

At some point, it's fish or cut bait.

I myself am thinking about getting my dad's old knife out, maybe mend one of his old trot lines.

#297 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 10:09 AM:

pedantic peasant:

All that is certainly possible. But what has come out over time doesn't seem to support it all that well. In the Bush years, we heard about a great many scary threats that turned out not to really exist. In fact, many appear to have been extracted from the innocent or low-level nobodies under torture, as they frantically tried to find something to say that would get the pain to stop. We were told that Iraq was developing nukes, just as we are now told Iran is. There was a great deal of talk about terrorists slipping nukes into the US to set them off--"our first warning may be a mushroom clud rising over an American city." We are routinely treated to a bunch of threats that apparently don't really exist, some of which the intelligence agencies have spent a lot of time and resources. When leaks have happened, they have mostly not made the world seem more like one in which dark, scary things are being fought off by our secretive but highly competent spies and military. Instead, they have usually made our spies and military look pretty bad[1]

Further, I don't see what deep dark secrets would justify the Obama administration's hammering of whistleblowers. What deep dark scary secrets would explain sheltering torturers? The best guess I've got is either that we intend to keep torturing people, or that the torture was widespread enough that investigating it thoroughly would utterly gut the CIA and military. Or violating the War Powers Act in Libya? Were we bombing space aliens or zombies there?

I'm sure there are dark and scary secrets. But my guess is that a lot of them are bullshit, because actually finding out what's going on in dark crevices of the world is really hard. And it's hard to see how they justify what we have observed.

More likely, to me, is a combination: The deep dark secrets convinced Obama that the world was a scary place and thus that he'd better give his spies and soldiers a free hand. And the political power of the spy agencies, homeland security, and pentagon also convinced him, probably much more strongly, that he'd better give the spies and soldiers a free hand.

In my darker moments, I reflect on the widespread illegal surveillance that's been going on for years, and how that must affect decisions at the top of politics, law, and media. How many important congressmen do you suppose have clandestine gay lovers, a dungeon in the basement, a long-running drug habit, a big kiddie porn collection, a Swiss bank account full of bribe money, a mistress and love child being kept in hush money somewhere, etc.?

The "if you knew what we know" speech from the spies probably has more impact if it continues "...about what you and that nineteen year old campaign volunteer were doing at the hotel last weekend" than if it continues "...about the dangers posed by terrorists, drug dealers, and Hugo Chavez."

[1] By contrast, the state department comes off not looking too bad. They often seem to be doing evil things on orders from on high, in a basically competent way.

#298 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 10:43 AM:

I think it's important to return to two points: (1) the obsolescence of our political forms in the face of, first, electronic mass media and, second, electronic many-to-many media and (2) the sheer amount of money in play. Chump change (and we're the chumps) to the 0.001%, to be sure, but huge by anyone else's standards.

On the one hand, the top-to-bottom corruption of all systems is horrifying, and its political handmaidens are disgusting. On the other hand, there are no politicians who can succeed in the system without some participation in that corruption. Even Bernie Sanders. Even Paul Wellstone. Politics is a job. It's only a vocation for a minority of politicians. Mostly, it's a job, and politicians have to get along with their cow-orkers and satisfy their bosses. Pols aren't saints. Most of them aren't even statesmen. Their job is negotiation and compromise, and if the system is top-to-bottom corrupt they they'll be compromised. It's reasonable to blame pols for participating, especially if their abuses are exceptionally egregious, but only so far. At some point intellectual honesty demands we look in a mirror.

I am not sure what a democratic system would look like in the one wired world (and I'm operating on four hours of sleep), but I think it is time to start thinking about it, even if it is generations before new systems are put into practice.

So here's a few radical thoughts:
1. Abolish the Senate--it has become the representative of the 1%, rather than the wise council of elders the Framers intended.
2. Vastly reduce the power of the Presidency, and perhaps distribute it among several people; it has become an emperorship.
3. Expand the House massively: make it possible for everyone to shake hands with their Representative.
4. Use, extensively, many-to-many media to provide public access to the political process.
5. Reform the courts to make use of current knowledge of evidence and memory.
6. Reform the police--make them accountable to the public who they are supposed to defend.
7. Work towards the end of empire, and the beginning of global federalism.
8. Make Keynesian economic policies the norm. This would probably involve structural changes. But so far Keynesian economics is the best we've got.

Oh, I expect I can croak out some more ideas. But aren't those enough?

#299 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 10:54 AM:

John @294, I've been amused and appalled at the way conservatives and liberals try to claim MLK and Malcolm X. Santorum claiming he agrees with King's Birmingham Letter?

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/santorum-says-he-agrees-mlk-moral-basis-human-rights-can-t-understand-why-obama-would

Ron Paul supporters quoting Malcolm?

http://www.dailypaul.com/133373/remember-malcolm-x

Ta-Nahesi Coates claiming Obama is Malcolm's heir?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/the-legacy-of-malcolm-x/8438/

I can't decide if it's profound ignorance or wild obfuscation. Prob'ly the marriage of both.

#300 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 10:56 AM:

Avram @273:
sometimes you feel like a nut
-- sometimes you don't

p.p. @278:
REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE DILUTE DILUTE OK!!

--Dave, or what about a series of collectible trading cards? Internet-enabled, of course, with a website you could go to to reveal Sekrit Chunks of each card's theories and details about the portrayed politician's life that don't match up with his positions...

#301 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 11:10 AM:

What happens with the conspiracy theories that turn out to be true? I mean, like if someone was going around saying the anthrax attacks were an inside job, the result of the FBI's investigation (for whatever it's worth) says yeah, it was an inside job--a US government bioweapons researcher was the bomber, using his access to anthrax and lab equipment to make enough spores to carry out the attacks[1].

There are other examples. A worldwide network of secret torture chambers and secret flights to carry prisoners off to them? Massive illegal wiretapping of American citizens with the assistance of big telecom companies? The CIA running its own private mercenary army in Afghanistan? Obvious moonbat conspiracy theories, right?

This is not to suggest that Obama's birth certificate was produced by the same secret agency that planned the 9/11 attacks and keeps power by spreading chemtrails from airline jets. But some subset of apparently wild consoiracy theories turn out to be true.


[1] (I have some residual doubts about the official story there, FWIW--the main suspect apparently committed suicide a few days before he was to be arrested by the FBI--if he had a co-conspirator, that person would have had a hell of a big incentive to off him before he was looking at death row unless he helped the FBI investigation.).

#302 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 11:11 AM:

David:

Have you ever played illuminatus?

#303 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 11:43 AM:

[ "...but there could be easily be more common, everyday concerns that are so against our assumptions and prejudices of how the world works we could never imagine them. History is full of this sort of miscalculation and misunderstanding ..." ]

I'd like to see some examples of this from history.

All the ones that come to me are on the order of keeping the knowledge plague etc. arrived via the latest ships in order not to harm business.

Supposedly in war we keep our campaign and battles plans on the downlo but these day this stuff is all over the place months before implementation.

Stolen elections -- generally we've even known about those as they go on.

In the meantime there remains something like 10 million still classified Civil War dox.

Love, C.

#304 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 12:48 PM:

John A, #296: I absolutely agree. However, that still leaves the problem of what to do in the short term to keep things from being completely wrecked before the long-term plans can bear fruit. We need both kinds of planning, and I haven't seen anything useful in the short term being presented, nor can I think of anything to suggest beyond "keep the pressure on via groups like Occupy and Change.org".

OTOH, that might actually be of some use. One of the tactics that's been used against us, over and over again, is to pretend that progressives either don't exist or are such a tiny minority that we can be ignored, and that "Real America" wants what the right wing is selling. Occupy and the online groups are challenging that.

#305 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 01:18 PM:

albatross, constance, et al:

Like I said in #279, I'm not sure this is what's going on. I am as frustrated as many other posters here with many of the things Obama has seemingly dropped the ball on, and as I said then, I have many moments where I chalk his choices up to cynicism, power-building, and power-broking.

But generally speaking I am dissatisfied with that view. I try to see things from multiple viewpoints, try to explore and envision multiple causes. Not: "Oh gee, well he obviously was taken over by aliens and that's why he's changed," causes, but "What could he be thinking to make this seem reasonable?" causes.

One, as I siad before, is that he's trying to end the "Hatfield-McCoy" (or "Capulet-Montague," if you prefer) dynamic of current partisan politics. Just like someone has to stop shooting first, someone has to be the first to step up and say, "Yeah, we need to compromise no matter which side's on top," and try to get the other side to trust and work together, even if that means doing/keeping some things we're not thrilled about to show we CAN work together.

Likewise, while my belief is that torture is wrong both morally and strategically, and the last ten years have shown it to be a failed tool, and I can't think of ANY reason for SOPA, indefinite detention and etc. to remain in place, and it feels like a major betrayal that they are, I can allow that there may be some reason for the bill to have passed that I don't understand. [Like one provision in the bill which would never be offered by itself, or can't be requested by itself because asking for it specifically would tip off what we know, so it gets hidden in a bunch of broad measures.]
I can even see someone (foolishly) believing that getting that one tool is the most important thing "right now," and after the immediate crisis they can "fix" the bad things they let out, Pandora-style.
What kind of stuff? I have no idea. That's the point.

Yeah, it's probably hopeful BS, but who knows?

And Constance, regarding the history, I meant that as a reverse example, sorry not to be clear.

common, everyday concerns that are so against our assumptions and prejudices of how the world works we could never imagine them. History is full of this sort of miscalculation and misunderstanding, and I'd much rather intelligent non-action, than a stand on prinicple based on "what everyone knows" that turns out not to be true.

So examples? Well, the rush to war because of the assumption "They'll welcome us with open arms;" The assumption of superiority based on technology, that poorer equipped forces can't hope to win; Something that (IIRC) TNH once said about a conversation about WWI with the late John M. Ford to the effect that early in the war the Generals knew their strategies weren't working, and couldn't work, but kept attacking based on these old strategies and assumptions because going "by the book" couldn't be punished, but improvising could; using communication equipment without fear, because you "know" it cannot possibly be compromised.

These are all military examples, but policy decisions follow the same pattern...

#306 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 01:49 PM:

Pedeantic Peasant -- But the point isn't that this was hidden stuff. Lots of people knew / know, and spoke out against it, or for it, as the case may be.

There's nothing hidden.

Coverups of corporate and government and military malfeasance -- this goes on all the time. Yet people still know about it, though they may be jailed for speaking out or providing information at all. People may well be persuaded by the media that none of it matters.

But it is NOT secret.

Love, C.

#307 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:32 PM:

pedantic peasant @ 295:

I think it's unlikely that the information that Obama got in his first briefings from the intelligence and military communities involved real existential threats to the US. I think it's probable that they were presented to him in those terms, and it's believable that he accepted them as real and urgent threats to the US. The problem with evaluating those types of claims is that all the available information comes from sources with a single point of view. For example, military threat estimates do not take into account the probability that the potential enemy has any motivation to to use the capability that underlies the threat, or the details of the local political and geopolitical forces that would effect its use. Threat estimates are typically worst-cast analyses; to a civilian who isn't accustomed to the nature and tone of this sort of analysis they can be very alarming. And they're often used by political forces both within and without the intelligence communities to cause alarm.

albatross @ 301:

Organizations that are engaged in ongoing conspiratorial and/or secret and illegal operations have a vested interest in the general population being flooded with conspiracy theories. The sheer number of bogus theories can hide the real ones in a sea of nonsense, and the shrillness of some of the theorists can be used to delegitimize the more cogent ones. There almost certainly aren't any extraterrestrials to defend against, but the belief in them provides excellent cover for the covert wars and tortures we are inflicting on the world. And the belief that the external terrorist threats the government publicizes are credible provides cover for the surveillance and sabotage of internal dissenters.

Constaqnce @ 303:
As for government secrets and classified documents, in my experience 95% of the non-technical ones (that is, outside of the Crypto, ECM and ECCM, Nuclear, and CBW how-to documents) are either already public knowledge in some form, are not public but are being kept from our own people because the ostensible enemy already knows them, or are actually not sensitive at all except in the sense that they might embarrass some official.

#308 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:46 PM:

Constance @ 306: I initially wanted to say that I don't think I'm being clear, but I think I may have conflated my own rhetoric by talking about two things at once.

What I was trying to say is that on becoming president, Obama may have learned of legitimate, specific threats that may have required backpedaling from his promises.

I guess, historically, this would be like the several decisions in WWII (most notably of Coventry) where the allies had to stand by and let things happen so it would not be obvious they had broken the axis communication codes.

Because there is not a line-item veto, Obama can't delete the really offensive parts of the bill (like torture and Gitmo) and keep what is needed for a specific, current threat. Likewise, he couldn't say, "I'm not signing this bill because of" x and y, but I want Congress to draft a new bill with just a, b, and c. First, because asking specifically and exclusively for a, b, and c may tip off what he knows, and secondly because asking may require him to explain (same problem) and then still may not get him those tools, anyway. So he signs the bill -- with reservations -- and hopes to mitigate the damage later (these, of course, being the "good intentions" with which the road to Hell is paved).

What kind of threat could justify this? The point is, I don't know. I remember reading somewhere recently that the Bay of Pigs kind of blowing up in his face is what gave JFK the experience to deal with the missile crisis, and to initially cover-up what he knew until he knew how he was going to handle it. Point being, not all cover ups are bad: sometimes they maintain the status quo long enough for people to develop a solution without raising the stakes or provoking a reaction from the other side.

So, what might qualify as "reasons"? Well here's two, totally made up out of my head:

There is sufficient proof that someone working in an embassy with diplomatic immunity is a terrorist working with Taliban or Al-Qaeda connections. So the ability to detain, NOT to waterboard or torture, but to hold incommunicado long enough to shut down plot and nix diplomatic credentials is needful.

One of the alphabet soup agencies comes with a transcript of an attack being planned. There's enough info to confirm it's a legit attack, but not enough yet to stop it. The planning's being done by use of tech which can only be accessed through loopholes in the domestic spying act, and if it's repealed, this source will be blocked.

And yes, I know these aren't too good, as examples. But as a kind of thought I hope they show possibility. I imagine the real cause -- if there is one -- would be a much more Machiavellian threat, but something more real and specific than "Because we want to," "The world is scary and something might happen" or "Our job is too hard."

And, I will admit, part of it is a desire to see the best in things, people, and my country, and a hope -- however forlorn -- that my trust has not been misplaced.

#309 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Lee, #304: in the short term, we re-elect Obama and keep the leftward pressure on the Dems, so that they don't go sliding off the right side of the table.

In the long term, we look to new leaders and perhaps a new party arising from Occupy.

Pedantic Peasant, #305: sometimes you just have to keep fighting. There's too much here that can't be compromised.

#310 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:58 PM:

Bruce,

One thing that strikes me about your comment is that it seems like there are a lot of conspiracy theories or beliefs that work in much the same way as conspiracy theories, which are used explicitly or implicitly to justify some mainstream policy or political party.

For example, I think most of the news blitzes we've seen over the last decade centered around The Latest Terrorist Threat have worked in much the same way as conspiracy theories, or maybe some mix of conspiracy theories and urband legends--they told good stories with easy-to-visualize stuff going on, and because we were hearing them about people we feared and hated, they seemed somehow more plausible.

Any day now, the terrorists are going to set off a dirty bomb, just like Padilla was going to (before the government actually had to explain their charges in court, at which point it turned out he was charged with something entirely unrelated to dirty bombs. No, wait, any day now, there will be Bombay-attack-style infantry assault on dozens of cities at once. No, no, it's homemade drones they'll use to kill us all. No, wait, they're going to sew bombs inside themselves (apparently, someone ar DHS watched that episode of MI5).

Or listen to the mainstream rhetoric. This is a clash of cultures and an existential threat to the US. We dare not put detainees on trial[1] lest the terrorists attack New York to disrupt it. IraqIran is the next Nazi Germany, they'll have nukes any day now, and we must strike immedialtely or they'll conquer the world. One of the two major parties has it as a standard part of their rhetoric that the entire science of climate modeling is involved in a vast conspiracy to impose socialism with a bearded, Al Gore like face.

I suspect it is difficult to tamp down on conspiracy theories that are destructive, when you find it so useful to have them both to delegitimize critics and to help convince your own base to keep going along with you.

[1] At least not ones against whom the whole case will collapse when we have to explain that our evidence was gotten entirely from torture, threats of torture, and information oassed to us from Egyptian or Pakistani spy agencies.

#311 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:14 PM:

pedantic peasant:

So, in light of this reasoning, how do you feel about W's war on terror policies? Surely the same reasoning applies regardless of whether there is a (D) or an (R) after the president's name.

#312 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:14 PM:

albatross, 297: In my darker moments, I reflect on the widespread illegal surveillance that's been going on for years, and how that must affect decisions at the top of politics, law, and media. How many important congressmen do you suppose have clandestine gay lovers, a dungeon in the basement, a long-running drug habit, a big kiddie porn collection, a Swiss bank account full of bribe money, a mistress and love child being kept in hush money somewhere, etc.?

I've long had a theory that the parties (or at least the Democrats - some of the stuff GOP pols get away with makes me wonder for them) select for skeletons in choosing who gets preferment up the ladder. Keeps them controllable, and you can always drop the hammer on the ones that get out of hand. (Eliot Spitzer has the feel of an example here, not that I have a shred of evidence for it.)

pedantic peasant, 305: Something that (IIRC) TNH once said about a conversation about WWI with the late John M. Ford to the effect that early in the war the Generals knew their strategies weren't working, and couldn't work, but kept attacking based on these old strategies and assumptions because going "by the book" couldn't be punished, but improvising could

The "no one ever lost their job for buying IBM" theory avant la lettre.

#313 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:47 PM:

Chris Quinones @312: Jo Walton used the "skeletons in the closet" technique as one of the major plot points of the Small Change trilogy.

#314 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:52 PM:

More likely, going by our own lived experience, a government like the U.S. wilfully disregards the warnings of attack in order to further it's own political and economic power agenda.

For example: climate change denial, al-quaeda attack which turned out to be 9/11 -- historians still argue whether the Pearl Harbor attack was allowed to happen by the FDR administration in the same way in order to advance FDR's agenda for bringing the U.S. to declare war on Germany -- as German was an ally of Japan, etc. Yet again, whether the FDR administration knew specifically that an attack on Pearl Harbor was planned, would be unlikely. They just had very high expectations that something would happen and took no steps to stop it. But it does seem deeply unlikely that if they'd known specifically the target was Pearl Harbor, with all those U.S. naval vessels they'd not have even warned anyone. Naval vessels are valuable in wars, and war is what FDR wanted, in company with Churchill (while, of course JFK's dad most definitely did NOT want war with Germany -- for business reasons if nothing else).

However, letting something happen to the despised city of NYC by the bushpholk in order to get the war on Iraq and in the Middle East that Cheney et al. had been wanting for so long, is not out of the realms of non-tinfoil hat possibility.

Like I said, my history studies tell me that gummits tend to cover up out of determined denial rather than to protect a Great Plan. The atomic bomb project is an exception, and even so, among those with the technical knowledge, the idea and even how to was something they understood at least, even though it was SuperSecret.

Love, C.

#316 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 06:03 PM:

albatross @ 310:

Yes, all of that. But I think the main reason for the charges against so many of these alleged terrorists falling apart is not so much that the information was obtained by unacceptable or should-be-illegal means as that much of it is not-well-substantiated and poorly-connected circumstantial evidence that doesn't really support the charges well, if at all. And in many cases, the charges are clearly the result of entrapment, if not outright fabrication by the FBI. And the level of competence of the terrorists who have been apprehended in the last few years is extremely low, so that the capturing agency has often had to inflate the charges to keep the existential threat credible.

#317 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 09:10 PM:

301
I've been following that story. The main suspect was never in a position to do what the FBI said - he didn't have the knowledge or the equipment to do it, and the timing was described as impossible by people who know the area. There are, however, people who do have both the knowledge and the equipment, and they work at government facilities. (I was going to say 'for the government' but I suspect that 'for parts of government' would be more accurate.)

#318 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Chris:

A few GOP gay sex scandals have fhe feel of stuff that must have been known by party insiders, as with Mr "wide stance" and that florida congresscritter who was hitting on the teenage male pages via text message. Presumably some people knew and were in a position to use that information to extract concessions, but whether anyone was actually doing so, and if so how centralized blackmail information on congressmen is, I don't know.

#319 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 08:41 AM:

albatross @ 311: So, in light of this reasoning, how do you feel about W's war on terror policies?

A good question. A really good question. I self-identify as an independent, but in reality am probably leftward-biased.

I don't like most of Bush's choices, and am less inclined to cut him slack.

I can rationalize some of that on the basis of the Bushies writing the laws up to begin with, and actually causing the socio-political situation where BO just got stuck with it, and more based on a general trust of Obama because he has a history for accepting science and facts that Bush doesn't have, but bottom line is you are probably right. I have more invested in Obama as a fixer, and don't want to have to accept I was duped.

I will say one thing in (partial) defense of Bush. While there is no denying a lot of his press conferences were signaling "nuclear," as a friend of mine pointed out at the time, WMD are not JUST nukes. Sadam did have a stockpile of biologicals (nerve gas and other) which do count as WMD, which means that based purely on text, Bush was right.

And I will reiterate that I don't think torture -- including waterboarding; indefinite detention; or non-charged, non-jury trials of civilian are American, or in the American interest. No matter who votes for them, on either side.

(I forget who said about the spooks scaring the prez-elect), and I remember people branding the right as the "Party of Fear" a couple times in the past decade, but looking at the laws getting passed makes me wonder if it's not about controlling the plebes (or not just about controlling the plebes) but also that most of the Congress is running scared. I forget who it was (not here on ML) talking about flag-burning, who said that when you look at laws, you don't see a reaction to what's really happening, you see a reaction to what people are afraid could happen.

#320 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 10:00 AM:

pedantic peasant:

Yeah, one of the features of the few months after 9/11, largely due to the anthrax attacks, was a whole lot of visible and scary anti-terrorism stuff directed at Congress--offices closed and guys with moonsuits cleaning them out, evacuations of buildings, etc. I assume that pervasive atmosphere of fear was pretty effective in getting Congress and its staffers on board with whatever the intelligence agencies and military wanted to do to keep them, personally, safe.

I have often thought that 9/11 and the surrounding anthrax and DC sniper attacks combined to scare the hell out of the people at the top in US society. And that was quite effective--the masses screaming for blood might conceivably be quieted down by the folks at the top, but once the folks at the top got good and scared and mad and feeling personally threatened, the gloves were coming off, and to hell with logic, law, humanity, or consequences.

#321 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 10:13 AM:

Albatross:

Boy, yeah. It's amazing how much you can forget.

I remember just before 9/11 there was all that fuss with GBW and China over returning the spy plane.

On 9/11 driving my infant home after dropping my wife off at work I was sooo scared. But I figured it may have been a softening up by the Chinese before an attack.

Yeah context always helps.

#322 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 10:14 AM:

Bruce:

I suspect both are true. For many of the suspects, the cases have turned out to be quite weak when they were subjected to scrutiny. Which puts the decision that Terrorist Suspects Shall Not Be Tried In Civilian Courts in a very unpleasant light--we know we can't get a conviction if we have to face cross-examination of our witnesses and normal rules of evidence[1]. And in my darker moments, I wonder: Suppose it turned out in the end that KSM was really a low-level nobody with delusions of grandeur. At this point, with so many people having invested so much in claiming he's an important character, do you suppose he'd ever be let out? Or be given a trial where it might become clear that he's not actually who he's claimed to be? This is much more likely, to me, to be the kind of deep dark secret Obama was told when he took office--the widespread beliefs about what's happened in the war on terror are in large part lies, a bigger structure made out of little lies like Jessica Lynch fighting to the last bullet and being rescued from Iraqis planning to torture or ransom her, or Pat Tillman dying heroically at the hands of Al Qaida, or a strong link between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein[2].

And again, I keep coming back to one fact that makes this all much harder to swallow: Military tribunals and indefinite detention have been policies pushed, at least to some extent, by the Obama administration. Trying a child soldier for fighting back against people invading his country, without wearing a proper uniform, is pretty much impossible to justify. And yet, that's happened under Obama's watch, long after W left for his ranch in Texas.

[1] But also, we know that any trial of KSM in civilan court will bring out all the details of his interrogation. I wonder how many of those movie-plot terrorist threats of the month he personally dreamed up, in hopes of stopping the waterboarding or whatever other stuff they did to him.

[2] Of course, now we have news stories telling us that there's a strong link between Al Qaida and Iran, and that Iran will have a nuke any day now. Of course, all the media organs that were tricked by the runup to the Iraq war are 100% skeptical of these claims now--how could you doubt it.

#323 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 10:14 AM:

Bruce:

I suspect both are true. For many of the suspects, the cases have turned out to be quite weak when they were subjected to scrutiny. Which puts the decision that Terrorist Suspects Shall Not Be Tried In Civilian Courts in a very unpleasant light--we know we can't get a conviction if we have to face cross-examination of our witnesses and normal rules of evidence[1]. And in my darker moments, I wonder: Suppose it turned out in the end that KSM was really a low-level nobody with delusions of grandeur. At this point, with so many people having invested so much in claiming he's an important character, do you suppose he'd ever be let out? Or be given a trial where it might become clear that he's not actually who he's claimed to be? This is much more likely, to me, to be the kind of deep dark secret Obama was told when he took office--the widespread beliefs about what's happened in the war on terror are in large part lies, a bigger structure made out of little lies like Jessica Lynch fighting to the last bullet and being rescued from Iraqis planning to torture or ransom her, or Pat Tillman dying heroically at the hands of Al Qaida, or a strong link between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein[2].

And again, I keep coming back to one fact that makes this all much harder to swallow: Military tribunals and indefinite detention have been policies pushed, at least to some extent, by the Obama administration. Trying a child soldier for fighting back against people invading his country, without wearing a proper uniform, is pretty much impossible to justify. And yet, that's happened under Obama's watch, long after W left for his ranch in Texas.

[1] But also, we know that any trial of KSM in civilan court will bring out all the details of his interrogation. I wonder how many of those movie-plot terrorist threats of the month he personally dreamed up, in hopes of stopping the waterboarding or whatever other stuff they did to him.

[2] Of course, now we have news stories telling us that there's a strong link between Al Qaida and Iran, and that Iran will have a nuke any day now. Of course, all the media organs that were tricked by the runup to the Iraq war are 100% skeptical of these claims now--how could you doubt it.

#324 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 10:23 AM:

One nitpick: Powel's UN speech and quite a bit of government propaganda independent-minded reporting by American media sources strongly implied that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, though they also claimed mobile bioweapons labs[1]. And Iraq had used chemical and biological weapons, so it wasn't nuts to think they still had some, though apparently all they had was a small, rusting stockpile of gas shells, nothing like some large-scale program.


[1] This always seemed really, really hard for me to swallow. I don't have any experience in biology labs, but my understanding is that dealing with very dangerous biological agents under something like BSL-3 is quite a pain in the ass for a fixed facility. The mobile bioweapons labs brewing up anthrax just seem way too much like a movie plot device. (I gather the US military has some kind of mobile biolabs, but we're a lot richer than Iraq was/is, and also I doubt that this is how you'd do large-scale production.) And for hidden production of terrorist-useful quantities of biological agents, it's hard to imagine you wouldn't do better in a hidden away lab in a building somewhere, where you had power and water and sewer already available.

#325 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 11:09 AM:

Albatross #320 - and yet I don't recall any reports of anyone remotely senior being killed or injured in any of the scary attacks going on at the time. The death toll over the last decade is of course concentrated on the poorer end of society, here and abroad.
By comparison during a real war such as WW2, very high level officers and politicians died simply in accidents or targeted attacks made by the enemy who had found out where the VIP was going to be.

#326 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 12:24 PM:

For those of you who don't read Slacktivist: here's a rant you might enjoy.

#327 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 12:25 PM:

*waves at moderators* Help! The gnomes have confiscated my post.

#328 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 03:26 PM:

Just as an aside: He Who Shouldn't Take Over the Thread felt it necessary, rightly, to come up with an excuse for why his name was on some really nasty newsletters. By contrast, not everything a Republican candidate wants to forget about now is quite so nasty.

It hurts my brain and my heart that *this* is the kind of thing he's trying to dodge. Please, my long-ago statement that gays are human and deserve the same rights as everyone else was just a youthful indiscretion--I'm much better now.

#329 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 04:38 PM:

pedantic 319: I will say one thing in (partial) defense of Bush. While there is no denying a lot of his press conferences were signaling "nuclear," as a friend of mine pointed out at the time, WMD are not JUST nukes. Sadam did have a stockpile of biologicals (nerve gas and other) which do count as WMD, which means that based purely on text, Bush was right.

OK, the problem with this is that we knew Saddam had nerve gas and maybe biological weapons, but using the umbrella term 'Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)' is designed and intended to deceive the public into thinking he had nukes, which Powell and the other liars knew he did not. Moreover, I'd dispute that nerve gas and biologicals are WMD at all; they're barely even weapons of mass death. They don't leave a city in rubble or flames like a real (nuclear) WMD; they just kill people. And as far as nerve gas goes, they don't even kill mass numbers, even under near-ideal* circumstances: the Aum Shinrikyo Sarin attack on the Tokyo subway killed around a dozen people, though it injured thousands.

What non-nuclear "WMDs" are is terror weapons. They're more like a dirty bomb (a conventional explosive with radioactive material in it) than like a nuclear bomb.

Calling them all WMD was a propaganda ploy by the Bush administration. Don't be fooled.

albatross 327: It hurts my brain and my heart that *this* is the kind of thing he's trying to dodge. Please, my long-ago statement that gays are human and deserve the same rights as everyone else was just a youthful indiscretion--I'm much better now.

See, this is the sort of thing we can't let these candidates get away with. He'll talk about his record in New York (if he bothers visiting such a deep blue, indeed almost indigo, state), and about his current beliefs in South Carolina.

Again I put forth this principle: what's in his heart of hearts doesn't matter one whit. If a politician professes anti-gay ideas, that politician is anti-gay, period. If it was a long time ago and they're willing to talk about the process they went through to de-shit their head on the topic, then fine...maybe. But He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken went the other way. As far as I'm concerned he's a gay-hating shithead and should be treated as such. And thus also to any horse he may choose to ride in on.

*meaning "optimized for maximum kills," not "good"

#330 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 06:45 PM:

Niall McAuley @293: ::applause::

#331 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 07:21 PM:

Kansas GOP House Speaker prays for Obama's death.

Some of you might remember that there was a HUGE kerfluffle about this sort of thing back in the mid-2000s, when a teenage girl posted something intemperate about wanting GWB dead and got descended upon by the Secret Service. Why is that not happening in this case? (Besides IOKIYAR, that is.)

#332 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 08:12 PM:

Getting back to a question in the original post: Is it progress when Empire is furthered by Colin Powell or Hillary Clinton?

The question may be very pertinent again soon: War on Iran: It’s Not A Matter of “If” » Counterpunch.

#333 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 09:29 PM:

331
I suspect he's already been visited by them. (But they have so many more to track these days, they may not have caught up to him yet.)

#334 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 09:40 PM:

Xopher:

I'm sorry, I wasnt clear enough to get my point without following the link. Romney, at one point, went to some lengths to make it clear to the gay community in Massachussets that he believed they had rights. At issue is a flyer his campaign put out for a gay pride parade. It seems he would now like to distance himself from thst stuff. (The video is of Romney now stating he opposes gay marriage and also giving military survivor benefits to legally married same-sex partners of veterans. The text and picture of the newsletter is where I was drawn, thinking about the parallels with RP's newsletter. RP has been apologizing and blaming his staff for saying nasty stuff. Romney is evading and blaming his staff for saying something decent once.)

#335 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 12:17 AM:

albatross, that was clear to me. I was snarling about Romney. Paul is a known racist and likely homophobe; Romney is simply for sale to the highest bidder.

#336 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:34 AM:

will shetterly @ 332:

Is it progress when Empire is furthered by Colin Powell or Hillary Clinton?

While I'm sure that Powell and Clinton would feel that it was progress for them, and therefore progress for African-Americans and women because they represent those groups respectively, I would say categorically that no it isn't progress for our society as a whole. In fact, I think there's a case to be made that it's regress, because to many people it seems to indicate an improvement in the lot of some minority groups, adding a false legitimacy to Powell's and Clinton's actions in furthering Empire.

#337 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 02:01 AM:

will @332, there's a typo in the first paragraph of that Alexander Cockburn article that had me flashing back to Far Out Space Nuts.

#338 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 05:17 AM:

#319 Pedantic peasant and Xopher #329 - the point about the nerve gas etc was not that he had some, but that he had been known to have some many years earlier. There was no evidence at all that he actually had nerve gas etc. in the period running up to the invasion. Ww even had testimony from a defecting son in law to the effect that they had been destroyed during the first gulf war because he was afraid the allies would roll right over him, find them and then get even more angry with him.
This is corroborated by the only evidence for possession of such weapons subsequently found were corroded bits of waeponry and damaged old paper files which had been buried back in the 90's.
Which is what made the invasion rationale so wrong - that there was no credible evidence of a current threat in any way.

#339 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 06:40 AM:

Rice and Powell are both on record in 2001, before 9/11, stating that Saddam had no WMD and no capacity to make them because of sanctions and international inspections.

Youtube link to a couple of highlights here.

#340 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:08 PM:

Xopher:

Ah, okay. Romney is probably much less influenced by money, but will say whatever he thinks he needs to say to get elected. I've never been certain whether this is a place where he's worse than other politicians by nature, or whether it's just his situation--running for office in Massachussets required him to be on the liberal end of Republicans, and so he was; running for the Republican nomination in 2008 and 2012 requires being on the coservative end of Republicans, and so he is[1].

By contrast, I think Gingrich probably is much more for sale--he has raken money from all sorts of folks to defend their interests. And a lot of the normal business of Washington is like that--it's routine for retired or defeated congressmen to work as lobbyists and make much better money than they ever did in office. (Sometimes I think we should pay congressmen some obscene salary, but then forbid them from ever working in the private sector again, but maybe that would introduce as many problems as it solved.).

[1] Fundamental attriubution bias is easy to fall into dealing with politicians. Very often, they are actng according to their interests as they perceive them, even when they convincingly portray themselves as believing deeply in whatever they are doing. Note how often politicians running for office convincingly act like they deeply believe in, say, smaller government, balanced budgets, civil liberties, protection of whistleblowers, etc. And then they get elected and do what is in their interests once in office.

#341 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:19 PM:

Public radio's Marketplace had an interview with Stephen Dubner on earlier this week about how much effect money has on the election process. It's not so cut and dried as one might think, according to the piece.

Does money buy elections?

Excerpt:

Ryssdal: All right. Here's the thing: Steve Levitt, very nice guy, knowledgeable economist. Sadly though, I don't believe him. Because if you look, it's always the guy with the most money who wins.

Dubner: You are right. It is almost always the guy with the most money who wins. That is what we know as correlation without cause. So let me explain. When it's raining out, everybody's got an umbrella. And we know that. But you know what, the umbrellas don't cause the rain. We know that, too. Here's the thing: Winning an election, raising money do go together. But it doesn't seem as though money actually causes the winning either. It's just that the kind of candidate who's attractive to voters also ends up, along the way, attracting a lot of money. And the losing candidate, nobody wants to give money to that guy.

Ryssdal: Right. It makes sense, but what happens when you tell politicians this. This can't be a message that they want to hear, right?

Dubner: Yeah. No politicians going to step forward and say: 'Please don't send me you money. I don't want it. I will not use it.' Look, campaign fundraising has become an arms race, and as is any arms race, the first casualty is logic. Right? But let's look past New Hampshire back to Iowa last week. Here's some good evidence for these politicians. Rick Perry spent $4.3 million on advertising there, which is nearly triple what Romney spent -- and he got 10 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, spent only $30,000 for ads in Iowa, and he lost to Romney by just eight votes. So much for the money argument.

#342 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:52 PM:

That the subject of this thread includes alarm at the expansion of torture and surveillance of anyone, including U.S. citizen civilians, this new book will be of great interest, God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, by Cullen Murphy. Reviewed today in the WaPo here.

A brief pull from the review:

[ " Murphy ponders “ what . . . any inquisition really is: a set of disciplinary practices targeting specific groups, codified in law, organized systematically, enforced by surveillance, exemplified by severity, sustained over time, backed by institutional power, and justified by a vision of the one true path. Considered that way, the Inquisition is more accurately viewed not as a relic, but as a harbinger.” It was a harbinger of the world of apparently endless state campaigns to gather, extract, store and (often) fabricate information. Such a state routinely operates under the assumption that emergency government is the normal condition of politics and diplomacy. In order better to protect itself and its endless need for intelligence, it has tacitly or overtly legitimized or redefined torture and obliterated the moral and legal stigma long attached to it. " ]

Love, C.

#343 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:59 PM:

will shetterly @ 281: "I think (entirely without researching this) that the understanding of civil rights has been warped by two groups in the last thirty years: 1. Right-libertarians want to redefine "civil liberties" as "money talks". 2. Authoritarian-leftists want to rationalize hate speech laws and other forms of thoughtcrimes."

I'd say those are the poles of the debate, though I'm not sure how you get "warped" without an implicit assumption that you already have the one true understanding of civil rights.

#344 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 02:19 PM:

will:

I am very concerned that we will end up in a war with Iran. The same propaganda is being mobilized. Americans are less scared and maybe more cynical now, but most voters are low-information voters, and it's not so hard to drum up distrust and hatred for the Iranians, who really are a thuggish theocracy with ties to terrorists and nasty rhetoric. Just not one that we need to bomb or invade, or for that matter to run a multi-year covert war against involving bombings, assassinations, and incursions with drones.

#345 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 02:25 PM:

From 20 years ago, a durable political statement by Zoe Leonard.

#346 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 02:31 PM:

Right libertarians are indeed concerned with property rights' which are more important for people rich enough to own stuff than for others. But right libertarians are also strongly in favor of freedom of religion and speech and self-ownership wrt stuff like drugs and sex, which doesn't fit in the money talks model.

#347 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 03:35 PM:

albatross @346, are "right libertarians" really "strongly in favor" of that stuff? What distinguishes right and left libertarians for you?

Keep in mind that those nasty Ron Paul newsletters from the late '80s and early '90s were specifically written as part of a project by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard to drive the hippy drug-using faction out of libertarianism, and forge an alliance with paleoconservatives. Rothbard was perfectly willing to compromise on the sex-and-drugs stuff to lower taxes and abolish civil rights laws.

#348 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 04:52 PM:

Steve, #341: Money may not win elections directly, but lack of money sure will lose them! Arguing that the person who spends the most money doesn't always win without noting that there's a very definite spending "floor" below which you have no chance at all is misleading.

#349 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 06:04 PM:

Okay, I'll direct this to Avram who seems likely to know but someone else like David Dyer-Bennet might also have the answer; what I'd like to know is this: Why have libertarians (or right libertarians) like Murray Rothbard (or for that matter Friedrich von Hayek) been hostile to civil rights laws? Surely those expand liberty? Albatross's point about right libertarians being also concerned about self-ownership raises part of the problem for me inasmuch as civil rights laws place each individual on an equal footing qua individual and prevent discrimination on the grounds of particular peculiarities, they would, surely, guarantee the individual sovereignty that had previously been denied.

I also find it interesting that when I've taught political theory to graduate students, one of the things they've focused on when reading Robert Nozick was his support for reparations for slavery. Nozick was one of the earliest people to mention the idea favourably. I don't think that many of the nuttier supporters of Ron Paul would like it.

#350 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 06:53 PM:

Bruce @ 336, agreed. As many folks have noted, the ruling class grows more and more diverse, yet the gap between rich and poor of all hues continues to grow. My current fave Martin Luther King quote is still true: "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike."

heresiarch @343, I could hear an argument that "money talks" fits within traditional civil rights, though I can't remember anyone fighting for that "right" until the Libertarian Party adopted the principle. I never noticed anyone trying to rationalize censorship before the authoritarian left began pushing hate speech laws. The ACLU still has the traditional libertarian take.

Fragano @349, reparations sound like a good idea if you think the only poor folks in the USA are descended from slaves. But if you give reparations for slavery, do you then give reparations for generational poverty among whites? Do you create a nation in which the only poor are those who weren't lucky enough to have slaves in their family history? The socialist solution is much simpler.

#351 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 07:40 PM:

Will Shetterly #350: I'm not a supporter of reparations for slavery, but please note that they are not advocated as a solution to poverty. They are being demanded specifically as reparation for a crime against humanity. The analogy I keep hearing is the Holocaust.

The Johnsons of Chicago and Dick Parsons would be recipients as much as the residents of Mound Bayou , Mississipi, Fort Green, New York, or Vine City, Georgia.

#352 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 08:01 PM:

Fragano @351, some people talk about reparations as a solution for black poverty. As for the crime against humanity question, whose people were never enslaved? Where do you draw the line? What are reparations meant to accomplish, if not bring a people out of Egypt into a Promised Land?

#353 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 08:04 PM:

352
It's restitution for having committed crimes against a group. Like the payments to those we interned in WW2.

#354 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 08:26 PM:

Fragano #351: Exactly. Like you, I'm not a supporter of any "reparations" plan, mostly because I can't think of any way of implementing it that would be both politically plausible and logistically practical.

But like you, I'll defend the basic justice of the idea. It's not about ameliorating or correcting inequality, good though those things would be. It's about the fact that chattel slavery is an injustice apart.

It's not just a more extreme form of economic oppression or class-based dominance. It's not just nastier serfdom. It's an extraordinary injustice. As practiced in the pre-Civil-War US, it was extraordinary even compared to many of the kinds of slavery practiced in antiquity. It was a kind of death from which its victims weren't even allowed to die.

#355 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 08:27 PM:

Will Shetterly #351: Let me state again, since you seem to have missed it: I am not a supporter of reparations for slavery. The supporters of reparations I see on a regular basis don't have good answers for the questions I ask them, which are based on the history of trans-Atlantic slavery. You seem to be assuming that the reparations movement is limited to the United States. It isn't.

The key argument is that the unequal and unjust condition in which black people on this side of the Atlantic find themselves can only be fixed once black people have sufficient capital in their own hands to change things. Reparations will provide this capital.

My position is that this kind of story normally begins 'Once upon a time' and ends 'and they all lived happily ever after' and is not credible to anyone above the age of six.

#356 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 09:11 PM:

PNH #354: Therein lies the problem. The idea of reparations is to correct a huge injustice. I don't think there's enough money in the world that could do it. I also don't think that money would solve the problem (which is why I think of it as a fairy tale).

How does one measure in cash the deaths in the Middle Passage? (For that matter, how does one consider a case like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_Massacre ; murder for insurance fraud, in which the deaths of 133 human beings, visible by the bye from the house where I lived for seven years, was not considered murder.) How does one measure the devastation caused in Africa by the impact of the slave trade? How does one measure the cultural and psychological impact on the enslaved and their descendants?

Then, there is, to me, a fundamental problem. Suppose that reparations are made, does that do away with racism?

#357 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 10:21 PM:

Fragano @349: Why have libertarians (or right libertarians) like Murray Rothbard (or for that matter Friedrich von Hayek) been hostile to civil rights laws?

Keep in mind that I'm no expert on either Rothbard or Hayek. I've read Hayek's shortest book (The Road to Serfdom) and one other essay, and only a few essays by Rothbard. Keeping that in mind, here's how it seems to me:

Rothbard seems to have been one of those guys who tries to boil everything down to property rights. (See this article on flag-burning for an example.) If a landlord doesn't want to rent to blacks, it's the landlord's property, so what he says goes. Same with the store owner who doesn't want to let blacks into his store. The excluded customers don't have a property right in the store (because they can't get in to buy anything), so they don't have a right that Rothbard recognizes. A lot of libertarians focus on property rights like that; I get the impression that they see property rights as a clearly-delineated set of rights, and don't want to have to deal with the ambiguity of allowing other ways of thinking about freedom to cloud matters.

Hayek was in general opposed to anything that increased government power, because Hitler!. He wrote a book titled Law, Legislation, and Liberty: The Mirage of Social Justice, which tells you how he felt about social justice. I think he was one of those equality-of-treatment-not-equality-of-outcome guys. He figured that, even if some people start out disadvantaged, allowing the government to treat them preferentially skews the rules of equal treatment, which gives the government too much power, and then Hitler!.

I'm talking here about the face-value arguments they made. Under the surface, well, I get the impression that Rothbard may have had some gut-level aversions towards different races and groups of people, but I don't get that vibe from Hayek. I could easily be wrong about either, or both, though.

#358 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 12:23 AM:

A lot of libertarians...don't want to have to deal with the ambiguity of allowing other ways of thinking about freedom to cloud matters.

In other words, a lot of libertarians are just as narrow-minded as one of those evolution-and-climate-change-denying anti-vac idiots. A lot; not all.

#359 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 01:36 AM:

Another problem with reparations: do you pay them to the descendents of black slaveowners?

@356, full agreement.

#360 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 02:19 AM:

Will @359, who exactly are you gotcha-ing? The argument you're making doesn't connect with the comments that have been posted in the thread.

There's no fight to be had here. Let's talk about something else.

#361 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 02:28 AM:

Fragano/Avram:

The way I have always understood the argument is based on the proper limits of government power. I think most libertarians would say that government can set whatever rules it sees fit for government hiring, but that it has no role intervening in private companies' hiring decisions, decisions to accept or reject customers or suppliers, landlords' decision to rent to or not rent to someone, etc. This works the same way that most liberals would say that the state has no role in telling newspapers what to publish or churches what to preach. That would mean no antidiscrimination laws that applied to private businesses, and also no laws imposing discrimination, though the government could set whatever hiring standards for itself it thought best. It would also mean no private right to sue for discrimination, which I think is in practice how most antidiscrimination law has an impact.

#362 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 02:41 AM:

Avram:

To be fair, living through the twentieth century does tend to drive home the many ways that really powerful states could do bad things to their people and their neighbors. That's not just worrying about Hitler--there were plenty of other nasty states with centralized power and mass graves full of victims, though mostly with smaller body counts that Hitler and Stalin managed.

An important point that libertarians get is that once someone has gathered a lot of centralized power for some good purpose, whether that's winning a war or trying to do something about poverty or keeping the country safe from terrorism, that power is very likely to be used for other stuff--like no-trial property seizures, which were originally justified for use against high level organized crime figures, and now are used as a justification for the cops to shake down drivers with a lot of cash and too much melanin. Or no-fly lists that were supposed to keep known terrorists from boarding airplanes, but turn out to also be useful to keep annoying protesters and troublemakers from flying. Or occupational licencing, which is used both to protect consumers from getting killed by quack doctors, and also to protect incumbent beauticians and florists from competition.

#363 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 09:39 AM:

Avram/Albatross: The net result of focusing on property rights over people,then, is that we end up with a society in which property becomes more valuable than people. That seems fundamentally inequitable to me.

We also end up with Von Hayek declaring that those who object are driven by envy.

#364 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 09:41 AM:

The gnomes have held a post of mine in durance vile. I'm at a loss as to which word of power I have used (the post had no links, perhaps the gnomes were denying my recht).

#365 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 09:51 AM:

Xopher:

Perhaps it's my bias speaking, but I've noticed that most people aren't very good at seeing how much of what they've grown up with and taken for granted is:

a. An evolved thing that changes over time, rather than brought down from the mountain by Moses.

b. Much more complicated than they apear at first glance.

I don't think libertarians are more susceptible to those flaws of thought than anyone else.

#366 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 10:05 AM:

Steve C:

I'll note that the excerpt you gave addresses the question of whether more money = victory, but not the really important question, which is how the need for all that money influences what policies are advocated and carried out. Even if any serious candidate will, in practice, be able to raise enough money to stay in the race and win if he's popular enough (I'm not convinced, but perhaps this is true), I would like to know how the need to raise money--which nobody disputes--affects what the politicians say and do.

One interesting place money affects politics in interesting ways is the funding of think tanks and ideological publications. There isn't a hell of a lot of money in thinking deeply about political and social issues, so spending a few million dollars to set up think tanks and a magazine or two can have a big impact. And those think tanks and magazines are explicitly ideological, so if you go top far from the allowed positions, you lose your job. I strongly suspect this has an enormous impact on what kid of policies get discussed and advocated, and that this effect is amplified by the need for talking heads shows to get guests, magazines to want experts to quote, etc. Positions nobody is paying for don't have anyone who makes a living advocating for them.

#367 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 10:09 AM:

Fragano:

Because so many of our spammers are deficient in the niceties of both grammar and usage, we strongly encourage those who wish to contribute more constructively to the conversation to place spaces after their commas. (It is an unfortunate weakness of our spam filtering plugin that we cannot teach it to give you the respect which is your natural due.)

#368 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 10:17 AM:

I think it's pointless at best, and profoundly misleading the rest of the time, to conceptualize and analyze our relationship with government in terms of a notional completely independent adult individual.

None of us are that person. We're an organism that starts out helpless, ends up helpless, and passes through periods of strength and vulnerability throughout the rest of our lives. The longer I think about it, the stranger I find libertarian social theory, treating as it does with the species that has the longest childhood and adolescence of any critter on this planet.

We are not a solitary species. Our natural tendency is to live in groups, where we care for each other and find each other irritating in approximately equal measure. Our social structures and built environments are cooperative.

How do we justify extracting from this a full-grown educated adult individual, in relatively good health or at least with no major deficits, and basing our entire political analysis on how this person might theoretically interact with structures of government? That's not a rhetorical question. Does that body of analysis exist?

I don't have time right now -- Sunday morning -- to go into the question of why garden-variety libertarian analyses of that relationship assume that those governments are run by and for inscrutable and unsympathetic aliens.

#369 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 10:34 AM:

Possibly as the residue of reading a lot of Corey Robin lately, I've come to realize that it's not perverse or accidental that modern American libertarianism always winds up allied with the Right. Conservatism is about defending established privilege--and the kind of "libertarianism" formulated by figures like Murray Rothbard is primarily about protecting the individual's freedom to promulgate private tyrannies, in the family, in the workplace, and in other economic relationships. In both cases what's being defended is the right of particular individuals to treat other people like crap, so conservatives and libertarians have much more in common than not.

I'm not saying they're always wrong--life is complicated. But I think that a gut-level inclination to defend Might Makes Right is the trunk from which much of libertarianism and conservatism branch. Libertarians who start wondering about this tend to drift away from being strict libertarians.

As a completely gratuitous aside, I will note that I once met Murray Rothbard, and he was a thoroughgoing prick.

#370 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 11:26 AM:

Fragano:

Well, libertarians who think drugs and any kind of sex between adults should be legal aren't *only* thinking in terms of property rights. And in discrimination, whatever abstractions you use, you're talking about the lines drawn around individuals' decisions. If I own a cafe, can I decide whether or not to sell tea? How about pot? Can I decide whom to hire? Does that include up-front limiting my employees to female straight Roman Catholics with red hair? How about if I'm catering to a mainly gay clientelle, and find it useful to only hire gays? Can I decide not to serve blacks? Can I decide not to serve John Yoo or Fred Phelps? Can I decide whether or not to play loud music? How about whether or not to allow smoking?

A lot of libertarians and conservatives will spin those in terms of property rights, but ultimately, they're all about who gets to make certain decisions. That's what rights mean, when you boil them down--they're a way of deciding who gets to make some decisions, and what decisions are and aren't subject to being made or overridden by law. Somebody gets to make each of those decisions, just like somebody gets to decide what will be preached in Mass in my church today, just like somebody gets to decide who each of us will date or marry, just like somebody gets to decide what books I will read this year.


#371 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 11:49 AM:

Patrick:

So, how does your model account for libertarian opposition to the war on drugs and the draft?

And does it really seem plausible to you that libertarians are hoping to see lots of private tyrannies? Is that any different from a libertarian saying liberals want to see a centralized tyranny? Or is it possible that both groups think a certain way of concentrating decisionmaking will leave most people better off, with less overall tyranny and better treatment on average.

One defining feature about private tyrannies of the kind you're discussing is that it tends to be a lot easier to leave them than to leave your country--if you decide your marriage is a nightmare or your job is wrecking your health, you can leave both without learning a new language or moving thousands of miles from your family. There is something similar with federalism--if laws are mostly local, you can much more easily leave places with laws you can't stand than if laws are nationwide. That is far from perfect, and it does assume limits on local laws and private arrangements that forbid or heavily penalize exit, but it's very important.

The other feature of making fewer decisions centrally and more at an individual or local level is thst it accomodates a wide range of ideas about how to live. We don't all agree on a lot of fundamental questions. In any medium sized city, there are churches that preach hatred of gays within a few miles of gay bars, people who think religion is silly superstition living near people for whom religion is the most important part of their lives, people who eat meat and wear leather living near people who find both morally offensive, whites who can't stand blacks and blacks living in the same community. How do we arrange for all these people to live together in relative peace? I don't think the answer is to come to a consensus on each of these issues and then impose it on everyone--a state that can do that is frighteningly powerful, and making control of the government determine who gets to tell everyone how to live wrt their deeply held beliefs seems like a good way to get really nasty politics.

#372 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 11:57 AM:

Albatross #370: I see your point about choice. To a large degree, I would contend it is answered by Theresa's comment in #368 about the nature of humanity as a social species. Libertarians keep arguing about rights in a way that assumes, as I like to put it, that we are all hard rubber balls bouncing off each other. We're not. Human beings are sticky. Law has to take into account that stickiness; that is the fact of society, and the fact that human beings live together in complex ways.

We are trying, through our public agencies, to find ways to live together that are fair and just to all of us and that include all of us within the community as participants. Libertarians, it seems to me, look at only one dimension of that, and deliberately ignore all the others.

#373 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 01:13 PM:

Fragano, #363: The net result of focusing on property rights over people,then, is that we end up with a society in which property becomes more valuable than people.

Exactly -- although I would have phrased it "property rights over human rights". We also end up with a society in which it is regarded as normal for large groups of the population to be treated as second-class citizens, because the means for countering this all infringe upon the Sacred Property. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this absolutely nauseating, and the people who press for it contemptible.

Teresa, #368: If and when you do have time for that analysis, I would be very interested in seeing it.

#374 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 02:19 PM:

albatross @ 366:

I think if you closely examine the funding and directorate of think tanks, you will discover that a large number of them (IMO a large majority) were created or co-opted to provide intellectual cover for ideological positions. In the recent past, with the changes in election campaign spending controls, think tanks have been used as the nucleus of PACs and similar organizations which were explicitly created to aid in the election of politicians supporting their ideological positions.

#375 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 05:33 PM:

albatross @371, one problem with that line of federalist argument is that you're making it entirely in the abstract. I notice that there are no historical examples in your 371.

In the actual history that Americans lived through, the period of greatest federalism in the US was also the period during which there was a very large group of harshly oppressed people who, if they tried to leave the states which had laws they couldn't stand, would be physically dragged back, with the blessing of the courts. The very people who would later so eloquently praise "states' rights" didn't have much respect for the rights of northern states to not support slavery.

And then there were other unfree labor practices, like indentured servitude, and apprenticeship. You couldn't just walk away from your abusive master back then. (Well, maybe you could, if you were lucky enough to get away with it.)

Speaking of labor, in your experience, how do libertarians feel about right-to-work laws? They ought to oppose those laws, right? Because the laws place a limit on the types of contracts an employer and a union can agree to. Do most libertarians oppose right-to-work laws?

#376 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 05:46 PM:

PNH @369: I will note that I once met Murray Rothbard, and he was a thoroughgoing prick.

He wasn't that guy who pulled the gun on you, was he?

#377 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 05:58 PM:

albatross @371, another problem with your comment is that you seem to be ignoring the amount of nuance in Patrick's 369. Patrick talks about "the kind of 'libertarianism' formulated by figures like Murray Rothbard", with scare-quotes and everything, and you make like he's talking about every libertarian everywhere.

I realize that there's a tendency here on ML for people to sometimes go off about libertarians the way that people on atheist boards will talk as if every Christian is Fred Phelps. But when someone actually takes the care to make the distinctions Patrick made, you should have enough respect to recognize them.

#378 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 06:17 PM:

There's something I've been trying to express in a number of threads in the last few months. It began with the occupy threads, and now maybe I've got it.

We had a thread about how Occupy was chaotic good, and it made me realize something: in a D&D game, the most consistent, biggest difference between chaotic and lawful is the respect of property rights. Every chaotic good character I have played has been a thief, or a trespasser. For all the best reasons, of course... I stole some dusty scrolls to help a starving village eat, I snuck into the lord's manner to help his daughter escape an arranged marriage, that kind of thing. I strive to be neutral good (rather than chaotic), which for me means that I consider property rights to be useful and generally productive, but by no means sacred.

And sacred is exactly what most right libertarians and modern libertarians seem to think property rights are: they speak about them with the kind of breathless wide-eyedness that I associate with religious experiences. When they talk about a man doing whatever he wants on his property, they have the same glow that I associate with wandering through the wilderness in my youth... wilderness that someone I have never met technically owned, by the way.

Libertarians put me in mind of that one episode that occurs in a lot of sci fi series (especially if it's a sci-fi western). You're on a desert planet, and there's a guy who controls the main source of water. He's become phenomenally rich and powerful and can do whatever he wants. And nobody ever asks the question "Wait, how can you own water?" Eventually someone robs or kills that guy or destroys his property and the water becomes available to everyone. Hooray!

The ending where that water becomes available to everyone is the antithesis of modern, property-based libertarian thought - yet most people watching the show would normally agree that in this case, it's right. It's good. It's the ending we all wanted.

I'm not for the complete abandonment of the idea of property. Property provides security. As a goal, ownership is a strong motivator for productivity. I'm glad that I own a computer, a bike, and a car, and I'd like to continue to have these things. I'm glad that society lets me do that, and I'm glad that society ensures that my parents will keep the house they purchased. Good on property ownership for all those things, I say.

But libertarians behave as if property ownership is unrelated to government, and I think that it's the single biggest and most expensive function of government. How much per year does the government spend to ensure that a piece of paper means that you permanently posses a swath of land you never set foot on? If libertarians truly wished for smaller government, that's the first thing they'd cut: the part of government that ties property to a person who does not actually have direct contact with that property.

But they can't even conceive of that, because of the sacredness. Because property is the one place where they are absolutely and totally opposed to liberty. If I want to wander through woods that someone else owns, that's when they want me locked up and denied freedom of movement, because the sacredness of property trumps the freedom to go where one wants. So if I own a square of property surrounded by squares that other people own, I can be essentially imprisoned forever, because property is more sacred than liberty.

I don't think that libertarians want a bunch of tiny tyrannies to spring up, I just think that they ignore the fact that tiny tyrannies are the likely result of their actions; in the same way that the Russian communists did not want to create a land of hopelessness, scarcity, and brutal authoritarianism.

For me, the health, beauty, safety and life of the world is sacred. For libertarians, the right to keep me from what I hold sacred, or destroy it on a whim... that's sacred.

So you can possibly understand why I would tend to oppose them.

#379 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 06:27 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 369: "I'm not saying they're always wrong--life is complicated. But I think that a gut-level inclination to defend Might Makes Right is the trunk from which much of libertarianism and conservatism branch."

I don't think it's fair to say that libertarians are inclined to defend the mighty: the business owner refusing to serve [minority] may have more power than his would-be customers, but the federal government certainly has more power than he does. It is the latter conflict that libertarians focus on.

The correspondence between libertarianism and conservatism seems to me to spring from elsewhere: the sometimes-principled conviction among libertarians that the societal tyrannies of family and race and class are less dangerous than the great governmental tyrannies, and the conviction that market principles yield a just society. Conservatives agree, though for different reasons: societal tyrannies are what they're aiming for, and the inequalities that markets yield are precisely what they want. It's far from an agreement that Might is just peachy keen--certainly not at the ideological level.

albatross @ 365: "Perhaps it's my bias speaking, but I've noticed that most people aren't very good at seeing how much of what they've grown up with and taken for granted is:"

True enough, but I don't think that is the dynamic for most libertarians: how many libertarians were raised libertarian rather than discovered it for themselves? The lack of questioning isn't due to the patina of tradition.

I think the wider social dynamic most directly informing libertarianism is: people generally feel the most pressing threat to freedom is whatever threatens their own freedom. Libertarians are generally privileged enough that the tyranny of big government looms in their minds as a dire and tangible danger while the tyrannies of institutionalized discrimination and economic violence are vague and distant.

#380 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 06:55 PM:

Albatross, #371: "[D]oes it really seem plausible to you that libertarians are hoping to see lots of private tyrannies? Is that any different from a libertarian saying liberals want to see a centralized tyranny? Or is it possible that both groups think a certain way of concentrating decision-making will leave most people better off, with less overall tyranny and better treatment on average."

A fair point. I don't mean to categorically traduce the good faith of everyone who identifies as a libertarian. And there are issues on which I think libertarians tend to be more generally right than liberals.

But I do ultimately agree with Leah Miller's #378: "[L]ibertarians behave as if property ownership is unrelated to government, and [...] it's the single biggest and most expensive function of government." And with her observation that "property is the one place where they are absolutely and totally opposed to liberty." I'm not opposed to the idea of property, but I am opposed to the idea that it's the transcendent basis of all other rights and the ground from which all social good proceeds. I think going down that road gets you very rapidly to a place where you're defending all kinds of rotten little tyrannies, whether you're inclined to be pro-tyranny or not.

If I seemed to be imputing a bad motive to all libertarians, I recant that. I don't have enough arrogance to claim that libertarians are the only people susceptible to being led, through chains of questionable logic, to conclusions that nobody would consider sensible in the bright light of day.

#381 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 07:52 PM:

Leah Miller @378 and PNH @380: But libertarians behave as if property ownership is unrelated to government, and I think that it's the single biggest and most expensive function of government.

Wait, what? Don't libertarians tend to talk (repeatedly! at great length! until your ears bleed!) about how the most important function of government is the protection of property rights? Isn't the minarchist libertarian ideal to have a government that does nothing but protect property rights and provide for national defense (which can itself be seen as a form of protecting property rights)? How is that "unrelated to government"?

What I think some (but not all!) libertarians miss is that if the only tool that powerful people have to extend their power is the claim to property, then everything will become a property right, and as new property rights become recognized, that new property will mostly be in the hands of the rich and powerful. For examples, see the history of enclosure in England, or the various abuses of so-called "intellectual property" laws here in the US (patent trolling, the expansion of trademarks, the unilateral extension of copyright terms, and SOPA/PIPA). While many (maybe even most) libertarians oppose these various forms of IP enclosure, I think they underestimate the degree to which the enclosure process is fed by the emphasis on property rights as the only rights worth defending.

#382 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:10 PM:

381
Their property rights, but not yours. (If you want to see a libertarian's head explode, ask them what happens in their ideal world if the place next door is sold to someone who wants to keep pigs, or have a metal plating business in his garage. Because many of them seem to believe that zoning ordinances are Wrong and should all be removed.)

#383 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:17 PM:

Avram, I meant that a certain subset of libertarians tends to talk as if the concept of "property" were inscribed in the fabric of the universe, and as if any attempt to constrain or limit "property" were an attempt to fight Nature.

#384 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:28 PM:

PNH #369: Your reference to Corey Robin led me to read the sample chapter of his most recent book on Amazon.com. That, in turn, has led me to reflect on a trope of C.L.R. James's: 'Every cook can govern'. Robin is correct. What distinguishes the left from the right is that the left is about the extension of democracy both in breadth (the extension of suffrage and political rights to previously excluded groups, which is why the gay rights struggle is in the same tradition as the struggle for black and ethnic minority rights and women's rights) and in depth (the extension of participation in decision making both by such measures as lowering the voting age and providing extended opportunities for civic voice, but also by providing universal education, deepening that education, and extending the ways in which government is subject to educated public opinion as educated opinion becomes coextensive with general opinion). To be on the left is to want greater equity, yes, but it is to want to see every man and woman with a full share of power in shaping the political and economic forces that are going to dominate their lives.

#385 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:32 PM:

PNH #383: Oddly, one of the first true libertarians, the nineteenth century French anarchist Proudhon asked himself 'What is property?' and answered 'It is theft.'

#386 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:45 PM:

Avram, #376: No, Murray Rothbard never pulled a gun on me.

Also, I never made a daring zeppelin escape from the golf course at St. Andrews, pursued by a carbine-wielding Robert Nozick.

The story about me getting into a firefight with a heavily-armed squad of University of Chicago economists is a tissue of lies promulgated by John Scalzi for his own amusement.

The bit about how I arranged for Jim Henley's monthly shipment of gold bars from the Kremlin, though--that part's true.

#387 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:48 PM:

Avram @581, to clarify my thoughts

When a libertarian buys a bumper sticker that says: "That government is best that governs least." It should have a giant honking footnote on it that reads:

*Except when it comes to allowing someone to maintain huge swaths of personal property. Then we want the most government possible. When it comes to property ownership, we want unbreakable governmental control binding a piece of property to its owner irrevocably, and this is our highest priority.

Granted, that can't be easily read in traffic, so I see why they don't include it.

I'm not saying that libertarians don't think that property ownership is a function of government, just that it isn't included in their screeds against "big government." I often hear libertarians say "too much government is bad," and "It is ideal to reduce the size of the government."When they say these things, they do not include the control and reinforcement of property rights in their conception of this generic rhetorical government that needs to be reduced.

The laws that maintain property rights are almost by definition "big government" but libertarians do not place them in that category, because it is their particular sacred thing.

#388 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 08:59 PM:

I can't think we're having a successful discussion of libertarianism if all of our self-identified libertarians have dropped out of the conversation. I liked Patrick's observations @369. It was clear then and is clear now that PNH was at pains to distinguish "the kind of 'libertarianism' formulated by figures like Murray Rothbard" from garden-variety libertarianism. All the same, people do tend to get defensive about adjectives they share.

We know Albatross. He's not evil. To the best of my knowledge, neither are any of ML's other libertarians (except for the ones that are secretly The Thing, which can happen to anyone).

I remember my long-ago libertarian days. I'd grown up being puzzled and slightly nauseated by the heavily encoded language used by political journalists writing in newspapers and news magazines. This set me up to be hit hard, in my last year of junior high/middle school, when I encountered the Society for Individual Liberty's series of pamphlets laying out basic libertarian positions. For the first time, I felt like someone had done for me that piece of magic that's happening in Rider Waite trump #1, The Magician, where heaven is connected with earth and vice-versa: here are the principles, that turn into the policies, that turn into the programs, that apply at street level to people like me.

I can say now that I didn't know enough about how the world works to understand how oversimplified the SIL's schemae were, but that's not the heart of the matter. It wasn't ignorance that moved me; it was an overriding hunger for political models that made sense. That was what attracted me to libertarianism in the first place, and what slowly alienated me from it.

I've written before about going to a meeting of a nascent libertarian organization during my junior or senior year of high school. I was enthusiastic about the ideas, but I was also struck by the realization that no one there was old, or disabled, or badly dressed, or having to juggle attendance with childcare. Over time, this and many other observations rendered the libertarian model inadequate.

There was never a single decisive moment when I rejected it, though. I built outward to accommodate my expanding model of the world, and then gradually, without really realizing it, moved into the new annex, leaving the old space to gather dust.

If other libertarians are like me (which seems at least possible), it isn't necessarily a heartfelt commitment to the primordial sacredness of property rights, or some equivalent shibboleth, that keeps them identifying as libertarians. I won't presume to say what does or doesn't hold them there. What I know, or think I know, is that telling them they're wrong will not move them from their familiar territory to new models they don't yet understand and haven't fully mapped. I suspect that other stripes of political belief share that characteristic.

(Our punditocracy isn't good at explaining things. Too many of them are writing for each other, not their readers. But that's a different panel.)

#389 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 09:49 PM:

I apologize if I'm overposting. I've been working a great deal of overtime the last week, and this is the first time I've had to sit down and read and respond to things, so I'm having a week's worth of thoughts in a matter of hours.

I'm probably being too harsh on libertarians. I want to clarify that my harshness is directed as what I perceive to be the reigning views of mainstream libertarianism today. I do realize that people can identify as libertarian without embracing the problematic aspects of the philosophy that seem to dominate discussion of the mainstream modern libertarian movement as exemplified by Ron Paul.

I see Ron Paul as an avatar of that particular stripe of libertarianism I most staunchly oppose.

Now, I was raised in a family with strong libertarian heritage, and strong civil libertarian values.

My Grandfather on my mother's side took a civil liberties case to the supreme court and won, and it is one of the things in my family history of which I am most proud. When he died, he donated a significant portion of his estate to the ACLU.

The ACLU, not the libertarian party. Not any libertarian politician.

And that is the gulf that baffles and frustrates me. If the ACLU were a political party, I would most likely be a member, or at the very least a staunch supporter. My grandfather died without a political party he felt he could trust, but he voted democrat for most of his life. I don't believe that makes him less concerned with liberty than someone who votes libertarian.

I'm strongly for the ACLU. I support them in almost everything they do. Because I do so, I feel that I would not fit in with most modern libertarians. If you google ACLU and libertarian, the first thing you get is a page purporting to explain libertarian ideals, with a section as to why the ACLU is not a good libertarian organization (I'm not linking because I don't want to give them any additional google juice.) In most cases where I've mentioned the ACLU to someone who identifies as libertarian, they react with derision.

I don't think that is the case for most libertarians who read or post on Making Light. If you are a libertarian who believes that the ACLU is a better voice for liberty than the mainstream libertarian movement, then I have little to disagree with you about. But the mainstream libertarian movement at present opposes many liberties that the ACLU fights to uphold, and that is not something I can support.

If left leaning libertarians successfully "take back" the libertarian movement, and turn it into something less focused on property and more focused on Civil Liberties, something more like the party of the ACLU, no one will be happier than I.

#390 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 10:29 PM:

Leah, #378: You're on a desert planet, and there's a guy who controls the main source of water. He's become phenomenally rich and powerful and can do whatever he wants. And nobody ever asks the question "Wait, how can you own water?" Eventually someone robs or kills that guy or destroys his property and the water becomes available to everyone.

This reminds me of the situation which convinced me that Libertarianism was not a nice idea that would be sort of hard to implement, but in fact actively toxic. It was "the thread that ate alt.callahans", and it went on for months, with dozens of people participating on each side of the argument, and it was also about water rights. Specifically, it was about whether the person who had control of* the only water source in what was otherwise a desert too large to cross in any direction had the right to refuse to sell water to someone because they were the wrong color.

You would not believe the kind of strawman arguments that got put up in support of that proposition. First came the victim-bashing -- surely that traveler knew this to be the case, so why not make sure you had enough water to be able to cross without a resupply, or just detour around the desert? (Even though it had been specified that neither of those options was feasible.) Then it was all about welfare, and how could the owner be expected to just GIVE his water away? (Even though it was clearly stated, and repeated at frequent intervals, that the traveler had the money and was willing to pay.) And finally, when it was pointed out that several of the participating Libertarians had claimed that one of the root principles of the philosophy was "do not harm others by your actions", the lunatic assertion that refusing to sell water to someone WAS NOT AN ACTION, and therefore that stricture didn't apply.

I know there were PoC who left the group after that, because they just couldn't face the thought that people they knew -- people who they had thought knew them and respected them as people -- were perfectly willing to see them dead in defense of racism-based "property rights". And I can't blame them; I might have done the same thing, if the argument had been about whether it was okay not to sell water to women.

Unlike Teresa's experience, this was the decisive moment when I rejected Libertarianism once and for all. Anyone who has ever wondered why I'm so hostile to Libertarianism and the people who espouse it... well, it's because every time we get into one of these brangles, that's what I remember. And that's not likely to change, because it's still all about the Sacred Property, and if people's lives get in the way of that, they just have to die.


* Which, in this instance, is what "owned" means. Of course, in real life, sooner or later such a vital resource would be declared to be community property and neutral ground, and anyone who tried to say they "owned" it would be shown the pointy end of the stick.

#391 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 01:31 AM:

Lee @ 390:

I confess I don't know much about libertarianism. I don't think I've ever had conversations with people where they were arguing specifically as libertarians. It was their belief I was arguing with, not their political ideology of belonging to libertarianism.

That said, I've run into a lot of shades of the property rights arguments, and so, so, so many of them come down to "other people's problems aren't my problem".

So I bring up a real-world example that has happened to me sometimes, particularly as I was relearning the whole being outside thing and getting more familiar with my limits, and I see what happens.

I say: I am on your property on your doorstep. I am disabled. I have no water bottle because it was broken by someone crashing into me. I am dehydrated and unable to get home without water. Would you give me water?

And they say: I don't have to give you water! You should've known better, why didn't you have another bottle with you, why don't you go somewhere else, I don't have to do anything for you, why are you even on my property? Get off!

And I say: But would you give me water?

All of the responses invariably come around to flavours of "It's someone else's problem".

All right. So it is someone else's problem. If they are no more or less obligated than you are to give me water, who are they? Where are they? Who do they call to get rid of me? I am, I further note, at this point most likely too sick to stand on my own because I have been arguing so long. Getting me off their land is going to involve at least two people in some fashion.

So, who do they call upon? Not even for water, at this point -- who do you call to get me off your land at all?

That is my issue. There is a level of responsibility involved in this sort of thing that I just don't see them thinking about. Who do you hand responsibility to when you are responsible, in pure and total, for what happens on your property, and that is the framing device for your life?

Every single answer that does not involve leaving me to sit there on their doorstep to pass out and eventually die involves calling on something that is not about property rights. It's calling a friend. It's calling police. It's summoning your neighbour. It's giving me the godsdamned glass of water. It's routing a visiting family member out of bed to give you a hand with dumping me next to the drivway.

It's not their property and it's not their problem. Based on property rights and property rights alone, they have no reason to help you. Ever.

But I notice an underlying assumption of being able to call upon infrastructure that is not about property rights. Take a bus. Take a walk. Call a friend. Get someone to help. Go to hospital. It's an unthinking assumption of being able to access these things at any given time for reasons that they deem worthy. In my example I cannot call upon infrastructure. They can. And they do. Reluctantly, unthinkingly -- but they do. It's there for them.

I think that assumption combines with being able to have the unshakeable belief that they are the one who controls the water. Always. That is where they imagine themselves, the role that fits most comfortably. Of course they are. It's not even something to formulate as a question because there's no reason to consider one iota of possibility that they'll be the thirsty traveller dependent on uncertain mercy.

#392 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 03:10 AM:

I was shocked the first time I saw someone selling water. It was a desert gas station in California. Under Arizona law, you can't charge for a glass of water. You can charge for a takeaway cup, if that's what they want, or for putting ice in the water, or for letting them take up a table in your establishment while they drink their water; but the glass of water itself is free.

Arizona is hardly a bastion of liberalism. That law is on the books because they take water seriously, or anyway they did when the law was passed. The massive amount of migration to the state in recent decades means there are probably quite a few people living there now who are clueless about water issues. But never mind that.

Thinking about water was another influence that helped pry me away from libertarianism. Deseret was (I believe) the only part of the country where drinking water and irrigation systems, ambitious for their early day, got built without federal money. I said in an earlier comment that human social structures and built environments are cooperative. There is nothing more cooperative than large-scale water regulation systems. They're far too big and labor-intensive for individuals to build their own. They don't work if everyone doesn't cooperate. And if everyone does cooperate, an individual's share of the work involved becomes much smaller, and the benefits of cooperation much larger.

Once the federales started pumping in money, the water projects just got bigger and bigger.

It was difficult for me, back in Arizona, to listen to people with out-of-state accents talk about the intrusion of government into their lives. They were living in a part of the country that was made habitable by water projects, most of them government-funded. Water, hydroelectrically generated power, tolerably good roads, and law and order had become so omnipresent that they were almost invisible, which was the only thing that allowed these guys to talk about their government as though it were some external alien force.

#393 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 08:30 AM:

Leah Miller at # 378: You're on a desert planet, and there's a guy who controls the main source of water. He's become phenomenally rich and powerful and can do whatever he wants. And nobody ever asks the question "Wait, how can you own water?" Eventually someone robs or kills that guy or destroys his property and the water becomes available to everyone. Hooray! The ending where that water becomes available to everyone is the antithesis of modern, property-based libertarian thought - yet most people watching the show would normally agree that in this case, it's right. It's good. It's the ending we all wanted.

I liked the movie Solar Babies.

Of course they should ask the question of how he came to own or control all the water. In this (admittedly contrived or simplified) situation, it seems quite likely to me that originally the water was everyone's property in common, until the villain managed to steal it from everyone else. In which case the ending of the story is a vindication of everyone's property rights, not the antithesis of it.

And at # 389: If you are a libertarian who believes that the ACLU is a better voice for liberty than the mainstream libertarian movement, then I have little to disagree with you about. But the mainstream libertarian movement at present opposes many liberties that the ACLU fights to uphold, and that is not something I can support.

I've been a card-carrying member of the ACLU for over thirty years. And this is one reason I am more comfortable hanging out here at Making Light with people who are more liberal than I am, rather than a forum where people are more conservative than I am. I got banned from Free Republic just for mentioning that I gave to the ACLU.

And as for the "mainstream libertarian movement", the discussion here at Making Light and the reading I have done in consequence led me to realize that besides Ron Paul, I also resent Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell for the fact that people are using that term for something rather different than the principles I support.

If left leaning libertarians successfully "take back" the libertarian movement, and turn it into something less focused on property and more focused on Civil Liberties, something more like the party of the ACLU, no one will be happier than I.

At this point I fear that changing the name of the movement will be easier than reclaiming the libertarian label. If I didn't have to go to work right now, I'd explain why I am thinking of calling myself a small-government liberal.

#394 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 10:37 AM:

Back when I was an undergraduate, I read George Woodcock's The Anarchists and that led me to read Kropotkin's Mutual Aid. For several years, those works influenced how I thought about liberty and power.

When I encountered US libertarians, and read and listened to their arguments, on the other hand, one of the things that struck me most forcibly was how closely those arguments resembled those of the defenders of of both slavery and segregation. They were focused not on freedom but on property and how to preserve it against threats. The nineteenth century anarchist thinkers like P-J Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Pyotr Kropotkin had been for the worker, these people I was reading in the 1980s were clearly not.

Kropotkin was hostile to the state, but he thought of himself as a scientific socialist, and his replacement for the state was mutual assistance without compulsion. I note that one novel I've liked, Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, engages with his ideas and their limits. LeGuin having got to Kropotkin via Paul Goodman (I got to Goodman the other way 'round).

#395 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Teresa @360, when an ugly beast twitches and I have another bullet, I'll shoot. It's got me thinking about what would've happened if freed slaves had gotten 40 acres and a mule. How would you justify not giving wealth to free people of color? In 1860, that would've been half a million people. What about "white trash"? I don't have an accurate count, but I know that Harriet Beecher Stowe, who researched slavery thoroughly, said they were worse off than most slaves.

Well, I shall cogitate upon this further. Ciao!

#396 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 11:29 AM:

Water powerfully unsettles a simple understanding of market economics. A close consideration of water, and why it works so poorly as a commodity, highlights the extent to which the commodity form is a structure into which we shoehorn all sorts of different things, not always with any success. In order for markets to function properly, commodities must be discrete, cost more to make than to transport, allow for competition, and be to some degree substitutable. Water doesn't really fit any of those characteristics: water flows about, decoupling investment and returns; the cost is almost entirely in provision; provision is a natural monopoly as running multiple water pipes to every home is farcical; and it is necessary for human life, meaning the customer can't walk away. It would be one thing if some obscure commodity threw market economics into such a tangle, but water? One of the qualities that breaks it as a commodity is its very importance to life.

#397 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 12:07 PM:

And I just came across this, which seems extremely pertinent to the general discussion: Ron Paul Debate Flushes Out Gender-Baiting Right Wing Opportunists Masquerading as Progressives « naked capitalism.

#398 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 12:54 PM:

Will: It has not escaped my notice that your arguments against reparations are couched in terms of "but what about the poor whites"? The parallel with gender issues should be uncomfortably obvious.

Find a better argument if you want anyone's attention.

#399 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 01:09 PM:

will shetterly @ 397: Pertinent, yes, but useful? No.

In the first half of the article Yves Smith lays out a solid analysis and critique of one strategy used to shut down consideration of Paul: the allegation that anyone who takes Paul seriously must secretly also be okay with his racism and sexism, and thereby showin thur privledj. She cites specific people, and shows specific counter-examples that leave such claims in ruins. A well-deserved and much-needed straw-man demolition.

She then proceeds to construct an almost exact replica of the argument she just demolished, substituting "using gender/race issues to dismiss Paul" for "taking Paul seriously." Only those motivated by some nefarious hidden motive--in Smith's argument, being a secret right-wing faux-gressive--would take such a position, she asserts. The whole of her evidence for this argument is the study of a single individual, Megan Carpentier.

One can agree or disagree with Smith's takedown; however it ought to be perfectly clear that whatever Carpentier's motives are for taking such a stance, the vast majority of those who disregard Paul on the basis of his regressive social policies are not secret right-wing plants. They are, rather, people who care a lot about social issues. Maybe they have weighed the pros and cons as self-consciously as Greenwald would like, and maybe they haven't, but Smith's allegation is ridiculous and insane; even more ridiculous and insane than the argument she just finished taking apart.

I would not describe that as useful.

#400 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 01:18 PM:

Lee @398, my arguments include poor whites because Making Light is an awfully white community, and because the Confederacy was fairly white, (though I vaguely remember at least one Chinese-American Confederate, and anyone interested in race and the Civil War ought to know about Stand Watie), and because, as in Martin Luther King's day, poverty affects twice as many whites as blacks. See the quote at 350. If King's argument is not good enough for you, *shrug*.

Now, if you thought that I think reparations should not include the descendants of Mexican-Americans, American Indians, and Chinese laborers, be comforted: I fully agree that if reparations are a valid notion, everyone exploited by the US's ruling class deserves them.

#401 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 01:33 PM:

Lee @398, a PS: If you meant to imply that bringing up poor white folks was a manifestation of my secret or repressed racism, I recommend the comment about Manichean dichotomies in The limits of anti-racism by Adolph Reed Jr.

#402 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 01:41 PM:

heresiarch @398, until I encountered the take-down of Carpentier, I had assumed all identitarians were sincere, so that may've interested me more than it did you, but I agree that the first half is the more interesting part. I especially liked the quote from Yvette Carnell in Rethinking a Rethinking – Andrew Sullivan and the Ron Paul Unendorsement | breakingbrown.com: "… at the heart of the teeth gnashing are Paul’s racist newsletters and their import. For me, this would be a much tougher nut to crack if structural and/or cultural racism were still the most heinous defect in the American body politic. But in a country where indefinite detention just became the law of the land, it’s not. In a country where unmanned American drones are killing innocent children abroad, it’s not. And in a country where mortgage scammers are protected from prosecution while Americans are being foreclosed on in record numbers, it’s not. Sorry black folks, but race and racism are not the biggest issues of the 21st century and to imagine otherwise is to conflate the issue and put the needs of your community ahead of the needs of America in particular and the global community in general. In that way, it’s a selfish usurpation of the political agenda to placate the few, and it shouldn’t be tolerated by black people of conscience."

#403 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 03:34 PM:

402
But that argument ignores the fact that blacks are more likely to end up in prison than whites, and for lesser offenses, and that unemployment is higher among blacks than among whites of the same age and gender, and that blacks have lower incomes on average than whites of the same age and gender. So racism is a factor.

(When you read the comments in newspapers and on TV network websites, you notice that a lot of the people who are complaining about 'illegal aliens' and 'entitlement mentalities' and using other such dogwhistle phrases tend to have names that indicate they're white and male as well as conservative.)

#404 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 05:18 PM:

P J @ 403, if you correct for class--if you compare people by both race and wealth--the only crimes that are strikingly racist are drug crimes, and even then, it's possible that those crimes are more about rural vs urban crime: black poverty is far more urban than white and Hispanic poverty. As I think was noted earlier, Ron Paul's the only candidate who has spoken about the racist effect of our drug laws, and who offers a very simple solution.

You have to be careful about "dogwhistle" names--a name that you're judging to be "white" may only be middle or upper-class, or it may just be American. When you hear George Wallace, do you think of the governor or the comedian? I was a bit croggled when I learned Tempest Bradford's legal name is Kimberley, which would've been a rich white girl's name a generation ago. My current favorite writer on race is a black guy whose first name is Adolph. Judging Americans by their names is a mug's game.

#405 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 05:38 PM:

re 389: There seems to be a lot of disconnect going on here, and I'm not sure how to interpret it. If you go to the Libertarian Party website itself, there aren't a lot of ACLU references, and those that do appear don't appear to speak to an attempt at differentiation. I get the impression that the see them as sometimes allies rather than as opponents. OTOH it's pretty clear that for the Libertarian Conservative In The Street ACLU is a synecdoche for "statist liberal". One wonders how much of this comes from listening to too much Republican Party propaganda.

#406 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 06:13 PM:

Will, you've averaged a post an hour for the last six hours. Enough for now. If you want to conduct a rapid-fire "taking on all comers" argument, please use your own blog.

I do want to say one thing, which is that arguments over Which Issue Is Most Important don't usually generate much light. Or end well. Yvette Carnell, quoted by you, says "Sorry black folks, but race and racism are not the biggest issues of the 21st century." Yvette Carnell is obviously more confident of her ability to assess the big picture than I am of my own. It seems to me that many things can lay claim to be the "biggest issues of the 21st century," and that different people put their passion and commitment into different matters based on all kinds of contingent factors, personal and otherwise. I would not personally be quick to accuse anyone trying to grapple with any particular social problem of being engaged in a "selfish usurpation of the political agenda to placate the few." In fact, language like "[T]o imagine otherwise is to conflate the issue and put the needs of your community ahead of the needs of America in particular and the global community in general" suggests to me that the writer is the kind of person who's one step away from issuing florid denunciations of other activists for violating his or her sense of the Correct Hierarchy Of Who's More Oppressed.*

I think this kind of approach is basically unconstructive. It may be that on occasion I've said similar (or analogous) things myself, in which case, shame on me. Either way, I'd sure like to avoid going down that road in future conversations. Meanwhile, I'm strongly suggesting you take a time-out until tomorrow at the earliest, so we can have conversations that aren't "everyone arguing with Will."

---
* Yes, I know that Yvette Carnell is black.

#407 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 06:19 PM:

will, the names people choose as handles can give away a lot. Especially when they attach avatars. And the comments themselves tell you more.
There are some very vocal people out there who think Ron Paul is wonderful and can't see anything wrong with any of his ideas; they sound a lot like every other person who has fallen into a cult.
There are people who think that everything that's wrong is the fault of illegal immigrants.
I've seen more than a few comments blaming the foreclosure crisis on CRA, on ACORN, and Fannie and Freddie (well, they might deserve some of it), and especially on 'people who bought houses they couldn't afford', ignoring Wall Street's role in the mess and the economic situation that killed a lot of jobs several years ago.

Don't patronize me.

#408 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 08:16 PM:

Patrick, s' cool. Entirely my bad for talking politics at the home of folks who don't share mine. It won't happen here again.

P J, your early comment mentioned names, not handles or avatars, so I misunderstood. Sorry 'bout that. I do agree that names people choose for themselves can say a great deal, so long as you know their references.

#409 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 08:41 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 406: "I do want to say one thing, which is that arguments over Which Issue Is Most Important don't usually generate much light. Or end well."

I feel the very question springs from a faulty assumption: that social issues are distinct and can be evaluated separately. They just aren't: to take one example at random, the rationalization of all sorts of civil liberty violating policies relies a great deal on racism. Don't worry about being detained indefinitely, citizens: we'll only use it on brown people! (Strangely a less persuasive case for brown citizens.) Aren't incredibly harsh drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences a good way to stick it to those blacks? (Same.) The two issues are too entangled to be separated and analyzed and ranked independently.

#410 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 09:13 PM:

will, Patrick asked you to do a particular thing and explained his reasons. You responded as if he'd objected to your opinion, which he didn't, or to your discussing politics here, which he also didn't. This is sounding suspiciously like I can put a couple of chits on my Bingo card.

I'm only saying this so you won't think the rest of us didn't notice.

#411 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 10:39 PM:

General comment: I can't possibly converse with 20 people, so I will pick and choose.

Teresa's journey is not unlike mine--I stopped calling myself a libertarian a few years ago. But that's still closer than any other label I can think of to describe my basic beliefs.

Leah and a bunch of other people noted the libertarian focus on property rights, and she's spot on. I think the core idea behind libertarianism is that government should overwhelmingly be the enforcer of neutral and just laws, and should leave the overwhelming majority of decisions about what the society will be like and how people will live and work and worship and entertain themselves to those people. Libertarians from the US (along with a smattering from Austria, that's whose ideas I've read on these issues) tend to start from something like the English/American legal systems and notions of individual and property rights. For one thing, we at least know that stuff can work, since it exists now and has been working for quite some time. So, yeah, libertarians want government to be involved if someone steals their car or burns down their house or beats them up. Perhaps the key word in Leah's bumper sticker quote is "govern.". A government which enforces the laws in a neutral way, but doesn't spend much energy trying to impose decisions on its people, is not doing a lot of governing in that sense. (Though that's probably the most important thing it does.). Some part of this role includes being the resolver of disputes of last resort--if you and I have a conflict we can't resolve ourselves, we want government around to resolve it, and that probably means letting the resolving organ have some way to make its decisions stick. Again, this is government, but it's not exactly governing. And up till now, you could get a huge range of different political ideas into this description, depending on how you define individual rights and property rights, and what rules you use to resolve interpersonal disputes[1]. A rule that says "in all disputes between members of different castes, the lower caste person loses" defines a certain kind of society from the top down, for example, and not one you'd find many libertarians cheering for. For a different example, creating a private right of action for racial discrimination, whereby someone who is fired or refused hiring or promotion on racial grounds has grounds to sue the person who discriminated against him is not exactly a libertarian policy, but I suspect it's about the most libertarian way to do antidiscrimination law.

Deciding what rights everyone has is where you get to libertarianism. I have read many different people trying to derive some formula for this, and as far as I can see it is always deeply unsatisfactory backfilling, because the legal systems we know how to build and run are evolved at least as much as they're made--you wouldn't start out with a blank sheet of paper and create the set of laws and rights and courts we have, and trying to backfill some step by step logical argument for more-or-less the system we have is just-so-story building, as entertaining and uninformative for this system as for biological evolution. Really, what I think is going on is that libertarians look at the current system we have, and say "we could have this neutral arbiter of disputes and property rights and laws part, without a lot of the other parts that come with it i our society.". And it seems clear that we could, though probably not without some subset of the rest. (For example, countries that can't figure out how to finance an army tend to have the question of how to govern themselves taken entirely out of their hands sooner or later.).

I think a basic question that leads to libertarianism is "what should the job of the government be?". Libertarians don't answer that with stuff like "save the world for democracy" or "correct the ills of society" or "bring the country to God."

So for libertarians, foreign aid doesn't seem like the government's proper job most of the time (you can imagine cases where it is, like if you're propping up an ally to keep your own country safe), and neither does intervening in other countries to impose democracy or fight Islamofacism or force them to stop murdering their own people.

Similarly, top-down campaigns of societal improvement, like prohibition or the war on drugs or the broad multiyear struggle to get whites to stop treating blacks badly are not the job of government, in the libertarian view. Those may be good or bad goals, but accomplishing them is not the proper job of government, which should be doing stuff like enforcing rules, maintaining commons, resolving disputes, and protecting the country from invasion. Though it's worth noting that making sure whites stay on top and blacks on bottom, pursued for many years as explicit policy of many state governments, is also not properly the role of government in the libertarian view. A libertarian, though perhaps not a federalist, would be okay, I think, with forcing state governments to get rid of laws mandating discrimination. Though my impression is that a lot of libertarian thinkers were pretty slow to come to that conclusion when the time arose, for whatever that's worth.

It seems to me that without that top-down action, including outright banning overt discrimination, a lot of the culture of racial discrimination would have hung around a lot longer, perhaps taking many generations to disappear as much as it has in one or two generations in our world. I dislike a lot of the powers of government used, but damned if I can see a better alternative. Making big top-down changes to the society isn't generally something I think government ought to do, and I don't think it's likely to do good as often as harm there[2], but the top down imposition of antidiscrimination law, and changing the rules involved in contract enforcement via precedent so that restrictive covenants and such would no longer be enforced had a really good impact in this case.

The two places where I'd say libertarianism tends to break down involve extremes of wealth and poverty. Laws and governments bend around concentrations of wealth the way light bends around massive objects in space, and since concentrations of wealth happen in market societies (not necessarily forever--people lose fortunes as well as gain them--but at any given time, some people are very wealthy indeed), thst poses a problem for being able to keep that neutral enforcement of laws and resolution of disputes stuff happening. (This is a problem observable in our non-libertarian world, and it seems like it would be worse in a libertarian world.). And similarly, at the bottom, people with few or no choices can easily get treated horribly, and with no wealth and no property, you often have to take a shitty deal from your employer, landlord, etc.. Whether that's stable or not (it probably is), it's shitty for the people who made bad choices or had bad luck or are just dumb and easily taken advantage of to get creamed.


[1] And I suspect this is actually where a lot of different flavors of libertarian and fellow travellers come in.

[2] The war on drugs is a good example of the downside of this sort of let's use the power of the government to fix a societal ill idea.

#412 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 12:15 AM:

I'd probably identify myself as a green-libertarian if the Libertarians weren't so damned bone-headed about environmental policy. In my experiences, it is shockingly common in discussions with libertarians for any attempt at applying libertarian principles to the development of a public policy for maintaining a sustainable environment to be met with a disturbing backlash of Orwellian doublespeak and scientific denialism. It's not just water policy. It's clean air policy. Infectious disease and food-born illness. Somebody above mentioned zoning. Just one thing after another: if there's a negative externality, then they're against finding ways to privatize the costs. It's all related, you ask me.

The consistent thread tying it all together is what seems to me like a sizable fraction of Libertarians principally motivated by a reactionary urge to preserve the freedom of private actors to maintain private relationships built on private coercion without interference from anyone asserting that the needs of the general public, and their welfare, and compel some kind of public intervention. For me, this shows up most glaringly at the intersection of environmental policy and libertarian thought. Von Mises said that externalities arise from lack of "clear personal property definition." So, why aren't Libertarians interested in working with environmentalists to fix that problem? Answer: the private exploitation of negative externalities is— as you can occasionally catch them expressing explicitly rather than implicitly— a natural right of wealthy property owners.

Walk into any online discussion forum heavily populated by libertarians of any level of intellectual force, and try proposing a political alliance with environmentalists disenchanted with both liberal and conservative partisans. You will see exactly what I mean. They just aren't interested eliminating the social costs of bad environmental public policy— even to the extent that they're often willing to go to extraordinary lengths to deny there are any social costs at all, much less that it might be worth making an effort to reduce them. Because, to do so, would risk endangering all those private relationships built on private coercion that they're more interested in protecting than anything having to do with a sustainable environment or the public welfare.

#413 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 01:49 AM:

Politics is eventually about finding a compromise.

The pure, extreme, -isms are not, therefore, politics. If the only response to criticism is to be more extreme, it isn't a political movement, it's a scam religion.

And then you have the Overton window making the extreme normal.

#414 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 04:27 AM:

albatross @ 114

I think we've hit the fundamental difference of opinion in our two philosophies. It is a disagreement over whether there is anything "neutral" or "just" about how the land ownership system was established, propagated, and enforced in the US. (I'm going to talk about property primarily in terms of land. I do understand that land is not the primary or exclusive source of wealth in the US, but it's the metaphor that works best.)

One of my favorite songs is the Magnetic Fields' "Fear of Trains." It wasn't until yesterday that I realized how relevant it was to this conversation. Song here (youtube), Lyrics and tab here. I recommend listening to/reading the whole thing. It's short. I've excerpted a large chunk of it below.

It starts as a cute little exaggerated country song about a girl who lost her parents, horse, and lover to trains. But then it turns dark real quick:

It was the government train that took away her childhood
It was the KKK that took away her past
It was the white man's will that hers be broken
But that barefoot girl could run too fast  

(C): Because the world's too cold for a girl like that
with a Blackfoot soul and a cowboy hat 
Everything she loved went down the dragon track 
She had a fear of trains.  
 
In the beet fields of Montana -- She's always coming on dead rails  
to break the plow and whisper "Honey, bound to live is bound to fail" 

...

It was the wagon train that took away her country 
It was the oil train that took away her land  
She could have been the belle of the ponderosa 
but that was not the fat man's plan

Our fictional heroine is unfairly excluded from the distribution of land. Everything she could have drawn on for support chewed up and spit out by privileged male land owners and racists. They leave their scars on the land itself, and cripple her ability to make her own living. It'd be ridiculously melodramatic if it wasn't a strikingly accurate description of what it's like to be a non-privileged class in America.

There are dead rails out there. I've broken a plow or two and heard that whisper once or twice.

Libertarians would argue that those dead rails are just random misfortunes, when they are, in fact, the direct result of those who were privileged in the past not cleaning up after themselves, their carelessness making it more difficult for new people to succeed.

In our country the vast majority of land ownership starts with an inherently unjust giveaway by the government. A century ago the government decided to just give ownership of huge swaths of lands to wealthy businessmen. Yes, it also gave small-to-medium-sized parcels of land to various poor and middle-class-ish folks too, but not to every poor or middle class person, and some categories of people got disproportionately left out of the deal. Any system whose primary focus is enforcing the legacy of that "first pass" at land distribution is anything but neutral or fair.

Now, the "fair" thing to do would be to do what one does at the start of every game: restore everyone's scores and resources to 0, divy some resources out equally among all the starting players, and begin anew. Such a thing, is, of course, impossible for more reasons than I could ever list. The point of liberalism is to give anyone who wants to play the game a chance to win, by introducing things that offset the inherent unfairness described above.

The property game as endorsed by libertarians is is not fair, and anyone who claims it is either deranged or lying. When I say "deranged," I am referencing the particular form of derangement described in John Hodgman's recent post, which Avram included in his Phosphenes last month: I know better now than ever that wealth deranges.

How did the Koch family establish their wealth in America? Their wealthy ancestor Harry Koch moved to America, started a publishing empire, and worked closely with the railroad barons that were being given land by the government. The government was giving huge subsidies to anyone rich enough to start a train empire. More than a century later, they're benefiting from the fortune generated by those unfair government gifts of land ownership.

I'm not afraid of capitalism. I don't think that land ownership should be abolished.

But I am afraid of the machine that holds the wealth that sprouted from these massive, unfair grants of land. I'm afraid of those people who feel it is their right to salt the earth and destroy everything that walks upon it, simply because they "own" that land. And most of all, I'm afraid of those who claim that such a system is neutral, fair, or for the greater good.

I have a fear of trains.

#415 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 04:30 AM:

Bah, over an hour spent on revisions, and I get albatross's post number wrong. The above should reference post 411, not 114. My apologies.

#416 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 12:56 PM:

will shetterly @400 said:: my arguments include poor whites because Making Light is an awfully white community, and because the Confederacy was fairly white

Um. At the time of the Stono Rebellion in 1739, Southern black population was already starting to near parity with white population. By the time of the Civil War, in Georgia at least, nearly 2/3 of the population were African-descended (at least in part).

So the parts of the Confederacy that MATTERED were "fairly white?" Maybe.

#417 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 01:00 PM:

Leah:

I agree that the historical distribution of land and wealth and everything else (social position, social arrangements, fame, even genes) is unfair, and often can be traced to crimes of one sort or another. But I guess I don't see how that's much of a criticism of libertarian ideas about how to run things forward from here, since all the alternatives actually on the table are also going to leave these distributions more-or-less intact. I mean, our society's solution to vast inequalities of wealth has mostly been to try to blunt the nastiness at the low end with various kinds of welfare programs, and with various free services provided to everyone (as with public schools and medicare and public roads and police and fire protection), but not to try to fix the wrongs of the past. That's mainly because fixing those wrongs is really hard as a practical matter, for many of the reasons people often raise for reparations for slavery--the criminals and victims are long dead, and the wealth accumulated from the forced labor of the slaves has long since been spent, lost, invested wisely or foolishly, and spread out among vast numbers of people who had nothing to do with slavery That's a very common situation dealing with wrongs from the past.

Further, I'm very sure that even if we redistributed everything uniformly tomorrow, we would sooner or later see concentrations of wealth and poverty arise. People fall out of the middle class and into poverty, and people climb out of poverty and into the middle class, and even into being quite wealthy and powerful. Some people make really bad choices. Some get clobbered by physical or mental illnesses. Some just aren't very bright or don't have much self-control, and that leaves them with lousy jobs and no prospects.

Fix the distribution of land and wealth and other property to correct the sins of our fathers, and a generation or two later, I think you will see something not unlike our current distribution of land and wealth. And the same issues will arise--who makes decisions about what books will be printed, or what food will be sold, or what terms will be offered to employees?

All this is a longwinded way of saying I agree that all wealth is probably tainted with the smell of blood somewhere down the line, but I don't think that has much to do with what the rules should be going forward, especially since keeping our current system or any I can see arising from it will involve keeping that historical distribution of wealth, bloodstains and all.

#418 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Well, Elliott, all the citizens were.

#419 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 05:05 PM:

#416 ::: Elliott Mason: In terms of power, you're quite right. Until 1865, in both the North's loyal slave-owning states and in the South, a slave was only worth 3/5ths of a white person when calculating votes in the Electoral College.

#410 ::: Xopher: I'm grateful to you for speaking on behalf of the community, because it's the community's politics that I was addressing. People at Making Light tend to value context and subtext, so let's look closer at Patrick's message:

The context: "Politics open thread 1". So one might think speaking about politics would be on-topic.

The text: "you've averaged a post an hour for the last six hours" and a request that I take a time-out. I strongly suspect that six posts in six hours is not unprecedented at Making Light. Indeed, I would bet good money people have averaged more without objection from our hosts. So the subtext must be about the political nature of my comments.

Now, I can't remember when I first commented at Making Light, but I've been observing y'all for ages. Certain patterns are consistent. The glaring one: Most MLers complain about the conservatism of the Democratic Party, then, under the rubric of pragmatism, rail against anyone who does not close ranks with them to support the DLC-approved candidate. (Yes, Obama was not officially approved by the DLC; the approval was offered to him, and he was canny enough to reject it.)

So I really should've known that a thread about politics wouldn't be welcoming to those who question the wisdom of supporting Obama's neoliberalism. Totally my bad.

And that was enlightening to me. I've differed from many socialists for years in thinking it might be possible to find allies among liberals, despite the pattern since 1848 of liberal self-interest trumping concerns for working folk. I don't think that way anymore.

Another point of enlightenment: The discussion of Ron Paul showed me that to liberals, principles matter more than results. This paragraph from L'Hôte: It's not about Ron Paul. It's about you says it well:

"The notion that there is something less disqualifying about support for murder and oppression than support for regressive and racist policies cannot stand scrutiny. The right to not be killed precedes all other rights. It is the foundation on which all other rights rest. What value can any rights have if they are not protected by a right to not be killed? Freedom of expression is no solace to a corpse. Likewise, what value do other rights have if those rights are not protected by rights of the accused? There is no value in freedom of assembly or religion if you can be thrown into a cage without a trial where you can invoke those rights. The right to protest has no meaning if the executive can respond to that protest by killing you without accountability, legal challenge, or review. Civil liberties are not merely right on principle. They are the necessary bedrock on which all conduct in a free society must rest."

For people like you, the dream that Obama might serve your self-interest better than Romney is far more important than killing brown foreigners in an unjust war and arresting brown Americans with unjust laws.

True pragmatism is described in America’s Last Chance. Now, because I expect you to object to that being the work of a white man, you can find a similar, though more limited, argument from Falguni A. Sheth in Pollitt’s Perplexity about Pundits on Ron Paul.

Well, this could continue much too long, so I'll end it now.

Oh, wait. Too often, identitarian Manicheism demands that its opponents be charged with opposing their issues, so let me note that i've supported full equality for gay folk all my life. Indeed, one of the major factors in my loss of faith in the Democrats was Clinton's caving on gays in the military. But I would like to think that if the choice is, as Abi implied in the original post with "particularly not gays", between marriage and murder, good people would oppose murder now and work for marriage later.

Enough. If anyone needs the last word, it's theirs.

#420 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 07:08 PM:

An unedifying exchange of personal insults between Xopher and Will Shetterly has been unpublished from this spot in the thread. Both of you knock it the fuck off.

#421 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 07:21 PM:

PNH: Thank you for deleting those. I'd already started hoping for the vowel vacuum to kick in.

#422 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 07:51 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @372: Human beings are sticky.

And squishable. The hard rubber ball model ignores damage done by impacts, accidental and deliberate.

#423 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Avram at # 375: Speaking of labor, in your experience, how do libertarians feel about right-to-work laws? They ought to oppose those laws, right? Because the laws place a limit on the types of contracts an employer and a union can agree to. Do most libertarians oppose right-to-work laws?

That is a good question.

Have you noticed how, in any discussion group, there is a topic guaranteed to derail any conversation? There are a couple of things we just don't discuss at Making Light for that reason.

In libertarian forums, labor unions are one of those topics. Mention unions, and you will find out which members are paleocons at heart and which are lefty anarcho-syndicalist types. One faction supports at least the idea of labor unions (not necessarily each and every real-world manifestation), because they are voluntary associations of people banding together to pursue their common interests, using tools such as boycotts (i.e. strikes). The other faction is all, oh noes! commies! featherbedding!

I trust it's obvious which is which.

Immigration does this too. One side uses the language of property rights to say that we have a right to keep the immigrants out of our country. (But what about the rights of property owners in this country who would like to hire the immigrants or sell food or rent rooms to them?) Or they go even farther and use militaristic language about defending the country against invaders. (I believe that there is a moral difference between shooting at the citizens and mowing their lawns.) The other faction says, if someone manages to escape an oppressive political or economic regime, more power to them. Don't let an arbitrary line drawn by governments stand in their way.

I've made no attempt to state this in a balanced way, so you can see where my sympathies lie.

But I can't say how many libertarians oppose so-called right-to-work laws, because the places I hang out might not be representative, and it is a fuzzy set anyways.

#424 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 09:18 PM:

I just cannot decide which is more perfect.

On the one side, you have the assertion that people getting increasingly irate at mouth-footed "questions" about reparations is the secret form of defensiveness over critiques of our lord and savior, Obama. Admire how it shines with the light of ad hominem, refracted through crystalline absurdity! How could such a wonder ever be exceeded, you ask yourself. But then to other side, you catch sight of a self-proclaimed socialist telling liberals that it is liberalism that is obsessed with principles at the expense of results. See how the pot's fuliginous exterior absorbs every ray of light and returns none!

What wonders this world bequeathes.

#425 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 09:52 PM:

An unedifying exchange of personal insults between Xopher and Will Shetterly has been unpublished from this spot in the thread. Both of you knock it the fuck off.

I'm very sorry. I apologize to you and to the community for losing my temper, for not having the sense to take a walk before responding (or, more intelligently, NOT responding), and for the intemperance of the language I used when I made the mistake of responding.

I appreciate your unpublishing the comment, and again: my apologies.

My apologies to everyone. I'll try harder not to let this sort of thing get past my fingers ever again.

#426 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 10:04 PM:

Heresiarch, you know I admire the ground you have recently deigned to walk upon, but despite all my mental powers, thrones, and dominions, I cannot figure out what your most recent comment is getting at.

I feel like a Party member confused about whether he's supposed to be defending Bukharin or condemning him as a counterrevolutionary. (Cue Martin Rowson's Scenes From the Lives of the Great Socialists, specifically the one captioned "Zinoviev and Kamenev Fatally Misunderstand The Implications Of the Phrase 'Show Trial'.")

#427 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 10:51 PM:

HLN - and yes, it goes here rather than in the regular Open Thread - At the break in my rehearsal tonight, a conversation sprang up (which I did not take part in) about the televised Republican debates from last night (?). I realized that though I've been singing with many of these guys for some years now, there's at least one more Great Divide between me and most of them than I really realized, from their comments. In particular, one person said, with NO apparent irony, humor, or sense that this statement was in any way remarkable, "You know, I can't think of one person on that stage that would be worse in the office [of President] than who we've got there now.".

I kept quiet, but realizing that people you thought you knew are apparently using axioms and bases for reasoning that are so far off from yours that you can't even think of how to make a conversational attempted response to that is disheartening. I mean, yes, they're ALL white, male, over 40, Christians of various verve, and I'm fairly sure just about all of them are straight ... but - wow, that's a level of privilege-vision. (And other comments indicated various levels of being impressed with Newt's remarks... including someone who credited him, rather than Clinton, with getting the budget balanced at that one point. Oy.)

--Dave

#428 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 11:02 PM:

I think Jim Henley's post, Anarchy, State and the Squidger has some relevance to the discussion of libertarianism here.

So my suggestion is that “libertarians” are like tiddlywinks discs that haven’t been flipped yet. Sooner or later, the Great Squidger, Circumstance, presses on you, and you end up in one of the cups over here on the left or over there on the right.

Beyond that, I entirely agree with Teresa at #368. In fact, I'd go farther; the idea of "individual" is very hard to pin down at all. Almost everything about humans, mind and body, comes from somewhere else and will return to somewhere else. And, yes, people do add some things on their own. Yet even the greatest geniuses, even the most inspired, still start with something from somewhere else. Great poets start with the language they grow up with. Engineers and scientists start with the physical universe. Dancers start with their bodies. And so on. The perfect individual has no existence in the material world.

Having said that, I hasten to add I am not proposing to do away with the idea of the individual. But humans are, in simple truth, obligate participants in larger systems, and to devise philosophies which deny this is to devise philosophies that are at best incomplete and at worst flat false.

#429 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 01:06 AM:

I'm sorry the link to Phil Ochs' "Love me, I'm a liberal" is gone, but I'm more sorry that I called Xopher a liberal in a way that may've been interpreted as disdain for all liberals. People of all political persuasions mean well, and most of them turn out to be damn fine folks once you know them personally.

heresiarch @424, it croggles me, too. Until the Ron Paul debate came up, I had thought I was the greater idealist. And yet, it seems it would be easier for me than for a liberal to support someone I generally disagree with in order to end the US's wars on brown folks.

#430 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 01:24 AM:

PNH @ 426: Oh dear. I fear that comment must have disappeared down the rabbit-hole of its own self-regard.

Let me attempt to retrieve it. The crystal, to my mind, is this comment here: "So I really should've known that a thread about politics wouldn't be welcoming to those who question the wisdom of supporting Obama's neoliberalism." Despite will shetterly's apparent conviction, no one took the slightest umbrage at anyone's (much less his) questioning Obama's actions or ideology. Rather, he stepped onto thin ice only later, when pulling his "what I'm just asking a question" routine regarding reparations. It is as if after performing a stand-up routine he shot someone backstage and as the police took him away said "I guess you just aren't a hip enough crowd to get my humor."

The second wonder is being told by Nader-voting, socialist-libertarian will shetterly that pro-Obama liberals are too obsessed with principles to get anything material done. I mean, I'm a socialist, like in-the-midst-of-Capital-as-we-speak socialist, but it blows me away to assert that liberals are somehow more principle-before-results than socialists.

Anyway.

#431 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 02:18 AM:

heresiarch, as an in-the-midst-of-Kapital socialist, you could consider Marx's take on the contradictions of liberalism. And, more pertinent to the topic, you might consider his support of Lincoln. It wasn't that he had become a capitalist or a liberal; it was that slavery was fucking evil. Now, whether Marx would decide that it made sense to support the only available opponent of imperial war and drug laws that primarily hit the working class and the brown working class in particular, I hesitate to say, but he sure wouldn't have been a fan of neoliberalism in Obama's or Romney's flavor.

Ah, well. Liberals are hardly the only folks whose concept of politics lets them rationalize war and imprisonment. Academic socialists prefer ideological purity too.

#432 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 02:35 AM:

will shetterly @429

You seem to have missed a point that people here have made several times: we believe that, based on who Ron Paul chooses to ally himself with, it is unlikely that he would be very effective at ending any kind of war.

To me, it seems that Obama's actions with respect to Afghanistan suggest that he wants to end the war there, he just doesn't want to suffer the negative consequences of unilaterally removing troops with no plan for minimizing the damage that that sudden destabilization would cause. Ron Paul has said nothing about how he plans to withdraw troops quickly without putting our troops and our allies in immense danger. Every military analysis article I've read about that conflict says that any withdrawal would have to be done very slowly and carefully, a reality that I have never heard Ron Paul acknowledge. He acts as if it would be quick, painless, and easy, so I have no reason to believe he could do it well, because there's no evidence he has given the slightest thought to the logistics involved.

Now it might be that you firmly believe that it would cause less harm to unilaterally and suddenly pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan and cut all support for rebuilding the country than it would to pull out slowly. If you believe that, I'd like to know how you came to that conclusion, since I have tried to find evidence for that argument and failed.

When it comes to that particular situation, I honestly cannot confidently say that I know which decision is correct. Sometimes it feels like the pooch is so thoroughly screwed that I can't imagine how instantly withdrawing the troops could possibly make things worse. So I'm not claiming that we are definitely preventing some specific catastrophe by drawing out slowly... I'm merely saying I don't believe I know for sure either way. I have read several articles by people with credentials I trust that talk about potential disaster should we withdraw injudiciously, and no convincing articles outlining a plausible plan for the kind of withdrawal Ron Paul seems to suggest he could easily achieve. If you have access to any information on that side of the discussion, I'd appreciate seeing it.

Am I upset with Obama's stance on indefinite detention? Sure. Am I frustrated by his failure to close Guantanamo? Very much so. Am I incensed by his attacks on whistleblowers? Oh yes.

But you have repeatedly iterated one idea: you believe Obama is in favor of a racist war on brown people. To me, all his actions seem to indicate that he sincerely wishes to end that war, but that there are logistical difficulties to doing so. What evidence do you see that runs counter to that theory and makes you conclude that he actively wants to continue the war? And to what motive do you ascribe that desire?

(Note that I am referring specifically to Obama's desire to continue the war, not to his desire to use unorthodox and worrying methods in small scale intelligence).

I will admit that there is a chance he has not completely ended the war because he believes the Republican hate machine (which Ron Paul is directly allied with) would use such an action to destroy him. And I very much doubt that Ron Paul would say a thing to defend him. I notice that he does not say "You should vote for Obama rather than Rick Perry, if Perry wins the nomination, because Perry says we should go back into Iraq."

I will actually believe that Ron Paul prioritizes ending the war if he endorses Obama should one of the other nominees win the Republican nomination. They have all argued that the drawdowns that Obama has accomplished are irresponsible, so clearly if Paul actually has the values you believe he has, he should support the least pro-war candidate in November.

If he doesn't support Obama if someone else wins the nomination, it'll be clear that he prioritizes the values of destroying the safety net, ending minimum wage, and allowing corporations to pollute the environment over any desire to end war.

Which is what I already suspect is true.

#433 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 02:42 AM:

will @419:

One specific, and one general comment:

Specific: But I would like to think that if the choice is, as Abi implied in the original post with "particularly not gays", between marriage and murder, good people would oppose murder now and work for marriage later.

If that's what you get out of my discussion of the nuanced choice one must make among the various varieties of possible and impossible goods, then I'd suggest you curtail your attempts to analyze subtext and go back to working on text comprehension.

More broadly: if you have so thoroughly forgotten what you used to know about this community, it might make more sense to stick to your stated intention to leave. You're clearly not here to take pleasure in the company of the people who comment here, nor to add to their joys and mitigate their griefs. And I doubt quite sincerely that your rather snide and nasty approach is actually intended to persuade anyone to agree with you. You're a better writer, and a smarter man, than to think that.

Wherefore, then, are you in this discussion? Is it simply to start a fight? There's a word for that, and a penalty attached.

I'm grieved, Will. I remember when you were better than this.

#434 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 02:58 AM:

Will @429, next time you apologize to someone, just apologize, and skip the part where you pat yourself on the back for being such a great guy.

#435 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 03:22 AM:

Leah Miller @432: I will actually believe that Ron Paul prioritizes ending the war if he endorses Obama should one of the other nominees win the Republican nomination.

Oooh, there's an interesting challenge. I expect that openly endorsing Obama would hurt sales of Paul's books and videos.

#436 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 07:58 AM:

Will Shetterly @419:

#410 ::: Xopher: I'm grateful to you for speaking on behalf of the community, because it's the community's politics that I was addressing.
Then you have misunderstood Making Light from the roots up. The community doesn't have politics. People have politics, and every one of those people has a name.

What you're pulling there is a You People. The only thing that obscures it is that you're too good a writer to open with one of the standard phrases.

The context: "Politics open thread 1". So one might think speaking about politics would be on-topic.
On-topic? Where exactly do you think you're posting?

Making Light inhabits its own space. You can't throw a rope of generalizations around it and drag it inside your own head. Losing track of that is a major source of your problems here.

The text: "you've averaged a post an hour for the last six hours" and a request that I take a time-out. I strongly suspect that six posts in six hours is not unprecedented at Making Light. Indeed, I would bet good money people have averaged more without objection from our hosts. So the subtext must be about the political nature of my comments.
A single rigid rule for everyone? Again, where do you think you're posting?

You're suggesting that the rules are different for you. Big wrong. The rules are different for everybody.

For some people, or some people in some threads, six posts in six hours is thoughtful engagement, a sign that they and everyone else are having a good time. For some, that rate of posting means they're ramping up anxiety because they feel they're not being understood, and may be about to drive themselves straight up the side of a steep curve of increasing anxiety and increasing frequency of comments. For others -- and since everyone has a name, I'll call this one yours -- it can be a sign that they're falling into their own well-worn mental grooves, and mistaking them for original conversations with other entities.

A real conversation from that afternoon:

Abi: Will has posted six times.

PNH: Oh cripes.

TNH (cheerfully: "Dear Will: Time for a break! See you tomorrow!"

So I really should've known that a thread about politics wouldn't be welcoming to those who question the wisdom of supporting Obama's neoliberalism. Totally my bad.
See the page on Self-Valorization. You may want to read the entire wiki.

#437 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 10:57 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden #436: You may want to read the entire wiki.

As may others... when I look a look, the featured article was a song by Jo Walton. That got it into my Timesink bookmarks....

#438 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 11:24 PM:

Loving that Wiki.

#439 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 06:57 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue #438: I also. Looks as if TNH was the original author.

#440 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 12:13 PM:

Fragano: Oh, she is. Not of the examples, of course; they're mostly written by the trollage of various sites.

Hey, I wonder if that Wiki would be considered an infringing site under SOPA/PIPA? It's Fair Use, of course, but Big Content seems to want Fair Use doctrine to be consigned to the ash-heap of history. Wait, is 'ash-heap of history' a copyrighted phrase?

#441 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 02:28 PM:

Leah @432, what I have not missed is that Paul is the only candidate opposing the war, and that as Commander-in-Chief, he would have great power in matters of war. Where he would be ineffective is in the areas that liberals bemoan most loudly, where he would need collaborators in Congress. Or, in the case of gay marriage, he would need collaborators in the same arena that Obama has chosen for the fight, the states.

As for Obama's war plans, albatross has mentioned Libya, and I'll note that troops continue to move into the Middle East. The notion that he's a stealth peace supporter seems to lie entirely in the minds of his supporters. If you have evidence to the contrary, please point me toward it.

The idea that Ron Paul would prove his peace creds by endorsing someone who is doing what Paul explicitly condemns is, well, very Democratic.

Abi @433, I hope I misread what you said in this post, and if you say I did, I'll accept that I did. When I wrote the comment you linked to, this was a community that, I thought, had great opposition to war, incarceration, and racist results of laws that target the working class. But now it seems those things are not so objectionable under Obama.

Avram @434, I only apologize for what I'm sorry for. Xopher called me a "lying sack of shit"; if anyone thought I was apologizing for calling him a liberal, be assured, I wasn't. I was only apologizing for calling him a liberal in a way that may've seemed I despise liberals. I don't. Many of my best friends are liberals.

That said, I am amused whenever liberals tell other people not to pat themselves on the back. Charles Krauthammer was right when he observed, "Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil."

This discussion reminds me that I need to read Richard Seymour's The Liberal Defence of Murder.

Teresa @436, we'll have to disagree about whether politics are part of communities. That may be something that only a dissenter would notice.

I do wish you would stop telling me I'm too good a writer to do something. You may've been told in the past that you're a Yendi. I'm a Dzur. The one advantage that a Dzur can have in a disagreement with a Yendi is that the Yendi may convince herself the Dzur cannot possibly be doing what the Dzur is doing.

"The rules are different for everybody."

Yes. I've known that about Making Light since 2000, at least. No big. Your site, your rules.

I have personal matters to attend to now, so I won't be back. I'm sure that wikia has a usefully dismissive term to cover this rhetorical tactic, too.

David @437, I've always pitied people who were never supported by lurkers. Believing lurkers are imaginary or not worth noting because of their reluctance to speak out is a bright strobing sign of an intellectual bully.

Hmm. Having encountered too many people who like to characterize things in the worst light, let me assure you I am not "whining" when I say that. I've bled from standing up to physical bullies, and I've taken many metaphorical cuts from people who're far cleverer than I am. I learned this very young: the applause of your friends, and the number of applauders, have nothing to do with rightness; it's just approval by your community.

Well, let me flounce as well as I possibly can. I ain't got nothing against none of y'all except politics. Ask me for something, and if it's within my power, I'll give it.

If you feel you must reply to me, email me. I'm not coming near anything having to do with politics at Making Light again, and that definitely includes this thread.

#442 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Avram #435:

In 2008, Paul explicitly did not endorse McCain. He encouraged everyone to vote third party, and eventually more formally endorsed the Constitution Party nominee. I don't know if that was on principles, or a response to the extremely shitty way he was treated by the GOP in 2008. (They were very seriously into keeping centralized control on their convention, to the point of not counting votes and turning off mikes and throwing people out when they didn't want to hear someone's POV. I sincerely hope this lost them so many votes they never even consider doing anything like it again, but I kind of doubt it.).

I'm not clear why a principled antiwar stand would lead anyone to endorse Obama. Why not endorse Obama on the basis of his support for drug legalization, repeal of the patriot act, desire to abolish the Fed, or repeal of federal antidiscrimination laws--he's no more antiwar than he is in favor of getting rid of any of those things.

#443 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 05:09 PM:

will @441, I'm not asking you to apologize for things you don't want to apologize for.

I am telling you that, if you do decide to apologize for something, attaching that apology to a statement along the lines of how you're just so devoted to facts (implying that the people you disagree with don't care as much about truth) or how gosh, other people turn out to be even bigger idealists that you (implying that the people you disagree with are inflexible ideologues) is going to undermine the apology.

So if you're going to apologize, and want that apology to seem sincere, you should just apologize and skip that other part.

#444 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 05:13 PM:

Leah:

To me, it seems that Obama's actions with respect to Afghanistan suggest that he wants to end the war there, he just doesn't want to suffer the negative consequences of unilaterally removing troops with no plan for minimizing the damage that that sudden destabilization would cause.

Obama took office in 2009. It is now 2012. I agree he could hardly have pulled the troops out overnight, but surely once he decided to pull out, we could have managed the pullout in a non-disastrous way in three years. Assuming three years isn't enough, why do you think eight years will be? Are we to plan on occupying Afghanistan, murdering people with drones, negotiating shaky deals with bloodthirsty warlords, and handing out money forever? What in the performance of our occupation of Afghanistan so far should give me any confidence at all in our ability to get Afghanistan set to rights so we can pull out on any reasonable kind of timeframe?

To me, all his actions seem to indicate that he sincerely wishes to end that war, but that there are logistical difficulties to doing so. What evidence do you see that runs counter to that theory and makes you conclude that he actively wants to continue the war? And to what motive do you ascribe that desire?

Well, we could look at the other wars the Obama administration has been involved with. Obama put us into the (short and successful) Libyan war in violation of the War Powers Act and over the objections of Congress. From all the news reports I read, the Obama administration negotiated frantically to try to extend the pullout deadline in Iraq, but failed. The Obama administration also ran a secret drone war in Yemen for a couple years, till it was leaked (I know wikileaks leaked some of the details, but I think some had appeared in the press before that). None of those look like a guy trying to get us the hell out of the godawful wars his predecessor got us into, but being unable to pull out due to the Pottery Barn theory of international relations. He may still be that guy, but I don't see any evidence of it from his actions in other countries.

My guess is that Obama sees it as in his political interest to keep the war going. What he feels about it in his heart, I neither know nor care. Little in the last decade of our endless wars and post-9/11 nastiness reassures me that there are really wise men overseeing this policy, and that they know best, so I don't have any faith that another decade there makes any sense.

If John McCain were in the white house right now, and exactly the same policies were being pursued in Afghansitan in exactly the same circumstances, what could we infer about McCain's desire for war? Would an antiwar candidate be morally obliged to endorse his re-election bid in 2012 against, say, a Democratic ticket of Clinton/Lieberman, assuming McCain had precisely Obama's foreign policy record?

#445 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 06:28 PM:

In the interests of not making this thread All About One Person, I'd request that we not respond further to will shetterly @441 unless it turns out that his departure is not as durable as he has indicated.

I'm sure that many people reading this thread have come to conclusions about the exchange and the participants in it. That's natural. I simply think that hashing them out in this discussion would be (a) rude, and (b) a danger to his resolution of departure.

Things that have been discussed in his subthread that are not directly to do with him are of course fair game.

#446 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:15 PM:

This isn't about Obama, or Paul, or really any candidate in specific, any more than it's about any one commenter. In fact, more and more this year, I'm seeing the political process and discussions thereof as the scene of a massive train wreck -- one at which none of the first responders have any sort of training or clue as to what to do, other than apply some form of triage.

Many, many people are united in the belief that something has to be done. In fact, just on this thread I've seen many, many people saying, with heartfelt sincerity, that the political process, the national dialogue, the issues in question, have to change.

The biggest differences I've seen are in which issues people prioritize, and the greatest problems when multiple people are insisting that their priorities are the correct ones, and anyone who disagrees with them is Bad!Wrong!

To unpack a little, I'll use myself as an example. I'm white, female, heterosexual, and married, and both I and my spouse work in low-paying IT-related jobs, and we both have mental and physical medical issues we're dealing with. I support gay marriage, I oppose military adventurism (though I do believe in a strong defense), I want a single-payer tax-funded health care system and a truthful media. I want investment in infrastructure and to have my bodily autonomy respected and jobs that pay a living wage regardless of skin color or gender. I want powerful individuals and corporations to be required to pay their fair share, to be regulated as needed, but not crushed into uselessness, and I want them to be held accountable when they do wrong, and I want the fines and penalties to actually mean something instead of being wrist-slapping. I want a police force that's a police force, not a pseudo-military, and I want every inch of this country to be a free speech zone, and so and and so forth.

There's no candidate out there that I can say with 100% certainty shares every one of my goals and beliefs. None. Likely you're in the same spot.

So we triage. We prioritize our beliefs and our circumstances and our lives as best we can. Example: medical circumstances demanded that my husband and I marry, though it's not fair that, in my state, we have that option and gay couples don't. That doesn't mean we don't support gay marriage; it just means that in this instance we had to prioritize our health over our belief.

It's heartbreaking to have to weigh position X against distasteful reality Y, and even more so to have to justify it to those that disagree. But it's unavoidable. The best we can do is accept that other people have their own priorities, and their own reasons for their priorities, and prioritizing one belief does not equal abandonment of another.

#447 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:20 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue #440: I don't think that Trotsky got around to copyrighting it.

#448 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:32 PM:

I thought American politics this year was weird, I'd no idea how weird this election campaign would get.

#449 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:56 PM:

Rick Perry has dropped out. He's throwing his supporters to Gingrich.

I suspect that the tale of the Trans-Texas Tollway got spread a little more widely than he thought it would.

#450 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:57 PM:

Probable cause: HTML typo.

#451 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:32 PM:

I want to clarify my position here.

Four years ago, I really wanted there to be a way to end the war, but every single analysis I read, even from relatively centrist sources, said that the best case scenario for a pull-out in Afghanistan at this level of instability was "The same yearly death count, only now none of the people are white, and more of them are our abandoned allies."

I've been on the lookout for a good analysis, a good plan, something I can point at and say "THIS, exactly is what Obama should be doing and this is the consequences we can expect from it. See how it clearly makes X much better in the region?" I've never found one. I still think that getting out is a good idea, but I have no hope that doing so would make things any better for normal people in Afghanistan.

Right now, a lot of libertarians are arguing that withdrawing from Afghanistan is our highest priority... a higher priority than preventing the 100,000 deaths per year that happen due to a lack of health care. A higher priority than making sure those numbers don't double. A higher priority than the hundreds of thousands of lives saved by medicare, medicaid, welfare, and food stamps every year. A higher priority than all foreign aid, AIDS prevention in Africa, or any of the other programs Paul wants to end.

I very badly want the US to not be involved in wars in the middle east, except possibly shielding and providing medical or food supplies to anti-dictator movements, hopefully as part of actual international coalitions providing support.

However, you also mention Libya, and I don't see a lot of evidence of those brief actions being particularly bad. I just can't view the use of drones in Libya with the same sense of anger and despair as I did George W. Bush's actions, or the promises of all the Republican candidates other than Paul. I also sincerely believe that if McCain had won, we wouldn't be seeing similar actions from him. We'd be seeing far, far worse ones.

Sorry, I'm rambling again. Let me clarify the essence of my discomfort.

I want to see the war over, but in this thread many people are arguing as if ending the war in Afghanistan is obviously the most important thing, more important than the continued health of our biosphere, or preventing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, or ensuring civil rights. Will called it a "racist war against brown people," which confused me further. Do libertarians sincerely think Obama is continuing the war because he's a racist who supports racism? At this point the issue of the war... a very important and troubling issue, has been torn from its foundations and twisted to implicate Obama in every-sort-of-evil. At this point I can't even contemplate what the average libertarian thinks the war is like, or what they think ending it will accomplish, in terms of net reduction of suffering in that country or in the world.

I would very much like to get the US out of Afghanistan, but I haven't ever seen any credible evidence presented that doing so would result in life being better for the people actually living in Afghanistan. Every in-depth analysis of a complete withdrawal plan I've ever read indicates that us leaving would most likely result in a long and bloody civil war with a death count equaling or surpassing what we are currently seeing. I'm not saying that such a situation would definitely be worse than the current situation, I'm just saying it doesn't seem like it would likely be a very large improvement.

When a Ron Paul supporter says "My biggest priority is ending the war in Afghanistan," I feel that it paints an unrealistic picture of what our withdrawal from Afghanistan would actually mean for the region. Something like "My biggest priority is to get US forces out of Afghanistan to allow their bloody civil war to play out without our involvement" seems more apt. I've never read anything that makes me confident that ending our involvement would create any other result.

I'm not saying that the resulting civil war and potential decades of unrest would be worse than what's happening now. I just don't think it would be enough of an improvement to call it an "end to war." I think it's a risky proposition that might make things better in the region or might make them worse, but almost certainly wouldn't end the rampant violence any time soon.

I don't see why an action that may or may not actually help the people of the region should be our only priority, when weighed against killing hundreds of thousands of people, American and foreign, by denying them healthcare, or reducing certain programs that keep them alive... actions that Ron Paul has promised to take.

So tell me: do you think that our withdrawal from Afghanistan would noticeably improve the day-to-day lives of civilians in the middle east? If so, what evidence do you have for this belief? I would very much like to see a credible source describe a good plan for withdrawal and provide evidence for how it would improve people's lives. It would give me hope. I'm not being sarcastic: if you have any evidence whatsoever that there's an implementable plan for withdrawal that would actually improve safety for civilians in the region, I will be incredibly, sincerely happy to read it.

And if you do not think that withdrawing will improve the health and safety of that country, why is it one of the highest possible electoral priorities?

#452 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:35 PM:

Fragano@448 - Dude, I'd vote for Colbert if he were on the ballot. As various people have commented, there are really two Stephen Colberts - one who's a character on TV, and one who thinks that the TV character is an idiot - and I'd vote for either one of them before I'd vote Republican.

Lee@449 "Probable cause: HTML typo." - I first read that as a response to Colbert having 13% of the votes...

#453 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:48 PM:

D'oh I didn't see abi's admonition when composing my last post. My apologies for the brief reference, take it out if you wish.

#454 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:51 PM:

I haven't read any of the comments since I posted my previous one. I just wanted to say that my mom died last night. It was expected, but we were trying to make it up to see her one last time when she went. Turns out that when I get that kind of news, I don't get drunk and shoot myself; I argue with liberals about war and criminal justice. Go figure.

Today, I was telling a family member that my father can't deal with grief--he picks stupid little fights to distract himself. And the light went off.

So I apologize to everyone, and especially Xopher, whose "lying sack of shit" really should've been responded to with something like, "I'm sorry. I think your priorities are wrong, but I don't think you're evil. My bad for getting carried away."

Again, no need to reply to this. Just as I'm not reading the previous comments, I won't be reading new ones. If I ever need to argue with liberals again, I'll head over to Balloon Juice.

#455 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:55 PM:

Leah Miller @450, I'm not gonna give the libertarian response on this, because I've decided I've had enough of explaining and/or defending views that I don't actually hold.

From where I sit, the policy goals of ending the Afghanistan (and other Middle Eastern) War(s) and expanding health care coverage for Americans are complimentary, not conflicting. We can pay for health care with the money we save by not having all these wars.

Now, these are not a pair of goals that are incarnated in any one presidential candidate, at least not one that's been given a microphone by either of the Big Two political parties. But I don't see presidential elections as the only thing worth talking about, even in presidential election years. If anything, they're a distraction.

#456 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 09:39 PM:

Avram @454

I agree that the presidential race isn't the only one worth talking about... however I also think that the most important consideration when determining who to vote for for president is "What kind of Supreme Court Judge will they likely appoint?" This means that, for me, the democratic choice is almost always clearly much, much better than the republican alternative.

This is heavily influenced by my past engagement with politics: My grandfather won a civil rights case in front of the Supreme Court, the first election I ever voted in was not properly counted due to a right-leaning Supreme Court, and it's very likely that the physical freedom and civil rights of most of my friends will be determined in the future by the Supreme Court.

When it all comes down to it, that's probably the deepest reason that I continue to support Obama over any republican in the field: they'd all almost definitely nominate some Justices of the "hey, let's not count votes anymore if it means we can steal this election!" variety, or of the "we should allow states to revoke civil rights from minorities because... states rights!" variety.

As for ending war and expanding health care being complimentary goals, I concur... except in any conversation that has largely centered on Ron Paul. If the conversation is about Ron Paul's candidacy, they are conflicting priorities, and in that case I tend toward prioritizing the health care one.

#457 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 10:47 PM:

Leah, #451: When a Ron Paul supporter says "My biggest priority is ending the war in Afghanistan," I feel that it paints an unrealistic picture of what our withdrawal from Afghanistan would actually mean for the region. Something like "My biggest priority is to get US forces out of Afghanistan to allow their bloody civil war to play out without our involvement" seems more apt.

Yep. I hear very definite echoes of "let the damn sand-n****rs kill themselves off, it'll be less trouble for us to take over their resources once they have" in a lot of that kind of rhetoric. And right now, that attitude can be wrapped up in a lot of high-sounding platitudes, making the rhetoric even more appealing. (Cynical? Who, me?)

Mind you, this isn't to say I'm in favor of continuing the war either. We have gotten ourselves into a cleft stick in the Middle East -- no matter which choice we make, there are sound reasons for arguing that it's the wrong one. The only winning move in this game would have been not to have started playing in the first place, and it's much too late for that.

#458 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 11:58 PM:

Leah Miller @456, thing is, Supreme Court appointments are also the part of a president's job that it's the most difficult to predict in advance. I remember the outcry on the left when Poppy Bush appointed David Souter --- the Village Voice ran a piece likening Souter to the serial killer from Psycho --- and yet he turned out to be a pretty reliable liberal vote. In 2000's Bush v Gore, Souter dissented from the majority decision stopping the recount.

If the conversation is about Ron Paul's candidacy, they are conflicting priorities, and in that case I tend toward prioritizing the health care one.

Well, maybe. If the conversation is about should we vote for Ron Paul?, then yeah, because you vote for a whole candidate, not just the part of him you like. If the conversation is about hey, Ron Paul had a good point about some-top-or-other on the debates the other day, then no, I don't agree, because you can discuss a person's idea on the idea's merits, even if you don't like the person's other ideas.

#459 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 01:27 AM:

Lee wrote "Libertarianism as "the thread that ate alt.callahans"
Yup. Been there, done that, let's not do it again, especially here among friends. /tosses empty whiskey glass into fireplace. I may be one of Those Annoying Libertarians, but one of the things I really like about Spam was that it replaced "Libertarians vs. Socialists" as the discussion topic that all other discussions eventually devolved into. It's sort of like watching a Trotskyite vs. Other-Trotskyite argument, except you feel compelled to interrupt the train wreck by telling the folks on your own side to behave themselves. I much prefer the kind of environment where a discussion on Paypal being stupid can evolve into a discussion of deep spiritual values and random silliness.

PNH - "I feel like a Party member confused about whether he's supposed to be defending Bukharin or condemning him as a counterrevolutionary."
Splittist!

#460 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 02:32 AM:

... and now I sort of want to see either Colbert, or Stewart, appointed to the Supreme Court.

--Dave, if only for how the confirmation hearings would get repeatedly trainwrecked

PS: And, oh duh, for the minority opinions! The brain swoons...

#461 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 07:09 AM:

Perhaps if the one Colbert gets elected to the Presidency, he can appoint the other Colbert to the Supreme Court.

#462 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 07:58 AM:

Leah Miller #451: Agreed, Afghanistan fighting within itself is inevitable, and close to a state of nature. But by now, The point of withdrawing isn't to "do better by the Afganis", it's recognizing some basic truths:

(1) We, America, cannot fix Afghanistan. Not even "a government to our liking", much less "freedom and justice". At this point, we have completely screwed the pooch there -- there is no way the natives will ever take any intervention from the U.S. as anything except "foreign meddling", and they're right. Every soldier, every gun, every helicopter, we send there, is bought and paid for to kill Afghanis, whoever ends up ordering, pointing, or flying them. "Peaceful aid" isn't an option for our government either, because at this point, that boils down to (our) people with (our) guns deciding who gets (our) food/water/medicine, and everyone concerned knows it.

(2) The wars are harming America, both in obvious and less obvious ways. Most obviously, we've been well and truly played by the terrorists. They've convinced us to take almost all the resources we could have used to fight global warming, pry ourselves loose from our oil addiction, fix our own transit systems, and otherwise deal with our own problems -- and throw those resources into a bonfire. We need to stop that, regardless of Afghanistan.

(3) Similarly, we need to forget about Afghani warlords, and start deposing the American warlords and plutocrats who have been dismantling our own nation. It's time we stopped falling for their crappy schtick of "look over there! sandniggers want to rape your wife and eat your baby!" Because there's much closer monsters to be fought, right here in America, and right now, the monsters are damn close to running the show.

#463 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 09:00 AM:

Will, I am so sorry about your mother. And that sounds like a good realization about your father. And I am angry, frustrated, and just flat-out offended at your careless description of the people and conversation here as "liberals", as though you were talking about a quantitative measure of a generic substance.

I'll repeat what I said at #436 (which, yes, you didn't read, but you should): You have misunderstood Making Light from the roots up. The community doesn't have politics. People have politics, and every one of those people has a name. Even if they just showed up for the first time ten minutes ago, they're individuals and they have names.

If you feel like arguing with an abstract label, you can do it inside your own head. I very nearly think that's what you're doing anyway.

#464 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 12:24 PM:

Teresa, #463: I have to confess that I'm somewhat becroggled by the repeated "arguing with liberals" thing Will has been pounding on. I thought he was a liberal, based on past interactions here. Is this a "more liberal than thou" thing, or what?

If this is unwarranted nosiness, feel free to ignore. But if there's any light you can shed on the topic, I'd be interested.

#465 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Lee, I think will self-identifies as a socialist, so he thinks liberals aren't far enough to the left.

#466 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 01:40 PM:

There is no reason at all to think that Romney, if elected, wouldn't cheerfully continue killing brown foreigners in an unjust war and arresting brown Americans with unjust laws. Perhaps he'd even help start more unjust wars and sign more unjust laws.

He's a leading contender for the presidency in the party of unjust laws and unjust wars.

#467 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 01:48 PM:

James:

Which party *isn't* the party of unjust laws and unjust wars, again?

#468 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 01:53 PM:

Both parties are wildly in favor of unjust laws and unjust wars, so we have to look at the smaller side-issues to see which way to vote.

#469 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 01:56 PM:

Teresa:

I often find that when I'm arguing against a commonly held position, it *feels* like I'm arguing against a tag-team of different people who share the same position. Of course, this isn't true, but that's not an uncommon way to feel if you're arguing a minority position. I find that feeling is a useful warning signal--if I feel like I'm taking on an opponent with 30 faces, I probably am too frustrated to continue the conversation till I can separate them out.

The phrase "you people" is a useful warning signal when you write it--it tells you you're talking to an amalgamation instead of a set of individuals.

#470 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 02:09 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 466:

I guaran-damn-tee you that almost anyone elected to the Presidensity from either of the major parties is going to ensure that the wars of opportunity continue. They're essential to the imperial foreign policy that supports our military industrial complex, one of our major industries, and a major source of influence, money, and jobs to our revolving-door Congresscritter/lobbyists. And a major source of justification for creation of a panopticon society with police-state powers that is building new empires for so many in our criminal justice system1.

1. Does "criminal justice system" mean a justice system run by criminals? Increasingly so, I think.

#471 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 10:10 PM:

Lee @ 457: "I hear very definite echoes of "let the damn sand-n****rs kill themselves off, it'll be less trouble for us to take over their resources once they have" in a lot of that kind of rhetoric. And right now, that attitude can be wrapped up in a lot of high-sounding platitudes, making the rhetoric even more appealing."

So when *we* speak out in opposition to senseless foreign war, it reflects our commitment to principles of freedom and self-determination, but when *they* speak out in opposition to senseless foreign war, it echoes with racist and imperialist undertones.

What about this conversation has made you think that arguing towards your own interpretation of someone's motives rather than towards the words actually coming out of their mouths is a good idea? What part makes you think that throwing around baseless accusations of racism casts more light than heat?

#472 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 11:33 PM:

471
I have found others elsewhere saying things like that. (Read the comments at any major news site. It's - well, enlightening isn't quite correct, in that you're reading comments by a lot of people who apparently prefer swearing at being in darkness to almost any kind of light that's available.)

#473 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 10:06 AM:

The Obama-war-justifying and antiwar-Republican-bashing rhetoric is making me feel all nostalgic for 2003, when exactly the same rhetoric was widely deployed.

#474 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 11:20 AM:

albatross @ 473:

Yes, lately history hasn't been rhyming so much as it's been repeating burps.

#475 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 11:32 AM:

There are a whole bunch of Republicans who are voicing big concerns about deficit spending and our long-term budget problems. Most of them were silent on these issues, or even saying deficits didn't matter, when Bush was running up the deficit. When I see that pattern, I infer that the people who only care about deficits when Democrats are in power don't really care much about deficits--instead, they're very concerned with their party gaining and keeping power, and deficits are sometimes a convenient club with which to attack the other party.

Similarly, there are a whole bunch of Democrats who were loudly voicing concerns about our wars and executive power grabs when Bush was in office, but now can find excuses or justifications for all those things under Obama. What should I infer about their actual concern about war and executive power grabs?

#476 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 11:58 AM:

I was not in favor of war when Clinton was in office. I was not in favor of war when Bush was in office. I am not in favor of the war while Obama is in office. However, as it appears that "the president will continue wars while in office" is a given, which my voting patterns (even if they mattered in my state, which they do not) will do nothing about, I focus more on areas where it feels like there is actually a difference between potential candidates.

#477 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 01:27 PM:

Well, I've been saying since the middle of the Bush Administration that I opposed the war in Afghanistan at the beginning, and I was wrong; and that I opposed the war in Iraq at the beginning, and was right.

By the time I realized that the Afghan war was justified, I opposed the Iraq war in part because it distracted from the Afghan war. If we hadn't invaded Iraq, it seemed possible we could have finished the job in Afghanistan (I've since realized that Afghanistan has never been conquered by a foreign invader, even ones who conquered all the surrounding countries and much of Asia).

I thought at the time that the only way to win in Afghanistan was to kill every single Taliban. I'm now unsure whether I believe that, or if I just hate them that much (not only for 9/11 but for their own action in destroying the historic Buddhist statues), but it's now clear that's no longer possible.

The reason the Taliban came up in the first place is that we abandoned Afghanistan after they kicked out the Soviets (the previous failed attempt at foreign conquest), instead of remaining engaged and making them an ally. Everyone here knows that we created Osama bin Laden. We could have prevented that if we'd treated the country better.

If we abandon Afghanistan again, it will come back to haunt us again. If the Afghan people want us to leave, we should, but frankly I don't believe the Afghan government represents the people any more; it's far too corrupt, and the last election wasn't anything like free and fair. So how do we figure out what the people want? I don't have an answer.

I have been saying these things since the Bush administration. I think they were handling the Afghan war badly. I'm not sure I agree with how Obama is handling it now, but I can't point to any decisions that were clearly wrong.

Just "pull everything out" is short-sighted and foolish. It's not at all clear that that would save Afghan lives (though it would obviously save American lives...in the short term). It IS clear that it would harm the freedom of Afghan women, for example.

So I get pretty pissed off when I hear people say "So, OK with you when Obama does it." I criticised the Bushistas' handling of the war, but I stopped believing a long time ago that we could just go home.

#478 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 04:29 PM:

Xopher @477: The reason the Taliban came up in the first place is that we abandoned Afghanistan after they kicked out the Soviets (the previous failed attempt at foreign conquest), instead of remaining engaged and making them an ally.

This isn't, strictly speaking, true. The Taliban rose to power mostly with the support of Pakistan, but they also still had a lot of the weapons and money we'd given them back in the '80s, during the Soviet occupation. All those Stinger missiles didn't just evaporate when the Soviets left. So it was our earlier engagement (during the Soviet era) that aided the rise of the Taliban (afterwards).

It's possible that rise could have been prevented if we'd then aided Ahmed Shah Massoud's anti-Taliban movement. It's also possible that wouldn't have been enough to overcome Pakistan's pro-Taliban efforts. Maybe we would've just gotten sucked into an Afghan civil war a decade earlier. Maybe the Afghans would have resented an American-backed government, and the Taliban risen anyway.

I recall that people used to refer to the USSR's withdrawal from Afghanistan as "the Soviet Vietnam", implying that this was the USSR's equivalent of the humbling military loss that the US suffered in the '70s. While no such equivalence is fully accurate, I'm tempted to draw a similar analogy between the Taliban rising in opposition to Soviet interference in Afghanistan, and Khomeini's revolution in Iran, which opposed an American-supported government. Maybe it's time to consider that there are limits to the power of intervention.

When you say "If we abandon Afghanistan again, it will come back to haunt us again", I hear an awareness of a crappy situation, and a desire on your part to do something. What I'm suggesting is that it's our (and other imperialist powers') continual doing something that's causing the problems.

#479 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 04:34 PM:

Well, maybe we could do something that's less imperialistic, less militaristic, and more friendly and helpful. If we'd gone into Afghanistan after the Soviets left and just started building schools and hospitals, I bet we'd have a very different Afghanistan now.

#480 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 05:00 PM:

479
I seem to recall that this time they were asking for roads and other stuff that we could have done, easily, if we hadn't decided that stuff like missile-carrying drones (for us) was more important.

#481 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 06:06 PM:

Xopher @479, we used to do that. Back in the early decades of the Cold War, Afghanistan had a government that was open to outside influence, and the US and USSR tried to seduce them by building roads, schools, airports, and stuff like that. Check out these photos of Kabul in the '50s. (Or maybe '60s. Or both.)

#482 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 06:30 PM:

#477 ::: Xopher HalfTongue

I'm very curious about you saying that at first you were against going after the Taliban but in favor of invading Iraq.

How did you arrive at that? This is a sincere question. Even if, as you say you were unaware of the history of the region, colonialism there generally, and the U.S. involvement in particular, how did it not occur to you look it up? Particularly when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Now I knew / know all that, and have all along, which is why I was in favor from the first of going after the Taliban (which back in the day I thought the U.S. was stupid for arming and helping all in the name of stopping communism), and being sure it was about the Taliban, not about Afghanistan and her people who were suffering terribly from the Taliban -- and now still are, and I was most definitely against invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. Yes, I'm an historian, live in NYC, blahblahblah, but still I'm curious why you didn't do more investigation before being in favor of a war with people who didn't have anything to do with whatever you suffered personally from 9/11.

This is not a criticism! Or an attack. I'm trying to figure out how even intelligent, well-informed people took that position -- and now, after all the damage to our own nation has been done, which was absolutely implicit in the entire plan to anybody paying attention to the politics we've been going through since Reagan, if not Nixon.

Love, C.

#483 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 06:41 PM:

I'm no expert in these matters, other than having the capacity to research them, i.e. what's already happened.

But I had a feeling that we'd have done so much better to get Russia on board with us, in a cooperative plan to do something about the Taliban -- as opposed to invading Afghanistan at all -- which surely the Russians wouldn't have touched with anything. A coalition for rooting the Taliban out of Pakistan for starters.

Rather than us asskissing and paying out billions to be the most popular girl in the class and getting everyone to vote for her to run things.

But that wasn't at all what Cheney et al. had been after for decades. They wanted to invade Iraq and get all the oils and this allowed them to do it. Except somehow we got screwed and so did the environment and the Iraqi people and Pakistan made out like a bandit, as did all the other bandits including Halliburton and that thing that used to be Blackwater and all their ilks, and anybody with the least criminal sensibility going.

Love, C.

#484 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 06:45 PM:

No, Constance, you misread me. I opposed both wars, because I was against war. I'm saying I was wrong to oppose the Afghan war, because Al Qaeda was still being harbored by the Taliban. There really was little alternative to war after the Taliban refused to turn ObL over.

I was and remain unalterably opposed to the Iraq invasion. It's probably the stupidest thing our country has ever done.

#485 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 07:17 PM:

hereisarch @471

It's not a "we" vs "they" issue, it's an issue of markedly different rhetorical tendencies when discussing withdrawal. It's the difference between discussing withdrawal it as a nuanced issue and acknowledge the complications and acting as if it is a black-and-white, set-in-stone issue where there is a clear, easy answer.

Most of the time when I hear democrats or democratic socialists I know discuss withdrawing from Afghanistan, they always make sure to point out that any such withdrawal would not be a band-aid for the area, and that we have to steel ourselves as a country for observing the chaos and death that will definitely follow, possibly accompanied by very strong, openly threatening Taliban organization moving in to control the entire country. Many are still very strongly in favor of withdrawal, but they find it intellectually dishonest to talk about the idea of withdrawal in glowing, golden terms without formally acknowledging the probable results.

Most of the time when I hear libertarians talk about withdrawing from Afghanistan, they do not mention the possible negative consequences unless specifically pressed about them, or until someone else brings it up. They frequently imply that withdrawing is an unmitigated good that will result in instantaneous positive improvements for all involved. I've especially noticed a tendency in Paul supporters to frame the discussion so as to imply that as soon as our boys are out, Americans can just go back to not thinking about that region of the world anymore.

So it's not so much a problem with libertarians specifically, it's just a problem with anyone who engages in arguments about withdrawing from Afghanistan in a way that presents it as a black and white issue divorced from the very real possibility that it will result in an increase in human suffering in that area.

This also moves me to clear up another misconception among some of those I've been arguing with in this thread: there's a difference between supporting Obama's decisions completely and understanding them. There's also, for me at least, a difference between starting a war and continuing an attempt to salvage the horrible situation caused by your predecessor starting a war.

I'm a liberal, so "harm prevention" is one of my number one priorities. Right now, withdrawing from Afghanistan seems like a grey area as far as harm prevention goes: it might make things better, it might make things worse, we have no way of knowing. That's why I can forgive Obama's failure to withdraw: it's not about having a black and white "any time the army is used it is bad" principle, it's about evaluating each individual situation to see whether I think it's increasing or decreasing human misery. The decision to start both of the wars and the ways they were grossly mishandled clearly increased misery. Obama's decision has not clearly gone in either direction. That's why my critique of him is less harsh.

If McCain had enacted exactly the same policies as Obama, I don't think I would have been significantly more critical of him. I also think there's almost no chance that he would have enacted similar policies. I think he would have been more aggressive and noticeably worse.

#486 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 09:36 PM:

I am fascinated by the fact that the gentleman I think of as Dr Coot Sheepdip appears to be the victor in the South Carolina Republican primary (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16669714). It seems that race-baiting continues to pay dividends in the South.

#487 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 01:24 AM:

Fragano, you live there. Why are you surprised? Discouraged you may be, as I am, but surprised I am not. South Carolina is the least reconstructed state in the country, as far as I can tell. I found myself muttering earlier today "we shoulda let 'em go when they seceded in 1861."

#488 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 10:59 AM:

Xopher@479

The key practical question is probably whether anything the U.S. could have done would have prevented the general chaos and massive multi-sided infighting (including lengthy artillery duels in the streets of Kabul) that followed the fall of the pro-Soviet government (said fall actually took place a couple of years after the Russians withdrew). Absent the chaos, it is unlikely that the Taliban would have been able to gain power, and might never even have become an important faction.

#489 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 11:31 AM:

Isn't there a reason or two why we might have been a little reluctant to get militarily involved in Afghanistan to make sure the right side won, just after the world's other superpower had bankrupted itself trying to do the same thing?

The Taliban wasn't behind the 9/11 attacks; they were sheltering OBL and the leadership of AQ. It made sense to make that expensive, because we want foreign governments to think three times before sheltering people attacking us. But I just don't think we're competent to remake foreign countries more to our liking via miltary occupation and/or aid checks. I don't think we have a lot of history of doing that, either--we may be able tp push things in a slightly better direction, but even there, we are probably as likely to do harm as good. We have in practice given a lot of money to dictators holding down their people, and given a lot of our aid in the form of military hardware (partly, I think, as a backhanded subsidy for US defense contractors). Many of our actual interventions have not looked too humanitarian, but have instead looked like trying to keep thugs we liked in power or to install thugs more to our liking than the previous thugs.

I suspect the problem here is one of oversight. Attempts to fix broken parts of our own society often fail or have bad side effects. We see those side effects, because they happen here, and arent kept secret. Our intervention n Afghanistan is happening far away, and the big f--kups are often classified. Media coverage of it is being actively managed and manipulated. And the problems being fixed are bigger, and are happening in a foreign society few of the people managing the fixes really understand. What of this situation suggests that we are at all likely to succeed?

What are the costs to our attempt to remake Afghan society more to our liking? The government is actively trying to avoid disclosing much of that cost--details of the drone program are classified, for example, so its hard to get definative information on how many civilians get murdered by drnes by mistake. (It's easy to tell when the victims are women or children, but if we blow up a bunch of adult men, it's not clear how we would know whether they were the right guys.).

All this makes me think we would be better off withdrawing as quickly as possible. I think there is little reason to believe we are going to make things better either for ourselves or for the Afghans.

#490 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 11:38 AM:

I don't think there are any good ways out of Afghanistan. National boundaries don't make much of a difference when the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is as porous as it is, and as much as the Pakistani leadership would like to keep receiving USA economic and military aid, they really can't control that border. It's going to stay ugly for a long time.

#491 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 12:03 PM:

Afghanistan has a history of chewing up invaders and leaving them broken, if not actually broke, going back to Alexander the Great (who couldn't defeat them militarily either). Why the Bright Guys at the Pentagon couldn't understand that I don't know, but that's something that we need to fix.

#492 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 12:25 PM:

Linkmeister #487: I'm not surprised. I'm fascinated. The Gingrich surge was already going before the big public race-baiting of Juan Williams; the dog-whistles were doing it.

#493 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 01:31 PM:

#484 ::: Xopher HalfTongue

OK, you're right. I didn't get that from what you wrote.

Thanks.

Love, C.

#494 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 02:24 PM:

heresiarch, #471: You are exactly right, of course. I NEVER pay attention to conversational nuances (including dog-whistles and other code phrases) or the context in which I hear things discussed. I just project my own personal prejudices onto other people based on whether or not they agree with my political positions. I am humbled by your astute analysis and will certainly strive to mend my wicked ways in future.

#495 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 02:35 PM:

Steve C. @490:

Another twist in this knot is that the ISI, Pakistan's major intelligence agency, has a long-term involvement in supporting and using militant organizations like the Taliban and al Qaeda as political, military, and terrorist operatives against India. Based on history, I believe this initiative is much more important to them than US aid or military assistance, especially since the US' official position is one of strong support for India (the US has been publicly much more supportive of India being a nuclear-armed nation than it has of Pakistan).

#496 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 03:18 PM:

Steve 490: I don't think there are any good ways out of Afghanistan.

I think you're right about that. Part of the reason the public is so stupid about decision making and decision makers is the ingrained idea that there's always a right thing to do. Sometimes there's only bad and worse. A bit of dialogue from a story of mine:

“Professor,” I therefore said, “I know you believe that you’re doing the right thing—”

“You are mistaken,” he said softly. “I have no such illusion. There is no ‘right thing’ left to us. We can only hope to choose, among wrong things, the least wrong—and pray that we may be forgiven.”

#497 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 06:43 PM:

#489 ::: albatross

Germany and Japan actually did get remade into something more to our liking after WW2. I'm not sure why that trick only worked once.

#498 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #497: Mostly because we took the reconstruction seriously, and actually put effort into building governments that weren't just friendly to us, but also represented their people. Compare to the failure with Germany after WWI..... In contrast, our more recent attempts have repeatedly tried to "cut to the good parts" -- overthrow or kill anyone we don't like, prop up someone we do... and then expect our shoddy work to stay put forever, just because We Said So.

Also, in WWII, we actually had genuine military victories there, with enough force left over to both squelch resistance and maintain law-and-order. We've had nothing of the sort in Afghanistan, let alone most of the other small countries we've decided to rearrange on the cheap.

#499 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 07:12 PM:

Nancy 497: Germany and Japan actually did get remade into something more to our liking after WW2. I'm not sure why that trick only worked once.

It wasn't some trick that would only work the first time. We spent a fortune rebuilding those countries—and that fortune was financed by high taxes (top marginal rate of 91%). We has another resource then that we now lack: an international reputation as the good guys (German soldiers who fought in WWI telling their sons to surrender to us because we'd treat them right), and we kept on deserving that after the war (see not punishing Hirohito, see the Berlin Air Lift, etc.). That helped them trust us to have their best interests at heart, once they realized we weren't going to take revenge on them—which we didn't, because back then people still learned lessons from previous conflicts, and it was pretty clear that War Reparations had been a bad, bad idea after WWI.

We could do all that again, if we wanted to. Getting the reputation back would be hard and would take some time, after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other rotten behavior. But the problem is that we (collectively) don't want to. Propose a 91% top marginal rate and see where that gets you!

The one advantage we had that we can't duplicate today is the constant threat of the Soviet Union. China could take its place, but so far their strategy is one of investment and construction, and we can't make headway against that without investment and construction of our own, and see above re: 91%.

#500 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 07:14 PM:

We had* another resource. Dammit, I proofread that.

#501 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 07:29 PM:

Xopher and Halftongue, thanks. That's more detail which matches my tentative theory. We may have had one more advantage-- I've heard that Marshall (of the Marshall Plan) saw defeated Germany as being like the defeated South, and wanted a better outcome.

Anyone know what proportion of the Federal budget that 91% tax rate brought in?

#502 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 11:28 PM:

Am I alone in thinking that maybe our failure to turn Afghanistan into West Germany has less to do with our own lacks of virtue and administrative skill than with the fact that the major imperialist powers have been screwing around with the Afghans for hundreds of years, and the Afghans are just plain sick of it?

#503 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 12:02 AM:

Avram, I make it more than 2000 years, and I think you might be right.

#504 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 12:21 AM:

I make it more like 2300 years that we know of - I don't know what was going on before Alexander, but I suspect that, given the skill the locals displayed against him, they'd already had experience with would-be conquerors.

#505 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 12:30 AM:

Xopher @503, was there much of an Afghan national identity before the 18th century?

#506 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 12:55 AM:

I wasn't thinking in terms of a country with that name, but of the peoples in that region. Various people have tried to fuck with them at various times, and they've never allowed it for long.

#507 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 01:34 AM:

Like Will, I am somewhat to the left of most of the good people here.

I vary from day to day whether it's best to describe myself as a social democrat, a libertarian socialist, or what, but there are principles which I hold quite close to my heart:

Placing the necessities of life subject into the market economy is both evil and avoidable.
War is always to be resisted.
Capital should be subservient to labor.
Every person deserves the sweetness of life.

And so on.

So my quarrel with liberals is when they justify the things I abhor.

Just last night, I was in very liberal company, and I was describing the brilliant presentation I'd attended last Thursday, when Melissa Harris-Perry came to Little Rock.

I related this (taken from our church's Facebook page) to one of the people with whom I was seated:

As she went through the racial aspects of America's response to Hurricane Katrina, she showed the texts of people's ads, offering help to refugees, and qualifying those offers by offering that help specifically to white people. "Those are good people," she said. "They want to help. They are some of the best among us." There was no irony or sarcasm whatsoever in that statement, only an emotionally rich stew of life's conflicted and conflicting pieces.

I'm sure that was a hard sell to her audience at Philander Smith (an HBCU with a visionary president), and it was a hard sell to the person I was talking to. I went on to another of her arguments, about her Jefferson problem, a problem she and I and Michelle Obama all share, his vile personal, political, and economic involvement with intergenerational chattel slavery.

I didn't get to the other half, the expansive and beautiful vision he had of freedom and equality*, because I was interrupted with "lots of other cultures had slaves, slavery was quite common," and so on. It took me aback, though I don't know why it should have, and I had to close down my mind a bit to make instead the simple, repeated statement that slavery was always wrong, period**.

For me, that's an archetypical liberal moment.

Anyway, I won't belabor the point by reposting a link to Phil Ochs' "Love Me, I'm A Liberal". That song was very much of its time***, though some of it is still spot on.

However, since the most notable difference (I think) between leftists and liberals is in our tolerance for war when waged by people we like, I will post this:

Cops of the World****

*Harris-Perry and I differ somewhat on this point, she being kinder to Jefferson than I

**The peculiarly cruel nature of American slavery was not a question I felt like raising just then

***The "Dykes of the American Revolution" quip, and the audience laughter, in the most-heard version grates on me. It's a deep pity Ochs didn't live long enough to fix that mistake

****The best version? Eugene Chadbourne and the Violent Femmes on Corpses of Foreign Wars

#508 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 02:54 AM:

Avram @ 505: Is there much of an Afghan national identity now? The bulk of the reason we've failed to turn Afghanistan into post-war Japan or Germany is that Japan and Germany had the great luck of having been, prior to the war period, highly sophisticated industrial economies and functioning bureaucratic states. Bridges and schools are easy, if you're building them in a nation of engineers and teachers. It's human capital that's hard. Afghan is still what it has long been: a land of tribes. You can't just slap a flag on and expect it to play the nation state.

#509 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 03:01 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue @499 -- thing is, we -have- spent a fortune in and on Afghanistan. And by 'we', I don't just mean the US, but Western Europe as well. There has been an appalling amount -- by some estimates, up to 80% -- lost to corruption, poor coordination, general lack of accountability.

"So far $57 billion in aid has been spent in Afghanistan, but largely failed to fulfil the pledge to rebuild the country, the report[1] said, and sustainability was 'virtually impossible' as only 20 percent had been channeled through the government. About $29 billion of that had been spent on the Afghan police and army, which 'have thus far proved unable to enforce the law, counter the insurgency or even secure the seven regions' recently handed over to them, the report found." source

Count me in as someone else who initially greeted our involvement in Afghanistan. At first it sounded like the main thrust was going to be trying to stabilize the economy and improve the infrastructure. Then everything got hopelessly muddled, and now it feels like we've done more harm than good.

[1] made by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, in August 2011.

#510 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 03:07 AM:

Politics open-thready --

Me, looking at newspaper headline this morning: Bah!
Daughter: What?
Me: Newt!
Daughter: "Newt"? Aren't those the creatures you kill first in NetHack?

#511 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 08:27 AM:

John A Arkansawyer #507: quotes "lots of other cultures had slaves, slavery was quite common,"

I will give you an answer for that:

Yes, slavery has been common throughout human history. So have: 50%+ child mortality (with routine death in childbirth to boot), dying of a toothache or scratch, epidemic cholera etc., uncorrected eyesight (as in "nearsighted == blind"), buildings destroyed by lightning, and so forth.

We know better now.

#512 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 08:55 AM:

So the Washington Post had this bit of commentary by photo placement:

Obama smiling

(I hope that's the real front page.)

#513 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 08:57 AM:

Oh, well, just a cool Photoshop job. Love it, nonetheless.

#514 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 10:14 AM:

John A Arkansawyer #507

I find Ta-Nehisi Coates' distinction between a society with slaves and a slave society worthwhile. (Of course, the other slave societies--Classical Greeca and Rome--were the models that the American founders had self-consciously in mind.)

#515 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 11:54 AM:

David:

The problem is, moral progress has a very different flavor than technological progress. We don't have slaves here because of moral progress, but there's nothing inevitable about that given future advances in knowledge, because moral knowledge doesn't work that way. It's hard to imagine a big enough loss of knowledge that we stopped knowing about the germ theory of disease (which lets you get the big improvements in life expectancy via building proper sewers and water supplies, and getting people to wash their hands).

But it's not hard to see all kinds of moral regression alongside technological and social progress--Germany went from a relatively good place to be a Jew in Europe to a place that murdered an incredible number of Jews, in a stunningly short time, while their technology got better. For that matter, I gather than the really brutal slavery-based economies of the South and the West Indies were themselves products of advanced technology--before you had good navigation and laws/customs to allow large-scale enterprises to operate, they wouldn't have worked. And yet, West Indies sugar plantations were, as I understand it, a fair approximation of hell on Earth--supported by that time's version of high technology. The incredible technological progress in the late 19th and early 20 centuries in physics led us, in the 1950s-1990s, to prepare ourselves to murder pretty much everyone in the northern hemisphere, along with wrecking the climate and poisoning the atmosphere and land.

Moral progress isn't nearly so one-way as technological or scientific progress. Partly, that's because it isn't so apparent. Celestial navigation, cannons, the germ theory of disease, they all worked. So did plantation slavery and keeping the citizens cowed by your brutal secret police. Throwing away technology loses in obvious ways, whereas throwing away moral advances loses (if it does) in subtle, hard-to-demonstrate ways.

#516 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 06:25 PM:

albatross @ 515: "The problem is, moral progress has a very different flavor than technological progress."

I don't think the distinction is as clear as all that. Swap in, say, the invention of the combustion engine and its long-term climate impact, or address the example of the Greenland Norse and the collapse of their "advanced" society and the definition of technological progress becomes much less one-way and self-apparent. On the other side, some moral advances have proven quite durable: the Golden Rule, the importance of self-determination, and so on. It is, though, a very excellent point that the two do not always or often advance in sync, or even advance at all.

#517 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 08:09 PM:

David Harmon @ 511, SamChevre @ 514: Were you two there, too? Because it sounds like you were.

#518 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 08:38 PM:

SamChevre @514 said: Of course, the other slave societies--Classical Greece and Rome--were the models that the American founders had self-consciously in mind.

Yes, and the Founding Fathers kept straight-facedly telling themselves that the American slave society was just like those -- where a large segment of enslaved people neither died slaves nor were born into it (mostly being debt-slaves or war prisoners who could buy their way out or be manumitted by a magnanimous owner).

Over and over again in writings from the early years of our Republic I keep reading thoughtful, brainy men saying things that imply they think the intergenerational black slavery the South was promulgating was 'no worse than' indentured servitude, and in fact in many individual cases that slaves were far better treated than the indentured Irish and other whites (though at the time, Irish weren't 'White' yet, per se) common throughout the northern colonies …

Not just a river in Egypt, y'know?

#519 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Slavery in the U.S. was a unique system in the history of slavery in the world.

It wasn't the same system as the Greeks or the Romans or the Turks or the Egyptians or even that in Latin America and the Caribbean during the same eras.

The reasons for this are many, and I know them all, but that's whay I'm writing a book, because a post isn't isn't enough by any means.

Love, C.

#520 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 09:45 PM:

Following up 514--Ta-Nehisi Coates on slave societies.

#521 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 09:55 PM:

Elliott Mason @518: Over and over again in writings from the early years of our Republic I keep reading thoughtful, brainy men saying things that imply they think the intergenerational black slavery the South was promulgating was 'no worse than' indentured servitude

They probably meant it as a defense of slavery, but I'm tempted to read it as an indictment of indentured servitude.

I've sometimes wondered whether slavery might have seemed more palatable, less of an obvious and egregious wrong, to early Americans because they had so many other institutions that were like watered-down versions of slavery. Indentured servants, wives who were property of their husbands, employment contracts where the employer got to control the employee's home and social life. It was a great time to be alive, if you were a rich white guy who got off on being able to tell people what to do.

#522 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 10:34 PM:

I wish Gingrich much success in his race to the nomination, because he's the most likely remaining Anybody But Romney to get it. That would result in the rest of the country saying "Gingrich? Srsly?", and in 2016 we could taunt all the Republicans by quoting anything they said supporting that smarmy hypocrite. In the meantime the stomping they'd get in the polls might force the Republicans to clean up the corruption in their party, and the Democrats would have won solidly enough that they might risk cleaning up their own house.

Oh, well, we can hope. The Republican leadership probably isn't going to let that happen, so we're going to get Romney, and it'll be a close and cynical race with Obama. I'd rather see Ron Paul nominated than any of the other Republicans, but he's too anti-establishment for the Republicans to let that happen.

#523 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 11:08 PM:

521
Avram, in New England they started passing laws in the late 17th century that made slavery hereditary: if your parents were slaves, you were also. They didn't do that with indentured servants, even in the South.

#524 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 12:16 AM:

Avram:

Yeah, there's this weird change that happened over the years. The richest, most powerful guy alive in 1800 couldn't have decent medical care or dentistry, or travel on land faster than horseback, or hear music without having someone show up an play for him. For almost any measure of material well-being, you'd rather be an office clerk or shoe salesman in 2012 than a rich man in 1800. But if your heart's desire is power over other people, hardly anyone in the world now gets the kind of power over other humans that lots of people had in 1800.

#525 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 09:36 AM:

This interview suggests that the Obama administration was played by its generals, especially McCrystal, wrt Afghanistan, early on in his presidency. (I very much recommend Scott Horton's blog on civil liberties.).

One sideline issue brought up in the interview--few establishment figures have any incentive to be skeptical about claims of success in Iraq or Afghanistan, even when the evidence for that is shaky or nonexistent, because so many were complicit in getting us into those wars. It is much better to have the accepted narrative be "this war I argued for turned out to be harder and more expensive than I thought, but ended well" than "this war I argued for turned out to be harder and more expensive than I thought, and then ended in humiliation for us.".

I haven't read Hasting' book yet, but I plan to.

#526 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 09:43 AM:

I suspect Japan and Germany were special cases (scary external enemy, defeated and utterly discredited government/elites, lots of human capital sitting around waiting to be put back to work). But I gather our intervention also set things on a good direction on South Korea and Taiwan,who also had scary external enemies. I don't think either country had all that much human capital built up back then, though both have plenty now.

#527 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 11:47 AM:

albatross #515: There's also the fact that slavery (and other issues) can be intertwined with technological progress.

AIUI, the first slave societies were the first civilizations -- Mesopotamia, Egypt, and so forth. That incarnation of slavery was based on a basic need for labor to support agriculture around the early cities... and it was abolished by the development of leather harnesses for horses and other beasts of burden. The previous wooden yokes were clumsy enough that it was hardly worth using animal labor instead of human labor -- with harnesses, the animals could work far more efficiently.

Similarly, the American South had a driving need to produce and export cotton, but the available technology didn't allow for mechanical (or animal) picking and early sorting. At the same time, the invention of the cotton gin made the later sorting (removing seeds) very easy, so there was this one bottleneck that could easily be dealt with by throwing labor at it. More recently, consider the early factories and assembly lines, coal (and other) mining, harvesting of fragile berries and similar fruit.... In all these cases, we ended up with the money overrunning the morality, and justifying "whatever it takes" to keep the money coming in.

I'd say that issues such as "fracking" and other groundwater abuses follow a similar pattern, just with a different public good as the victim. For that matter, what else are SOPA/PIPA but an attempt by Big Entertainment to keep the money rolling in no matter who else gets hurt?

#528 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2012, 12:18 PM:

Something Teresa said @436 has been pinging away at the back of my mind, and this morning it finally gelled.

It was this bit: "You're suggesting that the rules are different for you. Big wrong. The rules are different for everybody."

And what struck me is that one of the things I've always liked about Making Light is that it's never struck me as a place with rules so much as a place with standards. One of the reasons I prefer the latter where it's possible to operate that way is because standards are much harder to game.

#530 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Glenn Greenwald has a fun column up today, pointing out the remarkably similar propaganda being used to drum up war with Iran now, and Iraq a few years ago.

This strikes me much the same way as all the low-IQ smears on the French for failing to be sufficiently enthusiastic about Operation Iraqi Liberation--it's not just propaganda, it's insultingly stupid propaganda.

I assume any day now, we'll start hearing about how our first warning could be a mushroom cloud rising over an American city. Or perhaps about how we have intelligence that Iranians were recently buying yellowcake in Niger. Perhaps we'll hear about too-thick steel cylinders for rockets? Mobile bioweapons labs?

#531 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 11:50 AM:

I was amused seeing the comments from conservatives on the news about the unemployment rate* falling. There's almost a sense of desperation about them, like they're saying, "Damn it! It CAN'T be getting better, because if it was getting better, then the voters, damn them, might vote that SOB a second term."

Lord only knows how they would be all over Obama if the rate climbed a bit. Well, too bad. Trends are everything, and an unemployment rate going down is good news, not only for the country, but for the president.

*Note: I know the rate is still bad. Again, trends are everything.

#532 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 01:47 AM:

Steve C.: I've noticed that here in Houston there seem to be a number of new businesses. For instance, the shopping area which contains the blood center where I go regularly has no fewer than three new restaurants recently opened up in it.

#533 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 03:09 AM:

David, #532: Houston has a lot of new restaurants, all the time, because we also have a very high turnover in that business. My partner says that we have one of the highest restaurant densities per population in the country, and places that aren't up to snuff tend not to last very long. So that's not necessarily a dispositive factor. How many non-restaurant new businesses are you seeing?

#534 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 09:53 AM:

Open threadiness: What does our security state look like to foreigners and immigrants?

"You really fucked up with that tweet, boy." Consider all the different things about our country implied by that one sentence, every single one of them bad. If we don't find a way to push back against this stuff, we will not recognize our country in another ten years. Or we'll recognize it mainly from dystopian novels and movies.

I don't really see how to push back. The two parties are united in their support for an ever-increasing security state. As with so many other things, it's pretty clear the voters' opinions on these matters aren't really wanted.

But this is a couple orders of magnitude more important than the issues on which the Romney/Obama race will be debated.

#535 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 12:34 PM:

albatross @534 -- Perhaps the whole security theater is just a new Puritanism, the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere might be having fun. And that we wouldn't Get It.

There is a need to prevent some major terrorist actions from happening. The tools currently being deployed may be somewhat effective, but they seem well past the point of diminishing returns to me. And some of them just aren't effective at all.

What would effective tools actually look like?

#536 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 01:48 PM:

Israel's approach to airport security has been brought up before, but it's doubtful that this would translate well to a nation with so many more major airports. Basically, Israel screens for bad guys, and the US (and other nations) screen for weapons. Screening for bad guys means profiling.

#537 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 02:44 PM:

David @532: For instance, the shopping area which contains the blood center where I go regularly has no fewer than three new restaurants recently opened up in it.

Oh dear. Do they all specialize in black pudding?

#538 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 06:26 PM:

Two other points about new restaurants:

1) "Let's start a restaurant" is a potential response to the unemployment running out and no other job in sight, for people who have any cushion at all (or family in a position to lend them money). I won't say it's common, but it's certainly not rare either.

2) One of the reasons restaurants fail is people not having enough discretionary income to eat out.

#539 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 10:11 PM:

Reasonable points about new restaurants as a poor barometer of economic health. I have also seen a new location of "Gold and Silver Buyers" open up near me, but I have to admit that seeing a business like that doing well is quite the reverse of a sign of recovery!

I do recall noticing something new that wasn't that, or a restaurant, in the strip mall where my comic book store is, but I can't bring to mind exactly what it was.

#540 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 11:43 PM:

Retail establishments, including restaurants, come and go. But a good indicator of an improving economy is new construction. I've been seeing plenty of that in Fort Bend county and in the Katy area.

#541 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 11:56 PM:

In fact, one block (or half a mile, depending on your perspective) from where I live there's a lot that used to have a church on it, where they've torn it down and are now building something -- and just today I saw a new sign on the fence of the vacant lot on the corner advertising a high rise there "coming 2013". (To be sure, that'll be better evidence once they start actually building the high rise.)

#542 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 01:23 AM:

David G., #539: Yes, the sudden explosion in places advertising "WE BUY GOLD!" is something not seen since the last major recession. Everybody wants to get a piece of that action, it seems; I can't at the moment recall where I saw a sign like that on a ludicrously unlikely type of business, but it's not just pawnshops, believe me. Some of them are even hiring people to stand out on street corners waving signs at passing traffic.

Related grumble: Most of the major pawnshop and "cash advance" brands are owned by major banks, or by umbrella corporations which also own major banks. The same banks which make it as difficult as possible for poor people to get a real bank account, and shove them in the direction of the usurers. IMO there should be full disclosure about this, publicly posted in both the bank and the usurer's shop.

#543 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 08:24 AM:

Lee:

That description begs to be set to music, with the last line being "My God, how the money rolls in!"

#544 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 01:17 PM:

Open threadiness: What *does* our foreign policy really look like? What's being done in our name, and how is it working out for us? You don't need to know.

In fact, anyone who tells you would be subject to the harsh retribution against whistleblowers that the Obama administration has been so aggressive about.

Now, some unreasonable people using unreliable methods claim that we're blowing up a lot of civilians, and that our policy of launching a second strike when people come to help the wounded and retrieve dead bodies for burial is quite possibly a war crime. But don't listen to them--an anonymous administration official explains that:
“One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”

Is there some important way in which this administration's approach to these matters differs from the previous administration's approach? I mean, other than improved drone technology?

#545 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 05:00 PM:

albatross @544, more and more, I'm starting to think that the pivotal events in the modern history of the American military/espionage state were (1) Poppy Bush's 1992 pardon of the Iran-Contra conspirators, and (2) the Democrats deciding not to launch any further investigations relating to it in the first couple years of the Clinton administration (when they held both the White House and both houses of Congress). Those two actions laid the foundation for the current notion that the President can carry out a secret war, and the public has no right to know about it.

#546 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 01:44 AM:

Good heavens. Santorum won all three caucuses tonight.

Take that, Romney the Inevitable!

#547 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 02:55 AM:

They're all beauty contests IIUC. So I'm sure Romney is perfectly happy to have Santorum use his time and energy on them.

#548 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 11:19 AM:

The problem with Santorum winning the three caucuses is less that he'd have a chance to take the nomination than it is an indication that the VP selection for the Republicans is moving more towards the fundamentalist side of the party. It's not likely that anyone other than Romney will get the top slot: what's going on is jockeying for which part of the GOP will be brought in at #2 to pull together the disparate elements. That's what led to Palin's rise, after all.

#549 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 12:37 PM:

I had the impression that Palin was selected because McCain didn't have the sense to listen to his advisors or wait for her to be fully vetted, and by the time he found out what an idiot loser she is, it was too late.

I don't expect Romney to have that problem. I also don't expect him to pick any of the other three current contenders as his VP candidate.

#550 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 12:56 PM:

I don't expect that he'll pick one of the other people looking for the nomination either, Xopher. But I think how well they do will affect greatly what running mate he (or, more likely, the RNC) picks. Santorum is leading the religious side, Gingrich the technocrat side, and Paul the libertarian side: Romney's middle-of-the-road enough that I doubt they'll pick a VP similar to him. They need someone to mobilize at least some of the troops that he doesn't. Palin was young and female: two groups the Republicans wanted to bring in.

And the VP can have either a lot of effect (Cheney, e.g.) or very little.

#551 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 01:34 PM:

I expect Romney will be looking for a Southern religious conservative, to help him gather support from the part of his base that rightly doesn't trust his commitment to their ideas. Santorum is too divisive and not very Southern, Gingrich is a train wreck, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him ask Perry.

#552 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 01:46 PM:

Well, that would certainly help mobilize the DEMOCRATIC base.

#553 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 02:26 PM:

I agree with Tom, I don't think Romney will pick Santorum or Paul for VP, and I'm certain he won't pick Gingrich: he can't, given what NG has been saying about him. Um, Perry? There's a reason why Perry is not still campaigning. But I think albatross is correct, there is a possibility that Romney might ask Perry to take the #2 spot -- assuming he gets the nomination, which despite the PACs and all his money, could still not happen. The base clearly doesn't like him, doesn't want to like him, wants to like anybody BUT him, and I'm not sure they're going to be willing to support him as a candidate. Gingrich can see this clearly, which is why he's staying in.

Popcorn futures.

#554 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 02:28 PM:

Santorum as VP would have exactly the same problem that Palin did -- huge swathes of the country would look at him and say not just no, but HELL no, and people who might otherwise have voted for Romney would either hold their noses and vote for Obama, or simply not vote at all.

I'm inclined to agree with albatross that Perry is a likely possibility.

#555 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 03:23 PM:

People won't say HELL NO! to Perry?

#556 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 04:22 PM:

Xopher @549, from what I've read, it was the other way around: McCain wanted Joe Lieberman, and it was his advisors who pushed him into picking Palin. It explains the visible drop in McCain's apparent enthusiasm for campaigning after the convention.

#557 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 04:28 PM:

Nancy, Perry is a stupid nutbar, but he's not as obviously and gaudily deranged* as Santorum (frothy mix, frothy mix†).

* Thank you, Patrick, for this phrase, which is an appropriate descriptor for an appalling array of people. Also an array of appalling people, come to think of it.

† Got to keep up that association, folks. If you don't feel like typing it, call him Sick Rantorum! :-)

#558 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 06:32 PM:

Nancy, #555: Perry is pretty* (there's a reason we call him Governor Goodhair), and with the Republican party machine on his side, he'll be much less likely to make the sort of gaffes that torpedoed his own candidacy. He needs a lot of the same kind of meet-the-press schooling that Palin did; the difference is that I think he's got enough snap both to realize it and to pay attention.

* "He's not there to win women's votes -- no woman is stupid enough!" But he does have the same kind of manicured, coiffed, male-beauty-parlor attractiveness which characterizes a lot of successful religious con-men. This is not IMO a coincidence.

#559 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 06:39 PM:

Xopher@547

perfectly happy to have Santorum use his time and energy on them

Missouri was a "beauty contest" but I'm pretty sure the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses were the first step in the actual delegate selection process.

At any rate, a Romney sweep on Tuesday would have ended the primary campaign for all practical purposes. The Santorum sweep means that Romney has to run a serious primary campaign for at least another month (and possibly all the way into June). Which he'd almost certainly have preferred not to have to do.

#560 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Can anyone explain what a nonbinding primary means? What about a nonbinding caucus?

It just seems to me that if people vote in a primary, the votes are counted, and then there's a winner - how can it be nonbinding?

I don't fully understand caucuses, but it seems like there's a lot of meetings and stuff, and perhaps things change during the meetings?

#561 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 03:05 AM:

Did Speaker Boehner sleep through that whole Komen Foundation debacle? I can't believe he's going after access to contraceptive services. And yes, it is "access". If you can't pay for a vasectomy or tubal ligation out-of-pocket, you don't have access to a common solution for families. Does the Republican party really think that contraception is unpopular? They're trumpeting this as being about religious freedom, but a large hospital or university, with a whole lot of employees, isn't a church -- it's a business. They should have to treat their employees withe the same rights as any other business. I don't even understand why it's boiled up so hot. Many Catholic institutions already provide full insurance coverage, and have for some time.

#562 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 03:26 AM:

Argh! That is "If your medical insurance doesn't cover it, and you can't pay for a vasectomy or tubal ligation out-of-pocket, you don't have access to a common solution for families."

#563 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 07:33 AM:

janetl @ 561:

AFAICT the American Catholic hierarchy (specifically some subset of the bishops in the US) are driving this. For some reason they've gotten the issue right up their noses and gone public that defeat of the whole idea is a non-negotiable requirement of religious freedom. Given that they're 180° away from the large majority of the Catholic laity this looks like becoming a serious fail for the church.

#564 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 07:54 AM:

Nancy Mittens@560

nonbinding primary

Usually what "nonbinding" means in the context of a presidential primary is that the primary results don't affect the delegate selection to the presidential nominating convention. Such a primary is also sometimes referred to as a "beauty contest".

#565 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 09:58 AM:

janetl, #561: I was under the impression that it's illegal for even a Catholic institution to require that its employees be Catholic. If that's the case, then not permitting their medical plan to cover contraception is religious discrimination against their non-Catholic employees. After all, one can confidently expect that the good Catholic employees will never make use of that option. [/sarcasm]

#566 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 12:35 PM:

Lee:

I'm curious how the rules there work. Clearly, the Church can, say, require priests to be Catholics. They probably can't require their janitors to be Catholics, but I don't know how the law works.

Intuitively, whatever the rules are for a church (I wouldn't be surprised if you could require church membership for any job within a church, though I also wouldn't be that surprised if you could only require it for explicitly religious roles like priest or minister or rabbi), they're not going to be the same for larger organizations run by a church. Even if you can require church membership for the janitor of your church, you probably can't for the janitor of your hospital or your school or your church-owned hair salon. But I'd love to know what the law looks like there.

#567 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 07:42 PM:

Thanks, Michael I.

It makes no sense to me - Missouri had a primary which doesn't matter, and will have another that does matter next month. That's just ... weird.

#568 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 08:19 PM:

Oh, my -- it's not just the Republicans: Senate Democrats Split Over Obama Contraception Rule

I've contacted my senators and congressman, and sent a letter to the editor of my local paper.

#569 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 09:18 PM:

albatross @566: Clearly, the Church can, say, require priests to be Catholics. They probably can't require their janitors to be Catholics, but I don't know how the law works.

Currently this here is how the law works: "Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other employment discrimination laws, the Courts of Appeals have uniformly recognized the existence of a 'ministerial exception,' grounded in the First Amendment, that precludes application of such legislation to claims concerning the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers. The Court agrees that there is such a ministerial exception."

#570 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 11:28 PM:

Avram, #569: I should have said that I don't believe a Catholic organization can legally require all of its employees to be Catholics. Where it has a direct bearing on the job (as in the case of a priest), that would be one thing; and a case might be made for teachers in a parochial school. But, as albatross points out, janitors? Or (in a hospital situation) billing clerks, accountants, HR specialists, receptionists, doctors and nurses?

Related: ISTR hearing that many Catholic-run medical schools were now refusing to teach their students how to do D&Cs at all, lest they be used for abortions, and that this was resulting in a serious problem with doctors not being properly trained in the procedure. Am I remembering this correctly? Is it (still) a problem, or not?

#571 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 11:52 PM:

Lee @ 570: I recalled reading that medical schools weren't doing a good job of teaching abrtn, and the techniques used for both it and dealing with miscarriages. I just did some searching online and found several articles about efforts to prevent such training, including pushing for state laws to not fund medical schools who do it. So it's not just Catholic-run medical schools.

#572 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 01:33 AM:

Lee @570, just guessing here, but I figure that if the Supreme Court acknowledged a narrow "ministerial exception" to the ADA, that implies that people outside the scope of that exception (like the hypothetical janitor) can still benefit from things like the ADA.

#573 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 07:50 AM:

Open threadiness: The ongoing war on whistleblowers.

#574 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 07:51 AM:

gnomed

#575 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 08:44 AM:

Meanwhile, down in Oklahoma, inspired by the example in Virginia, a Democratic legislator gets snarky.

#576 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2012, 10:52 PM:

My letter to the editor was published! There were 4 letters in the paper about access to contraception -- all were in favor. The sad thing is that I sighed with relief that there wasn't one against. Today I saw that the Republicans are also preventing re-authorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. When the convention rolls around, I half expect to see a plank advocating keeping women barefoot and pregnant. I realize that primary voters are more extreme than the voters in the general election, but Santorum is on the record saying "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." -- and he is winning some states. That scares me.

#577 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2012, 03:08 PM:

Interesting open threadiness I ran across today (waiting for people to respond to emails so I can do stuff I need to do--grmbl):

A libertarian argument in favor of anti-discrimination laws.[1]

I am not quite convinced by the argument here, but it's at least a plausible justification for something I think was a bad idea in theory, but probably the best policy available at the time in practice.

My sense is that the underlying mental model that most libertarians use to understand the world works *really well* when dealing with individuals making decisions based on more-or-less economic bases--how can I make tradeoffs to get what I want. In that model, racial discrimination is just another preference, and you pay extra for it. An employer who wants to only hire whites puts some value on that whites-only goal, and when the cost exceeds the value, he changes his policy.

And the place most libertarians' models of the world break down, IME, is when you're dealing with the entirely separate ingroup/outgroup or purity or morality sorts of decisions. In many times and places, racial discrimination invoked that mental machinery--people were not simply thinking "I would hire blacks to work in this job if they would take $X/hour less than whites," but something more like, "Hiring blacks for this job would be a betrayal to my race and community, my friends would stop talking to me, my other employees would walk off the job, and they'd all be right to do so." For good and ill, people change their behavior and act against their perceived individual interests in order to act in the interests of their community or their beliefs. Without this, I don't think any society I've ever seen would be remotely a decent place to live.

I think this kind of problem (continuing to be part of my community and support it requires screwing someone else over) is hard to fix. I don't see any way for it to have gotten better at anything like the same rate under more libertarian policies.

#578 ::: Cadbury Moose knows it's spam at #578 ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2012, 01:34 PM:

Or why else would it have a serial number and be posted to an old thread?

#579 ::: Cadbury Moose discovers that gnomes are faster than moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2012, 01:36 PM:

ObSheesh: Furrfu!

(Spam be gone before my very eyes.)

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