« You Can't Take the Sky From Me | Main | Disbar Him »

January 12, 2007


I wholeheartedly agree. I've always felt that the "all politicians are scumbags" notion helps corrupt politicians. If the bar is set so low, it's easy to clear. Reading an article about Don Sherwood and the impact of the "choking his mistress" case last summer I was taken aback when the reporter got quotes along the lines of "well, don't they all do that in DC?" Cynicism has a proud intellectual history and all that, but often it's just a substitute for thought.


do politician like things

Note: Mac users who would have wanted to know that it's Edmund Burke's birthday even if I hadn't posted about it can download my utterly pointless Philosophers' Birthdays iCal here.

I'm honestly unsure what would make you dorkier: knowing innately that today was Burke's birthday or looking it up on your Philosopher's Birthdays iCal. I'm not even sure which amuses me more!

Anarch: my iCal is installed on, well, iCal, my main calendar, so no looking up is required. (Nb: the 18th is Montesquieu's birthday. The 19th: Comte.)

What makes me dorky is having created it in the first place. (Though it was easier than one might think: how nice of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to give 48 hour free trials. It only took me one or two.)

I like the Burke quotation, and like the iCal entry as well. It makes a nice supplement to the literary calendars out there... ;-)

I find that those who view everyone as corrupt usually exempt themselves from that group. I trust those who try to improve the world, not carp about it.

I don't view everyone as corrupt, or even every politician, but I think there are structural reasons that it's very hard for non-corrupt individuals to get ahead in politics, especially at the federal level.

Basicly, we have a constitution, at the federal level, which mandates a government much less powerful than what we've gotten used to having since the New Deal. And it requires you to swear an oath to uphold it, in order to take office.

So, with the exception of those rare fellows like Rep. Paul, who manage to get elected promising to do very little, we are governed by those who either are willing to swear that oath falsely, or capable of the level of self-deception necessary to think that oath consistant with what they intend to do.

So we are governed, for the most part, by liars and the deluded. But this is not a consequence of universal corruption, merely of the circumstances we find ourselves under.

ok, so maybe all politicians aren't scumbags. it's at least debatable.

on the other hand, there's no debating that Limbaugh is a scumbag.

Though why it should be preferable to have thought to highly of someone and been wrong than to have wrongly condemned her is beyond me: in the first case, I am mistaken, but in the second, I have wronged someone.

I think you have the sense of the initial clause reversed.

The trap I constantly fall into, in gloomy meditations upon human nature and society, is to include myself in the condemned class. Then it doesn't feel as if I'm wronging somebody; it feels as if I'm engaging in morally useful self-criticism, and any rebuttal to the criticism coming from inside my own head gets flagged as self-serving, even if it is completely reasonable and the original criticism was borderline psychotic. I have to consciously remind myself that you don't really get any bonus morality points for including yourself in a blanket condemnation that made no sense in the first place.

Matt M: right you are. Off to fix it.

I've noticed that some Calvinists do seem to tacitly exempt themselves from the critique they make of human nature. But not all. And one can be nuanced about it. For some Calvinists (including, I think, Calvin), it's a term that means nobody can merit salvation, not that everyone is equally evil.

As for politicians, I suspect many are no better or worse than I am, but they are not in a profession that necessarily rewards honesty.
Al Gore stood out among prominent Democrats in his opposition to the Iraq War, for instance. I think the others stifled the misgivings they had to have felt because if you raised doubt about the WMD argument and if any WMD's had turned up, any at all, they'd have been forever branded as Saddam apologists.

John Edwards said in the recent New Yorker article (by Jeffrey Goldberg) that everyone thought Saddam had WMD's. I'm glad Edwards has backed away from his prowar position, but how is it that a mere blog-reader like myself could stumble across numerous critiques of the pro-war claims about WMD's and everything else and yet so many prominent Democrats claim to have been fooled? I thought Saddam would probably turn out to have a few barrels of aging chemicals stashed here or there, but it seemed clear that the Bush Administration was hyping the evidence. But my career wasn't at stake, so I was free to say that then and now. Maybe I wouldn't be so free with what I really felt if my career depended on not being portrayed as soft on Saddam.

It's precisely because there is so much pressure to be dishonest in mainstream political circles, both among politicians, pundits and even some reporters, that blogs have become popular. What this says about amount of depravity in an individual's soul probably isn't that relevant.

Gary Wills, btw, wrote a long piece defending the need for politicians in his book "Confessions of a Conservative", where he calls himself one, though the kind of conservative that turned liberal in the 60's by normal American usage. His point about politicians is that they are useful precisely because they are weasels, not that he put it quite like that. But the point is that they enable us to live together in peace, despite the fact that we have fundamental differences on extremely important issues. Politicians, he said, try to paper over the differences, go for compromise, wriggle, squirm and do everything they can to avoid getting out in front of the public. Only after the saints (as Wills calls them) have managed to convince a majority of the populace that some great evil needs to be changed (the slave trade, slavery, Jim Crow were the things he had in mind) will politicians join the crusade.

There are exceptions, but by definition those people don't get elected, except maybe in some fairly unusual district.

"Gary Wills"

Garry Wills.

The Pelosi gambit, justifiably cited by DaveC., in which Starkist Tuna workers in American Samoa were exempted from the recent minimum wage bill in the house should receive a full airing.

Apparently, Pelosi's husband owns $17 million worth of stock in Heinz Corp., majority shareholder of Del Monte Foods, which in turn owns Starkist. Starkist's corporate headquarters are located in San Francisco, lured there by Maoist collectivisation, orgies, and inevitably, the higher taxes.

This issue is receiving righteous coverage at Red State, mostly from Erick the caring Red, who points out Pelosi's rank hypocrisy (it is, if the story hangs together), and laments that the American Samoan workers are being left out of the bounty allowed for all other minimum wage workers, including those in the Marianas, where last we visited Ayn Rand was running a cathouse.

I won't dwell on whether all service industries on the U.S. mainland will immediately and helplessly close up shop and outsource all jobs to American Samoa because it is the rational thing to do, or whether those upper middle class teenagers who are working for pin money in the Marianas (you know, the ONLY people who receive mimimum wage) will need to cash in their Heinz stock to put gas in daddy's Lexus, or on the wry sense of humor of those who now advocate for the oppressed tuna workers in Samoa against their self-immolating ideology that dictates the minimum wage should be abolished for the entire universe because Charlie the Tuna could be put in a can for nothing if everyone below the rank of corporate Vice-President would accept a pay cut.

But DaveC. is absolutely right. Pelosi can't be allowed to disappoint Burke. The minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour across the board including American Samoa, with full benefits.

And tuna workers, against the sound advice of Ayn Rand and her brother in bad prose Vladimir Lenin, need a union.

Something did look funny about that spelling, Gary. Good to see you around.

I've been a huge fan of Garry Wills since somewhere around 1972 or so. Nixon Agonistes clinched the deal.

Since Donald Johnson has brought up Jeffrey Goldberg, one of those 'reporters' who has escaped the deserved amount of criticism for his role in passing on war-mongering lies, let me encourage all to read this valuable guide to the career rewards and punishments for being wrong and right about the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Isn't the idea that one must trust in the absence of any evidence that would counsel mistrust, else a moral deficit would accrue, navel gazing? It seems to me that trust has an intrinsic value that, without any restriction on its exercise, would tend to dissipate its bestowal. Aren't we talking about judgement and its use? After all, isn't it true that the main reason we dominate as a species, and in fact have named ourselves to reflect the fact, is that sometimes we are able to use judgement (albeit, with mixed results)?

If people shouldn't navel gaze, how come so many women these days have pierced belly buttons, with jewelry?

Ha, I defeat this "Pops" with my logic!

I think that would be navel GA-ZZINGG?

Don't worry, John: Sadly, No! has DaveC's back on the American Samoa issue. You see, it would have actually been illegal for the House to include Samoa in the bill:

Wage Rates in American Samoa

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), applies generally to employment within American Samoa as it does to employment within the United States. The minimum wage rates for American Samoa are set by a special industry committee (29 U.S.C. 205, 29 C.F.R. Part 511) appointed by the U.S. Department of Labor, as required by the Act.

They deal with the other silliness implied as well.

"You see, it would have actually been illegal for the House to include Samoa in the bill"

How can it be illegal for Congress to make law?

Could you run this past us again, a bit slower, please, Phil?

The reason Congress can't make new law on the minimum wage in American Samoa, superseding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and (29 U.S.C. 205, 29 C.F.R. Part 511) is?

Pops: Both Burke and I were talking about not assuming that everyone is bad absent evidence, and one reason for this is that it precludes the development of judgment.


"A conscientious person would rather doubt his own judgment, than condemn his species. He would say, I have observed without attention, or judged upon erroneous maxims; I trusted to profession, when I ought to have attended to conduct. Such a man will grow wise, not malignant, by his acquaintance with the world. But he that accuses all mankind of corruption, ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one."

Gary's skepticism is warranted. Congress could, of course, if they wanted to. As it turns out, there are reasonable policy arguments both for and against, and because of the legal provision Phil cited, it's not like workers in American Samoa will be working for pennies either way.

The whole issue is a really weak attempt by Republicans to score a political point; it's obvious that Nancy Pelosi didn't orchestrate this as a favor. Among other things, she didn't even write the bill! But insinuation is easy, and it's hard to prove a negative, so...

An outstanding piece. Alas, it has pushed my pontification button.

"I suspect it's due to cowardice: to the fear of being taken in. Though why it should be worse to have thought to highly of someone and been wrong than to have wrongly condemned her is beyond me: in the first case, I am mistaken, but in the second, I have wronged someone."

This is a question that has occupied my thoughts, as I'm definitely inclined to that reaction, and it's stupid.

Charles Mackay described the phenomenon in his "Extraordinary Delusions" etc., speaking of one of the great financial insanities, perhaps the South Sea Bubble as a time "when every fool aspired to be a knave."

C. S. Lewis put it neatly, though I don't have the exact quote: only a saint would rather be thought a fool than a sinner.

But Socrates answered essentially the same question by looking at it in strict logic. As summarized by Richard Mitchell,

"Socrates often considered with his friends a familiar but still vexing question: Which is better, to suffer an injustice or to commit one? He brought them--and me too--to consider the question in some new ways. Which, for instance, is uglier, the person who suffers or the person who commits? Which person has surrendered himself to the rule of injustice, and which person might still be able to avoid it? Which might still be free to choose between the better and the worse, and which not? Out of the consideration of such questions, and countless others that flow from them, I know that it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit one just as purely and absolutely as I know about the square of the hypotenuse."

[From chapter 2 "The Square of the Hypotenuse" of The Gift of Fire. On line:

Thanks, Phil.

Pelosi's alledged hypocrisy can't even make it through one doggoned thread without being thoroughly debunked. It makes you wonder about the parlous state of hyprocrisy in these here United States.

I love the bit in your link about how minimum wage laws in American Samoa are exempt because of a special Bush directive.

I see, via Red State, that Pelosi is going to toss the minimum wage exemption for American Samoa, which has Erick at Red State back on the straight and narrow. He no longer laments the suffering millions in American Samoa but instead now condemns their proposed new, higher wage scale as the end of civilization, not to mention the beginning of new markets for imitation tuna.

Erick should invest in Tuna Helper futures, since he's always on the lookout for the main chance.

"I love the bit in your link about how minimum wage laws in American Samoa are exempt because of a special Bush directive."

This is kinda, well, false, John. It's that far away from "true." There are minimum wage laws in Samoa, it's not "exempt," and they're set by a Department of Labor panel, as mandated by Congress, as is plainly described, and not "because of a special Bush directive" which you found I-don't-know-where.

I mean, I don't like to get in the way of picking on the Bush Administration, but this seems like pretty much making up stuff out of nearly whole cloth.

Unless you can provide a citation for that "special Bush Directive" you're referring to; perhaps you know more than I do about this, which is entirely possible. Where is it, and what does it say?

The reason Congress can't make new law on the minimum wage in American Samoa, superseding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and (29 U.S.C. 205, 29 C.F.R. Part 511) is?

Luckily I didn't say they couldn't make new law. I said they couldn't raise the minimum wage in American Samoa in this bill without specifically overriding that act.


Change "special Bush directive" to "special committee appointed by the Bush administration" from Phil's Sadly, No! cite.

Which is not really all that accurately descriptive either, come to think of it.

Thanks for the correction. Late night, bleary-eyed carelessness on my part. As opposed to my usual bleary-eyed carelessness during the daylight hours. Fingers typing, mouth shooting off, brain out to lunch.

I should know better than to ascend from windy riff to the fact-based world, where I'm completely out of place.

If I wrote that I'm sunbathing and sipping a Pina Colada under balmy skies in my backyard not too far south of you, would you believe me? ;)

"I said they couldn't raise the minimum wage in American Samoa in this bill without specifically overriding that act."

Well, no, Phil, that's not what you said. You said this: "You see, it would have actually been illegal for the House to include Samoa in the bill"

Which is patent nonsense.

But if you're withdrawing it, that's fine. We all write unclear stuff that doesn't convey what we meant to say, at times; no huhu.

Meester Thullen: "If I wrote that I'm sunbathing and sipping a Pina Colada under balmy skies in my backyard not too far south of you, would you believe me?"

Maybe you have a huge heater in your backyard; and a sunlamp; maybe it's enclosed; maybe your skies are miraculously different than the snow filling mine. It's possible. Are you looking very sincere as you tell me these things?

And why does Sebastian hate us that he wouldn't tell either you or me he was coming to Denver for Christmas? Why the dreadful hate, Sebastian? Why?

(If he told you, and you just didn't make it to dinner, don't tell me.)

The comments to this entry are closed.