by: Paul Rosenberg

Thu Aug 05, 2010 at 16:00

In Quick Hits, bystander calls attention  to a piece by Scott Horton, "The Importance of Being Judgmental", which in turn comments on an article in Democracy, "Why We Must Judge" by Roger Berkowitz.

Horton's point is actually more salient to me than Berkowitz's piece, which discusses some profound examples, but seems rather too plagued with conventional ideas for the task at hand.  He first takes note of the strong beginning Berkowitz makes in discussing the Versailles media's refusal to use the word "torture".  He later writes:

As Berkowitz notes, Barack Obama began his presidency with two contradictory calls. On the one hand, although he acknowledged that the U.S. government had practiced torture, he declined to hold those who did so accountable, saying we should "look forward and not back." On the other, at his inauguration he called for a "new era of responsibility," suggesting that "we are suffering a culture-wide crisis of judgment." One and a half years into the Obama presidency, all the evidence suggests that Obama is promoting the failure of accountability in government rather than taking the steps he promised to address it. As Berkowitz puts it, "While Obama worries about a rush to judgment, our real problem is that we have abdicated our right and our duty to judge at all."

But, of course, two things need noting:

    First, the call to "look forward and not back" was from the very beginning a call for irresponsibility, directly at ods with his call for a "new era of responsibility." The contradictions aren't new. They are just being spelled out in bigger and bigger block letters until they can be seen from the moon.

    Second, it's only certain people who get a pass: The Bush torture team, not the whistleblowers. The Banksters, not the folks who got stuck with mortgages pre-designed to fail. Despite the wailing of the right to the contrary, Obama's tougher on undocumented immigrants than Bush ever was, and as David just noted, he's also helping out with high-tech off-shoring.

There is a lack of judgment, here, all right, but it's not exactly the sort that Berkowitz or even Horton is talking about.  And there's a lack of judgment, too, in those who still refuse to see what's happening right in front of their eyes.

Perhaps the imminent death of net neutrality that Chris earlier warned us of will finally help the moongazers to see:

It would truly be a grotesque irony if the greatest phenomenon in favor of democratized, bottom-up change in history--the network neutral internet--was destroyed under the administration that has consistently sold itself as the most democratized, bottom-up, grassroots-friendly White House in history.  But, we are on the brink of seeing exactly that happen.

The Obama administration's endless dithering and insatiable desire to not appear--or be--confrontational toward corporate America and other status-quo institutions is about to allow the Internet to become a top-down, corporate captured medium.

This is not to say that Horton is completely off the mark.  Obama certainly uses the non-judgmental rationale that has a role in tradtional liberalism.  And it's certainly worth cogitating on how that works out.

But we simply can't ignore the big picture of the Bush-Obama continuity, which is that the big boys keep on getting away with murder, while the rest of us have to pay the price and play by the rules they fixed to cover their asses.

Paul Rosenberg :: Misjudged

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Misjudged | 4 comments
Sorry for the off topic comment (0.00 / 0)
but have you seen this:

Winner-Take-All Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of Top Incomes in the United States, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson.


The dramatic rise in inequality in the United States over the past generation has occasioned considerable attention from economists, but strikingly little from students of American politics. This has started to change: in recent years, a small but growing body of political science research on rising inequality has challenged standard economic accounts that emphasize apolitical processes of economic change. For all the sophistication of this new scholarship, however, it too fails to provide a compelling account of the political sources and effects of rising inequality. In particular, these studies share with dominant economic accounts three weaknesses: (1) they downplay the distinctive feature of American inequality-namely, the extreme concentration of income gains at the top of the economic ladder; (2) they miss the profound role of government policy in creating this "winner-take-all" pattern; and (3) they give little attention or weight to the dramatic long-term transformation of the organizational landscape of American politics that lies behind these changes in policy. These weaknesses are interrelated, stemming ultimately from a conception of politics that emphasizes the sway (or lack thereof) of the "median voter" in electoral politics, rather than the influence of organized interests in the process of policy making. A perspective centered on organizational and policy change-one that identifies the major policy shifts that have bolstered the economic standing of those at the top and then links those shifts to concrete organizational efforts by resourceful private interests-fares much better at explaining why the American political economy has become distinctively winner-take-all.

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.

You Do Realize (0.00 / 0)
It's not just this paper.  It's a whole issue devoted to this paper, responses to their thesis and a reply.

"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 do - only made it through the article so far (nt) (0.00 / 0)

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 ]
"But we simply can't ignore the big picture of the Bush-Obama continuity" (4.00 / 3)
During the Bush/Cheney regime I used to wonder what it would be like if GWB could speak eruditely and in full sentences.

Now, I know.

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

Misjudged | 4 comments

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