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September 06, 2011

Comments

"Poor GOB. It must be rough when simple history gives one a headache."

Yeah. I grew up seeing that shift that Russell described. My father told me the South was traditionally Democratic and yet many of my white friends were Republicans (or rather, their parents were) and were racists. Even as a child I sorta picked up on what caused the switch.

As far as i know liberals were claiming that everything is relative in this world, even that crime is not caused by the person but by environment that created such person able to kill and rob.

"It's a fair cop but society is to blame."

"And now I'd like to conclude this arrest with a hymn."

I'm not so sure America is even about "self-interest within the rule of law" any more. Organized labor isn't philanthropic; it's based on self-interest. Social insurance is about self-interest: most people are at some risk of needing it sooner or later.

What we have today are people rejecting these things for some sort of ideological reason even if they'd likely benefit from them. A large fraction of the US population seems to have an active desire to promote the interests of people richer than themselves over their own. When asked why, they describe it in terms of personal virtue, as a rejection of envy or a desire not to live on handouts. This isn't self-interested behavior, it's more deontological.

I think the idea that what changed in the GOP is, roughly speaking, tone, rings pretty true. Tony P. was asking how the Republican ideology changed from the 80s to now, and I don't think it really has. Remember, the Movement of the 60s-70s from which Reagan emerged was an outsider group vis a vis both the GOP and the Democratic party. They were attacking a MOUNTAIN. It makes perfect sense for such a movement to be maximalist in rhetoric, but more pragmatic once in power. Reagan was a huge success. He changed the ethos of the country (for the much-worse, IMO, but he did it). I wouldn't say that Reagan didn't take his own party's rhetoric seriously, but that he didn't take it literally; he was serious about his role in the country in a way that today's ideologues aren't. For all his failings, Reagan understood the difference between the real world and the imaginary world of ideology, and was thereby able to accomplish much more than the pinheads running the GOP now. Reagan was a democrat. Today's ideologues are authoritarians, and are heirs more of Nixon than Reagan (e.g. GOB's assertion that a result of democratic republicanism he doesn't like is 'totalitarianism' because the 'stakes are so high'. That is classic authoritarianism).

The problem for the modern GOP is that their ideology-as-literal-truth is hopeless - unworkable and extremely unpopular. They can't be committed democrats if they want to actualize it. They have to lie and trick and destroy, so that's what they do. They pretend that they are still attacking the same mountain Wm F. Buckley, et. al. faced, but THEY are now the mountain.

Jonnybutter at 8:51---

That sounds right to me. I was trying to figure out what was different between the Republicans of the 80's and those of today and since much or most of the ideology is the same, I couldn't figure it out. Saying that Reagan was pragmatic is part of it and that's all I had, but the way you expressed it seems more profound to me. I think he was wildly wrong in his views, but Reagan and his bunch loved the country and wanted to persuade people of their views and win that way and that's why they were pragmatic. The current crop of Republican politicians (I'm not talking about the voters) just seem fixated on obtaining power any way they can.

I'm glad if I was clear enough to get some of that across, DJ.

I think we live in a very literalistic time. We have fundamentalists in many spheres, not just in the religious one. Recall that Reagan had a sense of humor, in the broader sense - not just the ability to tell jokes, but in the sense of having perspective, which is, after all, a wellspring of humor. He'd been through the Depression and WW2, which may have contributed to an innate skepticism of ideology as anything other than a model. When faced with real world barriers, he did his best and went home, understanding that the printed recipe and the actual food on the plate are not the same thing; and remembering the difference between rhetoric and reality. Can you imagine Eric Cantor telling a truly funny political joke? I can't. He's much too busy earnestly scanning the horizon for a possible grandmother to walk over (little Nixon reference there, ha ha).

As you say, Reagan and co. understood that if you couldn't persuade your fellow Americans, then the game wasn't worth the candle. Not only were they genuinely patriotic (i.e. democrats), but they were much more effective for that approach. I'm not GLAD they were so effective because I don't like most of what they did. But I have basic respect for Reagan that I don't have for today's insurgents, who are the worst kind of scum, politically speaking. At least Reagan had character. Compare him with Gingrich, or just about any Republican today.

... possible grandmother to walk over...

That was said of Charles Colson as I recall it, referring to his zeal to reelect Nixon.

(Gary's absent so *somebody* has to fill in :-)

As for Newt (Gingrich!) if you haven't watched John Lithgow's performance of the famous press release you must click the link.

I knew it was Colson, but it's still very much a Nixon reference.

Oh yes, I saw the Lithgow piece the day it came out. Newt is made for comedy, and I never miss any of his hits.

I knew it was Colson, but ...

Sorry ral, didn't mean to sound like a smartypants. Yes, it was Chuck Colson, the 'old man's' "hatchet man." I forget that there are lots of younger people who are not so steeped in Nixonallia as people my age tend to be. I might have spelled it out.

No problem, I was just making sure it was clear.

Just think, George W. made Tricky Dick look good. gah!

I thought I had posted last night to Jonny's 8:51 about Reagan, which I thought was dead-on; and found that, perhaps due to a quirk on my end, it didn't post.

So I'll just add here, though Donald has done it so well - it's a little more than ironic that Reagan, seen now, was a lot more pragmatic than what he looked at the time, as his whole career up to that point had been grounded in virtual reality - a contradiction in terms that only makes sense when we consider that he was, at bottom, a real actor.

I now think he appeared to realize, somewhere around the latter half of his first term, that the country he was at the helm of was made up of so many contradictory and convoluted needs that the ideology he had come in on couldn't be a basis for governance; hence the tax increases, the illegal immigrant amnesty, and so on. For all the government-is-the-problem line, he at least apprehended that he had a job to do within a context of governance; at that point, he still had enough nous to distinguish campaign slogans from the real issues of governance.

Having said all that, I will still never forgive him for permitting a number of strains that have now ripened and are wreaking the havoc they are now: namely, allowing corporate America to break the social contract, and doing nothing to curb the creep of the religious right into the mainstream of Republican ideology.

Jon's assertion that today's GOP ideologues are authoritarians I cannot gainsay. What has unhinged the GOP is the disconnect that an authoritarian worldview, grounded in a toxic tub of pampered corporate fecklessness and unthinking religious rigidity, can only bring about: that events must be dominated and controlled at all costs, and that people are base and treacherous and must be brought to heel. That some events may be best left to their ways of playing themselves out, and that most people do not recognize themselves as wretched, damnable creatures are, of course, irrelevant.

I see little, besides somewhat better tailoring and hairdressing, and a lack of brown or black shirts, that truly distinguishes the Republican Party in its machinations of today with say, the Falange or any one of a number of European dictatorial parties of the '30s or `40s of a similar ilk.

What I think is that the national Republican party is, at this point, a fundamentally reactionary movement.

And a sort of extraordinary one, because the "radical changes" they wish to roll back occurred 50, or 80, or 100 years ago.

Seriously, here is George Will coming out in favor of Lochner.

Lochner v New York, 1905. Nineteen-ought-five.

The institutions that conservatives want to dismantle - federal regulation of the private economy, social insurance in its various forms, publicly provided basic services - did not come into existence from some bizarre governmental will to power.

They came into existence because they addressed real, palpable problems.

And they came into existence through a process of representational governance, in which a broad range of interests had their say, and were balanced against each other.

In short, they exist because we chose them. And they have endured because they are useful.

The wonderful world that conservatives want to return to via some kind of political Way-Back machine was not so great. To be honest, I'm not sure it ever existed at all, at least not the way they imagine it.

russell,

I am curious what in particular you disagree with in Will's analysis.

The problem for the modern GOP political parties is that their ideology-as-literal-truth is hopeless - unworkable and extremely unpopular. They can't be committed democrats if they want to actualize it. They have to lie and trick and destroy, so that's what they do.

They lie and trick and destroy. And none of that addresses the all too familiar millionaires and billionaires line defining anyone who dares to make 200k a year.

Russell's 9:01 comment sounds remarkably like a summary of Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, except that Polanyi is describing the history of laissez faire in 19th century Europe and not the US.

" history of laissez faire "

I should say the history of how pure unregulated capitalism never actually existed, because it couldn't--regulations sprang up naturally in reaction to the problems it brought with it.

A review of the book by an economic historian.

link

Having said all that, I will still never forgive [Reagan] for permitting a number of strains that have now ripened and are wreaking the havoc they are now..

Oh yeah, me too. No Reagan, no current mess. The ideology hasn't changed, and it's really no worse than it ever was, theoretically, but I think Reagan had a saner conception of what an ideology is, what its proper function is (and he had a lot of pushback). But he was still a disaster, because he managed to modify what I would call the ethos of the country: there is no 'we', there is only 'me' (or my family). It's a fantasy-land view of human nature, and the political and moral economy that flow from it are in front of us now.

What I think is that the national Republican party is, at this point, a fundamentally reactionary movement.

I agree Russell. The tragic thing is that there has been so little in the way of countervailing force. Reagan, and the movement behind him, found the gap left by establishment Democrats (and Republicans). Where's the reformation on the other side, now that Reaganism is, in turn, exhausted? It's not there, and so we have a kind of zombie Reaganism. With apologies to Sapient, President Obama (or a President HR Clinton) doesn't qualify. He faithfully represents a very well established, rather compromised, Democratic party. Is Chuck Shumer a 'new broom'? HA. Reagan was more successful at transforming the country than he ought to have been, in the long term. We can rail against reactionaries all day, but to some pretty great extent, they're just filling a political vacuum.

Despite some rhetoric (on both sides), Obama never really pretended to be a 'movement'. Certainly a holding pattern is better than nothing, but non-reactionaries need to get back to some fundamentals one of these decades.

Marty:

There is no lie in Obama's speech. He says in the very same speech how he accounts for this spending. It may be fanciful - hell, the whole thing is probably fanciful, because the GOP congress won't pass it anyway - but it's not a lie. 'Death panels' is a lie. 'Social Security is a ponzi scheme' is a lie - ie something factually untrue. Holding the US and world economy hostage is destructive. Citing average rather than median income is a trick GW Bush used to justify his tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefited already-rich people (yes, millionaires and billionaires - what he actually called his 'base'). You must see the difference.

jb,

all semantics, they are lies, just ones you are ok with. and this:

"'Social Security is a ponzi scheme' "

Is factually true. When the new participants can no longer pay for the committments to the previous participants then the scheme collapses. And here we are.

Is factually true. When the new participants can no longer pay for the committments to the previous participants then the scheme collapses. And here we are.

Does that mean all insurance plans are ponzi schemes?

No Marty, sorry. SS is simply not a ponzi scheme. It's your right to be against it, but not to call it something it isn't. The latter, by definition, is committed to paying out more than it takes in - that's the point of it. It's deliberate fraud. SS has traditionally taken in more than it pays out, and invested the rest in Treasury bonds. Just not the same thing at all. You do not get to have your own facts. Whether something is factually true or not is not a matter of 'semantics'.

CCDG
all semantics, they are lies, just ones you are ok with. and this:

"'Social Security is a ponzi scheme' "

Is factually true.

Here you are using semantics.
SS is a ponzi scheme by structure only, but not by purpose and not by enforcement.
Purpose is not to get rich quick as in real ponzi, and it returns everything back as long as it is enforced-opposite of real ponzi.
Enforcement is totally opposite from real ponzi, SS is enforced by power of government and everyone participates while real ponzi is strictly volunterily.
Semantics, you say, ha?
If i am too blunt and non-specific please read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_(United_States)#Claim_that_it_is_a_Ponzi_scheme>this

And you obviously are not aware of mathematics that pertain to SS structure and even worse, not aware of provisions that prohibits it from being negatively affecting federal deficit.
Only way for SS to collapse is by not being enforced and by US having no more income workers.
Only ways not to be enforced are by US disintegration or by legislating it so.

I am really puzzled by otherwise intelligent people being absolutely non-critical of propaganda they receive in emails from GOP. Examples: CCDG and GOB comments on this post.
My response to GOB "totalitarian" redefinition disappeared just like seakaijin's comment.
If i may ask and get an answer, Marty, is it because you take those emails as a gospel, or you know they are bs, but you find the benefit of your tribe more important then anything else?

CCDG
I appologise for asking in a manner to get answer with negative connotations. Ill refrase.
Do you believe those emails from GOP because you believe that they would not dare to lie to you, that they are true or you know that they aren't true but are ready to sacrifice some of your principles for some kind of benefit? Or something else?
I think those are only two options considering known benefits and history of SS.

ct,

I dont get emails from the GOP, so I have no idea what they say. I am a great supporter of SS, it is in structure a ponzi scheme as managed today.

I am curious what in particular you disagree with in Will's analysis.

First, I would say that there isn't much analysis in Will's piece. He simply makes a number of assertions about the historical context of Lochner, and about the agenda of the folks who disagreed with the court's ruling, then and now, without supplying much in the way of supporting evidence.

But, it's not a long piece, so I'll spot him the need for extensive cites.

What 'analysis' he does provide is a simple statement of the basic issues involved, couched in a tone that makes his preferences obvious.

Lochner claimed a substantive but unenumerated natural right to engage in contracts with his employees. The state of NY claimed the right to regulate the business of baking in the interest of public safety and health.

NY lost, Lochner won. In subsequent cases, the trend of the court went the other way. Where the SCOTUS lands on stuff like this is kind of a moving target.

Basically, it appears to me that Will and Bernstein would like to return the settled understanding of the law back to what it was between, say, 1905 and 1935.

So, I call that reactionary. It seems to me that it is more or less the definition of reactionary.

Charles Ponzi's scheme paid out 100% profit to investors for a 90 day investment. To pay out that amount, he had to double the number of investors in each round - to pay back the money that people had invested and the same amount again as profit.

Simple math can be used to show that this is unsustainable, and his investment scheme lasted a total of 200 days.

Social insurance programs have existed for many decades - Germany's has been operating continuously for over 120 years, America's for over 75 - and they are run transparently. We know that taxes paid in to Social Security are currently greater than the amount paid out in benefits, we know that this will continue for some time, and we know that if the projections of demographers are accurate, there will need to be minor adjustments to the program for it to continue in its current state, but that is in no danger of all at being unsustainable.

What possible benefit would there be in engaging in conversation with someone who sees no difference at all between these two situations? You might as well try to convince a devout Christian that there is no god, or a hardened atheist that there is one.

SS is no more of a Ponzi scheme than any pension is. A bank is closer to a ponzi scheme than SS or any pension is. Do you object to banks, Marty?

The problem with SS is not how it's administered nor the very idea of it. The problem with it is the rancid politicians who raise spending and cut taxes for three decades, and then raid pension funds to make up some of the gap. That's not a ponzi scheme, it's just corrupt politicians (of both parties, Marty) who are paid pennies on the dollar by wealthy people to keep their taxes low, whereupon said politicians plunder our pensions.

"Charles Ponzi's scheme paid out 100% profit to investors for a 90 day investment. To pay out that amount, he had to double the number of investors in each round - to pay back the money that people had invested and the same amount again as profit."


Then, of course, the Madoff scheme that is commonly referred to as a Ponzi scheme, also wasn't.

To have this conversation with someone who doesn't understand how the meaning has been expanded in common parlance is useless.

The point of calling it a Ponzi scheme in the first place is to illustrate to people who paid all their lives into SS "insurance" on the assumption that the SS "trust fund" was being invested to cover their retirement that it doesn't work that way.

I thought it was an effective description of how it works that most people could understand.

"Basically, it appears to me that Will and Bernstein would like to return the settled understanding of the law back to what it was between, say, 1905 and 1935."

I guess I don't see any problem questioning "settled law", it seems it wasn't so reactionary when we did that in 1964.

In the same vein, the change has led to the latest stupid law proposed.

I guess I don't see any problem questioning "settled law"

Me either, per se.

Reactionary generally carries the meaning of wanting to go back to some earlier point in time that you liked better.

So, 1964, not reactionary.

Revisiting Lochner, reactionary.

In the same vein, the change has led to the latest stupid law proposed.

Yes, I'd say that's a pretty dumb law. Some laws are dumb.

If your point is that a law proposed in the state of CA to require breaks every two hours for babysitters proves that Lochner was correctly decided, I'd say that's kind of a stretch.

If your point is even that there is some meaningful connection between the Bakeshop Act of 1895 and babysitter breaks in CA in 2011, likewise.

It's not a matter of common parlance, Marty.

If I repeatedly do CPR by administering chest compression and at the same time sticking a knife into the patient's neck, and then use the results as evidence that CPR is dangerous and should be done away with, you'd call me something worse than a fool, and you'd be right.

Madoff is categorically similar to Ponzi without being identical because they were both confidence frauds, and intended to be nothing else. Now, you could argue that irresponsible politicians - very many of whom you ceaselessly support and defend on this blog no matter what they do - have committed a legal kind of fraud on SS beneficiaries, and THAT I would agree with. But instead, you call the program itself a 'ponzi scheme', which it never was and isn't now. It is a fully funded pension and will remain fully funded for many years. With extremely minor reforms, it will pay out 100% for decades. That describes precisely what a ponzi scheme is not.

You and all your friends can call a punch in the nose a 'handshake' from now until doomsday and that's still not what it is.

CCDG
I won't question your honesty regarding GOP emails, but i question it regarding the purpose of calling SS a Ponzi scheme. You claim that the reason is education I thought it was an effective description of how it works that most people could understand.

Only reason to call it a Ponzi is to attach a negative emotions to SS. Since SS is much more similar to life annuity insurance then to Ponzi scheme, there has to be hidden agenda to disregard such childish comparative education.
Using similarities of structure, participation and purpose with Venn diagrams you can see that structure is same for all three. Purpose of life annuity insurance and SS is same while opposite to Ponzi.

2 for life insurance while 1 for Ponzi. Want to educate?

Other differences between SS and life insurance are administration costs, which is a big plus for SS, and SS is beneficial to everyone who could not participate due to birth, health conditions or employment conditions which is another plus for SS. Both are investing unused portion of receipts.

to people who paid all their lives into SS "insurance" on the assumption that the SS "trust fund" was being invested to cover their retirement that it doesn't work that way.
That is a difference between SS and 401K not a difference between SS and life annuity insurance.
Only reason to call SS a Ponzi is to attach negative emotions to it with long term intention to privatize it for purpose of account managers fees.

CCDG: "When the new participants can no longer pay for the committments to the previous participants then the scheme collapses. And here we are."

No, actually, here we aren't. We're actually here. In other words, social security is completely fine for almost 20 years, and if we'd improve the economy and the jobs picture, it would be fine for longer than that. And it will still be fine if very minor tweaks are made to the system, like raising the income level of contribution.

Just saying.

I apologize to all for not previewing my comment and causing italics

this sometimes works to get rid of italics ... I wonder whether it will this time.

"It is a fully funded pension and will remain fully funded for many years. With extremely minor reforms,"

How do you define "fully funded"? This is the first year, if I recall correctly, that we begin paying more than we are collecting. And yes, it takes a while for the money to run out.

if I recall correctly, that we begin paying more than we are collecting.

Yes, which means that this year we begin drawing on the surplus payments that you, and I, and everyone else who earns a wage in this country have made since 1983, and which are invested by and large in T-bills.

Which will come due and be paid in due course, like they always have.

Unless the country decides to default on its debt obligations, in which case SS is only one among many, many, many headaches we will be having.

We thought of this back in '83, CCDG, and addressed it.

I am curious what in particular you disagree with in Will's analysis.
Russel, if i may. I will anyway.
Will's analysis asks for individualism above all, begin all-end all practice. It doesn't consider individuals abusing other individuals. Since the US constitution is mostly concerned with state power being used against individuals and having no clear protection of individuals from other individuals using tricky and abusive contracts.
I think you would agree that contracts could be used to practically enslave people. Should contracts be unbreakable in absolute?

Actually, the decision flowed from bedrock American doctrine: The individual possesses inalienable rights — here, liberty of contract — that cannot be legislated away for casual or disreputable reasons.

What are bankruptcies for? And who dissolves contracts in bankruptcies?
By Will's arguments bankruptcy is unconstitutional.
What is the reason bankruptcies are not "casual or disreputable reason"?
He even goes further to deny dissenting opinion from Holmes which is giving power to legislators to legislate. Since any new law will trample someone for benefit of others, there should be no new laws.
I do not hear anybody crying about legislating time limits to professional drivers, except commissioned mileage drivers. Statutory limit is something like 10 hours of driving within 20 hours. The same reason is for limiting food worker hours. There must have been a lot of complaints about sand, hair, nail clippings, machine parts, etc. in their bread at the turn of the century.
The majority said “clean and wholesome bread” does not depend on limiting workers’ hours:

Do you think that with workers exhaustion and despair there would be no mistakes?

"We thought of this back in '83, CCDG, and addressed it."

Good to hear, now the Dems and Reps will just stop talking about cutting back, raising the retirement age(again) and charging more. Super.

This is the first year, if I recall correctly, that we begin paying more than we are collecting.
The reason that this happened this year already is payroll tax cut from last year bill in amount of $120B. SS fund projections were $87B deficit for this year with effects of the bill. Without payroll tax cut there would still be $33B surplus from present year. But it seams that income was higher then included in last projections. And now they are talking about 3% payroll tax cut instead of 2% for next year.

Do you think that with workers exhaustion and despair there would be no mistakes?

Apparently, at the time the Bakeshop Act was passed, 100+ hour workweeks for journeymen bakers were not uncommon. Guys would be expected to sleep in the bakery.

So, yeah, nothing but rent-seeking by unionized bakeries and unions, sticking it to the little guy.

Socialist bastards.

'Apparently, at the time the Bakeshop Act was passed, 100+ hour workweeks for journeymen bakers were not uncommon."

Funny, this was true when my Dad started working in big bakeries in the 50's, but then there weren't that many little bakeries anymore.

Too bad he didn't work in NY.

It's a pension, Marty, essentially like any other pension. If you think a pension that workers contribute to and draw from is the same thing as a 'ponzi scheme', go ahead, I guess.

A better version of my CPR metaphor is this: Prescott Pharmaceuticals has invented a product called 'EZ CPR'. But it's not selling because the 'CPR Lobby', which is all liberals and socialists, natch, has issued a statement saying that 'EZ CPR' is a waste of money - you need only free or cheap training and two hands to do CPR. So Prescott bribes a bunch of doctors to do a study in which sumo wrestlers perform CPR by jumping up and down on the chests of patients. Then they publish a report claiming that manual CPR is clearly dangerous. Then they bribe a bunch of congressmen to pass an appropriation for the purchase of 90 million 'EZ CPR' units per year a the cost of $xx each - no discount for bulk purchase, because that might 'discourage innovation'. Because it's 'common parlance' that manual CPR is dangerous.

Reactionary rhetoric has it that SS is bad for our moral fibre (I think Rubio said something like this recently). But there's another motivation lurking. Wall Street is and has long been drooling over SS funds, Marty. It's TRILLIONS. They want that money. They want it VERY MUCH. They want the money itself and they want the transaction and other fees, because it would mean hundreds of billions of $$ for them every year. They also know that if any or all of the principal evaporated - which it would eventually - that Uncle Sam would step in, just as he always does, and just as the government of Chile has had to do. They know that Moral Hazard is a concept for the Little People and not for them.

Roosevelt famously, and against advice, opted for worker contributions to SS so that there would be a constituency for it - people paid in their own money so they would rightly feel entitled to their pension; so that 'no goddamned politician could take it away' (not an exact FDR quote, but close). Goddamned politicians have never completely stopped trying, even though private - or privatized - national pensions don't have a good record. I wonder why? Must be in response to the never ending crisis of our rotting moral fibre.

I wish he would. Gary hasn't been around lately, AFAIK.
Not remotely intentional. Major distractions in life.

Now I've got a lot of depression going on, but I otherwise hope to start at least commenting more, and build up to posting again.

You really don't have to take a time machine back to early 20th century to see what life could be like under the Lochner regime. Just go to China for a few weeks. Or even watch a documentary. At least China has the excuse that it's a developing nation. Republicans here seem to want us to return us to those good old days.

jonnybutter - thanks for a terrific comment at 6:48.

"Funny, this was true when my Dad started working in big bakeries in the 50's, but then there weren't that many little bakeries anymore."

Wonder if he got at least minimum wage, then time and a half for that extra time he put in, CCDG.

They want that money. They want it VERY MUCH.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJeFrqBJF6ECarlin.

CCDG, I'm sorry your old man had to work 100+ hour weeks in the bakery.

If there were no mom and pops around, it sure as hell wasn't because of the NY State Bakeshop Act.

When my old man got back to NYC from WWII, along with the other 3,584,992 guys who came back that same week, he scrambled for any gig he could get. Among the jobs he worked was night shift in a match factory. Guys would get nose bleeds, on the job, from inhaling the chemicals they dipped the matchsticks in.

Of course, when he was younger, before the war, working WPA bridge construction jobs in GA and SC, some of the guys he worked with would eat sulfur to keep the bugs off.

Where'd they get sulfur? Matchheads.

So much for those NY pussies, worried about a damned nosebleed.

People do whatever they need to do to get a toehold.

The point of workplace regulation is to make sure folks who are in that position don't get totally f**ked over.

You can either look at that as an infringement on their god-given right to get royally screwed if they so desire. Or you can look at it as an attempt to make the world a slightly less dog-eat-dog place.

The issue at stake in Lochner was trying to find a balance between the individual right to enter into a contract, even if it kinda sucks, vs the need of government to ensure that commercial activity observes some basic standard of general public health and safety.

That's what was at stake in Lochner.

Sometimes the court sees the balance tipping the wrong way in one direction, sometimes in the other.

In any event, what the Bakeshop Act was about was not the desire of an overweening statist bureaucracy to insert itself into every nook and cranny of private commercial life.

Guys were working 100+ hour weeks and sleeping in bakeries. For reference, a 100 hour week is 14+ hours a day, 7 days a week.

In other words, sleep, eat, sh*t, and bake. All day, every day.

There was a big fuss about it. They passed a law saying you could only work a 60-hour week as a baker.

That's pretty much it.

Just a few more thoughts on Reagan and the want of a true movement from the left, as it is now September 11th here in Japan...I'm wondering just how much 9/11 has played into the histrionic tenor of the right at present and detoured it away from a direction it might have gone had the attacks not occurred.

I have felt for some time that the dominant tropes in American culture are the twin towers of control and domination. 9/11 traumatized us as a nation; as the contemporary right values power as an end in itself, it seemed inevitable that it would lash out the way it did - manufacture evidence for a war, starve any function in government that did not serve it, and create a parallel regime of renditions, warrantless surveillance, and torture.

Because it is as irrationalist as it is, it also necessitated a scandalous alliance with the countries known to have produced the most terrorists, while damning and cursing those within our midst who happened to look like people from those countries.

Because it also looks to the past and not the future, it sought to extend that control and domination over the whole American scene, to Victorian economic schemes, pre-Scopes educational policies, a frigid, vengeful morality, and a state of fear and confusion as a sustained course of emergency just to survive the calamity of the moment that 9/11 released but will never be outlasted.

This last point may also be one of the reasons why the right is so blithely unconcerned with the debt burden it is leaving to the future. As it is also corrupted with its creature comforts and immediate needs, it's natural that it's willing to wreak an entire economy to get them.

So re Jonny's 10:41 all the way up: the we-ness a moment like 9/11 cried out for could never come about. What we got instead was the self-pity of overfed children, a big fat every-man-for-himself mindset under the guise of action (which really isn't an exaggeration - jeez, corporations now have 'personhood').

Reagan, and his "revolution", was a cultural and political disaster that America is now paying mightily for, and that has metastasized into what I fear is a sustained regime of economic and political despair that, barring something from left field (no pun intended) looks to drag on for another generation.

The whole SS-as-Ponzi-scheme is just an extra fillip. Marty - the right is entirely comfortable with fraudulent investment schemes. It's a true case of the pot calling the kettle black.

But I am willing to entertain the notion that at least some of what has transpired up to the present would have been unthinkable under Reagan.

thanks Sapient, and thanks Russell for the Carlin clip. Is George Carlin a 'leftist'? That question sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous. No, he's just a streetwise guy who knows a hosejob when he sees it. There's nothing terribly 'ideological' about why privatizing SS is a bad idea. It's what Johnny Guitar Watson used to call 'slick', aka an elaborately rationalized piece of legal robbery. It IS slick.

corporations now have 'personhood'

Corporations have been considered to be legal persons, entitled to all the protections guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, since Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad was decided in 1886.

Citizens United is just that, plus the "money equals speech" doctrine.

No-one should have been surprised by it.

But I am willing to entertain the notion that at least some of what has transpired up to the present would have been unthinkable under Reagan.

Interesting comment, Sekaijin. Counterfactuals are tough, aren't they? Reagan was president at the beginning of the final dissolution of the USSR, and he broke with what were arguably tenants of his own ideology when he negotiated with Gorbachev. That neoconservative view (no negotiation) and its bizarrely fixed cold-war mentality lived on despite there being no USSR anymore, and found its new unitary enemy after 9/11. Imposibble to say what Reagan would have done, but it's at least possible that he would have resisted some of the worst - invading Iraq, torture, etc.

That Reagan regulated - moderated - the Movement is a double edged sword, of course. If he hadn't been there to do so, it might have burnt itself out, like the ridiculously misnamed 'tea party' will do (the astroturf contingent will live on though - Dick Armey, et. al.). So in moderating the Movement, he also established it. The Arc of History is long and bends toward injustice.

I think many people who supported Reagan (but no longer support the GOP) did so because RR was about finally breaking the Liberal Consensus, particularly as regards economics. I don't think someone like Bruce Bartlett was thinking 'Great, now we can become a country of atomized individuals and get rid of that silly civic virtue!'. I don't think Reagan himself had that in mind. I think that they/we just got more than they/we bargained for. Said Consensus was replaced by Reagan with...nothing, really. So, no consensus at all, except for 'We're Number One!' or something (notice that if you are truly self-confident, it doesn't occur to you to say stuff like that). Instead of creative push back, the Democrats just scrambled to become more like Reagan. Democrats to this day start with Reagan's assumptions. So here we are.

" Corporations have been considered to be legal persons, entitled to all the protections guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, since Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad was decided in 1886."

But the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights is based on Citizens United. Money = speech is actually based on the 1976 case, Buckley v. Valeo.

The reason it's not a surprise is because there are 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court. We can expect a lot more non-surprises like that if we don't change the current ratio.

But the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights is based on Citizens United.

Actually, there's a generous handful of cases on the topic of corporations and 1st Amendment rights, in particular freedom of speech.

Nike v Kasky being probably the most well-known recent example.

The only innovation of Citizens was applying that to political speech in the form of money.

If corporations are legal persons for purposes of interpreting the law, then giving them the full protections available to natural human persons is the logical conclusion.

I find myself forced to object and unwilling to have the argument all over again.

So, with apologies as this will be my only comment on the subject, the very heart of all Democratic politics for my whole lifetime has been to create any "us versus them" that could be leveraged to get votes.

Republican willingness to prey on the fears and uncertainties of their constituents is not only not unique to them, it is less pervasive than the identity politics of the left.

I have been voting for almost 40 years and I am always baffled by several things, this complete blindspot by seemingly intelligent people being the most important.

We are willing to evaluate the reactionary motives of terrorists in the arc of history and then simply refuse to understand the perfectly predictable causes of reactionary politics in our own country.

After decades of politicians, and then bloggers, ranting on about the evil intent of the majority, the wealthy, the religious, (heck even the white middle class was a popular target before the Democrats perceived that they might be able to turn those people against the wealthy) then the reaction we have seen over the last 8 years is perfectly predictable.

No one likes constantly being called the bad guy, evil or ill intentioned. So any "we-ness" ever created has been systematically and intentionally subverted by politicians on both sides, as long as I have been an aware political observer.

So in other words, "a pox on both houses (but yours much more than mine)". Lovely. Unsubstantiated, but lovely.

After decades of politicians, and then bloggers, ranting on about the evil intent of the majority, the wealthy, the religious, (heck even the white middle class was a popular target before the Democrats perceived that they might be able to turn those people against the wealthy) then the reaction we have seen over the last 8 years is perfectly predictable.

But Marty, you are just echoing rhetoric from Nixon and his heirs meant to create resentment, and calling it fact (like the 'ponzi scheme' thing). Why in the world would any Democratic politician - why would any politician - 'target' white middle class people in the US? Or target the majority? That is just senseless, even from a cynical point of view.

I know you are done commenting, but...geez, when Durwood Kirby says that Wonderbread builds strong bodies 12 ways, I didn't take it as fact. When McDonalds says that they 'do it all for me', I don't really believe it. When George Wallace or Nixon suggested that Democrats despise white people, did you think they were filling us in on some inside info out of the kindness of their hearts?

WTF?

Republican willingness to prey on the fears and uncertainties of their constituents is not only not unique to them, it is less pervasive than the identity politics of the left. [emphasis added]
This is not really a quantifiable matter -- rather it is a subjective judgement. Since raising examples of the identity politics of the right will not be convincing I will not do so.

No one likes constantly being called the bad guy, evil or ill intentioned.

No indeed, though as I alluded to above, if the shoe fits... I don't mean you personally, I'm thinking of more public examples.

Both the aggressive "your side is worse" and the oft seen, more passive pearl clutching, fainting couch defense against pointing out the naked emperor are wearing a bit thin.

No one likes constantly being called the bad guy, evil or ill intentioned.

Did i imagine cheering at the mention of executing 248 people by Rick Perry at GOP debate? Those evil Democratic identity politicians.

So any "we-ness" ever created has been systematically and intentionally subverted by politicians on both side

Political manipulation aside, I'm still trying to figure out what the "we-ness" is in the first place.

How it looks to me these days is that we have lots of different interests, which may or may not align depending the time of day, frame of mind, and circumstance.

And we have a process for those various interests to duke it out without shooting at each other. Which is, in fact, an excellent thing in and of itself, and nothing to be sneezed at.

But I'm not seeing anything like a common understanding of what the nation is about.

Sorry that is so, but that's how it looks to me.

Most of the time when I talk about this stuff, I try to limit my assumptions to whatever seems to be the most basic. common-ground concepts I can think of.

Self-government. The rule of law. Separation of powers, enforced by checks and balances.

Even at that, it's hard to find basic agreement on what any of that means or what it looks like.

I've had conversations with people where I could hardly understand what planet they were from. Not here, but not at particularly obscure places, either.

Basically, I don't think we all want the same things. I don't know if we ever did, but I'm pretty sure we don't now.

I'm talking about at a political / economic / social level. Everybody wants to be happy, and have useful work to do, and for their families to do well.

But at the level of anything touching on public life, I don't see anything like a common understanding of what it's about.

I don't even see a common understanding of what "public life" means.

I don't know where we go from here.

I don't even see a common understanding of what "public life" means.

Unless I'm not understanding you, I'd say that that is an enormous understatement. I don't think we have a common understanding that there even is such a *thing* as 'public life'.

I don't know where we go from here either, but wherever it is, getting there has got to involve some basic factual information we can all see. We seem to be caught in a woozy postmodernism wherein everybody's 'truth' is equally 'valid', or might be. That is really dangerous. If the one thing which is not allowed is factual information, we are well and truly fkt.

Have faith, guys, there really is an objective reality.

Unless I'm not understanding you, I'd say that that is an enormous understatement.

No, you have me right. I was just trying to stay on the positive tip.

I've kind of stopped worrying about finding common ground. I just try to speak for, and advance, the things that I think are important.

God knows everybody else is speaking for theirs.

I'm just going to keep quiet and work on my high score in Tea Party Zombies Must Die.

Common ground is still common for all of us: Our own family to do good and better. It is just that one side is obsessed with instant gratification and other side knows it is a road to ruin of all.
And we as a group have to get out from that relativism trend and start blocking the bullsh!t at every step from anybody, even from Obama if somebody have a chance to get in touch face to face. Working on it while at the same time being aware of dangers becoming like them and dehumanizing other side.

Defending people against discrimination is identity politics, but the discrimination isn't. I suppose it's a matter of perspective.

It's a formulation that fits nicely with Will's, finding labor laws to be oppressive, while thinking that people having to work themselves to exhaustion to keep their jobs isn't.

It is just that one side is obsessed with instant gratification and other side knows it is a road to ruin of all.

I actually think this is not a fair comment.

What I think the issue is, is that different people think different things are good.

Not that some people want good things, and some people bad things, or want good things in a bad way.

Different people have different definitions for "good".

I actually think it's possible, although generally only with some serious effort, to come to some kind of understanding of what other folks think "good" is.

That's a useful thing to do.

But it's not the same thing as agreeing with them, or having a whole lot of overlap between what you think is good and what they think is good.

But still, a useful thing nonetheless.

The issue I run up against is that, after about 8 years of studious, reasonably good faith, best effort to understand what many other folks think is "good", I find that their idea and my idea don't share much common ground.

And when I say studious best effort, I mean hours, often hours per day, of engaging in dialogue with them, explaining myself at length, providing whatever supporting documentation or evidence I can find for my point of view, following up and reading whatever they provide for theirs.

Hours and hours and hours. Hundreds, probably thousands of hours, over about 8 years.

That's what I've invested in the project.

We disagree. We have profoundly different understandings of what is good and what is not good, and I don't see that changing in my lifetime, or in the next generation's lifetime.

Doesn't mean they're bad people, doesn't mean they aren't acting in good faith.

By there really is no common purpose, that I can see. At least beyond some common denominator that's so bleached out and devoid of sap that it hardly has any meaning left.

Look, if you were to put me and, PURELY AS AN EXAMPLE, someone who would support Sarah Palin, or Rick Perry, or Michelle Bachmann, or Eric Cantor, or who found themselves nodding along with a Rush Limbaugh broadcast, I doubt that we could find much to agree on.

At least as regards anything to do with public life.

I would want X, and they would want Y.

And there are millions of people like me, and millions of people like them, and neither of us is going anywhere.

Where I think that leaves us is precisely at the point of being grateful that we have some kind of political institutions that let us at least try to each get some of what we think is important, without shooting at each other.

I'm not sure we can expect much beyond that. Frankly, I think we're lucky to have that much.

I do not see a disagreement with your and my view. Mine is compressed and yours is nuanced, on two different levels, mine determined your more relative.
Different people have different definitions for "good".

Yes, and those differences are coming from a single idea, me me me me. We all are selfish. Want satisfaction. One group finds it in more wealth (instant gratification) and other is finding satisfaction from others around us, from the happy world around us.

I would appreciate if you would give me some examples of different definitions of "good" that you are aware of. I am aware only of those two definitions that come from what is good for me only, don't care about others and another definition that comes from what is good for humanity as a whole (tide lifts all of us together)

I would appreciate if you would give me some examples of different definitions of "good" that you are aware of.

Sure.

I think that the insurance mandate in the Obamacare plan is at least OK, if not exactly good, because it's a trade-off that at least makes access to insurance accessible to almost everyone.

Other folks think it's definitely NOT good because it's a case of government coercing them into doing something they might, or might not, otherwise like to do. To them, it's an imposition on their personal liberty.

I see their point, I just think it's more important that we find a way for everyone to be able to get insured. Because something like 15% of the population had no insurance. That's a lot of people.

And, to me, the level of coercion in question is just not worth getting worked up about. It doesn't read, to me, as anything like a real-world restriction of liberty, in any meaningful sense.

If I'm not mistaken, you can even get some help with it if money is the issue.

As a practical matter, traffic lights probably bug me more than the ACA health insurance requirement.

But, to a lot of folks, it appears to be, really and truly, offensive.

So, which is better, making health insurance broadly available in the actual context we are operating in, or leaving folks free from any coercion from the government?

It depends. It depends on what you think is good.

And to be clear, I'm not trying to stir up another 1,000 comments on the ACA health insurance mandate. I'm just trying to provide an example of how what you think is good results in you landing on one side or the other of a political question.

There is no common understanding of what "good" is, when it comes to public life. Or, at least, the closest thing I can find to that common understanding is that it's good for us to at least work out our differences through the public institutions we have, rather than shoot at each other.

Even that's in question these days, but I think the "I'll shoot you" position continues to be a fringe position. Thankfully. If that changes, no holds will be barred.

Ok. Now they are right that it is an imposition on their personal liberty, even tough in very insignificant, minuscule measure. They do not want to pay for others/ keep all their money for themselves (instant gratification). Other side is arguing that they still are paying for others trough market forces, trough federal expenses for ER even tough they are not aware of it. So they are still getting other kind of imposition on their personal liberty at the present that they are not aware of it.
Those that are aware of such indirect pressure on their personal liberty are not aware of total price of having sick people dying off, costless in dollar measure but very costly in total productivity of the country.
So they are thinking in ways of "i do not want to pay for someone else" and we are thinking :"you are paying it even tough you are not aware of it, so lets fix it to minimize suffering and get the total cost down"
Instant gratification versus delayed gratification. Individualism versus colectivism

Would that this were, strictly speaking, only a matter of competing goods, Russell. Sure would be easier if it were entirely rational like that. I am skeptical. I think quite a bit of the political animosity and gridlock we're living through is manufactured, one way or another.

To use your example, imagine if a Republican president had signed the ACA - it was essentially a Republican plan in the beginning, after all. GW Bush could have done it. Do you think there would be monolithic opposition to the mandate from Republican pundits and voters? You and I and Marty know full well that there wouldn't be. There would be some principled disagreement, but it wouldn't be 100% and tribal the way it is now.

I think there is actually a metric ton of bad faith out there, especially among pols, obviously, but not only them. I think our problem goes beyond competing goods, because it goes beyond rationality. I'm not asserting that this applies to you, Russell, or anybody reading this, but as a general rule, I'd say that it's a perennial strategic weakness of Liberals to assume that everyone must be rational and reasonable like them; it's the dark side of the Golden Rule that they aren't. Irrationality has a lot of appeal and allure for a lot of people, and the phenomenon is nothing new.

Do you think there would be monolithic opposition to the mandate from Republican pundits and voters?

More to the point, would there be a monolithic Republican opposition in the House and Senate.

The answer is "no".

I'd say that it's a perennial strategic weakness of Liberals to assume that everyone must be rational and reasonable like them

I make no such assumption. I don't even assume that I'm rational and reasonable about everything, or even most things.

I just try, not always successfully, to avoid approaching things from the point of view of "I'm right and you suck". It's sufficient to just say, "This is what I think is good".

Not sufficient from actually making things happen, always, but sufficient from the point of view of making whatever tiny point I'm trying to make.

In the privacy of my own space, I frequently respond to stuff that goes on with a great big giant "WTF", followed by a strong desire to kick something or someone. I yell at the radio a lot. A lot. Really, a lot. But I do my best to, as a buddy of mine would say, leave that sh*t in the car when it comes time to talk to folks other than my wife and/or a handful of close friends.

I'd put my batting average on that count at about .268. But I try to make the effort.

Other than here in blogland, I VERY VERY VERY rarely talk politics. Even when I'm around people I agree with.

A lot of stuff goes on that I think is just wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. But I have to at least recognize that I look that way to the other guy, too.

It doesn't change how I feel about things, it just changes (hopefully) the way I carry myself in conversation.

The nation is divided because a lot of different kinds of people live here, and they think different things are good. It's been that way since day 1, to be perfectly honest, and there has never been a day when it was not so.

Seriously, pick a time when you think we were all united in some grand purpose. WWII? There were tons of folks who thought we should stay the hell out of it, and wanted nothing to do with it.

The only thing that unites us is our willingness to work out our differences through the instrument of government, and not through shooting at each other, or through taking our bat and ball and going home.

That's why I get pissed at all the gun talk. People who talk that way, IMO, have NO F**KING IDEA what kind of holy hell they are playing around with. None.

When the wheels really come off and the shooting starts, it's nothing but pain for everybody, 24/7. People that talk about how they're going to engage in "2nd Amendment remedies" have no freaking idea what they're playing at.

We've already been there once. Wasn't that enough? Not enough blood for you?

Anyway, I've kind of given up on the common ground thing. I'm happy to settle for taking my best shot at making what's important to me happen, through the public institutions we have created for ourselves, and living with the inevitable compromises that come out of that.

I'm not sure what the alternative is.

My two cents, and worth every penny.

For all the talk about competing and contradictory interests, I find it odd how a consensus about what America stands for ever emerges. Maybe it's all about the right to have all this competition and contradiction, and still live with each other. I dunno.

But within such an acrostic, I think a balance needs to be struck in order for things to maintain a state wherein people, within their disagreement, can still live with one another. And right now, there is a serious imbalance between the interests of a relative few and the rest, who are paying for the few to have the privileges they are enjoying. In such a state, the only disagreement that can reasonably be expected to emerge will be pointed, frustrated, and unresolved, and one that people won't be able to live with others over.

While I was born in the States, I grew up in Australia, with its egregious, horrifying system of mandated universal access to health care, long-service leaves, relatively more generous workers' comp, state housing that, back in the 60's, rivaled that of some of the better suburbs in the States (and - gasp! choke! was state in name, which is to say, publicly-funded), and all the rest that some Americans now, if you told them about it, would think represented a condition somewhere between indentured servitude and white slavery. But we returned to the States for one main reason - so my American father could start collecting Social Security when he retired, as he thought it would have been difficult for him to do so had he stayed in Australia as an ex-pat.

So since we're talking about interests, here's what would have been his: to have lived out the rest of his days in relative peace and assurance. He lost his job, was forced into retirement before he wished to go into it, was diagnosed with cancer in 1989 and after soon emptying the IRA to pay for what insurance didn't cover, ended his days nine months or so later in a hospital bed wheeled into our living room, in a makeshift hospice when my sister, a nurse, saw the writing on the wall. That he was at least surrounded by us was the crumb of comfort.

So that's my interest for him, and one that I can only hope I'll get. It doesn't involve the ruination of others, or the re-alignment of whole polities, or tax breaks for people who don't need them, or the demonization of people of a certain color, religion and/or sexual orientation, or wasteful wars based on lies.

A modest request, in other words. How ghastly.

As a practical matter, traffic lights probably bug me more than the ACA health insurance requirement.

I read somehwere that the introduction of traffic lights in the US met massive (and organized) opposition from people that considered them to be an intolerable infringement of their freedom.

right now, there is a serious imbalance between the interests of a relative few and the rest

I agree with this, 110%.

I read somehwere that the introduction of traffic lights in the US met massive (and organized) opposition from people that considered them to be an intolerable infringement of their freedom.

I don't know if this is snark or not. These days it can be hard to tell the difference.

We're all the Onion, now.

In any case, my only comment about this is that, whether offered in fun or in earnest, I find it completely believable.

Re Hartmut: indeed, what baffles most non-Americans I talk to (not only Japanese, but a number of people from a variety of countries) is the overweening assertion of rights that Americans invoke in knee-jerk reaction - even where what they are reacting to may be rather sane, reasonable things that most of them can agree on once they knock off having the heebie-jeebies over them.

The WPA and other New Deal employment and worker schemes, when enacted during the Depression, were not only met with the teeth-gnashing of the right, but even hand-wringing from some progressives who felt that it would harm the Puritan work ethic. It didn't matter that most of the public works projects involved hard, physical labor that sometimes proved to be rather dangerous (re Russell above about his father's experience with this pre-WWII); there was a still-predominant ethos that the right to work itself had to be hard-earned, sort of.

So just a guess: the reactionary strain in some folks may be from this sense that anything seen to be a benefit, however well-earned it may be, however humane it may be just to let people have it as it may really, literally cost little, must somehow be weakening, coddling, or dissipating.

"I'd say that it's a perennial strategic weakness of Liberals to assume that everyone must be rational and reasonable like them"

I make no such assumption. I don't even assume that I'm rational and reasonable about everything, or even most things.

As Reagan would say, there you go again, being all reasonable and circumspect. HA. I kid.

I don't mean to impute anything to you, russell. Just saying that irrationality is a wild card, and different from competing interests, and it's bound to be more effective to see it as it is. I'm fine with arguing about competing interests, and don't expect to be able to convince everyone that my interest should prevail over theirs. But, for example, the assertion that this country deserves or should expect harsh reactionary politics because Democrats have 'targeted' the majority (and [?] white people), doesn't sound like something Madison would say - or even understand. And I'm not just picking on CCDG - I actually appreciate that he has the guts to come right out with stuff that others, who probably basically agree with him, wouldn't.

The 'competing interests' in the present instance seem to be: my interest in not admitting to myself or anyone else that I've been a fool, vs your interest in getting me to do it so that life can go on. There's no negotiation that's going to work on that conflict, other than perhaps your observation that we're *all* fools sometimes - most especially including me, btw - and that it's not really that big a deal for a human to be foolish. Par for the course, in fact.

Also sorry to hear about your father, Sekaijin. A modicum of comfort and dignity at the end of life is not beyond our means and therefore shouldn't be beyond our will.

The traffic light story was meant seriously. Since it came from a book I have not at hand, I cannot judge the sources but I am pretty sure it was not The Onion. If it is true it dates from the time that the Tammany Hall machine dominated NY.

A modicum of comfort and dignity at the end of life is not beyond our means and therefore shouldn't be beyond our will.

In the face of some of the highly questionable things we expend massive resources on as a nation and as private individuals, I agree, while also wanting to beat my head against the nearest brick wall.

The traffic light story was meant seriously.

I remember something like that too. Also can't cite it, but pretty sure there was indeed resistance to traffic lights (and speed limits) when they were first proposed in the US.

Thank you, Jon. It's been 21 years, and I had him for the 28 years of my life up to that point. And it still wasn't enough, and anyone here who's lost a parent or two might know that. Thank you again.

I would agree that no-one here's deliberately reading into certain posts and gleaning things out of them that aren't there. And I would also agree that a world where everyone agreed on every point all the time, without dispute or an iota of discouragement or compromise, is a world that cannot exist.

But I'm still sorry to say that something other than say, war-making capability, or the prerogative to execute people with only cursory review of the facts at the breach, might just be a saner start among things to agree on.

So when I hear people who consider themselves to be rational and transparent (I hope) mouth things that they know aren't true, just for the purpose of girding someone's loins or riling up someone they know would react negatively to it, I think that's an abuse of the polity because 1) there's something reflexively untrustworthy about anyone who snookers people then expects their support and 2) it fixes in a lot of people's minds that the only relationship they can expect with elected officials is one based on manipulation and deceit.

Of course, this has been going on since time immemorial. But to rest on that now is still setting the bar pretty low, when one thing so many can agree on is that not asking for better has the effects it has every time out.

Rick Perry doesn't need Social Security. Okay, all good and fine. I can live with that difference. But I get to have my difference and qualify it too, which consists of dismissing someone who doesn't need something preaching to a much larger majority than the one he comes from that no-one from it should ever have what he doesn't want, even with it being as modest as it is.

Other than here in blogland, I VERY VERY VERY rarely talk politics.

That is unfortunate.

The people to whom you do NOT talk politics get their political opinions from somewhere, just like the rest of us. Very, very, very few people have original political ideas; almost all of us adopt political ideas we come across in the course of "consuming" media like TV, radio, literature, etc. -- or in the course of conversation with people we know. And which ideas we adopt is often a matter of how we feel about the source.

Here in America, we have got out of the habit of talking politics with our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and so on. We have trained ourselves to avoid talking politics face to face. We have divorced "politics" from what we like to think of as "real life". We have ceded the "marketplace of ideas" to the mass-marketers of ideas.

It's understandable, of course. But lamentable nevertheless.

--TP

"But Marty, you are just echoing rhetoric from Nixon and his heirs meant to create resentment, and calling it fact (like the 'ponzi scheme' thing). Why in the world would any Democratic politician - why would any politician - 'target' white middle class people in the US? Or target the majority? That is just senseless, even from a cynical point of view."

At risk of being unable to communicate this effectively, I can't imagine anyone watching Democratic politics over the last 40 years and accusing Republicans of rhetoric meant to create resentment. It is the very lifes breath of Democratic politics to repeat over and over that "those" people have more than you so you should vote for me. More money, more freedom, more opportunity, more evil intent, pick your more and they are going to point it out.

On another topic, it is interesting to see the President go back to pass.the.bill.now, it worked for healthcare maybe it will work for the jobs bill.

People like to chant.

I can't imagine anyone watching Democratic politics over the last 40 years and accusing Republicans of rhetoric meant to create resentment.

This has to be the most candid admission in the history of blogging. To admit such lack of imagination on the world-wide web takes real courage, and I salute Marty for it.

--TP

it is interesting to see the President go back to pass.the.bill.now,
"Interesting" in your sentence i read as something negative, derogatory. Are you saying that he should not campaign for election (because that's all he is doing)when everyone else is doing it. Is it because the President is Democrat? Do you ever think in such way when the President is the one you voted for?

T.P. Agree totally with your comment, it is indeed unfortunate that russell does not talk politics with more people, albeit, entirely understandable. It is to the detriment of russell’s acquaintances that they do not get hear his thoughts and argument as we do here.

The body politic needs to debate these issues openly and while each of our individual opinions is just a grain of sand or drop of water it is all part of the process by which 300 million people can somehow manage to govern themselves and create a livable society.

But I am guilty, I only discuss politics with like-minded folk and then arguments are mainly limited to nuances of policy or tactical maneuvers.

But what would be the point of arguing with CCDG, it seems pretty clear that we would rarely agree about the larger issues. He sees 40 years of Dems waging class resentment against the rich while I see the Repubs using resentment against the needy as being much more clear and obvious, going from Reagan’s mythical welfare queen to last night’s debate where no candidate could speak against a crowd that cheered the idea of letting someone die because they had no health insurance.

And one other point, I sure do not remember the President saying “pass the bill” with regard to health care, I remember months of dithering while Congress compromised and whittled and still came up with something that got one (or maybe it was two) Republican votes. How can I argue with someone when we apparently exist in two different realities.

But darn it, I want someone like russell who can articulate common sense and the reality I see to try and talk to those folks who either don’t see it or don’t seem to care.

Let's not put all the burden on russell, RD.

I'm fairly sure that we all shrink from face-to-face political arguments. Lord knows I do. I don't mean that I avoid talking back to people who express noxious political opinions to me. Such people are usually perfectly happy to have an argument, and I like to make people happy.

Most people, though, are like my teenage niece at a recent family dinner saying to her father and me: "Aw, do you HAVE to talk about politics at the table?" Well, when your family is Greek, "the table" is pretty much where you're always at, so you always have to choose between boring your niece or shutting up about politics. So I shut up, because I love my niece.

--TP

Quick correction, no Republicans voted for the PPACA.

I'm fairly sure that we all shrink from face-to-face political arguments.
Tony, I do not shrink from face-to-face politics. Two years ago, even kicked a person out of the tax office i am manager off for calling Obama a nigger. In Phoenix, AZ.
I do it because i am aware of the alternative, and i did nothing to prevent the war in Croatia(not that i could anyway). Not this time. I will do everything that i can.
And i do it every time i hear bs, but i never start it, even with my customers in my other business, every time i hear a bs i respond.

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'

I can't imagine anyone watching Democratic politics over the last 40 years and accusing Republicans of rhetoric meant to create resentment.

Here is a thought for you:

Perhaps what you see as unfair demonization and fostering of resentment is nothing more or less than a clear statement of what some folks believe is true.

And yes, I'm sure that can be said on both sides.

People like me think a lot of what conservatives want is bad. No short-sighted, not ill-advised. Bad. Pragmatically bad, morally and ethically bad, bad for the nation.

Bad.

I personally try to make a point of not extrapolating from that to an assumption that conservatives themselves are bad. Although frankly I believe that some of them *are* bad. But most are not.

But *their understanding of what is good is different from mine*.

And, their understanding of what is good and mine are rooted in decades or centuries of personal and collective history and experience.

So, it's not going to change anytime soon.

We don't misunderstand each other. Or, maybe there's some of that. But basically, I think we understand each other very well.

We just don't think the same things are good.

There is not going to be a kum-ba-ya moment. We are going to have to settle for coexistence. And we're going to have to settle for coexistence with a constant ambient level of suspicion, resentment, and anger.

Because our understanding of what is good is not the same.

That's the ground truth of the matter, as far as I can tell.

All I ask is that people *LEAVE THE FREAKING GUNS AND GUN TALK AT HOME*. Because if things get to that point, there is no coexistence.

Just ask critical thinkerer.

We don't want to go there.

Tony and RogueDem, I stopped talking with people about politics about the time I found myself riding back with friends from a jazz festival and yelling at one of their guests after he offered his opinion that we should, regrettably, probably just let NOLA sink into the swamp.

This was right after Katrina.

It was awkward for everyone. It wasn't a very big car. And the guy was a guest of my friends.

It was, basically, rude of me. I'm prone to being a hothead, I'm prone to foot in mouth disease, I'm prone to going off when I get upset.

So, I generally confine my political conversation to online.

Here on blogland I can rant away and then delete my comment if it's over the top.

IRL there's no rewind. So I keep it to myself most of the time.

It's easy to be reasonable when you can edit.

I don't want "gun talk" either. I don't own a gun, and wouldn't know what to do with one if I did. But the idea of living under a fascist (no, it's not an exact term, but close) regime, which I believe is in the hearts of a lot of "Tea-Party" Republicans, is not something I'm willing to accept. I'm not sure what the next step is, so I am going to work crazily for Democratic victories in 2012.

The Bush era was bad enough, but at least a small part of the malice, torture and war mongering can be attributed to fear. The kinds of attitudes that are coming out now have nothing to do with fear of attack. They have to do with old-fashioned racism and hatred of the poor. I don't want to sit around and watch while my country turns into that. People close to me fought to eradicate that kind of hate-based government in Europe, and I certainly don't want to sit around and watch it happen here like a Vichy.

So, yeah, no gun talk, but it would be nice to have some talk about what we're actually going to do about it.

It is the very lifes breath of Democratic politics to repeat over and over that "those" people have more than you so you should vote for me.

No politician who wants to win an election 'targets'/hates/runs-against the majority of voters (white people in the US, btw), which is what you said Democratic pols do. That is your original charge, and it's senseless.

Do you think that a country in which the bottom 50% of people have less than 3% of wealth is an equitable or sustainable political economy? In which the top 1% have 20% of income? That was about the situation in the '20s and that's what it is now. Politicians don't have to *create* resentment in that situation. It's remarkable that we don't have a MORE demagogic left, frankly. Cite for me what you're talking about. And 'the people vs the powerful' doesn't count, because it has been used in some form by every party since the beginning of the Republic, including the 'tea party'.

I agree with Tony P. that it is a shame we don't talk about politics in real life, especially eloquent, down to earth people like Russell. I understand why we don't, but it's a big problem. Our very discourse is thereby atomized like we are - talking about politics is like talking about our salaries: taboo. Kind of a bad thing in a democracy. 'Debate' is for professionals (usually professional liars). crit. tinkerer knows whereof he speaks.

Cite for me what you're talking about.

It probably has something to do with suggestions that we return to Clinton-era tax rates, or something equally *hateful*. Maybe it's because Democrats are more prone to advocacy of policies that counter discrimination and disadvantage, thus *targeting* the discriminators and the ones enjoying relative advantage.

It's as though Democrats (or liberals) simply dreamed up excuses to go after rich whitey (or middle-class whitey, for that matter) rather than trying to defend minorities and the poor against real injustice and hardship.

I can't help but think that many conservatives in this country are compelled politically by defensiveness about being white. I acknowledge that I can't prove that and that I could be wrong about it, but that's how it looks to me.

Just stepping back a bit...

If Marty had said, 'This country has changed enormously in the past 40 years, especially in terms of social mores, and putting aside, for the moment, the merits of those changes, it freaks me the hell out. I feel like the ground is shifting under my feet. I feel like I and people like me are always portrayed as the bad guy, and I'm NOT the bad guy. I'm a good guy.' THAT I could totally understand. I'm about his age, and the country really has changed in pretty dramatic ways, not all of them good.

But of course you *can't* really put aside the merits of the changes we're talking about, and to talk in terms of actual politics requires at least basic analysis, not just emotional reactions. The emotional reaction is real and totally understandable - and I'm not being condescending. But it's literally crazy to think that *only* Democratic politicians try to stoke fear and anxiety and resentment, particularly when one is so full of that anxiety one's self. What do you think 'silent majority' meant, Marty? What do you think every Ann Coulter book's title is about? What is every GOP debate about? THEM THEM THEM THEM. The Liberal Agenda. The Homosexual Agenda. The Muslim Agenda. THEM THEM THEM THEM.

So, I'm not scornful of the anxiety white male people my age feel sometimes. I feel it too to some extent - the US 40 years ago seems like a completely different world. But politics is not therapy, it's not ENTERTAINMENT, and it's not life itself. It's nuts and bolts - let's do this, let's don't do that. I honestly don't think that achievement and well being and success are as dependent on privilege as a lot of us (white men) want to think. We're just used to it. And most of the aforementioned changes really have little to do with government anyway.

Emotions are what they are, and they're real. But I don't respect willful blindness because your feelings are hurt as a POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. Life's a bitch, man. It's not Liberal's fault.

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