Bad Moon Rising

I very much wanted to change the subject, to write about something else tonight. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the tension between Left and Right in this country is moving far beyond mere matters of policy — and as I wrote in a comment at another website today, the level of animosity now on view, as expressed in a million tweets and emails and blog posts, rivals any of the deep-seated antipathies that have ever torn nations apart in ethnic or religious civil wars. The tension is fundamental, axiomatic, and visceral; it is getting worse, not better; and it has taken on an increasingly Manichean, moral aspect. Try as I might, I see no path to reconciliation opening before us.

Looking forward from here, I see it becoming increasingly clear that the real problem is that in America as it is, the Left and the Right cannot get away from each other — though get away from each other they surely must, if they are ever again to be happy and at peace. Suddenly I’m truly beginning to despair for this great country; in the most vital sense of the word “nation”, the U.S. has just about ceased to be one. I wonder how much longer it can last.

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  1. Kevin Kim says

    What keeps you and Peter, the one-eyed king in the Land of the Blind, friends despite your differences? Perhaps the answer to that question contains the germ of a solution to the problem. For you both to be able to disagree so vehemently, so frequently, so consistently, in such long and detailed comment volleys, and yet to remain good friends — something, some X factor, must underlie the content of those exchanges: some dynamic that (1) makes those discussions possible, (2) ensures the conflict will be never-ending, and yet (3) allows you both to shake hands at the end of the day. Can that X factor be expanded from the private to the public sphere?

    As you might guess, I think there’s a certain tolerant and inclusivistic subtext to your discussions with Peter that, while never explicitly alluded to, nevertheless provides the neutral-yet-paradoxically-amicable ground on which civil but spirited discussion is based. It’s the erosion of this ground that we should bemoan, because it signals the imminent end of the marketplace of ideas.

    And just to be a jerk, I’ll note, too, that there’s little reason to be worried about this new state of affairs if you’re not of an inclusivistic bent to begin with. After all the wakawakawakanonian posts I’ve read decrying inclusivism in its many forms, it seems to me that this current hardening of boundaries of the Left and the Right should be a welcome occurrence for all anti-inclusivists! Shouldn’t it? (Said he with a fiendish grin.)

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Kevin,

    That’s a really, really good question.

    To address your last point first, I’ll just quote Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    A house divided against itself is what I see in America today. Without some broad commonality, some shared axioms about what sort of nation this should be, the USA will simply totter and fall. We just can’t go on like this.

    I have to think that perhaps it would be far better, and everybody would be far happier, if America became two, more internally coherent, nations — if some way of accomplishing it could be found. (I see the idea being broached more and more often these days, and more and more seriously.) This level of disharmony — of divergence in the most basic ideas of what government is for, and what makes nations thrive — is becoming very toxic indeed. So in one sense, yes, you might be right: the hardening of boundaries between Left and Right may mean this thing really is coming to a head, as bitter antipathies between subpopulations within nations so often do. Often, though, perhaps even usually, they lead to civil war. If this tension between opposing worldviews here in America really is as irreconcilable as it increasingly seems to be, and some sort of disaggregation can be achieved without the sanguinary unpleasantness that usually attends such things, that might indeed be a welcome occurrence. I think both sides would be greatly relieved, after such a breakup, to be able to run things the way they think is right and just, without all this paralyzing political strife.

    As for Peter and me, well, we’re just old chums, that’s all, and we both know this political sparring is nothing personal (that little flareup in the previous post notwithstanding). We have a great deal in common otherwise, and enjoy each other’s company very much (though we don’t see each other much these days). He has a great sense of humor, and he’s a good guy. We go back a very long way.

    And I know that’s your point: accentuate the commonality. And that is often possible, on the scale of individual friendships and personal relationships, of neighbors in small towns. But it doesn’t scale well, once we get beyond that necessarily limited scope of individual relations and acquaintances: which is why diverse societies are so fissile, and why they can blow up, and fracture violently along their fault-lines, even after long periods of calm. In Rwanda people who had been friendly neighbors for decades suddenly started hacking each other to death.

    But more than that: at the political level, there’s a country to run. Bob and Sally may appreciate many things about each other; they may both love the same books and movies, for example — but if he wants to live in the city, and she wants to live in the country; he likes to eat out and she wants to cook at home; she wants a big family and he doesn’t want kids; he likes ski trips and she likes the beach; he needs lots of sex and she’s not interested; she’s lavish and he’s frugal; he sleeps with the window open and she sleeps with the window closed — the marriage just isn’t going to work, no matter how fond they may be of one another. They’d have got along much better just as friends, without insisting on living together.

    Likewise liberals and conservatives. If they simply can’t stop fighting over such basic policy choices as taxation, wealth redistribution, entitlement programs, regulation of business, foreign policy, school curricula, and even such absolutely fundamental (and interrelated) notions as immigration policy and what sort of culture and people the nation is supposed to be a homeland for — in other words, pretty much everything that defines a nation and is essential to its essence as a nation — then the result is going to be unrelieved bickering, increasing animosity, political dysfunction, and eventually total national collapse.

    Well, that’s what we’ve got now: unrelieved bickering and increasing animosity, and it’s just getting worse and worse. Now I’m seriously starting to wonder if collapse can be far off.

    It’s the same problem that affects religious plurality and inclusivity: at some point, doctrine actually matters.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 2:25 am | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    Funny thing: I wrote my comment before I’d seen the tiff in the other comment thread.

    I’ll grant Lincoln’s point, but at the same time, I think the country is built in such a way as to tolerate a great deal of stress. To me, it seems the push-pull of each side is necessary for the country’s overall health. And as one of my conservative friends says, if the political result of such dynamic tension is governmental gridlock, well, all the better!

    On the citizen level, I don’t see liberals and conservatives running out into the street with machetes and hacking each other to bits. Not yet, anyway. And I have to say that, after living in Europe and Asia, I can attest that American political differences don’t look that large from the foreign perspective. Many French and Korean folks I know have trouble figuring out just what defines Right and Left in America. An awareness of how similar each side is to the other might be useful here. For one’s blood pressure, if for nothing else.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  4. Dom says

    Malcolm, do you really WANT to be friends with Keith Olbermann?

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  5. bob koepp says

    I don’t know…
    Madison had some interesting things to say about the virtues of factionalism. Of course, I wish the current crop of factions had more articulate spokespersons — I prefer well-crafted slanders to taunts and crude insults. But in our democracy, where ignorance is no obstacle to prominence, well, what do you expect?

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  6. Kevin Kim says

    Just watched Andrew Klavan’s somewhat humorous take on what’s going on in the country. I say “somewhat” because his often-clumsy delivery makes me cringe. Lefties probably won’t want to watch.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    It’s a good point that political factionalism is a different thing than ethnic conflict; blood is thicker than water. Then there’s religious strife, which is an interesting middle ground, because there is nothing but memes that bind religious factions together internally as religious factions, although there is often a very great amount of overlap, in socially divided nations, between the religious and ethnic groups.

    Religion can serve very effectively on its own, though, as a basis for faction, to the point of tearing nations apart along factional lines, which attests to the power of memes. Islam is a good example.

    So if religious meme-plexes can do it, why not purely political ones? Well, they can, of course, but religion gets some extra oomph from its supernatural foundation and its ability to use that as the basis for Manichean moralizing — which is why the big totalitarian movements made a very definite effort to co-opt religion, so as to gain access to its levers.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    I’m glad you don’t see people, motivated by strident political memes, wreaking violence on each other as a result. (Paul Krugman does, but that’s another thread.)

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Kevin, would you say that the climate of political faction is more heated in Korea and France than here?

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  10. bob koepp says

    Malcolm –
    I know you were just a kid at the time, but you must have some memories (fading, to be sure) of the late sixties and early seventies. Were you so engrossed by the musical scene that you didn’t notice people fighting in the streets about ostensibly political differences? What’s going on today, lamentable as it might be, doesn’t hold a candle to the good/bad old days of your youth. Society coming apart at the seams? Civil war? Hyperbole! Despair not.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    I don’t know, Bob; I’ve been thinking a lot about that too.

    That surely was a tempestuous time, but to me the current “troubles” — which are really the same fight, continued now by adults rather than children, many of whom are the very same people who faced off in the Sixties and Seventies and who are now professors, members of Congress, influential editors, presidential confidants, etc. — seem grimmer, somehow, and deeper.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  12. Kevin Kim says

    I can’t say much about French politics, but splittism is the rule in Korean politics. Parties break apart, swirl around, re-coalesce in different configurations all the time.

    With party boundaries so frangible, there’s no obvious Manichaean political dualism; it’s more like a dynamic Mexican standoff: ideological guns pointed every which way. However, if we turn our gaze to the Korean newspapers, two papers in particular stand out: the “conservative” Chosun Ilbo (Ilbo = daily report), and the “liberal” Hangyeoryae (derisively called “the Hanky” by right-leaning expat bloggers who read Korean… though, come to think of it, I believe there’s also an English-language version of the publication online).

    Generally what you see in these papers is a rightism defined by a relatively hard-line stance to North Korea and occasional pining for the bad old days of Korea’s post-colonial dictatorships, when society seemed less messed-up and morals and mores were more rigid. My first visit to South Korea was in 1986, when the dictators were still in power; I remember soldiers everywhere on the streets of Seoul. Korean conservatism doesn’t always make me comfortable.

    On the Korean left, the attitude espoused by the Hangyeoryae (pronounced “han-gyaw-ryeh” or, when said quickly, “han-gyaw-reh”) is more friendly and conciliatory to North Korea. I’m not totally clear on this, but I think the Korean left is also partial to some version Marxist ideology, and thus sees capitalism as deeply flawed and oppressive. The flip side to this is that this ideology generally praises the North’s statism.

    The three presidents who immediately followed the end of the dictator era, Kim Young Sam, Kim Dae Joong, and Noh Mu Hyeon (“hyeon” rhymes with “fun”), were decidedly leftist in their approach to North Korea, though perhaps not so much in their approach to South Korea’s economy, which generally flourished on their watch. The current president, Lee Myung Bak, skews rightward; his election was in many ways a response to Korea’s leftward lean. From the American perspective, Lee is much less conciliatory to the North. Unlike Kim Dae Joong, who got a Nobel Peace Prize after slipping $500 million under the table to NK through the Hyundai Corporation, Lee won’t be paying the North off. He is, however, surrounded by leftists who insist on the continued appeasement of the North.

    Leftism among Korean college students is probably more critical of capitalism than the pragmatic leftism of the first three post-dictatorship presidents. Author Kang Chol Hwan, who escaped from North Korea and wrote The Aquariums of Pyongyang, derisively tells such students to “Go the the North!” if they think it’s such a worker’s paradise.

    To me, what’s interesting is watching the reactions of American expat leftists and rightists as they view the peninsular situation from up close. In general, I’d say that they’re very closely aligned in their reactions and opinions. American liberals are horrified by the North’s extreme statism and its depredations against its own people. American conservatives feel the same. Perhaps their separate motivations are different, but US expat liberals and conservatives come to the same conclusions when they think about North Korea.

    This may be one reason why South Koreans, especially the young ones who are so naive about the North, have trouble figuring out the difference between American liberals and conservatives. The US Right and Left stand shoulder-to-shoulder, if the bloggers are any evidence, in their horror and disgust at what the Kim dynasty has done to 23 million people.

    And it’s cases like North Korea that convince me that, if the American Left and Right were to take a break for a second and stop to think about their core beliefs, they’d discover that they’re not as far apart as they claim to be. US liberals in Korea don’t sound like communist or socialist apologists to me. Every single one of them strongly prefers the South’s free-wheeling (and often law-bending) capitalist paradigm to what’s happening up North. And like the US conservatives, US liberals take fiendish pleasure in discovering that North Korean citizens have been taking matters into their own hands and creating un-sanctioned markets to meet each other’s survival needs. Capitalism is putting out shoots in the midst of all the statism, and American liberals consider this glad tidings.

    That’s why I generally switch off when I hear conservatives call liberals Commies and socialists. I switch off, too, when I hear liberals bray about right-wing extremism. Such talk obscures the fact that both sides are not as diametrically opposed as they seem.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  13. JK says

    Well Malcolm, I can affirm a fair amount of what Kevin has said. I visited Korea several times during the 70s – the last time immediately following the assassination of President Park.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    Well, Kevin, of course I would think that any civilized person of pretty much any political stripe whatsoever would look askance at North Korea, which I guess is your point. That the Nork regime has any genuine support at all in a prosperous nation like South Korea has always amazed me. What’s the appeal? The famine? The isolation? The torture?

    I agree that, compared to the difference between just about any westerner’s worldview and the ideology on display in the DPRK, the liberal-conservative divide here in America seems less of a big deal. But it still runs deep enough that it is making it very hard for America to hang together as a nation; there is just so little consensus on all the basic questions I mentioned above.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  15. JK says

    Bear in mind Malcolm (I’m only replying here in case Kevin makes no timely return) “family ties.” My Dad served in Korea – well on a carrier anyway – so those sorts of things aren’t so far removed.

    And of course all those things you’ve questions about – the cousins on the south side of the fence, know.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  16. the one eyed man says

    While I agree with much of what you say in your thoughtful essay, I think that yesterday’s events will cause the fissures in American society to easy somewhat. Not because the country will have a kumbaya moment after Obama’s speech. Rather, I think that yesterday will go down in history as the day when the pendulum swung back in American politics: not so much from right to left as from imposters to adults. Enough people in the middle will do a compare-and-contrast between the speeches of Palin and Obama to realize that Palin and her ilk are manifestly unfit for governance, and they will reach this conclusion on a gut level. This is not to say that Palin and the anger-based politics which she represents will disappear, but rather that the market for both will shrink.

    In a lot of ways, Sarah Palin is today’s George Wallace. Both appeal to the same demographic of lower- and middle-class whites, and both address many of the same discontents (although Palin is not a race baiter). Both offer the same kind of simplistic and populist solutions to problems they seem not to comprehend. Ultimately, Wallace was marginalized by his excesses, and I think Palin will have the same trajectory.

    I’ve written before that the best days of the Tea Party are behind it, but for a different reason. Once their rhetoric about government spending moves to the task of creating a budget, things will fall apart, both for them and the Republican Party when the inevitable fissure occurs. This is different. Sarah Palin has two spots on her dial: attack mode and off. I think her angry speech on a national day of mourning will disgust enough people that the woman behind the curtain is now revealed. The Tea Party cost the Republican Party the Senate by running enough wacko candidates to allow Democratic victories which would not have occurred had they run against adults. I think that having their main spokesperson discredit herself as she did yesterday will hasten its demise.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says

    Sorry: ease, not easy

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  18. The leftists are the adults? That’s rich even for you, Peter.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    Yeah, I’d say so. We tend not to dabble in witchcraft, talk about Second Amendment solutions to political opponents, or reference blood libel when the Jewish Congresswoman you’ve put in cross hairs has been shot through the head.

    But don’t take my word for it. Wait until 2012 when Obama wins his second landslide and the House reverts to Democratic control.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  20. the one eyed man says

    There’s no reason to go through the myriad ways in which Palin’s speech was offensive and obscene – res ipsa loquitur – but the reference to blood libel was enormously stupid for a single political reason.

    It’s nearly impossible for a Republican to win the Presidency without winning Florida.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  21. Malcolm says

    [deep breath… 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10…]


    President Obama made a very good speech yesterday. (I didn’t see it, but I’ve read the transcript.) It was statesmanlike, and it was perhaps one of his best ever.

    He said:

    But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other.

    To “use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other” was, of course, what the entire political attack machine of the Left did before the smoke had even cleared in Tucson. Long before anyone knew who the shooter was (he turned out to be a paranoid schizophrenic, described by friends as “very liberal”, who apparently never listened to the radio or the TV, and who had been fixated on Ms. Giffords since before anyone ever heard of Sarah Palin), the Left leapt to their keyboards and to the airwaves to announce that their political opponents in general, and Ms. Palin in particular, had Ms. Giffords’ blood on their hands. It was indeed a “blood libel”.

    This outrageous accusation was based on no evidence whatsoever, on no valid psychological theory — on nothing but bitter loathing and a wish to exploit a madman’s murderous impulse, and the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children, for quick political points. It was followed up by equally absurd and calumnious charges that the Right was somehow uniquely guilty of inflammatory political language. This continued for days, despite the round-the-clock presentation of countless counterexamples of equally antagonistic language from the Left, even including Democratic election maps with bullseyes and “targeted” Republican legislators on them, Democratic Congressmen calling for GOP governors to be put up against the wall and shot, and even quotes from the President himself about “bringing a gun to the fight”.

    Readers will know that I am no fan or admirer of Sarah Palin’s. I do not consider her fit to be president. But for anyone to suggest that she, or the conservative movement in America today, endorses political violence, is baseless slander. I have already explained how Sharron Angle’s Second Amendment remarks were twisted, out of context, into endorsements of violence, just others have shown that Michelle Bachmann’s were. By the time Ms. Palin rose to defend herself the case had already been made, and the ghoulish voices on the Left had already been thoroughly exposed, discredited, and embarrassed in those areas of the media they do not control, but it is certainly understandable that she would want to speak out.

    President Obama waited quietly for several days while the left-wing propaganda machine belched forth its filth, then made an eloquent, deeply affecting speech, well befitting a head of state tenderly addressing a grieving nation. It really was one of the best speeches he has ever given, and I was moved by it myself.

    Apparently, however, you didn’t get the Presidential memo. Here you go again, likening Ms. Palin to George Wallace, insulting grass-roots conservatives (a.k.a. Palin and the Tea Party’s ‘ilk’: in other words, anyone defending his Second Amendment rights, objecting to mass illegal immigration, struggling to maintain America’s cultural identity, or generally holding anything other than liberal-approved views) as “imposters” who will no longer be able to hold their own against Democratic “adults” (I suppose you mean folks like Chris Matthews, who giggled as he imagined shoving a CO2 cartridge into a conservative commentator’s face and watching him blow up) — and trivializing serious and legitimate political opposition, endorsed by scores of millions of adults, as “anger-based politics”: a problem I don’t remember you having when the entire Left fulminated with inchoate rage against the Bush administration a few years back.

    Gee, Pete, why did you pick the Democrat George Wallace (who, ironically, was also the victim of a madman’s bullet) to liken the Republican Sarah Palin to? Couldn’t think of any other populist Presidential aspirants from the last half-century? After years of hearing that every conservative position — concerns about illegal immigration, the wish to secure our borders, opposition to race-based affirmative action, opposition to Obamacare, calls to shrink the size of government and lower our rates of taxation, and on and on and on — is evidence of racism, I can’t help wondering why you had to pick a man whose name reverberates through American history as an archetype of of Southern racism, and for almost nothing else. Let’s see: was it his views on monetary policy that stand out in your memory as being so “populist”? On interstate-highway funding, or cattle-grazing in national parks? No, as I recall, his appeal was that he explicitly appealed to white racists. Kinda like Sarah Palin, huh? Oh no, wait: she’s no “race-baiter”. Guess that’s because she’s too crafty to show her true colors; she can just give all those low-class whites a knowing wink.

    (Oh, and speaking of race-based politics, and Democrats being the party of “adults”, I think we can all draw inspiration, and hope for a better future, from the election down in South Carolina, where the Democrats ran the unfogettable Alvin Greene against Senator Jim DeMint. Though it was obvious to all that the man was barely sapient, and no more qualified to serve in the Senate than a Wheaton terrier, he won nevertheless won 80% of the black vote.)

    President Obama said this:

    But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

    It’s too bad you didn’t make a note of it. Instead, here you are: laying the blame, sneering, swaggering, insulting, condescending, taunting, gloating, baiting, goading, and provoking. Can’t you give it a rest for a minute?

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says

    From Taranto today, just out (my emphasis):

    As we have noted, the New York Times’s response to last weekend’s murders in Tucson was to instigate a witch hunt against Republican politicians and “particularly” against members of the independent (nonliberal) media. This appealed to what one might call the Manichaean wing of American liberalism: those who mistake political disagreement for enmity, who are so strongly prejudiced against conservatives as to regard them, in some sense, as less than fully human.

    Guess he’s been dropping by.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  23. “It’s nearly impossible for a Republican to win the Presidency without winning Florida.”

    This is presumably your subtle way, Peter, of implying that the naive little old Jewish ladies in Miami, who couldn’t master the ballot chads that allowed George W. Bush to steal the election from its rightful “adult” charlatan, will, therefore, be persuaded by other charlatans that Palin’s “blood libel” was a veiled anti-Semitic reference?

    If they are as naive as your implied premise, then chances are they are not familiar with the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. And if not so naive, they will likely view the usage as did the well-respected adult Alan Dershowitz.

    In any case, Peter, your persistence in advocating the views that are truly offensive to anyone with a modicum of generosity of spirit only convinces me that you yourself have none. And based on that conclusion, I wouldn’t trust you to report the correct time if you were wearing a certified Rolex watch.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  24. the one eyed man says

    I picked George Wallace because the only other two third party candidates which received any traction over the past few decades were John Anderson and Ross Perot. Of the three, George Wallace is by far the closest to Sarah Palin.

    In the fullness of Time, you will see my predictions come true.

    Regarding Tucson: I’ve said all I intend to say, and have no interest going in circles. The post was about Sarah Palin. If you disagree about how her speech was perceived (by Jew and non-Jew alike), you might want to take a look at the outside world. The real world, not the world of redstate, NRO, and so forth.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  25. pavel says

    Here’s a view from the outside world, Mr. the one eyed man: you are funny (funny strange, not funny haha). In your country a deranged man, who had telegraphed to many at his school and within his community that he was a dangerous person and who in a civilized part of the world would not have had access to semi-automatic weaponry, creates a blood bath. And you can’t even hide your excitement at how good it’s going to be for your side in the next election. I guess in the inside world, one eyed man stands for obsessively fixated on one idea. “In the fullness of Time,” indeed.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  26. the one eyed man says

    The blood libel reference is not a “veiled anti-Semitic reference.” Equating your own perceived persecution at the hands of “journalists and pundits” with the very real persecution and genocide of Jews is deeply, deeply offensive to many people. Anyone with a modicum of generosity of spirit would recognize that immediately.

    On a day of national mourning and unity, all Sarah Palin could do was talk about herself and attack her enemies. On the same day, Barack Obama gave a speech which was praised across the spectrum, including people like Pat Buchanan and Charles Krauthammer. My point is simply that the people in the middle – those who don’t read political blogs and spend their lives in other pursuits – will compare and contrast the two, and choose inclusiveness and an appeal to our better natures over bitterness and self-pity.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  27. the one eyed man says

    In fact, in a Hell Freezes Over story, Obama’s speech was even praised by the Fox News All Stars. I’ve yet to see anyone praise the refudiation which Sarah Palin gave of all those horrible things people said about her. I think even the crop of Republicans mentioned as candidates for President in 2012, who have been too terrified of her to attack her, are starting to slither away. She’s toast.

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  28. JK says

    Excuse my French Malcolm (and [most] all) and since I’m on a laptop keyboard – having just returned from the funeral of a former lover – who happened, coincidentally to have voted Democrat her entire 60 (eligible) year life:

    Peter, you Sir are full of shit.

    Since I’m limited to single-finger typing, I only offer a single link – but it’s not the article I direct you to rather the comment thread. Click “Oldest first” then work toward the present. I do recall you didn’t “have the time” to spend scrolling to the “Targeting Map” the Democratic Leadership Council posted in 2004 prominently featuring the ‘bull’s-eyes’ Malcolm mentioned above.

    Incidentally – Arkansas since 1875, hasn’t had a single Republican in Washington DC until this most recent cycle:

    Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink
  29. howsurprising says

    It would be nice if more people on the Right just up and acknowledged that the Obama presidency has not been a liberal one. It is as if all the criticisms aimed at his administration from the Left never happened.

    Malcolm exaggerates the problem. Just as he has exaggerated the threat of the Obama administration. Everyone is capable of acting like children, and do too frequently. Malcolm is *wrong* that the state of political dialogue has nothing to do with Loughner’s murder spree. How very convenient for you. But that is because you seem to think that the only way the state of that dialogue can be relevant to this crime is by some simple causal link between statements made by one person and bullets sent by another. It ignores the fact that cognition is embedded in the world, in a sea of signals. Children raised in unstable environments have different brains that those who grow up in stable environments. Exposure to messages condoning violence, and modeling violence, even when disagreed with, tend to encourage violent behavior, especially in those who are most impressionable. You can’t just lay this at the feet of mental illness: those who are mentally ill are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence. You can’t just say, oh he was crazy (and this is one of those crazy things he did). How mental illness is expressed, how it is manifested, is at least partially a consequence of the physical, emotional, and cultural environments the afflicted find themselves in. That doesn’t excuse those on the Left who pointed fingers at Sarah Palin, as if her few actions were sufficient cause. That was irresponsible, and I have said so. But how Palin, among others, both on the Left and the Right have engaged in dialogue, *is* culpable. Even your thoughtful post here is problematic in it suggests that differences are insurmountable, and thus bridging them not worth attempting.

    Irresponsible, but not necessarily malicious. It is easy for those on the Right to accuse liberals of rushing to their keyboards to play politics with the tragedy. It might be worth thinking how this event would have been seen from the other side (or, if you like, to imagine that Bush had been shot sometime not too long after the infamous recount in Florida). Here we have Arizona, a state that more than any other, has been a focus of very heated debate. Moreover, Gifford’s district, a swing district, held onto by a Democrat, with Giffords have become the target of more than a few attacks and threats since the debate on the health care bill began. We might also mention her political opponent Kelly’s M-16 incident, and his telling a rally that “And if you dare to stand up to the government they call us a mob. We’re about to show them what a mob looks like.” With all of that, and all the stuff coming out of the mouths of people like Beck who broke down crying about how he fears for his country (because of the liberals), what do you expect liberals to interpret this act of violence as? What is surprising, is that the attack didn’t come from someone steeped on talk-right radio.

    I do not know what statistics can be brought to bear, but I have listened to and read a fair amount of left wing and right wing media, and there *is* a difference in tone. Every side has its idiots, and moments of stupidity, but on a daily basis I have not seen the same level sheer contempt directed at the opposite camp as I have found on sites like RedState or talk radio. Surely talk hosts like Savage do conservatives no favors among the intellectual class, but when he, and others like him, tell his listeners that liberals are a disease, that they are trying to destroy America, that they are not real Americans, that they are vermin, that they are sissies and weaklings… I do not hear that kind of talk from the Left, at least not with the same kind of consistency. What I would truly like to know is the number of threats made to politicians by party membership, and especially the likely political leanings of the threaten-er. Data, data, data, else its just talk.

    here are a few worthy links:

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:27 am | Permalink
  30. MnMark says

    My point is simply that the people in the middle – those who don’t read political blogs and spend their lives in other pursuits – will compare and contrast the two, and choose inclusiveness and an appeal to our better natures over bitterness and self-pity.

    Obama’s speech will be forgotten in a week if not sooner. He made the same speech (“hope!” “change!”) for a couple years running before the 2008 election, and then as soon as he was elected behaved like an absolute partisan himself, using incendiary language (“if they bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun” “punish your enemies”) and forcing through nation-destroying legislation opposed by a significant majority of voters without a single vote from the other side. The man spews this kind of calculated political pap regularly, and then goes right back to behaving like a partisan. It’s the Obama shtick – talk big empty flowery hot gas bullshit and then go actually behave like the far-lefty he is.

    The speech means nothing except to liberals, and even they will forget it in two weeks. If you seriously think it will be remembered in two years when the elections occur, you are deluded. Fifty more politically important things will have happened by then.

    It is true that several Tea Party candidates were too far right to get elected. The Dems did the same thing when they were so angry at Bush that the far-left wing managed to nominate the completely uncompetitive Kerry in 2004. The Republicans maintained control for another two years until anger built enough (because whoever is in power gets blamed for what’s going wrong whether they are responsible or not) to swing it to Dems in 2006.

    The same will happen here. Even while losing a few Tea Party candidate races in 2010, the Republicans ANNIHILATED the Dems in the House and made solid gains in the Senate. The Dems stupidly are holding onto Pelosi and Reid as the face of the party for the next two years, and the majority of Senators up for re-election in 2012 will be Dems. Which means that in 2012 Dems will get another round of shellacking, resulting in Republican control of the Presidency, House, and Senate.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:11 am | Permalink
  31. Rollory says

    I part ways with the right, and agree with the left, on one particular issue.

    The personal IS political.

    It is so because political attitudes are derived from the fundamental principles and characteristics that govern one’s thinking, the same fundamental principles at play – although in an entirely different manner – in everyday personal life.

    When I realize that someone in my social or work circles is thinking like a leftist – which as a descriptive term probably should get elaborated on in much greater detail, but it’s late and I’m sleepy – I take that as a warning: don’t put your trust in this individual. If they are capable of betraying rationality in this manner, if they can not listen to and understand and reasonably evaluate arguments making points they disagree with and consider those arguments honestly (regardless of eventual conclusions), if they are the sort of person who is _capable_ of wedding themselves to an utterly self-destructive course – then they are capable of performing equally destructive acts in other ways too, and very possibly right when you are really depending on their friendship and support.

    I do not retain leftist friends, regardless of length of time or services rendered. Whenever possible I cut the ties as politely and quietly and unobtrusively as possible, but they do get cut. If I were asked (which of course I haven’t been, and won’t be) I’d advise others to consider the same policy.

    (As for leftist family members, that does get more complicated. Interestingly, the tendency toward leftism seems to be inversely correlated with the quantity of young men in the particular family grouping. This is not something I find upsetting in the least.)

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  32. MnMark says

    Loughner is a child of the nihilist, relativist Left. He had no interest in politics; he was interested in what he perceived as the meaninglessness of life. He asked Gifford what use politics was if “words have no meaning.” He is what happens when you teach young people that human beings are just evolved animals, and that life is just a meaningless accident of chemical mixtures that happened a few billion years ago. Without meaning, without transcendence, young people can’t see any reason to believe in anything and a few of the most unbalanced of them act out their nihilism and despair. That’s what Loughner was doing – shooting at a crowd of people to prove that nothing has meaning, even mass murder.

    Conservatives believe in transcendent meaning, believe in a Creator, believe in right and wrong, believe that not everything is relative and meaningless. I suppose that an unbalanced mentally ill youth motivated by passionate belief in conservative principals could get so angry with the culture- and civilization-destroying relativists on the Left that they would go on a shooting spree, just as a mentally ill Lefty might blow up a police car or a corporate lab or throw a cement block off an overpass onto a bus full of people going to the Republican convention in St. Paul in 2008, for example. But a young person who goes on a shooting spree because he believes in nothing in anymore, because he believes life is meaningless and relative and empty, is no child of the Right. He’s a child of the postmodern, progressive Left who teach us that we’re nothing but random, meaningless mixtures of chemicals that randomly evolved over time into a meaningless chain of complex chemicals called “life”.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink
  33. howsurprising says

    Conservatives believe in a Creator? Do you know who’s blog you are on?

    progressive Left who teach us that we’re nothing but random, meaningless mixtures of chemicals that randomly evolved over time into a meaningless chain of complex chemicals called “life”.”

    I count at least five ways in which this statement is wrong. Can you guess them?

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:41 am | Permalink
  34. howsurprising says

    Rollory: statements like these are hardly recommendations of your own intelligence and value. Indeed, statements like these, and not the fact that you are conservative, indicate to me that your partisanship has critically impaired your social cognitive function. If I were evaluating you for a management position, I probably wouldn’t hire you. Your statements suggest that you would let personal beliefs and political affiliation, rather than objective measures of ability, dictate your managerial decisions.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:46 am | Permalink
  35. JK says


    Though not precisely Right (as it currently seems to be defined – I self-describe as a Centrist leaning Right) I have no problems agreeing, in part, with your appraisal. At least insofar as warfighting is concerned.

    I’d offer more, but my poor arthritic fingers operate on a laptop just now.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:52 am | Permalink
  36. JK says

    I’ll add, howsurprising (looking further at how you posed it – just my “instinct” mind) but on the specific point that “Obama is not the ‘typical’ Liberal”)

    I think Malcolm “might” agree with that – but then, we’d need take LBJ into the equation – there, I’d speak for no one.

    I best leave now – single finger typing after a lover’s funeral, while she never said it specifically, I can hear her say, “JK, that would suck!”

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink
  37. @Posted January 13, 2011 at 9:36 pm: “Equating your own perceived persecution at the hands of “journalists and pundits” with the very real persecution and genocide of Jews is deeply, deeply offensive to many people. Anyone with a modicum of generosity of spirit would recognize that immediately.”


    The “equating” you speak of, Peter, exists in your own mind. I doubt Palin was even aware of its historical meaning. Anyone with a modicum of clarity of vision could see that this obsession to portray Palin as an ogre is irrational. Deeply, deeply offensive to many people? Besides yourself and other obsessives, who?

    And about that “real world” you speak of? Would that include Sacramento, California and environs? ROTFLMAO

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:16 am | Permalink
  38. JK says

    Oh Crap Malcolm,

    I apologize. I read howdipshitings full comment – and only now realize he’s worse than … maybe less Pollyannish … but definitely having a lesser grip on the world – Peter might not “wish” to press the button for the Hellfire, but he’d order it.

    howdipshiting would hang Palin at Nuremberg because she wouldn’t authorize it.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:26 am | Permalink
  39. howsurprising says

    JK: well you’ve shown yourself to be something of an asshole.

    Perhaps you could be specific about how I have an infirm grip on the world. For your benefit I’ll summarize:

    1. The Obama administration has not been a liberal administration.

    2. The poor state of political discourse that Malcolm bemoans is partially responsible for how Jared Loughner’s mental illness was expressed, and in some sense for what he did. But,

    3. This responsibility is not a simple causal story by which statements or activities made by someone like Palin led to Jared’s crime. Instead it is a matter of general political discourse providing a background environment by which a mental illness might progress and be ultimately expressed in a particular act of political violence.

    4. Thus, while I find that some on the Left injudiciously leaped to lay the blame on whomever their personal conservative villain happened to be, I suggested that:

    5. Not every, nor even a majority, of those who did so, did so with malicious intent, because:

    6 In the context of the same deplorable state of political discourse of which Malcolm despairs, and given the various facts about the location of the crime, the identity of the victim, and so forth, it is understandable why someone may have leaped to particular conclusions, however premature.

    7. I gave my subjective appraisal of the state of discourse that images of violence and expressions of dehumanizing totalizing contempt is more common and in greater intensity from the right than from the left. However:

    8. I called for the (urgent) need for solid and public data on these issues, for the simple, grounded-in-reality reason that solid data is needed for any difficult question, especially one so contested as this.

    I am therefore renamed howdipshiting by my dear fellow citizen, and accused of having my heads in the clouds.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 3:01 am | Permalink
  40. howsurprising says

    howdipshiting would hang Palin at Nuremberg because she wouldn’t authorize it.

    I have no idea what you mean. Must be the arthritis. Here’s a homegrown tip: use tabasco sauce (on the fingers). Or perhaps grip reality a little less tightly; you’re stressing out the hand.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink
  41. Rollory says

    “Your statements suggest that you would let personal beliefs and political affiliation, rather than objective measures of ability, dictate your managerial decisions.”

    I didn’t “suggest” anything. I stated clearly the logic I follow and the reasons for it. You are clearly stating you didn’t even notice that, let alone understand it or address the validity or lack thereof, or appropriate importance to be assigned, for the particular reasons in question. So I should worry about your hiring decisions why, exactly?

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  42. Pierre says

    The only problem with splitting into two countries is the left would never stand for not being able to rob the producers. The producers are not in the blue states. The left needs us far more than we need them…we don’t need them.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  43. Old Atlantic says

    The Left should take itself and all the diversity and go to the 3rd world and never come back.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  44. howsurprising says

    Perhaps you should go back to Europe where you belong, OA. What an attitude!

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  45. howsurprising says

    I disagree with many of the president’s policies, but I believe he is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country’s cause. I reject accusations that his policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals. And I reject accusations that Americans who vigorously oppose his policies are less intelligent, compassionate or just than those who support them.

    John McCain, a more honorable man than many. And probably a sight smarter.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink
  46. howsurprising says

    Malcolm, this seems quite appropriate to the core of your discussion:

    A modern democratic society is characterized not simply by a pluralism of comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines but by a pluralism of incompatible yet reasonable comprehensive doctrines. No one of these doctrines is affirmed by citizens generally. Nor should one expect that in the foreseeable future one of them, or some other reasonable doctrine, will ever be affirmed by all, or nearly all, citizens. Political liberalism assumes that, for political purposes, a plurality of reasonable yet incompatible comprehensive doctrines is the normal result of the exercise of human reason within the framework of the free institutions of a constitutional democratic regime (emphasis added -hs). Political liberalism also supposes that a reasonable comprehensive doctrine does not reject the essentials of a democratic regime. (xvi)

    -John Rawls in Political Liberalism

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  47. Malcolm says

    Rawls is right as regards an ideally balanced society, but only abstractly so, and only up to a point. It is possible for certain doctrines, when implemented, to make irreversible changes in the trajectory of a society, and also to push beyond a “tipping point” the balance of influence between ideological blocs within the society.

    Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  48. howsurprising says

    To make my general point.

    Posted January 21, 2011 at 2:24 am | Permalink