Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Think Dan Finally Gets It

I was sneaky. I read this post. At the end of a too-long back and forth (Lord, but that Bubba just goes on and on, doesn't he?) Dan Trabue wrote a comment that includes the following:
It's one thing to disagree with my opinion, I'm fine with that. But saying I don't BELIEVE my own opinions? Well, where does one go from there?

A more apt description of why I don't interact with them (beside their quite obvious mental health issues) I could not hope to find. While I certainly feel bad leaving Dan over there all by himself, gamely playing the blog-comment game with people who seem to think they win because we walk away, I think he finally understands why I do not post comments, do not participate in discussions, and take their occasional appearance here at my blog as an excuse to point and laugh at them.

It became clear to me when Marshall once actually wrote, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Geoffrey, you say X, but X really means Not-X, so that's what you really mean." I was dumb-founded by that. The assertion that something I had written meant the exact opposite of the pretty-clear meaning of the words on the screen just . . . I mean, how can a person go through life thinking he or she is so smart, so clever as to actually be able to understand another person's mind in this way?

This is why I say they are insane.

And Bubba is quite tiresome. Being overwhelmed by that kind of BS would be enough reason for me not to engage him.

Reimagining Intellectual Life

Last week I wrote a post on a review of Louis Menand's The Marketplace of Ideas. Today, I read a post that addresses some of the same issues. In particular, a comment further down points in the general direction I think we need to head, collectively, in order to begin a real reform, not just of higher education, but of our collective approach to intellectual life as such.
One thing that I always like to be clear about.... is that there is nothing special to a ph.d. it just produces scholarship and scholars, and scholarship and scholars do not need the ph.d. The doctoral degree is only a credential, there is nothing more, nothing particular that differentiates it from other forms of expertise or even similar forms of expertise gained outside of the institution.


So i would and have argued that the 'credentials' have no relation to intellectual life. Credentials matter to the institutions and the holders. Similarly, 'intellectual life' does not require credentials and should not be seen as different from the everyday lives of large sections of the population. I think sometimes we idealize intellectual life to mean the lives of a certain form of scholar, and I find that model of intellectual life to not actually exist for most people, even most scholars.

So we have credentials and institutions in my view, and both are part of a capitalist system, market. The market is co-constructed to the benefit of the institutions and credentialed individuals. The problem has nothing to do with intellectual life at all really. We add the term to make a claim about greater purpose, much as sociology does with its claim for a public sociology. That is an attempt to legitimize or justify through appeal to practical worth, but what I've argued above is that there is no necessary practical worth to the ph.d. It only has worth in terms of the institutions that require it. Thus I think you can conclude that the appeal to greater worth will likely be received internally as adding additional requirements, and externally with a degree of credulousness.

The original impetus behind the reforms of higher education instituted most memorably by Charles Eliot of Harvard, and the creation of graduate research universities like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the University of Chicago, and Cornell, in Ithaca, NY was not only to update the curriculum - as society not only secularized, but became increasingly dependent upon a type of knowledge not limited to reading dead languages - but to create a set of standards by which that knowledge could be judged as credible. Being publicly available, open to serious criticisms from peers, a furious and free exchange of views and ideas - these ideals set the stage for the institutionalization of an entire set of professions whose entire purpose was for the benefit of the larger society.

Over time, however, as specialization increased and intellectuals became more and more concerned with the twin goals of protecting their little fiefdoms and ensuring their on-going participation in their institutions (as well, I should add, as the glut of students in graduate programs in the 1960's, thanks in no small part to the education deferments from the draft), the link between much of what constitutes "intellectual life" is completely divorced from the larger society. In part, the original "culture wars" began with such a bang precisely because so much of the discourse in the humanities is unfamiliar to the general public. It is parodied and dismissed easily enough because it doesn't serve the interest of the larger society, but the individuals and institutions of which they are a part. Reconnecting the humanities and their researches to the needs of society at large - and please don't give me the whole, "but-pure-research-is-necessary-because-you-never-know-what-will-come-of-it" bit; in physics, chemistry, engineering that may be true, but not in the study of 19th century French poetry - includes starting with differentiating between "participating in the intellectual life of the society" and "getting a Ph.D.".

If we start with that distinction, accept it as a guide, we might very well have some interesting and innovative ways of imagining not just higher education, but the place of the life of the mind in American society.

Out Of Context

Those who wonder about the need to put a sentence in context need look no further than an article in Foreign Affairs, which contains the following.
MILF units in Mindanao retaliated by attacking Christian towns and villages in Lanao del Norte, a province bordering the Muslim areas of the south.

Without knowing the context, what image does this sentence produce?

In this case, MILF is an acronym for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a separatist group on the southern Philippine Island of Mindinao. They have been fighting for four decades for an autonomous region in their traditional strongholds there. After peace negotiations collapsed due to the interference of Christians on Mindinao, fighting resumed.

You gotta read in context. Otherwise, well, MILF's attacking Christian towns . . . It's like a porn blockbuster, no?

Saturday Tom Waits Show

Here's a most hopeful thought on a very cold January morning from my favorite singer/songwriter. "You Can Never Hold Back Spring"

Friday, January 29, 2010


Along with J. D. Salinger, Howard Zinn died yesterday.

Along with the rest of America, I read A People's History of the United States. Unlike those of my political persuasion, I was unimpressed. What was worse, I felt like some kind of budding conservative because I found Zinn's book to be, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty awful. His protestations of ideological purity fell on deaf ears in my case.

I thought I was alone until I stumbled across this article from Dissent. Written by Michael Kazin six years ago, I just now finished reading it, and have to say the whole time I found myself nodding and saying, "Yup, that's pretty much the way I felt."

So, thank you, Michael Kazin. At the very least, there is one other person out here in the world underwhelmed by an allegedly great left-wing intellectual.

Roeder More Fortunate Than Tiller

Scott Roeder consider Dr. George Tiller to be guilty of monstrous crimes, so he walked in to his church one Sunday and shot him to death.

Scott Roeder is actually guilty of a monstrous crime and will live out his natural life.

Doesn't seem quite fair, does it?

Since I oppose the death penalty (for the most part), I won't demand that Roeder face the same fate as his victim; I am just noting the asymmetry of karma in this instance.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Intellectuals Being Stupid

I have yet more evidence that points to my problem with intellectuals. This post at Crooked Timber seems straight-forward enough.
An article on the BBC website discusses the recommendations of a French parliamentary committee which described the veil as :

“contrary to the values of the republic” and called on parliament to adopt a formal resolution proclaiming “all of France is saying ‘no’ to the full veil”.

So two thoughts then: (1) far from being an aberration in France, there was a very recent period when very many French women (or perhaps “French” women) were veiled; (2) attempts by the state to change that didn’t lead to female emancipation and the triumph of Enlightenment values.

I offered the following comment, fairly early on:

Not too many folks here making the point that, at its heart, this is the kind of ignorant political babble we deride in the US. Because it’s France, where even foreign “experts” tend to be at sea, we give this racist crap a pass?


This is another version of the Swiss decision to ban minarets. It’s anti-Muslim hysteria being couched as something noble, even in the “spirit” of the “Republic”. French Tea Baggers might support it, but this American does not.

Which fairly quickly elicited the following, meaningless, retort:

Ah. That didn’t take long.

#19 is a “Doesn’t exist!” response and Chris’s #20 is “it’s ok if most of the people are not coerced” response.

Let’s get down to details. Here’s the main assertion:

“Normally, it doesn’t enhance freedom to coerce everyone not to do a thing in order to prevent some people from coercing some people to do that thing.”

The problem is that not “everyone” is doing the thing, right? Roughly half are already not doing the thing. They’re exempt. Yet it’s clear that some nontrivial fraction of the exempt half are doing the coercing.

So the above quoted principle transforms to something along the lines of (I think): “Normally, it doesn’t enhance freedom to coerce a minority of the population to not do a thing in order to prevent some people (including some other exempt people) from coercing some people to do that thing.”

I don’t think that’s a particularly strongly founded principle. Looks pretty muddy to me. And I haven’t even touched on the underlying power relations. Which only make it muddier, and weaker.

Which is not to say that a Government can on balance “fix” the situation by applying top down blunt instruments.

(Can we stifle the stupid racism accusations? Tx)

First of all, I wasn't acting on any particular "principle" other than a general sense that it is wrong to demand of others they surrender something central to their identity in the name of values that are inherently contradictory. The "values of the Republic", in place since the Revolution - "liberty, equality, and fraternity" - contradict one another in the most basic sense. Furthermore, this particular piece of recommended personal regulation comes on the heels of recent race riots in France that revealed a certain refusal on the part of French authorities to recognize the reality of human difference. They continue to insist that (a) race isn't a problem in France because the French government doesn't recognize race as a category by which it divides up its populace; therefore (b) the riot by North African immigrants and their descendants in cheap, dilapidated housing, often crammed together, is not the result of discriminatory French social policy but misguided French citizens who have no idea how lucky they are.

Furthermore, in a country whose current government is only barely to the left of George W. Bush promoting a piece of legislation specifically targeting Muslim women has no racist intent.


I have only three words in response to Russell Carter's failed attempt to tease out what I was saying.

You are full of shit.

I'm Not Gay But I Would So Do Matt Taibbi If He Asked

Because of pieces of writing like this one. Just a snippet so you grasp why he's my major man-crush at the moment.
And the really funny thing about Brooks’s take on populists… I mean, I’m a member of the same Yuppie upper class that Brooks belongs to. I can’t speak for the other “populists” that Brooks might be referring to, but in my case for sure, my attitude toward the likes of Lloyd Blankfein and Hank Paulson has nothing to do with class anger.

I don’t hate these guys because they’re rich and went to fancy private schools. Hell, I’m rich and went to a fancy private school. I look at these people as my cultural peers and what angers me about them is that, with many coming from backgrounds similar to mine, these guys chose to go into a life of crime and did so in a way that is going to fuck things up for everyone, rich and poor, for a generation.

Giving David Brooks the smacking around he deserves. Read the whole thing. 'Tis a thing of beauty.

Death Of A Silent Hermit

While I'm not trying to tick off Feodor, my guess is this post will, so I consider that an added bonus.

The usual cliche that we shouldn't speak ill of the dead is one I try to honor. Along with the old saw, "If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all." In the case of the reported death of author J. D. Salinger, however, since I am going to focus solely on the effect his literary output had on a generation of young American readers, I comfort myself with the notion that I'm not saying anything bad about him personally. Since I did not know him (did anyone these past, what, three or four decades?), I think I'm free and clear.

From a technical standpoint, and cultural standpoint as well, there is no doubt that J. D. Salinger was a great, important literary figure. Perhaps the single most influential post-WWII author, at least for adolescents. Thematically, he seemed to mirror another, earlier, post-earlier-war writer, Ernest Hemingway. Both wrote stories whose major themes were death, the personal struggle for authenticity and its ultimate futility, and a kind of anti-heroic nobility in the decision to end one's life. Of course, Hemingway lived that out, along with struggling to keep his demons at bay throughout most of his life by an over-exaggerated masculine pose. Salinger retreated to solitude in New England, a solitude jealously guarded, a silence that spawned tens of thousands of speculative words that will probably never have an adequate answer.

His Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye spoke to a generation of adolescents suddenly aware that, unique in our history to that point, they were not only numerous, but potentially bore a tremendous deal of social and cultural power. Yet, they were also unique as the first generation of young people born in to a world that faced the very real possibility of the destruction not just of their country, but perhaps of much of the planet through nuclear war. Powerful and powerless, struggling for an identity separate from other cohorts - they saw their parents, the so-called "Swing Generation" as sharing unique historical experiences that bound them together (Depression and War) - Salinger's writings boiled that struggle down to a kind of internal struggle, most especially in Holden Caufield, whose fruitless efforts at heroism, occasional bouts of scatological juvenile delinquency, and ultimate surrender to his own sense of powerlessness became a kind of model for teen agnst, brought to screen life by James Dean, gave a whole generation a touchstone for defining themselves as separate.

And what a pernicious influence it had.

The entire pose, "no one understands me", the anti-hero as victim, that sense of generational uniqueness and solidarity all combined to provide the social-psychological backdrop for much of the social turmoil of the sixties, and the retreat from social and political activism in the 1970's. Having an entire generation, the most populous, most prosperous, eventually most powerful generation in the history of the planet, spend much of their adulthood whining about their powerlessness and the general lack of understanding of their psychological vulnerability and the social pressures they faced - it grew tiresome.

I am not suggesting there weren't real social and political issues that the various mass movements of the 60's and early 70's didn't need to address, or shouldn't have addressed. Rather, much of the psychological backdrop - and one can detect it easily enough, reading the literature of major figures - can be traced, should one so choose, at least in part, to the pose of Holden Caufield as the thwarted, misunderstood hero.

Consider the sad end of Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman, whose real talent was in self-promotion (born a generation earlier, he would have been a hard-drinking but successful ad executive or PR man), discovered new causes in the 1980's - South African divestment. The failure of the larger society to grant him the attention he seemed to need to validate his life, however, led him to commit suicide not long after attracting attention for having a very famous co-worker, Amy Carter. None of this is to downplay what was, in all likelihood, a lifetime struggle with various personal demons. It is only to suggest there might just have been a bit of Holden Caulfield in the arc of Hoffman's career.

Salinger became the most famous writer who stopped writing. There were a trickle of reports over the years that he was working on something new, that he had been spotted here, there, or pretty much anywhere. Yet, it never came about. Silent, in his retreat not just from his art but from a world waiting to hear more from him, his death leaves many questions.

While his influence will always exist, even as new generations of teens set out to discover themselves, my hope is the lesson they draw from his stories is there is nothing heroic in accepting futility and failure as the final answer; there is nothing noble about surrendering to the world's demand to remain silent, to conform.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Death Is No Refuge

When I was in high school and college, my parents had a Golden Retriever. I loved walking that dog. One of my favorite spots to walk him was Glenwood Cemetery, about a mile north of where my parents still live. On the side of a steep hill, the lower part is heavily wooded with old black oaks and sugar maples. Toward the top, it flattens out and the trees become thinner and it opens up in to a beautiful swatch of open land, the grave markers inlaid rather than upright.

I'm glad I hadn't read Martin Luther.
[W]e ourselves should find piety there, and meditate on death and on resurrection, and respect the Saints who are buried there.

Complaining that the people of Wittenberg treated the city cemetery much as Aaron and I did - a place to go and romp and play, a spot to wander in the quiet and celebrate the lives of those now interred there, Luther was writing out of a long line - Delumeau traces the theme, in a particularly pungent way, back to St. John Chrysostom - of Christian writers and thinkers for whom death was no refuge from care and woe.

One would have thought that, having developed a species of spiritual thought that heaped scorn on our mortal life and its trappings, at the very least this same strain of asceticism would see death as a rescue, a rope leading us away from the horrors and vanities of this world.

Alas, while having a familiarity with death and the morbid details of physical decay unknown today, combined with a faith that saw the possibility of God's grace granting us eternal rest in the Divine Presence might have brought some ounce of solace, the exact opposite is true. Dwelling upon the macabre details of putrefaction and decay was a way of preaching even more about the vanity of life. After all, both the fleeting joys and overweening concerns of this life end for all of us in the same fashion - we are, to be blunt, worm food.

And not just worm food. Our eternal souls know no rest, no sense of peace in the grace of God. God's justice, faced with our myriad sins that enjoy the momentary raptures of this earthly life, may be far more severe than we had thought, our eternal condition not quite as assured as we might think. To dwell upon death was not to consider a rapturous union where, as the writer of the Revelation of John said, God will be all in all. On the contrary, to meditate upon our final rest should instill a fear and introspection that drives us far from the pursuit of contingent happiness and in to the arms of pious penance for the many sins that may yet render us heirs to the kingdom of perdition.

How sad that for far too long, God's grace was swamped by the need for some to demand a spiritual discipline that could not see even death - surely the result of Original Sin - as something gracious, a part of the ongoing process of life, to be welcomed in its time, too. The kind of morbid, indeed macabre, fascination with the details of our physical decay, of the reality of the fleeting nature of life and its joys (as well as sorrows) knows nothing of the God of Jesus Christ, sad to say.

Lucky for me, Aaron and I both understood it, in our own way.

Smacking Richard Hofstadter Around (With Some Lippmann Added In)

Richard Hofstadter is enjoying a bit of a vogue on the lefty internet these days. His "major works", Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and The Paranoid Style in American Politics, have become reference points when talking about the Tea Party movement, the rise of loonies like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the general popular discontent with the course our country, even now, seems destined to slide down.

The problem is, Hofstadter's "major works" are crap. I can say this because, unlike some of those who are so quick to drop his name, I've actually read him. Hofstadter was disingenuous, ignorant, and a servant of a particular post-WWII consensus that, not to put too fine a point on it, was hostile to the many popular movements that arose in the first generation after the defeat of Fascism. I have grown quite tired of reading him referenced, as if he had any authority.

Via Sadly,No!, I have found a wonderfully concise, succinct overview and dismissal of Hofstadter and his work.

Everything from the direct election of United States Senators and the federal income tax (originally designed to do precisely what contemporary Republicans whine about, redistribute wealth downward) to the two-day weekend, wage-and-hours regulations, and health and safety regulations at the workplace were not born in elite universities by public intellectuals, but were the public agenda of a variety of populist groups operating over time and distance in the history of the United States. Our country, as bad off as it is now, would be far worse if not for these groups and their constant agitation. Hofstadter's casual dismissal of them, and contemporary "liberal" disdain for right-wing rage posing as "populism" is part of our national problem.

I would add just one voice, one text, to those of Hofstadter that have had such a pernicious influence on our elites. In the mid-1920's, disillusioned, first, with Socialism, then with Wilsonian Progressivism (especially its post-WWI variety, in which Wilson began to be, how can we put this, megalomaniacal), a still-young but already influential Walter Lippmann wrote a short book called Public Opinion that, to sum up, considered the vox populi stupid, easily managed through a rhetoric of splash and dash, but labile - he thought "public opinion" to be a kind of barely-contained mob mentality, to be held at bay and controlled. Lippmann's views are still with us, as are Hofstadter's.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That Old Time Religion - Go Away

I have started reading again, for the first time in almost 18 years, Sin and Fear: The Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture, 13th-18th Centuries by Jean Delumeau. It is an amazingly dense work. One thing becomes clear from the outset - Delumeau has read pretty much everything ever written by Christian writers from the late-medieval through the Renaissance. Indeed, he ventures as far back as the end of antiquity through the far-left wing of the Reformation (he covers contemptus mundi in the anapabtists of Switzerland!).

Rather than consult a few high-minded, well-known theologians (who would be a ninth century theologian, anyway . . .), Demuleau consults confession guides, almanacs, the private reflections and commentaries (especially) on the lives of the Egyptian anchorites. These last became a model for institutionalized monasticism, even as the latter phenomenon became accepted and regulated under ecclesiastical law. One theme Delumeau brings up at the beginning and (this reader hopes; it's been so long I can't honestly remember with what success he does so) develops throughout the work is that much of the contemptus mundi literature, at least in its earliest manifestations, was considered part of the disciplined life within a monastery. While certainly containing much that was current in the Christian thought of late-antiquity - especially the neo-Platonism of Augustine and the Cappadocians, John Chrysostom and Origen - it became regularized through repetition. The results . . . well, Delumeau provides more than a sample. From a 12th century English monk, Serlon of Wilton:
The world passes, fleeing like time, like the river, like the breeze . . .
The world passes, the name passes quickly, and the world with the name,
But the world passes more quickly than its name . . .
Nothing exists in the world but the world which passes . . .
The world passes; eliminate that which passes, the world passes . . .
The world passes, Christ passes not, adore Him who passes not (ellipses in original)

From an unknown 13th century author comes this section of a much longer poem:
In this world every man
Is born into affliction;
And human life is lived in sorrow.In the end it terminates with the suffering of death

Before being raised to the Holy See, future Pope Innocent III, then just plain old Cardinal Lotario di Segni, wrote a De Contemptu Mundi which included the following cheery thoughts:
Fugitive life,
More harmful than any beast
Life which should be called death,
Which one should hate, not love
Worldly life, sickly thing
More fragile than the rose
Worldly life, source of labors,
Anguished, full of suffering
Worldly life, future death,
Permanent ruin
Worldly life, evil thing
Never worthy of love

Lest anyone think Lotario's disgust at life was limited to general statements at our current vale of tears, he offers the following disquisition on our origins as flesh and blood:
Man is formed of dust, mud, ashes, and what is even viler, of foul sperm . . . Who can ignore the fact that conjugal union never occur without the itching of the flesh, the fermentation of desire and the stench of lust? Hence any pregeny is spoiled, tainted and vitiated by the very act of its conception, the seed communicating to the soul that inhabits it the stain of sin, the stigma of fault, the filth of iniquity - in the same way that a liquid will corrupt if it is poured in to a dirty vessel . . .

Funny enough, these kinds of ideas still abound in some manner, fashion, or form.

At one point Delumeau points out just how far these reflections have fallen from the Biblical testimony. After the citation from Cardinal Lotario on life in general, on p.15, Delumeau writes:
We here find ourselves far from the Book of Wisdom (2:1-21), where a well-known passage definitely depreciates worldly life, but places this depreciation, most significantly, in the mouth of the ungodly: "For they say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning: 'Our life is short and dready . . . The breath in our nostrils is a puff of smoke . . . Our life will pass away like wisps of cloud, dissolve like the mist . . . Yes, our days are the passing of shadow . . .' This is the way they reason, but they are misled."

Whether it has roots in the Biblical witness or not - and an argument exists that the kind of world-denying asceticism on display does have a basis in at least some Biblical texts - the widespread nature of this world-denying, even life-denying asceticism, and its extreme content, certainly gives one pause.

Jared Bernstein On The Spending Freeze

My guess is, it really sounded something like this:

Richard Dawkins' Sixteenth Minute

Even shorter Richard Dawkins:

Pat Robertson is the only Christian with balls enough to say what the rest of you really believe.

So there.

Communication Breakdown

Much discussion of our times centers on the burgeoning of "communication". Considering the general phenomena of the internet and cell phones - just two media platforms among many - the sheer variety available is quite staggering. Blogs and news sites, Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and iTunes inundate us with information and the variety of ways we can share it with one another and virtual communities of choice. With cell phones, we are no longer very far from contact with one another. Even more, cell phones connect us to all these platforms on the 'net, as well as providing a platform for expressing to the world our preferences for music (ringtones) and images (wallpapers, videos, and photos taken on these phones). Sitting and contemplating the complex warp and woof of these media could leave one holding one's head in frustration.

Yet, for all that these media and technology seem to create opportunities for people to communicate as never before, this only holds if people want to communicate. That is to say, technology doesn't solve the fundamental questions of how we deal with one another as individuals. For example, when a liberal on the internet provides some detailed information on the Obama Administration, as well as his own reflections on how that might play out politically, some of his commenters are quite certain they have the actual score.
We’ve got 50 mini-Hoovers running the states and now we have a mega-Hoover in the WH. We are so fucked.

Obamareagan adopted Republican talking points and framing durig the campaign. Harry and Louise p 2.
Stealth Friedmanite from University of Chicago. How long have Republicans been training the mole?

After Matthew gets through discussing how Obama is gonna help the Middle Class, maybe we could discuss how many angels can dance on the head of pin.

Give it up, Matt. There’s no 11 dimensional chess game here–Obama I’d a corporatist tool.

Say adios to the majorities in Congress. I’m sure Obama will enjoy the years of “bipartisan” Congressional investigations into gate crashers and other important affairs of the state.

The bottom line is this:
With this insane Hooverite policy Obama will set the country and progressive causes back 20 years.
It’s time to bolt fro the Democratic Party, this should make it CLEAR Obama is NOT where any true person of the Left should place their hopes, as Greenwald and others have been pointing out for a year now…

(in response to another commenter, part of whose comment is in italics)
I will be totally pumped. I want the administration to pursue left policy in a politically savvy way, which requires showmanship at times. What I see in the package outlined above are a) pretty impressive progressive policy achievements followed by b) a tactically brilliant political repackaging. I really, really, really like the looks of this.
Ted is another “eleven dimensional chess” Obama cutlist/useful idiot.

So it’s official now — spending more than the rest of the world combined on war, and increasing that spending every year, no matter what the condition of the economy, no matter what the objective security condition, is the policy of the Democratic Party.

Yeah, who cares if the economy tanks like it did in 1937 Ted?
What matters is that Obama punched some hippies again (with Rahm’s instructions) and people on the left are pissed.
Yay, Barack Herbert Hoover Obama!

(my favorite)
Bush’s Third Term?
We’re living it, folks.

Some things to note about these comments. Like their counterparts on the far-right, all of whom are convinced that Obama is a communist, an Islamist, an anti-Constitutionalist, or some combination of all three, these folks are quite convinced that their understanding of Obama's political ideology and abilities is superior to any analysis they read on the internet. Their disgusted dismissal of Yglesias' discussion of politics of the proposed plan, as well as questions as to the details of the plan mean nothing; they are, in fact, distractions from the reality they understand far better than anyone else. To whit: Barack Obama is no better that George W. Bush, our country is completely in the control of corporations who, in their turn, control our elected officials through unofficial bribes (campaign contributions) to get favored status for policies that are beneficial to them in the short run, but detrimental to their long term interests.

Furthermore, these smug gnostics seem to think that Matt is in hock to the corporate agenda. Much of their time is spent scolding him for being a tool, an overthinking, apologetic tool for "Bush's Third Term."

These folks are, in sum, as irrational and incapable of serious discussion as the folks at American Descent. Even though I wonder at such a policy myself - it sounds an awful lot like Bush's decision, in the wake of the 2006 drubbing the Republicans took to send thousands of more troops to Iraq (the exact opposite of what the electorate wanted or the country needed) - I also wonder what Obama's game here is (much as I do his foot-dragging on health care reform). I have a lot of questions, but few answers. Unfortunately, the people who have no questions, but all the answers are usually wrong.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fantasy & Reality

I spend most of my time on the internet reading stuff that interests me, makes me think, and encourages me. I have surrendered any attempt at dialogue with those with whom there is fundamental disagreement. The descent in to ad hominem attacks and pointless repetition is mind-numbing; that, and the simple fact that - not to toot my own horn - most of the people on the right who choose to engage me are dumber than stumps doesn't help either.

I had occasion this week to peruse a site I once checked on occasion. It became clear, once I moved down through the comments on one post, that the folks who managed this particular web site were now all part of the village board in Crazytown. One in particular just about bowled me over.
No self-respecting liberal would ever criticize Obama... but then again using "self-respecting" and "liberal" in the same sentence is, at the very least, oxymoronic.

Since I have nothing good to say about liberalism in America, I'll simply say they are beneath me, and only worth note in as much as an ant is worth note when it decides to chew on my toe... best to squish it, then burn out the entire nest.

Nancy Pelosi? She should be shot for treason.

Mr. Reid? Shot.

Every single one of those monstrous democrat excuses for representatives and senators who vote the evil machinations of Barack Obama into law....? Taken out back and shot for traitors.

Perhaps one day, liberalism will be treated as the disease it is, and its adherents as the mental defects they are.

Far as I'm concerned, anyone who can point at Barack Obama and honestly say that he is the right man for the Oval Office; that he's a good and Godly man who is living up to his oath of office, is an idiot... irrespective of their degree of education. They are idiots, and as such should never be allowed to vote or reproduce.

If Jesus were president... this nation would be a theocracy, And every liberal would be crying for his crucifixion... 'let His blood be upon us and our children!' they'd all scream. What a steaming pile of dung eating hypocrites all you liberals are.

Where are the days of Kore when you need them? When the earth opened up and swallowed entire families for the sins of a single man?

Those days are coming again. Not for the sins of single man, but for the sin of all mankind.

What was so wrong about what Pat Robertson said? Haiti has been steeped in evil for centuries... corruption, violence, voodoo... Why is Haiti so poor, destitute, and now ravaged by earthquake when right next door the Dominican Republic is unscathed? Corruption is the reason Haiti is in the shape it's in. Not America.

But having said all this, Obama is doing the right thing in regard to Haiti. But they are quite fortunate they are NOT the 51st state. He's destroying the current configuration of the United States with his corrupted, horrid, and ungodly, policies. He'd only serve the people of Haiti the same.

For the people of Haiti that'd be a step up. But they'd be just as much slaves to governmental corruption as we here are now.

The constitution means nothing to people like Barack Obama.

Think about it.

The thing is, the person who wrote this, at one time, was someone I thought was (for a conservative Christian and right-winger) pretty sane. This note from Neptune, however, indicates that the right, for the most part, is quite honestly loony. There is no response to something like this other than, "Thorazine can be your friend."

Yet, at its heart, the Republican Party, the Tea Bag Conservatives, Glenn Beck, and in particular the Republicans in the United States Senate really aren't all that far removed from this rally to multiple assassinations and the murder of millions for political beliefs. Rather than a difference of kind, there is only a difference of degree between this kind of thing, and the utter and blanket refusal of Republican members of the United States Senate to cooperate on any item on the legislative agenda. The result, as Matt Yglesias describes in this post, is that we do not "have a functioning political system." And why do we not have a functioning political system?

Because Republicans elected to office believe, in their hearts, as the writer of the above comment do, that Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, and political liberalism in its current manifestation is fundamentally illegitimate. Their actions, especially those of Republican Senators, grind to a halt any and all efforts to stabilize the ship of state, and bring about some kind of national economic and political recovery.

That's the reality we face. A reality that suffers from the craziest notions to come along since the generalized conspiracy theory linking the Mob, the CIA, and the Communists to assassinate Pres. Kennedy. We are left, then, with a dysfunctional system that cannot move forward, or the country forward.

Whacky Stuff

A FB friend of mine posted a link to this.
[I]t is rather silly for people to focus simply on the red letters (a recent American invention). Of course, what is equally silly is this notion that everyone seems to know exactly what Marxism really is, and the fear that so many people have of it. Further, what surpasses silliness is the notion that ‘red-letter’ Christians with their focus on the social aspects of the Gospel cannot be Christians.

Of all the things for a conservative Christian to get upset about, a red-letter Bible?

Now the whole "liberals aren't Christians" thing isn't exactly new; I've heard it before. While I applaud the writer of the post for pointing out the variety of reasons why this is wrong, my guess is it will fall on deaf ears. These folks, assured in themselves of their own salvation, convicted of their own righteousness, have no need to listen to heathens, heretics, and false teachers.

This latest iteration, though - the preference for red-letter Bibles is a sign of false faith - is just about the silliest thing I have ever heard. I had always thought conservatives were the ones who loved their red-letter Bibles!

Anyway, whacky stuff from the Church of Crazy, to be sure.

Virtual Tin Cup

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