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September 17, 2009

Comments

Hi Lindsay, Great post. I've been thinking the same exact thing. But I also think that this is generally true for the voters as well. I think that both right wing and left wing citizens have been treated to the kind of learned helplessness training that the psychologists talk about. Look at the last campaign, and the eight years before. Both conservatives and liberals organized themselves to get what they wanted out of the political process--they donated time, money, phone calls, door knocking, etc... to elect representatives that they thought, for good or ill, would represent them. All the armageddonites and anti abortion lunatics and anti gay people on the right got was--well? a lousy war, lots of job loss, poor educations for their kids, declining standard of living, fragile health care, and gays still got married and women still get abortions. While on our side we pulled our socks up and fought for Obama and a democratic house and senate and yet when we turn on our tvs or read what our elected representatives are saying we are given the back of their hand, rhetorically, and the campaign promises that they made to us are whittled away in the interests of appeasing the very people we voted *against* and rejected at the ballot box. We don't get public funding for abortion, or sensible immigration policy, or national health care, or mortgage cram downs.

So both sides of our national political base are learning, slowly, to just hunker down, or spiral out of control, like people facing the black death. Some will become more passionately believers in the political process, others will become ascetics, still others holy rollers and speakers in tongues. Because we are slowly learning that no matter what effort, or thought, or money you put into the political process there is a higher power out there with more money, and more access, and more power than you and your neighbors will ever have.

aimai

"Psychologist Martin Seligman discovered that if you administer enough random shocks to a dog, the dog will eventually get so demoralized that it won't even try to avoid them when can easily do so. He called the phenomenon learned helplessness. Helpless dogs were paralyzed in situations they were capable of handling with aplomb."

What? A psychologist actually shocked a dog, for a demoralization experiment!!! A Helpless, paralyzed dog!!! Was the psychologist a liberal? Or doesn't PETA regulate their own!?!

OPRAH!!!!!!

Really, I know you're trying to make a point, but example choices are often more revealing then the question.

BTW, have you kicked any cats lately?

Taitz. Orly Taitz. Dr. Esquire.

Really, you need the correct name, embedded in its maze of honorifics, for the full impact.

And Jay Jerome satirically(?) illustrates the GOP strategy Lindsay was describing.

You're not making any sense, JJ but your reaction illustrates my thesis beautifully.

You're freaking out about a 35-year-old experiment. I sure didn't see that one coming.

Learned helplessness is one of the classic experiments in 20th Century psychology. Every Psych 101 student learns about it.

Psychologist Martin Seligman discovered that if you administer enough random shocks to a dog, the dog will eventually get so demoralized that it won't even try to avoid them when can easily do so. He called the phenomenon learned helplessness. Helpless dogs were paralyzed in situations they were capable of handling with aplomb.

So, who is the dog (1:20, approximately) in this scenario?

Oh. Never mind.

I've always wanted to use that video in a sentence, is my defense.

I find all of this interesting. The first thing my father ever told me about the government, and thinking about it quite possibly the only thing, was this:

"Son, it doesn't matter much who is in the White House, Congress really has most of the power to do anything and the Congress is designed to actually accomplish very little. The worst thing that can happen is that Congress gets enough of a majority on one side or the other to do a lot of things fast, because they invariably do them poorly. As long as everything takes a long time and Congress gets little done then the country is in pretty good shape."

That was over 40 years ago, something he said he learned from his dad, 70 years ago. So if all of this slows the progress of the Congress in doing anything, well ok.

Jay, you should read some Seligman, you illustrate some of his later research perfectly, that of learned optimism.

Seligman suggests that people who keep bouncing back after being conclusively proved wrong are able to do so because of the way they rationalize what happened to them. They think that it will last only a short time (hence your jumping around from thread to thread with off topic remarks), it is caused by someone else (because you never admit any responsibility for what you write and your own ideas) and it affects only a small part of life (which is evident in your interactions on the list). Seligman also mentions that thinking things through and reflecting on them, over and over, leads to pessimism, and a hallmark of an optimist is the ability to not actually reflect too deeply, which is you have mastered too well.

While Seligman suggests that learned optimism is a positive trait, you demonstrate how even positive traits, when done in the absence of self-awareness, can bite one on the ass.

Lindsay: You forgot about all of the GOP outrage over Barack and Michele's date night.

President Obama lives family values, but you'll never catch Republicans acknowledging that.

The folksy wisdom about it being good that Congress does little, and does it slowly, would only hold if other large concentrations of power are also only able to do little, and slowly. As there are many other large power centers than government, which are mostly not designed to do "little, and slowly", that means that these centers of power are the ones acting, rather than a group that is, theoretically at least, there to represent the people of the country. Yes, in practice, Congress usually represents the other power centers, rather than the people of the country, but that just makes the situation worse.

So if all of this slows the progress of the Congress in doing anything, well ok.

Yes, because it's not as if people are dying while they wait for Congress to do something about healthcare.

Oh wait. It's exactly like that.

Weren't these the same people who said they wanted to get government small enough to drown it in a bathtub? Remember how that worked out?

http://yellowcakewalk.net/2006-08-26/drowned_by_katrina.jpg>

It's fine for people who never struggled with a health insurance company determined not to shell out for expensive treatments just because that'll save your life. It's fine for people who think for the government to pay out for poor people is a waste of their hard-earned money. And unfortunately, it's those people - those sheltered, privileged people - who have the voice to speak up and declare it's a good thing if all legislative progress is delayed and denied, because who needs government help?

There's a story of an Athenian sailor, after some naval battle where the surviving captains fled and failed to pick up the drowning men from the ships destroyed, one of the few who returned to Athens, getting up in the Agora to speak and declaring - instead of saying he spoke for his clan or his deme - that he spoke for the drowned.

Who will speak for those who are drowning now?

C'mon, Thom, I don't think that meme fits with ObWi rules.

For those of you who don't know, there's a satirical website that asserts, self-consciously without evidence, that Glenn Beck committed a horrible crime in 1990. The punchline is basically, "We have no reason to think this is true other than that Glenn Beck won't answer "lingering questions" about this (as far as we know) non-existent murder. What's he hiding?!

"Son, it doesn't matter much who is in the White House, Congress really has most of the power to do anything and the Congress is designed to actually accomplish very little. The worst thing that can happen is that Congress gets enough of a majority on one side or the other to do a lot of things fast, because they invariably do them poorly. As long as everything takes a long time and Congress gets little done then the country is in pretty good shape."

I think this sort of thing probably falls under a category similar to learned helplessness too.

I mean, the country actually needs to be governed sometimes. Why settle for governmental institutions that never get anything done, or that screw it up when they do?

Lindsay: "You're freaking out about a 35-year-old experiment. I sure didn't see that one coming."

And you're freaking out about ironic liberal-tweaking -- and I sure did see that coming... the old you can give it but can't take it thing...

And bye the bye, Lindsay, observations about the 'C' word evoking images of 'old-fashioned despotism or latter-day caricatures of tin-pot tyrants' didn't just recently pop up into the political conversation because conservative politicians like Lamar Alexander were pointing it out... The anti-democratic connotation of the word Czar was noted by liberal commentators and writers a year or two ago, as in this Slate article by
Ben Zimmer (Slate was a strong Obama supporter, so they and the conservatives should be on the same page on Czar-ness).

a standard response to liberal crs

"a standard response to liberal crs"

Sorry, just some flotsam left over from Notepad html edit.

"I think this sort of thing probably falls under a category similar to learned helplessness too"

Yes, that was kind of my point, this isn't new.

Inducing learned helplessness seems to be the GOP strategy for the Obama age. Karl Rove taught the Republicans to attack their opponents on their strengths.

They do it because it works.

Take the nonsense surrounding ACORN, for instance. We'd stop doing business with most defense contractors if we applied the same standards used to smear ACORN.

Yes, that was kind of my point, this isn't new.

Your point was that your father and grandfather were suffering from something like learned helplessness, and that you endorsed it?

I think JJ's comment makes Lindsay's point in a different way. Instead of responding to her blog post by discussing the issues--is it an example of "learned helplessness" or not he responds with a self described form of "liberal tweaking" which is random, childish, and off point. His object is to derail the discussion and fling a little mud. This works if we all respond as though we, too, have learned we are helpless to affect the course of the blog thread and get a really good discussion going because it will always be derailed by the JJ's.

No doubt I'm violating Obiwi policy by pointing this out but I think we ought really to ask ourselves (once again) why some forms of captious, insulting, and unproductive blog commentary is considered "civil" and tolerable and others are not.

I'm not trying to go all meta here but this could have been a really interesting thread--because its a really interesting point--but we've been derailed by JJ and Marty doing their various shticks--JJ's simply vocalizing his outrage that there are liberals and they read books, a shtick that goes right back to high school jocks v. nerds--and Marty's woe is me, twas ever thus, why talk about anything? nothing ever changes... bit. Just as tedious as JJ but with a different, more downbeat, vibe.

aimai

The "learned helplessness" stuff was the biggest problem with the stimulus "debate", and has been a big problem in the health care "debate". The Republicans would pitch a fit about some piece picked at random, the Democrats would either a) get defensive, or (more often) b) cave in and remove the provision, on the assumption that the fit was over the actual substance of whatever provision, not just something to pitch a fit about.

And it keeps working, and until the Democrats stop letting these tantrums get the Republicans what they want, it'll keep happening.

They think that it will last only a short time (hence your jumping around from thread to thread with off topic remarks)

odd. as i read him, Jay always talks about the same thing. a delicious thing.

"Take the nonsense surrounding ACORN, for instance. We'd stop doing business with most defense contractors if we applied the same standards used to smear ACORN."

I'm not sure what you mean, but the ACORN thing doesn't seem to be nonsense. We're up to 5 videos in 5 cities now. 4 of which appear to involve ACORN employees (it isn't clear to me that the San Bernardino one does). The importance of looking the other way on getting advice from ACORN employees on how to get a loan to set up a home for prostitutes doesn't seem like the fight worth having for liberals.

Uh, Sebastian, if you believe that even the dumbest ACORN employee around thought that this person was an actual pimp, and not some dangerously crazy person that they humored until they could get rid of him, you may want to rethink your life.

Sebastian, I took jadegold to mean that some defense contractor employees and some Congresscritters who are serviced by prostitutes to "lubricate" the government weapon solicitation process might be similar to the ACORN deal.

After all, if prostitutes are going to earn money from the people they earn money from, then they ought to pay taxes and have a place to live, too.


I'm not sure what you mean, but the ACORN thing doesn't seem to be nonsense. We're up to 5 videos in 5 cities now. 4 of which appear to involve ACORN employees

What gets significantly less play is the fact these conservative activists went to other ACORN chapters and were threatened with being reported to the police.

Look, ACORN has over 1200 chapters across the country. As with any large organization, you're going to find bad actors. Any large defense contractor has instances where far more serious crimes were committed.

The reason these conservative activists targetted ACORN was 1. it's involved in GOTV efforts and 2. Obama once represented them as a lawyer.

"Yes, that was kind of my point, this isn't new.
Your point was that your father and grandfather were suffering from something like learned helplessness, and that you endorsed it?"

As defined above yes. There are other points of view than this one on what was learned. I tend to think people learn that much of what goes on in Congress is mostly histrionics for public consumption. Then they occasionally do something that small or profoundly good or profoundly stupid. Then we live with it.

"Uh, Sebastian, if you believe that even the dumbest ACORN employee around thought that this person was an actual pimp, and not some dangerously crazy person that they humored until they could get rid of him, you may want to rethink your life."

Really? Say that out loud to yourself and then tell me you are defending them.

Leaving aside the kerfuffle upthread, this from the OP:

The key is that there be absolutely no way to predict what will set off the GOP. At this rate, the Democrats will be reduced to a whimpering puddle on the lab floor in no time.

suggests that one response might be to decline to react in a split second. Cf. Obama's suggestion a while back that people simply ignore Limbaugh. But, sigh, the media.

Phil:

That get-up beats Fred Garvin -- Male Prostitute -- by three ironic inversions.

More like Doogy Hauser -- Pimp Yo Mama.

Larry Craig is just now .. oh, never mind.

"What gets significantly less play is the fact these conservative activists went to other ACORN chapters and were threatened with being reported to the police."

Yes, thats true. Nor do they talk about the intent of the "conservatives" to present the absolute most outrageous scenario to see if anyone would accept that, which 5 did. Nor do I have any sense that they tried more than a dozen of the 1200 before they got someone to "help" them.

Does that make those 5 (or 4) right?

Really?

Yeah, really.

Yes, thats true. Nor do they talk about the intent of the "conservatives" to present the absolute most outrageous scenario to see if anyone would accept that, which 5 did. Nor do I have any sense that they tried more than a dozen of the 1200 before they got someone to "help" them.

Accept what? The face value? Or perhaps help some obvious frat boy undergo an initiation prank?

Clearly any very large organization that has several idiots as low-level employees must be denounced in the strongest possible terms, or better yet destroyed entirely.

"Uh, Sebastian, if you believe that even the dumbest ACORN employee around thought that this person was an actual pimp, and not some dangerously crazy person that they humored until they could get rid of him, you may want to rethink your life."

There is 'humored' and there is giving advice that you should put down 'independent service provider' down on your income reports for banks because saying you were a prositute would be a problem. There is 'humored' and giving advice that you might want to claim any underage prostitutes as dependents. There is 'humored' and suggesting that you should be careful to set things up to look like you are just the landlord for the place you are housing prostitutes.

Having watched the videos themselves, I generally don't get the impression that the ACORN employees were just humoring them. I guess your impression may vary. Have you watched the videos yet? To me only the San Bernardino one seems sketchy, and that it because it isn't clear to me that the person is actually an ACORN employee.

Just because modern Republican idiots get worked up over all sorts of stupid things doesn't mean that everything they get worked up over is illegitimate.

Yes, thats true. Nor do they talk about the intent of the "conservatives" to present the absolute most outrageous scenario to see if anyone would accept that, which 5 did. Nor do I have any sense that they tried more than a dozen of the 1200 before they got someone to "help" them.

Health insurers and banks first.

Though I wouldn't object if you wanted cell phone companies to be made a priority.

"Accept what? The face value? Or perhaps help some obvious frat boy undergo an initiation prank?"

Why then is ACORN firing these people? Wouldn't that be outrageous of ACORN?

Greenwald knocks the ACORN thing out of the flipping park.

Nor do they talk about the intent of the "conservatives"

Why the scare quotes around "conservatives," Marty?

Sebastian, can't you see that the ACORN employee was just employing satire? I mean, look at the transcript.

Why then is ACORN firing these people? Wouldn't that be outrageous of ACORN?

Because these employees, whatever the motivations of their actions, put ACORN in a difficult position? Because if they don't, then the GOP and its leaders on FOX News and talk radio will throw an unending pants-pissing hissy fit? (WHICH IS THE POINT OF LINDSAY'S POST SINCE YOU LIKE TO ACCUSE PEOPLE OF NOT UNDERSTANDING STUFF.)

Having watched the videos themselves, I generally don't get the impression that the ACORN employees were just humoring them. I guess your impression may vary.

Hahahaha. Gee, that's mighty white of you, Sebastian, after you've spend several thousands of words on another thread trying to get people to read Rush Limbaugh in the way you prefer.

Why then is ACORN firing these people? Wouldn't that be outrageous of ACORN?

I wouldn't fire people for doing that; I'd chew the ass of people sanctimonious enough to get after the workers in question. Then again, I'm just a low level comedy producer who has reasonably good comedic skills, not a high profile political organization.

And ACORN firing people who did stupid things on video is a matter of ironically inverting standard hiring practices in the corporate world. Or something.

Seriously, the Republicans are up in arms about a group that helps poor people get to vote. Cripes. Trillions of dollars for wars, lies, torture, these don't get them wound up, but OMG some low level ACORN person is on video with an "undercover pimp"!??!! OMGWTFBBQ!

So yeah, even in light of that, I think I'd defend ACORN over, say, Halliburton, or Blackwater, or AIG, or...

"So yeah, even in light of that, I think I'd defend ACORN over, say, Halliburton, or Blackwater, or AIG, or..."

The thing is, why would you defend any of them? Why is one better than the other? Even Greenwald doesn't defend them, he says it is a matter of proportion. I agree. So does my local news media, I haven't seen a story on it yet.

I would also defend ACORN. Of course, Sebastian, the very fact that ACORN is firing some of the people shows them to be somewhat commendable as an organization. Unlike what has been seen in many Republican run organizations. Plus, it should be noticed that at least involving the "pimp" episode, the police were called while the idnividual was in the office, but arrived after he left.

For trying to "aid and abet" crime, that is rather curious, isn't it?

The thing is, why would you defend any of them?

Um, defend ACORN on what? What's the point here? I'm not sure you yourself are clear on that.

"Sebastian, can't you see that the ACORN employee was just employing satire? I mean, look at the transcript."

I did.

Did you?

I wouldn't think you'd be so flip if you had.

I guess I'm surprised by the number of people who want to prejudge based on what they've heard third hand. Watch the videos. Then comment.

For Phil: you'll note that Greenwald doesn't attempt to deny that at least 4 different offices so far have employeed people willing to give advice on how to disguise income from prostitution to obtain funding for the purpose of getting a house to run underage prostitution.

"The thing is, why would you defend any of them? Why is one better than the other?"

I don't know anything about ACORN, other than it's a non-profit group aimed at GOTV and assistance to poor people. They clearly screwed up and need to fire those involved (done) and revise their training programs to prevent future issues (they say they will).

For me, it's not about defending ACORN. I don't particularly care about ACORN. They get very little (in the grant scheme) $ from the government, and they're in full retreat now. The conservatives that hate ACORN have won.

Meanwhile, as Greenwald and others have pointed out, far worse things are done by rich powerful people, and hardly anyone seems outraged by it (exception: the bonus brouhaha, which ultimately didn't result in much of anything).

So, while I have no interest in defending ACORN, I find the energy/hate directed at that organization very telling. It seems, to me, wildly out of proportion to the organization's power.

As to the OP - other than connecting this to a psychological term, people have been pointing this out for a while. The GOP did this in the 1990s too, and it worked then too.

Shock and Awe, baby.

have employeed people willing to give advice on how to disguise income from prostitution to obtain funding for the purpose of getting a house to run underage prostitution

Certainly it's inconceivable that any law firms or accounting firms that get money from the government have ever employed anyone who might be willing to provide advice on concealing illegal activities.

"I would also defend ACORN. Of course, Sebastian, the very fact that ACORN is firing some of the people shows them to be somewhat commendable as an organization. "

This only makes sense if you think the employees actually did something wrong.

Liberal_japonicus, gwangung, and I think Phil seem to think that the employees were just playing along with an obvious joke.

For the record, I've just seen the fifth set of videos (from San Diego), and finally we get one where at first I wonder if the employee didn't think it was just a big joke. At first he definitely comes across that way. But then he seems to get much more serious in the discussion, but I still wonder if he isn't just playing it back. In my mind the first 3 cities don't come off that way at all, the San Bernardino one the employee just comes off as generally crazy, but the fifth one is the first one where I wonder if this guy is just playing it back.

Insightful post on the whole, although I always kinda thought Mad Max was very Sun Tzu! Maybe you meant "Less Sun Tzu and more Mel Gibson." There's no way in fuck to know what will set *that* guy off!

Well, if a piddly little organization like ACORN is going to be driven out of business on the basis of this controversy, then ACORN should transform itself into a much larger, much angrier, much more radical organization and start showing up en masse to Republican politician's public meetings on behalf of the poor and the uninsured, and yes, people who prostitute themselves to make a living in this country.

Maybe they could emulate Blackwater and become really vicious while still doing business with the government.

No irony intended.

"For Phil: you'll note that Greenwald doesn't attempt to deny that at least 4 different offices so far have employeed people willing to give advice on how to disguise income from prostitution to obtain funding for the purpose of getting a house to run underage prostitution."

I'm curious as to why the actions of a small small percentage of ACORN employees gets to be imputed to the entire organization, while the actions of some low level soldiers in Abu Ghraib is immediately dismissed as a few "bad apples"...

By the way, Larry Flynt needs to get on the Rutgers dude's case.

Given the way the latter was pimp-dressed (was that opossum fur?), he has some tacky kink that needs to be trotted out for the public.

"Um, defend ACORN on what? What's the point here? I'm not sure you yourself are clear on that."

I am sure. Their employees encouraged and advised people on how to break the law: avoid taxes by finding a definition of prostitution as "performance art" and hide importing underage girls for prostitution. Seems a reasonable thing for an organization to be held accountable for.

@Lindsay Bayerstein:
"The key is that there be absolutely no way to predict what will set off the GOP."

Actually, there's a very easy way to predict what will set them off: anything and everything any Democrat anywhere does.

It's the exact opposite of randomness.

There's gotta be a way to create, moving backwards through time, the paper, cellphone, travel, and money trail that makes the underaged Salvadoran prostitute "ironic inversion" angle true ... to make it look like the guy and his babe really were serious.

Then make life very difficult for pimp and whore.

I envision extradition to El Salvador, some lousy food eaten off the dirt floors of the El Salvadoran penal system, and maybe some further pimping, El Salvadoran-style, right there in jail.

Can you be executed for excessive irony and satire?

Can we get the Oceans 11 guys to set this guy up?

So, we have a performance artist posing as a pimp and an ACORN worker advising the performance artist on how to disguise prostitution as performance art.

To avoid taxes.

Seems like a wash to me.

This is the second time I've commented in the last several months on OBW when one of their posters has referenced the Seligman study and not at least given lip service to the fact that Seligman TORTURED dogs for no apparent benefit. I'm a scientist, I'm usually willing to stretch the bounds of credibility a bit to find some smidgen of value in what a fellow scientist is doing but there is nothing valuable to be learned by shocking dogs until their wills are broken. We know this already, it is the method we've used to break wild horses for thousands of years now. It is a well documented reaction on the part of prisoners of war and torture victims. Georgio Agamben discusses it extensively in his treatment of Auschwitzes "musselmen", the prisoners who had been abused so badly by the Nazi's that they simply checked out and would allow anything to be done to them no matter how horrifying. Seligman is the quintessence of the argument in favor of heavily regulating animal studies, particularly in psychology. Shame on you Lindsey.

Well, I agree, of course, that dogs and other animals should not be tortured (at all) into helplessness, but now what do we do about the Republican Party torturing Democratic politicians and the electorate into learned helplessness?

ACORN are amateurs

Sebastian, you don't get to judge Rush only based on a transcript, and then demand that we look at everything for the ACORN 'sting'. Well, you do, but that demonstrates your particular blinders.

(Can the embedded photo in this thread be removed? Please? Nobody was more disgusted with the conduct of the Republican administration in connection with Katrina than me, but I am repulsed by the casual use of images of a particular person's corpse to score tangential political points, it seems no different than the use of photos of 9/11 suicides to batter war opponents.)

On ACORN, I'm sympathetic to community organizations, but I've watched those videos and any organization that does not have internal controls sufficient to keep local workers from doing the kinds of things they did deserves no government funding or endorsement until they get their house in order.

The same goes 100x as much for Blackwater and other military contractors known to have raped & murdered while on the US government payroll, and I'm 100x as pissed that we keep paying them instead of having terminated all contracts with them as soon as the evidence came to light. But that doesn't excuse ACORN, and I think it would be worth trying to understand what it is that causes Congress to take action against ACORN and not against Blackwater.

"Sebastian, you don't get to judge Rush only based on a transcript, and then demand that we look at everything for the ACORN 'sting'."

Ummm, I'd be fine if you just read the transcripts of the Acorn stings. They are all available except the San Diego one.

You of course don't have to do even that. But it is kind of telling to have snarky opinions on the matter if you haven't.

I get that some people find the behavior of these ACORN workers very wrong. But what exactly is the underlying principle here? Is the principle that whenever employees of a large distributed organization advise people on how to commit crimes, that organization is completely irredeemable and must be shut down? Or maybe that such organizations must be heavily fined? Or their leaders should be executed? Or what?

Seriously, Seb or Marty, can you fill out the blanks in this sentence: "These videos prove that ACORN is a bad organization because ______ and therefore we (or the government or the DA) must ______."

My point here is that advising people on how to break the law is not generally a crime. If it was, many many lawyers and accountants would be in prison. It may be morally wrong, but most organizations commit moral wrongs quite frequently. If we adopted the policy that all organizations that have ever committed a moral wrong must be banned from working for the government ever again, well, then we'd have no government contractors.

Clearly any very large organization that has several idiots as low-level high-level employees must be denounced in the strongest possible terms, or better yet destroyed entirely.

Changed to reflect the regional Republican party. Demonstrably racist at every turn, but, at most, they get a slap on the wrist. C'mon, Sebastian, lead the charge to shut down every state party office that sent out racist material during the election.

Or is it IOKIYAR?

There ought to be a distinction between a few employees and a whole organization, which is why condemning ACORN tout court is simply unjust. Or should we assume that every member of the GOP shares the proclivities of David Vitter and Mark Foley?

The original post was about Republican twice a week shitfits over nothing. Notice how that topic bgot buried and now it's all about ACORN? That's another rightwing tactic: when the indefensible can't be defended, change the subject!

Since I have only a short time tonight to spend on the internets, I chose to read some actual news, and this thread, and am not going to bother finding out what really happened in this ACRON deal, because whatever happened, the story is crap.

All politicians use situational ethics sometimes - or most do. What's unusual about the current, decadent version of the GOP is that they use it as they use lying: not as a way to occasionally cut either corners or a deal, but as a primary MO - it's their governing and campaigning style. Why lie only when you have to? Basic integrity? Quaint! Old fashioned.

The GOP hates ACORN for one reason only: ACORN registers people to vote who mostly don't vote for Republicans. Spare me the fake outrage please, Seb. and Marty. If it was an evangelical christian org doing the same thing, and the clients were likely GOP voters, you would say, 'Well, yes, what these few individuals did was wrong, but that shouldn't taint the whole organization..bla bla bla'. This is of a piece with all the voter suppression efforts of the GOP for decades, and all the fake outrage attendant thereto.

It's crap.

I have only slightly less contempt for the many Democrats who indeed learn helplessness in the face of the stuff Lindsay cites. For pity's sake, at least Rove and his boyz know how to laugh at Dems (Rovian Laughter) behind closed doors. Do our elected Democrats laugh? Generally, no; they sulk impotently and/or back down and/or apologize and/or revise legislation to appease the people, or their proxies, who are diddling them.

Ridicule - if it's funny and not just angry - is one of the most potent things in the quiver of politics. I hate to repeat myself, but: voters hate liberals and Democrats because of spineless-and-humorlessness, not because of their policies. Better Democrats please.

This is exactly right. I keep saying that this is why any attempt to probe for internal logic and sputtering in rage at not finding it "But.... but... you said "A"! And now you're saying "B"!!" is counterproductive and plays into the Wingnut fringe game plan perfectly.

It means they still run the show, basically. Running it with sheer inconsistent insanity may seem like a novel idea, but hey, George W Bush just did it for eight years.

"You lost. Get used to it. Or don't. Bye now." is the only appropriate response.

Sebastian, I read the transcripts here and here, and I gotta say, you probably watched Borat and thought he was a real person. So you can either sulk about me making a short snarky remark or explain why Rush is given every benefit of the doubt while this event is black and white.

These transcripts start with them praising ACORN, then getting passed off to different people, and then having the person pretend like the job of prostitute is one where the only problem is not having wage slips. I wouldn't have been surprised if when they left, everyone in the office rolled their eyes. This line from the counselor
'I don't know, you have to ask your accountant'
is a signal. It really says something that you are able to claim that Rush is simply engaging in satire while ACORN people are obviously being scofflaws.

I also love the naive 'gee if they weren't guilty, why did they get fired?' line. I guess it is impossible to imagine that a group might want to get rid of someone not because they broke the law, but because they were dumb enough to get fooled, or because they just didn't want to have to write the same kind of soi-distant explanation like you did for Rush. The Japanese words for that are kamatoto and burikko, though it's only, because of the sexism in Japanese society, assigned to women here. Good on you for attempting to make it a concept unrelated to gender.

wonkie: The original post was about Republican twice a week shitfits over nothing. Notice how that topic bgot buried and now it's all about ACORN? That's another rightwing tactic: when the indefensible can't be defended, change the subject!

Not to mention (jonnybutter) blame "liberals" for being spineless and humorless... Yeah, right.

Like I said, the San Diego one made me think he might be playing along, and the San Bernardino one the woman seemed crazy. But in the other three, not so much.

"and am not going to bother finding out what really happened in this ACRON deal, because whatever happened, the story is crap."

Gotcha: Even if it's true, it's not. Or some such.

How did we get from the allegation that the GOP is randomly going apesh*t to induce 'learned helplessness' in Democrats, (Never mind that inducing learned helplessness requires serious abuse, not just somebody you don't like to begin with complaining.) to discussing ACORN? It's actually quite simple: The ACORN situation is something the GOP is complaining about. And, as the discussion above demonstrates, it's not so much that the GOP outbursts are random, as that some folks in the Democratic party are rather relentlessly determined to not accept that the GOP ever has anything to complain about.

There's a pattern here, you just can't perceive it, because perceiving it would require admitting people on your side sometimes do something wrong.

Who cares what the Republicans are doing, saying, or thinking. The Republicans are irrelevant to the poltiical processes of the U.S. The Democrats can do anything they want, any time they want to do it.

It seems that the only problem that the Democrats have is taking responsbility for their actions while not having any way of blaming Republicans.

Look at how progressive bloggers still try to blame Republicans for everything when the Republicans are irrelevant.

What the Democratic Party needs to get used to is that the U.S. is a one party state and they are that one party. They need to decide how to function with a one party state.

What the Democratic Party needs to get used to is that the U.S. is a one party state and they are that one party. They need to decide how to function with a one party state.

I wouldn't go quite this far, but essentially, yes.

admitting people on your side sometimes do something wrong.

I admit that. And my point was: even if (something or other trivial) is true about ACORN, so what?

I'm sorry, Jesu, but Democrats' political incompetence and cowardice is a key element in the history of this country's present devolution. I'm not absolving the GOP of anything. But if the opposing party doesn't effectively oppose (and there's only one), they're not doing their job, and they get some blame,too.

Earlier upthread I asked the conservatives what the actual principle at work was. I still haven't seen an answer. Perhaps there is no principle in criticizing ACORN or perhaps there is some principle, but conservatives believe its violation should lead to no consequences whatsoever for ACORN.

Sebastian, the New York transcript (which I gave the wrong link to, the correct on is here) has the line about your accountant, with James starting off that he works for Welles Fargo

The Baltimore one has the man as James and the woman as 'Kenya' (get it? Obama-Kenya? Just a laugh a minute) and then Kenya says her boyfriend is going to Johns Hopkins for grad school and so the ACORN person says that there is a class to attend about home buying and they express concern that the class isn't an ACORN class because ACORN people are so professional, and then he slowly starts mentioning things about how he is campaigning and that his girlfriend is in a special line of work and shortly after that the first woman hand the couple off to another woman. The interesting thing about the transcript is they have James and Kenya talking to each other, for example, on p12, James says 'we have to bring it up a notch and start talking about doing illegal things with the taxes'. They also get passed around between 4 different people. I haven't read all the gotcha commentary, but a theme is how they should have known, because of the way they were dressed. Yet the key is that the audience sees these characters and follows all the points, but the various people who meet them only get a partial glimpse of who they are.

The whole point of the exercise is to create some social obligation to continue the conversation and a situation where no one is required to take responsibility for making any decisions about the people. It says nothing about ACORN and a lot about how people, in face to face situations, are willing to let a conversation go on despite cognitive dissonance, because presenting a j'accuse is something people just don't do.

Nate's 12:49 wins the thread as far as I'm concerned.

The idea that an ineffective Congress is a good thing strikes me as a form of low-grade insanity.

And yeah, the number of Democrats who display more spine than a paperback book can be counted on one hand. More is the pity.

"Real men nowhere, but in Sparta, real boys". For Diogenes' Sparta, read Washington DC.

As always, cherchez l'argent.

But by all means let's talk about ACORN.

The tinfoil-hatted side of me has been thinking for awhile now that should the Republicans retake the House in 2010, impeachment hearings will commence the day after they're sworn in. The only question was what would be the new version of lying about a blowjob.

And now we know.

The pitbulls have a new chew toy, and they're not going to let it go for anything.

"I think it would be worth trying to understand what it is that causes Congress to take action against ACORN and not against Blackwater."

Jacob: Easy. Blackwater has lots of money, connections, and guns. ACORN just goes around trying to help poor people.

Gotcha: Even if it's true, it's not. Or some such.

No Brett, even it it's true, it's not enough to condemn an enormous organization. I mean, come on people, would you say that a large bank or investment firm should be dismantled because a couple of traders got caught with some blow and hookers? Or is it that you think traders and bankers never do those things?

Ridiculous.

that some folks in the Democratic party are rather relentlessly determined to not accept that the GOP ever has anything to complain about.

What????? That some ACORN employees do bad things? Wow. Shocking.

To me only the San Bernardino one seems sketchy, and that it because it isn't clear to me that the person is actually an ACORN employee.

If that's the one with the woman claiming she killed her ex-husband, there's another reason it should seem sketchy: her ex-husband is still alive, and the local police have confirmed that there wasn't even an incident.

Too bad there was no video from Philadelphia, where the ACORN staff called the police and the actors fled.

Cite

The Republicans are irrelevant to the poltiical processes of the U.S.

filibuster? what's that?
bi-partisan committee rules ? never heard of em.
the fact that conservative Dems are under constant pressure to please their right-leaning independent constituents lest the GOP claim the seat in the next election? nah, that couldn't happen.

get a new shtick. this one party state bullsh!t got old four years ago.

So, Rove sent the Swift Boat Veterans to smear John Kerry's distinguished war record. But that's so 2004.

Yeah, now we don't even talk about candidates, we just talk about ACORN.

Because as we all know, ACORN is a central player in Democratic policy-making and governance.

[Dems] need to decide how to function with a one party state.

The problem with superdestroyer's statement is that it's quite misleading. S/he implies that the US is either a parliamentary system or even a totalitarian one - 'one party state'. Very ridiculous. To use the president's unfortunate phrase, in our 'uniquely American' system, a minority - even a very small minority - has outsized power, if only to obstruct. In my earlier rant about spineless/humorless dems, I'm not ignoring this fact - although I do find it baffling that the dem leadership doesn't chip away at that at the margins (WHY IS THAT?).

In fact, politics is normally a game of inches, each of which doesn't seem like a big deal in itself. In the name of 'comity' and in the service of very short term goals, dems have given up a lot of inches. Add together thousands of inches over 25+ years, and....well, here we are.

It is really reallly not fair to oit bulls to compare them to Republican politicians and leaders. SOme of my best friends are pitbulls.

.
What upsets me is that there are no Czarina's. But it's better than the Red State alternative: Grand Dragons & Imperial Wizards.
.

Wonkie upthread is right. Left-of-center commenters on reasonable websites, I've found, are more easily distracted with endlessly debating nothing arguments with nobodies than kittens are with laser pointers on walls.

I see cleek was typing at the same time I was and beat me to it.

I think there is a truth in what superdestroyer is saying, however. There is definitely a 'courage of convictions' problem in the Dem. party. Compare the MOs of the late Sen. Paul Simon with the current holder of his seat, Sen. Durbin. Simon was not a perfect liberal Knight, but he pretty much said what he believed and believed what he said, and enough downstate IL rural conservatives respected him for it and voted for him to allow him to keep his seat, and politic for his pov. Durbin, altogether correctly, likened US torture to fascist torture....and then apologized for saying so (no doubt at the behest of Checkers Grand Master Harry Reid). Now, Durbin's seat is probably safe, since IL is pretty solidly Democratic at the moment. But that pathetic apology - for NOTHING - was nonetheless consequential. Add together a thousand other incidents like that, and you have something more than the sum of their parts.

The structural problems are a given and are the same for everybody, but if you add political self-mutilation onto them, you end up with political losses, one after another. You have no edge.

I think there is a truth in what superdestroyer is saying, however. There is definitely a 'courage of convictions' problem in the Dem. party.

yes, indeed there is a problem with the Dems.

but there is no - and there will not be a - "one party state".

norbizness,
That's very true, but that's because left of center commenters on reasonable websites assume folks are writing in good faith for a lot longer than they perhaps should. And when they finally say enough, someone like Brett above is there to whine about it and we, like idiots, try to explain it to him because we hold out the faint (and sometimes ridiculous) hope that this time it will understood. The alternative is to become like some of the folks on the other side, and that naturally fills folks with disgust.

(oh how i wish we could edit comments...)

but there is no - and there will not be a - one party state.

LJ: Don't worry, I myself was that way (holding out hope) until about February 2003 (as if years in the AOL chat rooms in the mid-90s shouldn't have taught me). But now I have have either forgotten or re-remembered the lessons of 9/11 and am ready to impute bad faith more proactively.

This tendency to give the benefit of the doubt, to search for common ground is one of the reasons progressives & co. are viewed as weak and stupid by the "don't call me a Republican, I'm a Conservative / Libertarian!" crowd. For (*ahem*) them, it's about win and lose. For progressives, it's actually about trying to govern the nation. As much common ground exists between herbivores and carnivores:

The herbivore wants an agreement where they can be safe from summary attack & consumption, and the carnivore seeks to manage the herbivores so as to maximize the consumption of herbivores. Among other lessons to be learned from this perspective is that the herbivores are fools to trust the carnivores to work openly and in good faith for an herbivore-friendly world....

On the subject of the ridiculous developments surrounding conservative efforts to destroy ACORN:

I will continue to view the "ACORN tapes" as intentionally constructed and manufactured as a weapon against ACORN until such time as I can see THE ORIGINAL UNEDITED FOOTAGE *WITH* THE ORIGINAL UNEDITED SOUNDTRACK.

If in fact, these videos are true and accurate records of the purported meetings, there's certainly reason to call for a house-cleaning, or even a real shake-up; but I think instead we're seeing a shake-down of Congressional Democrats. However, there is NO reason at all to assume that these vids are in fact what they represented to be.

Both audio and video have clearly been tampered with (the video heavily edited, and the acoustics of the "pranksters" ' remarks don't match the acoustics of the ACORNists' comments, suggesting the two sides of this "conversation" were recorded in different rooms (maybe even with different microphones)).

For Congress to take ANY ACTION without further investigation is a form of political malpractice.

Until then, this is proof of nothing more than the hypocrisy, mendacity, and the elite sense of entitlement shared by those who hit upon this scam-based scenario, brought it to its present sorry state, and have gained such pleasure thereby (Andrew Breitbart, I'm looking at you).

there's certainly reason to call for a house-cleaning, or even a real shake-up;

I can't even figure out what Seb or Marty or any other conservative is calling for. I've asked twice now and they do not answer. Until I see an answer, I'm just going to assume that they don't think these tapes should lead us to change anything and that the whole point of showing them is to just elicit an emotional response.

That's very true, but that's because left of center commenters on reasonable websites assume folks are writing in good faith for a lot longer than they perhaps should.
It's that, the instinctive search for common ground, and the romanticizing of "defending oneself," even when it's futile, rather than playing offense, which is considered unseemly among liberals.

I don't think it's something that can be fixed, actually. I think it has something to do with individual mindsets and temperaments. Policy preferences and wonkish beliefs are malleable. Authoritarian attitudes and the desire to lash out for any random kerfluffle in order to attack your evil/weak opponents is an ingrained part of one's personality.

That's why I was always befuddled by Republican outrage at people like Saul Alinsky. The man was one of them, temperamentally. You'd think that would accord him more of a grudging respect on the right than he seems to be accorded.

We need to accept that people like Jay Jerome say what they say because of who they are, not because they have some policy belief that can be understood or negotiated with. It's not Mad Max. It's Tucker Max.

Cleek, you are so right! Even if we had only the Democratic party, we *still* would not have a one-party state - I count three distinct factions within the Dems, each of which could function as a separate party - and as we can see, they are so functioning now.

It is a conceit of the diminishing "Right" that they can just make stuff up and get away with it, and one of those made-up things is the myth of the Monolithic Left...behind which the pseudo-populist "Right" has squeezed all the human juice out of their constituents, leaving a hard core (sorry) as monolithic as anything from history or fiction.

I'd love to say that this trick never works, but it does in fact seem to work among ~10 percent of the population, apparently among people who cannot experience cognitive dissonance. It causes me to wonder if such a malady could be treated....

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