Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Choices We Face...

"No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are his accomplices." - Edward R. Murrow

* At last... the mass desertion by true conservatives appears to have begun. See this by Paul Craig Roberts, of all people, who was Ronal Reagan's Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and contributing editor of National Review.

The-Tyranny-of-Good-Intentions-Roberts-Paul-Craig-9780307396068He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Law Enforcement are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Like Paul O'Niel, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and a few others, these are not traitors to conservatism; they are angry over an ongoing betrayal of genuine conservatism by a cabal of extremists who have taken over the movement for their own purposes.

* Even more telling and devastating is the conversion of Kevin Phillips, whose book "The Emerging Republican Majority" (published as he began work for Nixon in 1969) first coined terms like the "sunbelt," forecasting the southern and rural GOP strategy that we now think of as "red state culture war." (That deserves a high score, whatever predictions "registry" you happen to be using.)

Like Newt Gingrich, Phillips foresaw the developing neoconservative movement not only as a march back to power, after catastrophic political defeat in 1964. During the subsequent long process of reappraisal and renewal, those who were reinventing conservatism envisioned a values-oriented return to decent American norms... sort of an immune reaction to - and correction of - purported anti-individualism excess by a fetishistically paternalistic Left.

According to this expectation, a broadly populist political uprising on the right would lead to fiscal responsibility, reduced debt, cautious restraint in foreign policy, efficient and limited government, elevated social discourse, electoral and legislative transparency, emphasis on professionalism and readiness, rising personal wealth for most Americans, a renaissance of entrepreneurial small business and the fostering of healthy civil society through a Tocquevillian process that devolves power from elites to the people.

Read that list of expectations over and over again, as many times as it may take for the irony to sink in. Did this fantastically successful American political revolution, seizing nearly all of a great nation's significant institutions of power, accomplish any of its worthy surface aspirations? Any at all?

That is, aspirations other than raw power? For those special few who in effect own the GOP, the active and profound reversal of all stated goals may not matter very much. (After all, power is power.) And other parts of the ruling neocon coalition - Straussian Platonist Mystics and religious fundamentalists - are easily satisfied with symbolic gestures, rather than tangible outcomes.

But for old-fashioned Goldwater Conservatives, who still make up a high fraction of grassroots Republican voters, the betrayal of every principle and desideratum must tear, grind and fester. Logically, this kind of cognitive dissonance should lead to agonized-but honest reevaluation, starting from the ground up. Well, it should. But, alas.

A deep flaw - perhaps the most tragic in human nature - makes delusional hallucinators of us all, blinding our eyes to any evidence that runs counter to our favorite dogmas. (This applies in all directions, to all dogmas, left as well as right.) Even more urgent is the need to find excuses for our side, our team, our tribe. In the face of this core human trait, it takes an awfully big person to admit that cherished, idealistic plans went awry... even diametrically opposite to every fervent hope.

IS CITIZENSHIP TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR?

And yet, aren't we praying, right now, for just such a grim admission to emerge out of the festering pain of decent American conservatism? The honest and sincere conservatism of Barry Goldwater, that was based upon a straightforward dedication to rectitude and accountability, arising out of some combination of market forces, law, and a vibrantly empowered, democratically enlightened citizenry? The kind that proudly faced the best of liberalism, ready to negotiate how problems should be solved, not whether they should be ignored?

That notion of conservatism remains valid and continues to deserve a place at-table, even now, after the movement's tiller has been hijacked by monsters. Is there even a slim chance that it can be rescued, before its reputation is permanently ruined by association with monsters?

miracleof1947Imagine how it might help save conservatism - and the republic itself - if a critical mass of decent, conservative paragons were to see their public-spirited duty in time. A clear duty to emulate the Miracle of 1947.

That was when several thousand moderate American liberals - having learned the truth about Stalin's Soviet horror - gathered their courage and resolve, stood up, and admitted that "the radicals of our side can be mad." In a combination of patriotism, pragmatism and idealism, they resolved to separate themselves, from any association with Communism, even at the level of nostalgic sympathy!

Nothing less would have sufficed. A schism of the left was necessary, in order to save the American left as a dynamic force in our national life.

Not only was this move courageous, it proved spectacularly successful. What ensued was not a defeat of American liberalism, but rather its greatest era - that of Martin Luther King and Betty Friedan - when citizens were inspired to redouble every progressive effort, to pass bills, revise laws, change their communities, and above-all to repair deep character flaws of racism, sexism and the shortsighted abuse of our grandchildren's planet. These problems were not completely solved, of course. But few of us regret those strenuous exertions, or call them wasted. Nor could any of it have happened, if honest American reformers had not decisively separated liberalism from a far-left that was deeply sick.

CAN SUCH A MIRACLE HAPPEN AGAIN?

Can anyone doubt that matters are just as serious today, on the American right, as they were for the left in 1947? In much the same way that liberals felt torment over disowning the monsters on "their side," so we now see decent conservatives writhing and twisting, like pretzels, in order to make excuses for rapacious kleptocrats, incompetent thugs, moronic armchair warriors, cynical spin doctors, conniving feudalists and screeching fanatics.

Are they truly loyal to such monsters? Are they kept in rigid lockstep out of some misplaced fealty to a ridiculous "political axis" that was insipid even when the French invented it, in 1789? A left-right axis that offers no relevance or insight or utility for an agile and sophisticated Third Millennium? (Gather a dozen people and no two will even define it the same way!)

In frantic denial, these classic conservatives tell themselves that "at least Clinton was worse..." without ever explicitly showing how he was worse, by even a single rationally explicit metric of human governance!

Such is our human genius for self-delusion. The same deep character flaw that toppled every other great nation, even at its height of power. The character flaw that our pragmatic enlightenment was supposedly designed to overcome.

Will decent American conservatives see their duty in time, the same way that members of the ADA and AFL-CIO and NAACP saw theirs, way back in 1947? Or will we finally see how decisively different these two movements really are, when the chips are down? One with a record of openminded heroism and the other... displaying craven cowardice till the bitter end?

Alas, Newt Gingrich hasn't stepped forward yet. (An in-depth essay 'Should Democrats Issue a New Contract with America'? re-appraises Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America, considering how this masterful piece of 20th Century political polemic might be used by the other side, in the 21st. Indeed, Gingrich might even approve... if his goal remained sincere.)

Nor have many other "decent conservatives" who should rise up and put true patriotism over dogma, declaring greater loyalty to our system than to a side in this contrived culture war. Alas, for the most part, top conservatives have either bought into the madness, or else grit their teeth and excuse it, by pointing to a strawman carricature of liberalism - a version that bears no resemblance to mainstream Democrats. It may be satisfying to yammer about terror-coddling, pornography-pandering, overspending, UN -surrendering, effete naifs, but the difference between the Democrats and the GOP is that the liberals' loony carricatures never had any chance of real power, and never will.

(And yet, George F. Will, like Cato, continues shrieking hysterically at anemic Carthage, while making wincing excuses for a homegrown tyranny.)

CAUSE FOR HOPE?

kevinphillipsBut let's look at the bright side. Look around for signs of hope. Glimmers like Kevin Phillips who recently came out with American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. A book that every one of us should go out and buy, for two reasons:

(1) in order to make it a best-seller, and

(2) in order to shove each copy into the hands of at least one honest, sincere and mentally-competent American conservative. (Well, perhaps as a test of mental competence.)

I won't go into the author's arguments here. Not in detail, although it certainly is refreshing to see a "conservative" concede the obvious - for example, that an ingrown, secretive, and historically selfish petro plutocracy is hardly the most credible cabal to trust with a great nation's energy policy, or its foreign policy, for that matter.

Phillips admits that he was shocked by the course that his revolution took, veering in directions that left all of the old goals of empowered citizenship and public rectitude abandoned, in the dust. He never expected the mass-populist neoconservative movement could be so easily -- almost trivially -- hijacked by elements that are anti-freedom, anti-future and anti-enlightenment, taking this route not only out of venial self-interest but also as a matter of fundamental personality.

According to Phillips, those elements include not only the petrocracy, but also religious fanatics, contemptuous media moguls and foreign elements that seek world power in the most efficient and straightforward way possible - by directly influencing American elites.

While focusing especially upon two of these elements - the new theocrats and the petrocracy - Phillips comes closer than anybody else to actually recognizing what's going on... a return to the consistent pattern that dominated nearly every other urban culture in human history. A power-sharing arrangement between resource controlling aristocrats and mystical clerics, who chant justifications for aristocratic rule.

Don't even try to deny that this was the freedom-suppressing formula in every culture, from Babylon to China to Rome... and all the way to the British Imperium that our founders finally rejected, in their daring gamble. A wager instead upon Periclean-Lockean notions of institutionalized reciprocal accountability. (Moreover, it is worth pointing out that the same formula dominated the old Confederate South, which Phillips now calls the ultimate winner of an ongoing Civil War.)

* Just to keep up my reputation of balance, let me point out that the Soviet Union followed this classic pattern in every detail, down to a mutually beneficial alliance where power-holders bent on ferociously enforced rule by an inherited nomenklatura, relied upon quasi-religious Marxian dogmatists to justify the elites' monopoly of power. Everything else - every bit of "egalitarian" Communist rhetoric - was hypocritical, Potemkin window-dressing. *

Far from being a matter of left versus right, what we are seeing today is a renewal of the same battle fought by Franklin, Washington, Lincoln, Marshall and every other great American hero. Every generation of American heroes. A battle pitting the new maturity of accountability, pragmatic self-improvement and rambunctious citizenship against the endlessly recycled power-rationalizations that served tyrants of every stripe. An age-old reflex that's the real enemy of freedom, still calling to us from Egypt and Ur. From the caves. From our genes.

WILL "DECENT CONSERVATIVES" BECOME AN OXYMORON?

Alas, though Phillips comes closer than anybody else, he still doesn't lay things out this clearly. Amid a somewhat murky morass of near-term details, he never crystallizes the Big Picture... that all ideologies tend to serve the interests of some freedom-stealing cabal. Especially if we let our favorite dogmas get hijacked by monsters.

Liberals (the smartest and best of them) were able to see this, when they performed a miracle in 1947, choosing to side with Franklin, Madison and Marshall. In a similar manner, decent conservatives may yet rescue us from a similarly dire crisis, in 2006, ending "culture war" by the simple expediency of saying "this is not conservatism. No, this is madness."

Will it happen, though?

Let's be clear about this. Patriots of all kinds will stand up and stop the monsters. As our parents and grandparents passed every test, we too will rise up and be counted, in defense of both our republic and civilization. America will be saved. That is not the real issue.

No, the issue is whether enough decent conservatives will rise up, joining this struggle, to save any hope for their movement during generations to come.

If Newt and his friends want a better version of conservatism to survive and thrive, with a reputation for anything other than spineless dogmatism, they will heed the call of history, and stand up. Now, when we need them most.

In doing so, they will make this not a matter of "culture war" between rural and urban America, but a much simpler matter, about ejecting a nasty gang of thieves, in order to let our nation get back to business. In doing so, they will save their own movement. But don't hold your breath.

So far, the pioneers in this conservative turnaround are so few that individual quirkiness dominates over any sense of momentum. From Kevin Phillips to David Brock to Paul O'Neil, the exceptions merely serve to attract Rovean spasms of character assassination, while raising false hopes, that this generation will be able to accomplish its historic mission - preserving the Great Experiment - with significant help from the right.

So far, despite those few exceptions, it seems unlikely.

If we can find any consolation, during this time of darkness, it is in a strange fact... or rather, a bit of inspiring truthiness... that the State of Arizona has started producing copious amounts of clean electricity from magnetic coils that surround the furious spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

===

See more: Politics for the 21st Century

95 comments:

reason said...

Inspiring. I hope it does wake someone up, but unfortunately the forum is on the wrong network. Preaching to the converted I'm very much afraid.

Jonathan said...

David, why do you hate America so much?

Remember, 9/11 Saddam terrorists WMDs loony liberal drilling in the wildlife refuge democracy freedom-hating wiretaps if you're not with us Gitmo self-defense rendition nature! Heck of a job, Brownie! Just normal variations, not global warming! Just a theory!

I think that's an accurate transcription of every Presidential press conference in the past five years, anyway...

Don Quijote said...

WILL "DECENT CONSERVATIVES" BECOME AN OXYMORON?

No it will not become an oxymoron, it already is!

But for old-fashioned Goldwater Conservatives, who still make up a high fraction of grassroots Republican voters,

As we can tell from the polls...

A schism of the left was necessary, in order to save the American left as a dynamic force in our national life.

And as we can see, the left is more powerfull & influencial than it's ever been. What left?

HawkerHurricane said...

"According to this expectation, a broadly populist political uprising on the right would lead to fiscal responsibility, reduced debt, cautious restraint in foreign policy, efficient and limited government, elevated social discourse, electoral and legislative transparency, emphasis on professionalism and readiness, rising personal wealth for most Americans, a renaissance of entrepreneurial small business and the fostering of healthy civil society through a Tocquevillian process that devolves power from elites to the people."

Noble goals, hijacked.

And I'll say again... The heart of the neoCon movement is the Trotskyites who realized that thier dreams of power wouldn't be realized from the left, so they became conservatives to get power. The only thing they changed was the rhetoric.

David, you can count me among the 'decent conservatives' who abandoned the Republicans (in 1992!) when I saw that gaining power was more important to them than keeping thier ideals.

I'd rather the country be run by honest, well meaning if not quite competent liberals than the dishonest, mean spirited, and incompetent 'conservatives' who currently hold power.

Woozle said...

The latest email newsletter from democrats.org says:

I bet you've never thought that when you open up one of these messages for grassroots Democrats across the country, that among the people also reading them would be Republican and disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

What makes us think he's reading? We don't know for sure (if you have Newt's email address, let us know and we'll check the database), but look at what he said in an interview with Time.com this weekend. Asked about the sorry situation of his own party and the prospect for Democratic gains, he suggested that Democrats could make the case against Republican corruption and incompetence with a single slogan: "Had enough?"

Governor Howard Dean has been saying exactly the same thing for months...


Also, while looking for the correct URL for the "katrina video" link DB posted on 3/26, I came across this quote:

"The city of New Orleans failed. The state of Louisiana failed. The federal government failed. It is astonishing to me that five months after the obvious failure of all three layers of government that there has been no serious systemic change," said former house speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican.

Perhaps Mr. Gingrich could be coaxed into taking a stand?

Stefan Jones said...

I wish I had a firm citation for this:

"I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."
Sen. Barry Goldwater, July 1981

Stefan Jones said...

WOW . . .

This is fascinating.

Keith Knight is a San Francisco based muscian and cartoonist. As part of an April Fool's gag, he and some friends marched around with signs supporting Bush, the war in Iraq, and so on.

He drew a cartoon about what happened next:

http://www.salon.com/comics/knig/2006/03/29/knig/index1.html

(You'll need to sit through an advert to see this if you are not a Salon subscriber.

But it's worth it!)

Stefan

Tangent said...

Don't ever think that you're wasting your time writing blogs, or that it's an addiction or the like. This is a most intelligent and well-thought-out discussion, and I hope that conservatives sit up and take notice.

Well done.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Goldwater was even more critical of "culture war" later on. When he called Bill Clinton "a pretty good president, with a very nice wife."

He had not become a democrat. He still preach a libertarian take on life and wanted Hillary to limit her health care socialism to children... a very good idea for incrementalism that would have probably worked. Still, BG considered Culture War to be a criminal betrayal of America. Moreover, Newt Gingrich knows this, too.

Quijote, the strong and patriotic liberals of 47 went on to march and legislate and change the world. ML King and Betty Friedan and Greenpeace weren't wimps. Our Karate chopping daughters and Barack Obama are living proof of the power of that movement, once they dropped all links with communist madness.

Or... are you saying they should have clung to Stalin, the way so many cowardly conservatives are clinging to Bush? OMG, your true colors?

Sorry, you may be unhappy with today's left. But the liberals of 47 made the RIGHT decision, then had the cojones to get out and push and fight to PROVE it right.

No, I do not believe that "decent conservative" is an oxymoron. I know plenty of them.

What appears to be an oxymoron is "courageous conservative." Find me more than a few with the guts to stand up for BOTH their principles and their country, the way the brave folks of the ADA and AFL-CIO and NAACP did, in 1947, at the very moment when civilization most needed them.

There are still some fine conservative (mostly libertarian) ideas out there. Worthy of adding to a complex 21st Century problem-solving methodology toolkit. But those ideas won't be at the table, unless some democrats like Al Gor keep them there.

(See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114351506093609748.html)

Because craven conservatives are on course toward the destruction of their own movement. By virtue of a lazy or cowardly refusal to disassociate it from monsters.

YOU may rejoice over that self-destruction, Quijote. But most of the rest of us will not. We do not relish seeing the American Left take over and rule,unchallenged, for decades of bitter, continuing culture war.

Our enemy IS culture war.

Don Quijote said...

Find me more than a few with the guts to stand up for BOTH their principles and their country, the way the brave folks of the ADA and AFL-CIO and NAACP did, in 1947, at the very moment when civilization most needed them.

The jackasses who passed laws to kill their base and have none today.

YOU may rejoice over that self-destruction, Quijote.

I have to admit to a certain enjoyment.

But most of the rest of us will not.
Sorry to hear that.

We do not relish seeing the American Left take over and rule,unchallenged, for decades of bitter, continuing culture war.

What left? Really what left are you talking about?

If the Dems manage to win the 06 elections and get into power, big if, you are going to end up with impeachment procceedings followed by another center right President (Clinton, Gore or Feingold) in 08.

David Brin said...

Oh... if only. And one who reaches out to all decent modern-looking Americans, listening to everybody and forging a new, big tent alliance. One that wages war ON culture war and returns us to the enlightenment tradition of nogotiating with each other in goodwill.

Tony Fisk said...

At least Tony Blair seems to grok the need to wage war on culture war (even if he's talking in terms of WOT).

Doesn't help folks in the US, of course (or Oz, for that matter, where our wee wizard of Strauss shows he is, indeed, without shame wrt keeping limits on the Cole inquiry on Iraqi wheat sales.)

Don Quijote said...

And one who reaches out to all decent modern-looking Americans, listening to everybody and forging a new, big tent alliance. One that wages war ON culture war and returns us to the enlightenment tradition of nogotiating with each other in goodwill.

Got to love your optimism.

decent modern-looking Americans

Now that is one seriously tiny subset of the population, if you 're going to depend on them to get elected, run for class president at Harvard.

Culture wars are here to stay, wages are stagnent. Something has to be done, but when you are a conservative, you can't do anything to help Joe Sixpack, so you appeal to his prejudices. You can't guarantee his healthcare, his pension, or his education, but you can always shift the blame to some hated minority, Gays, Illegal Aliens, Blacks, Women, liberals, leftists, pick your flavor of the week.

David Brin said...

While I agree with much you say, I refuse to exult in simplistic swathes of Revelations-style "evil and/or benighted hordes vs the few enlightened ones." It's just too sappy, convenient, self-indulgent... and too human. Too much like EVERY side in every culture war in every single damned-from-the-start civilization of the past.

You are right about Rove's tactics, and yes they have worked so far, because of a perfect storm of many factors. But you are dead wrong to dismiss a quarter of the country, simply because another quarter has gone nuts.

Implicit in your brief analysis is profound CONTEMPT for Joe Sixpack. That he has no cogent reasons for his anger. That your side did nothing to earn it. Even if you were right (and you are not) that is hardly the attitude taken by serious people who want to learn.

In fact, that patronising attitude is THE thing that Joe hates most about liberals. He won't come into your big tent... because you refuse to invite him.

Don Quijote said...

Implicit in your brief analysis is profound CONTEMPT for Joe Sixpack.

It's very difficult not to have contempt for a mark that gets taken to the cleaners every two years. Joe Sixpack has been voting for the right for the last twenty plus years, and what has he got to show for it? more economic insecurity, lower wages, higher rates of debt, more dangerous work environment and a larger population prison.


That he has no cogent reasons for his anger. That your side did nothing to earn it. Even if you were right (and you are not) that is hardly the attitude taken by serious people who want to learn.

He has plenty of reasons to be angry but it isn't the left that is sending is factory job to China, not enforcing immigration laws, killing enviromental laws, and attempting to kill off his pension plan and his social security.

Don Quijote said...

You are right about Rove's tactics, and yes they have worked so far, because of a perfect storm of many factors.
We live in a propaganda state.

Francis said...

I, as should be obvious by now, am not a conservative. But the single ideology you need most to make any system of government work is Conservatism - the belief that things do not need serious change. This is because for any reasonably advanced civilisation, you can do far more damage by breaking things ineptly than you could make by improving them.

And David, Don. Almost all the major successes either Liberals or Leftists can claim are from when they have been working in tandem. The Liberals need ideologues willing to throw themselves into the breech in order to provide enough impact - and we also need a simpler and more straightforward rallying cause for many people. The Lefties need people to say which barriers are the effective ones to fling themselves at and to finish off grabbing the ground the lefties have opened up.

(See MLK's comment about Malcolm X (something along the lines of "they negotiate with me because they don't want to negotiate with you") for a good example of this).

Particularly when the NeoCons have turned Conservatism reactionary, you are on the same side. Sniping at each others positions is effective - sniping at each other's whole movements is simply counterproductive.

NoOne said...

Stefan Jones commented "I wish I had a firm citation for this:

"I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."
Sen. Barry Goldwater, July 1981"

Here you go.

Mark said...

Francis said...
I, as should be obvious by now, am not a conservative. But the single ideology you need most to make any system of government work is Conservatism - the belief that things do not need serious change.


Wow, I agree 100%. For as long as we have had polls there have always been almost twice as many people who identify themselves as conservative as opposed to liberal. I believe this is a good thing, and I'm speaking as a liberal.

When the system works correctly, liberals look for what must be changed and conservatives resist that change. Eventually, the good ideas get through and the bad ones (or the ones people just aren't ready for yet) get placed on the back-burner.

The current climate, however, has turned that all on its head. The neocon, movement conservatives are taking the role of liberals, but pushing us to a sometimes backwards, sometimes just dangerous place. Now the liberals are forced to play the role of conservative and say "stop", a role we aren't very good at, I'm afraid.

The good news for liberals is a large part of the current culture war is just a backlash to the fact we won -- and continue to win. One of my favorite statistics is more people in 1967, when Loving vs Virginia was decided, were against interracial marriage than people today are against gay marriage. It may not feel like it every day, but we really are winning this ideological battle.

Francis said...

mark,

The problem with saying that we are winning the culture war is that in America in particular I think that both the first order and second order differential was with us in e.g. the 1960s. Currently, the situation is far better, but the direction isn't half as good.

And please, don't dignify the NeoCons with the label of Conservatives. Call them what they are: Reactionaries.

Tangent said...

The more things change, the more things stay the same. *shakes head*

Don, the same could be said in reverse about liberals voting for their own candidates. The truth is, the political system has forgotten a fundamental truth: we are supposed to be represented by our fellow man, not an elite powerbase.

Personally, I think the entire election system would be better suited if it were a lottery, and that people would be required to leave their job (though it would be waiting for them when they returned) when selected for a political position. Each person runs for 2 years in the House, or 6 years in the Senate. No political parties. No infighting. Instead, a position in Congress would be like being in Jury Duty. And instead of the top 10% (fiscally) of America's public running for 99% of the political positions available, you'd have a true diversity.

I can already hear the outcry against it. "They aren't trained for this. They aren't ready for this." But... is this not the government Of the People, By the People, For the People? And could you not provide initial training for these new candidates? Show them what to do? Show them what is expected?

Heck, you could even have elected Senators and selected (by the Jury Duty method) Representatives if you're that worried about what laws will come out of such a system of government.

I'm willing to bet that Liberals and Conservatives alike would scream bloody murder at such a system of governing.

Rob H.

Doris said...

You call for a "courageous conservative" to help clean up the Neocon mess.

The courageous sometimes succeed. But what scares people are examples like the "swiftboating" of John Kerry, the mantra-like ridicule of Howard Dean's "rebel yell," and, decades ago, the murder of Medgar Evers.

Losing your reputation to lies or mindless spoofing or losing your life are enough to discourage the almost-courageous conservative parent and sole support of three children to just cringe and hope the monsters go away.

Furthermore, as long as electronic voting machine companies manufacture untrustworthy equipment, a courageous conservative's sacrifices will be pointless.

David Brin said...

Doris, my call is to conservative PUBLIC FIGURES, like Newt Gingrich, who have long put themselves forward as willing representatives of conservative ideals. They must be held to higher standards, and wear thick-enough skins to bear the brickbats.

I do not want to apply ANY political labels to the Cheneykleps. Even using the term "reactionary" is unfair to honest reactionaries. I do not believe what we are seeing is anything "political" at all.

What we are seeing is - at best - a raid by a pack of highly skilled con artists and thieves. VERY FEW "conservative" goals have actually advanced while they held all branches of government, but the venial interests of their top backers have advanced prodigiously. Including certain foreign backers who have ensconced personal aides into dozens of high US positions.

It sounds paranoid at one level... but this model is actually quite liberating, at another! If only Newt et al would look at it this way, they would see their duty clear as day. To eject this gang of thieves FROM CONSERVATISM as fast as possible... and then from America.

--

another matter!
A quick appeal to any nitpickers out there who spotted errors in my novel KILN PEOPLE.

If you have noted any typoes or errors, anywhere, now is the time to tell me. There's about to be a reprint.

Thanks!

Stefan Jones said...

Folks following recent news events associated with the special election in David Brin's congressional district should get a big kick out of this item.

Stefan

Don Quijote said...

(See MLK's comment about Malcolm X (something along the lines of "they negotiate with me because they don't want to negotiate with you") for a good example of this).

And to extend your analogy...

It's as if MLK had given Malcolm X a slow acting poison that had sapped all of his strengh and put him on his death bed, but now MLK needs help to fight off the CCC , but there is no Malcolm X.

Mark said...

Francis,

I tend to talk about "Movement Conservatives" the same way people talk about NeoCons. To me, "NeoCon" only refers to foreign policy though I realize others use the term more broadly. To me a small 'c' conservative is just the way you describe them, but NeoCons and Movement Conservatives are something else.

But don't think there isn't a relationship. Movement Conservatives are largely trying to put things back the way the were before liberals "broke" everything. Of course, they want to go back to some idealized version of the past that never actually existed, but they tend to miss that point.

But really, as David likes to point out from time to time, the labels 'liberal' and 'conservative' often have little meaning. No two people even seem to define them the same way.

Francis said...

And to extend your analogy...

It's as if MLK had given Malcolm X a slow acting poison that had sapped all of his strengh and put him on his death bed, but now MLK needs help to fight off the CCC , but there is no Malcolm X.


Don't forget that many of the wounds to the left were self-inflicted (I've been known to describe the British Left as the Judean Peoples Front (from Monty Python and the Life of Brian)). And that the Leftists in charge are every bit as dangerous as the Right Wing - they have distinct One True Way authoritarian tendencies. (See the Great Leap Forward and Five Year Plans for illustrations). Also that the Left has lost one of its core constituencies - the Evangelical Christians (see here for one (shrill, but possibly accurate) explanation of this). You certainly can't put all the blame on the Liberals,

Don Quijote said...

And that the Leftists in charge are every bit as dangerous as the Right Wing - they have distinct One True Way authoritarian tendencies. (See the Great Leap Forward and Five Year Plans for illustrations).

As opposed to the rightists who would never do anything to harm a fly.

Don't forget that many of the wounds to the left were self-inflicted

Absolutly, see Taft-Hartley.


And that the Leftists in charge are every bit as dangerous as the Right Wing - they have distinct One True Way authoritarian tendencies. (See the Great Leap Forward and Five Year Plans for illustrations)

There is more to the left than Stalin & Mao.

Francis said...

As opposed to the rightists who would never do anything to harm a fly.

The time when you claim the Liberals poisoned the left were not a period where the rightists looked particularly dangerous. I can think of two distinct times - after the Right was dealt a serious body-blow by the exposure of Fascism and in the wake of the Civil Rights movement - both periods in which the Left rather than the Right was ascendent.

Yes, the left is preferable to the right - in the same way that a bear is probably preferable to a panther That doesn't mean that a bear isn't something to be feared and it doesn't mean that you want to be alone in a room with a bear.

Liberals are not leftists and vise-versa. They are usually allies working towards simmilar ends but sometimes find themselves in conflict. Is there a point in objecting to when this happens - or do you want a Republican-style Caucus?

And of course there is more to the left than Stalin and Mao. I live in Britain, not America - we still have a just about viable Left (whatever our Prime Minister is trying to do to it).

Rob Perkins said...

To try and impeach the President after midterm elections would paint a picture of the dems as bitter and opportunistic. Karl Rove would welcome it.

"It's very difficult not to have contempt for a mark that gets taken to the cleaners every two years."

I've been thinking about that sort of attitude over the last few years. I've come to the conclusion that I can't really afford to have contempt for most people. "Most people" comprise my world, you see.

From there I conclude pretty much what David has: the steady feeling of contempt, of self-righteous superiority, if you will, is a youthful drug high, right up there with a hit of nicotine.

I mean, honestly: Even if my wages were stagnant (which they're not), living in even the fourth income quintile of our American economic diamond means living in the top 5% of the world's economic pyramid; We're a nation of kings and priests, for crying out loud most people can read and many can reason!

Doug S. said...

It's simple, really; The Left lost the religious vote because of abortion.

There was an Op-Ed piece in the Times, some time back, saying that Republicans can rant and rave about abortion and other religious issues and pick up votes specifically because the courts don't let them do things like ban abortion and impose prayer in schools. The writer said that if they were ever actually allowed to do those things they say they want to do - and then began to do them, the non-Fundamentalist Republicans would freak out and jump ship, even if they don't like the Democrats' economic policies.

Nicq MacDonald said...

Doug:

I frequently get this impression; it's a lot like something that Jonah Goldberg once said about Libertarians: "They're great allies, but god forbid you actually let them run anything."

Unfortunately, while the klepto-republicans have made useful idiots of the evangelicals, they're now taking control of state legislatures and governments across the country, and the GOP bosses in Washington don't seem to know what to do with it.

Let them hang themselves with the rope they bought; just keep the rest of us out of it.

Francis said...

It's simple, really; The Left lost the religious vote because of abortion.

I think that that was a symptom rather than a cause. One of the fundamental causes is that both the genuine working classes and the religious tend to be highly conservative - the former because they are closer to the edge so disruptions are more likely to push them over, and the latter goes with the hierarchical nature of most religions. And the left wants change... Another possible cause is Brad Hicks' theory that it was a result of the anti-Communist Caucus of the 1964 Republican National Convention.

If you can find much in the bible that clearly goes against abortion*, I'll be impressed. Especially as Exodus 21 equates inducing a miscarriage with minor damage against the woman, and the traditional biblical belief is that the soul enters with the first breath (c.f. the creation of Adam). (Of course there is something clear in the Didachae for the Orthodox and the Catholics (and High Anglicans and Lutherans...))

* IIRC, the normal one is statements that God knew people in the womb - which says very little when you take omniscience into account.

Don Quijote said...

I mean, honestly: Even if my wages were stagnant (which they're not), living in even the fourth income quintile of our American economic diamond means living in the top 5% of the world's economic pyramid;

Unless your income puts you in the top 5% of the US Population, they probably are.

Paul Krugman - The Big Squeeze

But it has been a generation since most American workers could count on sharing in the nation's economic growth. America is a much richer country than it was 30 years ago, but since the early 1970's the hourly wage of the typical worker has barely kept up with inflation.

The contrast between rising national wealth and stagnant wages has become even more extreme lately. In 2004, which was touted both by the Bush administration and by Wall Street as a year in which the economy boomed, the median real income of full-time, year-round male workers fell more than 2 percent.



We're a nation of kings and priests, for crying out loud most people can read and many can reason!

Yeah, and Santa is going to drop a new Cadillac down my chimney.

TCinLA said...

David:

I'm a liberal, who was sent to your site by a good friend who I am proud to call a "decent conservative."

Allow me to posit a "radical" theory to answer what you have so honestly written about here.

Here's the theory:

A "conservative" is not a "right winger". The people you are rightly concerned about are not conservatives. They are radical right wing radicals. You might even call them radical right wing revolutionaries. (there's a one-word synonym for this term, which starts with the letter "f" and has six letters after it, but I hesitate to use it here because I don't want to muddy the waters)

Historically, good, genuine, decent conservatives thought 73 years ago in Another Country that they were voting for a "conservative movement" that took power in that Other Country with their votes. Unfortunately, within 2 years that "conservative movement" demonstrated it was as far from "conservative" as "revolutionary" gets, but by that time its leader had exacted an oath of allegiance from many of the Good Decent Conservatives in a position to straighten things out. By the time these Good Decent Conservatives realized the multi-magnitude of the mistake they had made, it was 62 years ago this coming July, and waaaaay too late to for these Good Decent Conservatives to avoid ending up swinging from meat hooks when their attempt to right things went badly wrong.

I for one would really like to have my historical analysis proven radically wrong, but I don't think it will happen. Good conservatives like you, who believe in the country, and good non-conservatives like me and my friends - who believe in the country - need to come together on the point of Believe In The Country before things arrive at what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "When they came for the communists, I said nothing; when they came for the social democrats, I said nothing; when they came for me, there was no one left to say anything." (not a direct quote, I paraphrased his points)

What you voted for 5 years ago and what you have today is not what you voted for 5 years ago.

Rob Perkins said...

First, I think characterizing the religious in the United States as "heirarchical" is misleading. That can apply only to a minority of them, such as Catholics, or Anglicans, or Mormons. Even put together they comprise only a significant minority among those who are religious in the U.S.

The Protestant movements are far more grass-roots than heirarchical. Individual pastors or teachers, organized in one or more councils of Churches where the leaders are simply elected.

And yes, please trust me on this one issue at least. The Democrats have absolutely lost the religious conservatives (not rightists, conservatives) over the issue of convenience abortions and how they came to be legal nationwide. That blow stung and continues to sting.

That and (for the Baby Boomers) the ERA fight. My mother watched, appalled, as the worst tactics, bordering on and on a couple of occasions becoming pure brazen cheating, were applied during the New York State convention called to decide whether to ratify that, in order to silence people of faith who opposed it.

That's the climate conservatives expect among the Democrats. And why, except in the recent case of Bill Clinton, for enough of them, they don't get that vote.

@don quijote -- whether or not *an* American is in the top quintile is not relevant to the plain fact that four-fifths of Americans are in the *world's* top quintile. Think. And then try to counter with something besides equivocating fallacy and a change of subject.

Also, you are surely correct that Santa won't drop you a cadillac. But absurdities are not counter arguments, and it's plain that I wish you'd drop the indignance and talk to us, instead of snarking all the time. It would be more interesting.

Without that change, I'll have to assume that I'm talking to a child, since the behavior is like that of my six year old.

Francis said...

Rob,
I'm not saying that if you asked the average religious voter why they couldn't vote democratic they wouldn't say abortion. Neither am I saying that they wouldn't be right. What I am saying is that abortion has been used as a wedge issue to divide the religious and the democratic party. (See my link about the 1964 Republican anti-Communist caucus).

If you actually believe in the modern interpretation of Sola Scriptura (that the bible is necessary and sufficient and that every man should do it for himself (or herself - although not so much...)), the theological opposition is non-existent until you reach the didachae. Therefore it isn't theology that's the problem.

Revulsion might be. (I'm technically pro-choice (Safe, Legal, Rare), but there is nothing that can get me to rethink that position faster than dealing with an American Pro-Choice advocate)).

(and re: non-hierarchical churches, I was raised as a Quaker. There are definite hierarchies in such churches whatever the official beliefs say).

Oh, what was the ERA fight?

Don,
Please don't make me give an elementary economics lesson. It is certainly not outside the bounds of probability that Rob's wages (and those of everyone else) have been rising at above inflation while the average for the cohort has been falling. That's because the second quintile of wage earners today are not the same people as they were 20 years ago. Picture it like a traffic jam - the traffic jam keeps getting longer but everyone in the jam is actually inching forwards. Shrill assertions counter to experiences are not going to get anywhere.

Don Quijote said...

Rob & Francis

for your entertainment,

Income Indicator

and I'll quote

"A useful starting point is to track the hourly wage of the median (or 50th percentile) male and female, a wage representing the experience of the typical man and woman wage earner. The median male wage fell continuously over the 1980s (down 9.1 percent) and through the early 1990s (another 6.3 percent decline by 1995). The median male wage grew 5.5 percent over the 1995-99 period, fast growth but not enough to offset the decline in the early 1990s. Over the entire 1979-99 period there was a 10.2 percent fall in the median male wage.

In contrast, the median women's wage grew slowly over the 1980s (up 5.7 percent from 1979 to 1989) and fell slightly in the early 1990s. The late 1990s was a period of fast growth for the typical woman worker, as wages grew 5.8 percent between 1995 and 1999.

As is well known, there has been a widening of wage inequality since 1989, reflecting a lower wage growth for middle and low-wage workers relative to high earners. This can be seen by noting that wages at the 90th percentile (earns more than 90 percent of workers) and at the 95th percentile workers, among both men and women, have grown far faster than the wages of middle wage workers. For instance, the 95th percentile wage has grown 17.9 percent and 38.6 percent, respectively, among men and women."

Translated into plain english by my undereducated person, if you aren't in the top 10% of income earners, you have been losing ground for the last thirty years.

The Very Top of the U.S. Income distribution


And now you are going to tell me that because there is a lot of movement anongst quintiles, this is not a big deal.

NY Times - How Class Works

And I will go and find you study after study that most people live and die in the social class in which they were born, or in the one above or below.

In plain english, children of Doctors are far likely to become doctors than children of construction workers.

We're a nation of kings and priests, for crying out loud most people can read and many can reason! and Yeah, and Santa is going to drop a new Cadillac down my chimney. are equally absurd statements.

Francis said...

Don,
I expect a bit over 2% of the workforce to retire this year (45 year working life) and about the same to join the workforce this year. I also expect the majority of the 2% leaving to be above the 50th percentile and the majority of the 2% joining to be below the workforce due to those joining having very little experience and those leaving having a lot of experience.

Therefore, if I was in the 50th percentile last year, this year I expect to be in the 49th percentile as I have more experience and the average person in the workforce doesn't.

Therefore comparing the 50th percentile of the workforce is a very useful population estimate but simply doesn't work on an individual level. And telling people that it does is a counterfactual and is therefore going to be ignored (and lead to you being branded an idiot).

Now if you were to tell them that it is going to be far harder for their kids than it was for them and their kids are never going to earn as much as they do simply by putting the same effort in, you would have a good point.

(As for your point about class remaining constant, it's a good one - but that doesn't mean that there isn't a hierarchy that people can climb within jobs).

As I say, it's like a traffic jam - the jam itself is growing and moving backwards even if every single car within that jam is moving forwards.

My problem with your statements isn't that I think your data is wrong (I've seen it all before and agree with most of it). It's that you don't actually understand what the data means at an individual level.

Don Quijote said...

It's that you don't actually understand what the data means at an individual level.

I think I do.

It means that a worker of X skills 30 years was earning more than his equivalent is today unless he happens to be in the top 10% of the wage scale.

Rob Perkins said...

Don,

I hardly need an education about how income has grown in the United States. I'm fully aware that incomes here have stagnated a bit, and I attribute it to the growing opportunities worldwide for others; it will be next to impossible for Americans' wealth to grow as a whole until the rest of the world is at least as wealthy as our poorest fifth.

It's hard for me to care, in that respect, about income disparity in the United States, when the larger picture is one of growing *worldwide* wealth, albiet slower and less fairly than it should be. (There's a life lesson actually, in that it is impossible for everyone to agree that some circumstance is "fair".)

More to the point, I keep saying "Look at the U.S. in relation to the economic circumstance of the world!" and you keep ignoring that angle.

Rob Perkins said...

Also, I suppose it would be less absurd to say that we're a nation whose common people have the privileges of kings and priests, namely, easy access to a liberal arts education, and the economic circumstances in which to appreciate them.

Francis said...

Don wrote:
It means that a worker of X skills 30 years was earning more than his equivalent is today unless he happens to be in the top 10% of the wage scale.

Indeed. But that doesn't mean that any individual is currently falling back. As I say, it's like a traffic jam - which doesn't stop all cars in the jam moving forwards at any given time...

Besides, what are "X skills"?. 75% of my job couldn't have existed 30 years ago and the rest would have been handled very differently.

Doris said...

David,

The professional politicians seem to be afraid of the Juggernaut. They've seen what happens when reputations are spoiled. And at least once, a Republican who antagonized Karl R. was threatened with loss of party support and funding. Campaigning is so expensive that such a threat is potent.

Stefan Jones said...

"the privileges of kings and priests"

Sorry Rob, but you are fearsomely out of touch.

For a large chunk of the population, largely defined by class and race, a decent K-12 education is barely achievable, much less a college degree.

A large chunk of the population eats bad food, suffers disproportinately from chronic bad health, lives in crime-plagued neighborhoods and is exposed disproportionately to environmental problems ranging from lead poisoning to air pollution.

And sheesh, I'm sorry, but the "priests and kings" analogy is waaay over the top. That's blythe dismissive pollyanna hand-waving. Do American poor people have it better than, say, poor people in Subsaharan Africa? Yes, but that's no damn excuse. Poverty is poverty no matter where you find it, shortening and wasting the lives and limiting the horizons of those living in it.

David Brin said...

Would some past king would envy all the toys and physical mobility and health of all but the poorest 5% of modern Americans? Yes, of course. Would he give up his sense of status and his harem, in order to get an apartment in South Central LA and a 3-year old chevy? Probably not.

Would Aristotle envy the free and fabulous education available to even a poor kid, so long as the kid is well-motivated and eager to seek help, even in South Central? You bet. Would he trade his status in the Academy for a low level tenure spotat podunk state college? Of course not.

In pyramid-shaped societies, status was the great reward, often translating in reproductive success. THIS is what the enemies of the enlightenment are trying to return us to. They would rather rule over a depressed pyramid than be slightly richer-than-average citizens in a vastly dynamic and socially mobile and advancing diamond.

While the middle class has not done well, the last ten years, that is not the terrible thing. In fact, the improvements in ghetto life that were rapid in the 90s have not utterly reversed. There is movement there, even now.

Nor do I even resent the fact that the number of American billionaires, with accompanying regal-gentry airs of entitlement, has increased so rapidly, while everyone else treads water. That's dangerous and symptomatic, but not my chief source of ire. Heck, like most Yanks, I insanely imagine it might be me, someday.

No, what I hate above all is the WAY that half of these billionaires have advanced. Under any decent form of enterprise capitalism, this kind of wealth should be accrued only as a fair portion-return from the CREATION of vastly GREATER wealth, through the competitive delivery of superior and more efficient and lower-priced GOOD AND SERVICES!

But this is now how it's happening now.

Oh, I know Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and Sergey Brin and Paul Allen and they did it the old fashioned way. But too many recently have done it through parasitism, By raiding their own companies and leaving stockholders beaten down. Or raiding our grandchildren, leaving them burdened with debt. Or USING government as a private trough in a myriad ways, like crony no-bid contracts. Or by (in general) doing what Adam Smith called (with contempt) "rent-seeking." State subsidized or state smoothed paths to receive endless income from "rents" that bear no relation to the recipient's actions in this world.

Oh, how they rationalize that these things should be taxed LESS than the income from honest crativity and sweat, or from innovative entrepeneurship. Then they call anyone who speaks as I just have a "socialist" or fomentor of "class warfare."

But it doesn't wash. Any true believer in enterprise, in Smith and Locke, knows that the FUNDAMENTAL that they preached was Reciprocal Accountability. Capitalism arises out of RA, not the other way around.

The reason to oppose these guys is not some lefty aversion to capitalism. Indeed, a good reason to oppose these would-be new feudal lords is to SAVE capitalism... and democracy and social responsibility and all the rest of the eclectic tools of a civilization that refuses to be sucked back into the horrific systems of inherited privilege that made progress rare and life hell for our ancestors, across 4,000 dismal years.

Stefan Jones said...

One of the things that makes me proud of this country is the number of billionaires who are genuinely decent and generous an public-minded. Including the billionairist of them, Bill Gates.

My own billionaire former-boss comes off as an utter prick, though. There was a joke around Oracle HQ that the sign by his reserved parking spot was going to be replaced with one that would get more attention:

EXIT INTERVIEW PARKING.

Hawker Hurricane said...

"Class Warfare" is what happens when the lower classes shoots back.
Currently, it's more like 'Class Slaughter' or perhaps 'Class Genocide', with the kleptocrats targeting the lower class for punishment (reducing/eliminating the things that ease their way) and targeting the middle class for destruction for daring to oppose them.
George Orwell was right... the natural enemy of the upper class kleptos is the middle class innovators, not the lower class peasant/workers.

Rob Perkins said...

I hear you, and I'm aware of that large chunk of the population. But since I'm also aware that the poor of the world are *getting on inner tubes to float here*, in many cases in order to live in the kind of situation you and I would call squallor, but they would call "an improvement", I refuse to say that it's pollyanna hand waving.

And I didn't make the point in order to pacify anyone. I just want 'em to have that sense of perspective about poverty, in the hopes that their problem solving will evolve from scolding to some measure of optimism about just how far we've come.

Further, I don't think we can say what a king of the past, or Aristotle, would have done upon seeing the works we've wrought, except perhaps to worship the lot of us as gods. Think about it!

My brother lived in the mountains of Sinaloa State, in Mexico. He's seen poverty. He reports to me that the middle of it here is unbelievable streets-of-gold wealth to the people there.

So, yeah, I'm sticking to the priests and kings analogy. I command more energy, day to day, in raw ergs or watts, than any medieval noble, who never had the ease of communication or even the number of calories possible for me to enjoy every single day.

Multiply that by the sheer number of *ways* which a person can attain and maintain status in the United States. He can rise to positions of prominence in any corporate pyramid his ambition cottons to, with enough of it and a small measure of skill. He can be ordained or appointed to *any* priesthood in any one of any number of churches, and the government will recognize that authority in a way reserved once only for one heirarchy.

For that matter, taking the idea just a bit further, just try and count the number of entities and people it takes just to make a package of #2 pencils, (hint: that's several thousand people making the components of #2 pencils and then the pencils themselves from resources gathered from all over the world) and multiply that by every mass produced consumer product on the shelves of Wal Mart or Target or Shop Ko or K Mart or.... or... or... and I haven't even begun to talk about food!

So, kings (a label used to represent any number of landed nobility)? Oh, yeah. With servants? Bigtime, most with epicanthic folds or a dark hue to their skin, living 'way overseas with advantages not available to their ancestors due to our demand.

Priests? Absolutely, in my case; I'm ordained in the priesthood of my church, myself. And in a legal sense, with authority to marry, or minister, it's as easy in some cases as mailing $5 to someone and waiting for the card.

It's on those bases that I refuse to let go of my analogy.

Would he give up his sense of status and his harem, in order to get an apartment in South Central LA and a 3-year old chevy? Probably not. [...] Would [Aristotle] trade his status in the Academy for a low level tenure spotat podunk state college? Of course not.

Both are false analogies, in my opinion. The first because our populations are so large and diverse and interdependent that both our ancient king and Aristotle would simply boggle; they had never seen something as complex as what we take for granted today, especially in Aristotle's case, our university accreditation system. In comparison his Academy might as well be the local Elks lodge. And the king would simply not know how to attain the status he had in his native environment.

So.. no, while I take David's point about the rising threat to RA, and oppose that threat just as completely, I still think the blind arrogance and lack of perspective of many Americans (including our leaders) toward their economic situation vis a vis the rest of the world, developed or otherwise, is *part of the problem.*

A dose of the global perspective is healthy, IMO. With it, we'd hardly begrudge that $300/month Indian phone rep his job, and we'd treat him well when he took our call. And we'd fight like wild dogs to get India to create customers for him *in India*, so that his work and ours is not lost to the economic disparities there and here.

With it, we'd remember that even 10 years of stagnance in middle class incomes is a far cry from "doing poorly". At least among Americans who don't bury themselves in consumer debt.

With it, we'd remember that guys like me pay the emergency medical bills of every indigent person who shows up at the door of a hospital. Under the law. That itself is another set of interesting anecdotes. A friend of mine, an oncologist, is well aware of families who save up their money to get a sick relative into the United States on a tourist visa, for the express purpose of having that relative show up at an ER. Where they'll get the best possible care. Free.

It's that sort of perspective I wanted to capture with "privileges of kings and priests". It's not pollyanna flag-waving to say so. It's simply a historically accurate fact that we live in the highest civilization ever known to man.

Being angry after realizing that is moderately difficult. I resent, a bit, being told I'm fearsomely out of touch, having lived in every single economic quintile in the U.S., from barely not-hungry and on those free school lunches to the point I am today where it is possible for me to support the reasonable ambitions of five children on one income. For that reason, I simply conclude that this:

Poverty is poverty no matter where you find it, shortening and wasting the lives and limiting the horizons of those living in it.

...is simply nonsense. There's poverty in America, to be sure, but it looks like prosperity nearly everywhere else in the world where there is actual poverty. I'll change my opinion about that when the inner tubes stop coming across from Cuba, when Customs stops opening cargo containers full of smuggled Asian poor, and when there is no more reason to patrol the Mexican border.

Without that sort of perspective, any complaining about American economic circumstance will fall on the deaf ears of the world, as they keep selling us all the chatchkes we buy on that ever mounting consumer credit. It's not like it's just the government here which is addicted to living beyond its means.

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, what was the ERA fight?

It was the debate among the States in the '70's about whether to adopt the so-called "Equal Rights Amendment" to the Constitution.

It would have been one thing to accede to something which was arrived at by a constitutional process. It's quite another to watch your opposites cheat at the parliamentary process while you're trying to follow the rules. That's what my mother saw at the New York convention.

DC Peaches said...

You say that conservatives are quick to justify the actions of the current administration and others of the Neoconservative movement. But just take a look at the New Republic and you find a different story. Over there they are more beholden to true conservative principles, though they do idolize the Regan and the time of his influence unjustifiably in my opinion as well as a vicious stance on Democrats and liberals.

Doug S. said...

The king probably wouldn't give up his harem, as the power to order people around and get laid whenever you feel like it is one thing modern society wouldn't be able to give him. As one famous quote goes, "Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven." (He might do it if he was in need of modern medical care, though.)

Aristotle, on the other hand, might very well leave his Academy just to get a look at our libraries.

Nate said...

Veering back a little bit to casting off extremists.

One of the problems, I suspect, was that it worked. And since then, the Democrats have figured they need to cast off "the wacko Left" every so often to keep being elected, even when there is no "wacko Left". All that's left of "The Left" is strawman caricatures whipped out by recationaries to threaten people with "overbearing Big-Brother academic communist terrorist sympathizers" or whatever combination of adjectives they want to use. And the Democrats in power go "Wait! We're not like them!" instead of arguing that the reactionaries are, frankly, making stuff up. But there hasn't been any electoral cost to the Republicans for embracing their own extremists and reactionaries, so what reason do they have to stand up and cast them out? None.

And all of the Liberals and "Left" out there are disorganized and weak, because any time any of them get power, they get attacked, all the more harshly by the people who are supposed to be on their side. Most of the big labor unions are stagnant or dying. So what politician is going to argue for workers, when it's easier to play to the fractures in the culture war? It's not just the Democrats' fault, the labor unions made plenty of mistakes too, but the Democrats didn't try and engage them, or make them stay current, they just took the labor unions for granted, and didn't defend them when it mattered, and now lots of the old labor union folks vote Republican, out of culture war and from feeling abandoned by the unions and Democrats that were supposed to be on their side.

Basically, throwing people out of your party isn't going to make your party win, unless you actually go after other people. Which hasn't been done. You piss off your "base" and don't attract others, that's no way to run a railroad.

Doris said...

Not only does wealth bring comfort, it brings power.

You use your money to have power over your own life or to control the lives of others.

I would settle for having power over my own life. Many others -- from parents to governments -- insist on running other people's lives.

I realize that parents must have some control over their children while they're under 18 or still under the parents' roof. I realize that government must keep people from hurting each other.

I wonder how much of economic and political ambition is actually driven by a feeling of powerlessness.

Those who feel powerless may become ambitious or hopeless. How much work -- and how much violence -- is spurred by the feeling of powerlessness?

Just because you can flick a switch and turn on a light -- which requires an enormous infrastructure of hydroelectric dams and nuclear and petrofuel-burning plants and the personnel to maintain and operate them, power lines, and houses and their electrical wiring and outlets -- that doesn't make you feel powerful.

If you live in fear -- fear of losing a job, fear of crime, fear of the government seizing a family member and imprisoning him without a trial, fear of homelessness, fear of starvation, etc. -- you feel powerless. If you fear losing your job over your religion or your political party or marital status or the number of children you have (yes, it still happens, no matter what the law says; just try to prove it, if you can afford a lawyer), you feel powerless. You can curl up into the fetal position or strike out in anger or just put up with it and hope the powers-that-be don't notice you. This is why people want money: to feed and shelter themselves and, beyond that, to tell the powers-that-bug-you to back off.

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stefan Jones said...

The recent arrest of deposed Liberian strongman Charles Taylor reminds me that there are plenty of people out there ready and willing to be kings in hell rather than plebes in an egalitarian land of plenty.

And Taylor is a sweet nice guy compared to the Joseph Kony, the spiritual leader of the "Lord's Resistance Army."

The greed and powerlust of these would-be priests and kings has not only directly led to death and enslavement and injury, it has prevented efforts to make things better.

Doug S. said...

Yahoo News (AP article):
Republicans Increasingly Critical of Bush

The Washington Post:
How the GOP Became God's Own Party

Just thought you'd be interested.

Rob Perkins said...

Stefan,

I take your point about that, but please recognize that it wasn't mine when I claimed that we were a nation of kings and priests. In my usage I wanted to emphasize economic circumstance, not scope of power or insatiability.

And I can easily see (I hope) where you thought I was mistaken, given the example of Taylor (and the hundereds to thousands of other insane people like him.) I wasn't thinking about an insane, insatiable king or priest, after all. Or one filled with hatred for others, or contempt for his amassed subjects.

Tony Fisk said...

In the midst of all this 'us vs them' culture war grumbles, I would like to point out a small example of bipartisan cooperation:
Obama, Lugar Introduce the American Fuels Act to Reduce U.S. Dependence on Foreign Oil
"U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) Friday said that they have introduced comprehensive legislation that will use alternative fuel technologies to greatly decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil..."

----
And, a Scientific American article on a topic that's had a bit of an airing here recently:
Does Globalization Help or Hurt the World's Poor?

Stefan Jones said...

Fear not. I was making general observation on priests and kings, with the hope of pointing out that it is a good idea to keep an eye on people who would become such.

Anonymous said...

Wow . . .

Tom DeLay has dropped out of the race for Congress.

I guess he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Before, you know, going to jail.

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...

He won't go to jail. He hasn't ever shouted "BEAM ME UP" from the well...

Anonymous said...

Brin, here, logging in from another computer...

Nate, you are right that the left fringe of the democratic party is nowhere near as intrinsically gangerous as the right fringe of the GOP. Especially since it is impossible to imagine a scenarion in which they ever actually had power.

But that does not make them dangerous. Let me give you five letters. N-A-D-E-R. Or "gay marriage." What on EARTH were these people thinking?

Get this straight. It is NOT a matter of moderate dems ejecting lefty radicals. NO effort has been made to do that!

The drive is to PREVENT lefty flakes from doing what they have always done, under Lenin, in Spain, and so on. Create litmus tests in order to make their political tent as narrow as possible and exclude everybody they don't like. Including DINOS.
They have been Karl Rove's greatest friend.

Oh!

This Wednesday, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the
morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06. Ah, we
haven't had this much fun since 12:34:56 on 7/8/90

Finally, Why haven't I posted in a while? I am in electronic hell. My son's Dell fried almost the day after warranty.
Then I had to return then next two replacement pieces of #$%#@$. Finally, this here HP seems to be working... as well as a windows maxchine CAN work...
...which is $^%#%#!

So why aren't I using my trusty mac? Because, after more than four years
it has developed twitches. It is in the shop (now working great, gotta go get it.)
But while there, I had a tour of OS 10.4... and was blown away...

...you see, I have avoided OSX and stayed the last guy on Earth using OS9.2. Because I need to use the last and best real word processor ever made, the 1989 Mac version of Word Perfect... before WP copied all of the gruesome, productivity destroying, alien-logic cruelties of WORD.
Yes, OSX can run those old programs... till they switch to the Intel chip... hence my rush now to buy one of the big iron G5 towers using the old chips. The crux? This evening I will dive into the world of super-OSX and from what little I've seen so far, it promises to be like entering the twilight zone! Cyberpunk. The ACTUAL 21st Century.

(Dang! the vividness and wizardry and zooming you can do, reconfiguring everything at a squeeze, a scroll and click... and yet, NEITH Mac nor MS has ever gotten around to offering a true keyboard reassignment macro as a simple utility. Instead, for fifteen years, I have reled on the marvelous QUICKEYS program, which can turn your NUMERIC KEYPAD into this astounding button command center! EVERY F Key can have ten variants, giving you a hundred zap-it's-done macros... like that slug of text you always have to type...

Off I go yo try it out.

I am hoping that this will help make up for 6 months of electronic hell.


Stefan, we just saw Cage's Lord of War... whixh is primarily a polemical political film vs gun running, hidden thinly in a character sketch of a bad guy.

And yes, I am dizzy with delight over DeLay... though it be a decade delayed.

Note! All of this has been happening without a single cent spent by congressional committees, not a single subpoena, not a single special prosecutor. Just a few civil servants doing their jobs with minimal resources, facing gigantic obstructions and intimidation from above.

Can you imagine if one tenth the money and subpoenas and SPs sent against the Clintons were unleashed now?

Doris said...

Just heard a different reason DeLay will resign (in June, reportedly). He wants to spend more time with his staff, which is already in or on the way to jail.

<:-)

Anonymous said...

This site may help explain some of the recent atrocities committed by otherwise nice people who thought they were authorized to commit them.
(No, I don't mean Charles Taylor. More likely your neighbor or brother or an American soldier or politician or true believer . . .)

http://www.stanleymilgram.com/

Nate said...

Dr. Brin said:


Get this straight. It is NOT a matter of moderate dems ejecting lefty radicals. NO effort has been made to do that!


I think I wasn't quite clear. So, let me re-explain, and give some background.

I wasn't saying people were pushing to kick out lefty radicals. I was saying it already happened. The first people to gang up on anybody who gets too "liberal" are Democrats, these days. There's no access or representation for any kind of "radicals", for all that most "radical" American liberals would be center or center-left in Europe. They/We are taken for granted by the Democrats, with an attitude of "Hey, you're gonna have to vote for us. Now shut up, don't say anything, and don't expect us to listen to you." That's not really inspiring. Why vote for a Democrat, when the party as a whole is just going to keep running toward the "center" (where the Republicans were ten years ago), and not fighting?

I'm 26. I guess around here I'm one of the "knee-jerk" liberals, but I've moderated on some things and gotten more liberal on others over the past years.

The first presidental election I got to vote in was in 2000. I voted for Nader. For one, because I live in a rural part of Virginia, the state that was the capital of the Confederacy. In 2000, there was no way Virginia was not going to go for Bush, so my vote didn't matter one bit. Just like my votes for Congresscritters. And secondly, as much as I liked Al Gore, and as much as I like him now, he ran a truly craptacular campaign. And he picked Joe Leiberman for VP. And Nader was actually out there talking about things none of the "mainstream" Democrats would talk about. In retrospect, yeah, it's an obvious choice, but at the time, for all it was obvious George W. Bush would be a bad president, it wasn't obvious how astonishingly bad, corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest he and his band of cronies would be. Can you really blame people who've been marginialized and villified by their own "side" for voting for somebody who actually talked about the things that concerned them, instead of just taking them for granted because the other guy would be horrible. (Again, in retrospect, the other guy really IS horrible, but it wasn't nearly as obvious at the time.)

I'll admit it's hard for Democrats to take any kind of bold positions when they're already mostly ineffectively trying to hold against the reactionaries in control of the Republicans, but still. Labor unions are dying, "liberal academia" and "liberal media" are both myths. There's no organized group working to drag the Democrats and the country left, and no solid group of energized supporters has emerged from the net or anywhere else. By constantly jettisoning the "fringe", the Democrats have helped kill off their base.

And the other side of the coin is this. One, the Republicans haven't suffered at the ballot box for letting their extremists have free reign. And second, ironically, a lot of the current neocons came from the same kinds of groups as the "Communists" the Democrats threw out in 1947.

Tony Fisk said...

Sorry to hear about your PC woes, David. In my experience Dell is usually pretty reliable (if they could only bring themselves to admit that they support Linux!!), but I guess it just goes to show that lemons can crop up anywhere...

Your over-reliance on WP for Mac is going to bite you in the end (as I think you know all to well!). Rather than submit to assimilation, you might consider a couple of other options, particularly those that support the Open Document Format that M$ has been trying to ignore, laugh at, kill...

A couple of web based writers are coming into use. I have no idea how powerful they are, but here are a couple:
- Writely sounds like it might be worth a spin, (when its assimiliation by Google is complete!)
- and there's AjaxWrite.

Of course, from what you say the problem is in the memes rather than the means. I think the aliens have by now processed the mass of humanity, and that,alas, these are Word clones.
Come! Join us! Resistance (and cognitive dissonance) is futile!

Francis said...

Why is Nader seen as the Fount of All Evil?

No party owns its voters - and when it starts to ignore a section of those voters it deserves to lose them. It is only the effect of a strict two-party system and gerrymandering that makes this anything other than blatantly obvious.

Pragmatism would dictate that you looked after your base - or they will wander off and find someone that will. Always looking after the other side isn't pragmatic - it's defeatist.

In short, the Democratic party lost the Nader voters. This is its problem - and then to blame the Nader voters is a sign of a much deeper problem.

Rob Perkins said...

David...

!!

As far as QuickKeys goes... well... http://mac.majorgeeks.com/download5035.html

Stefan Jones said...

Holy Fripping Crypes:


Bush Administration Media Collusion Memos Surface
Monday, April 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — In a disturbing turn of events for an administration already plagued by sagging poll numbers and waning support for the Iraq war, Friday's revelation that the Bush Administration issued direct guidelines for programming to media outlets is troubling even die-hard conservatives.

Late Friday a series of memos between senior Bush Administration officials and management at Viacom, Inc. were leaked calling for the media giant to focus on stories and programming choices that "reinforce the Administration's positions" and to "ignore and/or discredit points of view in opposition to the Bush Administration's foreign policy objectives for the purposes of National Security."


When did we start becoming the #$%%&%/*@ Soviet Union?

http://www.fox-news.us/story/0,3566,190215,00.html

Matzebrei said...

Um, Stefan, isn't that a satire article?

Anonymous said...

Yes it is . . . I just Googled around for the original AP story and couldn't find it. Which I should have done in the first place!

Stefan

Stefan Jones said...

Someone pointed out that the dead give-away that this was a spoof is the amount of space given over to the concerns of blacks . . . something that would never happen in a story carried by a FOX website.

Don Quijote said...

The drive is to PREVENT lefty flakes from doing what they have always done, under Lenin, in Spain, and so on. Create litmus tests in order to make their political tent as narrow as possible and exclude everybody they don't like. Including DINOS.

No, the drive has been to turn the Democratic Party into a cheap imitation of the Republican Party and it has worked. Problem is that when people are given a choice between voting between a republican and cheap imitation thereof, they will vote for the real thing, or not vote.

But that does not make them dangerous. Let me give you five letters. N-A-D-E-R.

Punishing the Democratic party for selling out it's base.

Or "gay marriage." What on EARTH were these people thinking?

Equal treatment in front of the law.
That who I marry is none of anyone's business other than mine and my wife's.

Get this straight. It is NOT a matter of moderate dems ejecting lefty radicals. NO effort has been made to do that!

Yes, it is! What do you think the DLC was and is all about?

It's about cashing Corporate money, giving lip service to the left and doing what corporate America wants.

Anonymous said...

Hi david

just my point but we seem to get better and longer (in number of contributions) conversations when you post once a week and then fopllow up rather than when you post lots of new posts (i like those too but sometimes it takes a couple of days for a thread to get going.

Also sorry to hear about your PC problems but ive never had any trouble with Dell myself so looks like you were very unlucky.
Personaly i use macs and Pcs and prefer PCs but thats me (I also fail to see why jobs is seen as such a guru when he is ripping us all off on music should be no more than 8c a track)

Francis said...

Rob Perkins said...
Oh, what was the ERA fight?

It was the debate among the States in the '70's about whether to adopt the so-called "Equal Rights Amendment" to the Constitution.

It would have been one thing to accede to something which was arrived at by a constitutional process. It's quite another to watch your opposites cheat at the parliamentary process while you're trying to follow the rules. That's what my mother saw at the New York convention.


Save me from people who know they are right. And particularly those who are willing to win through scorched earth. (Can I be bothered to point out that it is more often the religious side doing this, that Modernism is guilty of certainty (which is why there was a need for post-modernism), and that if you are a post-modernist and hence don't believe in objective truth then everything is (unfortunately) permitted?)

Doris said...

Anyone see the article on the National Debt Clock, which temporarily ran backwards during a previous administration?

An excerpt from the middle of the article:

"In 2004, the old clock was torn down and replaced with a newer which had optimistically been modified to run backwards should such a happy necessity arise.

"Instead the debt continued to rise at such a rate that the once unthinkable total of 10 trillion dollars veered from alarmist fantasy into the realm of impending reality.

"'When it became clear what was going to happen, our first thought was to free up the digital square occupied by the dollar sign so that we could cope with a 14th digit,' Durst said."

Article site:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060327/ts_alt_afp/afplifestyleusbudgetclock_060327114411

To see the debt clock in action:

http://www.toptips.com/debtclock.html

And what exactly are we getting for that money?

Nate said...

In Non-poltical computer news, apparently Apple has just released a beta of Boot Camp, which lets you easily set up an OSX Mac to boot into XP. This doesn't help Dr. Brin with his word processing situation, but it's terribly nifty.

More at Websnark and Daring Fireball

Anonymous said...

David,

What a beautifully written analysis. I wish I could muster the same faith that "America will be saved". I wonder if Malthus will be paged first, and solve this arguement for us in a much less pleasant manner.

TC said...

Dr. Brin, sorry to hear about your PC woes. Hope the HP holds together for you!

I understand your opinion of Word. I use it because my editors need it for my freelance work, and my main job requires it, too.

I grew up with IBM PC DOS, so my favorite word processor is still WordPerfect 4.2. It was clean and fast, and it had the features I needed when I needed them.

I'm working more with OS X now. I wish I had a good word processor to recommend for you. AppleWorks was almost good enough, because it was simple and out of my way like WordPerfect. Unfortunately, it didn't have the horsepower (few advanced features). Apple's new Pages looks more like page markup and less a word processor.

Have you checked Apple's site? I'm not sure what you need beyond the basics, but they list a few word processors, and they might have something you could use.

I know, this isn't on topic, but I felt inclined to comiserate.

BTW: I'm rereading Brightness Reef. Thanks for bringing such a thing into the world!

Nate said...

Sy Hersh's latest article in the New Yorker is terrifying.

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060417fa_fact

I really hope he's wrong. Because it appears that not only are the crazies in the Bush administration sure they want to attack Iran, but they're seriously considering nukes. "tactical" nukes. Bloody hell. They've learned nothing from Iraq, and if we NUKED Iran, that'd turn everyone in the middle east against us.

Nukes. These people are CRAZY.

Stefan Jones said...

Nate beat me too it.

These conservative policy think tanks are just filled to the brim with Realpolitik loons.

Stefan

TC said...

Nate said, I really hope he's wrong. Because it appears that not only are the crazies in the Bush administration sure they want to attack Iran, but they're seriously considering nukes. "tactical" nukes. Bloody hell. They've learned nothing from Iraq, and if we NUKED Iran, that'd turn everyone in the middle east against us.

Nukes. These people are CRAZY.


I think you’re being too conservative here. Turn everyone in the Middle East against us? It’d turn the planet against us.

Here’s the problem – let’s say that the UN wants to bring Iran to task for its nuclear activities. How could they do it? We’re over committed in Iraq, and we’re not getting out any time soon, so ground forces are out of the question. Our only option would be air strikes, which are helpful but not decisive, or unconventional weaponry. I guess we could let the EU handle it, but they haven’t been very successful with diplomacy, and I can’t blame them. It’s pretty clear that Iran isn’t interested.

So the sick thing is, I can trace the reasoning to justify the use of nuclear weapons. Insanity that’s internally self-consistent is a terrifying thing.

Even if I want to consider a nuclear strike (and I don't), we’d need the full support of every other nation in the world. Without a clear mandates from the UN, and without full support from all surrounding nations, setting off nuclear weapons in Iran could destabilize not only the entire region, but the entire planet. Couldn’t it?

Russia’s becoming more aggressive (perhaps helping Iraq before the war; threatening Europe and the Ukraine with natural gas). Who knows what China’s planning? The entire Middle East is on the verge of explosive violence. I can’t image even our best allies like England or Japan being at all happy with us using nuclear weapons as a first strike weapon.

While I was growing up, we thought a hostile nuclear explosion was about the worst thing that could happen. I’m still inclined to think it’s in the bottom ten.

Just what are we hoping to achieve with this kind of strike, again? Because if it’s a peaceful resolution to anything, we’re on the wrong track.

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

The nuke thing terrifies me. The only rational response to it that I can see is to do whatever you can do to stop it from happening.

Anything else seems entirely irrational, because I see precisely no way whatsoever for society to survive if nukes are used.

I place a non-negligable chance on my personal survival in that case (I'm in the US, but not particularly near any major cities or other plausible targets.) ... but without society, what is a man?


But the only thing I can see to do is to try to get as many people aware of this as I can.

Doug S. said...

If we attack Iran, we have to go in as conquerers, not as liberators. The Iranian government is not hated, like Saddam Hussein was; we may not like Bush, but would we want foreign invaders to come in and kick him out? A bombing campaign would definitely lead to Iranian retaliation, with the logical end result being a full-scale US invasion of Iran followed by a long-term guerilla war. We will find no support whatsoever from the Iranian civilians if we attack, but if the Iranian retaliation was severe enough, we'll just deal with it.

I suppose that either you agree with what Senator McCain said or you don't: "There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear armed Iran."

Nate said...

The first question with any prospective invasion of Iran is "With what army?" Most of our army's tied up in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, where we don't have enough troops to do either job properly anyway. Where would the troops to invade Iran come from? And it'd be even messier than Iraq, it's bigger, more populated, not starving, the Iranian army isn't crap, and the Iranian people would almost all unite and turn against us if we invaded. Not to mention the kinds of consequences it would have across the entire middle east, and turn almost everyone there against us.

And sadly, one of the biggest reasons Iran is trying to get a nuke is because only then can they be sure the US won't invade. So talking about invasion isn't really going to deter them. Thanks to Bush's retarded "Axis of Evil" line in the State of the Union years back.

TC said...

Dr. Brin, your comments about WordPerfect from ancient days (in computer time, anyway) sent me looking for a kinder, gentler OS X word processor. I don't know exactly what you're looking for, but Nesus Writer Express looks like it's trying to be a writer's word processor. It reminds me a lot of older Mac programs in terms of simplicity, but it seems relatively full featured.

Of course, it can read and write most Word documents. It's native format is RTF.

I just hate the idea of something bloated like MS Word getting between you and another novel.

FWIW and HTH.

Tony Fisk said...

Totally off-topic. (or is it?)

A lot of David's readers here will be aware of WorldChanging, a group dedicated to finding the pieces to make a better world and putting them together.

Those of you who are will also be aware of two big activities they are currently engaged in:
1. the WorldChanging book which, as has just been announced, is due on New Year's Day, 2007
2. a drive to raise funds for starting a 'worldwide conversation about the future' (the 'Worldchanging Fund')

So, I have just made a pledge: http://www.pledgebank.com/WrldChgngFund

"I will contribute $500 US to the WorldChanging fund but only if 4 other people (or groups) will too."

Come on, folks. It only takes another four, and you'll get a free book, too! (Almost as good as giving blood!!)

(I know, it would be cheaper to order through Amazon...!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing even more proof on why you are my favorite writer!

Nate said...

And this post got quoted by Andrew Sullivan on his blog.

Doris said...

Fallout. Jet stream. "On the Beach." What goes around comes around.

Anonymous said...

Where have all the decent Goldwater conservatives been in the last 5 years? Or all they all as dumb as posts? Dumb in both senses of the word?

Jelperman said...

If the GOP today followed the lead of the DNC of the late 1940s, they would purge the party of people like Lincoln Chafee and Susan Collins, since like the far Left after WW2, they are tiny in number and have little clout compared to the warmongers, neocons, fundies, gay-baiters and white supremacists, let alone big business. The idea that the current GOP would disown such a large chunk of its voters is as much a joke as the notion that the DNC of 1946 would have shown the door to Southern racists, unions and big city bosses.

As for the schism between the Cold War "Liberals" and the Left being an act of courage and patriotism that saved liberalism, that's bogus history and faulty logic at work. Truman was put on the ticket in 1944 because he was no liberal at all! His predecessor Henry Wallace was a genuine liberal, but made the mistake of antagonizing big business and white supremacists and therefore the party decided he had to go. If the phony liberals wanted to show real courage, they would have kicked racist hacks like Richard Russel out of the party. But instead they purged true liberals because they refused to take part in witch hunts for screenwriters who might have joined CPUSA during the Depression.

Let's be clear, Cold War "Liberalism" is not liberalism at all, but a repudiation of it. The purges, witch hunts, red scares, undeclared wars and numerous violations of the Constitution started by Truman were more an attack on the New Deal than Stalinism, since Stalinists didn't hold political office in the first place. The number of actual communists and other fringe left-wingers were small back in the early Depression, and most of those renounced the party between 1936-1941. So the Red Scare was a giant Red Herring used to club real liberals over the head. After all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with most other Americans of every persuasion had many kind words (or at least grudging admiration) for the Soviet Union since the Red Army was doing most of the fighting in Europe. Thus a large number of real liberals found themselves getting stabbed in the back and thrown under the bus by conservative Democrats who were never on board with the New Deal to begin with. What was done to Sen. Claude Pepper (to name just one case) was a disgrace, not a profile in courage.

It's ironic that Joe McCarthy became such a bogeyman when there isn't much difference between his antics and those of Harry Truman. McCarthy didn't give us undeclared wars, loyalty oaths, and he sure as hell wasn't the first to insinuate that anyone who disagreed with him was at best an unwitting flunkie for Stalin and at worst a traitor whose pockets were full of Moscow's communist gold.

To claim that social progress benefitted from all of this is nonsense. To the extent that Civil Rights had major successes during the 1960s, is owed more to society as a whole in much of the country changing its attitudes than say, Truman's decision to compel loyalty oaths from cleaning ladies and school children. After all, it was a continuation of the New Deal. The fact that Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to the Supreme Court and sent troops to Little Rock to enforce desegregation shows that Cold War "liberalism" was simply riding on the coattails of true liberalism. As it turns out, it was "liberal" presidents Kennedy and Johnson who authorized a systematic campaign of harassment and intimidation against civil rights activists conducted by J. Edgar Hoover. Feminists, anti-war activists, environmentalists and others were also rewarded with their very own FBI files. So if anything, the Civil Rights movement won in spite of the best efforts, rather than because of the best efforts of people like Robert Kennedy, who authorized the wiretaps on Martin Luther King. Why? Because of...

...the Red Menace -what else? The idea that this disgraceful period was a flowering of liberalism is a sick joke.

Steve said...

A very interesting article reviewing and critiquing the new book "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq" by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor.

The book by military insiders attempts to explain what went wrong in Iraq, and supports much of what Dr. Brin has been saying.

"For Gordon and Trainor, five errors stand out--the failure to understand the question of tribalism in Iraq; the overuse of technology in warfighting; the failure to adapt to changing conditions on the ground; the failure to listen to different (and more pessimistic) military and political perspectives; and the failure to take into account the lessons of nation-building in the Balkans between 1995 and 2002."

The article is well-written and interesting - and available for free!

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