Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stupid American politics

Our politics is so stupid. The right is piling onto Obama for some perfectly valid remarks he made that dared to reference "bitterness". This kind of crap will keep happening, he will be damaged, the Democrats will continue to engage in fratricide, and we'll end up with a bomb-bomb-Iran McCain administration. Fuck. Not that I'm under any illusions that a Democratic administration would usher in utopia, but there's less chance of another nightmare of craziness, evil, and incompetence.

This guy (Mark Ames) is my new god:
But what if the Truth is that Americans don't want to know the Truth? What if Americans consciously choose lies over truth when given the chance—and not even very interesting lies, but rather the blandest, dumbest and meanest lies? What if Americans are not a likeable people? The left's wires short-circuit when confronted with this terrible possibility; the right, on the other hand, warmly embraces Middle America's rank soul and exploits it to their full advantage. The Republicans know Americans better than the left. They know that it's not so much Goering's famous "bigger lie" that works here, but the dumber the lie, the more they want to hear it repeated.
And his description of the Bush administation as "Inspector Clouseau meets the Book of Revelations".

via Sadly, No!

Or maybe the American people will surprise me.


Anonymous said...

The Mark Ames quote about "Middle America's rank soul" is of a piece with Obama's characterizations about bitterness, guns, and religion. There is a telling story about Adlai Stevenson in this vein. After one of his supporters had remarked that "Gov. Stevenson will have the votes of all thinking Americans," Adlai replied that there wouldn't be enough to elect him.

The persistent failure of the left in U.S. politics is that it can never adequately conceal its contempt for the people it wishes to rule.

mtraven said...

Oh, what crap. If you read the Mark Ames piece you will find that his thesis is that leftists have insufficient contempt for the public, compared to the Republicans who know how to play to the basest of emotions.

For the record, here is Obama'a quote in context. If this is "contempt", it's not a form I recognize:

OBAMA: So, it depends on where you are, but I think it's fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre...I think they're misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class don't wanna work -- don't wanna vote for the black guy.' That's...there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it's sort of a race thing.

Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

Remember the old saying that "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Vinegar is still milder than vitriol, which is all that leftists of the Mark Ames variety have to offer the white working class. In purely practical terms, it is not a recipe for electoral success.

mnuez said...

I'm pretty sure you'll like Matt Taibbi's view of American politics:

My own opinion is that the stupidity and malleability of the masses is SO well documented that to seem to "discover" it at any point past the age of 22 or to point to it specifically with regard to political matters is to present oneself in a less than flattering light.

The masses are SOOO goddamned stupid and able to be led by the nose that it might be best for one's emotional health to write them off entirely.


mnuez said...

Hah! It looks like Ames and Taibbi are actually bananas of the same bunch. Interesting how that small blurb made me think of Taibbi, I guess there is such a thing as an intellectual culture that arises, and can be traced to, real world connections.


mnuez said...

Oh and calling them "bananas of the same bunch" is meant to imply any implicit disagreement with the views they express. I just happen to hundgy right now.

mnuez said...

*hungry*, damn it. Where's blogger's automatic spellchecker??

TGGP said...

Mark Ames is the founder of the eXile, best known for the War Nerd. I saw Ames on tv talking about his book "Postal", and he seemed dumb to me. He's right though.
The left's problem is that it idealizes "the people". Why else work so nobly on their behalf? Any problems must be excused away as not their fault.

mnuez said...

Ach! Shame on you TP! I've spent the past two hours reading everything I could about Postal! :-)

Oh, and I happen to think that it's wonderful. He may be dumb for all I know but all that I've read by him in the past few hours (interviews and excerpts) don't appear to back that up whatsoever. Might it be however that you and I are prejudiced regarding his intelligence on account of where we stand regarding how we feel about his thesis?

Anonymous said...

TGGP has the left's dilemma neatly summarized. It claims to act in the interests of "the people," but those people aren't buying. The response - whether Ames's outright disdain, or the patronizing attitude displayed by Stevenson and Obama - is like that of a jilted suitor.

The hatred of the American left for the white working class has been evident ever since the 'sixties, when collegiate anti-war protesters - mostly pampered scions of the upper middle class - clashed with 'hatd hats.' The latter were long ago written off by the left, which foundf it more profitable to pursue an alternate strategy of cultivating the welfare-dependent as well as constituencies of the aggrieved or socially marginalized drawn from higher strata, such as feminists and homosexuals..

We must also ask whether the left's noble striving for the downtrodden is entirely or even mainly altruistic. A large number of earnest liberals are employed in government, and it is in their interest that government should continually be enlarged. Like Señor Manuel Ordonez in Lesage's "Gil Blas," they have got rich and lived comfortably by administering the funds of the poor.

mtraven said...

The hatred of the American left for the white working class has been evident ever since the 'sixties...
This is bullshit, I'm afraid. The Democrats (who will have to stand in for "the left", although of course they are in fact establishment centrists) are still the favored party of the working class except in the South, where racism and jesus-freakery are powerful forces. Allow me to confuse the discussion with data. Poll statistics from 2004 quite clearly that tendency to vote Republican is correllated with income bracket (search for "vote by income"). It's true that support for Democrats from the white working class has been in decline, but this does not reflect hatred coming from the left.

A more detailed look at the evolution of the working class and its voting patterns may be found here. White working class support for democrats has indeed declined, but it's not because the left hates the working class. The attempt of the right to spin Obama's offhand comment as hate or contempt is itself contemptible -- just another contribution to the trivialization of our political discourse.

Let's be clear: both major parties are run by elites (how could it be otherwise)? The Democrats do a marginally better job of actually representing the actual interests of the working class, the Republicans do a better job of appealing to the worst tendencies of the working class and everyone else.

A large number of earnest liberals are employed in government... they have got rich and lived comfortably by administering the funds of the poor

If you think liberals get rich working in government jobs, you are seriously deluded. Bill and Hillary got rich, most liberals in government service are seriously underpaid teachers, social workers, etc. Nobody whose goal is to get rich would do so by b ecoming a liberal government employee.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the teachers in government schools, social workers, etc., have not got rich to the extent the Clintons or even the Obamas have. Whether they are "seriously underpaid" depends, I suppose, on whether you suppose their services represent value received for their cost in tax money. That is at the very least a debatable proposition. In my observation these people are comfortably middle-class.

The point I make, though, is that they belong to an economic segment that was called into existence by a political/bureaucratic élite to meet the purported needs of the indigent, or for some other purpose the urgency of which eluded the Republic for the first 150 years of its existence. They form a middle-class constituency, just as the welfare-dependent form a lower-class constituency, for the continued expansion of government - for, as Kipling had it, "robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul." And as George Bernard Shaw observed, "a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depnd on the support of Paul."

When I was a child, fifty years ago, the government of the county in which I live was still housed in a courthouse built in the mid-nineteenth century. It accommodated a couple of courtrooms and judges' offices, a clerk of court, a registrar of deeds, and the county treasurer. The sheriff was provided a house in back of the jail, which was attached to the courthouse. His wife cooked the meals for the jailbirds.

Since those days, the population of the county has roughly doubled - but the number of county employees has grown twenty-fold. The old courthouse was long ago abandoned, and all these people are now housed in a sprawling county 'government center, to which new space is even now being added.

The same thing is true of the public school system. When I was a kid the superintendent of the local school district had his office in the local high school. He shared a secretary/filing clerk with the high school principal. This amounted to the whole administrative staff above the level of the principals of the high school and the four local elementary schools. Today, there is a vast administration building and a massive staff, the great majority of whom never enter a classroom.

I am at a loss to tell how the expansion of local government at a rate ten times population growth over the past fifty years has changed my life, or that of anyone not employed in it, for the better. I might characterize the county government center and school district administration building as hives of drones, except drones do not seem quite as actively parasitic as the denizens of these facilities.

mtraven said...

Unfortunately the data does not support you. The government's share of the economy has remained roughly constant for the past 50 years. See here.

Anonymous said...

How do the data not support me? What do you know about my county, its population, my local government, or the number of people employed by it? I submit I know these things better than you do, and what I say is true.

Also, to say that, nationwide, the government's share of the economy has remained constant over the last fifty years is not necessarily inconsistent with a disproportionate growth in government employee numbers vis-à-vis the national population. If our economy has grown faster than our population (which is quite possible), that is no excuse for government to grow with available dollars, rather than with the numbers of people it has to govern. This is government growth to fit available sources of revenue rather than realistic needs for such things as police and fire protection, municipal water and sewers, public schools, etc.

mnuez said...

Anon, what's up with you and Copybook Headings? It's a good poem, Mazal Tov, but when your point isn't actually reflected in one of the poem-stanza's intents there's no mitzvah to quote it.

Your last quote (or that of some other "anonymous") was at least quoted correctly but this Peter n' Paul bit in its proper context has zero to do with your point and makes me wonder whether you even understood the (admittedly conservative) poem in the first place.

As for the rest of your point, yadda yadda who cares. I'm pretty sure that I'm less a fan of the government boogieman than you are but if that's the only way to get the millionaires to stop shitting their putrid selves into golden toilet bowls so that the poor in this country can see a dentist once a decade then I'm putting out a welcome mat for that boogieman.


Anonymous said...

I don't see how the stanza fails to support my point:

"In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,/
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;/
But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,/
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said, "If you don't work you die."

I should have thought the meaning was perfectly clear. "Robbing selected Peter" is punitive taxation of the productive, "to pay for collective Paul," i.e., a levelling redistribution of wealth. "But though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy" has reference to the failure of redistribution and central economic planning to generate any actual wealth; thus, "the Gods of the Copybook Headings said, 'If you don't work you die'," i.e., generation of real wealth through productive enterprise ("work") is necessary to maintain and improve the standard of living.

Government is an overhead cost, a burden on the productive, justifiable to the extent that it protects property and maintains order. It does not generate wealth - it just prints money. If we confuse these two very different functions - one of the abiding failures of socialism and social democracy - there will be nothing to buy with our money, a condition often observed in the old Soviet Union, where shortages were commonplace.

mnuez said...

To quote another great poet:

You may be right / I may be crazy

but one would have to be crazy to think so. Kipling is likely referring to various "scheme" methods of moneymaking (including the printing of plenty of bills of course, along with pyramid schemes, chain letters, yadda yadda yadda) as sorta "get rich quick" schemes that sound so hopeful and fantastic but that are actually nonsense.

Were he referring to taxation of the well-to-do for the benefit of the poor, he likely wouldn't say "though we had plenty of money", because now, after all, the used-to-be-wealthy no longer had "plenty of money". My best guess is that Kipling meant various schemes whereby everyone has plenty of what used to be called "money" but that "money" is useless, such as on account of inflation or some such.

mtraven said...

Government is an overhead cost, a burden on the productive, justifiable to the extent that it protects property and maintains order.... It does not generate wealth - it just prints money.

Nobody who uses the Internet ought to be allowed to make such statements. They can stay with AOL and Compuserve if they like.

Can commenters please try to refrain from repeating stale libertarian arguments? If you have something new to say, feel free, but there's no point repeating the same old crap that's been going around for decades.

Anonymous said...

Mnuez - amongst Ponzi schemes and chain letters, the greatest and longest ongoing fraud of all is Social Security. Do you really believe that all you've paid in is waiting for you somewhere in an account?

Of course, inflation is and always has been a creation of governments - whether by debasement of the alloy of coins, or printing of worthless bank notes, or the more sophisticated manipulations of our Federal Reserve system.

Mtraven - give an example of how government intentionally generates real wealth. Just one. Yes, some government actions may have the unintended consequence of spurring private-sector entrepreneurs to develop products that meet some unforeseen demand. British horology was greatly stimulated by the £10,000 prize to discover a reliable method of ascertaining longitude. The U.S. space program similarly encouraged many useful developments. Usually, though, the unintended consequences of government action are not so favorable. I suppose it could be claimed that land grants to railroads in the 19th century opened the country to agriculture and commerce, but although they were necessary preconditions, the private sector did the real work.

mtraven said...

give an example of how government intentionally generates real wealth. Just one.
I already did -- the Internet. Case closed.

If you want another example, let's take clear air. Clean air is a non-excludable good, so market mechanisms do not work well at providing it. Yet it's clearly an example of real wealth, generated by means of government regulation and enforcement.

Again, please try to come up with something original, not stale recyclings of Ayn Rand.

Anonymous said...

The case on the Internet is not closed. The old ARPANET was, to be sure, a project of the U.S. Department of Defense. However, the U.S. government was no more directly responsible for the functions served and the fortunes made by the Internet in the private sector than the British longitude prize was for the dominance that British horologists exercised over the watch & clock trade for a hundred years afterward. Both the Internet and the prosperity of British horology were unintended consequences of a government initiative that had relatively little to do with the purposes either subsequently served.

We can name hundreds of negative unintended consequences of government programs for every positive one. The odds are not good.

mtraven said...

Anonymous, you have no idea what you are talking about. The government played an indispensible role in defining and creating the Internet. It would never have happened in the way it did (with open standards and open connectivity) if left to the private sector. There are plenty of examples of failed, crappy corporate closed-world network services, which I mentioned, to prove the point. The Internet was developed by government initiative by a mix of government, academic, and private sector research, with mostly government funding. After the research was done and standards developed, the network was opened up to commercial developmnent -- as planned -- for economic development, to enormous success. You are using the results. This is a case of the government doing exactly what it is supposed to do, and working very well.

That government fucks the dog in numerous other areas, and is capable of doing enormous harm, is not in question. Unless we are going for anarchism, the question is how to get government to do less harm and more good.

Anonymous said...

It does not surprise me that the old ARPANET turned over to the civilian private sector as the Internet had such laudable features. This country has always bought its military the best that money could buy, and God knows we taxpayers have paid handsomely for it. It ought to be good. This does not alter my point that it is a tool now being used for purposes quite different from those for which is was intended, just as civilians always do with military surplus. I have a grand old Krag rifle made at the Springfield arsenal in 1902. It is very well made and still quite accurate, but I' don't use it to civilize the Filipino. Instead I just cling bitterly to it out here in flyover country.

The way to get government to do less harm and more good is to restore the limits our Founders intended it to have, making it smaller and more focused. I'm not an anarchist or a follower of Ayn Rand. Government is a tool, useful for some purposes and not for others, rather like a hammer. You can pound in a screw with a hammer but it will not be a particularly neat job of work. Most of the expansions of government beyond the enumerated powers set forth in the Constitution have been exercises about as hamfisted as driving screws with a hammer.

mtraven said...

Government is a tool, useful for some purposes and not for others, rather like a hammer.

OK, awhile back you were saying that government is 100% unproductive. You've changed your tune. Fine. Learning has taken place, my efforts are not in vain.

Most of the expansions of government beyond the enumerated powers set forth in the Constitution have been exercises about as hamfisted as driving screws with a hammer.
Well, the founders certainly did not anticipate the government sponsoring advanced research and promulgating standards for open computer networks, unless you take a quite expansive view of the commerce clause of the Constitution. Which is what the courts and others have done.

Anonymous said...

No, I've not changed my tune.

Military and naval forces are, for example, a useful part of government. But they are not productive. They are overhead. Imagine a factory: the assembly line workers are productive. They actually make things. The security guard at the gate is not productive. He is an overhead expense, borne out of perceived necessity.

Productive activity - the real generation of wealth - involves either growing something, digging it out of the ground, fishing it out of the seas, or in some way or another adding value to these materials won from nature by manipulating or processing them to make them useful to people. These are - outside a completely collectivist economy - activities ordinarily pursued in the private sector, not by government.

As J.B. Say long ago observed, the soldier is a parasite. So are the policeman, the judge, etc., etc. They are tolerable - the host organism, the productive sector of the economy, can live in symbiosis with them - only as long as they do not so burden it as to cause it to weaken and die. Minimal government at minimal cost is the ideal - as Jefferson said, "That government is best which governs least."

mtraven said...

No, I've not changed my tune.
Oh well, a guy can dream. Your ideology is evidently impervious to facts. This makes you boring.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm a conservative. Per Russell Kirk, conservatives have no ideology. Rather than what you imagine being my ideology being impervious to facts, you are apparently impervious to the distinction between the concepts 'useful' and 'productive.' This explains much of your confused economics.

Anonymous said...

Leftists like to deny they hate white working classes, whites in general, but little slips like "racism" and "jesus-freakery" don't help their case.

To get a glimpse at the reptile behind the liberal mask, read about the downs-syndrome kid in the UK who is prosecuted for racism. As Steyn writes, "The descent of civilization into the fluffy totalitarianism of PC tyranny is accelerating."

This kind of totalitarian mindset, to which MTraven is party, isn't really something new. Their kind reappears every couple of generations. Many end up hanging on lamp posts.

- PA

mtraven said...

Those who claim to have no ideology are usually the ones held most firmly in the grip of their unexamined assumptions.

Why the fuck would I care about what Mark Steyn thinks about anything? What possible connection could some random story he coughed up have to do with what we are talking about? Pretty lame tactic, trying to change the subject when you are losing an argument.

And then death threats. Very brave from an anonymous commenter.

Please go away. You have nothing interesting to say.

Anonymous said...

To be clear, the lamppost thing was not a "death threat" but a general comment of the rise and fall of tyrants, that's all.

- PA

Anonymous said...

Mtraven, has it occurred to you that there can be more than one anon. commenter? The anon. who signed himself PA is not the anon. who last posted at 1:29PM. As for ideology, one has to examine one's thoughts carefully to purge them of it, so your flip dismissal is uncalled-for. What is left after the exercise, at least in my case, is a sort of sceptical Toryism, not unlike that of David Hume.

I do not care to speculate about lamp-posts or whether members of any particular faction will end up dangling from them, but remind you that the Girondists with their high-flown ideology were brought to the block by the forces they unleashed, and it all ended in military dictatorship under Bonaparte. I read a post yesterday on another forum in which someone wrote, "Yes, we're bitter here in Middle America - BITTER. Bitter enough for belt-fed!" I think he was making a joke. I think he knew what arugula meant. Do you know what belt-fed means?

mnuez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mnuez said...

Awrighty, mtray can take care of himself and he already knows that I don't necessarily agree with all his views but I'm sufficiently inebriated to jump towards the post of being his bulldog (it worked for rats... what's his name? ratzinger) so I'll go for it.


As for the rest of it, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that lampposts have the ability to withstand some six generations for hanging, butyaknowwhat? Some people, mnuez inclusive, are so goddamn fuckin hateful of the overclass exploiters that we're willing to take that chance. To see the heads of Hannity and Trump, Hilton and Bush, and... uh, the rest of em (for good reason most of em keep a fuckin low profile) on spikes (after a bit of public humiliation and torture preferably) would be worth what risk I'd incur that my own head might end up sharing a catacombing hollow with theirs. Thus is the resentment that any NORMAL non-overclassman feels toward his owners. We fuckin HATE them.

P.S. Patriot Act people, I'm just joking! I know that some people have died in Guantanamo lately so please, just know that I'm joking! Do it to Julia... DO IT TO JULIA!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

mnuez, how about this: space for conservatives, space for liberals, and space for everyone in between. This way, you have your gay San Francisco and they have their Nascar and guns. No one wants to hang anyone, no one wants to put anyone's head on a pike. Good fences make good neighbors.

Wait - we once had that - it was called federalism.

Anonymous said...

It won't be Hannity and Bush we rustic bigots armed with pitchforks bring to the lamp-posts...

Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira...
Les bureaucrates à la lanterne!
Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
La nouvelle classe, on les pendra.

Cette racaille gueuse
Ont merité la mitrailleuse.

Bitter enough for beltfed here in flyover country/

goatchowder said...

What's with the anonymous though?

I doubt that Fatherland Security is going to whisk you away to Gitmo for anything you've posted here.