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In the in box, part deux

So here’s my response to my hate mail.  No, I did not alert the authorities; I did not (and do not) think letter-writers like Angry Guy pose any credible threat to me and my family. And no, I did not reply with snark.  Reader, I parried him.  Seriously, I tried to talk sense.  Like so.

I pointed out that he was sending angry screeds to someone he didn’t know, with absolutely no evidence that that someone had done or said anything on Journolist to which he might object.  I also pointed out that for all his talk about “idiots,” this is not something that sane, well-adjusted people do.  He replied that what I had said or done was beside the point; the point was that Journolist provided a way for liberals to plot against their enemies and practice the “politics of personal destruction,” and that I (a) had associated myself with Those People (and was therefore guilty!) and (b) had not objected when one of them proposed making spurious charges of racism.

Aha!  Now I knew what he was talking about.  The reason the Journolist archives are important—to Tucker Carlson, to the Daily Caller staff, to Andrew Breitbart, and to random angry guys on the Internet—is that Spencer Ackerman once suggested, in response to the Jeremiah Wright Crisis of aught-eight, that “we” should call Fred Barnes or Karl Rove a racist and throw a right-winger through a plate-glass window ... rhetorically.  (I believe Ackerman added, “Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear.”)

There are a whole mess of things going on here, but let me start with the obvious: Ackerman is a smart guy and much of his published work is great, but that rant was nasty and foolish.  It’s your basic Internets Tough Guy Talk, and surely if it had been written by Erick Erickson or Ace of Spades (even in an email), we would be mocking it now with a mighty mockery.  What’s more, it was totally unnecessary: there really are legions of racists on the right.  You don’t want to confuse the meaning of racism even further by throwing around bullshit charges at people.  At the moment, the right’s standard for legitimate charges of racism are quite high: as Chris Rock once put it, you have to have shot Medgar Evers to be a racist.  Sliming civil rights leaders, depicting Obama as a thug or a monkey or a watermelon-eating pickaninny, writing about Michelle eating ribs all day—that’s not racist.  Shooting Medgar Evers, OK, that’s racist. 

Ackerman’s rant from aught-eight thus did wonderful work for conservatives and Tea Party Patriots™ in 2010: remember, the Journolist Outrage was compensation for Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest (but briefly, spectacularly successful!) attempt to smear Shirley Sherrod, which was also Breitbart’s profoundly dishonest attempt at a tu quoque aimed at the NAACP, which had just had the uppity temerity to denounce racism in the Tea Party.  As with the right’s spittle-flecked reaction to the Skip Gates Incident of aught-nine, there are some new rules in play: one, black people are no longer allowed to be angry, or even to have been angry at some point in the past.  This goes double for black ministers, of course, and quadruple for black government officials whose fathers were killed by white farmers and whose relatives were lynched (because, after all, those relatives weren’t really lynched, they were merely beaten to death).  And two, attacks on those angry or formerly-angry black people, including essays about how their relatives weren’t really lynched but merely beaten to death, are not racist.  The real racists, as usual, are black people themselves, and their white liberal enablers like Ackerman, who hurl spurious charges of racism at poor innocent white guys like Barnes and Rove.

OK, glad that’s all cleared up.  No, I didn’t say all that to my Angry Email Guy.  I simply pointed out that in response to the right’s Jeremiah Wright freakout, one guy on a listserv of 400 made a nasty suggestion—a suggestion that, evidently, no one else on the listserv thought was a good idea.  That’s why there never was a coordinated campaign to smear Barnes or Rove—or anyone else—as a racist.

I then addressed the bit about my complicity in Ackerman’s evil plan.  I said that if I had seen it at the time, I might have objected to it. Or I might not have; I can’t say for sure, because my relation to Journolist was like my relation to my other three large-group listservs: I read about ten or twenty percent of the material on them.  Just the stuff that interests me.  On Journolist, I was most interested in the debates over Afghanistan and health care—subjects on which there was a wide range of opinion.  Anyone combing through the Jlist archives will find that I also expressed my deeply-held belief that hockey is a far better sport than soccer.  Just fyi.  But I didn’t see the offending post at the time, because when Ackerman wrote it, I was not a member of Journolist.  The only reason my name is on that FreeRepublic list is that I signed the seekrit open letter decrying Charles Gibson’s and George Stephanopolous’ ridiculous performance in one of the Obama-Clinton debates.  So, I said to my outraged correspondent, here’s the deal.  The “conspiracy” you name consists of a bunch of people who signed an open letter.  The letter was circulated to me by ordinary email, not by secret Journolist email.  When I joined Journolist, I found that it consisted of a bunch of liberals writing liberal emails to each other liberally.  Last but not least, I noted that Ezra Klein had asked the list about the possibility of adding Carlson to it.  As Ezra has pointed out, Carlson knows this perfectly well, but doesn’t admit it, because ... well, because he’s a lying sack of excrement, that’s why.  In my humble opinion.  And if I saw him today, I would say

I didn’t add that the whole thing involved stolen private correspondence, because, of course (as my first hate-mailer—not this guy, an Angry Penn State Alum—made clear), the right now thinks that stealing private correspondence is a good thing, so long as the correspondence in question involves evil scientists and their hockey sticks or evil liberals and their liberal liberal something or other.

But just for you, dear readers, I will add this: the Journolist outrage is small beer.  Very small beer.  The really outrageous outrage, instead, is all about the so-called Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque, about which the right is deploying (surprise!) the very same tactics: lie, lie, lie, lie, and lie—and do so in such a way as to inflame the legions of the vicious and the stupid.  It looks like a winning strategy to me, folks, especially now that the Democrats’ Bedwetting Caucus has gotten together with the National Center for Concern Trolling to express their dismay at Obama’s defense of the First Amendment:

“I would prefer the president be a little more of a politician and a little less of a college professor,” former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), who once ran the House Democratic campaign arm, wrote in POLITICO’s Arena. “While a defensible position, it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.”

I don’t want to sound like a college professor, now, but this is what we call textbook stuff: the winged monkeys attack.  Democrats can do one of three things: one, fight back; two, plead for mercy; three, admit that the winged monkeys have some good ideas about how to destroy Democrats, and pledge to work together with reasonable centrist members of the Winged Monkey Brigade to find bipartisan common ground.  Obama, to his credit, chooses option one for a change—whereupon his party, having no idea of how to be a political party, goes running to the press to complain:

Democratic aides say that, at the very least, the president has again knocked his party’s candidates off local messages and forced them to talk about a national issue that doesn’t appear likely to play well with important swing voters.

These officials planned to spend the weekend talking about Social Security’s 75th anniversary—the topic of Obama’s Saturday radio address—or the progress made in containing the Gulf oil spill. Instead, they played defense on an issue at the intersection of religion and terrorism—two hot buttons Obama won his 2008 election partly by downplaying.

“The main reaction is ‘Why? Why now?’” said one House Democratic leadership aide. “It’s just another day off message. There have been a lot of days off message.”

The chief of staff to one politically vulnerable House Democrat said it “probably alienates a lot of independent voters” and “it’s not a good issue to be talking about right now.”

He said he suspects “there are a lot of [Democrats] who are spooked in tough districts today” and “a lot of Republicans licking their chops right now.”

So no, I’m not terribly concerned about stupid vicious hatemongering lying about Journolist.  It’s of a piece with, but on a far smaller scale than, stupid vicious hatemongering lying about the Downtown YMIA Cultural Center Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Mosque.  And gauging from craven Democrats’ responses to said stupid vicious hatemongering lying, I’m thinking that the Ground Zero 9/11 All Glory to Al-Qaeda Chrysler Cordoba House might be enough, leaving aside even the illegal gay Mexicans and their terror babies, to send Gingrich and Palin to the White House in ‘12.


P.S.  My use of the phrase “stupid vicious hatemongering lying” might seem, on a casual reading, to suggest that I have adopted Rich Puchalsky’s way of understanding stupid vicious hatemongering lying, as elaborated in the preceding thread.  I have not.  I continue to believe that the lesson of the great Procter and Gamble Satanism Hoax is that things are 15 percent more complicated than Rich makes them out to be when it comes to how people deal with stupid vicious hatemongering lying.

Update, August 17:  And to follow up on this theme (and my own comment # 17 below), here’s one Mister Roy Edroso:

With extremely rare exceptions, you can go now through all rightwing sites and publications, from the high-end to the low, and find the same thing: A willingness—actually, an puppy-like eagerness—to exploit the basest religious and racial fears for political gain. (More than usual, we mean.)

We might adopt a lofty pose, scratch our chins, and say this speaks poorly of the state of the conservative movement. But whom would we be kidding? There is no conservative movement, intellectually speaking—merely a consortium of crackpots and bigots who believe that gays are threatening their marriages, rich people are overtaxed, black people are the real racists, and the building of a mosque at the site of a disused Burlington Coat Factory somewhere near Ground Zero presents a graver danger to American liberty than the other mosques already near Ground Zero.

About the most charitable thing you could say for them is: Maybe they’re only pretending to believe this nonsense.

Is that really more charitable?  As I say in comment 17, there are known knowns, etc.

Posted by on 08/16 at 12:53 PM
  1. Seriously, I tried to talk sense.  Like so

    Sorry, had to stop reading here......  i’ll try again later. 

    chortle, guffaw, chortle, wheeze, snicker, snortle.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  03:23 PM
  2. Now see, spyder, that’s just what’s wrong with this here blog.  It’s the chortling.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  03:32 PM
  3. I wouldn’t worry about it—at all. The Mosque thing is pretty awful, and I do worry about that one because it affects not just the Democrats but also our efforts to forge a sane policy towards the Islamic world.

    There are recent polls showing that the Republicans continue to be horribly unpopular, possibly more unpopular than they were in November of 2008. It’s been a disastrous couple of years for them, honestly. In 2008 they needed to clean house, start attracting moderates into the party, start creating a sensible conservative platform that would address the problems facing America, and so on. It’s just as true now as it was then—but they haven’t taken a tiny step in that direction; indeed, they’ve taken several steps in the other direction.

    The election results this November will appear to prove me wrong. But the economy is really lousy, and midterms are usually hard on new presidents. Given those two facts, the Republicans will underperform—but internalize the message that what they are doing is working fine. But it isn’t. And their stupid, racist, intolerant, know-nothing, aggrieved culture war stuff will continue merrily on, and they will continue to be wildly unpopular.

    The only thing we can do, as Democrats, is behave like adults and adopt sane policies. Neither Obama nor the Democrats have ever stopped doing that. It’s not going to be fun, but we’ll be fine.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/16  at  04:14 PM
  4. Comment 1 of 2:

    But you didn’t tell us what your Angry Email Guy responded!  I will fedex you a dozen Krispy Kremes (or give them to Martha’s Table, your choice) if he apologized or said anything that indicated the least bit of acknowledgement that he’d been offensively wrong.

    A story.  Back in 2004, when John Kerry was being pilloried for having been shot while cruising the glamorous Mekong Delta in his $7 million yacht, a guy at the Houston Chronicle named Lee Cernial wrote that Kerry lied when he said he was along the Vietnam-Cambodian border on Christmas day 1968, because (1) the Mekong doesn’t run along the border and (2) Kerry’s diary put him at a base far from the border on Christmas Eve.

    So, I wrote him a nice email saying that (1) if you look at a decent map, you’ll see that a branch of the Mekong does form the border for several miles, (2) the US military illegally and routinely entered Cambodia, hence the likelihood of a hedge in the phrase “along the border”; and (3) being 50 miles from the border on the 24th is no obstacle to being along the border on the 25th if you’ve got a swift boat that can step out smartly at 20 knots.

    So, Lee, I said, the diary is consistent with Kerry being where he says he was.

    Cernial responded, politely, that he didn’t trust any diary written by a well-known liar like Kerry.

    I wrote back asking whether the diary entry that showed that Kerry was a liar was the very same diary entry that couldn’t be believed.

    I didn’t hear from him after that.

    And this is a guy with a newspaper column.  A random Angry Email Guy doesn’t need to meet the same high standards.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  04:17 PM
  5. Well, Bloix, after explaining my relationship to Journolist I closed my letter by pointing out that he really, truly had sent three angry emails to someone he didn’t know, making a bunch of false claims about something he knew nothing about, and I said, “please, find something better to do with your time.” I haven’t heard from him since.

    Martin, I hope you’re right.  Because Harry “Steadfast” Reid’s response to the Lower Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center does not fill me with confidence.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  04:39 PM
  6. Because Harry “Steadfast” Reid’s response to the Lower Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center does not fill me with confidence.

    Same here, but to beat a strong opponent like Sharron Angle you’ve got cede some of the high moral ground.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  04:47 PM
  7. BTW this chronology of the “prehistory” of the Cordoba House project controversy by Justin Elliott at Salon is a must-read. Did you ever wonder what it would be like if Pam Geller’s worldview were mainstream?

    captcha: enough

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  05:06 PM
  8. True that.  Angle’s claims that the Constitution violates the First Commandment and that Obama secretly worships Zuul and will convert the US to Sumerian law are going over big among Nevada voters.

    And yes, I just read Elliott’s (terrific) piece.  But come on—there’s no way Pam Geller’s worldview would ever go mainstream.  That’s just crazy talk.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  05:09 PM
  9. Comment 2 of 2:

    When I read the “the same right” speech that Obama gave, I thought of George Washington’s famous interchange with the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.  It was an obvious thought – the New Yorker leads with it this week.  In an exchange of letters between Washington and Moses Seixas, Warden of the Touro Synagogue, Washington wrote:

    “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

    As Washington understood, this isn’t about “tolerance,” it’s about equality. 

    It would have been nice if Obama had quoted the peroration of that letter:

    “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  05:11 PM
  10. George Washington was a Dhimmicrat and an appeaser.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  05:13 PM
  11. prendre deux~

    It looks like a winning strategy to me, folks, especially now that the Democrats’ Bedwetting Caucus has gotten together with the National Center for Concern Trolling

    Interesting this, in that it is reiterated, albeit at about the same time, in this post by that bastion of progressive liberalism (not) Ed Brayton:

    The irony is that by dehumanizing so many people who are crucial to the fight against terrorism, the wingnuts are actually undermining our ability to fight it. The secondary irony is that by acting like a bunch of bed wetting, pearl-clutching old ladies, they think they’re actually acting tough. They’re not. They’re advocating giving up freedom of religion to soothe their irrational fears.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  06:00 PM
  12. I’ll always remember something Chris Rock said

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  06:12 PM
  13. Bloix, re comment 2: by mentioning Hinduism, I think Obama was going further than GW in the peroration.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  06:30 PM
  14. Same here, but to beat a strong opponent like Sharron Angle you’ve got cede some of the high moral ground.

    Indeed, we need to be understanding of how sheltered many Americans are.  It’s not like Senator Reid or any of his constituents would know anything about the persecution of religious minorities.

    Posted by  on  08/16  at  07:40 PM
  15. I’m glad that the guy is apparently not a credible threat.  Other than that, I’m not sure what to write about this one.

    Well, I’ll write a few things.  (Big surprise.) First, I haven’t read the Ackerman rant.  But it shares important characteristics with Some Guy Writing In A Comment Box Somewhere.  Who in turn is merely the text version of Some Protester With A Sign Somewhere.  It’s bonus points to get someone like Ackerman, a known (?) name, in a secret (?) venue.  But the basic characteristic of Some Guy is that it is impossible to patrol everyone and everywhere for him.  No matter how much good advice is given out about how we should be reasonable-sounding at all times, human nature itself ensures that Some Guy somewhere will not be.

    (You mention the East Anglia Emails.  But the right has been testing this on climate scientists for a long time.  Stephen Schneider found himself cast as Some Guy Who Said Something That Sounds Bad If Misquoted back in 1996.)

    The mosque is the same thing, basically.  The right needed a scandal of this sort right about now.  If the mosque hadn’t existed?  Well, there’s another one at or near the Pentagon.  People would be suitably outraged at that if this one wasn’t handy.  Or, you know, I’m sure that there’s one within a mile of a destroyed church somewhere.  Maybe a church destroyed by arson!  I’m sure I could find one if I looked.

    And the people who are outraged about this know this.  As the Great P&G SH series points out, they aren’t dupes.  They know that they have been given a random incident of outrage to write death threats about, out of all of the potential outrages out there.  But they go along because they really like writing death threats, and would enjoy carrying them out even more if they got to.

    And against that, we have ... defend the public sphere! “You don’t want to confuse the meaning of racism even further by throwing around bullshit charges at people.” Really?  Because people respect truth, and truth will win out?  Or ... because Rove, who made his entire bread and butter and political career off of Southern Strategy racism, wasn’t a racist in truth?  I have no idea what Ackerman said, and will take it on trust that it was a rant.  But ... really, his problem was that it was a bullshit charge?

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  12:31 AM
  16. Holy crap, Anthony.  Wish me to the cornfield.  I ain’t getting any younger.

    Once upon a time I engaged in an email exchange with David Limbaugh (yes, the brother) in which I suggested that he ought to reconsider his rant against the Clinton administration for having thoroughly, obscenely, and moronically sabotaged all the offices in the White House as the administration was leaving office, specifically and solely to be mean to the incoming GWB administration.  Oh dear lord: removing the “w” from every keyboard was just the start of it.

    I said he should reconsider his accusation on account of it was a great big lie.  He responded, taking offense in a semi-gentleman-like manner ("Nuh-uh, lady, you’re the great big liar.  My friend Byron York said it so it has to be true!").  I countered with a link to the expensive, thorough GAO (oh, I think it was the GAO; this was several years ago, don’t make me look it up again) investigation which concluded that there was absolutely no evidence of any sabotage or bad behavior or anything out of the ordinary.  Sure, maybe someone hadn’t retrieved a container of yogurt from an office mini-fridge, or some copy machines were in dire need of toner - but it was just the ordinary detritus one would expect when a huge administrative entity quickly vacates the scene so that a different huge administrative entity can move in.

    So the last thing David Limbaugh emailed me was a sort of harummphing announcement that he intended to double-check the matter with his good friend Byron York; then he gruffly commended me for having remained civil throughout our exchange, unlike most others of my ilk.

    I did not thank him for observing that I acted like a normal human being.  I’m sure he assumed that I was flattered.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  12:59 AM
  17. Hi, Rich!  I have a moment to engage in some public sphericalness with you:

    I haven’t read the Ackerman rant.  But it shares important characteristics with Some Guy Writing In A Comment Box Somewhere.  Who in turn is merely the text version of Some Protester With A Sign Somewhere.

    Yes it does, yes it does.  With the proviso that Ackerman was writing a private email on a private listserv.  Sure, he should have remembered that Jlist leaked like a sieve (and no one has any idea who the mole was).  And sure, we should try to conduct ourselves like little angels online at all times.  But in the end, these were private emails, and Ackerman has (imho) grounds to sue.

    The mosque is the same thing, basically.

    That is indeed the very nub of my gist.

    And the people who are outraged about this know this.  As the Great P&G SH series points out, they aren’t dupes.  They know that they have been given a random incident of outrage to write death threats about, out of all of the potential outrages out there.  But they go along because they really like writing death threats, and would enjoy carrying them out even more if they got to.

    This is where we get to disagree, and that’s good for democracy.  You see, there are known knowns, etc.  Some people are fully conscious that they’re lying.  Others kinda sorta know they’re lying but don’t want to know that they know, which is 15 percent more complicated.  And as larkspur reminds us @ 16, sometimes even people who should know that they know they are lying don’t know, because they really truly believe what they’ve heard and what they’re telling others.  It’s just not as simple as “they know full well they are lying sacks of excrement.” People turn out to have all kinds of evasive and overdetermined relations to knowledge and self-knowledge. 

    For more on this fertile theme, see Laura Kipnis’ brand new book, How to Become a Scandal.

    And finally:

    And against that, we have ... defend the public sphere!

    Golly, you say that like it’s a bad thing.

    I have no idea what Ackerman said, and will take it on trust that it was a rant.  But ... really, his problem was that it was a bullshit charge?

    No, our problem is that Ackerman expressly couched it as a bullshit charge.  The really damning words in the rant are “who cares”:  instead of defending or criticizing Wright, he said, “take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists.” And because this was also couched as advice to fellow liberal writers, it looks very much to the wingnut conspiratorial mind like a confirmation of everything they want to believe—namely, that there really isn’t any racism running around on the rabid right, just a bunch of nasty scheming liberals calling random people racists, who cares why.

    That’s why I think the best response to the “outrage” is to say yes, Some Guy with a Rant on a Private Listserv said such a thing—and none of the other 400 members took him up on it, because it was a bad idea.  There was no campaign against Barnes or Rove.  Now let’s get back to Limbaugh’s remarks about how Michelle Obama’s uppity vacation is some kind of reparation for slavery.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/17  at  09:34 AM
  18. Smaller potatoes, a few years back during the never-ending Presidential primary I found myself in the comment section of a little known blog. The burning question of that day was prompted by a photograph of a weary candidate Obama sitting beneath the famous poster showing a triumphant Muhammad Ali moments after he’d bashed Sonny Liston to canvas. My response was cool and measured and included appeals to the authority of a unanimous Supreme Court decision (Clay, aka Ali v United States) and the sitting president’s speech on awarding Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. To which I received exactly one curt sentence in reply --

    I stand by my original writings, regardless of Supreme Court decisions and G.W. Bush ceremonial statements that stand in opposition to my thoughts.

    My takeaway from the Slacktivist P&G piece was this: they’re playing by different rules—knives no longer dominate this knife fight. Admit this or lose forever.

    I’m not sure exactly how one communicates when facts are not important and fact-less-ness is beyond ridicule. M Duchamp offered a urinal to an art show. That seemed to work.

    Captcha: art.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  11:54 AM
  19. I’m not sure exactly how one communicates when facts are not important and fact-less-ness is beyond ridicule.

    Me neither.  But I can say that it seems to be very hard to get someone to understand a thing when his (or her!) tribal identity depends on his (or her!) not understanding it.

    Whether they know it or not.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  12:03 PM
  20. Thanks for explaining the Ackerman thing more.

    “Golly, you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

    Well ... sorry to keep diverting things into my own preoccupations.  But I think that while it’s impossible for the right to win, over any long term—see the quote in the last thread from Unamuno: “In order to convince it is necessary to persuade, and to persuade you will need something that you lack: reason and right in the struggle”—I no longer think that any of the American liberal dreams of the 20th century are possible any longer, either.  The right can’t win, but it can divert events so that when they lose, they will lose according to the dystopic visions that they are more comfortable with.

    Remember when it was only hippies who said that America was an empire?  The right wing decided that they liked that, and made it come true.  Neocons proudly got us into war in Iraq, boldly claiming that America was indeed an empire and that empires were good.  And of course we are now playing out the familiar script of a declining empire.

    And the nativist right, not to be left out, is now ensuring that their preferred method of decline is going to happen too.  They were always paranoid about America becoming a majority non-white nation.  Well… that’s now the only way that social change is going to happen.  They’re going to retreat further and further into outright racism, and finally it’s going to be the white GOP against the nonwhite whichever other party it is, and they’re going to lose demographically after tearing down whatever’s left of our joke of a Constitutional order through their race politics.

    So, yeah, the public sphere?  I have no idea what’s going to be left of the public sphere, or what it will look like.  But the ideal of it is one that I suspect is already gone.  Obama’s Presidency was a sort of historical accident, a last chance to get someone rational in, that happened because of Bush’s failure.  And he’s blown the chance with his disinclination to make any hard decisions, to actually lead.

    So, I guess it’s pretty harmless to defend the public sphere.  But “harmless” is not really a great political descriptor.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  12:48 PM
  21. Michael:

    The first thing I clicked to after posting at 3 above was the first reports of Reid’s ridiculous statement. I can’t disagree with you there.

    I still stand by what I wrote: the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot. 1, 2, 5, 10 years from now, people will look back and remark that it was a McCarthey-esque moment and note who was on which side. You can’t exactly do anything about the inflamed passions of ignorant people, except try to do the right thing. Hitting them below the belt or with knives etc. is poor advice, IMO.

    Again, all of this is both contradictory and true:
    1. Dems are the more popular party.
    2. Obama is a popular president.
    3. Dems are going to get killed in November.
    4. That is mainly about the economy.
    5. Republicans are pursuing foolish, diminishing-returns strategies.
    6. The Republicans are remarkably unpopular.

    I think what I would say to progressives right now is, “Exactly what part of ‘willingly adopting good policies even though it may not be politically expedient to do so’ did you not undetstand?” This is what we do—we’re the adults. We abandon that posture at our peril.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  01:18 PM
  22. (and no one has any idea who the mole was)

    Remember “Kaitlyn,” the precocious teen with the lamentable fondness for Evanescence, who had already read through The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money?  Didn’t you ever wonder why she never showed up at the bridge that night?

    And of course we are now playing out the familiar script of a declining empire.

    On the bright side, perhaps it will pass with a whimper instead of a bang.  E.g., better Romulus Augustulus than Constantine IX.  And better either of those than the new Enabling Act that these rabid right-wing religious jingoists are pining for.  I am frequently convulsed with worry pains for the mdslet.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  01:26 PM
  23. I think what I would say to progressives Democratic members of Congress right now is, “Exactly what part of ‘willingly adopting good policies even though it may not be politically expedient to do so’ did you not undetstand [sic]?”

    Fixed that for you, Martin.

    1, 2, 5, 10 years from now, people will look back and remark that it was a McCarthey-esque moment and note who was on which side.

    Given that I am personally related to a staunch McCarthy supporter, and the unpopular GOP is going to make strong gains this fall while embracing a base that doesn’t think McCarthy did anything wrong, I’m not sure “McCarthy-esque” quite captures your intention.  At least not over a time span of ten years or less.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  01:35 PM
  24. Ah, thanks for the fix, I guess? I understood it was progressives who were frustrated in this forum? Am I wrong about that? I doubt that Senator Reid is gonna read this.

    On the other bit, you are saying that this moment is not McCarthy-esque why? Because some small sliver, if pressed, might defend McCarthy? I don’t get it. The adjective seems right to me. And the GOP gains in November won’t have anything to do with the damn Islamic cultural center anyway. (See Jonathan Bernstein today on this.)

    I don’t really know what course of action you’re recommending here. The GOP/right wing routinely adopt red-meat issues to divert attention from their platform’s utter lack of substance. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t remember “Drill Baby Drill” winning anyone any elections.

    I was thinking about that movie “The War Room” today, and I realized that Democratic memes work great only when the circumstances are ripe for it. 1992 was such a moment, as was 2008. Most other times, the GOP has an edge. But all of that argues even more strongly, I think, that sanity is our only course.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  01:47 PM
  25. Another quick thought—you could even argue that the last time the GOP secured power, they did it very conspicuously by not being crazy and by aping progressive/liberal tropes. I refer to Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” I don’t see these issues as being all that helpful to the GOP—they’re the political equivalent of a workout regime based on pizza.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  01:51 PM
  26. To some extent I agree with Martin in that current GOP politics are, overall, a loser for them—they probably won’t do as well in this election as they would have, otherwise.  But that doesn’t matter.  They will do well enough to block anything else from happening.  Their point isn’t really to win: it’s to provide a comfortable lifestyle for Palin et al, and a comfortable license to engage in evil for the rest of them.

    Obama could have pushed through that if he’d used Bush-style legislative tactics this term.  I don’t think that chance is going to recur.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  02:27 PM
  27. That’s certainly a good point. There’s no doubt that the Dems, including Obama, made some errors last year. Obama probably didn’t exploit his high popularity enough, the Dems didn’t act against the filibuster at all, the Dems didn’t get a bigger stimulus, etc.

    Perhaps the biggest mistake the Dems faced was behaving like a party who might secure a big majority if they were careful. The Dems had 60 votes at one point—that was not the moment to angle for bigger gains, that was the moment to DO SOMETHING. The Dems played defense, and they’re going to get killed for it.

    Having said that, we did pass an awful lot of good legislation this year—not saying it couldn’t have been better. Rich is right that it’s always in the GOP’s interest to stall for time. My only hope is that the Dems emerge from 2010 a bit hungrier and angrier, but I ain’t counting on it. I’m still optimistic overall.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  02:58 PM
  28. Looking longer term—past President Palin, that is, who will serve only until 2014 anyway—Jon Taplin offers some reasons for hope, if not necessarily for change.  So maybe Martin’s right.

    On the other hand, Roger Simon, on behalf of Villagers everywhere.  And it’s not even the one with the hat.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/17  at  03:33 PM
  29. Because my early education was so deficient (for all sorts of reasons), I recently decided to start reading up on the Civil War.  Holy crap, peoples!  They didn’t even have intertubez, but public opinion - especially as reported by the media - thrashed from one extreme to the other bad enough to give a body whiplash.

    One day Lincoln was a failed president, the next day he was pretty darn smart, and Jefferson Davis was a big stupid idiot with a stupid general nicknamed Evacuation Lee, but then all of a sudden the gentlemanly General Lee was the finest tactician the world of war has ever known.

    And sometimes bad things happened because people made mistakes or terrible decisions.  Sometimes good things happened way after they ought to have already happened, and on occasion, the delay was defensible, even 150 years later.

    What I’m saying is, please, let’s not think that all this crap is flying around for the very first time in our history.  It may well be flying around faster and more efficiently, but the pattern is old. We’re really good at it. Eventually the end of the world will be nigh.  But not yet.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  03:38 PM
  30. What I’m saying is, please, let’s not think that all this crap is flying around for the very first time in our history.

    Oddly enough, as someone who referenced the last emperors of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, I’m tenuously aware of this.  I’m also aware that there were lots of times and places where the world didn’t end, yet things still managed to get really, really shitty.

    On the other bit, you are saying that this moment is not McCarthy-esque why?

    I’m saying it is McCarthy-esque, but people aren’t going to be looking back on it a year from now and condemning it, when McCarthy-esque tactics are alive and well in one major political party and the mainstream media outlets that abet it.  Why are we even having to talk about a religious community center in Manhattan?  Because the Village have avidly amplified every scrap of vomitus heaved up by Gingrich and Palin as they engage in the vilest sort of anti-Constitutional demagoguery.  All originally based on the noxious rantings of a deranged git from Long Island.  So it doesn’t matter why a bunch of people are going to vote for Joe McCarthy’s heirs; what matters is that a bunch of people aren’t refusing to vote for Joe McCarthy’s heirs.  If anti-incumbent fever swept David Duke into power, then it would be fairly safe to conclude we haven’t actually repudiated racism.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  04:03 PM
  31. All originally based on the noxious rantings of a deranged git from Long Island.

    Hold on a moment, mds.  We still haven’t seen any proof that Malcolm X isn’t Obama’s father.  Just wait til Ms. Geller teams up with Stanley Kurtz—they’ll be an unstoppable media duo.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/17  at  04:26 PM
  32. mds—I don’t agree. Schiavo is already enshrined as a big fiasco. The same could happen here.

    I would point out that David Duke hasn’t become president yet—that fact is responsive to your observation, yes? By the same token, the election of Noam Chomsky would establish that academic progressivism were a force if that were to happen.

    Meanwhile, McCarthy *has damn well* been repudiated by massive swathes of the electorate. Again, that is relevant, right? Just because there are people who have never given McCarthy ten seconds of thought who behave like McCarthy’s own adoring constituents (if such there were) doesn’t prove a damn thing. It’s like saying, “People today still like the White Sox, so that means they favor players accepting bribes to throw the World Series.” The one thing doesn’t have anything to do with the other. People are sometimes susceptible to flawed chains of reason accompanied by low information. None of this establishes that these bouts of hysteria won’t be regretted by a lot of people someday, nor that similar people won’t be whipped up into a frenzy some other time. The key, though, is that such things *do* tend to discredit parties attempting to present themselves as responsible governing bodies.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  05:20 PM
  33. "Jon Taplin offers some reasons for hope [...]”

    Because the GOP is appealing to an old, white, racist group of people that is going to die off with time?  Sure.  But I’m 45, so by the time those people die off, I’ll be dead too.  Oh, maybe our kids or grandchildren will do something better, but our generation’s ideals have pretty definitively failed.

    Martin: “Perhaps the biggest mistake the Dems faced was behaving like a party who might secure a big majority if they were careful.”

    Not exactly, I don’t think.  It wasn’t at base a tactical problem at all.  Obama had to have the courage to say “Look, the hippies were right” and then act, seriously, in the knowledge of what that meant.  That’s what the Presidential bully pulpit is about.  It means not trying to go for the median undecided voter, it means saying that the Iraq war was a mistake and oh by the way we’re not going to keep committing war crimes.  It means, yes, getting a bigger stimulus when someone like Krugman, who strangely enough has become a hippie, says we need one.  It means saying that global climate change is a lot more important than the filibuster, and in a collision between them, the filibuster has to go.

    A lot of the tactics might end up looking similar, but the whole thing starts out with the willingness of the person at the top to validate the people who were right during the Bush years, and reject the ones who were wrong, and of course to do the same with the ideas that animate them.  Without that, it’s just Bush-era legislative strongarming in pursuit of nothing lasting.

    But, of course, we’re not doing that, and we aren’t going to do that.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  05:41 PM
  34. Ehhhh. We kind of agree, but it’s being stated in ways that contradict. Let’s go through the points.

    Demographics: you don’t have to wait for all of those people to die, Rich! It’s already a pretty small slice of the electorate, and dwindling—seriously, in 5-10 years the GOP base will already be so small that they have to take emergency action.

    I wasn’t exactly talking about tactics, I was talking about not being chickenshit. In the middle of the health care reform process, you got very powerfully from all senior Democrats on the Hill this sense of, “but.... we might lose...” The Dems had a paradox on their hands—the only way to lose the seats was to worry about losing them; the only way to keep them was to behave as if you didn’t care what happened. It wasn’t the time for shoring up the numbers, 2006 and 2008 had already taken care of that.

    Beyond that, I’m persuaded that too much of the landscape was not open to change. Glenn Beck exists; the filibuster exists; the Dems do not have 61 votes; the bully pulpit has been exhaustively shown not to be 1/10th as meaningful as people like to think. The Dems are newcomers to power in a terrible year to be doing that, with a rabid opposition with enough procedural tools to make life difficult for the Dems. Nothing was going to change any of that.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  05:51 PM
  35. There seems to be an elitist subtext with this discussion, though i may be misreading several of the comments.  A very large portion of the population (30+%) are convinced that their beliefs in X, Y, & Z are fundamentally true (though completely denied by factual content).  A significant effort, by a handful of those that “should know better,” has been undertaken to insure that that 30+% continues to hold these beliefs.  The comment thread here (and the original post) takes issue with that handful (across the board) for their outright efforts to lie and deceive, as well as chastizing the behaviors of the left (the full spectrum) for allowing it to transpire.

    I don’t think we can ever reach far enough rhetorically to influence that 30+%.  I am not really sure we can begin to tear at the elite handful who fuel their passions with the lies and distortions (Bush advisors supporting Mosque building at Park51 are ignored outright).  I do think we have a profound say in how the left functions in all of this, and a need to criticize those on the left who screw it up.  And the Gibbian notion that the “professional left” are rising up against the Obama administration is a sign that our criticisms are being read and heard.  Obama’s ongoing, countless efforts to increase the intelligence gathering bureaucracy through: state secrets privileges, NSA letters, maintaining rendition and other off site prisons, attacks on the 4th and 5th Amendments, filing appeals in court cases to protect all administrations, refusing to indict any Bush/Cheney war criminals, etc.,--these are insults to our intelligence that cannot stand.  The Mosque is a very trivial matter in the big picture of all that is transpiring.

    I am frequently convulsed with worry pains for the mdslet.

    In my experience with my own children (and now 10 grandkids), the worry is unfounded but for their youth and our age.  They tend to exceed even our highest expectations; i think Michael would agree.

    4.2 ~~ the NBC Sacramento affiliate sent a reporter out today to challenge an activist on the premise that the Unabomber (anniversary) and EarthFirst! were conspirators in an anti-technological war against the American culture.  It would be hysterically laughable if the activist (a dear friend) hadn’t had to respond.  But such is the mindset of that 30+%.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  06:19 PM
  36. I agree with spyder on just about everything, although I actually think the list of Obama’s grievances are insults we, for the most part, CAN stand. I think a vigorous exploration of the counterfactual universes in which Obama behaved differently would lead to the conclusion that some of these things are not at all easy, and some of them should never have been expected in the first place.

    But the general point is clear: We should pressing Obama to do better, I don’t disagree with that.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  07:36 PM
  37. Slight misreading of slyder’s “stand” line, but the end result is about the same even if I had read it right.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/17  at  07:37 PM
  38. "I don’t think we can ever reach far enough rhetorically to influence that 30+%.”

    Well, that’s sort of what I mean, spyder.  If there is 30% of the population that is stubbornly, vigorously unreachable by rationality, then ideas like the “public sphere” are dead, aren’t they?

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  07:45 PM
  39. then ideas like the “public sphere” are dead, aren’t they?

    That may be disabusing a very large >70% who at least care a bit.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  08:04 PM
  40. Yes, I’m sure that some part of the other 70% care—actually, I’d guess that a good 40% don’t care about politics or any kind of public spherical thing much at all—but that’s not the point.  The public sphere is made up of everyone in it, including those 30%.  If they are determined to e.g. lynch Muslims for building mosques, then the public sphere just isn’t the kind of place that liberal thought thinks that it is.  There’s nothing there to defend.

    Posted by  on  08/17  at  08:25 PM
  41. Posted by  on  08/17  at  09:22 PM
  42. re Comment 17 (like Stalag 17, only with less Holden.)

    You are better as a counter puncher.
    Though, in this crowd it seems a mediocre “STAR” is better than an accomplished character actor.

    As always my best,


    Posted by poicephalus  on  08/17  at  10:21 PM
  43. Josh Marshall (TPM) seeming to rephrase some of the above comments (i thought Journolist was a done deal; or maybe he has been dropping in):

    “We’re in a midst of a spasm of nativist panic and raw and raucous appeals to race and religious hatred. What effects this will have on the November election strikes me as not particularly relevant. What’s important is compiling some record of what’s afoot, some catalog for understanding in the future who was responsible and who was so willing to disgrace their country and their principles for cheap advantage.”

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  12:42 AM
  44. "The comment thread here (and the original post) takes issue with that handful (across the board) for their outright efforts to lie and deceive, as well as chastizing the behaviors of the left (the full spectrum) for allowing it to transpire.”

    I’d been thinking about this quote of spyder’s, and it’s close but not quite what I mean.  I’m certainly willing to point out that the Obama administration missed its chance, because I think that was a historically important missing chance that affects our future options. 

    But for the rest, I don’t think it’s a matter of the left allowing or not allowing something to transpire.  I think that reality just doesn’t match the liberal models of it.  There isn’t really any public sphere that can be defended as a place for liberal engagement.  There really isn’t a civil society as we’ve conceived it.  I mean, we’re pretty much waiting for those 30% to die off.  But when they do, they’ll probably be quickly replaced by a new 30%.  And the people who egg them on will always be there—it’s like an ecosystemic role that’s going to be filled by someone as long as the ecosystem itself is there.

    I recognize that this is pretty much the road that the Straussians have already gone down.  They decided that society was hopeless and they had to manipulate it.  I don’t really care for the authoritarian route, even a crypto-authoritarian one, so I’ve been tending in a more anarchist direction, annoying as 45-year-old anarchism may be.  I don’t see that there’s anything in our current society worth defending, and while I don’t think that there’s really much hope for anything better, I’d prefer to at least not believe in this falsehood.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  11:36 AM
  45. I don’t see that there’s anything in our current society worth defending, and while I don’t think that there’s really much hope for anything better,

    I live in a microcosm of hope that is worth defending.  It is a place where the 70% is engaged, enlightened, and active in developing a cultural foundation that will provide for a healthier more vital future.  Progressives and liberals control all of the local public offices, aided by a strong and very active community of activists.  We, in toto, have passed legislation for green building, sustainable development, free streets (no cars, only bikes and walking), locally grown and processed/cooked foods and beverages, etc.  This isn’t small scale, but represents a city of 200,000.  We have blocks of community business operating out of green buildings powered off the grid.  We have other blocks for healthy sustainable foods.  We have transparent city government.  We have an active public sphere.  I suspect that this is highly unique, and rare in this country.  I suspect it is also in place because of our proximity to Canada...hehee.

    The 30% lives outside the city and controls the Congressional representative (a district taking up one third the state) and not much more.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  01:58 PM
  46. So, spyder, are we supposed to guess?  I’m going to go with Spokane.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:02 PM
  47. Rich @ 40:

    The public sphere is made up of everyone in it, including those 30%.

    But that’s only if you want the Deluxe Jurgen Habermas Public Sphere, with 100 percent of the participants engaging in an ideal speech situation oriented toward consensus.  I suggest you try the Fragmented Michael Warner Public Sphere or the Plural Nancy Fraser Public Sphere instead—it’ll allow you to bypass those intransigent 30 percenters who aren’t buying the premises of communicative action.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  03:03 PM
  48. Yes mds, the City of Spokane, which is entirely different than the County of Spokane. 

    And part of the reason for “free streets” is because we have had too many bike/car fatal accidents.  Does sacrifice bring change?

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  03:35 PM
  49. Michael @ 47: I should read up on some of these things.  But the basic picture that comes to my mind is based on Andrew Sullivan’s story about John Rawls.  Sullivan tells how he asked Rawls what he would do if Hitler joined the debate, Rawls answers that he has nothing to say to Hitler except “go away”.  And Sullivan with his characteristic stupidity goes on into a fantasy about the Arab world being in a war with the U.S.

    Sullivan is a creep who should not be listened to by anyone, on any topic.  But let’s go back to the basic story, which presumably happened even without Sullivan’s foolish take on it.  Rawls says that all you can really tell Hitler is to go away.  Well, in the world, we know what this “go away” actually involved.

    Fragmented, plural public sphere or not, you simply can’t tell 30% of the population to go away.  They are there, and they are going to stay.  A conversation that happens without them is illusory.  And—sorry, spyder—that’s basically what I think about enclaves like the ones that you live in and I live in.  I live in a less developed East Coast one, and sure, you do what you can do with local politics.  But kids get pulled out of here to get shot in stupid foreign wars just the same.  They get sent to jail for long prison terms for drug use just the same.  The most important things are determined at the state and Federal level, and there, the 30% make themselves heard.

    A Rawlsian conversation—or whatever other kind of liberal model you like—is fine if all you have to exclude is an external enemy or an occasional crazy person.  It just doesn’t work if the thugs are 30% of the people who you’re living with.  You can’t get rid of them, you can’t ignore them, and you can’t exclude them.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  04:09 PM
  50. Hey Rich—before you get to reading Warner and Fraser (must-reads, both), check out chapter 6 of What’s Liberal, which discusses ... Andrew Sullivan’s account of John Rawls! 

    The book is available at 30 percent discount for residents of Spokane.

    Posted by Michael  on  08/18  at  04:33 PM
  51. Heh.  I’ve read What’s Liberal, so that must be where I remembered the story from.  When I Googled it, the Sullivan piece came up.  I’ll have to re-read that chapter—I’d guess that your take on it was far different than mine, but I really don’t remember.

    Posted by  on  08/18  at  06:02 PM
  52. The only thing we can do, as Democrats, is behave like adults and adopt sane policies. Neither Obama nor the Democrats have ever stopped doing that. It’s not going to be fun, but we’ll be fine.

    Sorry to be coming so late to this conversation...and for dredging up this comment from way up @3, but it just seems wrong from beginning to end and, since I cannot let anyone be Wrong on Teh Internets®, I had to weigh in on it.

    First, neither Obama nor the Democrats have behaved like adults or adopted sane policies. The 2009 stimulus plan was totally inadequate, as Krugman and other sane economists said at the time.  The HCR plan, while marginally better than the status quo, will barely dent our healthcare access problem or bend the cost curve. We have no sensible climate or energy policies in sight; cap & trade, on loan, like the HCR plan, from early 1990s rightwing think tanks, wouldn’t work and won’t pass the Senate.  We’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Bush administration policies on detention without trial and executive authority have become the new normal. And don’t get me started on Reid, Dean, and company on the “Ground-Zero Mosque.”

    Now you may say, well, this is the best the Democrats could have done under the circumstances.  I’d probably disagree. But even if we stipulate that this is the best the Democrats could have done, all you’re doing is explaining why they couldn’t act like adults or adopt sane policies.

    Secondly, even if the Democrats had, in fact, adopted sane policies and acted like adults, politics in all its ugly glory wouldn’t have gone away.  In a democracy, there’s no escaping politics.  Good government, even if you actually pursue it, doesn’t banish the beast. This is the mistake that technocrats make.  Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily, all by itself, make everything fine.  On this, throughout the thread, Rich Puchalsky is right.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that we’re not all Democrats here. But compared to these other big mistakes, this one’s pretty small.

    Captcha: training

    Posted by Ben Alpers  on  08/18  at  11:41 PM
  53. Ben,

    Thanks for the reply to 3. I do appreciate the response, even though I’m not going to be kind to you below. I think your comments, while intelligent, are spectacularly misguided and even depressing.

    A couple of things. Read my comment at 34, where I list some of the structural constraints that Democrats faced. Those constraints cannot be wished away, and Democrats did the best they could within them.

    In addition, they are politicians so much balance what rewards their interest groups, what appeals to independents, what is good for the country, etc., just like politicians at any other place and time in history.

    I don’t buy the premise that the Dems of 2009/10 behaved any less like adults than any comparable group in history (allowing, of course, for the massively increased scrutiny on each and every utterance and deed that politicians of earlier generations didn’t have to be worried about—a big factor).

    Did the Democrats cobble together a very complex health care plan to the best of their ability over several excruciating months even though many of those same people believed that passing it would doom their own political futures? Yes, that happened. I did not imagine it.

    Your easy words about it “barely denting” anything are worse than meaningless or wrong, they are actively harmful.

    On the stimulus, one party wanted a large stimulus and the other party wanted a very low stimulus or no stimulus at all. You will note that I never, ever said that everything about the stimulus process or outcome was perfect or worked out well—only that the Democrats had the right, “adult” tendency and the Republicans displayed the wrong and childish tendency. I see zero grounds for anyone to the left of Harry Reid (pretty moderate guy) to dispute this version of events.

    If you are to the left and you don’t like the Dems in the way that you framed it, then you are either new to politics or you don’t like politicians of almost any description. So I’m disinclined to take your opinions about who did what very seriously. Sorry.

    Posted by Martin  on  08/19  at  12:16 PM
  54. Well, as more Democratic politicians do the grown-up thing and agree that property rights and the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to Muslims, we can breathe a sigh of relief that growing populist scapegoating of the Cordoba Initiative as an anti-American activity means that McCarthyism has been soundly refudiated.

    So I’m disinclined to take your opinions about who did what very seriously. Sorry.

    Wow, that’s Ben Alpers told.  Guess you need to shut up and clap harder from here on out, Mr. Alpers.  Or at least learn a thing or two about American politics first.  Maybe some of your co-bloggers at U.S. Intellectual History could give you some schooling.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  01:30 PM
  55. then you are either new to politics or you don’t like politicians of almost any description.

    Excuse me, what is wrong with an old, craven, cynical, radical anarchist?  It took decades of political experience to get this way.  Waiting (captcha) for things to get better, or saying that some things are better than they appear to be, makes Rich sound downright genius.  Meanwhile 18% of the US population (including 31% of self described Rethuglicans) believe Obama is a Muslim. 

    In other news, Chapter 6 of What’s Liberal, along with the rest of the book, is available at our local Spokane book house for 70% off.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  02:02 PM
  56. Posted earlier today at TPM:

    Under cover of darkness, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, crossed into neighbouring Kuwait ahead of the planned declaration of an end to US combat operations in Iraq by an August 31 deadline.

    If one is given to cynicism one might think that this year’s annual August Republican Shitstorm™, lower Manhattan edition, has accomplished its goal of diverting attention from a Mideast development that offers little political profit for their wizened souls.

    Captcha: reading. ~ tea leaves is the only reason to drink tea.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  02:43 PM
  57. Under cover of darkness, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, crossed into neighbouring Kuwait

    Stories that the brigade subsequently removed babies from incubators at a hospital in Kuwait City under orders from Jimmy Carter were later shown to be fabrications by profoundly-confused (even by their standards) right-wing bloggers. However, in a front page article, the NYTimes pointed out that Carter’s prior identification as History’s Greatest Monster should have led him to anticipate and better prepare for attacks of this nature.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  08:25 PM
  58. In support of Rich’s thesis that the public sphere is dead.

    Posted by  on  08/19  at  09:23 PM
  59. @53


    I’ll ignore the incorrect assumptions about my knowledge and experience and go to the substance of the matter.

    As I read your comment @3, you were arguing that the Democrats have governed well (which is what I took “sane” and “like adults” to mean) and that, therefore, they have nothing to worry about as the politics will take care of itself.

    My principal disagreements with this line of argument were that:

    1) The Democrats haven’t governed well.

    2) Even if one does govern well, doing so doesn’t automatically get rewarded politically.

    In passing I also expressed the opinion that the Democrats could have, in fact, done a lot better than they’ve done.  Most of your reply concerns this last issue, which, while important in and of itself, is really not central to your original point.

    Put another way: your disagreement with me @53 seems to be over why the Democrats have not governed well.  You say they couldn’t have done any better under the circumstances; I disagree.

    But the point remains that the policies they adopted were not sane or even adequate. Whether or not a larger package was politically possible, the stimulus package they passed was woefully inadequate. And now Democrats and Republicans seem much more concerned about balancing the budget (in the middle of a recession!) than about, say, jobs. This is neither sane nor adult.

    The results of all of this are entirely predictable. More bad economic news released today.  The rosy view of our current economy is that we’re in the kind of zombie recovery that we had in 1991 and 2001. The less rosy view is that we’re headed for a double-dip recession. 

    To get back to your original point: whatever the cause (impossible political circumstances--your view-- or a lack of political will combined with an ideological commitment to Washington consensus economics or something else) the Democrats failed to produce sane policies that responded to this economic crisis. And we are currently reaping the harvest of their inadequate policies.*

    Even if good government sold itself, the American people understand that they have not received good government in the last twenty months. 

    Now I’d be the first to say that voting for the Republicans under these circumstances is not a rational response. Republican obstruction in the Senate bears plenty of responsibility for the bad government we’ve received. And Republican “ideas” promise even worse government should they win. 

    But this goes to my second point:  Politics isn’t entirely rational.  It’s certainly easier to get reelected when one is producing real results for average people.  But it’s not automatic.

    At any rate, with 9.5% unemployment, no sign of significant job growth in the near future, and Congress worrying about the deficit of all things, for Democrats to say “we’re doing a great job!...so why worry about something silly like politics?” is neither sane nor adult.


    * One could make similar observations about many other critical issues we face, from global climate change to getting rid of the Bush administration’s policies on torture and executive authority.

    Posted by Ben Alpers  on  08/20  at  10:39 AM
  60. When Ben Alpers said above that cap-and-trade came from early 1990’s Republican think tanks, he was exactly right. (The same places that produced the ideas behind the “individual mandate” part of HCR, and a whole bunch of other Obama policies.) Paging Dr Overton! Your Window has shifted!

    Posted by John Protevi  on  08/21  at  09:23 AM
  61. This would’ve been a good thread on which to muster a creditable contribution, but time seldom flies as the crow does. 

    What almost everybody else said.

    Posted by  on  08/24  at  05:56 AM
  62. Thanks for informing us and keeping us informed

    Posted by travel insurance canada  on  07/23  at  12:47 PM





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