Friday, January 24, 2020


Saturday, November 12, 2016

dsquared 11.11.16 at 4:19 pm

“As Marcel Proust and (by titling his post correctly) Noel Maurer have pointed out, the correct quote is “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”.”

There’s a great deal of ruin in a nation! I’m gonna show you such a great deal, it’s gonna be a great deal of ruin. You’re gonna be amazed at what a great deal of ruin it’s gonna be. Honestly, folks, you’ve never seen such a great deal of ruin.
bob mcmanus 11.10.16 at 6:41 pm

I’ll paste this from another thread. JQ dislikes pessimism, and that’s my nature. He can feel free to delete it.

There is a lot of discussion as to whether Trump is actually going to demand a massive infrastructure initiative as the price for signing the Congressional agenda. It may include clean energy and mass transit. Funded who knows how.

Creating millions of new well-paying jobs.

Think of Germany in the early 30s, Keynes before Keynes, Japan. Trump keeps Mein Kampf by his bedside.

What, it never crossed your mind that Republicans in dominance and undivided gov’t, could enact Paul Krugman’s economic wetdream?

That there is anything inherently “liberal” about allowing inflation, infrastructure spending, gov’t deficits? That the Reagan-Art Laffer-George Bush small gov’t conservatism was the only variety?

That Republicans are too dumb or greedy to know how to gain the loyalty of their pretty broad base for decades?

Peace and Prosperity are on their way. Trump is too old to want world domination, but I suspect it is available now (in alliance with Russia, China, Turkey)

(PS:Appears Trump is keeping his word, and letting Pence run things. Kris Kobach is bringing in some of the hardest of the Christian Hard Right. I don’t know if any are Dominionists or Christian Reconstructionists, but they could be. This is much worse than I imagined. Help people leave.)
bob mcmanus 11.10.16 at 11:02 pm

If Trump goes liberal or at least centrist as Bob suggests

You misunderstand me, I am not expecting Trump to be in any way liberal or centrist. Re-read the comment. And I could be very wrong, but I see some very smart fascism coming.

I don’t know what’s coming, but the “million new jobs” could be very explicitly directed and exclusive to a particular segment of society, white males. Meet a truncheon if you complain. Wisconsin and Indiana get billions in infrastructure and California gets zero.

Fascism, like any other political economy, delivers (for a while) to its constituents. Economic prosperity for Trumpsters, with the added and probably necessary pleasure of revenge on their enemies. It may start small.

bob mcmanus 11.10.16 at 11:24 pm

It is apparently not understood that the revolution is happening. Neoliberals, central bankers, International NGO’s like the IMF, multiculturalists and cosmopolitans have been and are being deposed globally.

There are not at all, with due respect to JQ, two or three alternatives, left neoliberalism, right neoliberalism, and reaction. There are at least two more, socialism (haha) and right authoritarianism/fascism/neomercantalism (all different but all “right” in different ways.)

Takahashi Korekiyo, 20-30s Japanese Financial minister, often called “the Japanese Keynes,” favored inflation, deficit spending on infrastructure, cutting defense spending, going off the gold standard and was imperialist as hell, but thought a financial imperialism and economic hegemony would be more enduring than military. Soldiers killed him.

Herder, List, Carey and the American School…I’m getting snarky. I’ll put on my Marxist cap and go away. PS: John Smith Imperialism in the 21st Century, 2016 is some excellent Marxian analysis of the American Empire, it’s beneficiaries and victims.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rich Puchalsky 10.19.16 at 12:37 pm

Even as we write this, forces are advancing on Mosul to recapture the city from ISIL: the reason they can do this is because of U.S. airstrikes and troops. Refugee organizations expect something like 200,000-700,000 refugees from the city. The city was captured a couple of years ago when 1,000 Daesh fighters routed something like 60,000 defenders, mostly because the defenders weren’t strongly motivated to defend: people in the city now have a counter-assassination resistance against ISIL executions.

That is our intervention. Our bombs will not kill civilians in the city: the disparate groups of fighters that we support certainly won’t commit the usual atrocities of war: the refugee crisis will no doubt be handled responsibly and will be fully resourced: when the city is recaptured, the ISIL fighters will be defeated once and for all and we’ll never hear from them again.

The people who support this are crazy. They are insane and I can only talk to them in the jocular way that you’d talk to people who are suffering from such severe mental illness that there is no way to rationally convince them that their delusions are not real. But these people have not been institutionalized: they are running our institutions.

bruce wilder 10.19.16 at 1:41 pm

LFC: Deliberately targeting noncombatants is a clear violation of law and norms, and it cannot be justified by saying: “well, we have to eliminate the violent rebels in this city, and we’ve offered a pause to allow the rebels to leave, but the rebels have declined the offer, and therefore the lives of the civilians [whether they be 30,000 or 200,000] in the city are of no particular concern to us, . . .

The laws of war are a very particular and even peculiar species of bullshit. I am not a lawyer, let alone a military lawyer or specialist in such things, but from casual reading of news reporting, I think you are actually wrong in the above assertion. Giving a warning and an opportunity for combatants or civilians to vacate an area actually does open up a broad exception. “Exception” is probably the wrong term, technically, but in operation, . . . The offering of a warning, a pause and opportunities to vacate are all the laws of war require, in order to excuse the collateral damage that follows from combat operations against targets that are believed to shelter enemies among civilians.

bruce wilder 10.19.16 at 2:31 pm

If you don’t see any point in distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants (yes, the lines are sometimes blurry, but they are often very clear), and if you don’t think that intentions are of any relevance — that is, if you think there’s no difference whatsoever, for instance, between (1) deliberately blowing up a hospital and (2) accidentally bombing a hospital in a culpably negligent act of misidentification in the middle of a nighttime battle (as happened in a highly publicized case in Afghanistan a while back), then we can’t have a conversation b.c we are operating in different universes of discourse.

Do I think intentions are relevant? Maybe. Do I think statements of intention are relevant? Harder. I do not have any reliable way of sorting or confirming actual intentions, as distinguished from propaganda.

I am afraid we are stuck with this universe of discourse. No one can offer LFC a corridor of safe flight to a more morally certain world.

In my mind, I keep coming back to that NYT Mag profile of Ben Rhodes, the White House speechwriter (Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications) trying to manage U.S. foreign policy with rapid fire narratives. This is the world we live in. And, yes, it is one where it is not possible to distinguish between deliberately blowing up a hospital and accidentally in a culpable act of negligence blowing up a hospital. Not because there are not relevant moral distinctions, but because any story is built around those putative distinctions without much regard for facts. As Layman points out, the “information” given out by officials is dictated by a desire to manipulate public perceptions and deflect criticism and follows a predictable pattern unrelated to facts of a case.

This discourse has become delusive, as Rich P says above. Sarcasm or mockery may be rude, but appropriate.


Rich Puchalsky 10.19.16 at 3:18 pm

BW: “I do not have any reliable way of sorting or confirming actual intentions, as distinguished from propaganda.”

Note that even criticizing propaganda as such is supposed to imply commitment to the other side. Remember how faustusnotes apparently sincerely could not distinguish between criticism of propaganda about atrocities threatened in Gaddafi’s speech and actual defense of Gaddafi? In the same way, if you oppose a no fly zone that threatens great power war where the no-fly zone would be an area in which 165 people were killed in two months by bombs and shells by one “side” as opposed to 168 by the other, you must not be concerned about people being killed.

This is ancient stuff, but here we have the best and the brightest — university graduates, people with Ph.Ds in international relations, educated people of all kinds — no more able to think about it than any barely literate 19th century lower class urbanite. Clearly education only means that people are freed to rationalize a class position that justifies their interests.

This is why I think that problems of scale and responses to problems of scale really are the core elements of what people should be thinking about.

bruce wilder 10.19.16 at 6:18 pm

My phrase, “morally certain world” was poor. It doesn’t denote what I meant.

I think an objective observer, weighing the balance of likelihood, would conclude that the U.S. military targeted the MSF hospital and most probably did so, because the MSF hospital was only facility in the area where Taliban fighters could seek sophisticated medical treatment. That the choice of target originated in the U.S. chain of command was confirmed, so there is no dispute really that this choice was made, though the motivation and objective have been obscured and can only be surmised. No one was disciplined specifically for initiating the attack — we know this because no one was named let alone court martialled and sent to Leavenworth as would be nominally appropriate for such an unauthorized(?) act of murder and mayhem. The only discipline handed out was essentially administrative and only for the negligence and general snafus that allowed the rest of the chain of command to execute the attack without objection. Again, a reasonable and objective observer would wonder whether the initiator of the attack might not have had a hand in arranging things so that the attack went ahead and wasn’t short-circuited by the ordinary and routine controls put in place to prevent such “mistakes”.

Presumably, this balance of likelihood is why the MSF wanted an investigation independent of the U.S. military’s own self-examination.

“Blaming the victim” should not be the primary issue, here, though, of course, in the prolonged sequence of contradictory explanations in an incident that attracted international attention at the highest levels, the U.S. did at various times officially claim that the Taliban were firing from the compound and that the MSF complex was not properly marked. There is no particular reason to think that the sequence of explanations arrived at anything resembling the truth; only a defensible redoubt of apologia.

Whether the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz constituted a “war crime” isn’t the issue I want to raise either. I think it was a war crime, but the U.S. has a general policy of committing war crimes while denying that policy, so unless you think denial is itself a singular virtue is, I do not understand the argument. If the problem is whether Russia is the bad guy and the U.S. is the good guy, I don’t think the U.S. has much the better argument, at least on the face of it. Pretty much every “bad guy” atrocity in the record books has a corresponding atrocity with an American signature. Shoot down a passenger airliner? Check. Unprovoked aggressive war? Check. And so on.

The thing that troubles me — the thing I want to draw attention to — is the delusive effect of letting moral narrative dominate all policy discussion.

In the case of the Kunduz MSF hospital incident, the effect of moral-narrative-domination is that we do not know who in the U.S. chain-of-command decided MSF should clear out and the MSF hospital should close down (and people should be killed and maimed to achieve that objective). The civilian leadership presumably is not willing to own this policy choice, and they are willing to let the military bear the costs of demoralization, by disciplining, however mildly proportionate to the consequences for the dead and maimed victims, those in the chain of command responsible for the “negligence” which was ultimately trotted out as an excuse for “poor performance” (after several other explanations failed to stymie high-level criticism).

Our American b.s. pretense of righteous conduct is seriously interfering with the political ability to arrive at a deliberately chosen policy likely to achieve strategically chosen objectives, to cooperate efficiently within the policy-making hierarchy, to cooperate with allies and rivals (like Russia, which probably does not see the U.S. as particularly trustworthy or even entirely rational in negotiation), and to generate public support and general legitimacy.

I would submit that the ordinary purpose of international law is not to mandate just conduct per se, but to establish conventions that allow for political coordination, even between rivals, as well as facilitate hierarchical control of the state’s forces for the centralized control of policy. And, domination-by-moral-narrative has become a serious handicap, a source of American foreign policy palsy cum dementia.

I’m not taking the position that morality and ethical conduct do not matter. (I think long-time readers will realize I am something of an impractical idealist.) What I am trying to draw attention to is the effect of bull shit justifications: the narratives are drawn up in disregard for their factual truth value. (Disregard for truth value is kind of the definition of bull shit).

In short, I think judgments should be attempted, even in the face of the obscuring propaganda, but I think we have to confront the propaganda as propaganda and the doubts and uncertainties it engenders, as well as the semi-deranged social climate of opinion it engenders, as Rich P points out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

bruce wilder 10.16.16 at 8:00 pm

LFC @ 317

Dropping the heavy mockery for a moment to get at the logic of my view:

I think that if Y wants to stop Z from happening, Y might consider as a first expedient, self-restraint: not doing Z, itself. That is, discipling its own forces and reforming its own strategies, when it finds itself either doing Z or creating the conditions where Z happens.

Your strawman summation of my view is actually not half-bad:

. . . we know a priori that X [the U.S.] cannot act without committing war crimes because X [the U.S.] is an imperial power bent on maintaining its global hegemony, therefore any employment of any military force in any way by X [the U.S.] anywhere necessarily constitutes a war crime, because every aspect of X’s [the U.S.’s] foreign policy is criminal and therefore every act taken by X is criminal.

What makes this a strawman is the “we know a priori“. I don’t think we know this a priori. I think we know this, a posteriori, that is, from ample recent experience and observation. I think there’s a pattern of choice and strategy that we ought to recognize and, if we recognize it, there might actually be an opportunity to choose differently and realize less horrific consequences.

I would not precisely characterize the recognizable pattern of American choices and strategies — that is, of American policy — as that of “an imperial power bent on maintaining its global hegemony” without further qualification. I would say the pattern is that of a global hegemon approaching imperial collapse. There are important differences, with immediate relevance.

A global hegemon in its prime is all about reducing the risks and costs of armed conflicts and coordinating the cooperation of allied, nominally neutral and even rival states with the elaboration of international law, norms, conventions and other agreements. The U.S. in its prime as global hegemon was all about sponsoring the formation of organizations for global and regional multilateral cooperation, even where its direct participation was not welcome. It is true that the political autonomy of states was respected only to the extent that they adopted sufficiently reactionary and economically conservative or authoritarian governments and the political costs to any other course could be large. Back in the day, a Gaddafi or an Assad or a Saddam had to balance on an international tightrope as well as a domestic one, but it was doable and such regimes could last a long-time. Anyway, I do not want to litigate the mixed virtues and vices of (Anglo-)American hegemony past, just to point out the contrast with our present circumstances.

The turn toward a palsied expedience is a distinct symptom of impending imperial collapse. That the U.S. cannot seem to win a war or bring one to a conclusion in any finite period of time is relevant. That a vast “deep state” is running on auto-pilot with no informed instruction or policy control from Congress is a problem.

When commenters decry the failure to observe the norms of international law, they are not just being moralists in an immoral world; they are decrying the erosion of international order, an erosion that has been accelerated by the U.S. turn toward futile expedience as a foreign policy justified by groundless self-righteousness.

“It’s complicated” shouldn’t be a preface to ungrounded simplification and just rounding up the usual policy suspects: let’s declare a no-fly zone, then find and train some moderate faction of fierce fighters for liberal democracy (as if such exist). If we demonstrate the will and commitment and stay the course . . . blah, blah, blah.

And, the R2P doctrine has been ruined not just by hypocrisy but by the demonstrated incapacity to match means to putative ends. It is not just suspicious that the impulse to humanitarianism emerges only when an opportunity to blow things up arises, it’s criminal. Or should be. (sarcasm) But, of course, it is not criminal, because atrocities are only a problem when it is the other guy committing them. Then, we can exercise our righteousness for the good, old cause. (end sarcasm)

The situation in Syria is chaotic, but the chaos is in U.S. policy as well as on the ground. But, the immediate question is not whether the U.S. will intervene, because, as other commenters have pointed out, the U.S. has already involved itself quite deeply. The creation of ISIS, one belligerent in the Syrian conflict is directly attributable to the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq and the U.S. is actively attacking ISIS directly in Syrian as well as Iraqi territory. The U.S. provides military support to multiple factions, including both Turkish-backed forces and the forces of a Kurdish belligerent, which are in conflict with each other. Meanwhile, our great good allies, the Saudis and Qataris are apparently funding Al Qaeda in Syria and maybe ISIS as well.

This chaos, I repeat, is inherent in the organization of U.S. policy — it is an observable pattern, not a property by axiomatic definition as your strawman would have it, but it is very worrisome. It is a symptom of what I rather dramatically labeled “imperial collapse”. That the next President of the U.S. cannot work out why a no-fly zone in a country where the Russians are flying might be a bad idea is not a good sign. That the same person was a proponent of the policy that plunged Libya into chaos is another not-good sign. That’s not an argument for Trump; it is an argument that Trump is another symptom.

The chaos, the breakdown of rational, deliberate and purposive control of policy, means that policy and its rationales are often absurd. I mock the absurdity as a way of drawing attention to it. Others seek to normalize. So, there you have it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rich Puchalsky 10.15.16 at 1:45 pm

Ronan(rf): “Personally I don’t know how j feel about the managerial class argument”

There are certain decision makers who make all of the important decisions, or who at least get a tremendously inordinate amount of power over those decisions. If they aren’t making a decision in a positive sense, their power often controls decisions in a negative sense by restricting the available choices to those that are all acceptable to them.

The developments of late capitalism have to do with the transition of these decisions from the elite capitalist class as such to a group of managers. These managers can not and do not go against the traditional interests of capital as such. But their decisions characteristically favor their class in ways that a traditional class analysis can not fathom, and their ideology appeals to a group variously called “professionals”, “technocrats”, “the 10%” etc. who more broadly control the levers of power in society.

The managerial class operates a world system — the system of trade agreements, monetary agreements, etc. This system keeps the world economy going as it is going through the cooperation of American economists, Eurocrat bureaucratic appointees, Chinese Communist Party higher-ups, important people in the financial industry (whether bankers or at central banks), CEOs of multinationals, and even the leaders of important NGOs. These interactions are observable and not a matter of conspiracy theory.

Rich Puchalsky 10.14.16 at 4:55 pm

Ronan(rf): “This has added some much needed complexity to the VOX narrative [link to article about _Twilight of the Elites_]”

_Listen, Liberal_ is like Chapter 2, or some kind of companion volume, to _Twilight of the Elites_. Reading both, you really start to get a sense of how invisible it is to what I’ve called the global managerial class that they are actually a class, and how professionals (a lower but affiliated rung) can keep demanding things in their class interest while justifying them as in everyone’s interest.

As for the people who write that CT threads around the election have become a complete waste of time (LFC being one): it’s a highly contested election. That is what happens to public discussion around a highly contested election. If you don’t think it’s valuable, please just don’t participate in it: don’t keep commenting that it’s a waste of time to people who are actually interested in it.

bruce wilder 10.14.16 at 4:59 pm

Luttwak’s prescience was answered, I see at the link (LRB, Letters May 26 1994) by John McMurtry:

There is, however, an alternative conclusion more consistent with the geo-economic pattern of facts Luttwak exposes. Economic security is no longer a benefit that international corporations are willing to concede to workers because the new transnational mobility of technologies and investment has eliminated the need to negotiate job protection or to depend on site-specific workforces. International capital now aspires to the conditions of an ideal global market for the purchase of labour – unlimited access to the world’s population as a vast pool of temporary employees to hire and dismiss at will.

If we keep in mind that Fascism must rely on the co-operation or support of big business to achieve state power, we have to ask why the rootless, globe-roaming international capital of today would ever support any party which promised ‘full secure employment’ to workers. Any such programme would undo capital’s new global leverage over workers’ livelihoods, wage-levels and employment conditions – all of which are already being rapidly and successfully brought by relentless international competition for jobs to an ever lower common denominator. International capital can already discipline a country’s workforce overnight by moving around the world at the speed of an electronic signal to another society where its cutback wages and insecure jobs will be welcomed. And it can do it cost-free, selling the products it makes back to the very communities it has disemployed under the protection of international trade regimes which rule out any control over its actions by elected governments. Why would corporate capital ever permit the ‘full secure employment’ policies of the old Fascism in exchange for gaining popular support? This would undermine its greater new power, which is to be free of the needs or demands of any working class anywhere.

Neoliberalism has mobilized a fun-house mirror version of fascism: what Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism. Soru @ 126 provided a link to Adam Curtis explaining how the propaganda of this neoliberal inverse of totalitarianism works, not to mobilize the masses, but to demobilize us all thru confusion, demoralization and atomization.

The date of the Luttwak piece and McMurty’s letter — 1994 — is significant I think. We’ve been at this since at least 1980 and had every opportunity to be fully cognizant for more than 20 years. And, yet, we have Vox decontextualizing all, to create the new normal.

engels 10.14.16 at 5:09 pm

Isn’t this…what one would expect?

It is

Rich Puchalsky 10.14.16 at 5:15 pm

BW: “Soru @ 126 provided a link to Adam Curtis explaining how the propaganda of this neoliberal inverse of totalitarianism works, not to mobilize the masses, but to demobilize us all thru confusion, demoralization and atomization.”

And, when need be, to blame us for recognizing this condition. Look at all of the verbiage on the last thread about defeatism, nihilism, lack of a plan to fix everything and so on. One proud defender of UK Labour called it a therapy session or some such. I am confused about how “We should stop killing people: I think that is very important” turned into “nihilism”, but then I guess that acknowledging this confusion is for sissies.

bruce wilder 10.14.16 at 6:06 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 155

But, isn’t “boring” an argument too? A third way to dissolve all the noisier contention, make it meaningless and then complain of its meaninglessness?

I haven’t quite recovered from merian challenging your argument from pattern and precedent as decontextualized and ahistorical or then announcing that she was not a supporter of Clinton after having previously justified her own unqualified (though time-limited) support for Clinton.

I see the rhetorical power of Luttwak’s “perfect non-sequitur”, which Adam Curtis explains as a basis for the propaganda of the inverted totalitarian state in some detail. I’ve long argued that the dominating power of neoliberalism — not just as the ideology of the managerial classes, but as the one ideology to rule them all at the end of history — has to do with the way (left) neoliberals argue almost exclusively with conservative libertarians (right neoliberals). It is in that narrow, bounded dynamic of one completely synthetic and artificial thesis with another closely related and also completely synthetic and artificial antithesis that we got stuck in the Groundhog Day, where history tails off after a few weeks and evidence consists of counterfactuals projected a few weeks into the future.

It is not a highly contested election. It just looks like one and sounds like one, but the noise (and it is all noise in the end) is drowning out anyone’s ability to figure out what is going on. And, really, nothing is going on — or rather, nothing about which voters have a realistic choice to make. That’s the problem. (Left) neoliberalism was born* in the decision to abandon the actual representation of a common interest (and most especially a working class interest). Instead, it is all about combining an atomizing politics of personal identity with Ezra Klein’s wonkiness, where statistics are used to filter out more information than revealed and esoteric jargon obscures the rest. Paul Krugman, Reagan Administration veteran and Enron advisor, becomes the authoritative voice of the moderate centre-Left.

*That’s why the now ancient Charles Peters’ Neoliberal Manifesto matters — not because Peters was or is important, but because it was such a clear and timely statement of the managerial / professional class Left abandoning advocacy for the poor or labor interests against the interests of capital, corporations and the wealthy. The basic antagonism of interests in politics was to be abandoned and what was gained was financial support from capital and business corporations. The Liberal Class, the institutional foundations of which were eroding rapidly in the 1980s, with the decline of social affiliation, mainline Protestant religions, public universities, organized labor could no longer be relied upon to fund the chattering classes so the chattering classes represented by Peters found a new gig and rationalized it, and that is the (left) neoliberalism we know today as Vox speak.

The 10% gets free a completely artificial (because not rooted in class interests or any interests) ideology bought and paid for by the 1/10th of 1% and the executive class) ideology, but it gets it free and as long as the system continues to lumber along, employing them (which makes them the 10%) they remain complacent. They don’t understand their world, but their world seems to work anyway, so why worry? Any apparently alarming development can be normalized by confusion and made boring.

More than 20 years after Luttwak / McMurtry, I would think inability of the 10% to understand how the world works might be the most worrying thing of all. The 10% are the people who make the world work in a technical sense — that is the responsibility of the professionals and professional managers, after all.

That the economic system is being cannibalized to generate the outsized economic claims on income for capital and their minions among the executive classes is worrying, as is the stagnation and the slow reaction to climate change and other similar issues. The 10% don’t seem to be entirely ready to accept the parasitism in every detail. If you poison Flint’s water or Well Fargo charges for fake accounts, there’s some kind of reaction from at least some of the managerial / professional classes. We have Elizabeth Warren and she can be amazingly effective even if she seems like a lonely figure. But, mostly the parasitism of the financial sector affects the bottom 50%; the 10% get cash back on their credit cards. I read with fascination articles about the travails of that Virginia Tech guy who persisted in the Flint Water case; again, a lonely figure. I personally know a guy who is an expert on the liver and therefore on the hazards posed by Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol); it is quite revealing to hear about how he’s attacked by interested corporations.

William Timberman 10.14.16 at 6:19 pm

And yet…. In the more or less cobwebbed corners of the Internet, like CT, we are in fact having this conversation, and others much like it — even when, as inevitably happens, it leaves us vulnerable to accusations of leftist onanism by self-appointed realists of the status quo. They may not be easy to ignore, but knowing that their opinions can’t possibly be as securely held as they claim, and are in fact more vulnerable to events than they’re capable of imagining, we shouldn’t feel obliged to pay their denunciations any more attention than they deserve.

The inverted totalitarianism that Bruce and Rich are referencing here is only apparently a successful marriage of the impulse to control complex processes and the technologies which promise the possibility of that control. If we really want to foster a future in which institutions are stable again, and can successfully design and implement effective protections for the general welfare, we’re going to have to get a lot more comfortable with chaos, unintended consequences, the residual perversity, in short, of large-scale human interactions. Never mind how powerful their tools, managers who want to avoid catastrophic delusions will have to learn a little humility. My advice to them: feed that to your big data and your AI, right along with your fiat money, your global capital flows, and your commodified and devalued labor force. and see where you wind up. Where you’re headed now is a dead end.

Rich Puchalsky 10.10.16 at 3:04 am

basil: “See for example all the anti-racists who support/extenuate for war, drones, cages for immigrants, and the liberal politicians pushing these positions.”

Since I’m really talking about a coherent line and not a few commenters, it’s worth pointing out that every one of the items that basil mentions has its own particular defense as part of that line:

war: Don’t you want to help people who are being killed by [dictator X]? Or the women being attacked by the forces of [dictator X]? You must not care about saving the lives of these people because you’re a white man, you [dictator X] lover.

drones: Don’t you know that bombs and bullets kill people too? How would it better to kill more people with a bomb drop since these people obviously have to be killed? Wait, you’re saying that maybe we shouldn’t kill them — oh, you just can’t support any of the unpleasant but necessary things that Obama does because you’re a racist.

cages for immigrants: The GOP manipulated the stats to make it seem like Obama was deporting more people than he actually was, so it’s not true that he deported more people than any other President. No, Obama manipulated the stats himself to placate them. And he couldn’t do anything differently anyways. You seem to be opposing a lot of the things that Obama, our first black President, does. It’s not coincidental that you’re white, is it.

liberal politicians:

[1] OMG you think Obama could have pushed to fulfill any of his promises? You’re a Green Lanternist who believes that a President only has to will something in order to accomplish it. Don’t you know that Presidents have very little power? Although Trump absolutely can not be allowed near the Presidency because he’d have so much power. Wait, you’re saying he wouldn’t, wow you’re a white guy who only cares about other white guys.

[2] Obama planned that the GOP would reject his Grand Bargain all along! He was definitely not bargaining away Social Security. It was all a plan to make them look bad. Don’t you know that politicians lie and that you can’t take their public statements at face value… wait. You’re saying that HRC’s promises to carry out her bargain with Sanders are worthless? You really don’t like women, do you?

Monday, October 03, 2016

bruce wilder 10.02.16 at 7:49 pm

Anarcissie @ 239: We basically have a whole class of people, at the top of the social order, who seem devoid of a moral sense — a problem which the upcoming election isn’t going to touch, much less solve. I don’t blame Clinton for this . . .

JimV @ 317: I am sorry if I mischaracterized BW as implying that HRC is evil, . . .

Peter T @ 320: Whatever the merits of their individual stances, there is no reason to suppose that either Obama or Hillary can exert more than loose control over this mess [the multi-sided regional civil war engulfing Syria and northern Iraq]

stevenjohnson @ 324: The recent leak that Clinton is against nuclear armed cruise missiles and isn’t committed to Obama’s trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade appears to suggest she’s not quite on board with plans for general war.

LFC @ 330: I disagree w the notion that the pt of nuclear ‘modernization’ is to make plausible the threat of “imminent general nuclear war.” If U.S. military planners took hallucinogenic drugs and went nuts, they could “plausibly” threaten “imminent general nuclear war” right now with the US nuclear arsenal as currently configured. They don’t need to upgrade the weapons to do that. The program is prob more the result of rigid, unimaginative thinking at top levels of Pentagon and influence of outside companies (e.g. Boeing etc) that work on the upgrades.

I don’t know if that seems like a somewhat random collection of precursors to assemble as preface to a comment. I was thinking of picking out a few upthread references to climate change and the response to it (or inadequacy thereof) as well.

I am a little disturbed by the idea of leaving the impression that I think Hillary Clinton is “evil”. What I think is that American politics in general is not generating realistic, adaptive governance.

I am using that bloodless phrase, “realistic, adaptive governance”, deliberately, to emphasize wanting to step outside the passions of the Presidential election. I think the Manichean narrative where Trump is The Most Horrible Candidate Evah and Everyone Must Line Up Behind Clinton as an Ethical Imperative of a High Order is part of the process of propaganda and manipulation that distorts popular discussion and understanding and helps to create a politics that cannot govern realistically and adaptively. This is not about me thinking Trump is anything but a horrible mess of a candidate who ought to be kept far from power.

I see Clinton as someone who is trapped inside the dynamics of this seriously deranged politics qua political process. I don’t see her as entirely blameless. Politicians like Obama and either Clinton, at the top of the political order, are masters (keeping in mind that there are many masters working to some extent in opposition to one another as rivals, allies, enemies and so on) of the process and create the process by the exercise of their mastery, as much as they are mastered by it. I see them as trapped by the process they have helped (more than a little opportunistically) to create, but trapped as Dr Frankenstein is by his Creature.

Clinton must struggle with the ethical contradictions of governance at the highest levels of leadership: she must, in the exercise of power in office and out, practice the political art of the possible in relation to crafting policy that will be “good” in the sense of passably effective and efficient — this may involve a high degree of foresightful wonkery or a lethally ruthless statesmanship, depending upon circumstances. Beside this business of making the great machinery of the state lumber forward, she must strive to appear “good”, like Machiavelli’s Prince, even while playing an amoral game of real politick, gathering and shepherding a complex coalition of allies, supporters, donors and cooperative enemies.

Machiavelli, when he was considering the Princely business of appearing “good”, was contending with the hypocrisies and impossible idealism of authoritarian Catholic morality. He barely connected with anything that we would recognize as democratic Public Opinion and could scarcely conceive of what Ivy Lee or Edward Bernays, let alone Fox News, Vox and the world wide web might do to politics.

We are trapped, just as Clinton is trapped, in the vast communication nightmare of surrealistic news and opinion washing in upon us in a tide that never ebbs. We are trapped by the politics of media “gotchas” and Kinsley Gaffes (A Kinsley gaffe occurs when a political gaffe reveals some truth that a politician did not intend to admit.)

I don’t think Clinton lacks a moral sense. What I think is that Clinton’s moral sense is exhausted calculating what to say or do within the parameters of media-synthesized conventional wisdom policed by people who are themselves exhausted trying to manage it. Matt Lauer’s interview with Clinton was notorious for the relentless and clueless questioning about the email server, although I, personally, was shocked when he asked her a question that seemed premised on the idea that veterans should be offended by admitting the Iraq War was a mistake.

I would think it is easy to see that the media circus is out of control, especially when a clown like Trump graduates from The Apprentice to the Republican nomination. YMMV, but I think this is a serious problem that goes beyond vividly imagined sepia-toned parodies of Trump’s candidacy as the second coming of Mussolini.

While we’re getting ourselves agitated over Trump’s racism or threats to bar Muslims from entry, apparently the Military-Industrial Complex, left on autopilot, is re-designing the nation’s nuclear arsenal to make the outbreak of nuclear war far more likely. And, the closest Clinton gets to a comment, campaign commitment or public discussion, let alone an exercise of power, is a PR “leak”!!!

The chaotic civil war in Syria and Iraq seems like another example where the U.S. is having a hard time “thinking” things thru realistically. Clinton offered up a sound-bite last year, saying that she favored imposing a “no-fly” zone, which was exposed as kind of crazy idea, given that the Russians as well as Assad’s government are the ones flying, not to mention the recent experience with a no-fly zone in Libya. One interpretation is she’s stupid and vicious as a badge of class honor, blissfully consistent with the bloodthirsty record of Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, that might be true, though I think if it is true, it is more likely a product of being caught up in the amoral bubble of political and media process that has enveloped the whole foreign policy establishment than any personal psychopathy. What’s most alarming to me is that we cannot count on personal character to put the brakes on that process, which is now the process of governance. I am writing now of the process of governance by public relations that was has been exposed a bit in profiles of the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, Ben Rhodes.

In Syria, it has become almost comical, if you can overlook the bodies piling up, as the U.S. has sought a the mythical unicorn of Syrian Moderate Democrats whom the Pentagon or the CIA can advise, train and arm. This is foreign policy by PR narrative and it is insanely unrealistic. But, our politics is trapped in it, and, worse, policy is trapped in it. Layer after layer of b.s. have piled up obscuring U.S. interests and practical options. Recently, U.S. forces supporting the Turks have come dangerously close to blowing up U.S. forces supporting the Kurds. When you find yourself on opposing sides of a civil war like Charles I you may be in the process of losing your head. Some of the worst elements opposing Assad have been engaged in a transparent re-branding exercise aimed at garnering U.S. aid. And, U.S. diplomats and media face the high challenge of explaining why the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

But, hey, Clinton will get Robert Kagan’s vote and a better tomorrow is only a Friedman unit away, so it is all good.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

bruce wilder 09.30.16 at 7:52 pm

RP @ 199

1.) I do not think the election is “close” — I think the pseudo-probabilities assigned by 538 to give Clinton ~60% chance of winning are not representative of Clinton’s chances, but are statistically representative of the state of partisan politics and related divisions in the country. If 538 is on to something, it may be that the ability of elite manipulations to get an electoral result is eroding, but I think not fast enough for Trump given his negatives.

I guess my views are in the structural factors category. The vast majority of people do not pay much attention to politics and do not understand much when they do. So, most people will vote the Party label supplemented by vague, emotion-laden impulses, and this includes most people who do pay some attention and have committed to a political identity. The most persuadable voters can be the least knowledgeable and the least committed. This makes the mass electorate eminently manageable and politics an exclusively elite province. The rise of the plutocracy and the decline of social affiliation has exacerbated the tendency of politics to become exclusively responsive to the prejudices and interests of the (financialized) rich and the new class of creatives and professionals and managers that serve the globalizing plutocracy.

The numerical majority are neglected by politics, and actual victims of its economics. We are in this moment in a period of economic stability, but still it is unsatisfactory. It is not a recession, when fear is acute, but people are unhappy about declining wages, etc. The sense of rapid technological change and an ominous future fills the popular imagination. Most people are unhappy with elites and elite performance, in one respect or another, bubbling up into their consciousness in ways that may or may not make contact with what they think of as politics. It might be a sense that something is wrong, if elites cannot manage the “war on terror” or it might be a rising cable bill or poor cell phone service. It might be a shabby airport or a bank being fined or police shooting someone unnecessarily.

For a long time, the two Parties represented the masses differently. The Democrats gathered the cultural outsiders and the economic underclass, while the Republicans took on the mainstream WASP core and the middle class establishment as well as big business. But, things have been changing and I do not think either Party represents any mass constituency. There are vestiges, in the Republican ability to marshal evangelicals or the Democrats to turn out blacks, but that is a statement about the capacity to manipulate, not about representing interests.

We have two intensely unpopular candidates, neither of whom is credible as an advocate for the common interest or elite competence and integrity. A lot of people will vote against one or the other. A few will vote against both. And, a great many — maybe more than any of the above — will not vote at all.

The glue of trust and legitimacy that held party leaders to their popular constituencies and made elections so eminently predictable is failing. Not so fast that I think Clinton will fail of election, though I keep my eye on the observations of a few who think otherwise.

In the meantime, campaigns have to campaign and so the tools of manipulation and propaganda are trotted out and hot buttons are pressed and pressed hard.

In a healthy democratic politics, politicians pursuing office bring about rotation in office. The loyal opposition criticise and develop alternatives to the current line of policy. When a line of policy fails, the opposition are all over it, leveraging that failure as an opportunity to gain office by championing some alternative. That pendulum swings freely.

That has not been happening. The pendulum has not swung. The Parties have settled into a partisan stalemate and rotation in key offices of state has been arrested and failed policy has been continued and extended without alteration.

Careful observers have wondered why the neoliberalism that produced the GFC was not discredited. Why the neocons that promoted the Iraq War are still dominating the fp discussion. Why so many leaders of the surveillance state have continued in office from Bush thru Obama. Ditto for the Fed. Ditto for the Media punditry, for that matter.

I think elite politics does not depend on the voters. Politicians compete to deliver voters to the donor class in a sense, but policy performance in relation to common interests does not matter. This is partly about how plutocratic interests have been melded with the interests of the executive class and the managerial class by financialization, so there are no elite divisions that might lead an elite faction to seek mass support against another elite faction. It is also about the decline of social affiliation in the society at large. No one belongs to an organisation, so there are very few mass platforms that could support any challenge from below, even from the middle-class. No strong unions, churches, etc.

The dynamics of Clinton’s campaign have been remarkable. Clearly, Trump has been a welcome gift and she has been running hard on not being Trump. If the Clinton Foundation is rotten, never mind the Trump Foundation is a bigger scam. If Bill skimmed millions from a for-profit school, never mind Trump U is a bigger scam. If Clinton is a war monger, never mind Trump is crazy in his bellicose bluster. If Clinton is a servant to the plutocracy, never mind, Trump is a billionaire and a cheat. It goes on and on, this lesser evil calculus absolves Clinton of a multitude of sins.

Trump, for his part, has to be one of the most cringe-worthy candidates ever. He will apparently say anything to get audience response. And, sometimes he says something –seemingly random — that reminds people of what adaptive change might look like. Like maybe we should not be nurturing WWIII in Ukraine. ISIS is a product of failed U.S. policy. When he says the system is fixed and corrupt, he should know. The Democrats are so busy crying, “racism” they do not have to deal with the elite competence and integrity issues buried in anger about immigration and terrorism and trade policy. The challenge to the integrity of elections cannot be met as both Parties have been promoting concerns in an increasingly cynical fashion since 2000.

It is mildly interesting to see what other people, people who have enlisted their psyches in the election, do with the major issues, which are not being discussed as we focus on just how terrifying is Trump. I do not know why anyone would use CT to campaign, so I presume what is written here is meant to be reflective thinking.

The absence of mechanism and agency bugs me. I do not see the case for the Iraq War vote making Clinton a war criminal, but I see how hyperbole substitutes for shouting at the deaf. GWB made the worst fp blunder imaginable: morally wrong, incompetently managed, unimaginably costly in blood, honor and treasure. And, yet the political system cannot reject it. Neither Obama nor Clinton turns away in any but the most nominal terms. Clinton promises an “intelligence surge”! Because Bush’s surge in Iraq was so successful and Obama’s surge in Afganistan confirmed its wisdom?

I feel much the same applies to economics. Inequality has no authors. I harp on Obama’s failure to prosecute banksters because of my irrational hatred for Obama, apparently.

To me, Clinton seems to be insistent on persisting in failing policy, in economics and in foreign policy. That the “better” pilot seems determined to crash the plane is not an argument for substituting a pilot that does not know how to fly. Noticing is an argument for detaching from anything that involves pretending that the “better” pilot is trustworthy.
Rich Puchalsky 10.01.16 at 11:06 am

BW: “And, sometimes he says something –seemingly random — that reminds people of what adaptive change might look like.”

I think that this is pretty much John Emerson’s territory. He wrote a lot about populism and how the Democratic Party not only rejected populism but successfully redefined the whole legacy of populism as racist. This is easy to do because if you go back in time for half a century or a century, everything is racist in America — look at merian’s “the left was sexist in 1968, so of course it always is” bit above. Jonah Goldberg tried to do this kind of thing with his Liberal Fascism book but of course overplayed it with comical effect.

So for the moment let’s ignore the bit about liberalism vs neoliberalism. What happened is populist elements were pushed out and technocratic ones pushed in, as being a whole lot more responsive to both the wealthy elite and to the new class of what Thomas Frank calls the 10%. And part of this was a new version of the past is which populism became racism, and in which any new populist demand was dismissed as racist and therefore the Democratic Party was immunized against it.

So there can’t really be a left populism any more. There can’t really be a right-wing one either because the GOP is run by con men and doesn’t actually do anything with the populist tropes that it uses to raise money — Trump is only the latest example of this. The interests of the people can only be represented by the voices of the 10%, and when problems don’t affect the 10%, they don’t exist.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


bruce wilder 09.29.16 at 1:04 am

likbez: How you can defend such a deeply flawed (as in insane) candidate is beyond me.


By focusing on the other guy, on Trump.

Today, Brad Delong points to the daily anti-Trump screed by James Fallows, which features a four month old piece by Robert Kagan:I disagree with Robert Kagan on just about everything. But in the months since he originally published his essay, called “This Is How Fascism Comes to America,” I think his arguments have come to seem more rather than less relevant.

Robert Kagan is desperate to save us from fascism, you see. Because anything Athens did wrong in the Peloponnesian War, America can do again, but bigger. And, his wife is a favorite to become Secretary of State. She’s deeply experienced, having brought peace to Ukraine.

None of that matters because Trump is unprecedented.

Yan 09.28.16 at 7:24 pm

Rich @80
“1. HRC is the lesser evil.
2. I can’t stand voting for someone purely as the lesser evil: my ego requires that I affirmatively support someone.
3. Therefore the lesser evil is really kind of good and anyone against it is bad.”

My favorite part is:
4. HRC critics, you should vote for her because she’s a lesser evil
5. But I can’t stand endorsing someone purely as a lesser evil
6. Therefore, you shouldn’t just vote for her, you should stop criticizing her and actively praise her.
7. Or you’re objectively supporting Trump.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 7:32 pm

Climate policy is no longer really about denialists. Trump is an outlier in this regard, but what the Paris Agreements did was to semi-permanently shift the Overton Window to official, international acceptance that the problem is real and that we’re supposed to do something about it. I don’t think that Trump and/or the U.S. can unilaterally turn that back any more.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 7:43 pm

The “you’re objectively supporting Trump if you write anything critical of HRC on a blog” runs into the clear problem that by that logic you’re objectively supporting Trump if you write stuff on a blog that causes people who might vote for HRC to instead vote for Stein in disgust. That pretty much started with the coinage “Trump-curious” and its associations with a kind of untrustworthy bisexuality and continued on through the whole “you’re racist”, “you’re sexist” romp.

But really this has something to do with the bandwagon effect. The implicit logic (if any) seems to be that while you and I might be capable of voting knowingly for a lesser evil, there are other unnamed people out there who aren’t capable. So we have to preserve a solid front of denial for their sake.

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.16 at 12:25 pm

I think that the election comments on CT are perfectly typed by how, on the last thread, Bruce Wilder wrote that he was going to vote for Jill Stein and faustusnotes told him that he must not like HRC because he didn’t like old women.

We have to work with these people somehow over the next 4 years, and I can hardly wait. 10-dimensional chess, Green Lanternism, to deep need for humanitarian mass killings, hypothetical atrocities that always could have been worse than the real atrocities…

What should people should notice now is that no one is really pushing these propaganda lines on people. They’re doing it to themselves. The summer of the moderate Republican can coexist with a feeling that maybe HRC should distance the party from GWB’s legacy by resolving the cognitive dissonance in favor of “anyone who wants to win has to do this.” It’s the Church of the Savvy for people who don’t even have their jobs on the line as journalists do.

Friday, September 16, 2016

William Timberman 09.16.16 at 8:22 pm

Trump didn’t raise these demons. He’s a symptom, not a cause. So also are Hillary and Bill, the Bobbsey Twins of go-along-to-get-ahead. You could argue that winning in today’s political context requires a vast influence-peddling and money-laundering machine like the Clinton Foundation, that it requires cozying up to bankers and generals, that it also requires castigating the unnecessariat, winking at mass incarceration, profiting from rent-seeking in the privatization of public education, bombing peasant weddings, etc., etc. This, we’re told, is realism, this is what it takes to win.

And after your nest is feathered, after you win, then what? You remember suddenly that you’re supposed to be the steward of our common destiny? Eye of the needle stuff, if you ask me, not that you did. Mind you I don’t blame Hillary for this. She does what she has to do, given her imperatives. It’s her imperatives that I question…and the system which makes them imperatives in the first place.

bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 8:19 pm

Raven Onthill: Bruce Wilder, Two of the best public poll analysts, Sam Wang and Nate Silver, say that Trump has a significant chance, and his chance is improving. All signs point to a close election and so we need the participation of all. I would rather be morally damaged by supporting Clinton and have prevented World War III . . .

My feeling is that polls sell newspapers (and attract eyeballs to new media) and therefore the people who pay for polls always want the polls to show how close an election is going to be. Nobody has a stake in polls that show the other guy is in a hopeless position. Trump’s chances are being exaggerated in a news Media that gets a huge payoff (as in beaucoup bucks) from campaign advertising.

This election may turn out to be different, in a “past experience is no guarantee of future performance” kind of way. I do sense that legitimacy issues loom larger this year than usual, but that’s just an extension of my cyclic argument. It would shock me if those issues mature fast enough for enough people to drown Clinton before the election almost as much as it would surprise me if they don’t contribute to drowning her Presidency afterwards.

My argument is not an argument against voting, or against voting for Clinton even, if that’s what your preferences or judgment dictate.

Even if a vote for President wasn’t swallowed up in the math of millions of votes, it would still be an impossible existential choice. You simply cannot project the ultimate consequences of such a choice. Even if you were the only one voting, I would not have confidence that you could possibly understand the consequences of your choice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in democracy. I do, very much, as a good (American social) liberal. Mobilizing people behind a political program or candidate can be a vitally important device for coordinating behavior and expectations in a large-scale society. The existential uncertainty problem gets buried under civic ritual and solidarity; it is not about the person of the candidate, so much as the collective exercise of the franchise, which enables elected officials to rely on political solidarity to enable and support necessary political choices made subsequently.

I am arguing it is not good to be herded in this case by these oligarchic shepherds. The oligarchy does not need the “participation of all” to achieve Clinton’s election. They want the “participation of all” to legitimize that election and the policies that follow. They don’t need your vote so much as the pernicious rationalizations and emotional arguments dampening cognitive dissonance and critical assessment.

I am fine with holding your nose and voting for Clinton as the best of a bad lot. I am against not-holding-your-nose and pretending to yourself and others that she doesn’t stink.

If you think voting enthusiastically for Clinton is going to prevent WWIII, you have not been paying enough attention to who Clinton is. (Yeah, yeah, I get it Trump is volatile and in over his head; don’t disagree.) Clinton is the scariest major party candidate since Barry Goldwater. Her belligerence and bad judgment is staggering.

She may well want to go to war or create provocations. Remember, the post-WWII economic and political order is crumbling — that’s a real thing that’s happening and not a choice she makes. This isn’t Reagan in a peaceful world facing a decrepit Soviet Union waiting for Granada to demonstrate his manhood. Clinton will see the U.S. challenged across the globe and China, the next hegemon, in economic turmoil. These are really, really dangerous times and Clinton does not have a record of good or foresightful judgment. She just doesn’t. The Republicans make a scandal out of the wrong accusations, because they are idiots, but that doesn’t redeem her.

If the left feels it has to defend Clinton as a “normal liberal” President, one of their own, I think that may, in the inevitable crises to come, prove to be a major mistake, a trap, as it has been a trap during Obama’s Administration for so many left aspirations. So, vote for her, if you feel that’s best, but please do it with all the enthusiasm you would muster for Tricky Dick Nixon if you can remember him. Because it may not that far in the future when the “participation of all” may well be necessary to stop Clinton from taking us to the apocalypse.

bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 6:45 pm

Hillary is patient President ~8 zero for a coming continuing pandemic. The next corrupt nexus of a corrupt system, but not the beginning. If she fumbles badly enough — and given her apparently sometimes terribly faulty judgment of people and situations, she just might — she might mark the end, or — since there’s never a really an end as long as the human species lives and breathes — an inflection point in continuing anacyclosis.

I saw some wag comment the other day that if you are faced with the choice of two evils, you might want to consider taking the worse in the hope of getting it over sooner. Maybe that’s what we are in the process of doing — I don’t know.

There’s been lots of speculation on this blog about the end of Clinton’s particular political style or more broadly, global neoliberalism (if that term doesn’t make your eyes roll back in your head in incomprehension). The long political and economic cycles are interesting to me — like any thing on a large-enough scale, they can be hard to see for what they are, close-up. But, I credit that the feeling that “the system” is crumbling and nearing some kind of crisis is common among voters albeit maybe vague and incoherent in expectation of detail. Certainly, I see frequent blogospheric references to “late capitalism” and “the end of empire” and prospective “imperial collapse” as titular themes for ephemeral commentary on the fine details of some event or other — military economic or political. It is increasingly felt to be the context of our times. I take due note.

Can you talk yourself into thinking that the status quo will continue, staggering on, muddling thru? Sure. Can you want that? Every sensible person wants that. You can only pump your 75 year old fist in the air, sputtering about “Our Revolution” if you’ve never experienced a real one in your lifetime. IBGYBG, indeed.

Back around 2005 or so, I thought we were headed to a kind of beneficent political Perfect Storm that would serve to motivate the reversal of much that had gone wrong in our politics since 1980 (~Reagan). My nostalgia for the New Deal or at least its post-WWII political legacy led me to hope for that Perfect Storm and that reversal. We got the Perfect Storm. Katrina. Losing in Iraq. Financial collapse. Two wave elections sweeping the Republicans from power. We didn’t get the political reversal; we got Obama, who thought the Surge in Iraq merited a similar Surge in Afghanistan, who couldn’t find a bankster worth prosecuting or a whistleblower he didn’t want to torture, who thought help on foreclosures meant helping banks not home “owners”, a Constitutional scholar who supported the 2nd Amendment and murder-by-drone, a master of electoral politics who conceded control of Congress and most States for at least a decade, and whose legacy is a health care reform focused on shoveling more money into for-profit health insurance in the country with the highest health care costs and most mediocre record of population health in the developed world. But, never mind, I’m an impractical who doesn’t understand the importance of securing a Supreme Court seat for . . . Merrick Garland, a sixty-three year old pro-prosecution centrist.

So, now we’re back for another bite of the apple. Instead of the economic system cycle reaching crisis — the economic cycle that started in the 1930s and turned in the Nixon’s day, and reached crisis right on schedule in 2008 — we get to witness the crisis of the post-WWII international economic and political order, which turned in Reagan’s day.

Only now, recent experience says that the oligarchy has a firm grip. This is likely to get ugly. I am not so sure I will be gone soon enough.



bruce wilder 09.16.16 at 3:31 pm

After the election, if Hillary wins, do everything you can to shift her to the left.

If Obama is the relevant precedent, “everything” will be a lot excuses and denial, just as it has been in this thread.

What was it the man said about staring into the abyss? The trouble with supporting a candidate or a Party is that support moves you, not the candidate, not the Party.

The trouble with American politics is its domination by an irresponsible economic oligarchy with global ambition and scope. Hillary Clinton has done everything she can over more than a dozen years to make it crystal clear she is with that oligarchy and to draw that oligarchy into alignment with her. That oligarchy is ambivalent about Clinton and partly in its self-interest some in the oligarchy work pretty hard before and after elections to make sure Clinton’s are constrained to remain in alignment on policy that matters to the oligarchy. The Clintons never feud with their billionaire tormentors and use the Media’s Clinton Rules to their advantage, to conserve with popular sympathy their own base of popular electoral support against the evidence of their policy and fundraising record.

There are no good choices on the America ballot in November. I cannot predict the future well enough that I feel comfortable identifying one of the major Party candidates as lesser evil. I do predict the future well enough that I remain confident Clinton will win.

No individual’s vote matters much. Thinking that it does practically is delusional. First, there is the math. Second, what part of oligarchy did you miss? American politics is responsive only to the interests of large business and the very wealthy on the issues they care about. That is not my impression only; political science confirms as much with detailed measurement.

Letting yourself be mobilised by Clinton does more damage morally to you as a person than it does to meliorate in any degree the politics of the system. Vote as you will; it does not matter. But, don’t invest your faith and twist your moral judgment into knots.

There may come a time when you can join with others and be politically effective if you are available. Be available. Detach yourself from this politics now. It does not need you or want you — that is what is wrong with Clinton’s politics: it does not need you to do anything except to acquiesce in continuing and extending the status quo, a status quo that is slowly destroying civilization to make a few of the rich, richer. It is an ugly, depressing truth, to admit powerlessness in the face of such evil, but it is the truth in this political moment, and as the man said, the truth shall set you free.

bruce wilder 09.15.16 at 12:59 am

The U.S. government does not run. This isn’t greasing the proverbial gears; this is throwing sand in the gears.

In many respects, the corruption is aimed at preventing routine prosecution for economic crime and executive malfeasance — possibly Obama’s most important legacy being the blanket immunity given to banksters. As executive level leadership pays itself more and more — and the numbers have been staggering for quite a while — the money has to come from somewhere, and it often comes from looting institutions. As the high standard for executive pay has spread out from large business into non-profit sectors, the looting has disabled some institutions for which people have had genuine affection. The erosion of integrity in educational institutions is widely felt. Quite a lot of people are trapped in debt peonage by student debt or are experiencing the continuing deterioration of American health care and insurance under the pressure of high costs driven by greed and for-profit strategies.

There’s still a high-level of ethical inertia in American society I think, but it is eroding and with it the legitimacy of institutions. Sometimes, it seems like there’s just enough ethical inertia that scandals are exposed along with the political failure to respond proportionately, so the corruption is not contained but the popular disillusion is fed a steady diet.

With both candidates for President widely reviled for their dishonesty, it feels like this trend of declining legitimacy has the potential to get much worse or even reach a critical point. Certainly, the traditional two-party remedy of rotation in office is seriously blunted by the foreclosure of options.

I am inclined by temperament to be doomsayer, so I am not always a good barometer, but I sense a growing unease about financial and business stability — I am not talking about anything more than a routine recession, except that these circumstances make the potential for precipitating a political crisis of legitimacy from even a mild recession seem to me quite significant.

The inability of the U.S. military to win a war, or just end one cleanly, is also hanging out there after 15 years.

Even if you take the pejorative of “corruption” out of the analysis, the performance of U.S. elites on behalf of the country’s general welfare and their apparently insatiable demands for an increased share of income and wealth seems unsustainable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



bruce wilder 09.13.16 at 6:14 pm

Layman: globalization is more or less like a force of nature

Certainly, it is remarkably convenient to the powers-that-be if you think that.

Racism, historically, has been mobilized as an organizing principle, a rationalization for the institution of slavery, the institution of Jim Crow segregation, conquest and genocide of Native Americans and so on. In its details, racism often had as a feature a political consolation prize for the lower rungs of the economic hierarchy: e.g., in the plantation South you might be poor white trash, your interests neglected by the state, but you were better than the negro; all your resentments could be vented on someone a couple rungs down the social and economic ladder.

So, now we have the spectacle of both a tribalist racism and a pseudo-tribalist anti-racism and they both organize their thoughts to enable expression of their passionate if petty and irrational resentments while ignoring the increasing parasitism of elite power and wealth.

The narratives may differ across the divide. The racists are told a simpler story: the system is rigged, the Chinese are stealing your jobs, the stupid liberals think they are better than you, those people are taking advantage of the secret welfare system, things would be fairer if they were simpler — flat tax!, and so on.

The anti-racists are trained in a more abstract narrative. Cosmopolitans like us are better humans. Globalization and technology are impersonal forces; the key to a better future is more education. The racist tribalists must be opposed in all things and they will block all the good things our good leaders want to do so we have to settle for the politically practical.

The extremities of political polarization are associated with extremities of economic inequality for a variety of reasons that come down to, because it works to reinforce economic domination by elite predators or parasites as the case may be.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016



bruce wilder 08.31.16 at 6:14 pm

RichardM: Whatever the nature of the rulers, they rarely starve.

Still not getting it.

The operative question is whether the rulers feast because the society works or because the society fails.

Neoliberalism is the politics of controlled dismantling of the institutions of a society that formerly worked for a larger portion of its participants. Like a landlord realizing increased cash flow from a decision to forego maintenance and hire gangsters to handle rent collection, neoliberalism seeks to divert the dividends from disinvestment to the top

The cadre managing this technically and politically difficult task — it is not easy to take things apart without critical failures exemplified by system collapse prompting insurrection or revolution — are rewarded as are society’s owners, the 1/10th of 1%. Everybody else is screwed — either directly, or by the consequences of the social disintegration used to feed a parasitic elite.

The key thing is, take two neoliberal politicians, only one of whom is (unusually) corrupt. One entirely intends to deliver what you ask for, admittedly while ensuring they personally have a nice life being well-fed, warm and listened-to. The other plans to take it all and deliver nothing.

Again, you are not getting it. This isn’t about lesser evil. “Lesser evil” is a story told to herd the masses. If there are two neoliberal politicians, both are corrupt. Neither intends to deliver anything to you on net; they are competing to deliver you.

Any apparent choice offered to you is just part of the b.s. The “300 hours of reading” is available if you need a hobby or the equivalent of a frontal lobotomy.

I am not enthusiastic about this proposed distinction between “hard” and “soft” neoliberalism. Ideologically, conservative libertarians have been locked in a dialectic with the Clintonite / Blairite neoliberals — that’s an old story, maybe an obsolete story, but apparently not one those insist on seeing neoliberalism as a monolithic lump fixed in time can quite grasp, but never mind.

Good cop, bad cop. Only, the electorate is carefully divided so that one side’s good cop is the other side’s bad cop, and vice versa.

Hillary Clinton is running the Democratic Party in such a way that she wins the Presidency, but the Party continues to be excluded from power in Congress and in most of the States. This is by design. This is the neoliberal design. She cannot deliver on her corrupt promises to the Big Donors if she cannot play the game Obama has played so superbly of being hapless in the face of Republican intransigence.

In the meantime, those aspiring to be part of the credentialed managerial classes that conduct this controlled demolition while elaborating the surveillance state that is expected to hold things together in the neo-feudal future are instructed in claiming and nurturing their individual political identity against the day of transformation of consciousness, when feminism will triumph even in a world where we never got around to regulating banks.

bruce wilder 08.31.16 at 6:33 pm

Will G-R, Bob Zannelli

Actual, historical fascism required the would-be fascists to get busy, en masse.

Trump (and Clinton) will be streamed on demand so you can stay home and check Facebook. Hitler giving a two-hour 15000 word speech and Trump, Master of the Twitterverse, belong to completely different political categories, if not universes.

There are so many differences and those differences are so deep and pervasive that the conversation hardly seems worth having.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

bruce wilder 08.03.16 at 1:08 am

Layman @ 79

I am not interested in a prolonged back and forth, but I will lay out a bare outline of facts. I do not find much support for your characterization of these arrangements, which give new meaning to the fungibility of funds. I think it is fair and accurate to describe the HVF transfer arrangements as a means of circumventing campaign financing limits and using the State parties to subsidize the Clinton campaign. Court rulings have made aggregate fund raising legal and invites this means of circumventing the $2700 limit on individual Presidential campaign donations. Whether the circumvention is legal — whether it violates the law to invite nominal contributions to State Parties of $10,000 and channel those contributions wholly to operations in support of Clinton, while leaving nothing in State Party coffers is actually illegal, I couldn’t say; it certainly violates the norms of a putative joint fundraising effort. It wasn’t hard for POLITICO to find State officials who said as much. The rest of this comment quotes POLITICO reports dated July 2016.

Hillary Victory Fund, which now includes 40 state Democratic Party committees, theoretically could accept checks as large as $436,100 — based on the individual limits of $10,000 per state party, $33,400 for the DNC, and $2,700 for Clinton’s campaign.

Between the creation of the victory fund in September and the end of [June], the fund had brought in $142 million, . . . 44 percent [to] DNC ($24.4 million) and Hillary for America ($37.6 million), . . . state parties have kept less than $800,000 of all the cash brought in by the committee — or only 0.56 percent.

. . . state parties have received $7.7 million in transfers, but within a few days of most transfers, almost all of the cash — $6.9 million — was transferred to the DNC . . .

The only date on which most state parties received money from the victory fund and didn’t pass any of it on to the DNC was May 2, the same day that POLITICO published an article exposing the arrangement.

Beyond the transfers, much of the fund’s $42 million in direct spending also appears to have been done to directly benefit the Clinton campaign, as opposed to the state parties.

The fund has paid $4.1 million to the Clinton campaign for “salary and overhead expenses” to reimburse it for fundraising efforts. And it has directed $38 million to vendors such as direct marketing company Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey and digital consultant Bully Pulpit Interactive — both of which also serve the Clinton campaign — for mailings and online ads that sometimes closely resemble Clinton campaign materials.

bruce wilder 08.02.16 at 7:41 pm

RP @ 40:

I think it’s useful for analysis to distinguish each Party’s Presidential Party from the Party’s Congressional Parties and numerous State Parties.

The Democrats have a strong Presidential Party in the long-standing Clinton organization and because Obama, a Democrat with whom the Clintonites are politically and ideologically congenial, has been President successfully for nearly 8 years, with all that implies for patronage, fundraising and so on.

The Republicans have a weak Presidential Party, the weakest since Wendall Willkie. People talk as if Trump is causing that weakness, when he is the product of that weakness. The singular failure of the Bush organization, with more money than they knew what to do with, deserves more attention.

I am sure fear of the down ballot consequences of Trump is real among Republicans, but we ought to notice that the Republican Party at the Congressional and State levels is not at all weak, generally. (Very weak in my own State, where it was once a powerhouse — Reagan and Nixon were Californians.)

The Democratic Party is weak in much of the country, including some States where Clinton is very competitive. The Congressional party is suffering under unusual degrees of gerrymandering and voter suppression precisely because of state level weakness. 31 States have Republican Governors — the Party is in no danger of confining itself to one region. 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers are Republican, the most ever.

Clinton won’t be turning toward a campaign to win control of Congress or the States, because her politics depends on keeping the Republicans near enough to power so that she does not have to contend with left demands. She needs practical considerations to “dictate” her neoliberal course. She wants to have to choose “moderate” Supreme Court Justices, for example, so that she can be seen fighting to get them thru the Senate, just as Obama will need solid Republican support to get TPP thru in the lame duck.

No 50-state strategy from the Clinton Kaine crowd. To keep the breadth of the Democratic coalition at the Presidential level, she needs to keep the leftish trapped by lesser evilism even while she caters to the neocons and “moderate” Republicans drifting in from the Trump debacle. Which means she needs the “incompetence” of the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the Congressional and State levels of Party organizing.

It is a tricky thing. The Dems are coming to their demographic turnover several years later than the Republicans. Pelosi and Reid will be gone at last. Sanders, at 75, won’t persist. The under 35 millennials have very different economic experiences and interests, a radically different experience of social class, in contrast to the boomers and early gen-X.

Clinton’s pretend and extend status quo politics are heading into rough policy waters and that is another consideration: whether her politics is ready to adapt over the next 4 years when policies that kinda worked in the past run out of road. I am thinking of zero interest rate macro or superpower middle east politics of bully bombing and drone strikes. We are in a period of escalating violence with political overtones that is likely to continue to 2020. And, a weather disaster or three are going to bring all the contradictions of climate policy to a head. She is coming into power with high negatives and Trump will attack her legitimacy hard.

It is just possible I think, that the Dems collapse at the state level (to loose the dead hand of a Clinton DNC) and come back at the state level as a very young Party, with boy and girl wonder governors and the like.

bruce wilder 08.02.16 at 8:02 pm

I think the U.S. Party system, in the political science sense, shifted to a new state during George W Bush’s administration as, in Kevin Phillip’s terms the Republican Party was taken over by Theocrats and Bad Money.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

bruce wilder 07.29.16 at 8:17 pm

William Timberman: You’d think at some point they’d at least pull over for a bit and let somebody out to check the wheel bearings. All that screeching can’t be coming just from a few disgruntled Berniebros, can it?

Corey Robin rather eloquently made the point in a couple of his posts that this is the last hurrah for Clinton and Clintonian/Democratic politics. Win or lose, this is the last time her characteristic Third Way, pivot to the Center gambits will work.

She has moved so far Right, that her Convention is getting plaudits from conservative punditry.

Obama, from whatever combination of latent conviction or undoubted political genius, has been doing his bit, implementing necessary preventive maintenance. His foreign policy, since Clinton left her worldwide Clinton Foundation fundraising tour as Secretary of State, has to be acknowledged as a relief from the continuation of Bush II that seemed to characterize his first term. “Don’t do stupid stuff” isn’t quite up to the standard of FDR’s Good Neighbor policy, let alone the Atlantic Charter, but it is what sensible people hope for, in place of hubris and aggressive stupid. Domestically, Obama has done a number of things to shore up the populist foundation of the Democratic Party — he’s made a show of moving on immigration; he’s made a show of moving on labor law regulations that affect overtime, which affects more people and involves more money than modest increases in the minimum wage. I am sure there’s a longer list. These things give the Democrats some credibility, if they have the sense to talk about something other than the ripe horror of Trump’s racism.

Several of our commenters are absolutely sure that it is absolutely, transcendentally obvious that Trump is a huge risk to world peace, and that the contrast with Clinton in this regard scarcely needs to be cast. If there’s any basis at all for this argument, it is derived from the much improved foreign policy of Obama’s second term, with its last desperate efforts to close Guantanamo, to open to Cuba, do a deal with Iran, stay on the margins of the war in Syria and not make it worse, continue the process of global climate talks however disappointing.

NATO expansion in Eastern Europe and the confrontations with China in the South China Sea do not portend well, but Obama has at least given us some reasons to hope for a triumph of reason. TPP and its sisters still loom in the background and Obama appears to be ready to give these attempts to institute corporate neofeudalism his all. So, I am not seeing reasons to be substantively hopeful. Labor law regulatory reform in the 8th year of his Presidency that will not be finalized in his term is a calculation, not an epiphany. I am saying that Obama has been doing preventative maintenance on the bus of the Democratic Coalition, just as Clinton herself has, chameleon-like, adapted Sanders’ colors on some salient issues.

It will be enough to get us thru the general election. I still do not believe that Trump can pull it off. The Democrats will hold together, kinda sorta, despite a drop in turnout and participation that may be truly frightening in its depth.

It is a strange political atmosphere. A lot of people are really, really unhappy with the status quo, even though the status quo isn’t particularly bad. We in the U.S. at least are not experiencing the truly bad times of deep recession let alone war. But, the post-WWII political and economic order has passed its sell-by date and we are in the period of crisis where political re-alignments occur. The magic number is 72 years; it is 72 years since the end of the Second World War, and we’ve been living thru the echoes of world crisis of 1929-1945 since 2001, the institutional order built then, crumbling about us. Our politicians are scavengers, feeding on the carrion of a herd felled by its own extreme old age.

There’s no hope here — at least no hope for the next two to four years. Who ever is elected will step into the maelstrom ill-equipped to respond.

I strongly expect that will be Clinton. For all the talk of her experience, I do not see a case for her being able to cope; she seems on so many fronts determined to do (from my perspective) the wrong things and singularly equipped by the Clinton Third Way approach to take the hazard of political paralysis and making it worse. (Not much commentary on how her VP pick may swing the Senate to the Republicans.) The case for Clinton as peaceably safe on foreign policy seems not just remarkably weak but wilfully ignorant. Clinton is malevolent.

And, yes, Trump, the narcissistic sociopath, would be a disaster in a different way, but his isolationist instincts would seem on the surface to lead in a safer direction — away from the cliff. And, there are a lot of cliffs — in the chaos of the Middle East, in the South China Sea, in NATO expansion, in the TPP.

The “cliff” isn’t an objective thing. It is a social construct, a product of the human tendency to collectively go on doing the same thing, long after it has ceased to be effective. It is so hard, politically, to coordinate our behavior, that when we find something that works we just keep doing it, long after diminishing returns have taken past effectiveness and into self-destructive territory. That’s the cliff. In 1929-32, the Republicans, who had secured a presumptive majority in the country in 1894-96 with protective tariffs and the gold standard and the country had experienced the heady prosperity that followed and the era of Progressive Reform that sought to cast progress in a conservative mold, were bound and determined against all the evidence and the ever-deepening crisis, to double down on Smoot-Hawley and Hoover’s faith in gold and balanced budgets.

The U.S. was the imploding center in that crisis. In the present crisis, it is the periphery that is falling apart, falling into deflation, political breakup and civil war. But, Clinton is the embodiment of the political impulse to continue the status quo, to double-down on the economic and international policies of Bush2-Obama, to extend and pretend. It won’t work. It never works. Because these are the moments when architects are needed, not opportunistic salvage crews. Clinton’s is a politics of controlled disinvestment and dismantling, whether she recognizes it or not and its time has run out.

Bruce Wilder is so smart it is hard to understand how he could be dumb enough to believe in Trump's isolationist instincts. Am I the only one to remember Bush II ran on a humbler foreign policy and promised no nation building? Trump is a con artist and nothing he says should be believed.

bruce wilder 07.29.16 at 6:49 pm

phenomenal cat: I am surprised at the number of people commenting as if the convention represented anything other than made for teevee movie/sub-high school pep rally.

The medium is the message or something, right?

American politics, domestic and international, has been developing along certain lines in a steady step-wise fashion, of incremental degeneration on several fronts.

The political conventions have evolved into carefully orchestrated made-for-teevee pep rallies, the campaigns into the manipulation of a populace of zombies by propaganda, the government itself into a feeding trough for billionaires and international affairs into perpetual war designed for the profit of some of the richest and most pathological greedheads on the planet.

Is there any limit to these processes? Every four years, we have a new test. So far, so good, I guess?
William Timberman 07.29.16 at 7:03 pm

bruce wilder @ 75

You’d think at some point they’d at least pull over for a bit and let somebody out to check the wheel bearings. All that screeching can’t be coming just from a few disgruntled Berniebros, can it?

bob mcmanus 07.30.16 at 8:25 am

Bill Clinton is evil
Hillary Rodham Clinton is evil
Barack Obama is evil

The “lesser evils” are evil, and the desperate HRC boosters have yet to make me believe that they believe and understand that, and are actually willing to resist the incremental evil that our nation has been moving through under Democratic governance.

Trump is worse, and I will vote a straight ‘D’ like I have for fifty years. I don’t think you have any freaking clue or appreciation as to the level of sacrifice and horror that that vote entails, nor do you provide an iota of hope that politics and conditions will ever improve.
bob mcmanus 07.30.16 at 9:23 am

29: Consider “evil” a rhetorical device making seriousness and commitment explicit. “Wrong” is inadequate for radical or effective politics, which is always about designating enemies, burning bridges, and going to war.

And my point in 22 is that the Manicheanism of election season necessarily extends into the policy and legislative seasons, and the insistence that Obama (or HRC) is a “good guy” besieged by nihilist barbarians will always tend to make opposition to his policies lukewarm, defensive, affectionate, guarded and wholly ineffective, since it is only marginal and arguable differences between friends and allies. How bad can this bill be? Obama signed it!

But enough. Rogers has a very interesting chapter on Reagan’s rhetoric that I want to compare to Obama’s, thanks Corey, and I need to finish Tanaka Mitsui’s defense and support for Nagata Hiroko, because nostalgia for authentic politics.
Rich Puchalsky 07.30.16 at 2:00 pm

Corey Robin: “”You might even say that was one of the, long term, purposes of my book on conservatism: to finally get liberals and the left to realize what conservatism was really all about, and thereby to see that to fight it, you’d have to transform yourself into an anti-capitalist party that would make anti-domination, freedom and equality, in all spheres of society (not just the economy), the centerpiece of your argument.”

I think that liberals have really already seen, and decided to not do that. Conservatism is, according to liberalism, ever-present, and the way to deal with it is with a kind of everlasting standoff in which the center point hopefully moves slowly to the left. And if conservatism wins some times, as it inevitably will, well that’s the diffusion of power in e.g. the American political system is supposed to be about — one political victory can not be transformed into full political control.

So the every-four–years “This conservatism is the worst ever!” isn’t supposed to be taken seriously: it’s in bad faith. Really what people are talking about it that in four years they expect to be saying that the conservative candidate then is the worst ever, that they expect the same basic conflict to be there every four years. If they thought that the elements of the worst-ever conservatism were actually bad, they’d have to repudiate them themselves, and they can’t.

The idea that seeing historical connections would transform liberals into anti-capitalist leftists en masse seems over psychoanalytic, if I’m using that term in a correct sense. It’s the idea that by seeing a truth, people see that they have to change. But that hardly ever happens. Changes comes through practice.

William Timberman 07.30.16 at 2:55 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 50

Changes comes through practice.

Consider how far the practice necessary to create the kind of changes we need diverges from the practice that creates a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — or a js or faustusnotes, for that matter. Consider how it is that bob mcmanus’s understanding of the ways our immersion in things-as-they-are affects our cognitive development, or bruce wilder’s analysis of the sine curve of institutional growth and decay, are disdained by the partisans here as the cynicism of grumpy old white men, or a nihilistic attempt to equate the obvious (to them) promise of Hillary with the certain (to them) Trumpian apocalypse.

Sadly for us, it’s not bad faith driving this disdain, it’s an avoidance of precisely that practice which alienates before it reveals, isolates before it offers any viable path toward effective political engagement. As for Trump and what he represents, suffice it to say that the warbling in the depths of our coal mine won’t always be coming from a canary.

Monday, July 25, 2016

bruce wilder 07.25.16 at 4:43 am

LFC @ 470

I was trying to draw attention to the way you were eliding surprise and scandal.

Atrios, clearly a news junkie who follows politics fairly closely, acknowledges that the DNC’s bias was widely known. In that sense, you were perfectly accurate in asserting “no one thought . . . ”

The thing is, the DNC was supposed to be neutral. Its members — and especially its chair — had an ethical imperative derived from the institutional mandate.

You took common knowledge (admittedly somewhat vague and unconfirmed on some specifics) and you made it into moral indifference.

I am not trying to criticize you personally for that. I am not attributing it to some particular shortcoming in your character. As far as I can tell your character is just fine. But, I do think it reflects a troubling aspect of our times, that we have some trouble mustering some feeling about the ethical shortcomings of our lords and masters. Just because we’ve come to expect it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

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