Sunday, September 13, 2009

Madness of the Right and Left: Part One

I've been busy trying to write my next novel.  But two items online spurred my ire.  And so, as "Contrary Brin," I will fairmindedly aim my hot scalpel toward both extremes of the silly, nonsensical "left-right political axis."  

Of course we know what the biggest difference is, between liberalism and conservatism, these days.  Both movements have their complete, gibbering monsters.  Alas, one of these large American movements is now utterly controlled by its fanatical/crazy wing, and I'll start by aiming a harsh screed in that direction.  The other movement is luckier; it is still run, overall, by its pragmatic problem solvers -- but that doesn't mean there aren't psychopaths on that side, too!  And so,  in a day or two, I'll set an example in contrary evenhandedness and shoot down some really horrid lefty flakes.

But first.....

A truly excellent appraisal is given by the meticulous political blogger Russ Daggatt, of how, just in the last week, even "moderates" in the Republican establishment seem to have toppled into bona fide, certifiable, non-compos craziness.  None of their "issues" has anything to do with old-fashioned "left-right" any longer, or defending markets or any"conservatism" that Barry Goldwater would even distantly recognize. 

Goldwater believed in discourse, in science, in negotiation, persuasion, accountability and adult behavior.  Now? With regret, I am willing to call off attempts to restart civilized discourse with "decent conservatives."  There don't appear to be any left.  Just a pack of these grumpy (and loony) old white men who make clear, by their scorched-Earth approach to politics, that they would rather see America fail than Obama succeed.

 Read Daggatt. Devastatingly,  he shows this via a dozen cogent points you may not have seen before.

On the other hand, I am also very unhappy with the playbook of the Democrats, who seem to think that they can reason their way out of Culture War.   That has been their neurotic delusion, for a very long time, and it has made them very bad at playing the game.

Look, when you have a relentless and implacable enemy alliance, the trick above all is to break up their coalition.  You start by analyzing it for unlikely bedfellows.  Blatantly, the right-wing  culture war army has three important components:

1) The string-pullers are made up of conniving  plutocrats, led by Rupert Murdoch.  The only overall winners from the Bush era.

2)  The priesthood of the movement -- the Rationalizers -- make up the so-called "libertarian" wing of Republicanism.  This segment has dwindled in the face of monumental GOP betrayal of everything that Adam Smith ever stood for -- no-bid crony contracting, arterial deficit spending, meddlesome-jingoistic imperialism, fiscal and financial blundering, stark power-grabs and violations of civil liberties have all left this segment quivering.

  Those who can count have noticed that EVERY Supply Side prediction failed and every metric of national health collapsed under GOP rule.  Those who can be swayed by facts are already moving on.  Leaving two subsets behind... those who are in utter denial, covering their ears and screaming "nah!!"... and those who are whores, in the pay of the New Lords.  No, there's little to be gained by trying any longer to reason with this layer.

3) Meanwhile the biggest clade -- those we see screeching at Town Meetings and Tea parties -- are largely  white, male, non-urban know-nothings. And they matter -- a lot.   They are as important to the New Lords as poor southern whites were, to plantation aristocrats, during the US Civil War --  ground troops who have to be stoked into a rage, in order to serve the lords' higher  interests.   Why else would Fox News push relentlessly the thinly buried message -- to hate half your fellow citizens?  Especially anyone with a post-graduate degree?

Do these ground troops ever actually GET anything, from their masters?  Across the GOP-led era, not a single agenda item promised to the fundamentalists, or nativists, or gun folk, or any other Deep Red group, was ever delivered.  No effective changes in abortion law, no reduction in illegal immigration, no improvement (in fact huge declines) in military readiness.  Drops in job security and net income.  Oh, it's futile to point any of this out.  Murdoch knows the buttons.   Democrats simply cede this swathe to him.  They just assume that, in their tens of millions, Red Populists are  inherently and irreversibly  in the right-wing camp...

...or are they?  Might there be a way to turn the boiling rage of group #3 toward group #1?  Veering the massive Red Populist movement against the plantation aristocracy?  Surely that is the possibility giving the New Lords night-time sweats. 

Impossible? Think about it.  Murdoch keeps tapping a central theme -- one that is deeply American -- Suspicion of Authority (SOA) -- pushed in every song,  legend and Hollywood film.  We differ mainly over WHICH group each of us perceives trying to become Big Brother.  Some dread corporations and aristocrats.  Others -- faceless government bureaucrats and snooty intellectuals.  Each of us tends to see only threats from the direction we chose to fixate-on.  (Hence, my decision, long ago, to practice omni-directional contrariness!)

 So far, Faux News has done a great job stirring Red America to actinic fury at government (even though the GOP ran it for so long) and at urbanites and anyone who actually knows anything.  He seems to have the Red Populists all sewn up.

 But remember, it wasn't so long ago that working whites fumed against greedy Mr. Potter types!  The key question is: What would it take to make that happen again?.

The answer is really simple.  A heap of great big scandals, that go farther than what we've seen, so far.  Scandals that rub the populists' noses in how thoroughly they have been used by a different powerful group of authoritarians.

This is why I am ticked off at Attorney General Holder, for going after (and alienating) the CIA at a time when Halliburton's betrayal of our troops would make a far juicier target.  The sole-source "emergency clause" no-bid contracts that cost our republic billions while stabbing the military in the back.  The tax cheats with their offshore secret accounts.  The parasites and monopolists, destroying mom & pop business, across the country.  The Wall Street vampires. How many more betrayals-up-top can Fox spin?  The answer? Keep them busy and let's find out?

The crux: Why has there been almost NO talk  of a Special Prosecutor for Recession-causing crimes?  Is Goldman-Sachs really that influential in the Obama White House?


Getting back to the overview: do mark my words, Culture War is the greatest overall treason committed against the republic since Secession.  Perpetrated in very much the same spirit, with similar goals and methods, while tapping an identical thread in the national psyche.  It is a deliberate, manipulative scheme to demolish America's enlightenment methods of deliberated problem solving. It has nothing whatsoever to do with safeguarding markets, capitalism or freedom. Indeed, those things can only survive by defeating it.

 This is the fight worth winning, but Democrats seem to be clueless about how to begin. SO it may be up to the rest of us. We should be focusing on how to separate the ground troops from their masters.  Divert populism and its ire back toward the enemies who ruined every other renaissance in human history. 

I am NOT talking about "class warfare" against the rich. (Though the Murdochians are complete fools, if they think their road will not eventually lead to tumbrels, rolling in the streets. Smart int he short-term, imbecilles in the long.) 

No, most of those who are merely wealthy earned it, fair and square.  So this is only glancingly about "the rich."

I am talking about those who want to resume the ancient art of feudalism. 

Find a way to waken Red America to that danger, and we may yet win back our brothers and sisters in fellow citizenship and common cause. In the only Revolution that ever changed humanity for the better.




Woozle said...

"Might there be a way to turn the boiling rage of group #3 toward group #1?"

It's just a small idea, but some months ago I proposed (in a comment on another blog) that we start referring to progressive taxation as the "elite tax" (since "rich people" are the backbone of American wealth but "elites" are the enemy).

Acacia H. said...

Unfortunately, there is a lot of fear out there about Obama and of the minorities among the somewhat-conservative Caucasians out there that make up the heart of the Republican party, despite having been raped by them and betrayed by them time and time again. I am absolutely unable to convince my parents that the Greenhouse Effect is real (because New England has not noticeably grown warmer this last decade). I cannot convince them that the Republicans are the greater of two evils (though they live in northeastern Massachusetts, which has long suffered from the fiscal mistreatment of a Boston-centric state legislature). They wear blinders to the worse effects of what's going on, and blame Democrats for what has gone wrong.

I've two best friends who likewise look at Obama with dislike and fear. One goes with his "gut feeling" and while his instincts are often correct, I can't help but wonder if his "gut instinct" in this case is a coupled level of subconscious prejudice and hatred of the Democrats (as he's another victim of Massachusetts government). The other is more vague as to her concerns... but I'm left wondering just what it is about Obama that she so dislikes (which is perhaps ironic - I who am striving so hard to overcome the prejudices I see in myself am starting to see prejudice everywhere... when I might just be projecting my own self-fears on other people).

Indeed, my own tendency to play Devil's Advocate is strong enough that I have to wonder: how much of my blind support for Obama is because I'm defending him against the slings and arrows of my own friends and family? While I see his flaws, and suspect he's not going to be one of the Great Presidents of this country because he seems to lack that element of ability to have others fear him (would even the nuttiest Democrat have dared shout "You Lie!" in the middle of a Presidential speech during Bush's Administration? For all the horrid things Bush did... he pushed things through because people did not want to risk him going off the deep end).

Perhaps the saddest part of the Obama administration however is that we've seen time and time again that "change" is a slogan Obama doesn't appear to believe in. Why not push for true choice for health care, which would force insurance companies to actually compete rather than act like a series of regional monopolies? Why not push through true reforms for Wall Street and the banking industry? Why not strive for real change?

It may very well be that Obama is biding his time... and letting the Republicans slowly self-destruct. If the economy starts improving enough in the next year, then the Democrats may manage to hold the line in the Senate, while maintain minimal losses in the House. In two more years, assuming things don't go south with the economy or with Afghanistan (moreso than it is anyway), and he gets reelected, we may actually see real change occur.

But I doubt it.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tim H. said...

I fear what it might take to break the grip Murdoch & his fellow travelers. What may do it would be more war than the United States has the industrial capacity to support, and we can't count on being in a position to "Just nuke 'em!". An economic collapse beyond the abilities of central banks might be beyond Fox's propaganda skills, but would cause more hardship than I like to think about.

Jester said...

Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party.

Max Blumenthal

Very much worth reading when trying to understand how the Republican Party went from Dwight D Eisenhower to Sarah Palin.

Tony Fisk said...

At the risk of sounding repetitious, I do think that distinguishing between (salt-of-the-earth type) conservatives and (patriotism-as-refuge-for-wolves-in-sheep's-clothing) self-servatives would assist in encouraging group #3 to not take your ire too personally and to have a closer look at #1.

(Oh! Grandma!)

It occurs to me that the groups David identifies mimic the 'estates general' of pre-revolutionary France. Interestingly, the so-called 'fourth estate' has historically been associated with both the Press (featuring you-know-who Murdoch) and the Mob (ile vulgis).

As Wilde noted: 'We are [now] dominated by journalism'.

Tom Crowl said...

Another great piece. Please take a look at my recent piece Gov 2.0 and New Economies - Designing the Social Contract regarding rebalancing technologies of "influence capability" and the importance of the microtransaction is speech especially.

Ed said...

"Is Goldman-Sachs really that influential in the Obama White House?"

To ask the question is to answer it.

This is the core idea that I feel you're not giving proper weight. We already have an aristocracy, and they are firmly in control of both parties. The Obama administration is just the latest incarnation. Believing that they somehow represent a break from the established powers was nothing but wishful thinking. Their actions speak for themselves. Obama will do nothing to threaten the military/industrial/banking powers that be.

It doesn't really matter whether the left or right have better arguments at present, because all those arguments are nothing but misdirection. It keeps us proles fighting each other instead of our real common enemies.

I also don't understand your attachment to centralized authority. Decentralized systems do a better job of protecting liberty and prosperity. Was it a "crime" when the 13 colonies seceded from England? Or when India seceded from the same? Or when all the former Soviet republics broke away?

Of course not. Smaller political units are better for peace and progress, so long as political separation doesn't also include economic and intellectual separation.

Think of the radical experimentation that would be possible if more of America's political future was decided at regional or local levels. I could hardly imagine a better solution to the problem of preventing oligarchy: the freer places would outperform the serfdom states in every way. All the human and physical capital would drain from the unenlightened to the enlightened areas.

Embracing enlightenment values means trusting systems to organize from the bottom up instead of the top down. Trying to enforce enlightenment values from Washington is a contradiction that betrays a mistrust in the values themselves.

Doug S. said...

The Republican party has undergone evaporative cooling recently. The sane Republicans have been voted out of office in favor of (relatively) right-leaning Democrats, or have joined the Democratic party themselves. Only the crazies remain.

There are sane conservatives, but, for the most part, they're no longer Republicans.

DoctorB said...

The difficulty I see here is the ubiquity of the right-wing noise machine. Between Fox News and Rush Limbaugh alone, Republicans have ten times the message-setting power of any Democratic institution. If we do want to set group 3 against group 1 you have to find a means of communication that can't be subverted by Rush or Fox.
Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the question should be: You say you want protection from Big Government? When the government is gone, who will protect you from the robber barons?

I tried to post under my WP Id, but Google doesn't seem to like it; it's refused my last 3 attempts.

Anonymous said...

I just filled out my Republican survey and advised hte party htat I will not contribute another dime (although I was never a big contributor) until they embrace a proactive vision (vs reactive). I crossed over for Obama because I was simply tired of the vision bankruptcy.

But lets realize that both parties have less than enlightened foot soldiers who aren't seeking truth but rather dogma-driven comforts. We have cities collapsing on their own dogma that are similar testimonials to left dream failures.

So I was attracted by the title and the ideological madness... the body text seemed to indulge a bit more than I expected in ironically proving the point of the title and the famous pot and kettle line.

Chill said...

Yeah, but someone like Glenn Beck or Hannity constantly is able to spin any attack on the robber baron types or the wealthy in general as an attack on basic American rights. Faux news/Murdoch Media Empire has a powerful spin machine. Glenn Beck gets away with calling John D. Rockefeller a progressive! They can spew misinformation to such a massive degree I'm not sure it can be broken.

But maybe misdirected? Maybe what's needed is something like the Colbert approach but much more subtle and less obvious. We need someone who sounds like any other right-wing political pundit but is fighting Big Corporate too.

Unknown said...

David Brin wrote:

The crux: Why has there been almost NO talk of a Special Prosecutor for Recession-causing crimes? Is Goldman-Sachs really that influential in the Obama White House?

Answer: Yes. :(

Tom Crowl said...

@David Brin & Nick Barnes re:

The crux: Why has there been almost NO talk of a Special Prosecutor for Recession-causing crimes? Is Goldman-Sachs really that influential in the Obama White House?

Yes, they are that influential!
Here's the "meta" of how it happens...

See The Foundations of Authoritarianism to begin to understand the roots of oligarchy and the role of technology and design in repairing imbalances in "influence capability".

Jumper said...

I think the beneficial effects of jailing those who pushed high ratings onto junk scrip have been undervalued. Jail and fines (lots and lots of fines) would do wonders to restore confidence in the markets of the world.

Chill said...

A few months ago I thought that if Madoff was the only person to go to jail from all this, there'd be a revolution or something. Something would happen! but now I'm not so sure

sirvan said...

@Doug S.

yeah, I read that article.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. This is a fascinating analysis.

There are few enough libertarians in the world, and fewer still "pragmatic libertarians", or whatever it is we're called.

However, there ARE tons of independents, moderates, and centrists out there, and some of them are politically interested, even though they have no name, no group to call their own.

There are also a few rational conservatives trying to get their voices heard. David Frum (former speech writer for GWB) has started a site,, to try to be a voice and win back Republican majority by ousting all the crazies. You should point him at this post. In spite of his fame, and tho he must be busy, he is willing to personally respond to intelligent suggestions.

While I think your suggested tactics are slimy, you are probably right that this sort of dirty game may be one of the few options left.

Though I keep hoping the loons will eventually implode themselves. I mean, how long can Glenn Beck be taken seriously? My optimist side thinks this just might happen. :)


steves said...

There are sane conservatives, but, for the most part, they're no longer Republicans.

True. This is the joy of a two party system. The sane may be upset with the Republican party, but many don't feel that they have a viable alternative. Centrist Democrats have made some strides, but much of the progressive movement seems more content to mock conservative positions, rather than to engage in any kind of dialog.

Adam said...

"Culture War is the greatest overall treason committed against the republic since Secession."

Beautifully said

David Brin said...

Another excellent missive by Russ Daggatt!

The patriotism thing is wholly ironic... e.g. for flagwaving to be embraced by good old boys who have all -- (and I mean nearly ALL of them) -- fantasized about riding with Nathan Bedford Forest. Indeed, there are a number of jiu jitsu takes that democrats and liberals OUGHT to adopt, right now:

1) Flag waving. Why not? Take it up and aggressively! Right now, while the far right is talking about secession and hating the US government, and while the US military is seething at the GOP for having damn near destroyed it, where's the down side?

Seriously. Show up at rallies with placards saying NO New Civil War! with an X atop a confederate flag and waving old glory. Sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic! (Yes, it is religious... so co-opt THAT as well!) Watch THAT stick in ther craws!

2) Respond to the gun buying frenzy with yawns.Answer: "You got guns? Fine. WE got guns too! What did you expect? During the Bush years, we started seeing the sense of it. With Gestapo tactics starting up and secret rendition camps. Hey, those sumbitches may get back in power again. You think we're gonna go back into such an era unarmed? The difference is that you guys are noisy. You yell and scream that you have weapons. Nobody knows about mine."

THAT will creep them out, bigtime!

3) Embrace Adam Smith. Get Americans to actually read him... or at least get PBS to do a documentary... showing who the enemy of markets always was (except during the very brief Soviet era.) Crony-oligarchs.

Seriously. Democrats should fire up and defend capitalism against the neo-feudalists! Mom and pop stores and small creative startups against monopolies. Banks used for business capitalization and not gambling.

Heck, stop coddling Switzerland. Tell em to spill the bank records or face an embargo. THAT would be a Judo move that'd rock the red-populists. Some would even start to see red, white and blue.

This is what I mean by jiu jitsu politics, and we'd be doing it all, if we had a Democratic Karl Rove.  I expected stuff like this from Obama.  But he has yet to take off the kid gloves.

tacitus2 said...

Apparently I am one of those folks with whom Dr.Brin is no longer inclined to "discourse". Obviously I am not a member of group 1. No Murdoch nor Soros am I. And clearly not a group 3. member, I never screech, and my congressman held no town halls. My very polite inquiry as to other possible opportunities to visit with him during the recess went unanwered. I suppose I have some tendencies as a group 2. libertarian, but I think I am not in total denial, and if the New Lords have me on the payroll the checks must be going astray. I blame Blackwater.

But for the rest of the denizens here, I welcome a chance to interact with the "urbanites" who may know things and have advanced degrees.

Just how are we going to pay for all of this?

I will set aside Cap and Trade, as it is unlikely to survive, and the Stimulus package which for good and ill is a done deal.

But, wise urbanites, how does one reconcile the President's vow for a budget neutral health care reform with the CBO's estimate that in its second ten years it would add a Trillion to the Fed Deficit?

Is it anything other than weasley sophistry to claim that said reforms will not add taxes to anybody making less than 250K, yet require the purchase of health insurance at peril of government fines?

Frequent visitors here may recall that I am actually in favor of health care reforms--if done honestly. What has been proposed to date would, in my not inexperienced opinion, entrench the worst of our system and magnify the expense of same substantially.

Please, do not invoke the cost savings of electronic medical records, the "contributions" of the hospital and pharmaceutical industries, the cost savings of preventative care. Oh, heck, bring them up if you will, but be prepared for a bracing riposte.

I don't want Obama to fail. I want the Obama that was running for president to reappear and succeed.

In the end, Progressives and Conservatives want the same thing-the best health care system America can afford. The Progressive says, "we must do no less". The Conservative says "but we can afford no more".


(and please, do not call me a RINO. I know it is meant as a compliment, but it is not one I accept)

David Brin said...

Tacitus, nobody asked you to stop being a classic conservative or libertarian, whose suspicion of Authority (SOA) tends to aim more toward bureaucrats and taxation than toward other known threats to freedom. I have always avowed that we need a diverse society in which liberals -- who worry about conniving corporations and aristocrats -- protect us from that flank while libertarians use fierce skepticism to keep asking why government has to do things that might better be left to private endeavor.

The problem is that this balance has completely broken down.

1) Conniving corporations and aristocrats are at the gates, battering them down. They are inside the citadel. That direction is where a major crisis looms, right now, and the only weapon we the People have, to defend us, is the one that Adam Smith recommended -- open and honest government that isn't afraid to break up oligarchies.

2) Conservatives and libertarians -- as groups, not always as individuals, have proved utterly foolish and useless for thirty years. They have swallowed "supply side" voodoo and recited rationalized nostrums that have NOTHING to do with their task of enhancing a vigorous private sector. Monopolies crush mom&pop businesses and smother startups. Wall Street gamblers starve business of capital... and THAT is vibrant market capitalism?

3) Credibility. A person with libertarian leanings (and I count myself as one) may feel creepy about advancing government involvement in more areas of public life. But We have nowhere else to go, because those running the right have a ZERO score in outcomes analysis. They cannot cite even one metric of national health that improved under their tenure. When the record is one of absolutely perfect bad-outcomes, then something is fundamentally wrong... either with the underlying premise of conservatism... or else the entire clade responsible for implementing it.

If you still feel there is value to be found in conservatism or libertarianism, then you logically MUST step outside the tent, join David Frum, and help eject the crazies from the movement. Moreover, I am afraid that that will require that you help Obama, in the short term. Because the only way the crazies will let go of conservatism is if he shrugs them off, and succeeds.

Re: Health care... I am not a perfect liberal by any means. I want to go at it incrementally, not all at once. One thing we can afford... and should ALL make sacrifices to pay for... is to take care of every child. Period. Free medical care for every ... single... child.

If Obama simply demanded that, he would get it, within a week.

So much for being a genius.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we need to do a new type of 'No Child Left Behind'; rather than academic, start on the fundamental level of health care.

I remember subsidized school lunches, but am not sure they are still offered any more. Kids have trouble doing well at school for a number of reasons, but we may as well address the ones we actually can do something about -- make sure they have something to eat and don't come to school perpetually ill.

OpenID still hates me.

steves said...

I remember subsidized school lunches, but am not sure they are still offered any more.

Yes, they are still offered. Free and reduced cost lunches are available in most states. My daughter's school has them, and even without the reduction, school lunch is pretty cheap (breakfast is even cheaper).

I'd like to see the return of the school nurse. Many larger districts had one in every school. We currently have one for the entire county. My wife has taught for 11 years and has seen the nurse in her building maybe 2 or 3 times. This would be a good start. Our state already had Medicaid for indigent children and a low cost, sliding scale option for families that made too much for Medicaid. Both of these programs provided some pretty good services, from what I saw working in the public mental health field.

Respond to the gun buying frenzy with yawns

I doubt the gun buying frenzy had much to do with armed revolt or secession. I believe it had more to do with a somewhat rational fear that Obama would enact restrictions or sign legislation that would ban some types of guns or tax them at a high rate. I saw the same buying frenzy in 1986, prior to some major changes in the National Firearms Act and in 1994, prior to passage of the Assault Weapons Ban.

If you still feel there is value to be found in conservatism or libertarianism, then you logically MUST step outside the tent, join David Frum, and help eject the crazies from the movement.

I couldn't agree more. I have been trying to do this for a while.

Acacia H. said...

Here's some food for thought. As part of my job at Ebsco, I tend to read a fairly eclectic level of articles on science, society, politics, and industry. One of the articles (in today's Wall Street Journal, if I remember correctly) was about Lehman Brothers, who is currently doing quite nicely while in its Bankruptcy hideyhole.

You see, Lehman Brothers is managing to successful restructure itself, and is doing the very things with properties and loans it owns that the non-bankrupt banking industry has refused to do under Government protection: it is allowing refinancing of loans for property that has lost significant value, allowing mortgages to be redone at a loss to the company.

And this has turned out to be a significant success, because Lehman Brothers doesn't need to keep shareholders happy as they are currently bankrupt, and thus don't have to answer to the shareholders. In short, not having to worry about making a profit, Lehman Brothers appears to be doing the very things that the banking industry needs to be doing to get out of the pit that was dug in the past nine years.

It's funny. The libertarians said "let it burn and sort out the ashes." The consequences were deemed far too extreme. It would have brought on a new Great Depression. It would have shattered the global economy. So we did a massive bailout (and it's funny how the Fed is managing to balance both inflation and deflation at the same time to somehow negate each other, for the most part - also in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal) and we saved all those billionaires from losing their money and all those banks from having to pay the piper.

All except Lehman Brothers. That company paid the piper. And it is becoming clear that when all is said and done... when Lehman Brothers emerges from bankruptcy, it is going to be a far healthier and sturdier institution than all the banks that were propped up by TARP and a Republican-initiated bailout that Democrats went along with because there was no other choice.

Except to let it burn.

Perhaps, ultimately, the market would have been self-correcting. Of course, if it had been allowed to burn all the way, then it would have taken a decade to climb out of the pit. But much like brush-land that is cleared with fire, perhaps the financial and industrial worlds would have been healthier and better suited in the long run.

The solution isn't to let it burn, though. The solution is to take Lehman Brothers, see what they are doing right, and apply that to the banking industry as a whole. Hopefully more banks will watch Lehman Brothers and swallow that bitter pill before starting down that path as well, restructuring debt and accepting losses (and the shrieks of upset shareholders) but in the end becoming healthier institutions as a result.

Rob H.

daveawayfromhome said...

I think the biggest mistake that the Democrats, and liberals in general, make when trying to argue with the Far Right's shock troops is that they keep trying to use logic to counter the Fear Machine that Faux and their cohorts use to steer them.
As long as they are in the grip of that fear, no logic will get through to them. The only way to break the fear is laughter, which, at its root, is a reaction to the breaking of tension. There's a reason that Jon Stewart is the most trusted name in news these days, and it's not because he brings any new information to the table, but rather because he uses mockery to dispell the fear.
Get rid of the fear, and then logic can take over, at which point many of the stands taken by the Right dont hold up very well. But the fear must be removed first.
Think of it like a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors: Fear beats Logic, but Laughter Beats Fear, and to beat Laughter you use Logic.
It's not perfect, but it works pretty well.
I dont know how well humor will work for actual politicians except in small doses, but wouldnt it be refreshing to hear a Democrat respond to some idiotic Tea-bagger or Death Panel statement with mockery rather than trying to stammer out an explanation that wont be listened to by that person anyway?

Stefan Jones said...

"The only way to break the fear is laughter, which, at its root, is a reaction to the breaking of tension."

This is why I hope David Brin gives up editorial and blog writing for a while and tells a good cracking story to point the way out of this noisome mess. One that good-naturedly puts the screws to the fearful, closed-minded modern day Know Nothings.

A few Swiftian kicks to the nuggets.

steves said...

I doubt it, Dave. It may work in small doses, but I probably not on a large scale. Jon Stewart may be the most trusted man in some circles, but to some he is an ass or a shill. I suppose it depends on your perspective.

As for dispelling fear and letting logic take over, good luck. I think it will work with some, but it would have to be with people that were genuinely interested in challenging their beliefs. Fear is a common tool by both sides of the political spectrum. While the right is certainly making heavy use of it now, the left has done so in other ways. Take the gun-control debate. Most of the left's positions are based on fear and emotional responses and aren't supported by facts and reason. I am not suggesting that the right can't get all crazy and passionate about this subject, but most of the anti-gun talking points are not rational.

As for a good response, I thought Al Franken did a wonderful job responding to critics and questions. He was smart, articulate, and seemed genuinely interested in what people had to say. Contrast this with the holier-than-thou, trust me I know what is best, that comes from most politicians (at least in my state)

sociotard said...

Hey, Dr. Brin, have you seen the trailer for "Surrogates", with Bruce Willis? The main technology in the film looks an awful lot like the one in "Kiln People".

Tim H. said...

Another potential shake up will be when enough conservatives really think about the defense implications of decades of off-shoring. Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" allowed dixie's union busting fervor into the conservative movement, and has been the gift that keeps on giving. The traditional role of the standing army was to give the nation the time for mobilization and industrial conversion, now, the reserves are largely committed and we've little industry left to convert. I'm not blaming it all on Nixon, the military's tendency to learn all the wrong lessons and more than a little "Wehrmacht envy" figure in this also. Some paleocons have already figured this out, if it becomes a large issue, there might be an opportunity to hammer some of the more obnoxious voices on the right.

tacitus2 said...

OK, guys and gals, its now been 24 hours since I posed the question "how are you gonna pay for all this". And not a single taker.

I cannot conceal my disappointment.

Remind me again, who is in denial? And who are the Know Nothings?


Ilithi Dragon said...

Tacitus 2: How about re-instituting the tax cuts Bush gave the rich when he entered office as a start? Behavioral incentive taxes on big corporations, to encourage them to more ethical and transparent behavior could help a lot, as well.

Of course, getting either of those proposals passed into law is going to be a nightmare in and of itself.

Ilithi Dragon said...

*re-instituting the taxes on the rich that Bush cut.

Blargh, I need more caffeine... x-x

Rob Perkins said...

"Pay for all this" is laughably simple, which is what makes it so complex.

I look at it from an engineering standpoint. If the system requires more energy, then more energy must be applied to the system to keep it working.

In the case of Medicare, the tax has to go from 1.45% to 2%. OASDI taxes need only to have the income ceiling lifted.


As to the "health care for all children", I would argue that, byzantine as it is, we have it today, but that participation is optional and that there are some significant holes in the catastrophic parts of the coverage.

Am I wrong? Didn't the SCHIP modifications pass earlier this year? I know I'm very comfortably in the middle class, but that I'm only a very small amount of income away from the upper income ceiling of my State's Medicaid and WIC programs, for example.

As for school lunches, yes, those subsidies are still firmly in place, but I don't think the income amounts to qualify have been modified recently. It's interesting and a little foreboding to note that the school lunch companies in my area number only two, and that they compete bitterly and unfairly to win school district contracts.

In case you didn't think there were oligarchies forming...

Tom Crowl said...

@ Tacitus2

All right, you asked a fair question... and I'm not sure I can answer it... but there won't be much progress unless someone gives it a shot...

The Question: How are we gonna pay for all this?

In the context here you refer to healthcare but the same question could be asked about the cost of any large change to a fundamental civilization system.

Money can be seen as a representation of potential energy of the social organism that creates and values it. And an unfortunately very imperfect one but that's for another piece.

This is analogous to fat and sugar in our bodies... the first being energy in storage and the second doing work!

While its certainly obvious that a body needs sufficient energy for survival, its also equally true that even a body with a surfeit of energy can become unhealthy and die due to the mis-spending of the energy available to it.

Cancer is the obvious example.

The medical industry, in combination with several others, is operating as a cancer such that the expenditure of civilization energy (money being just one measure here) for its operation is in danger of collapsing the social organism whose benefit it's supposed to ensure.

And this economic multi-sector misallocation which goes beyond healthcare represents a more fundamental failure of civilization's systems than any healthcare bill will ever be able to solve.

SO... to pay for needed changes is more about reconfiguring systems of incentives than some arbitrary allocation of money (civilization energy) through bad models.

We have NO shortage of civilization energy especially when seen in a context which extends beyond currency considerations alone.

Curing a body of cancer is ultimately not about adding more energy to it, but rather removing the cancer and re-allocating available energy to more healthy purpose.

I believe new civilization structures may be helpful for repair and reallocation... and do NOT require revolutions.

And I believe governance issues have to do with a fundamental disconnect between the social organism and the social network which has yet to be worked out... but needs immediate attention to avoid real ultimatum game implications for civilization.

See The Foundations of Authoritarianism for a brief discussion of how natural human community size (Dunbar's Number), limits of biological altruism and proximity issues contributed to this problem.

So, Tacitus2, for me the answer to the question comes in re-allocation of resources and re-design of systems... NOT feeding a cancer.

Imbalances in Influence Capability have allowed self-reinforcing feedback loops in the political system to create an unholy alliance between oligarchs in the public and private sectors to distort and degrade public debate... in exactly the way Mr. Brin lays out.

The Fixing Big! 5-minute PowerPoint presents a solution in the area of influence capability.

David Smelser said...

Reguarding "Jon Stewart may be the most trusted man in some circles, but to some he is an ass or a shill." That may be true, but you know that he is authentic in his opinions. Contrast that with any other newscaster that claims to be "fair and balanced". How can one trust someone who presents both sides of a story and doesn't express an opinion? While you may dislike Jon Stewart's view, you know where he stands. I personally like him -- he does poke fun at those on the left and right.

Another source of funding health care is to stop all the corn syrup subsides and apply them to health care. Call it a preventive health care adjustment.

Tim H. said...

Tacitus2, you've posed an interesting question. If a public option became available, I'd say pay for it with the money that used to go to insurance companies, ignoring the question of "What happens to their employees?". Since those companies made wise (For them) campaign contributions they've become the troll on the bridge, and it's looking to be expensive to pay the troll, and expand health care. Relatively modest tax increases might cover the additional expense, but for some, taxes have become a religious issue. This issue may be one of those things that will not really be fixed until Wall $treet crashes the economy hard enough that it doesn't get up again real soon, think "New deal", which would have been impossible without the crash of 1929.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@David Smelser:

Proper journalism is supposed to present both sides of an argument without providing an opinion. Proper journalism is just supposed to present the bare facts, the positions of any relevant 'side', and let the reader/viewer/consumer-of-news form their own opinions.

I would gladly trust someone who accurately and verifiably presents both sides of an issue without giving their own opinion. You're not going to find that in FOX News, however, and it's often lacking from CNN and MSNBC, and most TV news media, unfortunately. None to near the degree of FOX, but it's noticeable nonetheless. Unfortunately, we've been seeing a resurgence of yellow journalism, especially in TV news.

I do like the corn syrup subsidies idea, though. Definitely a good one.

Larry Hart said...

> But for the rest of the
> denizens here, I welcome a
> chance to interact with
> the "urbanites" who may know
> things and have advanced degrees.
> Just how are we going to pay
> for all of this?

I can only speak for myself, a long-time reader but very rare poster at this blog. With that caveat in mind...

For me, the Bush Administration killed any hope of this country ever living in a fiscally-responsible manner. I was a good fiscal conservative (though a big social liberal) during the Reagan/Bush41/Clinton years and I was thrilled in the late 1990s when it looked as if we may have been in the process of paying down the debt to zero.

The 2001 tax cuts, the subsequent wars, Medicare Part D (with no price negotiation) and the original "we have to pass this right away!" bailout of AIG and company destroyed any hope of ever living within our means. Nothing President Obama does or doesn't do will change that simple fact.

So it's not so much that I don't appreciate where you're coming from asking "How can we pay for this?" It's just that I no longer see this as a relevant question. If we don't pay for THIS (with more borrowed money), then it won't be the case that we'll save the money. We'll only end up borrowing that same money to give to Wall Street or Exxon or Haliburton, etc etc. Less spending isn't a realistic option. It's only a case of what the money we can't afford to spend will be spent ON.

I feel very cynical and dirty putting it that way (in "The Simpsons" parlance, I need a drink and a shower), but that doesn't make it any less true.

So it's not that "How can we afford this?" isn't a good question, but it's too late to be asking it now. Where were you (maybe not you personally, but conservatives in general) when Bush was spending us into the stone age?

Or as I thought Candidate Obama should have said after Bailout I, "It's no longer a question of whether government will be big or small. It's only a question of whether it will be tall, grande, or venti".

Larry Hart said...

I dont know how well humor will work for actual politicians except in small doses, but wouldnt it be refreshing to hear a Democrat respond to some idiotic Tea-bagger or Death Panel statement with mockery rather than trying to stammer out an explanation that wont be listened to by that person anyway?

The closest I can think of to what you're saying is when Joe Biden responded to charges of Marxism "Is this a joke?" I'm not sure how well it worked, but it was sure refreshing to see it pointed out--how ELSE can you respond to such a question?

Unknown said...

How to pay for it? How to pay for the status quo??? Answer that and I'll answer how to pay for a different system.

tacitus2 said...

Sounds like this topic will have to stone-skip into the next thread,as it is in that context quite germane.

I will have to defer detailed answers, I am going on shift in a few hours and 12 hours overnight in the ER tends to take the edge off my over 50 brain.

Off to do my part for health care--in the sense of one small ant carrying a single grain of sand.

Oh, and regards Jon Stewart his bit on the Acorn scandal was pretty darn funny. Nobody doubts his talent, but I do find it troubling when people mistake his act for some kind of reality.


daveawayfromhome said...

"As for dispelling fear and letting logic take over, good luck. I think it will work with some, but it would have to be with people that were genuinely interested in challenging their beliefs."

Yes, I realize that. Actually, people rarely change their minds once they are made up, and I'm pretty sure that what we call shifts in the electorate are generally more a case of one set of voters getting excited and another giving up.
If mockery (or any humor) doesnt make someone think, then I think most would settle for just making them shut up.
And yes, most politicians probably need to keep the humor to a minimum. In the last Texas governor's race, author and singer Kinky Friedman probably submarined his (rather low) odds by being too humorous. He's running again, and intends to keep the jocularity down, but I still suspect he will not miss many opportunites to mock any stupidity he comes across.

As for funding health care, Tacitus, how about raising the tax on capital gains which are made in less than, oh say, a week or so. And an even higher tax on capital gains made within one day. Speculation is at the heart of most economic collapses not caused by war, so why not penalize what is essentially gambling? Investement should be rewarded, which is the idea behind low capital gains taxes, but much of what happens on wall street is less investment than it is horse-racing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of that entry. A couple of ideas from the probability zero universe that are relevant here:
A. My revenge fantasy: splice together about two hours (no, make that eight hours) of the most mindless, bile-filled noise from the town hall meetings on health care. Then get republican congresscritters and insurance execs drunk. Stinking drunk. The next morning, bright and early, with the sun shining on them, strap them upright in wooden chairs and play back the noise at full volume for eight hours. I think they need to be monumentally hungover to properly appreciate just how obnoxious it all is. As I said, probability zero, but just the concept made me happier. So it's a good thing really.

B. As for prosecuting the people who nuked our economy.... What about the anti-terrorism laws? I agree with Warren Buffett about derivatives being (financial) weapons of mass destruction, and evidently the CIA does too, seeing as how they were trying to hire disgraced Wall Streeters for their new financial ops wing. Considering the damage the suits caused, if they'd used munitions instead of junk finance, we'd be prosecuting them for terrorist acts. Maybe we should too...

As for health care, I'm waiting for the feces to stop flying before I figure out whether any part of it's going to work.

And I shed no tears for the Republican ground troops. I'm afraid the environmentalists, gay rights activists, and others are being equally used by the democrats. Sickening, really.

TwinBeam said...

David Frum? You mean the guy who was the NeoCon's bright young NeoCon?

The guy who paleo-conservative Jerry Pournelle refers to as "the egregious Frum" for having written off real conservatives for not being enthusiastic about invading Iraq?

Who flipped over to a supposed "New Majority" - coincidentally undergoing this supposedly radical change of heart just about the time it became obvious just how badly the NeoCons (combined with the sad McCain/Palin ticket) were blowing the election of 2008?

What exactly is it he's said recently that made you think him representative of conservative sanity? And why would you believe it?

Marino said...

Tacitus2, re: financial sustainability of healthcare:

as the teme surfaces in another list I belong, why, is a system needing over IIRC 15% of GDP like the US one more sustainable than EU ones needing short of 6%?
A friend of mine (hardcore conservative) on said list proposed a sales tax of 30% in order to finance healthcare, but foresaw a very bad effect on demand. Dunno, but here in Europe we have a VAT tax in the 20% range and life goes on.

verification word: rettett: the 3. person of the German verb for "save, rescue"...

steves said...

Yes, I realize that. Actually, people rarely change their minds once they are made up, and I'm pretty sure that what we call shifts in the electorate are generally more a case of one set of voters getting excited and another giving up.

I can only speak for myself, but based on policies and platforms championed by Republicans, I have moved away from them (to a degree), or maybe they have moved away from me. Mostly, I have found myself listening to reasoned presentations, as opposed to mocking snarkiness. Of course, this only applies to me and I probably should make generalizations based on it.

cheap electronics said...

It's just a small idea, but some months ago I proposed (in a comment on another blog) that we start referring to progressive taxation as the "elite tax" (since "rich people" are the backbone of American wealth b