The Mask
Posted by aogTuesday, 27 October 2009 at 10:23 TrackBack Ping URL

A topic I have been meaning to drone on about at excessive length is how much the MAL is a con game, that it states principles and goals that are simply rhetorical covers for actual goals1. It’s a bit scattered, but it was blocking my progress on other posts so out it goes. I will be substantively editing this post for an extended period as I manage to go through my piled up source material. Not my best work, but you have to start somewhere.

Back in the day, during the glory days of socialism, socialists were unabashed about what they wanted. Open admiration for Fascism from FDR, explicit alliances with Soviet Communism — totalitarian society was the future and they were proud to be part of it.

What happened? Reality. Socialism doesn’t work and by the end of WWII this was becoming clear. The anti-anti-Communists were the first wave, unwilling to now openly espouse Communism, instead they bashed those who explicitly opposed it, support at one remove. This masking continued to increase until very recently, when the power of the Internet began to take its toll. After all, to organize groups with other than publically stated goals one has to discuss the real goals at some point with the like minded. Before the Internet, this was relatively easy to do with sufficient deniability. The difficulties of providing evidence, and the control of public information via Old Media, sufficed to keep the American Street mostly fooled.

Now, however, things are changing. First off, the current generation of the MAL has been raised on arrogance and privilege and to a large extent is incapable of justifying or (in many cases) even conceiving of having to justify their positions. The decades long control of public information has contributed to this, both by keeping them in a bubble and minimizing evidence of different opinions on the American Street. Second, it’s now far easier for their opponents to provide evidence (recordings, links to documents, video, protest march pictures, etc.) to the non-fringe. It’s one thing to say “I heard from a friend that his friend heard a White House official admiring Chairman Mao” and another to say “check out this video on YouTube”. Because the MAL now runs primarily on tropes over a substrate of “it’s all about me!” they are finding it hard to adjust to the new era, hence the inability to be more clever about concealing what they’re actually about.

An interesting side effect of this (and a contributing factor) is that, to a large extent, the MAL is apparently no longer able to conceptualize the idea of having a set of abstract principles which one applies to the real world. To compensate for this lack of insight, the MAL indulges in quite a lot of projection, in which the actions and intentions of their opponents are analyzed in the MAL’s context so that any opposition is in the service of some unstated, nefarious, and code word described purpose. Opponents, like MALists, never say what they really mean, it’s always a cover. As many wags have said, if you want to know what a MAList would do if given power, just listen to what he accuses his opponent of wanting to do. Note that you see lots of examples of Democratic Party candidates “running right” and trying to look conservative, then governing left, but you see very few GOP candidates pretending to be to the left of their actual positions.

This shift is also why the MAL has moved from free speech to “shut up! he explained” and attempts to silence via law or discrediting opposition voices. At some level they know their public facade is a facade and that vigorous, open debate would destroy it. That’s why such a thing must be avoided at all costs. But, probably not coincidentally, the sort of epithet based discussion (“racist! bigot! fascist!”) is failing, which just means that it is currently being ramped up to 11 in a desperate attempt to make the world stop.

Another related aspect is that of “swift-boating” which means, in today’s political environment, damaging someone’s reputation by accurately citing their past. Because of information control, the Old Left could usually bury inconvenient information. But in the Internet Age all the old slips of the mask can be found and presented. This leads to the common pattern of a MAList serially denying claims as each is demolished by new evidence. Van Jones, Anita Dunn, and the ACORN scandal all show how this works.

I have a huge set of clippings on this subject, and all that introductory material is just to lead in to grouping those clippings. I will be updating this on and off for a while as I run in to those clippings.

I will start with one from Brothers Judd in which Judd writes with regard to the Van Jones resignation

DO THEY REALLY NEED A PARABLE … to tell them that the progressive movement is unacceptable to the American electorate?

No, not really, since they know that at some level or they wouldn’t depend so much on disinformation. What I think is surprising to them is that the Chicago Thugs were unwilling to engage the deceptors to protect Jones.

Here is one via Hot Air — as Just One Minute puts it, “The Public Option - So Popular They Have To Rename It”.

There’s always health care reform as a trojan horse for single payer health care.


1 I think to a large extent the MAL no longer has “principles” in the way the term is normally used. “Power at any cost” and “I need to feel good about myself” aren’t principles.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 12:50

I’m looking forward to your presentation of said “clippings on this subject”. Perhaps you’ll be able to convince me, but as I know a large number of leftists, I’m rather doubting it.

The leftists I know do have principles (they just don’t work well, in my opinion), are well intentioned (while paving the road to hell), and are even somewhat well behaved (we’re all hypocrites to some extent).

Perhaps the leftists striving for power fit your description, but that’s not surprising since “Power at any cost” would be a likely behavior for someone striving for power.

Anyway, the point is that the MAL as a whole is perhaps more diverse and not as evil or unprincipled as you’re making it out to be.

erp Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 14:40

Bret, your liberal friends may be civil, if misinformed, but they are in the minority. Coming from an academic northeast environment, I can tell you that almost everybody I knew or met were just as AOG describes.

Their reaction to somebody who disagreed with their views was at first astonishment, then antagonism, name calling and lashing out in anger. Bringing up some home truths brought them just short of actual foaming of the mouth — the hatred of Reagan was palpable… and this was 20 plus years ago. I can’t imagine what it’s like now.

As for the MAL, there are some liberal individuals who can engage in civil discourse, but offhand, I can’t think of a single one unless you count the mealy-mouthed David Gergen or Stephen Hayes.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 15:27

erp,

Being astonished at others views, or name calling or anger, doesn’t imply lack of principle.

I’m part of a yahoo egroup that consists of old fraternity brothers who basically come from an “academic northeast environment”, many of whom are actual academics.

It’s only after many years of carefully explaining my position, assumptions, premises, backed by statistics when appropriate and pointing out when and why data is inappropriate that they more or less have a basic understanding of why I’m not, as a conservative, the devil himself determined to oppress mankind and destroy the earth. We still have profound and irreconcilable differences of opinion, but at least they understand that there is apparently (to their astonishment), a way of looking at things that is different than theirs, yet not evil.

There was plenty of name calling, antagonism, and anger in the early days. But from their worldview and given their lack of ability to step outside it (i.e. think outside the box), it’s easy to understand why they simply thought I was evil. They are not, neither am I. I think for the most part they now agree with that (nobody’s evil) even if they don’t agree with me.

These are good guys, I’ve known them a long time. Indeed, I once shared their views (which is why I’m oh-so-familiar with what they think). I found that those views didn’t seem to fit reality very well, so I changed my mind. They haven’t noticed that minor discrepancy (reality versus their view) yet and probably never will.

My feeling is that most MALists are in the same boat, at least the ones I’ve met, based on discussions we’ve had. They of course think I’m evil and I’m not willing to put in the years of effort required to educate them so I just move on.

That’s why I’m interested in aog’s “clippings”. Is there really anything there that refutes what I’ve written above? Maybe. Let’s wait and see.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 16:38

I think your own comment here does a better job of demonstrating my point than my forthcoming clippings. That you need to spend years convincing personal friends that having a different political opinion isn’t “evil” indicates just how trope (and not principle) driven they are.

But more significantly, when I think of the MAL, I think of politically active people. Normal people who just live their lives, even if they are as you describe your friends, are not to me really MALists. They’re just the fish who swim the the MAL generated waters. But I would ask, to what extent do such people have responsiblity for their support of people like, say, House Speaker Pelosi or Michael Moore? If the leadership of the political faction they support is thoroughly riven with the kind of facade I describe, what level of that trickles down? I ask this seriously, not rhetorically.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 16:54

Here’s a clipping I have run in to a couple of times today. I will drop it here instead of the main post because I am not sure how reliable it is, but it’s from a major UK newspaper. It’s basically that a former government minister claims the purpose of UK immigration policy was to restructure British society more along the lines the Labor party wanted, without telling or consulting the voters. If true, it’s a perfect fit.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 17:33

aog wrote: “That you need to spend years convincing personal friends that having a different political opinion isn’t “evil” indicates just how trope (and not principle) driven they are.

It’s kinda symmetric, isn’t it, given that you’re attributing some pretty awful motives to people having a different political opinion?

aog wrote: “Normal people who just live their lives, even if they are as you describe your friends, are not to me really MALists

So, only people attempting to become powerful and influential count as MALists? Well, then of course you’re gonna see power hungry liars! It’s not that much different, only a matter of degree, watching anybody lusting for power, whether Leftist or not. Power corrupts. No surprise there.

erp Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 17:36

Bret, your comment reminded me of something I think Charles Krauthammer said, We think the left is wrong; they think we’re evil.

The way you deal with colleagues and friends is commendable and in the end, you and events may win the thoughtful ones over to our side. Keep up the good work.

I had neither time nor resources (this was long before the internet was even a gleam in anybody’s eye) to mount an educational effort to change minds and hearts set in concrete, so when we moved to a small college town where our younger son attended high school, I started keeping my opinions to myself.

In 1988 all our kids were gainfully employed (or in graduate school), so we “got out of Dodge” and retired.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 18:17

aog,

Regarding the times article, that’s Leftists lusting for power. Again, corrupt by definition. As AVRRA has pointed out, neither Reagan nor his administration were saints. They happened to take the country in a direction that was very good for me, but people in power are inherently corrupt, and Reagan’s administration was no exception, so Left, Right, Middle, doesn’t matter, the people in power are corrupt and will always be.

So yes, if you’re only talking about those in power or striving to be in power, I agree, they have no principles except “power at any cost”.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 18:19

erp,

There are a huge number on the right who think that those on the Left are evil. Surely, you don’t disagree with that?

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 18:51

It’s kinda symmetric, isn’t it, given that you’re attributing some pretty awful motives to people having a different political opinion?

No, I don’t see that. I am not attributing such motives because they have different opinions, but based on other evidence, some of which I have cited above.

So, only people attempting to become powerful and influential count as MALists?

No, only people who are interested enough in politics to be active in it. I consider myself politically active (I run a political commentary website after all), but I am hardly attempting to become powerful and influential. I am excluding people who don’t care enough to spend the time to form an independent political view.

But even among the power hungry, motives differ. There are people who want power to achieve things, and those who want power because it validates their self image, and those who want power because (like O’Brian) it lets them control other people. I think the Old Left was more of the first, and the MAL far more of the other two.

Regarding the times article, that’s Leftists lusting for power.

No, the Times article involves the Left having power and using it to do something completely different than what they publically claimed. Reagan, in contrast, basically followed policies that corresponded to his public policies.

I am also not talking of standard corruption, but of fake policy. It is, to me, an entirely different and worse level of political lieing.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 19:29

aog wrote: “I am not attributing such motives because they have different opinions…

So being part of the MAL correlates with no principles (and other bad motives), but their different opinions (which apparently aren’t based on principles, but rather are some sort of “mask” )?

So does that imply that you’re claiming that evil people with no principles are attracked to the MAL for some unstated but apparently nefarious purpose?

Why would they do this, except to obtain and maintain power?

With each of your comments, the whole thing is becoming ever less clear.

Help!

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 20:02

So being part of the MAL correlates with no principles (and other bad motives), but their different opinions (which apparently aren’t based on principles, but rather are some sort of “mask” )?

You have a dangling clause after the ‘but’. The first part is accurate, that their opinions (real and facade) are different than mine is irrelevant. I have observed behavior, and I am commenting on that behavior, while trying to analyze why that behavior exists.

So does that imply that you’re claiming that evil people with no principles are attracked to the MAL for some unstated but apparently nefarious purpose?

No. “evil” and “nefarious” are your words, not mine, so I feel no need to defend them. I think that people who have specific goals and/or a lust for power are attracted to modern Leftism because it provides a non-intellectual framework for achieving those goals and/or power. I think that the trend setters in the MAL are aware enough, usually, to realize that their goals and/or lust for power is not popular, therefore they disguise both as appropriate.

Why would they do this other than for power? Self validation is a big factor, a point I have discussed previously. Avoidance of hard moral choices is another. Venting rage and hate is another. Status seeking, seizing the moral high ground is another. There are many motivations possible besides raw power seeking.

P.S. I need to drop in something about swift boating, where the MAL takes accurate cites of speech and behavior as “smears”, which only makes sense if you realize that your actual behavior, unlike your spin, is unpopular. Those “smears” are precisely the kind of thing that it used to be possible to keep under wraps.

erp Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 20:52

Bret, you believe millions on the right think the left is evil? That’s bizarre. Where did you get that from?

pj Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 22:45

Millions on the right have never thought the left is evil, but the left may eventually persuade them otherwise. The right certainly thinks that lying, coercion, violence, and tyranny are evil, and enough such acts may eventually cause us to question the leftist spirit.

But generally, we think that leftists are childish abused-turned-abusers who think their inchoate desires ought to be satisfied and who refuse to accept any truths which would work against the satisfaction of their desires. They do evil things, not because of malice per se, but because they are too immature and narcissistic to love others. Malice comes, for some of them, later, as they seek scapegoats for their failure to satisfy their impossible desires, as they blame innocent bystanders for their self-destruction. Why should Bret’s friends be overpowered by malice as long as they are comfortable and wealthy? But in circumstances of poverty and conflict and fear and hatred which the heirs of Pelosi and Obama may yet bring, they could easily become so. In Hitler’s Germany, in Lenin’s Russia, in Mao’s China, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, others like them were so overpowered. That they became so angry at Bret for thinking different thoughts shows that the malice is pregnant within them.

Bret, I’d be curious to hear what you mean by “evil” as an adjective for a person. “Evil” has a clear meaning for an action like murder but not for a person, and you have not defined your usage. So what do you mean by it? What would qualify a person as evil?

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 23:11

aog,

OK, that’s helpful.

“Evil” and “nefarious” may be my words but wouldn’t you say that things like “venting rage and hate”, “lust for power”, and “worse level[s] of political lieing” (all your words) qualify as being at least somewhat “evil” and/or “nefarious”?

I still think you’re overlooking the simpler and more obvious explanation. If one has a lust for power, one is going to be attracted to the party in power, which, for most of the last 80 years has been the Left. Then, given that all politicians are corrupt liars, it’s not surprising that the Left has at least its full share of such people.

On the other hand, if one has the other goals you’ve listed, then becoming a religious conservative would also work. Belief in god and religious dogma is good for self validation (your place in the universe is known by God), avoidance of hard moral choices (already decided by the religious dogma), venting rage and hate (prayer is like meditation and dissipates rage and hate), and seizing the moral high ground (obviously you’ve got that if you’re on God’s side).

I really don’t see politicians of the Left being all that much worse than politicians of the Right other than the fact that I disagree with the Left’s ideology (whether or not it’s a mask). The Republicans had their chance and they blew it.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 23:15

erp wrote: “…you believe millions on the right think the left is evil?

Sure.

I believe that many millions of religious social conservatives believe that the left is evil because of the left’s strong support for abortion rights, for example.

Bret Tuesday, 27 October 2009 at 23:22

pj asked: “What would qualify a person as evil?

Evil is in the eye of the beholder. For example, one person may think that supporting collectivism is evil. Another may think that not supporting collectivism is evil.

I’ll admit to throwing around this adjective a little flippantly, but that’s because I’m a bit taken aback at the intensity and breadth of criticism in this post (and your comment). While there are certainly at least a few people on the left who fit the descriptions you and aog are putting forward, in my experience it isn’t nearly as widespread as your making it out to be, and there are at least a few people on the right like that as well, again, in my experience.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:29

Bret;

With regard to evil, my problem with your usage is its binary nature: “evil” or “not evil”. The evil metric, in my view, is a continuous value, not a discrete one. So yes, for those things the evil metric is non-zero (let’s for convention take a 0..1 scale). But I personally don’t think a lust for power has a high value, no more than a lust for women. How one acts to satisfy that lust is what is worthy of judgement.

I don’t think your simpler explanation works. To some extent people with a power lust are attracted to the Left not because it is in power, but because it, ideologically, is far more committed to using power. Much of conservatism is about limiting the power a person can have. But that leaves unanswered what I am actually addressing here, which is why the MAL is such a psuedo-conspiracy in terms of being misleading about its goals and what it would do with the power it is seeking. As I noted, it didn’t used to be. That changed, and I doubt it changed because of how it’s constituents lust for power changed.

I also think that you are way to focused on this power lust point, which is in my opinion a minor thread. There is, as you note, only a quantitative and not qualitative difference in that regard between the MAL and conservatism. The divergence between public image and actual behavior is far more stark and so that is of more interest to me.

P.S. If those are your honest opinions about religion, I must say that I think you have a radically incorrect knowledge of at least the Abrahamic religions, but I don’t want to get in to that here so I am only noting my disagreement.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:30

There are probably more abortion proponents who think those who oppose it are evil than the reverse.

IMO abortion is wrong when used as birth control or to avoid inconvenience, but I don’t want to criminalize it nor do I want abortion clinics on street corners financed by tax dollars, but that’s a whole other issue.

On the issue of corruption, I don’t think politicians on the right and the left achieve it to the same degree if simply because a politician on the right isn’t protected by the media or the courts. The level of moral equivalency is depressingly amusing as the antics of the current congress have shown.

pj Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 10:07

Abortion opponents think that aborters are selfish people who have failed to love their baby as they ought. They disregard the interests of others and pursue only their own interest.

Unfortunately that attitude is all too human, which is why people on the right generally don’t call their opponents evil. Because we are interested in building a loving world, and selfish humans were made for love, and have the capacity to become loving. Souls are to be redeemed, not defeated. Name calling isn’t a good way to persuade one’s interlocutions of the attractions of love.

The reverse attitude is why the left is so quick to resort to calling its opponents evil: they don’t desire a world of love, but one where they can pursue their selfish desires unhindered. ‘Evil’ to them means obstructing the satisfaction of their desires. Evil is frustrated desire; good is satisfied desire. They are good because they satisfy their desires. Morality is evil because it frustrates desire.

Robert Mitchell Jr. Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 10:08

Bret, if you believe that “Evil is in the eye of the beholder”, then it would appear the Leftists you know have done a good job bringing you around to their point of view. But I do wonder why you are arguing the point that Leftists don’t have principles, given that you don’t believe they exist, just opinion. It would seem to me that your need to be social and friends with people who talk and plan to murder 3/4 of Humanity has overruled your morals, thus your need to destroy “Evil” as a useful public term.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:03

aog wrote: “…my problem with your usage [of evil] is its binary nature…

I’ve already admitted to being a little flippant with the term “evil”. Of course I agree that some things are more evil than others. Secondly, I’ve been a little sloppy with some other phrases due to laziness. When I write “lust for power” I meant (and mean) “observable behaviours of individuals acting on their lust for power”, which nearly universally tend to be susceptible to corruption and therefore register somewhere on the evil scale of 0 to 1. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

aog wrote: “…because it [the MAL], ideologically, is far more committed to using power…

I would probably agree that they’re at least somewhat more committed to using government power. But when I see the Right spend huge amounts of blood and treasure on the War on Drugs, I’m not so sure.

aog wrote: “I doubt it [the MAL’s transformation to a “pseudo-conspiracy”] changed because of how it’s constituents lust for power changed.

It changed because that’s what works. So if your point is just that the techniques used by those who are acting on their lust for power have changed over time because that’s what works in order to achieve and maintain power, I’m in total agreement.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:09

erp wrote: “I don’t think politicians on the right and the left achieve it [corruption] to the same degree…

Oh, come on. Before the current group of buffoons, there was Duke Cunningham, Ted Stevens, etc. Neither party has a monopoly on corruption. Since the “Dukester” was my districts representative, it’s clear that the press could have investigated him years and years before it actually did. Nobody seems to have any idea why they waited so long.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:15

Robert Mitchell Jr wrote: “…your need to be social and friends with people who talk and plan to murder 3/4 of Humanity…

Pardon?

I can assure you that none of my friends has any intention whatsoever of murdering 3/4 of humanity.

I certainly hope that you don’t actually believe that anyone, other than a few whackos maybe, who aren’t representative of any group, Right or Left, has the intention of murdering 3/4 of humanity.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:45

Stevens resigned and then was found not guilty. Duke was eventually charged and convicted, but what about Pelosi, Dodd, Reid, Rangel, Kennedy … all given a pass?

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 11:53

Stevens was convicted, then the conviction was voided due to alleged prosecution misconduct. He was never found “not guilty”. He was found “guilty”. Anyway, the point is that the Left does NOT have a monopoly on corruption.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 12:50

Misconduct like manufacturing evidence?

The left doesn’t have a monopoly on corruption, just a first option.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 13:09

Bret;

erp’s claim wasn’t “a monopoly”, it was a “preponderance”. I agree with her. People like Rangel and Dodd predate and postdate Cunningham and they’re still there. Or, just check out any famously corrupt city or state government for which party is dominant. Can you list a single example that’s not the Democratic Party?

I will leave it at that, as that’s not my main point. You all are distracting me too much to update the post properly (and I am fighting with Firefox, which doesn’t like me keeping so many webpages open for so long).

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 13:31

Oh. Just a preponderance. :-)

Just for amusement I googled “indictment senator” and the first thing that popped up is an article by time magazine that shows that in the history of the Senate, 11 Senators have been indicted. Nine were republican, two democrats.

My guess is that it’s a pretty small preponderance.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 13:54

‘We think the left is wrong; they think we’re evil.’

When I was young, the right/conservatives I struggled against were evil. And next door. I’d have had to buy a plane ticket to find an evil leftist.

One of the surprising developments of American politics during my lifetime has been the emergence of a non-racist conservative/right movement.

I’m glad to see it and find it here. But don’t kid yourselves that you are MAR. You’re not.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 14:04

Bret, isn’t that proving my point? Republicans get indicted, Democrats get a pass.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 14:28

erp,

That’s pretty funny. Men are convicted of murder ten times as often as women.

Must be because the women get a pass. That’s the only possible explanation… :-)

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 14:52

Bret;

That’s a very limited dataset. Why not count Congressmen that any reasonable observer considers corrupt who are still in office if you want to look at the federal level? That would seem a better metric for active corruption.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 15:12

aog,

You and erp are punting this so far into the realm of subjectivity as to be meaningless. Who are these “reasonable observers”? Someone from, say, the Daily Kos? What’s that? You say that they’re not reasonable? Well, guess what? They don’t think that you’re reasonable either.

So where does that leave us?

That, not surprisingly, the Left thinks the Right is more corrupt and the Right thinks the Left is more corrupt.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 15:18

Bret, politicians are categorized by party, not gender. Your example doesn’t apply.

Aog, some strings are just for fun.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 15:22

Harry, I forgot, what is MAR?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 15:37

erp;

Maybe I will rewrite the base post and put it up again when I have the time to get through some more clippings, so we can all have fun here. By “MAR” I presume Mr. Eagar means “Modern American Right”, similarly to MAL.

Mr. Eagar;

Well, I am still waiting for the emergence of a non-racist progressive/left. Maybe I will see that in my lifetime. Thanks for validating pj by the way.

Bret;

Of course it’s subjective, but I can’t help myself on that. Tell you what, though — at the federal level give me some GOP counter-parts to Rangel, Murtha, and Dodds, Congressmen dogged by scandal even in Old Media yet still in office. Surely if it’s roughly equal such GOP types exist. There’s always Ted Kennedy, where his suppporters openly excuse what he did to Mary Jo Kopenche as “worth it”. Find me a GOP equivalent to that. I am all for nailing all corrupt politicians on any side, I just notice that one side has a much stronger tendency in that regard.

Robert Mitchell Jr. Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 16:42

Well, Bret, I follow those people who believe the book “The Population Bomb”, and they all seem to be Leftists. I follow those who believe in “Gaea”, and they all seem to be Leftists. Both groups of people believe there are far, far too many people on the planet for “sustainability”. Every now and then I see the mask slip, and they talk of how they will get rid of all the surplus people. So yes, I do think that. I don’t understand why you would have a problem with that, it’s just their opinion, right?

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 17:20

aog,

Yes, Kennedy was in a class all by himself and no, there’s just not an equivalent, not even on the Left. However, that’s a single data point.

There are numerous republicans and democrats “dogged by scandal” (i.e. were or are under investigation) and still in office. Some Republican examples are Ken Calvert (R-CA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK), etc.

Bret Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 17:34

Robert Mitchell Jr.,

There’s a rather large chasm between worrying that the current population isn’t sustainable and your quote, “plan[ning] to murder 3/4 of Humanity”. Did Ehrlich advocate mass murder? Of course not. Have a few crazies advocated mass murder? Probably, but that’s quite a leap to project a few vocal nut cases as representing a significant portion of the MAL.

For the rest of you, if you were looking for evidence that some on the right think that the MAL is evil, you need look no farther than Mr. Mitchell’s statement.

erp Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 18:11

Aog :-(

cjm Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 18:55

has there been a “Black Book” documenting the 100m plus killed by non-leftist governments? if not, why not. add in the death toll from leftist sponsored abortion and we are closing in on some pretty big death tolls here — by the “non-evil” left.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 19:55

‘people on the right generally don’t call their opponents evil’

They do where I grew up. I suggest you and pj visit a Christian bookstore.

‘has there been a “Black Book” documenting the 100m plus killed by non-leftist governments?’

Yes, Mike Davis, ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 23:52

has there been a “Black Book” documenting the 100m plus killed by non-leftist governments?

Claiming that Hitler, Mao and Stalin killed 100MM+ people because they were “leftist” is a shallow and facile analysis. The pre-WW II Japanese were rightist, but they killed millions, often for sport and in sadistic ways.

On a population-adjusted basis, the overwhelmingly rightist governments of the pre-Twentieth century killed far more than a mere 100MM+ people.

The bedrock truth is that people are killed by authoritarian governments, usually in the form of dictatorships (whether official or de facto), including monarchs.

Socialism doesn’t work and by the end of WWII this was becoming clear.

Then it was awfully clever of W. Bush to turn to fascism instead: ‘What is the current American economy: socialism or fascism?’ at Zerohedge.com

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 07:54

I read the article and I don’t see where you get Bush in particular from it. The article itself discusses trends from back in the 1980s and uses the term “Bush-Obama Administrations”. Obama has turned out to be even more that way than Bush.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 11:25

Ah, here is a clipping from Instapundit that I think I should drop in here for Mr. Mitchell.

GARRISON KEILLOR: KILL ALL THE REPUBLICANS. ““Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.”

Malthusianism and political oppression! That Keillor’s MidWestern pragmatism in action.

Bret Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 12:19

A Democrat starting to wonder if the country would be better off without Republicans (perhaps reading Keillor’s whole quote in context would be appropriate?) is still quite a chasm from advocating murder of 3/4 of humanity.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 12:43

I did read the quote in context, and I think this is quite accurate. Here it is, in greater context

Tim Pawlenty attacks the president for giving a speech telling schoolchildren to work hard in school and get good grades, one starts to wonder if the country wouldn’t be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.

Of course, Keillor gets Pawlenty wrong but as far as I can see he’s talking about actively killing off GOP supporters through denial of health care. I think it’s actually worse in context, given the “simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer” bit — provided by who? Not just absense of care, but confiscation of whatever health care those GOP types already have.

And let’s remember that Keillor, like Kennedy, is an icon, a favored, popular person among the MAL. It’s not about them, but about the people who like them.

I am not claiming this validates Mitchell’s comment, only that I thought he would find it interesting. I do understand that Keillor is being hyperbolic, but I can’t resist tossing out some chum for fun, as I was told this was a fun thread :-).

erp Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 14:24

Before counting up how many innocents were killed by rightist governments, a definition of a rightist government might be in order. Just because the left and their myriad eminent thinkers define any government not communist or socialist as rightist, doesn’t mean that we have to accept that definition and I, in fact, don’t accept it.

BTW Harry, thanks for differentiating non-leftist governments from rightist governments.

A rightist government is one that, unlike leftist ones, believes in the ideals of our constitution — individual freedom and the rule of law. The handful of governments that fit that description can in no way compete in the killing department with Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao or pre or post colonial African tribal leaders. Ditto tin-horn despots south of our border, Chinese or Japanese emperors, the Mongolians hordes, the Vikings, the Vandals, the Huns, the Romans or the Russians czars.

All the governments above were lead by ruthless, brutal dictators with no checks on their excesses or ambitions, excesses and ambitions shared, I fear, by our own dear leader and his handlers, hence the unseemly power grab now is progress.

We know better and if we let them get away with it, we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 17:14

I read the article and I don’t see where you get Bush in particular from it.

One doesn’t. For that you need to have some background knowledge, such as I have alluded to here and here, and accept the arguments that I’ve made.

So. If the economy can be reasonably considered to be fascist, or perhaps simply oligarchic, under whose watch did that occur?

Not Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.

Keillor gets Pawlenty wrong but as far as I can see he’s talking about actively killing off GOP supporters through denial of health care.

It’s actually a toss-up as to who’d be worse off in the long run, Republicans without health care or Democrats with health care. Health care for trauma and infections is a life saver, but the data for non-emergency care isn’t so clear [all emphasis added]:

An explanation of the persistent doctor-mortality association. (Statistical Data Included) Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health | February 01, 2001 | Young, F W

Abstract

Study objective—The aim of the study is to explain the persistent but puzzling positive correlation of physicians per capita and mortality rates, when income is controlled, which has been reported many times since it was first observed in 1978. […]

Source material—Using data from the 47 Japanese prefectures, the 3000+ counties of the USA and a set of 29 mostly European countries, the explanation was examined by adding the appropriate test variable to a basic equation linking physicians per capita to mortality, net of income. […]

Conclusion—The conceptual and empirical analysis exposed the positive correlation as spurious, but the availability of medical specialists had little impact on mortality rates in competition with the social and economic variables that were used as controls.

(J Epidemiol Community Health 2001;55:80-84)

In 1978, Cochrane et al1 called our attention to what has turned out to be a persistent positive association between physicians per capita and death rates. Their article also examined environmental and dietary factors and these, together with GNP per capita, served as controls for the 18 counties in their sample. Although they did not doubt that a causal interpretation was unjustified, their tests demonstrated a robust correlation. Accordingly, they called it “the anomaly which will not go away”2. […]

Several studies analysed data for the less developed countries circa 1970-80. Wimberly3 found that change in health expenditures and in physicians per 100 000 population made no significant contribution to the prediction of life expectancy. […]

A review of studies of “avoidable” mortality and health services by Mackenbach et al4 concluded that the associations of health care variables and mortality were “weak and inconsistent” (page 110). The three studies that disaggregated the correlations found that half of the 16 significant associations were positive—that is, the more health care, the higher the mortality rates. Similar findings have been reported by Matteson et al5, McKinlay and McKinlay6 and Jayachandran and Jarvis7.

Once basic health care is established, (“aspirin and hand sanitizer”), then diet and lifestyle apparently have a greater impact on mortality and lifespan than does the healthcare industry:

Associations between diet and cancer, ischemic heart disease, and all-cause mortality in non-Hispanic white California Seventh-day Adventists | Gary E Fraser | American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 3, 532S-538S, September 1999 © 1999 American Society for Clinical Nutrition

ABSTRACT - Results associating diet with chronic disease in a cohort of 34,192 California Seventh-day Adventists are summarized. Most Seventh-day Adventists do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, and there is a wide range of dietary exposures within the population. About 50% of those studied ate meat products <1 time/wk or not at all, and vegetarians consumed more tomatoes, legumes, nuts, and fruit, but less coffee, doughnuts, and eggs than did nonvegetarians. […]

INTRODUCTION - For over 40 y, it has been recognized that Seventh-day Adventists present a unique opportunity to study relations between diet and chronic disease. This is because of the wide variety of dietary habits of Seventh-day Adventists, whose diets are on average lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber than the diets of other Americans. Of the Seventh-day Adventists we studied, {approx}20% were meat eaters who ate meat <1 time/wk and {approx}30% ate no meat products. However, most ate dairy products and eggs and few ate vegan diets. Of the meat-eating Seventh-day Adventists, about half ate meat as frequently as did other Californians.

Hence, there is an opportunity to compare different dietary patterns within the Seventh-day Adventist group. Because the nutrient intake profile of Seventh-day Adventists is closer to that recommended by a number of professional bodies than is the diet of average Americans, several publications have compared the health experiences of Seventh-day Adventists to those of non-Adventists. Generally, Seventh-day Adventists had lower mortality from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes than did non-Adventists living in the same communities. For this report, we summarized findings associating the use of different foods to risk of cancer, ischemic heart disease (IHD), and other diseases within a Seventh-day Adventist population enrolled in a large cohort study (1976–1988).

Before counting up how many innocents were killed by rightist governments, a definition of a rightist government might be in order. […] A rightist government is one that, unlike leftist ones, believes in the ideals of our constitution — individual freedom and the rule of law.

Except that the U.S. Constitution was conceived and implemented by leftists.

Part of the problem here is that you’re applying modern standards to the annals of history - which is a typical and pervasive leftist failing. If one of the hallmarks of a rightist gov’t is that they champion “individual freedoms”, then they were mighty thin on the ground before the 18th century, and even after that a tiny minority until the 20th century. Further, which political wing was agitating for “individual freedoms” in the centuries leading up to the 19th? LEFTISTS!!!

And if “believes in the rule of law” is the standard, then how can one exclude “tin-horn despots, Chinese or Japanese emperors, the Romans or the Russians czars” from being rightist?!?

Those are and were the LAWFUL leaders of their gov’ts.

Zeitgeists and social parameters change over time. “Traitorous rabble” go down in history as “patriots” and “founders”; the Republican Party was founded in part on the ideal of ending chattel slavery in America, and then DID SO, but spent most of the next century in opposition to the concept of social equality for minorities as espoused by the American Declaration of Independence. Similarly, the Communist and socialist gov’ts and societies of the 20th century were a reaction to that which existed before. If there’s a “leftist” revolution, can we reasonably claim that that which preceded rebellion wasn’t “rightist”?

1 Cochrane AI, St Leger AS, Moore FJ. Health service “input” and mortality “output” in developed countries. J Epidemiel Community Health 1978;32:200-5.

2 St Leger AS, Cochrane AL, Moore F. The anomaly that wouldn’t go away. Lancet 1978;ii::l153.

3 Wimberly DW. Investment dependence and alternative explanations of third world mortality: a cross-national study. American Sociological Review 1990;55:75-91.

4 Mackenbach JP, Bouvier-Colle MH, Jougla E. “Avoidable” mortality and health services: a review of aggregate data studies. J Epidemiol Community Health 1990;44: 106-1l.

5 Matteson DW, Burr JA, Marshall JR. Infant mortality: a multi-level analysis of individual and community risk factors. Soc Sci Med 1998 47:1841-54.

6 McKinlay JB, McKinlay SM. The questionable contribution of medical measures to decline of mortality in the United States in the twentieth century. Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 1977;55:405-28.

7 Jayachandran J, Jarvis GK. Socioeconomic development, medical care and nutrition as determinants of infant mortality in less developed countries. Soc Biol 1986;33:301-15.

pj Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 17:50

AVRRA - The US Constitution was conceived and implemented by leftists? It would be hard to come up with a group more staunchly orthodox conservative, if transplanted to modern America, than the framers of the Constitution. This is why their statements and principles are so ardently embraced by modern conservatives, and ignored and rejected by modern leftists.

In fact the American Revolutionaries considered themselves conservatives then — conserving the rights of Englishmen and the principles of Christianity and the Anglo-American heritage of liberty; and there has been a continuous thread of self-described conservatives from their day down to ours, in which everyone who embraced the Constitution was a conservative and, from Lincoln’s time, a Republican.

Methinks you have an odd definition of leftist in which anyone who favors change — i.e. anyone not brain dead — is a leftist. This is a very convenient definition for those seeking to appropriate virtuous people of the past to the banner of the left and to slander all who oppose leftists today. But it is not one that any but clever leftists takes seriously.

pj Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 18:01

I might add in response to a few of your other points:

(1) ‘if “believes in the rule of law” is the standard, then how can one exclude “tin-horn despots, Chinese or Japanese emperors, the Romans or the Russians czars” from being rightist?!?’

The ‘rule of law’ is simply the statement that all government officials, even the highest, must submit to the same limitations as ordinary citizens; and that these limitations are not human-made, unless by consensus, but are an external limitation on even the most powerful. Thus the full phrase is a “rule of law not of men.” As ‘tin-horn despots, Chinese or Japanese emperors, the Romans or the Russian czars’ precisely favor the rule of men — themselves — they are living rejections of the rule of law. Therefore, by erp’s definition, they are not rightists, but the most extreme anti-rightists. They were not LAWFUL leaders because they were not bound by any law that had their people’s consent.

(2) ‘the Republican Party was founded in part on the ideal of ending chattel slavery in America, and then DID SO, but spent most of the next century in opposition to the concept of social equality for minorities as espoused by the American Declaration of Independence’

A lie and a slander. It was the Democratic party that enacted and maintained Jim Crow and fought social equality for minorities for the next century. What principle of the Declaration of Independence did the Republican Party ever oppose?

(3) ‘the Communist and socialist gov’ts and societies of the 20th century were a reaction to that which existed before. If there’s a “leftist” revolution, can we reasonably claim that that which preceded rebellion wasn’t “rightist”?’

Yes, of course. Leftist governments succeed other leftist governments all the time. It is easy for leftists to share a belief in autocracy - the emblem of leftism - but to disagree about who should be the autocrat and who the serf. All leftist movements can unite against the right and liberty, but once they vanquish the right, they always end in a civil war for power. Thus Lenin the leftist replaced leftist Mensheviks and leftist czars; Hitler the leftist national socialist replaced leftist democratic socialists (indeed got his votes from former Democratic Socialist voters).

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 18:03

AVVRA;

Yes, I remember those, but I strongly disagree that more blame attaches to a sin of omission than commission. Your claim is that Bush failed to act to stop things already in motion which puts him at fault, while those who set up the problem escape censure. It’s like blaming a donut riddled cop for a murder while excusing the gun man.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 18:19

‘In fact the American Revolutionaries considered themselves conservatives then — conserving the rights of Englishmen and the principles of Christianity and the Anglo-American heritage of liberty’

You’ve got a cept there (that’s half a concept).

As Charles Sydnor demonstrated, the Founders were conserving a constitutional system that had developed over six or seven generations, and in that sense they were conservatives.

The kicker is that, for reasons that merit a great deal of contemplation, that system was the most radical, leftist and populist that the world had yet seen.

For purposes of discussion, I’d start out by saying that rightist regimes value property (at least, elite property) higher than human life, on principle. Great Britain was as close to a libertarian./right government as the world has ever seen in the ‘40s, and it preferred to see a million Irish die rather than abate rents.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 18:58

It would be hard to come up with a group more staunchly orthodox conservative, if transplanted to modern America, than the framers of the Constitution.

…there has been a continuous thread of self-described conservatives from their day down to ours…

Thus, “Part of the problem here is that you’re applying modern standards to the annals of history” and “Zeitgeists and social parameters change over time.”

Yes, ye olde Liberal is the new Conservative. That people over time describe themselves as “conservative”, endorse differing goals and ideals than their self-described “conservative” ancestors, but still consider themselves part of “a continuous thread” seems to support my thesis more than yours.

…everyone who embraced the Constitution was a conservative…

This is why [the framers of the Constitution’s] statements and principles are so ardently embraced by modern conservatives…

Well, yeah. A bit circular, no?

In fact the American Revolutionaries considered themselves conservatives then…

Which is why they created a governing document and social framework which had few precedents, which were in specifics unique, considered by the world at the time to be revolutionary and electrifying in concept, and which in modern times are considered to be one of history’s major turning points?!?

One might as well describe Martin Luther as “conservative” in the context of history because most modern American self-professed conservatives would agree with him.

We could agree to define anyone who had a good idea that worked out well as “conservative”, but it would reduce the term to uselessness.

Methinks you have an odd definition of leftist in which anyone who favors change — i.e. anyone not brain dead — is a leftist. This is a very convenient definition… But it is not one that any but clever leftists takes seriously.

In 1955 William F. Buckley Jr. defined conservatives as the obverse of your leftist definition. Was he a (very) “clever leftist”?

But speaking of “zeitgeists and social parameters changing over time”: 5/02/00 Who’s Yelling ‘Stop!’ Now?: Look who is standing athwart history now By Jonah Goldberg, NRO Editor

Well, look who is standing athwart history now. In virtually every sphere of human progress the left today is saying, “Stop the world, I want to get off,” while conservatives get made fun of by the same snickering sophisticates, only now because of our optimism.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 20:13

The ‘rule of law’ is simply the statement that all government officials, even the highest, must submit to the same limitations as ordinary citizens; and that these limitations are not human-made, unless by consensus, but are an external limitation on even the most powerful. Thus the full phrase is a “rule of law not of men.” As ‘tin-horn despots, Chinese or Japanese emperors, the Romans or the Russian czars’ precisely favor the rule of men — themselves — they are living rejections of the rule of law. Therefore, by erp’s definition, they are not rightists, but the most extreme anti-rightists. They were not LAWFUL leaders because they were not bound by any law that had their people’s consent.

So you’re saying that by definition all monarchs and tribal leaders are leftists? If we agree to that interpretation, then 99% of all governments that ever were, were leftists, and so it becomes a truism to say that “leftist gov’ts kill people” - because gov’ts kill people, and all gov’ts are leftist.

Again, you’re attempting to view history through a modern, liberal American lens. “People’s consent” indeed. Do go on, Herr Marx1.

One won’t gain a lot of insight that way, except for the very basic, powerful, and unfortunately not-universally-learned lesson that we got it SO GOOD in modern America, and indeed in the entirety of the advanced parts of the world, compared to history - and that our current situation was bought with blood, sweat & tears and requires dedication and perseverance to maintain.

A lie and a slander. It was the Democratic party that enacted and maintained Jim Crow and fought social equality for minorities for the next century. What principle of the Declaration of Independence did the Republican Party ever oppose?

At the very least, “that all men are created equal”.

I apologize for libeling the Republican Party, I must have missed the day in history class where all of the GOP’s constant quixotic plans and attempts to elevate the social standing of minorities were discussed.

I’m not claiming that the Democratic Party should be elevated to sainthood, merely noting that it’s ironic, and supporting evidence for the drift of perception of political wings in popular culture, that the Republican Party was partially founded on the issue of the immorality of oppressing human beings, got off to a great start, and then got derailed.

But if you’d provide a few examples of how the Republican Party championed minorities of race, religion or heritage between 1890 - 1940, it would be both illuminating and most appreciated. Otherwise, it must be assumed that none can be found.

All leftist movements can unite against the right and liberty, but once they vanquish the right, they always end in a civil war for power.

But you’ve also asserted that the founders of the U.S. of A. were rightists, and yet somehow their project got embroiled in a civil war for power.

Perhaps civil wars for power are a feature of the human struggle, and are independent of political wings.

Your claim is that Bush failed to act to stop things already in motion which puts him at fault, while those who set up the problem escape censure. It’s like blaming a donut riddled cop for a murder while excusing the gun man.

Except that the national RE bubble started in 2002, well after Bush took office. He was in charge at the beginning, middle and end.

Further, the proper analogy isn’t murder, it’s manslaughter. And yes, I would blame a donut-riddled cop who apathetically and passively watches a guy stagger out of a bar, get into his car, weave out of the parking lot and promptly plow into a minivan full of children. If you don’t want to get involved, don’t be a cop.

Finally, perhaps it’s not been clear that ONLY Bush already had the authority to stop the finance, insurance and real estate bubbles. While members of Congress might have tried to rally support for something to be done, they couldn’t just come to a decision and order changes the way that Bush might have. Rep. Ron Paul, for one, tried to do just that and was rebuffed, while the person who already possessed the necessary authority, the man whose job it was to be responsible, the self-proclaimed “Decider”… Did nothing.

Frankly, I don’t see how one could not fault Bush on this issue. The Captain is responsible when the ship goes down, especially when it goes aground in calm seas.

1 That “the people” should have a say in who governs them, or how they’re governed, is a thoroughly modern idea. Even the vaunted Athenian democracy only allowed ~10% of the population to vote.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 21:31

AVVRA;

But not the drunk driver? Perhaps I misunderstand, but I read you as claiming Bush bears almost all the blame, not just a contributory blame. In that case, I think your analogy still works against you.

I think the RE bubble started long before 2002. Certainly the root causes long predate 2002. Even Mr. Eagar argues that it does back to at least the Glass-Stegall repeal in 1999.

Bret Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 23:39

AVVRA & aog,

There’s little difference between fascism and socialism. In either case the government controls the means of production and the labor force. The German fascists called themselves Nazi’s which, as I’m sure you know, is short for National Socialist. They were well aware that there’s precious little difference between totalitarian collectivist ideologies. Either is The Road to Serfdom.

Bush significantly expanded the Federal Government with the help of the Republican and then Democratic Congress and that’s where the Republicans lost me. You can call it socialism or fascism but it looks to me like we too are on The Road to Serfdom.

I had a pretty decent life - too bad for my kids.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 30 October 2009 at 07:35

Bret;

I agree with that. I am certainly not claiming Bush has no share of the blame. However, pragmatically, blaming Bush is silly because he’s out of office yet his co-conspirators in Congress are basically all still there. Excusing them means leaving them free to do even more damage.

erp Friday, 30 October 2009 at 08:10

Aog, my comment about a fun string was sarcasatic. ;-{

Bret, I know I’ve said this a million times, but politics is the art of the possible and I think Bush did the best he could with the hand he was dealt. It must be a guy thing because my husband and other men I know agree with you that he wasn’t strong enough — didn’t put the media in their place, didn’t slap down the lefties (on the left and the right) in congress … I’m grateful we had him in the White House when we did.

Rough, I started off my last comment with a definition of a rightest government, i.e., one that believes in the ideals of our constitution — individual freedom and the rule of law. It’s hard to see how you can interpret that definition to suggest I mean that any government other than one that fits that description is leftist.

Many of the most despicable murderers/marauders/conquerors of the past weren’t hypocrites who pretended to be for the people like Mao or Lenin or even more modern ones like Chavez and Castro. They wanted power and riches for themselves and did whatever they needed to do to get them.

Since you’re so good with labeling, I’ll let you put a name to them. Just please don’t call them rightist.

Bret Friday, 30 October 2009 at 09:13

erp wrote: “…Bush did the best he could with the hand he was dealt…

Why is it his hand couldn’t pick up and use a veto pen?

Bush took the “Compassionate Conservatism” thing seriously, which I’ve since learned is more or less the same thing as Socialism.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Friday, 30 October 2009 at 12:21

Perhaps I misunderstand, but I read you as claiming Bush bears almost all the blame…

Not much of the blame, but almost all of the responsibility. Any chief executive, of any organization, will have to fix problems that are not of their own making, but that’s why they have a job - to perceive problems and make decisions. That’s why they’re “chief”: They’re in charge.

Bush did not cause the finance, insurance and real estate bubbles, but he had both the POWER and the RESPONSIBILITY to stop them before it was too late. No other person in the U.S. gov’t had the ability to simply order that things be different. No member of Congress, on any committee, could do that.

Should various members of the House and Senate have perceived the problem, and tried to rally support for fixing it? Absolutely. But they could only work indirectly. Bush had DIRECT CONTROL.

[B]laming Bush is silly because he’s out of office yet his co-conspirators in Congress are basically all still there. Excusing them means leaving them free to do even more damage.

We should give the members of the House and Senate Banking and Finance Committees the boot, no question. They ought not get a pass.

But my emphasis isn’t on real-world consequences, because neither Bush nor any Congresscritter will face any sanction other than (at best) removal from office. My point is simply, what will be Bush the Younger’s legacy? He deserves the praise of history for his yeoman’s work after 9/11, but like the Civil War hero Grant, we must ultimately judge his to have been a failed Presidency.

I’m just outlining that case.

I think the RE bubble started long before 2002. Certainly the root causes long predate 2002.

The root causes predate ‘02…

For instance:

  • 1999:
    • September: Fannie Mae eases the credit requirements to encourage banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is not good enough to qualify for conventional loans.
    • November: Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act “Financial Services Modernization Act” repeals Glass-Steagall Act, deregulates banking, insurance and securities into a financial services industry allow financial institutions to grow very large; limits Community Reinvestment Coverage of smaller banks and makes community groups report certain financial relationships with banks.
  • 2000:
    • October: Fannie Mae committed to purchase and securitize $2 billion of Community Investment Act-eligible loans.
    • November: Fannie Mae announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) would soon require it to dedicate 50% of its business to low- and moderate-income families” and its goal was to finance over $500 billion in Community Investment Act-related business by 2010.
    • December: Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 defines interest rates, currency prices, and stock indexes as “excluded commodities,” allowing trade of credit-default swaps by hedge funds, investment banks or insurance companies with minimal oversight.

…but the bubbles didn’t start until after 9/11:

Financial Crisis Timeline The university of Iowa center for international finance & development Prepared by Jason Cox and Laurie Glapa

Bush significantly expanded the Federal Government with the help of the Republican and then Democratic Congress and that’s where the Republicans lost me. You can call it socialism or fascism but it looks to me like we too are on The Road to Serfdom.

I had a pretty decent life - too bad for my kids.

Yeah, they lost me too, for similar reasons. But I do think that those who are middle-aged or younger now will end up having a really great quality of life, by our standards. It’s going to be a very harsh decade, (or two), but even if today’s advanced nations do end up in Serfdom, there’s always South America, Oceania and parts of Asia - just as yesterday’s pioneers left Europe and then the U.S. East Coast for freedom and opportunity.

Rough, I started off my last comment with a definition of a rightest government, i.e., one that believes in the ideals of our constitution — individual freedom and the rule of law.

Yes, that describes some rightist gov’ts, but also some leftist - unless one wishes to claim that Sweden and France are rightist.

So, that definition is:

  1. Not stringent enough
  2. A very modern concept of rightist, i.e., applicable only to the 20th century
  3. Self-serving, insomuch as you identify strongly with the right, and so would like to believe that all rightist gov’ts respect people

It’s hard to see how you can interpret that definition to suggest I mean that any government other than one that fits that description is leftist.

That’s not my view, but the inherent implication of pj’s take on your definition.

erp wrote: “…Bush did the best he could with the hand he was dealt…”

Why is it his hand couldn’t pick up and use a veto pen?

LOL

pj Friday, 30 October 2009 at 12:37

The debt boom and the financial crisis has been a bipartisan effort for 30+ years, and has had the endorsement of Keynesian economists for almost the whole of the post-WWII period. It has been enthusiastically embraced by the Obama administration. It is a grave mistake for which we will pay with a long period of poverty, but it is not the greatest mistake of recent decades. That is the spiritual and institutional crisis which threatens our liberty. And that has not been a bipartisan effort, but a partisan one driven by the left.

So, granted that Bush bears a share of responsibility for the financial crisis. But that will only cost us money. The problem of liberty is much graver and deeper.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Friday, 30 October 2009 at 13:23

Forgot to include this chart in an earlier post, anyone who’s not seen it may find it very enlightening/frightening:

Yale economist Robert Shiller’s plot of inflation-adjusted U.S. home prices, population, building costs, and bond yields, 1890-2005, from Irrational Exuberance, 2nd ed.

When I first saw a similar chart from Prof. Shiller published in the NYT in the fall of ‘06, it was chillingly obvious, “game over, man!”

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Friday, 30 October 2009 at 14:18

Why we should worry about Bush and not the current administration.

Dafydd ab Hugh not only doesn’t understand what’s going on, but the piece isn’t even internally consistent:

In the companion piece to this post, Couldn’t See That Coming!, we noted that the United States Department of the Treasury, run by tax evader Timothy Geithner, has decided to institute wage controls at those companies that accepted large amounts of TARP money; TARP is the Troubled Asset Relief Program… that is, the Wall Street (and Motown) bailout. […]

At Treasury, President Obama’s pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, announced sharp cuts in pay for 175 top executives at seven big banks and automakers that received hundreds of billions of dollars in federal bailout money during the financial crisis. The new structures reduced the cash salary paid to some executives by 90 percent and tied more compensation to long-term stock awards…

But hey, it’s not like the federal government is, like, you know, taking over the private sector…

Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? The Federal gov’t isn’t taking over those companies that have failed so badly, (but are also so politically connected), that they need HUGE capital infusions to survive, but aren’t allowed to collapse. Instead the Feds are allowing the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the costs of saving those firms, BUT ALSO LEAVING IN PLACE THE EXACT SAME EXECUTIVES AND OWNERS THAT RAN THE CO.’s INTO THE GROUND!!!

Heads I win, tails you lose… What a deal!

Instead of giving incompetent firms and executives an enormous payday and sticking America’s children with the tab, we ought to take over those companies that we won’t let fail.

Should the Governor of Missouri decide how much the owner of the company which provides the janitorial services in the State House in Jefferson City can earn because he takes State money? Or, the executives of airlines on which government employees fly? […]

Obama has a different, meaner purpose for wage controls than trying to beat down inflation… He is a vindictive SOB and wants to punish those who made so much more money than he, even though he is the one with “the Vision of the anointed.” How dare they!

Rather, the question is, “Should the Governor of Missouri decide how much the owner of the company which provides the janitorial services in the State House in Jefferson City can earn if the cleaning company is a de facto government-sponsored entity?

The answer there is clearly yes.

As for “mean Obama”… Dafydd ab Hugh seems to be implying that U.S. taxpayers ought not have any say in how those firms that only survive due to support from tax funds should be run, which isn’t even as benign a philosophy as socialism or Marxist communism - it’s a statement of support for oligarchical dictatorship. How dare Dafydd ab Hugh!

Under the tenants of capitalism, whether the U.S. taxpayers are considered to be partial owners, or instead bondholders, of these firms, what’s clear from centuries of American law is that we DO get to have a say in how these firms are run. And that includes docking our employees for incompetence.

erp Friday, 30 October 2009 at 14:30

Bret, I don’t know why he didn’t use the veto pen. Perhaps his book will tell us.

Harry Eagar Friday, 30 October 2009 at 14:30

‘Even Mr. Eagar argues that it goes back to at least the Glass-Stegall repeal in 1999.’

Sort of. By 1999, most of the financial bad boys had already escaped G-S. Repealing it was just a signal that the police were not going to interfere in the plunder.

The bubble had plenty of feeders, but securitization of mortgages was the big enabler. If all that funny paper had been held as individual mortgages, we could have weathered the fall in housing prices without any systemic effects.

Shiller’s curve seems to show a hockey stick post-1999. Up to that point, even in the highest-price housing environment in the country (where I live), the advance in price between 1955 and 1995 was no more than the passbook savings rate. (Although hidden within that long average were some pretty sharp ups and downs.)

erp Friday, 30 October 2009 at 14:54

Harry, the English aristocracy valued profits above the lives of all their tenants, servants and minions, not only the Irish. Our founding fathers fought the Brits to get away from this kind of tyranny, yet you label the hereditary ruling classes and their treatment of their serfs/slaves as rightist and equate them with our constitutional government which values the individual.

Quite a convoluted stretch.

Bret Friday, 30 October 2009 at 15:26

AVRRA wrote: “…even if today’s advanced nations do end up in Serfdom, there’s always South America, Oceania and parts of Asia…

We can only contemplate living in such places because the U.S. has been the world’s policeman. Those places will, in my opinion, likely be unsuitable if the U.S. ceases to be an at least somewhat economically free country.So, granted

pj wrote: “…Bush bears a share of responsibility for the financial crisis. But that will only cost us money. The problem of liberty is much graver and deeper.

Bush presided over a huge expansion of the federal government and that is a direct threat to liberty. Sure, the Democrats are at least as bad, but they had already lost me.

Harry Eagar Friday, 30 October 2009 at 15:40

Dunno where you get that, erp. I consider the United States to be the most radical and leftist of all large states.

Article VI of our Constitution is the definitive statement of anti-rightist organic law.

Most (though not all) right repressive regimes are also allied with intolerant religion.

Voting, freedom of conscience, free press are all left ideas.

erp Friday, 30 October 2009 at 16:07

Harry,

They are all classic liberal ideas.

The right and the left, like the original colors red and blue designated by the network news have been reversed by Newspeak.

So calling non-communist/socialist/leftist repressive regimes right/rightist/rightwing no longer makes sense if it ever did.

Can’t have it both ways.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Friday, 30 October 2009 at 17:47

Our quarter-century penance is just starting by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, at the Telegraph in London

“The current financial crisis is unlike any others,” says the Bank for International Settlements. Lasting damage has been done. The “cumulative output loss” is likely to reach 20pc of GDP in the major economies. The message is the same at the International Monetary Fund. “The world is not in a run of the mill recession. The crisis has left deep scars. In advanced countries, the financial systems are partly dysfunctional,” said Olivier Blanchard, the Fund’s chief economist. Mr Blanchard said an IMF study of post-War banking crises led to an unpleasant finding. “Output does not go back to its old trend path, but remains permanently below it.

The case for deflation

Secondly, our vulnerability to the consequences of debt is extremely high at the moment. The scale of that debt is staggeringly large. The global credit hyper-expansion has been decades in the making and is now significantly larger than notable events of the past such as the South Sea Bubble of the 1720s and the Tulip Bubble of the 1630s. It dwarfs the excesses that led to the Great Depression.

Hair-raising, whimper-inducing ‘Total Credit Market Debt as a % of GDP’ graph

Credit bubbles are inherently self-limiting, proceeding until the debt they generate can no longer be supported. We have already passed that point and we are now two years into a contraction phase that is about to accelerate. As the aftermath of a credit bubble is typically proportional to the scale of the excesses that preceded it, we should be in for the largest economic contraction for at least several hundred years, and it will be global. […]

Credit bubbles always end this way, with the mass extinguishing of the excess claims debt represents. They are essentially Ponzi schemes, crucially dependent on the continued buy-in of new entrants. Globalized finance brought a flood of new entrants following the liberalization of the early 1980s, but there are now no more new sources of wealth to tap.

Deregulation allowed the reckless to gamble away virtually everything, including bank deposits and pension funds. Globalized finance has created a giant Enron, which while appearing robust is actually almost completely hollowed out. Such structures implode, often without much notice. […]

The aftermath of the last major mania - the South Sea Bubble in the 1720s - lasted decades and culminated in a series of revolutions. We are still relatively near the beginning of our own crisis, but already it compares with the Great Depression. […]

Whereas inflation can conceal a fall in purchasing power, so that people may not even realize it is happening, deflation brutally exposes it. Wages would have to fall just to keep purchasing power the same, but keeping it the same will not be an option for cash-strapped employers. In addition, with a large surplus of labour, workers will have no bargaining power.

This is a recipe for exploitation the like of which we have not seen for a very long time…

The good news is that humanity has lived through worse, and this won’t be the end of culture, society or civilization - although it will be the end of civilization as Boomers and younger have always known it.

Zombie hordes would be worse, so we got that goin’ for us…

We can only contemplate living in such places because the U.S. has been the world’s policeman. Those places will, in my opinion, likely be unsuitable…

Well, I what I didn’t address in my earlier comment is that those earlier pioneers, leaving Europe and then the U.S. East Coast, didn’t have an easy time of it. Plenty died, and most only experienced the freedom of enduring harsh living conditions, poverty, hunger and disease. And yet they came, and continued to come.

If the alternative is serfdom, then the choice is between dying on your knees, or on your feet. I stand with Heinlein, and my ancestors - not because I want to, but because I must.

They are all classic liberal ideas.

I.e., leftist. Marx was writing about “valuing the individual”.

The English aristocracy wasn’t the only group that “valued profits above the lives of all their tenants, servants and minions.” So did the 19th century American elite, good Baptists and Protestants most. They loved the Lord and the U.S. Constitution, and saw no inconsistency or hypocrisy in, or between, their beliefs and their actions.

Harry Eagar Friday, 30 October 2009 at 20:38

I only need it one way.

Read Acton’s lectures on the (American) Civil War. Guaranteed vetted and entirely rightwing (I got my subsidized copy from some rightwing advocacy group, forget the name now).

But, politics make strange bedfellows, and Acton ended up on the outs with the most rightwing regime in Europe — and knuckled under, too.

I am less interested in leftness or rightness than in liberty. Not including the liberty to knuckle under, though.

Rough, I’ve been trying to find time to post about deflation at RtO but daily life keeps deterring me. Anyhow, the thought I am pursuing is not so very difficult: If your contribution to the economic engine is labor, you’re already deep into deflation.

If those British guys are thinking of sources of wealth, for most of us, that’s labor, and for 20% of us, we’re already cleaned out. I gnash my teeth when I see reports about inflation/deflation that never mention labor, as it it isn’t an input. Sheesh.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 01 November 2009 at 07:37

Voting, freedom of conscience, free press are all left ideas.

Not any more.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 01 November 2009 at 15:14

Oh, I think the left believes in voting. Wasn’t the big knock against ACORN that it registered people to vote? Isn’t Obama committed to another joke election in Afghanistan? Or even, god save the mark, Honduras

I wrote — stupid me — during the runup to the last election that for the first time in my life I wasn’t hearing people say, ‘If So-and-so wins, there will never be another election.’ I took it as a sign that the public discourse was slowly growing up.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong! Couldn’t have been wronger.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 01 November 2009 at 15:53

No, the big knock against ACORN was their subversion of elections through voter fraud. ACORN is in fact an excellent example of how the MAL no longer believes in elections, only the form.

Interestingly, your claim turns out to have been yet another smear by Old Media against Giles, a quote that was simply made up and then retracted.

No one, least of all Obama, knows what he wants in Afghanistan. Obama is and was clearly opposed to an election in Honduras, which is likely to be a real election. Unlike the way Nicaragua is going.

But hey, when the facts aren’t your side, pound the table.

Harry Eagar Monday, 02 November 2009 at 11:38

Never heard of Giles. I was thinking of some other and earlier guys in another state.

If we really believed in elections, as such, we’d stop trying to pick other peoples’ representatives for them, and the right doesn’t smell too good when you put the question that way.

I agree, Obama doesn’t have any good choices in Afghanistan, for several reasons, but a big one is that Bush, just about the worst picker of political horseflesh ever to hang on the rails, saddled him with Karzai. Heckuva job, Hamid!

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 03 November 2009 at 08:01

Gosh, how can my specific cites and links compete with “some other and earlier guys in another state”? An archetypical example, I think, of how to make devastating case that admits to no reply. Well done!

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 03 November 2009 at 12:10

Brilliant cites and I’m sure they devastated somebody, but since I never heard of the guy, missed me.

So far as I am aware — and I make no claim to have tracked ACORN as compulsively as some people do — the war on ACORN began in Missouri, well ahead of the 2008 campaigns.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 03 November 2009 at 15:03

The war on ACORN started long before 2008, before even the 2004 elections. No cite needed, just a vague recollection, right?

erp Tuesday, 03 November 2009 at 16:56

ACORN and its evil twin the CRA have been wreaking havoc for a couple/three decades now. Aog, please feel free to use this comment as your citation because I either read about it in a magazine at the dentist’s office or overheard a couple of people on line at the supermarket talking about it c. 1979.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Tuesday, 03 November 2009 at 21:07

This may fall on deaf ears, but erp, you’d benefit from learning something more about the CRA than what you’ve read in IBD. It may or may not have been desirable, or had negative effects, but it wasn’t responsible for today’s economic problems.

erp Wednesday, 04 November 2009 at 06:17

Not entirely, Haliburton also conributed ;-{.

AVeryRoughRoadAhead Wednesday, 04 November 2009 at 12:25

LOL. Touché.

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