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The New Moderate Goes Radical, Part 2: Lashing Out at the Left

April 16, 2011

All right, I’ve promised you an attack on the excesses of the left this time around — in keeping with my mission as a “fair and balanced” moderate provocateur. I’m an equal-opportunity basher when it comes to enumerating the foibles and follies of our extremist friends.

But (the progressives among you might ask) how can I lambaste the left in good faith when the right is running the show — even under the watch of a purportedly liberal president — at this moment in our history? Don’t I recoil at the monstrous gluttony of the rich, the depredations of Wall Street, the belligerent ignorance of the Tea Partiers, the employees-be-damned attitude of corporate America? Yes, yes, yes and yes! Just read my previous column.

Still, a lingering distaste for the left wells up from my inner regions. Maybe it dates all the way back to the Vietnam era, when scruffy student radicals were disingenuously using an unpopular war to promote a Marxist revolution on the home front. Maybe it springs from my readings in twentieth-century history: how the once-robust Communist movement in the U.S. infiltrated Hollywood and other institutions, applied coercive methods to quash dissent, then — in the most sanctimonious voice imaginable — feigned innocence and indignation when “turncoats” like Elia Kazan outed their warriors in public. Even today, we tend to remember only the abuses of McCarthyism and not the genuine threat posed by the far left during a critical phase of the Cold War. Leftist propaganda has a way of seeping into the culture.

Maybe I still bristle at the abusive rhetoric hurled at white males since the 1960s by radicalized feminists and minority activists. I’m a white male, and believe me, half a century is a long time to be absorbing a steady stream of insults and accusations. Even if their initial grievances were legitimate, these aggressive victimologists succeeded in alienating me with their bilious, bombastic diatribes. Collective guilt is a baseless, primitive and ridiculous concept, and I don’t buy it. So sue me.

But does the left really threaten the American way of life today? Probably not to the extent that we need to panic over it. And shouldn’t we be a little more vigilant in reporting the abuses of the right — especially as it spreads its grasping tentacles over our economy and politics? Yes, we probably should.

Still… the left has wrought its own share of the damage, even during the recent resurgence of the American plutocracy. Where do we begin?

Let’s start with the essential nature of the left: a restless, often relentless political force that would impose reforms based on its own high-minded need to improve the condition of the masses.

Everyone should have access to higher education, they asserted — so now we have millions of disgruntled college graduates laboring at the local Walmart or java joint for want of professional job openings.

Everyone needs a basic income, they reasoned — so we put countless poor people on welfare, rewarded single parenthood and inadvertently spawned a permanent underclass of entitled underachievers.

Everyone should be able to own a house, they told us — so we forced the mortgage companies to lend money against their better judgment, and we all know what happened next.

Everyone should be free to start a new life in America, they exclaimed — so we looked the other way as millions of mostly unskilled immigrants crossed the border illegally, settled down, multiplied abundantly and strained state treasuries to the max. Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos!

In each case, you’ll notice that the instincts were generous, even noble — but the consequences have been (or will soon be) disastrous. Our well-intentioned liberals have a lamentable tendency to ignore the second half of the equation.

Why does the left appear to lack all common sense, especially for a movement supposedly undertaken on behalf of “common” people? It all dates back to the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, championed by an assortment of strange bedfellows (Theodore Roosevelt meets Emma Goldman!). 

Progressivism arose in response to Gilded Age excesses and inequities: the Robber Barons were robbing us blind in pursuit of personal riches. Yes, progressivism was a vital and even heroic movement at the time, and yet… something about it still grates like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. The humorless missionary zeal… the shrillness… the starchy puritanical need to control the appetites of others… the bias in favor of collectivism over individualism… the elitist desire to forge an enlightened citizenry in its own image, if only those unwashed masses would come around to their way of thinking! Sound familiar?

Today’s left is the grandchild of that movement: not identical to it, but clearly a lineal descendant. For me, that fact explains the paradoxical nature of progressivism in America: why a movement ostensibly of, by and for the masses seems to be dominated by privately schooled upper-middle class thinkers and their disciples. 

By now, progressive views are virtually used as a class identifier by upwardly mobile types in search of kindred spirits: if that articulate couple you met at the David Sedaris lecture professes to love NPR, The New Yorker, Salon.com and Keith Olbermann, they might be worth inviting to your next dinner party. The Polish-American plumber who still watches Jay Leno, not so much.

For me, this is the most damning indictment of the modern American left: it reeks of snootiness when you’d think it would descend into the trenches to aid the cause of average working stiffs. Yes, plenty of American liberals still care about the plight of the downtrodden, but generally from a safe distance… and almost as a marker of their own superior social status. Lefty documentarian Michael Moore, for all his faults, actually seems to identify with the beleaguered American proletariat, and I respect him for being true to his creed. By contrast, most of today’s left appears to bask in privilege and self-anointed holiness.

Willfully obnoxious conservative pundit Ann Coulter characterized the American left as a religion, and I have to admit she nailed it. Today’s progressives boast their own saints (Martin Luther King, Mother Jones, Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky), their own taboos (homophobia, overturning Roe v. Wade, and any problems in the black community not attributable to white racism), even their own kosher food (anything organic and preferably vegan). Their world, like that of their despised fundamentalist Christian counterparts, is neatly divided into the saved and the damned.

Smitten with its own sense of infallibility, the left thinks nothing of forcing mass compliance with its doctrines. Think of the French and Russian revolutions… the mass slaughters engineered by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot… the bullying tactics of union thugs… the intolerance of leftist academics toward the rare-bird conservatives and moderates in their departments. Theirs is the one true religion, after all, and the heretics (for example, Harvard president Larry Summers, who suggested aloud that we might investigate why relatively few women become outstanding scientists) are promptly excommunicated.

But like the Protestants they love to belittle, the left contains a multitude of denominations: there’s the women’s left, the African American left, the Latino left, the Native American left, the old-time Jewish left, the polite Quaker/Unitarian left, the rowdy labor left, the environmental left, the artistic left, the media left (mainstream and blogosphere), the Hollywood left (big on collecting Third World children), the atheist left, the lesbian/gay/transgender/transsexual left. Each sect, with the possible exception of the Quakers and Unitarians, is represented in academia with its own Fill-in-the-Blank Studies department. Each identifies primarily with its own “community” (yet another leftish concept) that supersedes one’s archaic physical community or country. (Of course, the super-rich have their own “community” as well, though you won’t see any Plutocracy Studies departments on the nation’s college campuses.)

The odd “boutiquification” of the American left into dozens of special-interest groups, each clamoring for its own entitlements, quotas, holidays and other federally-bestowed favors, will keep it from becoming a potent presence in the political landscape. But the left is a powerful force (too powerful, I should add) in our culture. It still dominates serious public discourse and eagerly shapes our cultural taboos. It maintains absolute rule over the academic world, where it politicizes everything it touches.

Political correctness, with its almost dictatorial insistence on stifling unpalatable truths, is a brainchild of the left. Again, here was a well-intentioned concept (“let’s not trample on any group’s feelings”) that went haywire. So Larry Summers wasn’t allowed to promote research into why more women don’t succeed as scientists. Are we better off for not knowing why? Wouldn’t it have served everyone’s interests if we tossed aside PC considerations and looked for answers that might actually help women succeed in science?

The head-in-the-sand nature of political correctness helps nobody, though it does help tighten that all-important social bond among upwardly mobile urban progressives who listen to NPR, wear Birkenstocks and shop at the local food co-op. After all, isn’t that what being a progressive is all about?

What is to be done? Lenin had his own ideas, and we moderates have ours. Yes, the entrenched interests of the ruling elite still dominate our republic, but we have to remember that the ruling elite isn’t exclusively a right-wing club: powerful lefties like George Soros and even our moderate-liberal president are members in good standing.

Furthermore, it seems increasingly difficult to distinguish the elite right from the elite left. As (liberal) columnist Frank Rich aptly put it, the great struggle of our time isn’t so much between the right and the left, anyway; it’s between the elites and the rest of us. (Maybe we need to discard the old left-right spectrum as our first step toward a moderate revolution.)

As a moderate, I’d prefer not to struggle against any one class at all. I’m not in favor of setting up a guillotine on Wall Street or K Street and watching the heads roll. I’d even go as far as to assert that we need our elites and our masses. I’d simply like to narrow the gap between them before they emerge as two separate and biologically incompatible species. That means imposing regulations on Wall Street, corporate America, Congress and lobbyists as outlined in my earlier diatribe against the right.

It also means knocking the progressive elitists off their high horse before they micromanage us into submission. How? Simply by immunizing ourselves against their most powerful weapon: their ability to belittle us as reactionaries, racists, homophobes and sexists when we choose to dispute their irrational beliefs. This requires a certain fearlessness on our part. As the great Dr. Johnson put it, “I shall never be deterred from detecting what I think a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian.” Nor, I should add, by the guilt-mongering of a progressive ideologue.

Whenever we catch the intellectual left celebrating the Latinization of America, or the legal discrimination of affirmative action, or the decline of the WASP male, or even the latest shock art, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Why is that good?” Then we need to ask it in public.

We need to be bold enough to shrug off the inevitable insults that are likely to be hurled our way; even more important, we must believe inwardly that we’re committing no offense by challenging the holy doctrines of the faith. Just as Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor needed that honest little boy to remind him that he was parading down the street devoid of clothing, our culture needs fearless moderates to stand up and denounce follies wherever we spot them — whether they come to us courtesy of the right or the left.

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. Ian Robertson permalink
    April 16, 2011 6:15 pm

    Can not find a single word here I disagree with.

    Who thinks that Roman Polanski, who as a powerful wealthy 40 year old hollywood celebrity drugged and sodomized a 13 year girl and then skipped the country is a HERO? The hollywood left, notably Woody Allen, a man know for making funny movies and bunking down with his adopted daughter. What hurts more, listening to moral lectures from sanctimonious hypocritical Christian religious bigots, or depraved liberals who don’t think anything at all is wrong?

    At my university the English dept. rose up with mighty indignation following 9 11 to denounce… America! Howard Zinn was invited to lecture and 1000 hippys arrived from god knows where to hear him denouce …. America. Then Wade Churchill got an invite and we exposed him by making his remarks on 9 11 known, which were vile beyond all belief and blamed the victims in the most disgusting terms. The Universsity of Colarado finally fired him as a fraud, an Indian activist whose claim on Indian status proved to be skethy. The NY Times wrote news stories, not even editorials but actual news stories, about the “repression of dissent in academia” following 9 11.

    I don’t know if you have ever watched South Park, but the creators refer to the liberal off gassing as “Smug” as in There is so much smug in the neighborhood today my eyes hurt.

    If you argue with your liberal friends they will be happy to just ignore your existence thereafter with their noses in the air. Its called “shunning.” Liberals call that “Tolerance”.

    And it all starts from basically nice impulses as you noted, and then goes overboard and becomes an illness.

    • April 17, 2011 10:50 am

      Ian: Thanks for the moral support. There’s definitely an abundance of “smug” wafting from the left these days; I think self-congratulation is one of their basic needs. And yes, I could have added “shunning” to the list of similarities between liberalism and religion.

      Hard to believe your school actually staged a rally against America after 9/11, but then it’s really not so hard to believe. I’ll have to get my hands on Zinn’s People’s History one of these days, just out of morbid curiosity.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        April 19, 2011 11:15 am

        Hi Rick, I have to admit it was not the school itself that sponsored the anti-US speakers, it was the campus radicals, who were led by the English Dept. Somehow, English departments have become the destination of choice for childish radical professors who want to teach phony economics without a licence. Not just at “Groovy UV” but everywhere. At UVM there were at least two young women who were ISO members who went around stirring up the far left. I mean, have you ever read the ISO paper? The one campus radicals hand you and then demand a dollar for? Its childish beyond belief, but at UVM English Department professors were writing articles for it! It would be hard to find a member of the ISO older than 22, people just outgrow that nonsense and become ordinary liberals and progressives after college.

        One of the ISO women English professors made the public statement that plagerism is fine and that she used to do it all the time. I think maybe she was hoping to get fired and then have a shot at a political lawsuit. But she is still “teaching.” Another woman from the English faculty accosted a member of the political science dept. in front of students and accused him of being a Nazi. She actually did get reprimanded.

        I went to see Zinn speak and when he asked the audience if anyone in it supported the invasion of Afghanistan I was the only one who stood up. After that the hippies behind me made a point of clapping at everything Zinn said with their hands two inches from my ear. In fairness, if it was a rightwing gathering I would not have contradicted the speaker, or if I had I would have been treated a lot worse than the handclapping next to my ear.

        I saw two ultraliberal members of the UVM faculty at a political science event around that time and I told them in strong terms how little I thought of Howard Zinn and his type of dishonest ideological history. They just stared at me with large sad brown eyes. You know, their intentions are good, but they live in their own subculture and just get carried away with their attacks on the US.

  2. April 16, 2011 7:23 pm

    The total domination of political discourse by the left is most obvious in your opening critique of the right. The underlying thesis of you short diatribe against various elements of the right is that free individuals are powerless and need a strong government to protect them from evil greedy business. As your remarks demonstrate, the left owns the discourse, and the facts be damned. You blame the right for the symbiotic relationship between government and corporations, yet the predominate corporate rent seeking efforts you identify are progressive.

    I have problems with the right – the same problem I have with the left. Though the issues are different the presumption is still that we must shed a significant portion of our personal freedom, in return for a different permutation of the nanny state.

    Beyond that I would argue that most of your critique of the left is of symptoms. The core fallacy of progressive ideology is that it is even possible for government to better solve any problem than free individuals can do on their own. Progressivism is micromanagement of our lives by our purported betters – and though the left may put a better spin on that, they do not essentially disagree with that characterisation.

    I just returned from seeing “Hair” which remind me that in the 60’s freedom was still an important aspect of liberalism. That we were free to do as we pleased so long as we were not hurting anyone else. So much has changed.

    • April 17, 2011 11:21 am

      Government doesn’t necessarily reflect a progressive agenda when it simply provides needed services without going overboard. For example, after the crash of 2008 it would have made sense for the government to create temporary federal job programs (a la the WPA or CCC) to put people to work, since the private sector certainly wasn’t doing it. And (to cite a much different example) imagine if our national parks were run by private interests rather than the government: they’d probably be littered with motels, restaurants and game arcades.

      That said, I agree with your astute definition of progressivism… what’s objectionable about progressivism is not only the micromanagement but the assumption that the unwashed masses require micromanaging by their more enlightened superiors; e.g., the decision by San Francisco to ban McDonald’s Happy Meals.

      You also make a poignant observation about the ’60s. I don’t know if you were there, but I was. The antiwar radicals used to infuriate me with their relentless Marxist agenda, but I had a little more affection for the hippies (though I wasn’t one of them, alas). Unfortunately, the left has abandoned the playfulness and free spirit of the hippie culture while retaining the disingenuous agenda-driven fanaticism of the student radicals.

      • July 8, 2011 2:12 am

        I would suggest reading Bastiat’s Broken Window. The fallacy and failure of government efforts to aide the economy is in failing to account for the unseen costs. Certainly government can create jobs by just hiring people. Keynes famously proposed digging holes and filling them up. But everything government does starts at a cost that we routinely fail to account for. Government spending for any purpose no matter how lofty comes from the real economy. So when you create public jobs programs, you remove money from the economy killing jobs. The exact mechanism and specifically who gets hurt varies based on how the government finances its efforts at doing good. Borrowing, printing money, and taxing each have different bad effects. There are some liberal studies emerging in the media now noting that the Quantitative Easing disproportionately helped the rich and harmed the poor – Duh!
        As to private business running our parks – its being done, very successfully,
        http://www.coyoteblog.com/ though technically this is really just private management as opposed to truly making the parks private. Regardless, real free markets satisfy peoples, needs, wants and desires. That is not a new observation check out Smith. Markets are not perfect – though they are actually improving as the quality of information and the global interconnectivity improves. Regardless nothing else comes anywhere near close to accurately meeting the varied needs, wants and desires of the greatest possible number of us.
        You rant about the tirades of Marxists in the 60’s. The conception that government can do a job as well as the private sector is logically inseparable from Marxism.
        Yes I was around during the 60’s. Beyond Panther’s and SDA, Hippies, and Weathermen, and marxists of all ilks, there was a large body of just left leaning youth, but this was a leftism that embraced freedom.
        Ultimately it failed – because freedom and progressivism are anti-podal.

  3. ejp permalink
    April 17, 2011 9:12 am

    So I find it somewhat funny that this critique of the left is so flimsy. By flimsy I do not mean weak as I tend to agree with all of it, but just lacking anything important and terribly incisive. When we hear the left complaining about the latest scheme of the right to place more risk upon the individual rather than society all we hear are arguments that sound remarkably like the one you wrote here (in terms of real things you can work from). Lacking real punch and without a coherent theme or quick sound bite that the right so often uses so effectively. Although many of these arguments are spot on where can you turn this into real action, what should the moderate do to affect real change from their left leaning friends?

    As you stated the upwelling of progressivism started during the robber baron era seems like a nicely fit comparison to society today but the left does not seem able to change the debate. Right now the right has put all debate on things like the “nanny” state, abortion, class warfare type crap, and other non-issues. They have convinced a whole sector of society that if you are blessed by god you should be wealthy and upwardly mobile (Benny Hinn without the prayer lines) and because of this you should be willing to assume more risks to you and your family’s future (401K’s, private small group based heath insurance, private medicare, and investing social security in the stock market) even on a 50K per year salary. The mere fact that they suggest it shows who is running the country, just follow the money all of those things are a massive boon to private interests yet we are arguing about abortion and welfare queens when we should be arguing about just who is running the government.

    The real criticism of the left at least from my perspective is the fact that they cannot seem to ever grab the national discussion and talk about real issues. This country has been taken over by huge money interests that will sacrifice anything for the stock price. Look at the whole mortgage crisis, the base reason for the bubble is that the system was able to ignore a major structural problem with the financial world because commenting on the emperors new clothes would cause the stock market to fall. We all paid the price for the financials world’s lack of effective long term vision and interest in short term gain yet there have been no real changes in corporate accountability nor any actual punishment handed out. That is what we should be talking about, yet the party of the people cannot seem to get out of the gutter and bring real debate to the floor in any meaningful way.

    I think the real reason for that is that both sides are equally flawed within our system, they are both bought and paid for and although it seems like they two parties have different interests all the real flow of money and power comes from the same 1% of people and corporate lobbyists. Note the striking similarities between Obama and Bush in terms of spending.. it seems that really nothing changed. Obama is spending the same off the books money on war, more money to bailout the banks, effectively caved on the health care reform (he just put more people into the same broken system) and did nothing about actual reform and oversight of the financial sector. Are they really any different? Most of the political debate today is just show. The left is the party who should be changing that if they were to wear their true colors. They cannot because they are just as corrupt. That is their real failing.

  4. April 17, 2011 12:50 pm

    ejp: Thought-provoking introductory post — welcome to our little bunker in the middle. The left is fragmented into scattered special interests, which is probably why they don’t have more impact on national politics. Their stronghold is academia, where they totally rule, especially in the liberal arts and social sciences.

    You’re right that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between Bush and Obama at the moment, other than the fact that Obama is more deliberate and measured (we might add “overly cautious,” but that’s a refreshing change from Bush’s cowboy persona). I have to wonder how a liberal president could be so tight with the honchos on Wall Street, and I have to conclude that elites are elites; they know and understand each other. I’m not exactly a populist (I don’t trust the judgment of “the masses,” either), but we’re definitely being ruled by “the same 1%” you mentioned, and that’s not good.

    As for solutions… I think they have to begin with election reform, which would reduce the power of the lobbies along with the power of the professional politicoes in Washington. After that, it’s up to us moderates to speak up more loudly and frequently.

    • Ejp permalink
      April 17, 2011 11:03 pm

      Thanks Rick I have been a long time reader and I very much like the site and discussion here. I have found my self becoming more and more progressive as I age and the more I lean the way the more I actually become more disillusioned with the left. As with most around here I feel the republicans have actually lost touch with reality and as you said the left is so fragmented as to be useless. Hence the need for real middle ground and I agree very much with your mention of election reform and the fact that a president with a more measured and deliberate approach is a good thing, I am very relieved to be done with Bush.

      Anyway I will keep reading and enjoying the content here. Keep up the great work.

  5. Priscilla permalink
    April 18, 2011 3:12 pm

    Kudos, Rick, an excellent post….not sure that I agree that the right is “running the show,” but otherwise I’m hard- pressed to disagree with much here.

    The main problem with progressives is their willful determination to always travel that road to hell – you know, the one that is paved with good intentions. For them, equality of outcomes will always trump equality of opportunity, even if we all end up poorer as a result. It is why progressives can continue to support labor unions and affirmative action long after both of those institutions have outlived their positive value to our society.

    The reactionary right wingers of the 60’s were people who could not understand the changes that were taking place in their world, so they reacted with rage and anger at “women’s lib”, gay rights, desegregation etc….. It seems to me that the reactionaries of today are the left wingers, who saw government step in and mandate the end of discrimination and became true believers that the government can right all wrongs and dictate that life be fair.

    • valdobiade permalink
      April 19, 2011 1:27 pm

      Priscilla wrote: It is why progressives can continue to support labor unions and affirmative action long after both of those institutions have outlived their positive value to our society.
      =========

      Please don’t tell me that labor unions and affirmative action have ever had a “positive value to our society”. What exactly was the “positive value” of those institutions?

      And if you admit the positive value, what exactly makes it “outlived” in these times when racism is kicking like in ’50 and jobs outsourcing are like never before?

      • Priscilla permalink
        April 20, 2011 7:59 am

        Well, valdo, I think that there was a time when unions protected workers from exploitation by employers ….but, now, due to increased government regulation of business and the growth of unionism, it is more likely that unions exploit business. In some ways, I guess, unions are victims of their own success, but, more than that, they have become bloated and corrupt organizations, willing to destroy businesses and jobs in order to insure their own survival. And public employee unions have basically become money laundering organizations for Democratic party politicians.

        I agree with you that affirmative action was never the best answer to racism and sexism….although there was a time, briefly, back in the 70’s when its imposed quotas and reverse racism may have righted some wrongs – sort of a “two wrongs make a right” method.

        Not sure where your comment about racism “kicking in like in 50” comes from, though – haven’t noticed any segregated schools or restaurants……..and as far as outsourcing goes – I totally agree (at least I think we’re agreeing, lol) that big unionism has caused millions of jobs to be sent offshore. In one of my comments on a previous post, I mentioned that there are no more light bulb factories in the US because incandescent bulbs are now illegal and unions have made the labor-intensive process of making compact flourescents too expensive for companies to profit by making them here in the US.

    • April 19, 2011 7:54 pm

      Thanks, Priscilla… I’m afraid I stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest on my Facebook page. Nothing major, but it definitely drew some heated responses.

      I think it’s telling that I hesitated a few days after writing this post before I put it on Facebook. Despite professing that we moderates should state our views boldly, without fear of recrimination, I felt a strange force preventing me from doing so… almost like a magnet pushing against the wrong end of another magnet. What does that say about the inhibitions we absorb from a liberal-dominated culture? I felt no such inhibition sounding off against the right, because it’s become culturally acceptable (almost mandatory) to do so.

      • Priscilla permalink
        April 20, 2011 8:21 am

        I hear ya, Rick. After Juan Williams was fired by NPR for daring to express an opinion that “went off of the reservation”, he wrote an excellent column on liberal unwillingness to even address any viewpoints different from their own, their contempt for anyone who might hold those opinions, and their belief that the holders of those opinions must not only be disregarded, but destroyed. And he IS a liberal, albeit one who appears on Fox News and therefore a traitor to the cause, I suppose.

        To me it comes down to the fact that the left has become reactionary and unwilling to accept change. Any narrative that does not support the continuation and expansion of its agenda is wrong, bad, stupid, etc. Even moderate opinions are a threat, if they dare to suggest that there may be another way to address issues or if they DARE to suggest that the left’s way may not be the best…..or, WORST OF ALL, that a conservative solution has real merit.

        Oh yeah, and I never comment on political FB threads anymore – too afraid of offending someone with my opinions.

  6. valdobiade permalink
    April 19, 2011 1:04 pm

    Ian wrote: I went to see Zinn speak and when he asked the audience if anyone in it supported the invasion of Afghanistan I was the only one who stood up.
    ===========

    Wow! That made you kindda martyr.

    The ones who were for the war in Afghanistan had only one idea: “let’s strike the terrorists”, but those who were against had a lot of nuanced views about why the US should not go in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the opponents of war are labeled anti-Americans and unpatriotic since… ever.

    I was not against a war to wipe out the terrorists, I was just questioning why we go at war with Afghanistan when 90% of terrorists implicated in 9/11 attack were Saudis. I still believe that we cannot get Osama bin Laden because he is hidden by his family in Saudi Arabia. But why attack an oil family when you can continue the Crusade with a war in Iraq to take care of the other oil field?

    • April 19, 2011 7:59 pm

      Valdo: I think the Iraq war was a classic example of what the merchandising world calls “bait and switch”: we couldn’t deliver Osama bin Laden, so we had to settle for a slightly inferior product: Saddam Hussein. But at what cost!

  7. sicklygreyfoot permalink
    April 19, 2011 7:12 pm

    This http://www.amconmag.com/blog/the-critic-as-radical/ is a wonderful critique of T. S. Eliot, a long time favorite of religious right wing conservatives, by one of my favorite websites/magazines, The American Conservative. If you aren’t familiar, don’t be fooled by said publication’s title; the contributing writers eviscerate the right wing every bit as much as the left wing. You’ve been warned.

    I bring up Eliot because of dhl’s mention of liberalism as represented by the film “Hair,” and such related things. “So much has changed” from the liberalism that stood for reason and freedom, dhl says. But I think this simplistic view is part of the problem.

    Of course those, among other things, are what liberalism intended (and intends). I proclaim this, proudly, as a liberal myself. But the aforementioned film’s advocacy of unrestrained libertarianism was not coveted by all liberals at that time. Many liberals then, and today, condemn such juvenile selfishness. In the practical social paradigm, liberalism is not the antithesis to conservatism, merely an alternate idea. Alternatives are not required to oppose. There is value in the restraint of conservatism, and any conscientious liberal knows this.

    But as the TAC points out, Eliot, like many worthwhile intellectuals, was full of paradoxes. Or so modern polemic contenders would gather. Eliot in many ways was an extreme conservative, and yet was very mistrustful of capitalism. He believed in the freedom for all that America represented, but advocated a very strong central government. Is this impotent duality, a dichotomy that is ultimately self-destructive? Or is it the inevitable ebb and flow of an honest and deeply intellectual mind?

    I stated that Eliot is a favorite of religious rightists. I did so because I wonder how many of them know that half of that particular poet’s opinions would sharply oppose their own. What also makes the Eliot allusion interesting is that he has always been a favorite of leftists, as well. For opposite reasons, obviously, but that’s the point. One writer…the favorite of two entities who presently identify themselves as mutual mortal enemies.

    The Left and the Right. When we started glorifying these distinctions beyond the practicality of mere taxonomy into overzealous tribalism, we lost the essential component to productive discourse. The Left’s categorical condemnation of capitalism despite its irrefutable benefits; the Right’s refusal to acknowledge that any and all successful governments throughout history were at least SOMEWHAT socialistic…this blind whitewashing for the sake of collective catharsis is simply childish.

    One more note: To be fair, at the end of “Hair,” Dan Savage’s character, despite inner turmoil brought on by the recalcitrance evoked by his new friends, takes on the responsibility he’d accepted and went off into the military. This shows you that “Hair’s” writers and filmmakers weren’t entirely the one-sided hippies the film might suggest. A number of fictional works suffer the same stigma from rabid ideologues. It really is disheartening that so many people see only what they WANT to see.

    Good post, Mr. Bayan.

  8. April 19, 2011 8:12 pm

    greyfoot: Good to see you here again. I’m running out of time for a lengthy comment, but you made an interesting point about the paradox of someone like T. S. Eliot.

    There’s a strain of Tory conservatism, particularly in the England of yore, that regarded capitalism with an aristocratic disdain. (“Sink me, Sir, but I cannot abide those demned shopkeepers!”) I can understand it… back in the 18th century, capitalism represented modernism and progress; it seemed antithetical to the settled feudal basis of society in which everyone knew his place. (Interestingly enough, the 18th century philosophy behind capitalism is known as classical liberalism.)

    Eliot, consummate social snob that he was, undoubtedly came to identify with the English aristocracy and adopted its brand of paleoconservatism. And today’s elite progressives identify with Eliot’s disdain for capitalism. Meanwhile, the conservatives embrace him for his High-Church Toryism. Strange bedfellows.

  9. valdobiade permalink
    April 20, 2011 2:25 pm

    Priscilla wrote: … that big unionism has caused millions of jobs to be sent offshore.
    ===

    Thank you for making me see the other side!

    I was always believed that unions actually defends the rights of working class (mostly blue-collars). I’ve lived 25 years in a Communism and 25 in a Capitalism. Communist trade unions did sometime a good job even if it was mostly controlled by the Communist Party. At least you had a place where to complain if work conditions were to harsh, and sometime improvement was done.

    In the US, trade unions did defend some workers rights (from what I’ve read). My experience with trade union in the US was 15 years ago when I was working in a big manufacturing company. A group of guys tried to unionize so everybody get a better salary because a salary list happened to transpire and there was a very big discrepancy among workers who did the same job. The company was emerging from a small company to a big one, but at that time it made a lot of profits. I’ve seen the management fighting back against our incipient trade union. The management closed down the company through a massive lay off, changed the name of the company and started again with different workers. Beautiful!

    We weren’t a powerful trade union like those that through their egotistic machinations send the jobs offshore. However, American workers still need some kind of action over the big corporations. For example, I started a job 4 year ago with a salary that was OK, but now it is not because of the raise of price for gas, natural gas, electricity, insurances, etc, from monopolistic corporations. I remember when the first time the price of gas went through roof (about 3-4 years ago), California corporations that control the prices of gas, did not let other companies from other US states to bring a cheaper gas!

    I cannot get a trade union to force my boss to raise salaries because of monopolistic greedy corporations that are raising the prices artificially to become “successful”. The government does not intervene because the bigger the prices the big revenue from taxes. So what’s the solution if some kind of organizations like trade unions, or some government control actually make the matter worse?

    • Priscilla permalink
      April 20, 2011 5:49 pm

      You’re right, valdo, all of us “common folk” are pretty much screwed by big business, big labor and big government these days. For example, you have our president claiming to stand against corporate and Wall Street greed and, the next thing you know, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE is appointed head of the president’s “jobs and competitiveness” commission while GE outsources 50,000 jobs to India. Also, Immelt took advantage of GE’s special treatment under TARP to pick up $30.9 million in executive compensation over the last three years, while GE shareholders suffered a 46% loss as the company’s shares collapsed from $35 to $19. Just like Bush before him, Obama is a crony capitalist – both parties do it…but how to stop it?

      I agree with Rick that lobbying, i.e. the buying of politicians, is largely at the root of all of this evil, but I don’t think that we can prevent lobbying entirely. Term limits may help, although I’m not personally in favor of them. I would rather see voters enforce term limits by voting out corrupt politicians of both parties and voting in the ones who understand and support ethical free market capitalism….. but that would require a well-informed electorate. And with the state of education and journalism today, I’m not too sure that’s gonna happen. 😦 But it is the main reason that I see the Tea Party as a good thing, not a bad one. For all its faults, it’s primary mission is to hold government accountable to the voters, not to corporate and union interests.

      • valdobiade permalink
        April 20, 2011 7:14 pm

        Priscilla,
        It seems that you are very well documented and informed. However, just when we discuss about what could be a way to improve things, Donald Trump wants to be a candidate for US presidency. He seems to be supported by the Tea Party, but that makes Tea Party as if they support a greedy and insensitive to American needs person.
        Under Clinton, the market went up, people had jobs; under Bush the market and jobs went down; under Trump, I guess, the market will go up but people won’t be laid off, they will hear: “you’re fired!”

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        April 21, 2011 11:03 am

        Valdo, I can tell you that if Trump were to be elected I would no longer be a moderate, I’d join my state’s Independence movement ( which I am heartily against now) and work my but off for Vermont Independence. A Trump (or Palin) presidency would really mean that the premise of the movie Idiocracy has already come true and the that good old USA as we know is deceased.

        In one way the Trump candidacy makes me understand the people who have lost their minds over Obama, because it puts me in the position of understanding what its like to feel that the POTUS is someone who is beyond the pale, someone who is the antithesis of my idea of a US president. That is what the right wingers feel about Obama. I don’t agree with them but Trump makes me able to recognize that kind of pain that they are feeling.

        I don’t that that Trump can be elected, but there have been many I did not think could be elected, going back to Reagan, and I was wrong. Probably a Trump candidacy is a Good thing for Obama and the democrats and just shows how lost Republicans are , but God forbid if he won.

        One more reason we moderates need to have more organized clout.

        Right now I am reading “Idiot America” which is mostly about right wing idiocy. It seems appropriate with Trump running.

  10. Kent Garshwiler permalink
    April 20, 2011 3:46 pm

    Rick, There is nothing for me to say upon this as everyone has picked up something to speak of that is in question of the left.

    What I have learned is if someone tells you that they have all the answers to do the right thing….it is usually a lie. No one is perfect. The person will fix the problem you observe their way and most likely not your way. When you question their way it is by “good intentions”.

    “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”….. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

    All you have to do is look at the Conservative-Left-wing side of the National Socialist Party of Nazi Germany. They had “good intentions” for the people. They sucked up the wealth, collaborated with the rich, forced corporations to do “good things” sometimes against individuals (particularly Jews) for kick-backs.

    Religious and Humanists have the agenda to drive people to do certain things for their own pleasure (greed). It is a human trait, but what lacks is their ability to put logic ahead of their own emotional wants.

    I could rant about what the left argues about the right and the right about the left, but to me it is a waste of time than stating the fact that both think they are right without an emotion to compromise on logic and that they abuse common sense to serve their own pleasures (greed).

  11. valdobiade permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:46 pm

    Ian wrote: In one way the Trump candidacy makes me understand the people who have lost their minds over Obama…
    =======

    Ian, it reminds me how Obama was elected. The people wanted anything but a president like Bush. Even Republicans avoided Bush in the end, but they would not believe that a black man, or a woman can be elected President of US. So they put a white man to candidate for them, decrepit indeed but a white man nonetheless, for them Cain was as good as elected, even with Palin at his side (“do you want a woman in power, look here is the One: young and beautiful, not like Hillary!”) Imagine the shock when Obama was elected! Who in the right mind will vote for a black man?

    Even now when Obama seems to switch to Republican views, Republicans don’t like him too much. Trump, again wants to bet that a black man won’t be re-elected, so he is fighting on a stupid front: Where is Obama birth certificate (the long one)? Do you think that Obama would be kissed and hugged by Republicans if he shows the long birth certificate? Do you think that by miracle the whole US economy will be revived if Trump is right that Obama was born outside US but lived his entire life in Hawaii?

    • Kent Garshwiler permalink
      April 22, 2011 3:55 pm

      Valdo/Ian/Priscilla:

      The pendulum is swinging to the right again, but how far? Trump is playing for the center. Yet, he doesn’t have a clue what he stands on with the issues. He seems to be “center-right” moderate or a right-wing liberal conservative.

      When asked for abortion the other day…he looked stumped. You can’t look like you never thought about it politically. You can say other things to avoid answering the question. Which is what politicians do or you can say “I will give it some thought” with an excuse that he “doesn’t expect to have a child because he is a male” kind of response.

      He is catering to the Tea Party! No question!! Where is our “Centrist Party” composed of Moderates with some Centrist Ideology that knows all the issues and has defined a “balanced” approach to these questions being asked?

      Trump is a “bumbling” man. Smart, but very unbalanced because he isn’t coached on the issues. He needs a good strategist. Centrist Ideology would be good to coach him on what to say, when to say it and to change his approach to how to win over people. Although, I question whether he can separate himself from thinking that “money is good” all the time. I can sometimes see “dollars” in his eyes rather than using logic or common sense.

      In short, He needs re-educated when speaking about issues politically. He is a “fire” in a “cold freezer”. He’s melting hearts around him, but if he doesn’t find a heat source he’s going to cool down. His “bumbling” is his downfall if he doesn’t “wise up”.

      This “birther” thing is something he needs to pass over and go for Obama’s jugular on other issues. He has the stamina to take on Obama because he calls people out and he’s a statesman, but he needs a good lesson of what he’s up against on the issues rather than what he knows by just observing.

      Snooki, Brad/Angelina or whatever??? They aren’t running are they?? Do they have an education on thinking about the issues other than being famous??

      The media likes Trump because he’s bumbling. It’s like the real politicians joking about Trump at their fund-raising parties. If Trump was serious the media would be looking for flaws on Trump and denouncing him as a threat rather than stalking him unless someone wants Trump to win. I highly doubt Buffett or Soros are backing him.

      • Kent Garshwiler permalink
        April 22, 2011 4:05 pm

        Unless Soros would like to back Trump in order to break the Tea Party into something smaller. It would be a shame to see money “trump” the Tea Party. The center would be “stepped” upon really hard for their transgressions in the Nov. ’10 election.

        This is even more reason for some Centrist Party to “step up” or this pendulum is going to stay stuck in far left ideology for the next four years.

      • Priscilla permalink
        April 23, 2011 10:02 am

        Yes, you’re exactly right Kent…although I’d go a little further and say that the media loves Trump now because he’s a bumbling Republican, embarrassing conservatives and taking center stage away from the rest of the candidates. They see him not only as a famous and, therefore, newsworthy candidate, but someone who can draw support away from more legitimate GOP candidates that might otherwise have a chance to beat Obama in a general election.

        I still don’t think it’s gonna happen, though. I think, after all is said and done, we will see that this is one big publicity stunt that the Donald has played on a vapid and willing press, for the purpose of having the biggest ratings in history for the season finale of his show…..the show on which he claims he will announce his “decision.”

        Nero fiddling while Rome burns……….

  12. Priscilla permalink
    April 21, 2011 3:59 pm

    Donald Trump has chosen to insert himself into the GOP presidential field, and is using the celebrity-obsessed media to get his incoherent ideas in the headlines every day. He is using all of the techniques that he has described in his book, “The Art of the Deal” to manipulate the generally moronic “reporters” that inform us on a day-to-day basis what is news and what is not. Apparently, Trump is news. He is to the Republican primary what Al Sharpton was to the Democrats last time around.

    You do make a good point, Ian, about many people feeling that Obama is the antithesis of an American president. I think that is true, and I think that Trump has been able to capitalize on that, and not just by bringing up the birth certificate issue. He has also called attention to Obama’s constant class warfare rhetoric, his vision of America as a welfare state, and his epic fail as a foreign policy president.

    So….although I would certainly not want to see a President Trump – and I don’t think that we will (he hasn’t even officially declared himself a candidate, it’s all just talk right now) – it has been interesting, and kind of disheartening to see just how much buzz he’s been able to generate just because he is a famous guy with a popular TV show. Heck, maybe one day we’ll see President Snooki 😉

    • valdobiade permalink
      April 21, 2011 8:28 pm

      Priscilla wrote: Heck, maybe one day we’ll see President Snooki
      =======

      Give Snooki a chance!

  13. Ian Robertson permalink
    April 22, 2011 9:49 am

    I’m one of those lucky people who does not know who snooki is. And believe it or not I would not recognize Brad or Angela and I have not seen a single show or movie starring that other woman in their triangle, whatshername.

    But I do remember a remark Homer Simpson made in an episode set in the future (years ago when my kids were small and we watched TV) that Fox had morphed into a porn channel so slowly he almost had not noticed it.

    My prediction: by 2050 we will have had one president who is a former porn star and by 2080 the Constitution will be amended to Require some porn experience before a person can run for office.

    Our present Vermont governor, by the way, has a libido that rivals Clinton’s and runs around with 20 year olds when he goes on “fact finding trips” to tropical nations. That I do unfortunately hear about, while not knowing much about Bradgelina.

    Is there anyone in US politics who Doesn’t have a bag of money in their freezer or isn’t having an affair with their 20 year old aid, or isn’t using US government funds to hire prostitutes? Is there one single person in our congress whose morals are better than hollywood’s?

    Balance the budget? Those #@$%^ are more likely to be found balancing on a highwire in a swinger’s club holding a jar of vaseline in one hand and a cucumber in the other, while farm animals whine plaintively in the background. But we will reelect 98% of them anyway to insure that pork does not run dry in our home state. OK, I’m ranting, things aren’t really that bad, right?

  14. valdobiade permalink
    April 22, 2011 12:54 pm

    Ian wrote: OK, I’m ranting, things aren’t really that bad, right?
    —–

    Ranting is good in bad times but also in good times. It is the pleasure the plebeians enjoys 🙂
    Back in my Communist Romania we called it “haz de necaz” – making fun of bad luck

    When you talked about Vermont governor, it reminded about Silvio Berlusconi (Il Cavaliere) the PM of Italy, also a fornicator. I guess that any man who gets in power loves to escape the family and became an adulterer, it is part of enjoying the power. When women get in power they like to enjoy power by……… (can a woman fill in the blanks for me?)
    Palin bought a lot of stuff even before getting in power… I don’t know what Angela Merkel is enjoying… for sure not a back massage from a US President (remember how repulsed was when Bush tried to give her a massage in public?)

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      April 22, 2011 1:25 pm

      Valdo, Berlesconnini (I cannot spell his name any more than I can spell the name of Ahmednutjob in Iran) is exactly the correct analogy. They are both rich. Our gov has a wife (ex-wife?) he has been embarrassing for years and years. 50% of Vermonters hate him. Your analogy is spot on.

      As a non sequiter to our gov, but a sequiter to Romanian communists, I have a joke, I know it in Russian (forgive me), which is either Hungarian or Romanian (I’m not trying to confuse the two, but it speaks of the communist economic realities).

      A Romanian man bought a new gas stove for his flat. The gas company comes to look at the premises.

      “So, When can you come and install my gas stove?” He is given a date of April 5 of the next year.

      “What? That is not possible, how can that be?”

      “That is our first opening sir. ”

      “No, you don’t understand, you can’t come then, that is the date the phone company is coming to install my phone!”

      I hope this brings a former Iron curtain dweller a smile!

      • valdobiade permalink
        April 22, 2011 2:00 pm

        Ian, what are you talking about? We did not have gas or telephone then 🙂

  15. August 15, 2011 2:27 pm

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any solutions to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    • Anonymous permalink
      August 15, 2011 3:13 pm

      “Plagorism”… nope… no issues.
      “Copyright”… hmm… try to “Copyleft” sometime.
      We are copycenter / moderates.

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