To mirror, or not to mirror

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 16:00


Last Saturday, Daniel's post "Exploiting conservative character flaws and weaknesses" argued--among other things--that:
The left can't do the "everyone repeat the same talking point" thing, or the "let's all use the same loaded phrase" thing nor the "coordinated conniption over behaviour routinely seen on our side but unremarked" thing.  Those are tactics the right has perfected that work to their strengths.  We will get better at dealing with sanctimonious hissy fits by recognizing the right will always be better at staging them, and finding uniquely liberal responses.

First though, a broad understanding of these different tendencies, that they exist at all and exist reliably enough to plan for.

Dan's point was a very good and very fundamental one--the right and left do not just differ on a series of issue positions, they represent entirely different temperaments, different attitudes, different worldviews, different sets of values, and it's simply mistaken to think that what represents strength and a successful strategy for one side translates unproblematically to the other side as well.  Just try thinking of how you'd create a conservative strategy on climate change by paying attention to the peer-reviewed science. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Yet, at the same time, I've been writing for years to make what appears to be just the opposite point--I've criticized Democrats and progressives for failing to engage in hegemonic struggle the way that conservatives have.  I've echoed George Lakoff's argument that they've failed to frame their arguments in terms of moral values--unlike conservatives--and that they've failed to build an integrated message infrastructure, combining think-tanks and media into an integrated whole.

So which is it?  Do I agree with Dan that it's a mistake to try to imitate conservatives,and that we need to find our own way?  Or do I stick with my guns, and keep agreeing with Lakoff?  Some of both, actually--and I think we need a well-ground, reality-based argument to distinguish ways in which our actions can and should strive to mirror those of the right from ways in which they should definitely should not.  For example, on the one hand, repetition can be good or evil--repeating lies is clearly evil, but repeating truths is how we internalize them and make them our own. OTOH, the same is not true of hissy fits.  Their roots are toxic, and they are particularly fitted to conservative politics.

Paul Rosenberg :: To mirror, or not to mirror
I discussed this back in October in my diary, "Hissy Fits In Historical Context--Health Care, Racism & The Authoritarian Divide-Part 2 ", where I followed Digby's original diary on hissy fits by turning to an essay "The Practice of Ritual Defamation".  While that original claimed it could be used by any and all groups, I presented an argument that it was uniquely suited to be used by ingroups against outgroups or their members, and thus was inherently suited to conservative political practice, particularly as understood through the lens of social dominance orientation.

So, hissy fits are out (though not legitimate outrage), but what of the more ambiguous strategies and tactic?  I've long echoed George Lakoff's argument that progressives fail to understand.that politics is much, much more than just a set of good positions on the issues, or even a set of popular ones.  And there's no reason at all why progressives can't be passionate, ground their politics in their values, and tell compelling stories to communicate both how they see the world, and how it can be made better.

Still, there is a difference between doing that and doing

the "let's all use the same loaded phrase" thing
at least with mind-numbing repetitiveness.

As I wrote myself in a followup/response diary:

We need to find ways of acting that are true to our values and cognitive styles and strengths.  That's the main post [sic] of his diary, and I agree 100%.  But it's also true that learning how to adapt and use different tools for different jobs--to think situationally--is also a liberal strength.  And so while it's a bad idea to want to be like that all the time, I think it's a good idea to be able to act like that on occassion, when it would be particularly good to do so.  We maybe don't want to be fast-ball pitchers.  But we want to be able to throw one when we need to.

Conservative Talking Points On Economics

Given how effectively conservatives have used the uniform talking-point approach over the years--both as strategy and tactic, it would be foolish for us to ignore its potency, even if it would equally foolish to try using it as slavishly as conservatives do.  Let's take a look at recent example--something I originally intended to write about last weekend, in fact.  I noticed several items at Talking Points Memo while I was over there participating in the book discussion, two of which related to economic policy.  They show the potency of talking points, regardless of how foolish the underlying policy may be.  And they sharpen the question of how we ought to respond--not just in the moment, but in the long run as well.

First was "Chao Praises Bush Economy, Rips Dems: Unemployment Was 4.7% In 2007", which read, in part:

Appearing on Fox News today, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao -- who is also the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- said that the economy is entirely the Democrats' fault, not the Bush administrations, by citing the low unemployment in 2007.

Chao dismissed Democratic objections that the Bush administration was responsible for the bad economy, through the costs of war spending and other issues. "You know it's pretty audacious of them to still claim that. Basically, this is their economy," said Chao. "In 2007, the unemployment rate was about 4.7%, and now with all this massive government spending the unemployment rate is 10.2%."

TPM goes on to marvel at Chao's magical disappearance of 2008 from the historical record--especially since she was still Bush's Secretary of Labor during that disastrous year.

But there was more to what Chao said in the video clip TPM had, and while it was less spectacularly outrageous, it was much more revealing of the conservative rhetorical strategy on economics, which becomes particularly evident when you look at some other items on the TPM site at the same time. First, here's more from Chao:

This Administration does not seem to understand that it's the private sector that creates jobs, and when there's too much uncertainty, when there's the specter of increased taxes, massive government regulations, robbing the workers of their right to a secret ballot election, these are harmful to job creation.

So, community organizing is not going to create jobs.  Nor is holding meetings going to create jobs.  The government's role is to create the environment through which the private sector can create jobs. Two-thirds of the jobs created are from the small businesses.

The idea that the private sector "creates jobs" is part of an entire ideology of business-class valorization.  In reality, the private sector does not create jobs.  Indeed, taken as a whole, its only purpose is to create profits.  If it can make profits by creating jobs, it will do that.  If it can make profits without creating jobs, it will do that.  If it can make profits by destroying jobs, it will do that.  If it can make profits by outsourcing them to Mexico, Honduras and China, it will do that.  Jobs are of great rhetorical and political value to the private sector (when fighting environmental regulations, for example), but when given a choice between jobs and profits, jobs don't even come in second. Or third.  It's profits, profits, profits, profits, profits, profits, profits, profits.  Profits constitute the entire top 10.  The top 100.  The top 10,000.  Need I go on? There are, of course, individual exceptions.  But that's all that they are.  They are exceptions to what's true of the private sector as a sector.

So what does create jobs?  Simple: all else being equal, what creates jobs is demand.  And when the private sector cannot create enough demand itself--say because unemployment is so high that even those who still have jobs are so afraid of losing them that they're cutting back on spending--then it's up to government to create demand.  That's what Keynesianism is all about.  And if it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, it should be good enough for Chao.

A similar line was pushed by Orin Hatch, as reported in "Hatch Doesn't Know Why Dems Are 'So Doggone Stupid'":

"Q: The criticism, though is that if you give tax cuts to small businesses that they'll just keep the money, that they won't necessarily use it to hire more people.  How do you answer that?

Hatch: Well, I've never seen that happen.  If you give tax cuts to small businesses, most small business people want to do better. Most of them can't do better without more employees or more product, and so generally they come up with more employees, more product, more opportunities, and more economic development. That's been the history of our country.  I don't know why people on the other side are so doggone stupid that they think the federal government is going to produce jobs.  What they're producing are small-time government jobs. What they're producing are small-time government jobs. That's what they're doing. And it's just awful.

Q: I like the way you don't mince words.  Senator Orin Hatch."

The surface of what's going on here is pretty simple.  Once again, it revolves around the narrative valorization of the small businessman.  And as befits a valorization narrative, it's generalized  in the extreme--which his part of what gives it its surface plausibility.  Over the long run, it's true that "small business people want to do better," and in order to do better they need "more employees" and  "more product."  But what's true in general is not true in all situations--such as during a recession, for example, not to mention the mother of all recessions.  During a recession, what they need most is demand, and until they get that demand, they are not going to be hiring anyone, thank you very much.

What Hatch is saying is like saying that since Denver is a mile high and New Orleans is at sea level, then the entire trip from New Orleans to Denver must be uphill--the same logic of "more employees" and "more product" must hold all throughout the journey.  But that's like saying that if you drive from New Orleans to Denver, it's impossible to drive into a ditch along the way, because that mean going downhill into the ditch--and that would be impossible.

That's what's going on at a relatively surface level--although apparently it's too deep for most Democratic talking heads to know how to handle.  But there's something much deeper going on that takes us back toward the underlying thrust of this diary--the role of the authoritarian black-and-white worldview.  If there's the private sector and the government, you've got a simple black-and-white setup potential there, and conservatives have been playing that for all it's worth for well over a hundred years: the private sector creates jobs, and the government destroys them.  Think about it.  Earlier this year, Michael Steele--a former Lt. Governor, i.e. government employee said that government has never created a single job.  It's not just absurd, coming from a former government employee, it's downright ludicrous.  But saying ludicrous things is no impediment for conservatives.  They do not believe in facts.  They believe in themselves, out of a narcissistic belief in their own superiority.  The big picture ideological justification is an identification with God--for religious conservatives--or some other unquestionable God-substitute for those who are not religious.  (Sociopathic egotism in the case of Randians, for example.)

Even if there was originally only the foggiest justification, endless repetition of the claim that government is the problem and private enterprise the solution turns this claim into a catechism, a species of holy writ, and simply by virtue of association, by the fact that one is repeating holy writ, one becomes imbued with a sense of infallibility--which is particularly helpful when one is uttering utter nonsense--as Steele was when he claimed that government had never created a single job.

When Chao said, "So, community organizing is not going to create jobs.  Nor is holding meetings going to create jobs," she was invoking that underlying conservative framework: Government can't create jobs, only private businesses can.  So of course politicians meeting can't create jobs.  How could they?  She then goes on the explain--only by creating the environment so that private businesses can create jobs  Only by doing what private businesses tell them to do.  Only by acting as servants of private business.

Of course the evidence is quite contrary to this belief.  Although far from being the anti-business demons of conservative's imagination, Democrats as a whole are significantly more balanced in terms of their economic policies, and they are far more successful in terms of the economies they preside over.  But, of course, as already noted, truth is irrelevant for conservatives.  The only thing that matters is the identity of the person making claims

So what's the alternative?  Well, for one thing, it's helpful to note that the underlying dichotomy is entirely false.  In fact, there's virtually no such thing as a private sector without government.  This is so in so many ways it's not even funny. No government, no laws, no protection of property except for your own force of arms... welcome to the advanced capitalist economy of Afghanistan... if you were to be extremely lucky.

On the other hand, the identification of capitalism with the free market is equally false.  Conservatives rarely argue for capitalism, they're always arguing for the free market.  But capitalism and the free market are utterly at odds with each other.  Capitalism is based on the accumulation of capital, and capital can only be accumulated when someone is making a profit. OTOH, the free market means unfettered competition, and the natural result of such competition is that profits are driven down to zero.  Of course, free markets have never existed, which is why capitalism can do so well, in its own terms.  But the reality of capitalism--especially the obscene concentrations of money and power in the unworthy hands of so few--is so distasteful that it must always be justified in terms of its de facto opposite: free markets.

What underlies the two above critiques is both a more systemic view of how things work, and a more critical view.  This, in turn, relates to greater levels of cognitive complexity, and to operating in a less fearful environment, where ideas and alternatives can be contemplated in a more clear-headed fashion. In short--it takes a non-authoritarian mindset to sustain a clear understand of the deep problems behind the babbling of blowhards like Chao and Hatch.

Beyond Economics

Of course the authoritarian black-and-white/good-vs-evil dichotomous worldview is hardly limited to economics. It shows up everywhere in conservative narratives.  Consider a couple of other stories that popped at TPM in the same time-frame.

First, from Eric Kleefeld, comes "GOP Rep. Foxx Denounces Liberal 'Character Assassination,' Previously Said Health Care Bill Scarier Than Terrorism":
First, Kleefeld reports:

In a profile piece for the Winston-Salem Journal, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) made an interesting declaration about Democrats -- that without ideas, all they have to use against the conservative opposition is character assassination.
"I'm a small-government conservative, and that's not very fashionable in Washington," said Foxx. "The liberals have no new ideas, and so they're reduced to character assassination."

Then he observes:

The accusation of character assassination seems a bit peculiar, coming from Foxx. She has previously said of the health care bill: "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country." And she's also implied that the Dems' health care plans would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."

One might also note that over the past 11 months it's been the GOP that's been noticeably lacking in ideas--to the point of being downright embarrasing, in fact.
But if one looks at the original story, there's a lot more crazy going on.  The story goes on to cite a number of her more high-profie one-liners

all of which drew negative national attention:
  • In April, during a House speech on a Democratic proposal to ban bonuses for some executives, she used the term "tar baby," a phrase that has carried various connotations over the years but is now seen by many as a racial epithet.
  • A few weeks later, she said it was a "hoax" to characterize the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard as a hate crime. Witnesses during the murder trial testified that Shepard was killed because he was gay. When Foxx made her comments, Shepard's mother was in the House gallery to watch a debate on hate-crime legislation. Foxx later issued a quasi-apology.
  • During debate over health-care reform, Foxx said that Democratic proposals would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." Later, she said, "We have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist."
  • Most recently, on Nov. 19, Foxx said it was Republicans, not Democrats, who were mainly responsible for passing civil-rights legislation during the 1960s.

The article then goes into more detail on the last remark:

A narrow point

That last remark caused some commentators to note that the Civil Rights Act was pushed by Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and was sponsored by Democratic leaders in Congress.

Still, Foxx's description had a degree of factual accuracy. Although more Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act than Republicans, the Republicans had a higher percentage of their members supporting it.

"On that narrow factual point, she is correct," said Harry Watson, a professor of history at UNC Chapel Hill and an expert on the Civil Rights Movement.

But Watson added that Foxx is wrong to omit the political and historical context. Most of the opponents of civil rights were from the South, and most Southern congressmen at the time were Democrats. The passage of civil-rights legislation ushered in a political tide that allowed Republicans to dominate the South.

"The people that the Republicans recruited into their party, and which came to dominate it, were by and large unfriendly to civil-rights legislation," Watson said.

Foxx said that the political ramifications after the Civil Rights Act was passed are irrelevant to the point she was trying to make.

When she made her remark, she said, she was responding to a Democratic House member who accused Republicans of having a weak record on environmental issues. Foxx was arguing that, contrary to what some Democrats claim, Republicans actually have a strong record on the environment, just as they do on civil rights.

As usual, the objective academic was pretty damn useless--though of course it's impossible to lay blame, since he may well have said some much more critical things that didn't make it into print.  But the end result was lame in the extreme, regardless.   The reality, of course, is that Democrats supported civil rights despite the fact that it was extremely costly to them politically.  And Foxx is just flat wrong that ' it was Republicans, not Democrats, who were mainly responsible for passing civil-rights legislation during the 1960s'.  The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress with substantial majorities, and the Republicans couldn't have passed anything by themselves--even if they had wanted to.  Yes, the Democrats had substantial internal oppostion from their Dixiecrat wing, and they needed GOP support to help them overcome it.  But without Democrats initiating the process, nothing would ever have been done.  Indeed, even the much weaker 1957 Civil Rights Act was passed by a Democratic majority in control of both houses--most notably with LBJ as Majority Leader in the Senate. The Republicans who did support civil rights legislation have almost entirely vanished from the party at the federal level.  They're sneered at and jeered at as RINOs now--Republicans In Name Only--by the crowd that wildly cheers Foxx.  But when Foxx needs cover to paint herself as part of the party of saints, she just can't get enough of those RINOs--forget hstorical reality, she says, think only about the name.

The exact same thing is true of the environment, of course.  Teddy Roosevelt would be as hated today by the GOP base as Abraham Lincoln would be.

Such is the mendacity of the authoritarians, when their side of the black-and-white divide turns up with the black hats.

Which brings us to the last story from TPM at that time, the GOP senators' poutrage at Al Franken for the fact that they voted to protect gang rapists:

Eric Kleefeld again, this time writing, "Senate GOPers: It's Al Franken's Fault We're Being Attacked For Votes Against Anti-Rape Amendment".  This one is so short, I'm going to quote it in full:

The Politico reports that Senate Republicans are outraged at Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) due to their votes against an amendment he introduced, to crack down on the rape of employees of military contractors, now being used against them:
    The Republicans are steamed at Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers -- and because Franken isn't doing much to stop them.

    "Trying to tap into the natural sympathy that we have for this victim of this rape --and use that as a justification to frankly misrepresent and embarrass his colleagues, I don't think it's a very constructive thing," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in an interview.

    ...

    "I don't know what his motivation was for taking us on, but I would hope that we won't see a lot of Daily Kos-inspired amendments in the future coming from him," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, No. 4 in the Senate Republican leadership. "I think hopefully he'll settle down and do kind of the serious work of legislating that's important to Minnesota."

No, this is not The Onion.

No, at this rate, The Onion is going to be out of business.

But this brings us right back to Dan's original point.  The idea of piling on in response to the GOP's piling on to Franklin would be stupid.  They're revving up all this energy to make themselves look like fools.  Get the fuck our of the way when they do this!

But make damn sure that you use this against them when they come up for re-election.  Use it mercilessly.  Use it repetitively.  And use it in context:

    Your GOP senator voted to protect gang rapists, and when they were criticized for it, they didn't have the decency to admit they'd made a horrible mistake--instead, they blamed the senator who introduced the bill in the first place--a bill that 10 of their Republican colleagues had the good sense to vote for, even if it was proposed by a Democrat. Don't vote for a stupid Senator, who can't even admit when he was clearly in the wrong. We all make mistakes. But when we do, we clean up the mess ourselves. It's called "responsibility." Clean up the mess. Take responsibility. Give our state a senator we can be proud of once again.

Don't act like the authoritarian GOP.  But don't let them shut you up, either.  Stand up for your values. Stand up for your beliefs.  Stand up for those who support you. Stand up for truth.  Stand up against the lies.


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Totally agreed. (4.00 / 3)
You've expanded and nuanced the gist I presented into a fuller and richer form.  

On a tangent, I think the bit about the civil rights legislation needs the codicil that not only would most of the Democrats who voted against it be Republicans today without question, the Republicans who voted for it would all be Democrats.  

Roberty Byrd is probably the exception, but Zell Miller proves the rule.  The Party did leave him, and quite rightly.


Robert Byrd Is One Of A Kind, No Question (0.00 / 0)
Just one for-example: His speeches against the Iraq War were nothing short of spine-tingling.

Random Lengths News ran one of them as an op-ed at the time, when very few national politicians were speaking out, as opposed to mumbling.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Current contests (4.00 / 1)
center around identity politics. If you are a small town white, you vote Republican. If you're not, you don't.

The battle is then over the suburban folks who straddle the fence.

What is foremost on their minds is the shrinking of the middle class.

They abandoned the GOP because the GOP represented change (for the worse).

They turned to the Democrats to preserve the status quo, and if they don't accomplish that, they will turn back to the GOP.

In contrast, a good government would have as its chief task adjusting Americans to a less affluent lifestyle.

J. Earl Carter tried to do this and was hounded out of office. The subsequent 30 years have been about papering over reality with debt. The inability to face reality makes this society ungovernable.

To make the society governable requires a spiritual reformation.

That is where the battle lies and the loony right is currently unopposed.


Huh? (4.00 / 2)
In contrast, a good government would have as its chief task adjusting Americans to a less affluent lifestyle.

Given the weakening of the middle class, increases in poverty, and the ever increasingly percentage of wealth that flows to those at the very top of the economic pyramid, I find this an odd goal.

I'd say that what good government requires are policies designed to rebuild and strengthen the middle class, to reward work over speculation and inheritance, to ensure the kind of economic security and opportunity needed to allow people to invest in themselves and their families. I'd say we also need policies that encourage and support the same things abroad - because they are not in tension.

I tend to think, in addition, that by setting up the rules of the game in order to produce ever greater fortunes, we suggest to ordinary Americans that the only thing that matters is affluence.  Make inequality something we fight against, rather than produce, and we would be sending a different (and better) message.

I'm not sure why you disagree - care to elaborate?

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Who says, a "less affluent lifestyle" is necessary? (0.00 / 0)
Do you measure affluence on how much you pay at the pump and for Con-Artistic (or whatsthename of your energy provider)? Nonsense!

The lifestyle has to change abut, but not necessarily for the worse. And the new tcnilogies could even provide a much needed boost for the economy! Really, raising fear about the American way of life is a FUD campaign. That way has changed countless times, nothing to fear about that. Or do you want to cling to the go old times of driving horse carriages?


[ Parent ]
One of the main problems in the world is overconsumption (0.00 / 0)
of world resources by the US. One of the main reasons we overconsume is because of a desire (perhaps instilled by advertising and M$M) to live in what appears to be affluence.

If such overcomsumption is truly a problem for the developing world because we deprive them of resouces that are then wasted by our pseudo-affluence, how can the situation be changed without a less affluent lifestyle in the US?

We live this way at the expense of other nations, no?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
"We live this way at the expense of other nations, no?" Yes. (0.00 / 0)
No doubt about that. However, I'm not sure that a "less afluent lifestyle" is necessary to correct this. I guess, the point is, that we differ on defining "afluent". For instance, are you less afluent if your car runs un electricity instead of gas? Ar you less afluent if your energy is created in large parts by alternative power sources instead of coal powerhouses? Are you less afluent if your commodities are made of new hemp fiber composites instead of plastics? Etc etc.

Really, I don't see why Americans shouldn't be able to keep their lifstyle at an comparable level while at the same time greatly rducing their carbon footprint. Is this the nation which is famous for its "can do" spirit, or what?


[ Parent ]
Perhaps (0.00 / 0)
but I don't think that finding a less horrible way to support our overconsumption is really gonna contribute positivly to the global efforts.

Its not only about "carbon footprints" - its about wasting ALL resources. I just heard a statistic on national public radio (no link because it was in passing) that up to 45% of the food products in the US end up in the garbage. Even if you run the farms, the delivery trucks, and the garbage trucks on the least offense form of energy - you still have a major problem.

I'm sure that's just one example.

I take a basic approach to the issue, Gray. Take the recent/current financial "downturn". Most folks seem to agree that such is the result of pursuing "unsustainable" programs and policies. Then, people talk about "getting back to normal". Well, if "normal" was unsustainable, why even think about going back?  

Same calculation for American consumption and wastful lifestyle. It is unsustainable. Why try to more efficiently pursue the unsustainable? Better to dial it back and start practicing a little constraint in our ravenous ingesting of world resources.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
"you still have a major problem" Yup. But... (0.00 / 0)
...it's not the "delivery trucks, and the garbage trucks", in that example. No misunderstanding, of cours they should run on clean energy. But they shouldn't run at all carrying around surplus food. The problem is the farms, which shouldn't produce excess stuff which nobody needs in the first place. Imagine how many resources are wasted with this nonsense! You could create lots of renewable energy if they planted switchgrass instead. But, alas, the system has no incentive for that, it only rewards farmers who produce more corn and wheat than is needed. Idiotic!

And yeah, you're right that simply going back to "normal" would be a dumb move. Let's rather have a paradigm shift and reform the system into something more reasonable and sustainable. This way, thecrabin footprint could be easily reduced by 50% or more without anybody really missing anything. All it takes is the political vision and the will to do it.


[ Parent ]
Quality vs. Quantity (0.00 / 0)
Your usage of "pseudo-affluence" is well-advised.

A good part of this problem is a direct result of corporate power, which is inherently invested in promoting quantity of consumption, as opposed to quality.  Quality consumption can be a good deal less profitable to them on a number of levels--as well being much less destructive of opportunities for others.

First off, quality merchandise can last a loooong time. People even hand stuff down one generation to another.

Second, the utmost in quality is experiential, and the inputs to that aren't corporate at all.  Indeed, time is arguably the greatest input, as in time to enjoy life--alone, as well as with friends and family, and a strong labor movement would have almost undoubtedly worked harder to reduce the work-week than to increase wages as labor's share of productivity gains, had not capital turned merciless in its war on labor in the 1970s.

Third, well, I'm short on time myself just now & shouldn't really have even begun this comment, so you're just going to have to finish it yourself...

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Why I used it (0.00 / 0)
Your usage of "pseudo-affluence" is well-advised.

I knew I was opening a can o' worms. But we can agree not to look inside for too long.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Philosophical Wormhalves And Wormholes Agree! (0.00 / 0)
"Take care when chasing monsters, lest you become one, too. When you look into the can of worms, the can of worms also looks back into you."

    --Nietzsche's lazy-ass, fish-all-day and drink-all-night brother


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I like worms (0.00 / 0)
because they so clearly demonstrate that a highly centralized nervous system, i.e. a brain, is not really all that necessary even for such complex multi-tissue organisms.  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Challenge the Frame by Posing the Question (4.00 / 7)
We do challenge authority and pose questions fairly well.

Why can't American business create American jobs?

The talking points flow from the question. While we wont hammer the talking points, We can pose the question. What would happen if each of the major blogs and bloggers posted a diary posing this question for a week.

As long as the Question is challenging enough it will create the conflict that the media seems to feed off.


This Is A BRILLIANT Idea! (4.00 / 1)
In fact, it's worth repeating with other questions of the week.  Perhaps over time we could make this a monthly thing--one week of every month all the blogs asking the same question.

But this is a such a great and fundamental place to start, I'm definitely in support of it.


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Thanx (0.00 / 0)
I expected that it would be a continuing thread.

Why did Reagan raise taxes?

I just hope that when CNBC rises to the defense of American business one of the "balance" talking heads they bring on will be bold enough that when excessive regulation bubbles up they will point out that China doesn't regulated they control, heck they shoot managers.


[ Parent ]
Yup, the "blogosphere question of the month" would raise awareness... (0.00 / 0)
...for important problems, by being a publicly celebrated event. Even the effing corporate media may cover that, hey, we all know how they love a good kabuki theatre! If this could be turned into an institution, running, say, every first monday of the month (or first sunday, with the media running the reports on monday?), this could gain some real traction.

However, some heavy organizing is necessary to work the details out, most imporantly how to find the question to spread (imho prolly by a voting system for the participating bloggers). But this should be doable. Hmm, is there a blogger meeting in the near future where the foundation can be laid?


[ Parent ]
he morality of lnguage (0.00 / 0)
I've echoed George Lakoff's argument that [Democrats and progressives have] failed to frame their arguments in terms of moral values--unlike conservatives--and that they've failed to build an integrated message infrastructure, combining think-tanks and media into an integrated whole.

What the Republicans and conservatives have succeeded at is creating moral narratives that revolve by and large around The Lord. And this is ethics by way of tautology.

Do Democrats and progressives want to mimic this by creating moral narratives that revolve by and large around The Word. The Word by way of The Enlightenment? An Enlightenment said to have extruded universal "natural rights" applicable to all human beings.

But as I noted previously with respect to "natural right":

"Natural rights" are a historical, cultural contraption...not an ontological or telelogical explication of human interaction.

What natural rights?! Name them. And demonstrate epistemologically how these rights are embedded in...what? Our DNA? Our God? Our enlightened constitution? Our mores, folkways, customs, conventional wisdom? We don't have any "universal" natural rights. There are no deontological agendas we can impose on particular human behaviors other than through laws, through moral persuasion, through shunning, through punishments and rewards.

After all, there have been hundreds of vast and varied cultures throughout recorded human history that practiced enormously conflicting and contradictory sets of prescriptive and proscriptive social, political and economic behaviors. Are we expected to believe that John Locke and other from "The Enlightenment" came along and reduced that all down to the most enlightened "natural" rights of all?

It's simple: No God [i.e., no omniscient and omnipotent point of view] and all human behaviors are permitted. We just come up with different rationalizations to justify them...or to justify the punishment of those who don't share our own.

So: Should liberals and progressives aim to mimic the Ayn Randroid Objectivists and the Cato Libertarians on the right? Should we aim to explicate our own enlightened moral catechism from which human behavior can then become impaled intellectually in turn on our own renditions of The Whole Truth?

I say nope.

I say human moral interaction must revolve instead around pragmatism. And that this pragmatism must revolve in turn on exposing the manner in which all human ethical fonts sooner or later come down to power. To wit: Who has the power to enforce one set of values over all the others?

There is no getting around Marx or political economy here. Ethics in this day and age is not about who has Kant on their side. It is about who has Bilderberg.


Neither Paul nor Lakoff (4.00 / 1)
have suggested rooting moral narratives in either religion or natural rights, so why are you asking these questions?

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
what's left? (0.00 / 0)
My point is this: If you don't root them in God or in The Good, what's left?

Paul seems to root them...to ground them...in words.

That's why I am always after him to probe the limitations of language...re moral narratives...by grounding his ideas in an actual discussion of alleged moral or immoral behavior we can relate to more exitentially.

He can choose the issue.


[ Parent ]
Who Says You Need Grounding??? (4.00 / 3)
What if there is no grounding?

What if you depend on pluralistic lateral feedback rather than monolithic horizontal grounding?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
okay, but.... (0.00 / 0)
Yes, "pluralistic lateral feedback". That's more or less my line.

Well, in the context of pragmatism and political economy, of course.

But I can't square this pragmatic approach with your denouement:

Don't act like the authoritarian GOP.  But don't let them shut you up, either.  Stand up for your values. Stand up for your beliefs.  Stand up for those who support you. Stand up for truth.  Stand up against the lies.

Okay:

Give us an example of the values you embrace with respect to a particular moral and political issue. Then examine how you approached them as part of a "belief" system; then speculate on how this relates to what we can "know" about this; then, finally, examine how we can translate the definitions of the words we use to defend our arguments into a language that expresses the passion we feel about our moral values without at the same time projecting to others as "authoritarian".


[ Parent ]
You Have No Idea What "Authoritarian" Means (0.00 / 0)
Which is hardly the only problem you have.  Just the easiest to name.

You really ought to familiarize yourself with the literature on authoritative (not authoritarian) parenting.  This is the real-life everyday source-domain model that Lakoff talked about way back in 1996.

At this late date, there's really no excuse for being totally ignorant of it while parading around as some sort of know-it-all.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
more of the same of...what exactly? (0.00 / 0)
Again:

Give us an example of the values you embrace with respect to a particular moral and political issue. Then examine how you approached them as part of a "belief" system; then speculate on how this relates to what we can "know" about this; then, finally, examine how we can translate the definitions of the words we use to defend our arguments into a language that expresses the passion we feel about our moral values without at the same time projecting to others as "authoritarian".

Why do you keep avoiding this?

In my opinion [and that is all it is] you are very good with words---up in the stratosphere. But I am very good with words too---down on the ground. So you avoid taking the discussion there.

That's your perogative of course. But it is where the intellectual meets the road that interest me though.



[ Parent ]
What Are You Trying To Prove By Asking Me To Jump Through All Of Your Hoops? (0.00 / 0)
The only thing I'm trying to avoid is wasting my time.

I know you think you know God's secret handshake, which you got from reading Kant while doing 30-minute headstands.

But what if you're wrong?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
more of the same (0.00 / 0)
Why do you ever aim silly ad hominems at me? You ridicule me by way of avoiding my arguments.

Put the sky hooks down and "tussle" down here in the nitty gritty of existential ambiguity.

Again, choose a moral issue that interests you most and we'll discuss your abstractions more substantively.


[ Parent ]
You answered your own question (4.00 / 2)
I suspect if you want to probe the limitations of language, you should begin by making a case for how these limitations undermine the larger point. It's not obvious, nor is Paul (or anyone else, I'd wager) suggesting that language lacks limitations.  

If you want to engage Lakoff on this subject, he's written about it quite extensively. Object to his argument if you wish, but for the moment you're offering conclusions, not criticisms.

For myself, I think your call to settle grand philosophical issues misses the point. Most people have a vague sense of morality, of right or wrong. The GOP seeks to engage people at this level, and Democrats refuse to do so. That is bad politics, and I suspect also leads to worse policy. I'm not saying that GOP moralism leads to good policy, but that the Democrats refusal to critically engage moral questions leads to bad policy - because these choices have moral consequences and we are not engaging them. Personally, I think most people's moral instincts are pretty solid - the problems come from application - which can be dealt with through thinking and talk.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Amen To All The Above (4.00 / 1)
Most folks want to do the right thing most of the time by a pretty wide margin.

The failure to talk politics in moral terms is a disaster of unfathomable proportions.


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
I'd say the biggest barrier to doing the right thing is fear, (4.00 / 2)
especially fear of the other. Most people also share a sense that government ought to be helping everyone.  We can appeal to that goal and fight that fear, through a politics of solidarity.

But that will have to be built by those of us on the outside, as Democratic officials seem hell bent on undermining existing policies that promote this sort of politics (like SS and Medicare.)

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Catfood Coalition Democrats? (4.00 / 2)
Is that what we should start calling them?

One thing's for damn sure, this ought to be a way to destroy them.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
a clearly ambiguous world (0.00 / 0)
For myself, I think your call to settle grand philosophical issues misses the point.

My point is just the opposite: that "grand philosophical issues" can never be settled the closer the language of  philosophy gets to the ground.

The same, however, with the language of politics and morality.

This is true for both Democrats and Republicans. And the danger of supposing that language can "name" the moral or political truth [as Rand would say] reflects by far the greatest peril facing the human race. I quote for example the 20th century---fasicsm, communism in particular.

But what does it mean that the, "Democrats refusal to critically engage moral questions leads to bad policy - because these choices have moral consequences and we are not engaging them."

Give me an example of this.

Also, given human history to date, how reasonable is it to argue that "most people's moral instincts are pretty solid". On the contrary, most people allow their moral narratives to be shaped by others---over and over again. And first and foremost, above all else, they insist that shape be as...authoritarian as possible?

 


[ Parent ]
Nonsense (4.00 / 2)
My point is just the opposite: that "grand philosophical issues" can never be settled the closer the language of  philosophy gets to the ground.

And my point was that it's irrelevant. Settle was perhaps the wrong word, but I suppose instead you are suggesting that we must grapple with issues that cannot be settled before we can talk about other issues. No thanks.

The same, however, with the language of politics and morality.

Gigantic, unargued leap.  It's quite easy for the rest of us  to have discussions of politics - albeit more difficult if you keep asking foundational questions and insisting that people always address the abortion issue.  As with all questions, one must begin with some assumptions.

And the danger of supposing that language can "name" the moral or political truth [as Rand would say] reflects by far the greatest peril facing the human race. I quote for example the 20th century---fasicsm, communism in particular.

The dangers of fascism and communism were not that they used language to name moral or political truth.  If you are going to engage in this sort of hyperbole, you should take the time explain how you are getting from A to W.

It's quite hypocritical of you to suggest that other people are failing to connect the dots when your arguments have all the structure of an M.C. Eshcer picture.  

Give me an example of this.

You want me to give you an example of Democrats not doing something?  Throughout the entire health care debate, Democrats have focused almost entirely on issues of cost and efficiency rather than on the idea that health care is a right. Most Americans agree that health care is a right, and that government has a responsibility to protect this right. Assuming this to be true, they ought to be making the case for health care along these lines, and tying this issue to others analogous issues. That is how people discuss the moral dimensions of policy questions.

Also, given human history to date, how reasonable is it to argue that "most people's moral instincts are pretty solid". On the contrary, most people allow their moral narratives to be shaped by others---over and over again. And first and foremost, above all else, they insist that shape be as...authoritarian as possible?

As I said, I think the problem is not of values, but application. Your vague appeal to history cannot distinguish between these two things. I never suggested people tend to do the right thing. At the moment, the authoritarians (who rarely admit to such) speak to people's actual concerns about the world, which include questions of morality (especially fairness) while the other side talks largely in wonk talk, failing to place their arguments within a moral narrative.  If the former lose, is it because people are authoritarians or because Democrats refuse to engage people?  Appeal to who won cannot settle this.  But your demands here seem more likely to contribute to the problem than the solve it.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
Stop Slandering MC Escher! (4.00 / 1)
Your willingness and capacity to respond in detail to such mountains of pompous bullshit is truly remarkable, David.

But the strain of doing this is starting to show:

It's quite hypocritical of you to suggest that other people are failing to connect the dots when your arguments have all the structure of an M.C. Eshcer picture.

Escher's picture had quite remarkable structure, both intricate and impossible.

Mr. W's arguments, just one out of two.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
the subjunctive mode (0.00 / 0)
Your willingness and capacity to respond in detail to such mountains of pompous bullshit is truly remarkable, David.

This says so much more about you than me, Paul.

Why do you allow tantrums to dominate your reaction to me? I never have any illusions that I am an authority on things such as this.

I'm just speculating that, once your words are decoupled from the sky hooks...the serial absractions...your arguments would deflate rather strenuously.

But I can't seem to engage you down here in order to expose the extent to which your assumptions are, in fact, as subjunctive as my own.

Subjunctive. Are you familiar with this "frame of mind" in political discussions?  


[ Parent ]
on the other hand... (0.00 / 0)
but I suppose instead you are suggesting that we must grapple with issues that cannot be settled before we can talk about other issues. No thanks.

No, I am suggesting only that the overwhelming preponderance of moral issues will ever be grappled with short of "settling" them. And that when folks come to acknowledge this lack of authority here they will be more open to moderation, negociation and compromise. Indeed, the very nature of democracy itself is predicated on this.

I focus more attention instead on the need to expose how political economy functions to resolve issues revolving around economic and foreign policy in America. The Bilderberg world needs to be grappled with so much more systemically. Folks need to know how the world revolves not around "ideas" [let alone "ideals"] but around power.

The dangers of fascism and communism were not that they used language to name moral or political truth.  If you are going to engage in this sort of hyperbole...

Fascism and communism were embraced by untold millions because they bought into the insufferable hyperbole that one or the other was an authority on race and history and culture and human relationships and social, political and economi justice. The hook was the emotional and psychological sense of belonging to history necessarily, right?

Throughout the entire health care debate, Democrats have focused almost entirely on issues of cost and efficiency rather than on the idea that health care is a right.

I agree with you. But with the inefficiencies and runaway costs built into the current healthcare delivery system...factors literally imperiling the economy as a whole...this focus is just as crucial as the larger issue of the relationship between a government, its citizens and healthcare as a moral issue between them. And the manner in which the top Democrats approached this revolves almost entirely around the sort of crony capitalism Lieberman, Nelson, Baucus, Reid etc. embody in Congress. Until this is thoroughly exposed, citizens can be easily duped into seeing healthcare reform as "the road to socialism" in America. State capitalism, after all, is little more than socialism for the rich and powerful.

After all, for christ sakes, political "principles" are not what move the legislative and policy "debates" along in Washington are they?

At the moment, the authoritarians (who rarely admit to such) speak to people's actual concerns about the world, which include questions of morality (especially fairness) while the other side talks largely in wonk talk, failing to place their arguments within a moral narrative.

No, we never encounter much in the way of "wonk talk" from Paul, do we?

If by "morality" you are aiming in the general direction of Drew Westin's arguments in "The Political Brain" then, sure, I can relate to that. Yes, it is important to speak of the "compacts" between the governors and the governned in terms of things like fairness and opportunity and justice and equality.

But these can never be more than ever shifting assumptions and speculations. Rooted always in ambiguity and contingency. They can never be pinned down as more than that. That's my concern. That "morality" might be hijacked by the progressive equivalents of Glenn Beck and the Tea Baggers. Or that in an effort to focus the beam exclusively on a more "idealistic" rendering of economic and social justice we lose sight of what really propels human history: raw, naked power.

Until many more American citizens are enlightened as to how Bilderberg, the CFR, the TC etc. function systemically to sustain those who own and operate the American tentacle of the global economy, they will never "get" things like the economic bailout, healthcare 'reform' or Obama's escalation in Afghanistan.


[ Parent ]
I Think Your Assumptions Are Open To Question (0.00 / 0)
At the most basic level, just because one side is absolutist in its approach is no reason we have to be as well.

What's more I specifically question your reference to the Enlightenment.  For example, George Lakoff is quite critical of Enlightenment epistemology, and he grounds his conception of liberal morality in an observed regularity of positions that can be obtained from mappings of child-rearing models onto policy domains.  (This mapping is supported by data such as that I've referred to several times with respect to the book, Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.)

Yet, Lakoff is not the least bit anti-Enlightenment in a fundamental since, because the spirit of the Enlightenment is part of what undergirds his criticism of it.  The Enlightment is not a closed and static belief system--it carries within it the capacity for self-correction and reinvention.

It didn't start with the Enlightenment, of course.  The liberal, open-system, critical-empirical approach has roots going all the way back to pre-Socratic Greece that we know of.  So we have, quite literally, thousands of years of previous practice and experience to draw on.  There's no need at all for us to appeal to some made-up transcendental whatcha-ma-callit.  We can appeal to reality instead.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
How does your approach not lead to moral relativism? (4.00 / 1)
human moral interaction must revolve instead around pragmatism. And that this pragmatism must revolve in turn on exposing the manner in which all human ethical fonts sooner or later come down to power. To wit: Who has the power to enforce one set of values over all the others?

Did I miss something, or does this part basically say that, "folks with power will get to impose their moral code on everyone else and that's fine because its just pragmatic to obey those with power."

Maybe that's your point? Without an external "guide" - God or Natural Law - there really is no morality?


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
again: down here (0.00 / 0)
No, my point has been that without an organized opposition to the Bilderberg/CFR cliques and claques they will continue to impose their psuedo "moral" agenda on Main Street, the poor, the vulnerable.

When in human history has might not imposed right on those unwilling or unable to resist it?

This is nothing new. And Paul's reaction to it is didactic down to the bone in my view.

And the autodidatic agenda is often just a hop step and a jump from the more pedantic clamoring of the intellectual abstractionists.

I'm just trying to probe Paul's academic sense less, well, academically. How does he flesh out his conjectures in the gladiator pits of human confrontation down on the ground?

Polemically, if nothing else.


[ Parent ]
left and right pragmatism (0.00 / 0)
So what does create jobs? Simple: all else being equal, what creates jobs is demand.

This argument aims to, what---conclusively decide whether or not the private sector creates more or less jobs than the public sector?

Do those who own and operate state capitalism in America give a damn about how that is resolved? Do the crony capitalists in Washington and the military industrial complex CEOs wring their hands over advancing John Galt's or Ron Paul's philosophical agenda on Wall Street?

Is this a moral crisis for them?

I don't think so.

Sure, there are very real and very legitimate arguments that go back and forth about the role of government in the economy. But that is not what keeps the folks going back and forth in the revolving doors up at night. They just want a solution that keeps their political and economic interests at the forefront of the legislative process on Capitol Hill.

This is about power. It's always been about power. It always will be about power. History really does appear to be over with respect to the stuff intellectuals puzzle over in the blogosphere. That's what makes Obama an "intellectual" for this age. He has few illusions about moral and political values as anything other than manipulating ideas in order to accommodate power with [hopefully] the least dysfunction for those without any. Nietzche with a bit more compassion, perhaps?

Or has Obama abandoned even that? Has he gone over completely to the pragmatism embraced by the reactionaries, instead?

That remains to be seen.



You've Got Severe Reading Problems George (0.00 / 0)
Or maybe I should be smoking what you're smoking!

At any rate, I've got no idea whatsoever where you come up with this:

    So what does create jobs? Simple: all else being equal, what creates jobs is demand.

This argument aims to, what---conclusively decide whether or not the private sector creates more or less jobs than the public sector?

Not in the least.

It's an important piece of the puzzle for developing a more sophisticated view of how public and private interact, which is different in different situations.

The argument isn't public vs. private, it's systemic (understanding public/private as a system with various possible dynamics under different circumstances) vs. dichotomous (viewing public as evil vs. private as good at all times under all cricumstances)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
again: words and worlds (0.00 / 0)
No, I don't think my reading agenda is really all that much different from others. I read in order to steer the words into my own assumptions about what words can and cannot tell us about the world we [and the words] reside in.

For all practical purposes, in particular. I'm just trying [and failing] to engage you for all practical purposes.

For example, let's talk about "demand"?

What motivates demand? How is it linked to culture, to human psychology, to political economy, to early childhood indoctrination, to Naomi Klein's logos, to crony capitalism, to mindless consumption, to commodity fetishism, to alienation, to materialism, to ideology, to God.

In short, how is it linked to dasein? To the deeply profound and problematic manner in which we come to perceive the world around us as an infinitely variable relationship between supply and demand?

We both agree, of course, that dichotomy is the enemy. But when we dip words like that down into the existential quagmire of human existence, one of us is ever intent on backing out of it...going back up to the sky hooks again.



[ Parent ]
SEVERE Reading Problems... (0.00 / 0)
...and verbal diarrhea to boot.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
; o ) (0.00 / 0)
When I have reduced an otherwise very, very intelligent mind down to this it's, well, sad.

Still, you know what they say: Failure isn't falling down, failure is staying down.

Just ask Mr. Cool Hand "I can eat 50 eggs" Luke.

So: Which one of us is Dragline here?  ; o )


[ Parent ]
beyond economics? Uh, how far beyond? (0.00 / 0)

Of course the authoritarian black-and-white/good-vs-evil dichotomous worldview is hardly limited to economics. It shows up everywhere in conservative narratives.

It shows up everywhere in moral narratives predicated by and large on the epistemological assumption that we can, in fact, know that which is good and that which is evil in evaluating and judging human behavior.

But suppose that we can't? How than do we choose to interact?

Percariously, of course.

Virginia Foxx:

"I'm a small-government conservative, and that's not very fashionable in Washington. The liberals have no new ideas, and so they're reduced to character assassination."

What utter tripe. The liberals and the conservatives have been awash in "ideas" going back to the Founding Fathers. And the size of the government rises and falls not on the strenght of these ideas so much as on the needs of those powerful enough to manipulate them in order to sustain their own material interests---but always in a particualr global economy rooted in a particular historical juncture.

All too often though Liberals and Conservatives wage these pitched "intellectual" battles as though Plato's Republic itself were literally at stake.

Bullshit. What is at stake are the fortunes and the misfortunes of Wall Steet. The government will do what it must to sustain a demographic that has never, ever really changed: How a very small percentage of the population will garner the biggest chunks of income and wealth while the great bulk of the citizenry live literally from paycheck to paycheck. The Democrats and the Republicans basically battle over who can sustain the most viable middle class. Why? In order to keep politics [especially the marching in the street kind] at bay.

The genius of "the system" today [for the ruling class] is how the middle class has taken a real beating of late and still does little or nothing but bitch and moan about the banking industry bonuses. Why the hell aren't they in Washington circling the White House? And why, when they are in Washington, are they led by Glenn Beck!!!

The reality, of course, is that Democrats supported civil rights despite the fact that it was extremely costly to them politically.

Yes, and would they have done this had not the folks been out there marching in the streets? Again, power politics.

But herein lies the paradox of ideas...of moral and political values predicated on them. Yes, moral narratives based largely on ideas, on the notion that a black and white, good and evil worldview can in fact be known can in fact motivate millions and millions of people to make history. But then one of two things happens:

1]

these ideas become ossified in state ideologies that become inflexible and brutally repressive of all who don't share them

2]

they get co-opted into the pragmatic power politics of one or another Bilderberg world.

It is virtually impossible to sustain them based solely on the alleged inherent rightness of the ideas. The world is just too complex and fluid for that. As such, we must ever grapple with contingency, chance and change. And this always unfolds inside the narratives created by those powerful enough to grapple with them best.

Which of course brings Paul inevitably around to this:

Don't act like the authoritarian GOP. But don't let them shut you up, either. Stand up for your values. Stand up for your beliefs. Stand up for those who support you. Stand up for truth. Stand up against the lies.

Instantiate this please.

For example, with respect to Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan. How does an authoritarian Republican react to that? How is this different from Obama's own rationale? How should a progressive react to it, instead--- forcefully but without in turn reflecting a left wing authoritrain agenda?

Again: What truth? What lies? And how do truths and lies about the facts on the ground fit into a reasonably progressive assessment of America foreign policy in Afghanistan? What would a progressive foreign policy look like instead? And how would progressives accomplish this in the context of political and economic power as it actually unfolds in a world where progressive ideas of peace and justice are a blip on the screen next to the plundering inherent in American imperialism.



Honestly (0.00 / 0)
I haven't the slightest idea what you're going on about.

Reminds me a bit of the Mad Tea Party.

But not enough that I actually enjoy it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
let's narrow it down (0.00 / 0)
Okay, forget everything else but this:

With respect to Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan...

1]

How does an authoritarian Republican react to it?

2]

How is this different from Obama's own rationale?

3]

How should a progressive react to it, instead--- forcefully, but without, in turn, reflecting a left wing authoritarian agenda?

Can't you flesh this out for me?



[ Parent ]
Progressive Tactics and Strategy (4.00 / 1)
Again I come back to what I said last week. Our problem is a crisis of faith and/or the fact we've forgotten how important it is to believe in our philosophy, not just come up with facts to support it. I find that too many on our side are compelled to come up with reasons why our viewpoint is right, rather than just believe it. I'm not saying we need to be like the pugs and have "faith-based facts" (lies) or use our "gut" (phone-line to God) as justification, but that we should use our facts as support of our clearly stated and fervently expressed beliefs, not put forth long lists of facts and expect the belief to be gleaned from that. We shouldn't do this and then stand back, amazed at the magnificence of our list as though it self-evidently shows the strengths of our beliefs. THIS IS WHERE WE FAIL!
Daniel is right. We need to find our own way of combating the Pugs. But this is exactly what I've laid out. Haven't you ever wondered why it is when you see Pugs lying on these TV talk shows, why the Liberal doesn't just call them out on it? Or why not use our facts to pointedly needle them on the air about how they are making things up? That is our STRENGTH! To use facts and truth as weapons against these monsters. You know what the Pugs count on? They cynically count on the Liberal notion that everyone's viewpoint should be respected. If you watch them on TV they'll always frame any attack on their lies as an attack on their beliefs. They know that weakens Liberals because we always want to be fair. However, the Left better start waking up. A lie, is NOT A VIEWPOINT! IT IS A LIE! We should not feel like tolerating lies. Make them answer facts with facts and call them out when they are using lies and ideology as answers. Every time we do that, they go running. They're lazy. That is their biggest weakness.

Hmmm. Just Thinking Out Loud Here... (4.00 / 1)
How would this go down:

    "You know, as a matter of principle, I respect everyone's viewpoint, but what you just said was a lie. So how do I know it's really your viewpoint? I can't. Which is why I can't respect it. Why don't you try telling the truth, instead?"


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Hmm, no (0.00 / 0)
We don't need to do all of that prefacing. We should start off with, "Well, that was a lie and here's why..." then launch into the facts. Or "Well, now that you've gotten the talking point out of the way, let's get back to reality with some facts..." You see? In no rhetorical way should a Pug's version of reality be accepted as either truth or as an alternative viewpoint. They aren't They're lies. Pregnant in too many Liberal Responses is a notion of guilt. As though we should feel guilty that we believe the rich should pay more. Our side retreats so readily when they try and bring up Class Warfare even though they're the ones committing it. Even in your response there is too much of a need to explain. When something is a lie, you shouldn't have to explain that it is a lie and why you don't support it. We're too worried about hurting feelings and not realizing that a lie is dangerous and liars don't deserve that pleasantry. They lied. They're the ones who should feel guilty. Now, again, I don't mean not substantiating our beliefs with facts. I mean that the belief is stated FIRST, then the facts to back it up. ALWAYS. A strong and direct statement followed by support, not explanation leading up to a statement. Think of it as thesis statements in an essay. We should be relentless in hounding the pugs because they haven't a fact to stand on. It is our strength. Doing it backwards only helps to convey the notion that either A)we don't believe in what we speak strongly, or B)We feel guilty for what we believe. Gore lost in 2000 because he always acted guilty instead of running on Clinton's record. THe pugs kept whining about Monica and character, when their candidate had absolutely none and there was plenty of proof to back it up. In the American public's mind, the perception of guilt is the same as being guilty. It's why the Pugs are shamelessly back on the scene even though their policies caused a 2nd Great Depression. Until we state beliefs, followed up with facts to demolish their self-made fantasyland, we will lose.

[ Parent ]
Woah There! (0.00 / 0)
I have no disagreement with your general thrust, but this is based on a misunderstanding:

Even in your response there is too much of a need to explain.

I wasn't suggesting that as an initial response, but as an expression of the basic philosophical outlook to assume, which one might use as a response to predictable spluttering on the way to launching into a hissy fit.

I presented it as a response that both stays true to genuine reality-based liberal ideas and that refuses to be rolled.  This is the basic underlying problem, IMHO--how to do both.  And I was suggesting a possible solution.

I agree 100% that one should not start out this way.  But one must be clear about how to fight fair by one's own lights, or else the other side continues to define the rules of the game.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
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