Re: Cheap Blogging

1

Which was your favorite?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:24 PM
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Funny, he just came into the living room and told me something, but I wasn't paying attention because I was reading his blog.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:24 PM
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Obama and the "war on terror" was good, as was the party of terror, and the one on legislative records made a nice distinction, the post about McCain's committee was informative, and the response to Peretz was beautiful. And there were still other good ones.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:28 PM
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2 makes me love the internet.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:28 PM
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There's some good stuff there, but the post about the press liking McCain because he's "always been sure to steer the campaign finance reform agenda in media-friendly ways rather than take up causes like free airtime" is bogus. (Saiselgy wasn't necessarily endorsing the argument, just linking to it.)

Publishers really don't control individual reporters that closely. A few somewhere, maybe, but not enough to explain the press corps as a whole furthering the "maverick" "shoot-from-the-hip" narrative. And individual reporters hate media consolidation.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:35 PM
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2: Was he on fire?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:35 PM
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Publishers really don't control individual reporters that closely.

Uh oh. Somebody hold Emerson back before he makes it to the keyboard.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:38 PM
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Just to make everyone envious, I'd like to note that I wrote comment 4 while sitting on my couch at home, and comment 7 from the office, and no, they're not the same place.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:40 PM
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Hey! He linked to that Amigos de Obama video.

Dang, I wish people read my blog.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:41 PM
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I just got sent home from the office because of snow, and am now on my couch.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:43 PM
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i read your blog


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:45 PM
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Thanks, read.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:47 PM
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The response to Peretz is kind of fantastic. He's pretty good at the pithy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:47 PM
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They frequently fire reporters, controlling them distantly (rather than closely) by that method. And as long as reporters are doing the right thing, who is to say whether they're "controlled"? Maybe they just happen to agree. Voluntarily!

When a guy like John Solomon is hired by the Post, and then rises still higher at the Washington Times, a clear message is received. Leading to even more voluntary agreement by the wild and crazy reporting community.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 1:50 PM
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I don't disagree entirely, and publishers are bastards. I'm certainly not saying there isn't editorial bias that makes its way into news stories, influenced by both hiring and firing decisions, but I'm doubtful that the whole publishing cabal has gotten together to direct a particular narrative on an individual candidate. I think explanations we've discussed on other threads are more plausible.

In this case, I don't think the MSM media needed instructions to repeat the McCain narrative. Among other things, the whole system of the press corps traveling with candidates leads to all matter of biased and irrelevant reporting.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:00 PM
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The pushback the NY Times is getting from rightwingers on the McCain story demonstrates an important part of the reason publishers are the way they are.

The question is: Does the NYT have to worry about pushback from anybody besides rightwingers? I think the answer to that might be changing, and therefore I think the publishers might be changing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:10 PM
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The left and right "media bias" narratives are interesting to me for how they echo the basic convictions of each side. On the left, you get the notion that money exerts pressure on everyone, without any one person necessarily making the call. On the right, you get the notion that the really important thing is each individual reporter's personal preference, which at a certain point in the past must've reached a tipping point such that "liberal bias" becomes a kind of peer-pressure thing. Systemic problem vs. aggregate of individual choices.

The liberal response is of course to say something hand-wavy like, "It's not that simple."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:20 PM
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The liberal response is of course to say something hand-wavy like, "It's not that simple."

Do people use "liberal" as distinct from "left" anymore?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:23 PM
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This is why I find the word so annoying. Serious leftists use 'liberal' to denote weak-ass center-left types: "I'm not a liberal, I'm a progressive/leftist/activist." Centrists and people on the right tend to use it as denoting a political direction: someone really far left is a 'liberal extremist', which would be an oxymoron by the leftist definition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:26 PM
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The left and right "media bias" narratives are interesting to me for how they echo the basic convictions of each side.

This is a great, and completely on-the-money point.

For the record, I found Yglesias's "reporters are nice to McCain because of media consolidation" hypothesis batty. As in all allegations of bias, I just want to know the mechanism by which it is supposed to operate. How does, e.g., Pinch Sulzberger's hypothetical interest in enabling greater media consolidation filter down into beat reporter X giving a favorable slant to McCain? Isn't it more likely that reporters just like people who treat them well and provide good copy?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:28 PM
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The question is: Does the NYT have to worry about pushback from anybody besides rightwingers? I think the answer to that might be changing, and therefore I think the publishers might be changing.

Surely the ability of left-wingers to push back is limited by their lack of an alternative. It's not like they can threaten to go read the NYP or watch Fox News or anything.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:29 PM
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I just read your blog, Sifu. So if you'll just provide me with a daily reminder, I can promise to keep reading it. Well, promise may be a bit strong. But I'll go so far as to say that the reminder won't hurt.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:30 PM
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The new taxonomy should be:

Liberal: philosophical liberals -- in favor of limited government, personal and economic liberty
Progressive: people with a general pro-attitude or optimism about social change
Conservative: people with a general skepticism towards social change
Left: pinkos like y'all


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:32 PM
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How does, e.g., Pinch Sulzberger's hypothetical interest in enabling greater media consolidation filter down into beat reporter X giving a favorable slant to McCain?

If it is indeed happening, it would be through beat reporter X being fired or taken off the beat unless he gives a favorable slant to McCain. This is the typical sort of power bosses have over their employees. We all know it happens with critical stories about The Advertisers Who Will Stop Advertising If This Gets Printed.

Isn't it more likely that reporters just like people who treat them well and provide good copy?

This is also a factor, yes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:32 PM
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Serious leftists use 'liberal' to denote weak-ass center-left types: "I'm not a liberal, I'm a progressive/leftist/activist."

Perhaps, but--as everyone stops listening to serious leftists as soon as they smell the patchouli--irrelevant to the common use definition.

Isn't it more likely that reporters just like people who treat them well and provide good copy?

I don't think anyone found Yglesias's claim very convincing. (I didn't read the comments, so perhaps I'm wrong.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:32 PM
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21: Is The Nation nothing to you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:33 PM
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It's not Yglesias's claim. Geez.

This makes sense to me.

The individual people on the committees that have power over certain types of businesses do indeed have power over those businesses.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:34 PM
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25: Perhaps, but--as everyone stops listening to serious leftists as soon as they smell the patchouli

Oh, bite me. I listen to serious leftists, and I'd call myself one if I thought I did enough work to qualify. "Liberal" is probably a more accurate self-descriptor, but I'm not proud of that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:34 PM
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For the record, I found Yglesias's "reporters are nice to McCain because of media consolidation" hypothesis batty. As in all allegations of bias, I just want to know the mechanism by which it is supposed to operate. How does, e.g., Pinch Sulzberger's hypothetical interest in enabling greater media consolidation filter down into beat reporter X giving a favorable slant to McCain?

This is an easy one. Pinch thinks media consolidation is a good idea. This leads him to think that McCain is a smart dude, because he also recognizes that media consolidation is a good idea. He mentions this in meetings and word gets around. When someone writes a fawning McCain article, he says "Hey, that was an awesome bit of work" or "Wasn't that a good article by Bob?" People aren't dumb, they'll learn.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:35 PM
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18: Yes -- people on the left do. So it's understandable that you wouldn't have heard that usage very much.

19: The actual-existing alternatives in America are liberal vs. conservative. One of the rhetorical tools of the right wing is to conflate liberalism with extreme leftism -- a tool which has been so successful that now actual liberals view themselves as being about as far to the left as possible, when in reality they would feel pretty comfortable in a right-wing party in Europe. (For instance, Sarkozy is considered a right-wing figure in France, but in terms of concrete policies, he seems to be to the left of most US Democrats. And yes, I do view the European political spectrum as the "real" one, because ours is ridiculously constricted, as is our political debate in general.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:36 PM
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I listen to serious leftists

Like whom? Who's left that qualifies?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:37 PM
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it would be through beat reporter X being fired or taken off the beat unless he gives a favorable slant to McCain.

Right. It would need to be a fairly blunt instrument. This could of course be happening, but seems unlikely to happen without the reporter's knowledge, or subtly. And it wouldn't make the reporter *actually like* McCain, it would just make him give McCain favorable press (and, one assumes, resent him).


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:38 PM
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23: I think we need to have the primary distinction be between leftists, liberals, and nationalists. For all intents and purposes, leftists don't exist in the US. The US version of "liberals" and (let's say) half of the US "conservatives" (including libertarians) are subsets of the liberal category, with the remainder of "conservatives" being nationalists.

(There is, of course, a less-nice word I could use instead of "nationalist.")


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:41 PM
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31: You want a list of all the serious leftists in the US?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:41 PM
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Who's left that qualifies?

Europeans, mostly.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:42 PM
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33 You're right to add nationalism to the equation, Adam. Although I feel nationalist isn't opposed to liberalism/leftism as much as it another possible descriptor. There are nationalist liberals, nationalist progressives, nationalist leftist (although fewer), etc.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:45 PM
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Please redact 24 from your brains and substitute the more nuanced 29.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:45 PM
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I'd actually love a list of serious leftists. US or anywhere.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:45 PM
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For all intents and purposes, leftists don't exist in the US.

In a shocking development, different countries in different circumstances develop different political environments.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:46 PM
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No doubt there are leftists in the US, the only question is whether we've heard of any of them.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:46 PM
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Right. It would need to be a fairly blunt instrument. This could of course be happening, but seems unlikely to happen without the reporter's knowledge, or subtly. And it wouldn't make the reporter *actually like* McCain, it would just make him give McCain favorable press (and, one assumes, resent him).

Or it would make him be replaced by someone who actually does like McCain and can give sincerely favorable press.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:46 PM
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Ick. I don't want to throw up a thoughtless list of the first ten names that come to mind, because I can't think of anyone offhand where I'm confident they've never written anything I don't want to endorse, and the prospect of arguing about every bit of flotsam and jetsam and whether it should disqualify the writer from being considered 'serious' is grotesquely unpleasant. Can't I just wave vaguely at The Nation and leave it at that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:49 PM
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29 has it right.
32: It would need to be a fairly blunt instrument is hopelesly naive.

This is Organizational Behavior 101. It is not a simple process and it is certainly not completely determinative, but as wm said, people pay attention to subtle (and non-subtle) clues and signals that matter to them.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:53 PM
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I'd agree that the causal chain of owner of paper likes media consolidation --> individual reporter slants coverage isn't impossible. It just seem implausible. Most paper owners rarely meet reporters. One would have to believe that these owners pass on their bias fairly directly to the editors, who then manage the reporters appropriately. It could happen, I suppose.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:54 PM
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26

The Nation is not really a substitute for the NYT. In any case I don't think push back consists primarily of threats to cancel your subscription. I think it is more like constantly nitpicking stories you don't like.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 2:55 PM
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baa, your argument is a bit like progressive responses to conservatism, which demand a precise articulation of the ways in which something like "dignity" is important, before they'll concede that it matters. I understand that Sulzberger and Keller meet or talk regularly; that's really all that we need to know, unless we also know that Sulzberger makes a point of telling Keller to ignore him, or Keller is notably independent, neither of which seems to be the case.

I disagree with John that it's all about what the editors and publishers want, but agree that that's a big part of what's going on.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:03 PM
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The media enthusiasm for McCain's relatively media-friendly reform activities is contrastive to the impossibility of media enthusiasm for media-hostile reforms (e.g. mandating free TV time, etc., etc.) Nobody is telling anyone to like McCain, but if a reporter or writer were to like some more threatening figure, something bad would happen.

The fact that individuals in the media do the right thing without direct orders is just a sign that control is pretty effective. These guys know that there are lots of things that you just don't say. And they're all careerists and opportunists, and they all have their antennae out all the time for what the boss wants. And every once in awhile an edict comes down, like hiring Kristol and Goldberg and John Solomon and Rove, telling them which way the wind is blowing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:05 PM
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This could of course be happening, but seems unlikely to happen without the reporter's knowledge, or subtly.

The idea is not to coerce people into behaving as you wish, but to staff jobs with people who behave as you wish. If the publisher wants a McCain toady, he keeps assigning different reporters to McCain until he gets the result he wants. At no point does the publisher have to specify a result, and at every point, the publisher can - plausibly ! - offer other reasons for his staffing decisions. (Joe, I loved that critical piece you did on McCain. You should write for the Style section and do longer, more sophisticated work about artists and actors.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:06 PM
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Can't I just wave vaguely at The Nation and leave it at that?

I don't read The Nation very often, because it's too left for me, but when I look at the good young talent they've produced--I'm thinking of Berman and Plumer--I don't think of them as super lefty. Plumer's much leftier than me, but that's not saying a lot. I don't have any idea where Berman sits.

Move On seems like the archetypal model: people have made some peace with The System, and that required compromise somewhere along the way. I don't think that's a bad thing, or that they're sellouts; I think they've found a way to be effective. And being effective means asking for smaller jumps than perhaps they would have in the past, which in turn implies smaller critiques, I think.

(I'm also not clear anymore what the constituent parts of "left" are. It used to be economics, then it focused on race/gender/sex. I don't know that one set of axes can be easily transposed on the others, or what the relevant reference points are today.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:07 PM
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2: Now I remember! He was explaining that Bayer used to sell heroin OTC.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:10 PM
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My, so people don't know what the left is any more, and aren't sure they know or recognize anyone there. This is disturbing me far more than it probably should.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:17 PM
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From Wiki-

Bayer marketed heroin as a cure for morphine addiction before it was discovered that heroin is converted to morphine when metabolized in the liver, and as such, "heroin" was basically only a quicker acting form of morphine.

Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:20 PM
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Just heroin? What pansy would take a watered-down drug like that?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:22 PM
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Wah-wahhhh!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:22 PM
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I'd actually love a list of serious leftists.

1. Me. (Assuming you count democratic socialism as sufficiently left; if not, you'll need to define your terms.)
2. Cornel West
3. Barbara Ehrenreich
4. Many others

But it's a stupid exercise, baa.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:23 PM
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49: I think what you're doing is identifying anyone who seems sane to you as not seriously lefty. I'm being lazy with specifics, but I'd bet you the people you're talking about -- "when I look at the good young talent they've produced--I'm thinking of Berman and Plumer--I don't think of them as super lefty" -- would recognize the liberal/serious leftist distinction, and in at least some contexts describe themselves as not liberals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:24 PM
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I don't understand the resistance to naming some leftists. I'd like to hear some names, too, and not so that I can nitpick the list, but to get a sense of how the spectrum looks to other people.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:25 PM
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Oh, morphine and heroin are basically the same? I guess I knew that, in a vague way. Man, I hated morphine.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:26 PM
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What's stopping me is that there aren't a lot of leftists with any power, or with a serious media presence, so the names that are popping to mind are people like my old law professor, Derrick Bell, people I've had some contact with personally. I'm getting a little stuck on who important leftists are, rather than writers with little or no influence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:28 PM
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44

I agree that editors are important. And they don't really have to tell reporters what to do to bias coverage, for example just assign the guy who likes to write positive stories to the favored candidate, the guy who likes to write negative stories to the disfavored candidate. Think book reviews, where people are always complaining about the assigned reviewers.

As for owners instructing editors, isn't it common for papers to have off limits areas (like the owner's family) which are enforced by the editors? Although it seems like this was probably more common in an unconsolidated world. If you own a chain of twenty papers I expect you would mostly care about the financial results.

I find the idea that Sulzberger would order favorable coverage of McCain because McCain favors media consolidation hard to believe. Why would Sulzberger even favor media consolidation much less so strongly? And does McCain's record on media consolidation really stand out?

Btw how does McCain fare in foreign coverage?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:28 PM
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I don't read any American leftists because we live in a society where their (our) goals are totally unrealistic and therefore it is intensely depressing to read them.

I don't know who they would be. The only ones I'm aware of are in fact somewhat insane, the result of a weeding out as people who are sane give up their endless futile slogging and do something more realistic.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:29 PM
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would recognize the liberal/serious leftist distinction

Even I recognize it, but from some random discussion of the past. One of the differences I recall is precisely the "go along to get along" attitude that I see in Move On, etc.

and in at least some contexts describe themselves as not liberals.

I guess.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:30 PM
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Here is foreign coverage of McCain:

http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/carnet/2008-02-14-John-McCain

There might be an English translation if you click around a bit.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:30 PM
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Golly, people, for the leftists it's really not a bad idea to look at The Nation's editorial board, which is pretty deep, pretty left, and pretty powerful. And no, I'm not on that list. But if asked to serve, I will.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:30 PM
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By 'serious' do we mean 'not exclusively in the academy?' If not, I name Bruce Robbins and Geoff Bennington.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:31 PM
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Chomsky, various people affiliated with Chomsky, most people at the Nation, most people at In These Times, many people at Mother Jones, local figures in Berkeley and a few other places, Max Sawicky and his successors at Econospeak.

The left has been marginalized enough that very few leftists have practical relevance except locally. There are also schisms between factions, including a schism between cultural leftists (liberationists) and economic leftists, another schism between leftists who are happy enough to be marginalized in universities and other leftists who hate that idea, and a thrid schism between party-line leftists (usually Marxists) and everyone else.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:32 PM
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Of course, I'm having a hard time finding the editorial board's roster on the web. So maybe there are no leftists.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:33 PM
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I shouldn't have said "insane". I was specifically thinking of Nicholas Von Hoffman, but he's not representative.

The Nation is an example of something I find intensely depressing to read. Yes, the entire thing. Every issue, every writer. Z is even worse.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:33 PM
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I'm getting a little stuck on who important leftists are, rather than writers with little or no influence.

The only ones I'm aware of are in fact somewhat insane

This is my point.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:33 PM
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Econospeak does have a good roster of leftists.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:34 PM
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69: What point? That leftists do not have power in the US? Comity!

The reason I'm not aware of any is that I haven't looked.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:34 PM
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I understand that Sulzberger and Keller meet or talk regularly; that's really all that we need to know

I don't think that is all we need to know. McCain gets great press from basically every media organ. He gets great press from reporters who are at 4 or 5 steps removed from anyone who could credibly benefit from 'media consolidation.' McCain is genuinely liked by reporters. Here I realize that I am defaulting to the individualistic model Kotsko typed as being a right-center approach, but I really do think that to understand bias, or inclination, one wants to understand the elements in the motivational set of the particular actor. A reporter has so many reasons to like/dislike a given politician -- he makes my job easier, he seems personable, he supports things I support, he seems of my social class -- all these are powerful general reasons. By contrast the bank-shot of "he supports policies that make my boss's boss's boss richer" seems like it would be remote, unless reinforced.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:35 PM
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Do you want me to transcribe the editorial board from a paper copy of the magazine. It's not a super-long list.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:36 PM
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55

"But it's a stupid exercise, baa."

What's stupid about it? Why not make a list of serious leftists worth reading?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:36 PM
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seems like it would be remote, unless reinforced.

Yeah, but it also seems very easy, as noted above, for it to be reinforced.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:37 PM
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people who are sane give up their endless futile slogging and do something more realistic

Working for reforms or in institutions that aren't as "left" as whatever definition we're using doesn't mean someone's given up their leftist ideology, which is what it is: an ideology.

Speaking of which, LB, you said above that you don't consider yourself a real leftist because you don't "do enough." That's not the true measure in my estimation. You don't have to work full-time to stop teh gays to be a wingnut.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:37 PM
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The masthead is here. Did you have something else in mind?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:37 PM
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I don't understand the resistance to naming some leftists.

They know we will have them rounded up.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:38 PM
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72: I agree, by the way, with your analysis of the theory that Yglesias cites. I would argue, however, that there are systematic biases that favor folks like McCain and Bush and that work against, say, Gore and the Clintons.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:39 PM
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What's stupid about it?

It was coming across to me as "oh yeah, prove it!" But I may have misinterpreted. And it's also a complicated question, as Emerson describes. It's easy to get into "McCain: real conservative or not?" territory.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:39 PM
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Do you want me to transcribe the editorial board from a paper copy of the magazine. It's not a super-long list

I would genuinely prefer an easy-peasy explanation of why they should be considered "leftists" rather than "liberals." Ehrenreich seems like a liberal to me. (And West is a ludicrous ponce, having glanced at Kraab's list.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:39 PM
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76: I know, I mean they do something more realistic than writing about what should be done.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:40 PM
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I would genuinely prefer an easy-peasy explanation of why they should be considered "leftists" rather than "liberals."

Seriously, the explanation I know is self-description. Among people I know who are professionally engaged in writing or other political work on the left, they generally perceive a clear distinction between 'liberal' and 'leftist' -- I don't think Ehrenreich would call herself a liberal, unless she was going along to get along in a conversation with someone who would be confused by the distinction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:46 PM
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It was coming across to me as "oh yeah, prove it!" But I may have misinterpreted.

You did. I am sure there are serious leftists. My reasons were basically the ones ogged gave.

I agree, by the way, with your analysis of the theory that Yglesias cites.

Thanks, PF. I thought it was one of the less plausible explanations for McCain's popularity I had ever heard. Again, bias is by no means impossible, but I think one needs to go a lot beyond the quick 'cui bono.' For example, campaign finance reform -- which restricts the ability of pressure groups to directly get their message out -- clearly in some way increases the influence of the press. But I don't think it would be sensible to explain an instance of media support for CFR in terms of that benefit unless I had lots of supporting evidence.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:48 PM
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77: Nope, that's what I've got as well. It's just that your mastery of the internet far exceeds my own.

81: As for why they're leftists, well, the best answer is that they're as close as we come. But I see your point. Having worked with the Buhles, Paul and Mari Jo, while in grad school, The Nation's editorial board does look more liberal than left. A sign of the times, I guess.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:48 PM
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71

"The reason I'm not aware of any is that I haven't looked"

Because it's hard to find anything worth reading on the left?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:49 PM
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Naomi Klein's a good one. Anyone else read The Shock Doctrine?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:49 PM
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Why not make a list of serious leftists worth reading?

I do think part of the resistence is that there's a bit of a double bind. It's like asking, "name a couple pop bands that are actually good." The response to any name will be "they aren't that good" or "they aren't really pop."

See:

Ehrenreich seems like a liberal to me. (And West is a ludicrous ponce


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:50 PM
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Okay, here you go. Of course you won't have heard of many of them because they're academics or run small publications or are otherwise under most people's radars.

Erik Olin Wright
Marshall Berman
Theresa Alt
Virginia Franco
David Green
Michael Hirsch
David Knuttunen
Simone Morgen
Michele Rossi
Joseph Schwartz
Timothy Sears
Herbert Shore
John Strauss
Corey Walker
Bogdan Denitch
Barbara Ehrenreich
Dolores Huerta
Eliseo Medina
Eugene "Gus" Newport
Frances Fox Piven
Gloria Steinem
Ed Clark
Jose LaLuz
Hilda Mason
Steve Max
Harold Meyerson
Maxine Phillips
Christine Riddiough
Rosemary Ruether
Motl Zelmanowicz
Maurice Isserman
Mike Davis
Doug Henwood
Barbara Epstein
Daraka Larimore-Hall
Susie Linfield
Manning Marable
Peter Marcuse
Vanessa Mobley
Kim Phillips-Fein
René Francisco Poitevian
Rodolfo Torres
Howard Winant
Michael Buroway
another 30 or 40 people I know personally, many of whom are doing good and useful work

The late:
Ellen Willis
Dorothy Healey
Michael Harrington
Irving Howe
Norman Thomas
Eugene Debs


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:52 PM
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Yeah. I'm dragging my heels partially because the "This, this is the very best the left has to offer?" reaction. It'll just make me cross and cranky.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:52 PM
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Journalism is a national profession with a clear national hierarchy. You have aspirational opinions (anticipatory socialization) by people who still dream of working for the Times or some other major venue. When they meet big-time people they suck up to them and model on them.

Media consolidation isn't the only issue here. McCain offers safe reform and it's OK to adore him. Others who suggest unsafe reform are not safe to adore. (Kucinich to start with, but there are better examples).

The publishers of the various venues are country-club types and have opinions similar to those of other country-club types, whether in the media or not. And their lackeys learn to respond to their unspoken whims.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:52 PM
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I dropped half a sentence there, but the meaning should be clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:53 PM
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To be clear, I'm very much not arguing that Ehrenreich "isn't that good." I've liked at least some of what little I've read by her.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:53 PM
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93: No, what you appear to be arguing is that "If it's interesting and important, it's not leftist," and then asking who the interesting and important leftists are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:55 PM
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OT: This about sums it up.

"Obama and McCain start from here with almost identical favorable/unfavorable numbers. Whichever winds up with the higher unfavorable in early November is probably the loser of the election. Ready, set, go!"

I will find it very hard to listen to NPR for the next nine months. Why so much "election coverage"? What good does it do? Who does it help in any way?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:55 PM
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Ehrenreich seems like a liberal to me. (And West is a ludicrous ponce

Barbara Ehrenreich was national co-chair of DSA for many years, and I've been at plenty of conferences and meetings with her. She's a leftist.

Doesn't matter if you think West is a ponce; that wasn't the question.

The reason you think a lot of leftists are liberals is that there isn't much percentage in advocating for a mixed economy these days.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:55 PM
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Part of the reason I was never that big of a Molly Ivins fan is that Ehrenreich used to write an incredibly funny column in Mother Jones (anthologized in "Worst Years of Our Lives"). After a while she quit doing it, and was replaced with Ivins, who was much less funny.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:56 PM
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you think s/b some of you think


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:56 PM
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I recommend Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine".

There's really a ton of stuff out there, but no one reads it, because everyone's trying to dialogue with whatever sane Republicans still exist. I don't follow that stuff much myself any more, because I'm trying to dialogue with mainstream Democrats.

I think that The Left nowadays is mostly not American, and it may stay that way forever.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:57 PM
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99: Naomi Klein-pwned.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:57 PM
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Why not make a list of serious leftists worth reading?

On what topic(s)?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:58 PM
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It does my heart good to see Rosemary Ruether on the list -- she used to be more left, but she's still pretty left. (She's a theologian, on the off-chance people haven't heard of her.)


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 3:58 PM
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The reason you think a lot of leftists are liberals is that there isn't much percentage in advocating for a mixed economy these days.

So is that the definition of leftist? Does advocate for a mixed economy, or at least would do so in a more favorable climate? (That may sound like snark, but it isn't.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:00 PM
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I think that The Left nowadays is mostly not American, and it may stay that way forever.

I was in a club called St/dents in Sol/dar/ty in college. It no longer exists, as it got trendy for people in the feminist club that doesn't care about economics and the gay rights club that doesn't care about economics to join, and then a couple of them got elected to be officers, and were confused by what the priorities were supposed to be and why the club existed in the first place.

But anyway, I'm in touch with maybe eight people from it now, all US-born US citizens, and four of them are in other countries already. This is three years after graduating college. Ecuador, Sweden, Japan, and France. Two others were in Latin America for a year or more and came back here possibly temporarily to go to law school.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:02 PM
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89: Sir Kraab, I work with 2 of those folks!

I realize not everyone loves him, but shouldn't Bernie Sanders count, since he is a Senator in the US who identifies himself as a socialist?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:02 PM
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77

The writers (on the current masthead) which I remember relatively favorably from the days I read the Nation are Alexander Cockburn, Katha Pollit, Patricia Williams and Elinor Langer. So if not good they are at least memorable.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:03 PM
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There has got to be more to being a leftist than advocating for the mixed economy. I'm sure Brad de Long would advocate for the mixed economy. Is he a leftist?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:03 PM
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than writing about What Should Be Done

Whether the last century provided good examples or bad examples, it certainly provided plenty of examples.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:04 PM
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Patricia Williams is very sharp indeed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:05 PM
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Amy Goodman? I can't stand her when she's loose, but she's great when she starts digging up dirt. She did a piece on the US embassy in Saudi Arabia that I really liked, found two interesting people to interview.

Chomsky and Zinn are worth having read, if not rereading. Anyone that chooses to write about US foreign policy in central America is probably a leftist, or Ollie North. Hobsbawm is worth reading despite being a communist.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:06 PM
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103: It did sound like snark, so thanks for the parenthetical. But, no, I don't have that simplistic a definition. Most economic leftists, sure. But someone can be very left on, say, women's rights and more centrist on economics, just like any other combination of politics.

And leftists aren't required to publicly advocate any more than anyone else is. I'm annoyed by this idea that the only way someone can be left is if they regularly announce it to the world. It's an ideology. If what you're looking for is people who publish or speak publicly, then ask for that.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:07 PM
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shouldn't Bernie Sanders count

Definitely. My list was quick and woefully incomplete.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:08 PM
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Sir Kraab's list is good and interesting.

Greg Palast. Naomi Klein. (ah, already mentioned, I see)

We could all add a bunch of names, but the veiled snarkitude here is puzzling and annoying.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:08 PM
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104: My most leftist friends have Mexican connections and one couple has permanently migrated there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:09 PM
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Are Plumer & Berman left of me? I call myself liberal, and am pretty certain that I'd have had qualified as "liberal" rather than "left" in the 1960s. Well, I've used progressive recently but that's basically peer pressure; I actively prefer liberal, & people's derisive attitude about the word on this blog tends to annoy me.

"Left" to me implies some degree of honest-to-God socialism. Perhaps Ehrenreich & Naomi Klein. Definitely, e.g., the small group of people actively going out & getting themselves arrested over the war & various other gov't abuses. Harold Meyerson, not really.

It's not just in the U.S. that it's gotten confusing, is it? There's also the phenomenon of the Lib-Dems being to Labour's left in the U.K. on some major issues.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:14 PM
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Bernie Sanders. Doesn't being a socialist senator carry any weight with you people?


Posted by: BrianZ | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:21 PM
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I think that sort of thing is explained by the difference between a party and an ideology. The people controlling a party can drag it to a new spot on the ideological spectrum, and then trying to describe the ideologies with party names gets confusing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:22 PM
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||
Rik Renzi rocks our world. Perfect timing to reinforce the lobbyist stuff on McCain just when I thought he was going to get a free pass (and an antidote to an otherwise all-around miserable day).
|>


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:22 PM
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I think that The Left nowadays is mostly not American, and it may stay that way forever

Yeah, I spect I might be able to drop some French names that many here might recognize. Maybe some Austrian ones.

I am reading far righties (?) this week, like Pareto, but Edmund Wilson is the other guy, poor disllusioned Marxist. The first step fo the intellectuall is analysis that alienates.

You don't have to take the 3rd step, dropping out of mainstream & liberal political activity, you can work & cheer for Obama, but after the first step you are no longer as susceptible to the charm, you recognize the compromises when you make them and don't consider your defeats victories (welfare reform? Afghanistan?).

Between analysis/alienation and withdrawal/illiberalism there is committment/ideology. I can read Pareto, Schmitt, Milton Friedman, Julian Sanchez, Jim Henley. Anybody not part of the machine.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:23 PM
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It's an ideology.

But it doesn't even seem like it's that if it makes sense to say that someone is "very left on, say, women's rights and more centrist on economics." I suppose I see a parallel with Christianity, where people talk about "cafetaria Christianity." But even there, there are a set of root beliefs, and many Christians (I think)--to distinguish from LB's position--would be upset if the definition was self-definition. It's unclear what the root beliefs are for "left" rather than "liberal."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:23 PM
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115: Based on Berman's essay on Marxism, I think of him as left. I don't know how he thinks of himself.

You're right, Meyerson shouldn't have been on that list. I was cribbing from a few sources, and didn't mean to copy-n-paste him.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:24 PM
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But it doesn't even seem like it's that if it makes sense to say that someone is "very left on, say, women's rights and more centrist on economics."

Jesus H. Christ, Tim. There are people who call themselves liberals and are anti-choice. Are you going to decree that they can't call themselves liberal?

If you're equating leftism with Marxism or socialism, then, yes, economics is central. But that's not the only issue on which there are left-wing and right-wing beliefs.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:29 PM
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111

"... It's an ideology. ..."

But is it an ideology that rejects working within the current system?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:29 PM
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120: But some Christians don't buy into the part of Christianity where you'd be upset if the only definition was self-definition.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:30 PM
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123: No.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:30 PM
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120: Tim, it's an ideology, not a religion, which means that there's not going to be one shibboleth. Most people who think of themselves as leftists are going to be some version of social democrat or democratic socialist. Those economic beliefs are strongly associated with a strong belief in civil liberties, anti-racism, feminism, and so on, and a prototypical leftist will have left views on all of those issues. But there's nothing in principle impossible about someone having strongly leftist views on civil liberties and racism, and also advocating unfettered capitalism, at which point you'd say left on social issues, right on economics.

There's not a Pope of the Left to decide who's a leftist and who isn't -- people decide what they want to call themselves, and other people decide if they think the description is accurate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:32 PM
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124: And those Christians are going to HELL!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:33 PM
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Brad DeLong makes a point of quoting snippets of Marx and Rosa Luxemberg from Marxists.org every once in a while.

A leftist (or rightist) or radical is distinguished from a liberal simply in believing that the existing political structures & mechanisms are inadequate to the change that conditions morally demand.

Explaining why they are inadequate is the analysis;it is a huge step in a liberal democracy.

Are the Balkinization guys leftists for wanting a whole new Constitution and Parliamentary system? Probably not, but they are radicals not liberals.

Tim Burke etc might come around and say that the Balkinizations are liberals because they want radical change but prefer liberal means.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:34 PM
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There's not a Pope of the Left to decide

Emerson is going to excommunicate you for saying that.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:35 PM
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Jesus H. Christ, Tim. There are people who call themselves liberals and are anti-choice. Are you going to decree that they can't call themselves liberal?

Depends on the extent to which that is recognized as a deviation. (Do you find it puzzling that Kaus calls himself a Democrat or a neolib? I do. Because of the deviations.) I'm not 100% sure that "liberalism" is an ideology, as used today. But my sense is that it always implied a specific sort of critique that had recognizable axes: liberty, minority rights, some notion of meritocracy, etc. I don't know what those axes are that distinguish "left" from "liberal." "Left" seems more like "ultra" or "super."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:36 PM
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125

Maybe not, but it seems like in practice people who call themselves leftists spend a lot of time criticizing people who call themselves liberals for being overly comfortable with the existing order.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:37 PM
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"Liberal" is what Republicans call a Democrat when they want to imply that he is an elitist wuss. This term is used to induce scorn in their audience.

"Leftist" is what Republicans call a Democrat when they want to imply that he is a communist. This term is used to induce fear in their audience.

"Liberal" is also used by people on the left wing to insult people who claim to be their allies but sell out on important issues, implying that the person being critized only cares about social freedom issues and not about economic issues, or only cares about separating church and state and not about civil liberties.

I don't know what any of these words means when not used as an insult. I hardly ever hear them in non-insulting contexts.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:37 PM
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"social democrat or democratic socialist"

What's the difference? This reminds me of trying to figure out the difference between the blue-green crayon & the green-blue one. (I'd guess, following crayola nomenclature where the noun trumps the adjective, that a democratic socialist is left of a social democrat.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:38 PM
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133: That's my understanding as well, that the democratic socialist wants a system with more state ownership of the means of production than a social democrat, but that they can get along pretty well. But I'm shamefully ignorant, so anyone who wants to school me should.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:40 PM
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of course blue & green are both adjectives. Nevermind.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:41 PM
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A leftist (or rightist) or radical is distinguished from a liberal simply in believing that the existing political structures & mechanisms are inadequate to the change that conditions morally demand.

This is the closest thing I've seen to what (I now realize) I had previously understood to be left: that the difference, in part, was that leftists didn't disagree on policy so much as critique. That is, leftists thought that liberals had the questions wrong, leave to one side the answers. (I guess I always thought of Max Speaks as leftist for that reason, now that I think about it.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:41 PM
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I actively prefer liberal, & people's derisive attitude about the word on this blog tends to annoy me.

I agree with you about this. I used to disdain "liberal" and use "progressive" (with audiences where "leftist" would require too much explanation) as code for not just "left" but also for more-enlighted-than-thou. But "liberal" is a fine old word with a fine old history. Wear it proudly!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:42 PM
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Depends on the extent to which that is recognized as a deviation. (Do you find it puzzling that Kaus calls himself a Democrat or a neolib? I do. Because of the deviations.)

Kaus is a different issue -- he's puzzling because he appears to be lying about his ideology. He claims to want center-left politicians to run the country, and then does everything in his power to keep them from being elected.

Generally, "recognized as a deviation" by whom? There just isn't a central authority to turf someone out of the Left, as you seem to be asking about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:42 PM
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132

"I don't know what any of these words means when not used as an insult. I hardly ever hear them in non-insulting contexts."

You never hear people self-identify as liberal or leftist? What are the preferred terms?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:42 PM
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I used to disdain "liberal" and use "progressive" (with audiences where "leftist" would require too much explanation) as code for not just "left" but also for more-enlighted-than-thou. But "liberal" is a fine old word with a fine old history. Wear it proudly!

The only problem with this is that in every European country it means "Lover of laissez-faire economics".

"Progressive" is the only word I haven't been conditioned to feel totally embarrassed about calling myself.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:43 PM
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You never hear people self-identify as liberal or leftist? What are the preferred terms?

Sometimes "liberal", as a synonym for "member of the Democratic party".

More often "progressive".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:43 PM
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134: maybe social democrat is the Scandinavian model, & democratic socialist is more like what Allende or the Prague Spring were aiming for if they hadn't been violently suppressed? I think that in practice they tend to converge because in practice, a mixed economy works better & is more popular than state ownership of the means of production & democracies tend that way. But that's what makes me not a real leftist.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:44 PM
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141.

But even more often, "Democrat".

"As a Democrat, I..."

sounds more natural than "As a liberal, I..."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:46 PM
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I think you're right that they tend to converge, and I'd say that state ownership of the means of production is popular and works well in some contexts, and not in others, so sure, mixed economies are the way to go.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:46 PM
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There just isn't a central authority to turf someone out of the Left, as you seem to be asking about.

No, but there might be a set of core principals. What kills me is that there seems to be some sense that I'm fucking around when I'm hardly the only person on this thread who has said something along the lines of "is 'left' clear anymore?" Most of whom are on the farther left spectrum of Unfogged, at a minimum. Jeebus.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:47 PM
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Shit, mcmanus gets it right. In American discourse, left is distinguished from liberal by the belief that a given system itself, even absent its corruptions, can't bring up about just results.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:49 PM
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People I know refer to themselves as "Democrats" (not seriously political people) or "socialists" (people who have thought about political theory), for the most part. "Progressive" and "liberal" mean "Democrat", with "progressive" being a euphemism for "liberal". I don't know anyone who calls themself a "leftist". Or a "rightist".

This should answer your question, JBS. Sorry about the multiple comments.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:51 PM
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I used to call myself a left-liberal, when the Democratic party had centrist, liberal, and left-liberal tendencies. The Nation was left-liberal; liberal Democrats who affiliated with the European and world left to the extent possible.

At one time "progressive Democrat" seemed to mean "left-liberal Democrat willing to work with Communists". Probably that was a residue from Wallace in1948.

Don't tell anyone that. It's just between me, you, and a hundred million netsurfers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:51 PM
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146:

My associations with "liberal" would be: FDR. The New Deal. The War on Poverty. Albert Camus. Bobby Kennedy. Amnesty International. The ACLU. The Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

My associations with leftist: Marx. The revolution. Civil disobedience. Emma Goldman. Students for a Democratic Society. Abbie Hoffman. Che Guevera. I.F. Stone.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:56 PM
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A leftist (or rightist) or radical is distinguished from a liberal simply in believing that the existing political structures & mechanisms are inadequate to the change that conditions morally demand.

I'm actually a conservative, in the sense that I think hierarchy is natural, social order needs to be preserved, tradition is generally preferable simply because it is established, and for the most part the conditions of actually existing capitalism do not morally demand change.

However, in the U.S. I'm a liberal Democrat because REPUBLICANS ARE FUCKING INSANE. I think in America libertarian capitalists are a radical party bent on forcing destructive social change, and neocons a radical party bent on destroying the last vestiges of the republic and replacing it with Empire.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:57 PM
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This reminds me of a conversation my brother and I were having with someone in Paris. We were disagreeing about something or other and he (the Frenchman) asked me what my politics were. I said I was a democratic socialist and the Frenchman said something like, "Isn't the most important part that we are all socialists?" My brother said, "No, the most important part is 'democratic.'"

So.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:58 PM
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149 is not actually a response to 146.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 4:59 PM
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150 is a great point; there aren't any conservatives in power in the US; the Republican party is a party of radicals.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:00 PM
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147

"... I don't know anyone who calls themself a "leftist" ..."

How about "on the left" or a "left viewpoint" or some similar description involving the word "left".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:01 PM
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In a sense, capitalism obviates any liberal/conservative distinction. Capitalism forces change, requires radical change to survive. There's not a choice to stand still. Hence the choice is whether it is managed in such a way that the many or the few benefit.

Also, I'm sort of vaguely Marxist in that I think the social relations of property will eventually clash with the level of abundance capitalist progress generates. You can already see this happening with intellectual property; we have to actually produce less than we could in the name of selling divisible property rights on an individualist market.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:01 PM
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149: I don't think I would disagree with any of those associations (I would probably have to google a couple), and I think they support mcmanus's notion of left.

Gawd, trust the psychopath to be the one with the most useful response. Jeebus.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:02 PM
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154: yes, certainly.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:02 PM
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I'll go schizo again and say that the first para of 155 is overstated. You can moderate the pace of capitalist change significantly. But you still need economic growth to keep the system going.


Posted by: Perfectly G.D. | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:03 PM
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we have to actually produce less than we could in the name of selling divisible property rights on an individualist market.

I'm pretty sure that the justifying claim is precisely the opposite, or at least looks at very different time frames.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:04 PM
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No, but there might be a set of core principals.

What are the core principles of liberalism? The Democratic party platform? Believing in liberal democracy? How about conservatism? Who owns that term?

SCMT, it feels like you're being deliberately obtuse. Why is it so hard to grasp that there simply isn't a single definition? (Though I think mcmanus's is good as a practical definition in the U.S.) Or that there are left and right perspectives on various issues, as several of us have said?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:08 PM
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159: dunno what you mean by "justifying claim", but my point is simple enough. Everyone could have instant access to every book, movie, and piece of music ever created for a very low price. But our market system won't allow this perfectly sensible thing to take place. We underproduce to maintain property rights. This is in the name of motivating producers through profit -- but there are plenty of other ways to motivate producers, even financially.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:08 PM
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Now I'm going to go liberally pet my cat while conservatively staying in for the evening watching Paul Newman radically take on the system in Hud.

Cheers.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:10 PM
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'Liberal' has different senses, ranging from 'Someone I don't like the looks of supports it' to 'leftist', but were I to distinguish it from 'left', 'liberal' is usually tied with the word 'procedural', and so it is about working within a set of rules to a certain set of ends. 'Left', as contrasted with 'liberal' would mean subverting the system, often in pursuit of the same ends.

'Conservative' used to mean something about slow to change policy in response to society, minimal influence of the government and now it means 'waste treasure on small wars, Jesus promised me an iPod, and stupid social policies.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:16 PM
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I find the old farts useful. This ain't about burning shit down.

In the book I am currently reading, Toqueville makes the critical point that the associations are anti-democratic. Why do we need NARAL. SEIU, or the NRA when we have councilpersons & congresspersons? The voluntary organizations are checks and counters to Democracy and majoritarianism.

Yes, the right of free assembly/association is in the first amendment, like the right to bear arms is in the 2nd. But the Bill of Rights is not part of Democracy or the necessary condition for democracy, but deliberate checks and counters to democracy. Do you theoretically need habeas in a democracy? No, you need it when democracy is broken.

I consider Katherine and Charley outside the system. For all the resistance they get, they probably disagree.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:22 PM
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If someone who in many senses does not have a dog in this fight could opine, it seems to me that the labels have gotten so mixed up in political spin from all sides that they are all pretty useless.

You say you believe in individual liberty and equality? I would call you a Federalist Society member, like me (which would likely piss a lot of people off, so I won't really do it; I did it a few times to LizardBreath when we worked together and she had a complete sense of humor failure; I have learned my lesson). Socialist (and, untied from the policies of specific European political parties) social democrat are fairly descriptive, but even though the cold war ended over a decade ago, calling onself a socialist in the US likely causes more trouble than its worth plus, outside a small hard core, most people who describe themselves as socialists or social democrats really seem to want socialism lite--more of a return to the height of New Deal governmental regulation with more of a social safety net than real socialism. Progressive signals "leftier than thou" to me, but it is hard to tell exactly what is meant beyond an accusation that others (mere liberals) are insufficiently activist.

Things are on better with the labels on the right. I have described myself as a conservative here, because I imagine that is how you would (being polite) classify me, but I try to avoid that term--and would never use right-wing unironically. The Libretarian party and various fringe people who call themselves libretarians have completely ruined the word libretarian for those of us who believe that individual liberty--including economic liberty--is a critical issue.

So the unfoggedtariat should come up with new terms. Or tell cock jokes. Whichever.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:30 PM
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I think Tim's question is reasonable (there must be some meaning to liberal other than "call yourself liberal", even though the boundaries will be fuzzy).

I'm still curious what you mean by "mixed economy", Sir Kraab. Being in favor of some sort of mixed economy seems like the centrist position to me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:31 PM
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164: eh. Depends what you mean by "the system," "inside," & "outside" & who I'm being compared to.

If we're talking about grand theories of the Constitution, I pretty much completely agree with Jack Balkin's view.

I also think that the Federalist Society is actively malevolent & a total betrayal of the founders' vision & that the real heirs of Madison & Jefferson are the human rights movement. You could attack that from both sides, God knows.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:34 PM
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(and hey, there's that sense of humor failure Idealist foretold. Well, Scalia & Yoo & Silberman & Roberts aren't funny.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:35 PM
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Democratic socialist and social democrat, in English speaking countries, tend to denote factional disputes in the British Labour Party from about 1950-1996, although mainly in the 70's and 80's. The democratic socialists tended to contest leadership of the Party until the late 70's/80's, at which point they were edged out by the social democratic types.

(There was also a Social Democratic Party set up, in opposition to the (then) democratic socialist Labour Party in the late 70's. It eventually joined with the Liberal Party to form the Lib Dems.)

The democratic socialists were Bevanites, in the the main -- Foot, Benn, etc., while the social democrats were more right wing - Blair and Brown being well known examples.

All that comes mainly from Bevanite sources, chiefly Foot, so it's a bit off, probably.

Social democracy in Germanic countries is something different -- Kautsky was an old style Marxist (practically by definition) and a Social Democrat. In Germanic countries, the division, I think, is between social democrats and communists, but it all gets messy, with Trots and so-on. And Latin Europe, it's all crazy.

Also, Katherine, if those are your associations with `left', you've got a ridiculously blinkered view. Try the eight hour day, universal health care, the Welfare State, the Karl Marx Hof and rote wien, (some of) the conscientious objectors to WWI, the CND, Ostpolitik and bowing to the dead of Warsaw...

There's more to the left than Karl Marx and Lenin; just because America doesn't hear about it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:38 PM
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168: Alito bit defensive, Katherine?

Actually I am right there with you. I regard Ken Starr as the Federalist Society Type Specimen.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:40 PM
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I would call myself a leftist if I thought leftism had any functional reality in the US where I live. My past is leftist. I'm a Democrat now out of desperation, because of Bush, Rove, et al.

I don't think that the old labels are useless at all, but it has to be remembered that the U.S. has no real left. The effective spectrum is from hard right to center-left. Other countries have meaningful leftist groups.

There's been a certain change with the collapse of the USSR and Communism which left a vacuum on the left everywhere which still hasn't been filled.

The libertarian foursquare division works pretty well, except that the libertarian sector (market conservativism + social liberalism) has been destroyed by the War on Terror and the Movement Republicans. The three remaining sectors are socially conservative market conservatives, socially liberal welfare liberals, and a moderate number of socially conservative welfare liberals. It's a peculiarly USA configuration.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:40 PM
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the libertarian sector (market conservativism + social liberalism) has been destroyed

Isn't this the people who still run the media? rockefeller republicans, you know. Or "elitist liberals" nowadays.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:43 PM
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170: for me it's a composite of the people staffing the Bush DOJ--& in particular, OLC--& some complete twerps I went to law school with who wanted to grow up to be the next generation.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:44 PM
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172: They're not a factor in either party, and the Libertarians aren't a factor either. The Rockefeller Republicans have no candidate.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:47 PM
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I know some people in law school now so I have been figuring out what the Federalist Society is.

Everything about it says "it was formed in response to the liberal hegemony over law schools and legal societies". Well, now it's the hegemony. It's not hard to become the hegemony when you are useful for defending the interests of the rich. And the maddening part is that the Federalist Society is going to spend a couple more decades thinking it still consists of renegades or outsiders or nonconformists or something like that.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:48 PM
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173: Mine was chosen merely for insult potential. Yours is undoubtedly more realistic and thereby even more damning.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 5:53 PM
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175: I wouldn't call it the hegemony over the legal academy, but they do just fine; the students are more active & better networked than their liberal counterparts. To say nothing of the federal judiciary & the department of justice. But yes: the combo of going to bat for the richest, most powerful people in America & this self-image as some sort of brave renegade for liberty is insufferable. For people who've never encountered the legal version of this--think of how, oh, Powerline & Michelle Malkin & Rush Limbaugh conceive of themselves as a scrappy band of brave rebels taking on the dread MSM, when they've basically spent the past seven years as voluntary propagandists for empire.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:02 PM
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Well, now it's the hegemony.

Without completely agreeing, it is interesting to see how things changed in law schools over time. When I joined the Federalist Society in 1994 or 1995, when I was in law school, we were small (the year I joined may have been the first year they had meetings at my school) and both my conservative friends and my liberal friends (there are those terms again) agreed that if I wanted a clerkship, I needed to take Federalist Society off my resume, which I did. And part of the reason (but certainly not the only) I did not pursue law teaching, which is what I wanted to do when I was in school, is that it was understood that except for superstars (which everyone wanted one of but which I am not) most big law schools had little use for conservative legal scholars.

I am told that in the course of only a few years, things changed and that being in the Federalist Society was the sort of thing people made a point of putting on their resumes. Now the law school from which I graduated has a sizeable Federalist Society chapter. Even more surprising to me is that when I went to the society's annual conference a few years ago, Harvard had a huge contingent of student members there. And there are more (although not a lot) of non-liberal law professors. It has been quite a change.

I agree that there is something pretty annoying about people still viewing themselves as radical outsiders when they are now accepted (although obviously not universally--see the comments from the lawyers on this site) and have members in influential places. In defense of those annoying people, it has not been that way for very long. I would note that the Federalist Society itself does not have much in the way of a position on anything other than it is the job of judges to say what the law is rather than what it should be.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:08 PM
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"Even more surprising to me is that when I went to the society's annual conference a few years ago, Harvard had a huge contingent of student members there"

And they were ALL IN MY SECTION, and there was a remarkable degree of unanimity among them that the civil rights act was unconstitutional, Gideon v. Wainwright should be overturned, Texas's indigent defense system was no problem because "some people drive Cadillacs, some people drive Toyotas", & let's not get started on the war on terror or Iraq. Not that every member is like that, but the most powerful ones are.

And the "law as it is rather than it should be" is complete question begging.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:16 PM
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And the "law as it is rather than it should be" is complete question begging.

Not to most Federalist Society members. I recognize that many people of good will disagree.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:18 PM
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174

"172: They're not a factor in either party, and the Libertarians aren't a factor either. The Rockefeller Republicans have no candidate."

Not all politics is Presidential. How would classify Anthony Kennedy?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:28 PM
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Swing vote on Bush-Gore 2000. Lowest circle of hell. he may have little individual nuances on some legal issues, but he's a hopeless Republican. Souter (hardly a radical) tried unsuccessfully to talk to him.

I would note that the Federalist Society itself does not have much in the way of a position on anything other than it is the job of judges to say what the law is rather than what it should be.

That's just crap, and of course it comes from a member of the organization. The Federalist society is, among a lot of other things, a bunch of liars. The Federalist society is a very effective political group with an agenda which it has been very successful with.

The above paragraph has been partly redacted.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:39 PM
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178: I'm only 2 years junior to you, and at NYU I had the impression that the Federalist Society would be helpful for clerkships. That may have been NYU culture versus Columbia, or things may have changed that fast.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:39 PM
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The above paragraph has been partly redacted.

I appreciate your dignified restraint.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:40 PM
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I'm only 2 years junior to you, and at NYU I had the impression that the Federalist Society would be helpful for clerkships.

You have mentioned this to me before and it is part of what I was referring to in saying how fast things appear to have changed.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:42 PM
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182

"Swing vote on Bush-Gore 2000. Lowest circle of hell. he may have little individual nuances on some legal issues, but he's a hopeless Republican. Souter (hardly a radical) tried unsuccessfully to talk to him."

Not an answer. Which of your four boxes does he go in?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:42 PM
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I would note that the Federalist Society itself does not have much in the way of a position on anything other than it is the job of judges to say what the law is rather than what it should be.

I'd buy this as long as "the Federalist Society itself" is closely defined. I'd believe that it hasn't got any officially endorsed statement of beliefs beyond something anodyne about "what the law is". But there are a whole lot of positions where being a Federalist Society member is strongly diagnostic of what someone is going to think, even if those positions aren't technically positions of "the Federalist Society itself".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:43 PM
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And the "law as it is rather than it should be" is complete question begging.

I've always found that baffling. There's a very old joke:
Waiter: "Sir, how did you find your steak?"
Customer: "It was easy. I just moved aside the parseley and there it was".

To believe that the law was there all along, just hiding behind the parseley until a Judge found it, ignores everything we've learned about the construction of social institutions and rules. These things are contested and argued and the curtain covering their creation is thin indeed, except to those who want to cloak their urge to power behind a claim that it's simply natural.

on preview I see I'm wholly pwned. But I like the joke


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:45 PM
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there are a whole lot of positions where being a Federalist Society member is strongly diagnostic of what someone is going to think, even if those positions aren't technically positions of "the Federalist Society itself".

We might disagree on the extent to which this is true, but it certainly is true to a degree. If all one knew about a person was that they were in the Federalist Society and you had to guess whether they voted Republican, the smart money (but be careful of the point spread) is on yes.

I think hating the Federalist Society and all its works leads some people to think that its membership is more politically monolithic than it is. In particular, I there is very wide variation on social issues and questions of individual liberties.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:50 PM
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I note that the discussion in recent posts of how the Federalist Society works for its members provides the answer to the boggling-to-me earlier confusion about how media consolidation might affect journalists. It's selling out: you do stuff the bosses like, you get more choice assignments, you get to hang out with a better-endowed class of person, your life becomes more comfortable and lucrative. It takes a lot to choose the alternatives, when that first choice is meaningfully available. It's how hierarchies and networks work.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:51 PM
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how the Federalist Society works for its members

Damn!! I missed this memo. I need to call headquarters, because they never did anything for me. What, exactly, is it you think the Federalist Society does for a litigator in a Manhattan litigation boutique?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:53 PM
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Yes, LB, Idealist and the Federalist society are good lawyers skilled in finding plausible deniability. For all I know Idealist is their single sincere member, the oblivious one they bring out to show to people when they're accused of being a political conspiracy.

But the federalist Society is a very effective political conspiracy. As far as Idealist's being advised to leave his membership off his resume, presumably during that phase they were infiltrating rather than taking over. Communists often advised their people not even to join the party at all. What a bunch of crap.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:54 PM
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there was a remarkable degree of unanimity among them that the civil rights act was unconstitutional, Gideon v. Wainwright should be overturned, Texas's indigent defense system was no problem because "some people drive Cadillacs, some people drive Toyotas", & let's not get started on the war on terror or Iraq. Not that every member is like that, but the most powerful ones are.

A lot of blogosphere regulars take pride in being Federalist Society members. Their basic principle seems to be "Adam Smith proved that things will work fine with maybe one or two laws, and Milton Friedman proved that trying to defend the so-called 'powerless' against the so-called 'powerful' is by definition either futile or unnecessary."

They may not be representative of course, but between people with that point of view and the Regent University graduates, the whole government will be restaffed if we have two more Republican administrations.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:56 PM
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Shearer, he's a Republican. The authoritarian-free-marketer box. He was the key vote electing George W. Bush.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:56 PM
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I should say "they are not representative." An exaggerated caricature is very rarely representative.

Okay, time to go to a show.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:58 PM
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I sometimes get the feeling that conservatives were the only ones to take Marxism seriously. What is the Federalist Society, if not Gramsci's long march through the institutions?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 6:58 PM
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We might disagree on the extent to which this is true, but it certainly is true to a degree.

Damn right we disagree. The Federalist Society is a political conspiracy which has infiltrated the legal profession and the judiciary, and members of which (Silberman and others) have engaged in right-wing conspiratorial activity totally inappropriate to their position (e.g. mentoring Ann Coulter in slimebaggery) and which may have been illegal.

This is true whether or not members of the organization deny it, and it's even true whether individual members of the organization sincerely deny it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:00 PM
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law as it is rather than it should be

I am mostly in way over my head here, but I did find this Jack Balkin essay, "Basic Law, Higher Law, Our Law-- An Essay on Constitutional Redemption ", to be an interesting treatment.

A theory of interpretation that refuses to allow this delegation does not allow the Constitution to be ours because it does not allow us to see our present day values in the Constitution as the application or fulfillment of past principles and commitments. If people feel that the Constitution's principles are not their principles, but simply imposed on them as a straitjacket from an alien past, the Constitution is not theirs, and it offers them little hope that it will come to be theirs in the future.

Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:03 PM
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194

He also supports abortion and gay sex which looks sort of socially liberal.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:05 PM
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In particular, I there is very wide variation on social issues and questions of individual liberties.

Translation: some members are not completely authoritarian.

Idealist, the reason the Federalist society has done nothing for your career is that you apparently actually believe their cover story and have no idea what the organization is all about. People not in the organization (including admirers of the organization) see it at work, but apparently you don't notice that kind of thing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:05 PM
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Fine, Shearer, but I was talking about electoral poltics. All kinds of individuals have nuanced views about this and that. Look at McManus -- what pigeonhole does he fit into. What I said is that free-market conservatives / social libertarians have no place to go in American electoral politics.

But in the end, it doesn't make any difference, because Kennedy is a Republican hack. Nothing he can ever do will nullify his unjustifiable Bush-Gore vote. Even Scalia admitted that the decision was unjustifiable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:09 PM
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SCMT, it feels like you're being deliberately obtuse.

Well, it seems to me you're being purposely obscure for reasons I cannot fathom, so I guess we're even. But this conversation seems frighteningly parallel to the use of the label "feminist," and, as I recall, that went nowhere either. "Different people use language differently," is about as far as we were/are able to go.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:15 PM
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I sometimes get the feeling that conservatives were the only ones to take Marxism seriously. What is the Federalist Society, if not Gramsci's long march through the institutions?

I don't know if you're joking or not, but I actually do think that sometimes. I'm not sure either are needed for the conservatives to arrive at the solution.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:17 PM
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I'm not joking.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:18 PM
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They won, too. In the ideal case, it will be decades before their power is broken.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:20 PM
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201

"... What I said is that free-market conservatives / social libertarians have no place to go in American electoral politics."

This isn't really true. They can choose to support relatively free market Democrats or relatively social liberal Republicans. This is really no different than the problem facing socially conservative welfare liberals.

"But in the end, it doesn't make any difference, because Kennedy is a Republican hack. Nothing he can ever do will nullify his unjustifiable Bush-Gore vote. Even Scalia admitted that the decision was unjustifiable."

This is besides the point. Hack/nonhack would be another independent axis and you would end up with 8 boxes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:21 PM
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OT:

I'm watching hotal Rwanda. What a horrific movie.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:21 PM
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I hold what one friend of mine calls "Federalist Society Robo Hacks" partially responsible for the detention & torture & executive power policies of this administration. They were necessary enablers. You want to tell me Yoo, Silberman, Thomas, Scalia, Gonzales, Delahunty, Haynes, et. al aren't representative of its membership, and react to the stated commitments to "liberty" & the "rule of law" with anything other than bitter laughter, find me some members who forcefully oppose them. You may--or not, I honesstly have no clue--but if so I think you'd be the first member I've ever encountered to do so.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:22 PM
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202: The thing is, while you could state some broad principles for liberalism or leftism, at the paragraph or less length it'd be hard to come up with anything anyone reasonable would disagree with (like, all of those right wing statements of principle sound lovely: we're about freedom! and the rule of law! they just don't predict policy stances in any obvious way.)

If you want a usable definition of liberalism or leftism, it's going to be a laundry list of issue positions (plenty of which liberals and leftists would agree on), and you could probably figure them out pretty well on your own. But there aren't membership cards, and there isn't a set standard for how many leftist positions you can disagree with before you're not a leftist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:24 PM
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208:The Lives of Others has finally shown up on cable, in wide-screen format. Trying to pick a time, maybe tonight.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:37 PM
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I do think you can from time to time nail down something that some broad groups will pretty much all agree to, and that some others all won't. For instance, "The wealthiest members of society benefit most from its maintenance, including tending the well-being of everyone less well off, and properly pay the largest share in taxes, both as individuals and on their businesses." There may be flat-tax liberals - in fact there are bound to be, given what other fetishes and kinks exist - but that one pretty well separates everyone liberal-to-left from everyone conservative-to-reactionary. "Preventative intervention is morally desirable over after-the-fact adjustment; regulation is preferable to tort, wellness care is more efficient and preferable to treatment for illness once contracted (though the latter is also important), early childhood care forestalls many later life problems, etc. The Constitutional mandate to provide for the general welfare is best fulfilled when the state helps keeps problems from forming and spreading." would be another. "The United States has no privileged standing in the world, nor any license to do things that would be wrong if done by any other nation." might be a third, complicated by the fad of the last decade for left-justified warmongering.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:37 PM
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208

"... You want to tell me Yoo, Silberman, Thomas, Scalia, Gonzales, Delahunty, Haynes, et. al aren't representative of its membership ..."

How many of these guys are actually members? I only found Scalia and Haynes listed here .


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:38 PM
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210 s/b 207 why am i so often off by one?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:38 PM
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206: Jesus, Shearer. Yes, free-market conservatives who are social liberals can vote for socially liberal Republicans, if there's one running in their district. But there usually isn't. Socially liberal Republicans have increasingly been expelled from the Republican Party, and the handful of exceptions are like whipped dogs.

In other cases they can vote for free-market socially-liberal Democrats, if one is running in their district. There are actually more of these, because the US has shifted right on economic issues, but guess what? Most of the people we're talking about won't vote for a Democrat.

You really, really are obtuse, James. "No place to go" doesn't mean "No lesser evil choice" or "not a single person to vote for in a single district". 90% of the time, the choice for them is between socially conservative Republicans and economically liberal (weakly "socialist") Democrats.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:42 PM
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There may be flat-tax liberals - in fact there are bound to be

You may not have realized Mike Gravel had a platform, but I believe that was it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:44 PM
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This site says that Yoo is a member and protege of the Federalist society.

You might note that the list at your link is labeled with the phrase "Partial List".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:49 PM
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211

"I do think you can from time to time nail down something that some broad groups will pretty much all agree to, and that some others all won't. For instance, "The wealthiest members of society benefit most from its maintenance, including tending the well-being of everyone less well off, and properly pay the largest share in taxes, both as individuals and on their businesses." There may be flat-tax liberals - in fact there are bound to be, given what other fetishes and kinks exist - but that one pretty well separates everyone liberal-to-left from everyone conservative-to-reactionary. ..."

I think this is unclear. If you just mean rich people should pay more taxes than poor people then most conservatives agree. If by "share" you mean share of their income (as opposed to share of taxes collected) then conservatives will start to disagree but even many flat tax proposals are progressive in that they don't tax the first dollar earned. And do all liberals support progressive business taxes?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:50 PM
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209:

1. Maybe it's what (I dimly recall) Labs called a constellation of values (or something like that; I don't remember the term). The idea is weird to me, though I guess we all use such terms loosely all the time.

2. Just to be plain about it, if you consider yourself a leftist, not a liberal, why? Or, similarly, why is Ehrenreich a leftist, not a liberal?

I don't have any idea why such question are considered somehow perverse. We have gone through the same process on any number of terms.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:53 PM
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214

"You really, really are obtuse, James. "No place to go" doesn't mean "No lesser evil choice" or "not a single person to vote for in a single district". 90% of the time, the choice for them is between socially conservative Republicans and economically liberal (weakly "socialist") Democrats."

And how is this choice better for economically liberal socially conservative voters?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:55 PM
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James, yes, I'm talking explicitly - or rather I'm trying to, and fumbling because of being tired - about progessive taxation, about taxing a larger proportion of the income of wealthier people. As for progressive business taxes, I dunno, but I'd be surprised to find many liberals opposed to the idea. I'm offering it up as a way of broadly distinguishing liberal and conservative, and your response demonstrates that I'm onto something. It's broad enough to be more than any specific law or policy, but not hopelessly vague, or so I hope.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 7:56 PM
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I'd take a stab at some conservative coutnerparts but in my current state of mind they'd all come out insulting, like "The lower classes deserve less trust and need more supervision; reliability and merit increase with assets." and "Law is binding except insofar as it affects the actions of the powerful in moments of crisis as determined by them."


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:10 PM
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Not much better, James! Is that your point? There's a large noisy contingent of socially-liberal economically conservative voters, and I was pointing out that they're a political non-factor and have nowhere to go, for all their noise. I suppose it's the same for economically-liberal socially-conservative voters, but they're not a large noisy faction except when the Republicans decide to showcase one. American politics is effectively pretty binary, though the libertarian foursquare analysis does point to a tension in the system.

I have no idea why Tim finds these questions problematic. American politics isn't very mysterious once you take into account the foursquare tension just mentioned and the fact that the American Left has been marginalized.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:10 PM
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Laurence Silberman, Federalist society conspirator I

Silberman II

Yoo and Silberman are quite rightly what most people think of when they think of the Federalist Society.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:13 PM
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218: For some diagnostic points, I am, and I'm fairly sure Ehrenreich is, strongly pro-labor. While some self-described liberals are, more are dubious about the labor movement. Leftists, while not all that likely to be across the board pacifists, are going to be much more suspicious of military action than liberals, and much much more so if can't be plausibly described as having an immediate humanitarian goal. (That is, in the lead-in to the Iraq war, a leftist probably started from "This is a war, which makes it almost certainly a bad idea. Now let's look at the evidence to see if it's one of the few exceptions." while a liberal went in with "Let's see if this is in our best interest." without a preconceived opinion.) A leftist wants single-payer health care; a liberal is dubious about whether it's possible.

Name another issue, and I'll try to distinguish leftist and liberal positions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:15 PM
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President Bush's Nov. 2007 speech to the Federalist Society:

In just a quarter century, the Federalist Society has transformed itself from a student organization into a vital national institution. You've earned a reputation across the ideological spectrum for open debate and intellectual rigor. Members of the Federalist Society believe in a simple proposition: Our written Constitution means what it says. (Applause.) One would not call that a radical statement -- I certainly don't see how holding such a common-sense view can be considered controversial. I share your devotion to the Constitution -- and I'm proud to be standing with you tonight. (Applause.)....

I'm proud to be in such distinguished company as Justice Antonin Scalia. (Applause.) And of course, Maureen. (Applause.) I'm proud to be here with Justice Clarence Thomas, and his wife Ginni. (Applause.) Justice Sam Alito, and Martha. (Applause.) I'm fortunate to have been able to pick two members of the U.S. Supreme Court, and I'm very proud of the service rendered by Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. (Applause.)....

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others. (Applause.) ...

Tonight I will discuss a judicial philosophy that is based on what our Founders intended. I'm going to talk about the importance of having good judges who adhere to this philosophy. And I will explain the need to reform a confirmation process that is making it more difficult to persuade decent and intelligence [sic] people to accept the call to public service.

The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say. And I ask my nominees to the federal bench to take seriously their own oath to uphold the Constitution -- and that is because I strongly believe our freedom depends on the willingness of judges to be bound by the Constitution and the law. (Applause.)



Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:16 PM
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218: Seriously, if you want to distinguish leftist from liberal, you're pretty much a centrist liberal, as far as I can tell. Picture the sort of disagreements you have with people who seem to be to your left, and that's a leftist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:18 PM
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Katherine, George W. Bush has no political agenda, but he has strong convictions about legal philosophy. That's why he was there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:19 PM
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One reason for the difficulty is that the left is so weak that many leftists have resignedly joined the liberal camp. The fact that a lot of bright, well-informed young people have no idea who or what the leftists are is just a discouraging reminder of this fact.

As your power dwindles, your hopes dwindle too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:21 PM
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See also Dick Cheney's November 2006 speech to the Federalist society:

No modern organization has been so effective in promoting respect for the separation of powers, federalism, and the topic of this conference, limited government. The Federalist Society stands firm, as well, for the principle that courts exist to exercise not the will of men but the judgment of law. Federal judges are appointed for life and serve outside the democratic process. Therefore they have a duty to pursue no agenda or platform -- and to leave politics to those who run for office and answer to the people. As a great American put it, judges are to be "servants of the law, not the other way around."

The whole speech contains all the paeans you might expect to the war on terror, NSA spying, "the steady hand of one of the great public servants of the age, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (applause)", etc. etc. etc.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:22 PM
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I should mention, duh, that a lot of the leftists were Greens and Naderites. Another part of the confusion is the way that mainstream Democrats froze the Democratic left out of the party before 2000 (and even more so since).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:23 PM
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Federal judges are appointed for life and serve outside the democratic process. Therefore they have a duty to pursue no agenda or platform -- and to leave politics to those who run for office and answer to the people.

And you find this to be a disgusting and vile position that is leading to the end of democracy as we know it because . . . ?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:26 PM
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Or, to put it in the form of an analogy,

Federalist Society: takes no position on anything other than it is the job of judges to say what the law is rather than what it should be

as

Tony Soprano: in the waste management business.

That's a little crude--there are some decent members for whom it is a conservative debating society. In the midst of this conversation I remembered that my law school thesis advisor was a member--he was a nice guy, former Souter clerk, obviously well to the right of me but not at all nuts. But it's main practical function these days is as a networking tool for people like--well, the ones currently running our country--to find lawyers & judges to sign blank checks for them.



Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:30 PM
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222

"... Is that your point? ..."

More or less.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:31 PM
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231: I think the point is that although Cheney has no principles other than making the executive branch of the government above the law and manipulating the system so that Republicans always control the executive branch of the government, he mouths the Federalist Society's principles and ends up sounding exactly someone like you, who actually believes in those principles.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:33 PM
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Much like Stalin continued to pretend in the egalitarian principles of Karl Marx after it became obvious that all he cared about was power.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:36 PM
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224 seems accurate to me. Hey, LB: this could be a good post. You could run, say, 2-5 issues through that liberal/leftist sorting machine you have there. I think it's a good one.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:40 PM
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224, 226:

Huh. That's kind of interesting. I can see two different things going on here that might explain the confusion:

1. You see left/liberal as two points on a continuum, while I thought it was based on some deeper disagreement. So, for example, I would have thought that a leftist critique of the war would have a more international (that's the wrong word, but I can't think of a good one). "This war is illegal, according to international law," or "This war is imperialism." The continuum conception was what I meant to reference when I said that "left" seems to be "ultra" or "super," so I can make sense of it in that way. I just thought there were deeper issues at work.

2. I think that my sense of where positions fall is shifted from yours. So, for example, it never occurred to me that you could be a liberal and not be pro-labor. As I think I mentioned (on the "feminist" thread, funnily enough), I don't label myself a liberal (I say "Democrat" instead). In part that's because of my (admittedly inchoate and unreasoned) discomfort with labor issues. I don't know what explains the shift, as we're close in age.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:43 PM
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231: Because anything Bush or Cheney says is a lie, and because anyone who believes them, or pretends to, is a fool at best.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 8:43 PM
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233: How about, in the future, stating your own position right off rather than wasting our time with the Socratic method the way you do?

My point, that libertarian types really have nowhere to go in electoral politics, still holds. I could have been clearer about socially conservative economic liberals, I suppose, but in fact Blue Dogs et al do have a solid position within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately. The Democrats haven't been purged the way the Republicans have. My own Congressman is a socially conservative Democrat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 9:03 PM
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On left/liberal: mcmanus and ogged have it right. The difference isn't just that leftists are further down along the spectrum from liberals, but that these groups approach issues in a fundamentally different way. Liberal critiques tend to be procedural and technocratic, whereas leftist critiques tend to be structural, seeing overlapping broken systems that simple tweaking can't remedy. A liberal critique of US foreign policy, for instance, would tend to focus on specific instances in which America had strayed from some ideal policy, and recommendations on what that ideal policy might look like. A leftist critique would probably focus more on the various large-scale factors that have given rise to America's existing foreign policy over the decades: imperial competition with other major powers, a deeply-entrenched multi-billion-dollar arms industry that profits from keeping America in a state of perpetual war, a largely deregulated corporate media in hoc to that industry, etc. There are some issues where liberals are a bit more willing to talk about broken systems, but in general these sorts of approaches don't seem to interest them as much (see, for example, justice system and prison reform, an issue which has largely dropped off liberal radar over the last decade and a half).

[back to lurking]


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 9:12 PM
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Except for when leftists are procedural and technocratic, like Tony Benn, Bevan, Sidney Webb, and y'know, the Fabians full stop*.

To be utterly honest, the difference between liberals and leftists is that they have different policy positions. Talking about methodological differences between two groups as ill defined as `leftists' and `liberals' is nonsense. After all, a POUMist, a British Labourite, a German Social Democrat are all leftists, and I highly doubt that you can produce a particularly nice theory of leftism that encompasses them all.

* If you mean American leftists, then duh. Groups on the fringes of power are always tempted by structural critiques, but that doesn't particularly tell you anything about leftism qua leftism. For instance, Henley et al are just as keen on structural critiques, and they're not really leftist.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:02 PM
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Back in the day, leftists and liberals differed on:

1. Attitude towards state power. Liberals more skeptical, concerned about misuse, leftists more interesting in using it to fight perceived injustice
2. Attitude towards the market. Liberals, largely pro but with need for regulation, leftists largely con, seeing it as field in which oppression/exploitation is exercised
3. Attitude towards the US of A. Liberals viewing as great, flawed country. Left viewing as a mixed bag, but with greater emphasis on flaws and imperialism
4. Attitude towards class and identity politics: liberals generally skeptical, left generally seeing as indispensable to redressing oppression/historical power imbalances

I don't know to what degree that this captures the current left/liberal split, but these were axes along which it once made sense to differentiate the two, and on which extreme views (e.g., strongly pro-market or strongly pro class-politics) were good predictors of left vs. liberal orientation.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:28 PM
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If you mean American leftists, then duh.

Well, yeah. This whole topic has been specifically concerned with the American political spectrum; that's why, as noted several times previously, we're not using "liberal" to mean "lover of free markets." Duh, indeed.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:30 PM
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242 -- That's how I use the terms, but then I'm old.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:36 PM
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So, for example, it never occurred to me that you could be a liberal and not be pro-labor.

There's no conversation I hate more than the dyed-in-the-wool Bush-n-Rush hating Democrat who then goes completely off the rails when the subject turns to labor. And I have it all the time.

It's usually the teachers' union that starts it, but just as often you mention that you have issues with Whole Foods and when you push, they wonder if grocery clerks really need unions anyway.

The better liberals understand that there is a left critique of things, and their desire to resist it makes them try really hard to save the existing system. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt saving capitalism comes to mind, but Yglesias's dead-on aim often seems amplified by his awareness of critiques to his left, for example.)

Meyerson is an interesting example -- he's the kind of liberal who tends to believe that the changes that liberals want come from having an energized left. I think the main reason he's not a leftist is that he just likes electoral politics so damn much.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:50 PM
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Another axis that complicates the politics on this side of the tennis court is the green one. Deep ecology is radical but not exactly leftist -- at least I find it hard to conceive of a leftism that's not humanistic. There are marriages of convenience, but it's not a resolvable conflict.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 10:55 PM
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American leftism is a marginalised tendency, and therefore, like all other marginalised groups, it is strongly tempted to indulge in sweeping attacks on The System. But that's not leftism; that's marginalisation.

If the positions were reversed and American liberals were marginalised, then you'd see just as many attacks on The System from them.

You're not saying anything interesting about leftism when you say that the American left has the characteristics of a marginalised group. And, if your definition of leftism in America boils down to `is marginalised', that definition's going to fail if/when leftism isn't marginalised.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 11:18 PM
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"indulge in sweeping attacks on the" != "critique"


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 11:28 PM
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To go back a bit - I think you guys are seriously overestimating the importance of the left in Europe at least as it is being defined here. A common mistake among both Americans and Europeans. IMO the main reason for this is the fact that the welfare state advanced further in Western Europe than in America before the neolib reaction set in, and like some of the big FDR, LBJ achievements, full scale rollback is very difficult (we've still got Medicare and Social Security, they've still got UHC. That and the greater prominence given to leftist intellectuals in the general interest media. But in practice it's a lot like the US, complete with plenty of nibble size 'reforms' by both 'socialist' and right wing governments.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 11:38 PM
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No it's not tkm. They had berets, good coffee, Baader-Meinhof and attractive but dense downtowns while we were still shooting labor unionists for masturbating in evolution class, and as a result nattarGcM can take three weeks' vacation a month.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 11:49 PM
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On the related topic of how McCain is presented in the European press - pretty positively in the three countries I'm most familiar with. Poland's basically very pro-neo-con, with the exception of the hard right (also the most left wing economically of all the significant political forces), Germany - ranges from neutral in the big center left and center press (e.g. Spiegel, Die Zeit, SZ) to positive in the right wing papers (e.g. FAZ and Welt). The French press - Libe fairly hostile, Figaro neutral to sympathetic, Le Monde, neutral to mildly hostile (I'm always amused/annoyed by American commentators e.g. The Mustache who speak of LM as some radical anti-American anti-Israeli paper - with the exception of the occasional guest column, it's ideology is that of the NYT - both foreign and domestic, editorial and 'straight news'. In any case the vast majority of the French media industry is owned by the equivalents of Bechtel and Lockheed Martin. Le Monde Diplo, referred to above, is NOT Le Monde, and is no more representative of the French press than The Nation.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-22-08 11:51 PM
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Speaking of Die Welt:

Man könnte salopp sagen: Das Rennen der Demokraten verläuft wie das Rennen um den neuen DVD-Standard. Toshibas HD gegen Sonys Blu-ray, und nach langem harten Kampf gewinnt Blu-ray. High-Definition-Hillary gegen Black-ray-Obama, und nach langem harten Kampf siegt Obama. Beide sind gleich gut, aber der schwarze Laser leuchtet im Dunkeln heller als der weiße.
Stay classy, guys!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:11 AM
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re: 250

Don't forget the 4 hour work-days, and the compulsory cigarette breaks.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:13 AM
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And management come round and say things like, "Matt, I really think you need to work on your ennui. I've been seeing signs of optimism from you the past few weeks, and it's really not good enough. Perhaps you'd like to ask Human Resources if you can attend the Huis-clos training session?"


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:16 AM
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254: That's my new job (maybe)!


Posted by: Anonymous Advice Seeker | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:31 AM
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252 gotta love German conservatives. Lower down in the piece

Obama hat schokoladenwarme Seele, Clinton stellt blondes Eisblau zur Schau.

One of the times I was living in Germany there was a big debate going on about civil unions. My daily paper was FAZ - think highbrow Dobson. Oh well, it had the best foreign coverage and best feuilleton


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:34 AM
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while we were still shooting labor unionists

What were you saying about shooting unionists?


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:43 AM
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Ok, so just watched The Lives of Others. Really, really good and better than Pan's Labyrinth. I cried a lot, which is one reason I don't go to theatres. Muhe's (Weisler) personal story is very moving, and, I think, one interpretation meaning of the final line.

I think it is about Art more than about love or morality. I noticed Weisler's reaction in the very early visit to the theatre, like just a bit of revelation. There was the Brecht book he stole, the conversations with the actress about being her "audience", the fake play about Lenin Weisler wrote to fill the space.

So the way we see ourselves in in other's eyes, other's judgements, other's lives, and in Art...I think this movie needs another viewing.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:47 AM
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239

"My point, that libertarian types really have nowhere to go in electoral politics, still holds. ..."

I don't agree except in the narrow sense of running for office. Suppose you have the Republicans giving priority to economic issues over social issues and the Democrats giving priority to social issues over economic issues then over time society will move in the socially liberal economically conservative direction. This is what has happened for the last 30 years or so and I don't see any reason why it can't go on happening. As a socially liberal and economically conservative individual it is possible to help this process along by supporting the appropriate single issue groups to pressure the parties to continue to prioritize your issues.

And if your point is you can't stand Instapundit I sympathise but his most obnoxious positions concern supporting the war which I don't think fits too well into your four box system.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:49 AM
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251

The question is does McCain get the same favored treatment (compared to what could be expected from his politics) in the foreign press that he is said to get in the US press.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:56 AM
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And I don't want to hijack the thread, but I watched again (3rd time?) last night an older very good Almodovar film Live Flesh and even tho I am sure Javier Bardem has a houseful of awards, I would like to see him get another this year, just cause like he's a god.

That is all


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 1:02 AM
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Bardem will crush all competition, not to worry.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 1:36 AM
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No, hang on. I guess Daniel Day-Lewis will drink his milkshake. I take that back.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 1:38 AM
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(Nope, they're in different categories. Never mind.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 1:39 AM
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260

Somewhat, though less than the US - i.e. some of their DC correspondents have caught the disease but the ones in Europe haven't really thought about him before now. Plus it's a bit hard to tell. Even with the huge increase in European coverage of the US campaign in this cycle there is still a lot less than in the US and the bulk goes to the more interesting Dem contest.

But if you read Polish here's an example: McCain wygrywa, bo nie jest plastikowy (Gazeta Wyborcza left liberal organ of the dissident elitel, ultra partisan and largest hate magnet of the Polish hard right, but GW's US correspondents and commentators on the US trend either Repub or DLC type with one notable very left wing exception.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 2:09 AM
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OK, James, but the direction of movement is wrong. By now almost all of the social liberals (RINOs) have been driven out of the Republican Party, and Chafee just said that he regretted staying in as long as he did (as well he should). And the Movement Republicans have also driven almost all of the conservative Southern Democrats from office (les than half of the 43 Blue Dogs are from Southern and border states). The better things get for the Democrats the worse it will go for the Blue Dogs; people are already talking about primary challenges.

OK, but for a guy like yourself, except that he thinks that electoral politics is important and does not have infinite patience and optimism, things have been bleak for almost a decade and seem to be getting worse. Add in the fact that most actual people with that mix of issues really are much more committed to economic conservativism than to social liberalism, and add in the fact that the Republicans by now are socially conservative but economically insane, and you guys have a very tough row to hoe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 5:42 AM
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I thought McCain had a good press rep largely because he's been willing to mock the fundamentalists. You know, that makes him "one of us" even if he's hardcore pro-war anti-abortion. Am I being naive?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 5:44 AM
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As I understand it's just wrong to use Poland as a proxy for Europe. They seem to be uniquely the way they are, more so even than the other ex-satellite nations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 5:59 AM
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250. And it shouldn't be forgotten that basic health and social insurance and state pensions were instituted in Germany by that well known anarcho-syndicalist Otto von Bismark, while American bosses were hiring Pinkertons to shoot Union organisers. I'm sure a million undergraduate dissertataions have attempted to explain the difference, but the only point I can gather is that American capitalists can't see six months down the line.

Of course, in Britain, the same groundwork was done by the Liberal Party (1910).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 6:54 AM
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267: I thought McCain had a good press rep largely because he's been willing to mock the fundamentalists.

More like a little out-of-date:

McCain's presence on the campus [Liberty College] here was as remarkable as what he had to tell the graduating class of 2006, given his clashes with religious conservatives during his 2000 campaign for president. His appearance continued a rapprochement that has been underway for months with a critical constituency in the Republican Party as McCain prepares for another possible campaign in 2008.

But actually, you're right that somehow out of that he still earned some "maverick" points.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:03 AM
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This photo gave me goosebumps. Read the article.

Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat. ....1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today.

Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:08 AM
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237: No, that's not right -- part of the problem is that I'm the wrong person to be the spokesperson for this. What everyone else has been saying about the difference between liberals and leftists being that leftists see fundamental structural problems, while liberals think the system's in pretty good shape and just needs to be tweaked, is more right.

What I was trying to address with the laundry list of positions was the problem that "fundamental structural problems" doesn't tell you what those "fundamental structural problems" are, so a list of positions (which I should really not be the person to give, but I am because I can't keep my mouth shut) gives you a sense of outcomes. To put the two definitions together, look at attitudes toward military action.

The liberal is going to look at a proposed war and ask "does it serve our national interests and not seem like it's going to be too horrendously unjust?" and if so, start cheerleading. The leftist is going to start from the position that, e.g., some of our primary motivations for war are to transfer wealth from the people to the makers of weaponry and materiel, and to pacify people with fear of the overseas enemy, and look at any war with the strong expectation that that's what's going on. And so they'll come out about like I said before, but it's because the leftist has a structural critique that the liberal doesn't.

But I'm really not qualified to speak for 'leftists' generally; I'm very poorly educated on this stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:25 AM
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271 McM's revolutionary momentum illustrated

i watched Solaris yesterday with Clooney, not all
i don't like Rheya, she is not who i imagined
if i'm not interested in the characters can't watch
when my mom died i dreamt she is getting better, she had late onset progressive form of MS, so dreamt that her symptoms are resolving, that her arms or legs are now moving, almost two yrs
then you wake up and recall everytime reality
time wears off even dreams, now i do not dream her even if i wish, very rarely dream at all
um mani badmi khum


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:28 AM
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Surprisingly, I also think 242 is all screwy. The "attitude to state power" bit is weird, because liberals (and conservatives) don't advocate shrinkage of the state on any basis beyond empty sloganeering; they're all about military power, aggressive policing, economic support of business, and so on. The distinction between liberalism and leftism is whether state power is going to be used to reinforce or undermine current power structures.

Racial/gender politics, as well -- I'd expect a liberal to at least pay lip service to some pretty left positions on those issues (while finding efforts to do anything about those positions annoying). It's going to be much easier to find square disagreement between a liberal and a leftist on money issues than on race/gender issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:35 AM
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I really don't know how to say this, but there is on topic content in The Lives of Others. Saying the movie has sympathy for socialism, the GDR, and even the Stasi may not be correct, but it might be arguable. Toward the end

1) I think the playright may ran out of the theatre in disgust at the abstraction of the staging in the 2nd performance

2) There are two lines at the end of the movie

"29.80" made me gasp. A week's, maybe a month's salary for the aged Weisler?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 7:46 AM
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re: 272 and 274

The liberal is going to look at a proposed war and ask "does it serve our national interests and not seem like it's going to be too horrendously unjust?" and if so, start cheerleading.

liberals (and conservatives) don't advocate shrinkage of the state on any basis beyond empty sloganeering; they're all about military power, aggressive policing, economic support of business, and so on.

These do not seem to me to be realistic descriptions of anyone, conservative, liberal or otherwise. I imagine I would be described as a conservative (or worse) by people here, and not even I believe any of the things you ascribe to liberals. I have a hard time imagining that anyone who describes themselves as liberal would accept the characterization. Thus, where you appear to end up is mostly that liberal is a perjorative term leftists use to describe people who pay lip service to leftist ideals but who are insufifciently committed to them and have been coopted by the right. That is a definition, but I wonder how helpful it is.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:05 AM
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271: That is fucking awesome.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:05 AM
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277:All we Texans are awesome thank you. I myself may walk three miles for orphaned dogs today.

I have not seen enough in Obama to believe he deserves this, or so much more than Clinton to think Obama deserves this. Obama is not promising MLK level change, fuck he isn't even promising to end the war.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:21 AM
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276: Come on, I'm trying to draw distinctions in a couple of paragraphs for someone who's remaining confused by gentler characterizations. Throw in as many softening modifiers as you like: "is genuinely concerned about whether a war would be in our legitmate national interest and fully considers whether the humanitarian costs of war are justified by the vital interests served." The point is still the difference in initial approach.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:23 AM
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And wow on the seven-mile march to vote.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:25 AM
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It's definitely true that American leftist tend to be less satisfied with current power structures than American liberals. I am not sure this is as much an inherent feature of leftism as a statement about the current state of US society. We're not very left, but we're reasonably liberal. In a more left society, it's not clear that the leftists would always be the ones agitating for more change.

On the specific points. LB, I think you are making a mistake by flattening a group of concerns that make up "attitude towards state power" into a single axis which deals with the size of the government.

One aspect of classical liberalism that has filtered into current American liberalism is concern about state power. That is, liberals are often sympathetic to arguments of the form "even if X would provide good outcomes, X is not the type of thing we want the government to do." The liberal concern about procedural rights and balance of power stems from an attitude like this -- a desire to trammel state power. You can see this attitude expressed by classic modern liberal theorists like Judith Shklar (see her "Liberalism of Fear"). Now it is just the case that the left has historically been more concerned about oppression than about procedural rights, and more open towards using the power of the state to redress injustice. For example, when Harry Brighouse discusses closing private schools because they are a source of inequality, this is recognizably more a left than a liberal idea. And I think he would acknowledge that. I think generally if one were to look at issues of the form "State takes on a lot more power -- size, legal authority, whatever --in order to achieve justice" one would in general (not in every case) find that these skew left rather than liberal. E.g., openness to direct state ownership of industry. On "Liberalism of Fear" grounds, there are reasons to be worried about these actions, even if one considers an individual action likely to be beneficial.

Likewise on class and identity politics, I think there are distinctions here that you are quick to gloss over. My point isn't that liberals are less likely to be pro-choice, but rather that what tends to differentiate left and liberal is the degree to which class and identity are seen as crucial or even primary lenses for social analysis, and the degree to which cultural and social roles are seen as inherently political By way of an analogy, I think if one were to look at wikipedia's capsule summaries of first wave and second wave, there's a clear liberal/left gradient at work.

Let me emphasize that all these differentiating features are more tendencies than hard-and-fast rules. There is certainly lots of 2nd wave feminism, e.g., that is pretty clearly in the liberal mainstream.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:26 AM
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I have not seen enough in Obama to believe he deserves this

It's a real shame that hadn't had a chance to hear your position before they started walking, mcmanus.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:29 AM
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I have not seen enough in Obama to believe he deserves this

Ah comity!

270: I feel like this essentially supports my point -- the fact that liberals who want to attack McCain's "good conservative" credentials quickly point to his flip-flop re Falwell & co strongly suggests that McCain's "good conservative" credentials are indeed largely based on him bashing the religious nuts in the past (and after all, he built up a lot of his reputation in 2000 running for President).

McCain's position regarding abortion has been amazingly consistent but rather undiscussed by the press.

Or at least that's how things seem to me.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:33 AM
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I hadn't seen the picture or clicked on the link before agreeing with McManus. I take it back.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:35 AM
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Uh, they weren't walking "for Obama." They were walking to make an impression about voter disenfranchisement.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:36 AM
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281: You've got a real point on the race/gender issues but it's a difference of emphasis more than square disagreement.

On the 'state power' issues, I'm arguing with the characterization of the sorts of things leftists want government to do as 'state power' and therefore questionable, while the sorts of things conservatives/liberals want government to do as not 'state power' in the same sense. I disagree that the distinction between leftist uses of state power and liberal/conservative uses of state power can legitimately be described in any general sense as a greater concern for individual freedom or procedural rights on the part of the liberal/conservative. (My strong expectation is that this is a point of genuine disagreement about facts between us, not something we're going to get past by explaining our positions better.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:37 AM
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282:Many many people are in a revolutionary optimistic mood, and are focusing their feelings on the only available candidate simply because he says:"Change" and "Yes we can"

Maybe I'm wrong, but Obama's policy positions do not look revolutionary to me.

His supporters aren't wrong. Their leader is not leading from the front.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:37 AM
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I'll be away for a couple of hours, so while I'm still interested in arguing (what are the odds?) won't respond to anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:40 AM
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Something I've said at Crooked Timber several times without response: American liberalism patched weak socialism onto the existing liberalism. Liberalism minimized state interference in the economy and into personal life, whereas American welfare liberalism interveneds in the economy. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" shoehorned the weak socialism into liberalism by adding a new freedom not recognized by classical liberals: "Freedom from Want".

There's a lot of nostalgia for classical liberalism in the silly right, but the classical response to the Depression would be nothing: let nature take its course. A response which was followed until the bitter end, and the Austrians among them as still bitter that it wasn't follwed still further. By the time the classical liberals had been given their walking papers, civilization was on the point of collapse.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:41 AM
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287: How many times can you make exactly the same comment, bob? You're starting to sound like those fucking Ron Paul supporters who comment on YouTube videos.

And every time you make this comment, people respond by saying, "No, his policy positions are not revolutionary, but his political methods for getting things done are." It's a big gamble, because we don't know how those methods will work. But it's a gamble a lot of people are willing to take. You are not. That's fine.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:41 AM
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285:I should have clicked on the link. Sorry.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:43 AM
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The Obama campaign ought to invite the leaders from that student march to appear at campaign rallies in Cleveland and Toledo, complete with a big screen video of the march. That kind of imagery has the power to inspire marginal voters to get to the polls.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:44 AM
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291: I'm actually deeply relieved to know you hadn't clicked the link, bob. I was trying to figure out how you "knew" they were Obama supporters.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 8:56 AM
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292: I think it would be wrong for one campaign to co-opt that movement, as if taking credit for inspiring it. Especially when it's a historically black college marching to vote---black America is not in universal support of Obama, and it would be disingenuous to suggest that Obama was the reason they marched. They marched because their votes didn't count in 2006.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:00 AM
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Many many people are in a revolutionary optimistic mood, and are focusing their feelings on the only available candidate simply because he says:"Change" and "Yes we can"

mcmanus:

AWB's point about the purpose of the march is well taken. But, further, I think it's a mistake to assume that everyone moved by Obama is moved for revolutionary reasons. It seems just as likely to me that people are responding to an opportunity to confirm some set of social changes that have happened and are still happening. Obama is a symptom of beneficial changes, not necessarily a new solution to existing social problems.

I can understand why that isn't very satisfying to you, but I don't think it's a negative force except insofar as you think more radical changes were available and would be better. I don't on either count, but that may well be a function of our different politics.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:01 AM
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The Obama campaign ought to invite the leaders from that student march to appear at campaign rallies in Cleveland and Toledo, complete with a big screen video of the march.

Yeah, the caption should be

Vote for Obama or Negroes will burn your shit down! Lots of them!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:02 AM
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Also, uh, the comments on the linked article? Shudder. It's all "My daughter went to the 'real' A&M she just voted at home. What's wrong with these students? They're so 'special'?" Fucking assholes.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:06 AM
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290:Repetion is important in politics.

You can have organization toward a goal(s), and a person should never be the goal; or you can have spontaneous grass roots uprisings. Rosa Luxemberg took the position...well I will have to revisit the General Strike she is nuanced.

But you don't organize for the sake of organizing; or vote for the sake of voting; or burn shit down for the sake of burning shit down.

Or you can, and I don't necessarily disapprove, but you will usually just end up being used by people with purposes not your own.

I want to see the million person March Against Obama 18 months from now. Inconceivable? Then we have a problem.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:10 AM
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I disagree that the distinction between leftist uses of state power and liberal/conservative uses of state power can legitimately be described in any general sense as a greater concern for individual freedom or procedural rights on the part of the liberal/conservative. My strong expectation is that this is a point of genuine disagreement about facts between us, not something we're going to get past by explaining our positions better

That does seem right. This might be a case where explaining what we see as the relevant facts would be useful. As preface, let me distinguish two types of facts. First, what theorists in the various movements have explicitly said. Second, what political figures and governments have actually done. In the former arena of facts, I think I could point to evidence that liberal and left theorists tend to differ about what legitimate state actions are, how important separation of power is, and certainly about how important economics rights are. With respect to governments, it's much harder, because there's much less ideological purity of any kind.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:13 AM
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Repetion is important in politics.

Then go and repeat it in an apprpriate political forum. Honestly, Bob, I'm inclined to agree with you and you're still driving me batshit.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:14 AM
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Repetion is important in politics.

In politics, yes. On blogs, within the same community, it's annoying. Commenting on Unfogged with the same damn thing every day does not count as getting your important message out to the world.

I'm just sick of your straw man shit, bob. Just because there are a few young, motivated people who are voting Obama because they're inspired rather than because they know a lot about DC politics does not mean that every Obama voter is a crazed, rabid, burner-down of shit. You woefully underestimate the fickleness and apathy of the American people, just as you also woefully underestimate their intelligence.

I'm just saying, every now and then, it would be really super if you could put your mouth into a paper bag and breathe deeply and say, "Blood will probably not run in the streets this time next year." Or maybe even, "Sometimes people want to have a conversation about politics that I don't derail."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:17 AM
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I disagree that the distinction between leftist uses of state power and liberal/conservative uses of state power can legitimately be described in any general sense as a greater concern for individual freedom or procedural rights on the part of the liberal/conservative. (My strong expectation is that this is a point of genuine disagreement about facts between us, not something we're going to get past by explaining our positions better.)

You have hit here on what I think is the biggest problem in sorting out the meaning of various labels. When we used to work together (and on a few occasions after), we got in some pretty viscious arguments about politics. Still, at the end of the day, I hope that we agreed that it was mostly an argument about means, not goals. Such agreement on the good faith of those with whom we disagree is mostly missing from political discourse all across the spectrum.

Trying to define leftist/liberal/conservative in terms of commitment to individual freedom, procedural justice, truth, fairness, mom, apple pie, etc. is doomed to failure because pretty much everyone agrees that those are important values. This is almost always lost in the fray of accusations that belief in means "X" implies a lack of commitment to values "A", "B" and "C". Put otherwise, I assume that most of the people who comment here have the same goals I have, but we have a disagremeent--sometimes a strong one--on means and on how to balance competing values.

For this reason, I think the comments above which focus on means--the use of state power being the central distinction--are more useful in trying to define terms than getting tied up in arguing about who is more or less committed to truth, justice or the American way.

All that said, there are some distinctions that do not fit meaningfully into the values-means division. An example would be nationalism and one's view of whether nations, rather than individuals, are important concerns (that was not well said--I am sure others here can say it better, but I am going for the importance one places on their nation's interests vis-a-vis those of other nations. For example, what collective, national interests are worth fighting other nations for)


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:19 AM
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301:Fine, AWB

I want to end the war, you want to elect Obama
I want UHC, you want to elect Obama
I want to increase equality, you want to elect Obama

Just so we're clear.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:21 AM
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303: I want to be able to have conversations about something other than how stupid and robotic you think Americans are. I've put in my vote, and want a Democrat to win in the fall.

That's a really fucking insulting comment, bob, and you know it.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:23 AM
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McManus doesn't give a shit about the war, UHC, and equality; he wants to make various paranoid comments about the present and future of American politics.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:27 AM
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That's just great. I know they're Obama supporters marching in support and MLK didn't even get that no way that Islamic third-way black man deserves that...oh, I didn't click the link. It's the entire Internet in one comment.

LB, I'd agree conceptually with baa. E.g., a classic liberal defense of abortion rights would be that the state does not have a compelling interest in regulating a private medical decision; a lefty defense of abortion would point to the economic security of women.

In practice, people use both rationales and use labels inconsistently.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:28 AM
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290: Repetion is important in politics.

OK, then.

"Kids are different today,"
I hear bob mcmanus say
A man needs something new to fret about
And though he's not really scared
He thinks that we should be prepared
So he posts about Obama and the coming doomsday drama
And it helps him on his way, gets him through his busy day

Unfog-ged please, I've more of these
Warnings of war, I'll post four more
What a drag it is growing old


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:30 AM
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That's well said, Idealist.

I am usually a bit out of step in these arguments because I don't see procedural justice and individual freedom as obviously mom-and-apple-pie truths. Don't get me wrong -- I think they are tremendously valuable and important. Yet I think both can impose costs that people with other strong priorities (stopping oppression, keeping the country safe) won't always want to pay. One way in to distinguish left and liberal (and, I would add liberal and right) is to see how the benefits and costs of procedural justice and individual freedom get weighed in the equation. Liberals are, I think, far more likely in any given case to argue that the benefits outweigh the costs.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:40 AM
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i don't know why all these political discussions are worth to insult and make feel bad one real person
if you don't want to read the comment you can always just skip reading the comment and not get derailed as you wished


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:41 AM
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Idealist is objectively anti-Superman.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:42 AM
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I am usually a bit out of step in these arguments because I don't see procedural justice and individual freedom as obviously mom-and-apple-pie truths

Monarchist.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:42 AM
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"Kids are different today,"

Remembering 1968, I don't know that they are that different. If they are different, they probably aren't better.

And it is a drag growing old. Repetition is a drag.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:44 AM
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309- Comity is boring lurking, read.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:48 AM
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Remembering 1968? You would have been eight goddamn years old then!

When I'm fifty I'm going to make a point of telling everyone I know about how things I have no clue about are like the Iran-Contra scandal. Which I remember because I was seven.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:49 AM
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314:I have made a point of not saying exactly how old I am, ro deter searches and usually say "approaching 60"

Cite please, young person, or fess up to lying


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:52 AM
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Hey, guys, let's talk porn!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:53 AM
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Yet I think both can impose costs that people with other strong priorities (stopping oppression, keeping the country safe) won't always want to pay.

But isn't this where all the hard work happens (and where labels most often fail)? Each person has a constellation of values and they sometimes conflict. You see procedural justice and individual freedom as tremendously valuable, but sometimes they conflict with other values that are important to you. That is always the problem.

Maybe, to get closer to topic, one could assign labels not just by means, but also by where things lie on a person's heiarchy of values. This seems easier said than done, however. I think I might put individual liberty at the top of my heiarchy, but procedural justice is necessary to preserve that liberty (in my view), so where does it go? What to do when procedural justice could be sacrificed to advance individual liberty? I am one--to get all lawyerly--who thinks that procedural due process is the core of equal protection, so this is a hard question. At the end of the day, general labels that relate to major means--use of state power, and the focus of the analysis--individual vs. collective--seem to be the best that can be done.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:55 AM
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I watched Lust, Caution last night.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:55 AM
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Cala, the abortion example is exactly the kind of distinction I was reaching for. Thanks.

Tim, If only we could find the right monarch.. Do you know Chesterton's great line on this:

There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:57 AM
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315: You claimed you were 47 a few weeks back and thus not worried about Social Security for your own immediate concerns. (This was during a rant on Social Security.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:59 AM
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That's not porn, AWB, that's serious art.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:00 AM
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I don't think that these questions are mysterious or difficult at all. They seem difficult because a.) "left" in the U.S. doesn't denote very much, and b.) if "left" does denote anything American, it's the Greens, Chomskyites, and ideological Marxist groups (3%-5% of the electorate, max), and most people here (and most mainstream Democrats) have been aggressively pretending these peopl don't exist (or are insane) since about 1988.

Democrats are moderates and liberals (American style). American liberals can be mostly social liberals, mostly economic liberals, or both. American liberals balance weak socialism with liberalism. European liberals are anti-socialist and are more like American libertarians or Rockefeller republicans.

Some leftists just state stronger versions both of social and economic liberalism (i.e., both more socialist and more libertarian than the liberals' version). Others argue that fundamental institutional change are needed: revolution, new governmental system, new economic structures, the expropriation or heavy taxation of wealth, much more aggressive governmental intervention in the economy.

Liberals are more respectful than leftists of established procedures, the Constitution, property rights, and market caputalism. A lot of them seem to be trying to play it both ways (DeLong and Krugman). Leftists are more willing to restrict individual rights for the common good, or to expropriate individual property for the common good. Libertarians whine about liberals, but libertarians know that real socialists would be worse by their standards.

Anarchists and other fringe groups don't fit the pattern well. Neither do groups with charismatic leaders (LaRouche, Moon).

Whether there's something genuinely new and progressive not fitting in these boxes, I don't know, but I doubt it. Hi-tech new-economy types often claim that there is, but to me it always seems like variations on something old (usually libertarianism) plus a lot of vaporous rhetoric.

There have been global changes (globalization, duh) which none of the existing ideologies have come quite to grips with yet, and I suppose what's where the new ideas will congregate. Probably not in the US at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:00 AM
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I've long (since I read The Metaphysical Club anyways) of the pragmatist (I think?) sentiment expressed by (I think?) Oliver Wendell Holmes that any law is inevitably going to restrict somebody's freedom to do something, so other than thinking hard about what laws are necessary the particular horse of "how do you protect individual liberty with procedural justice?" has already left the barn, sort of.

And if I work at it, I bet I could add more qualifications to this statement.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:01 AM
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321: I was trying to play along!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:01 AM
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Cala, I was 17 in 1968, so I do remember a bit. I honestly haven't a clue what mcm is on about. 3 important things happened in '68: the Tet offensive in Vietnam; les evenements in Paris, which mainly involved a small sector of students from privileged universities, and lost; and the Prague Spring, which lost. In America, there was also the MacCarthy candidacy, which wasn't all that important, and lost.

Most young people at the time were generally sympathetic to the last three of these and disgusted by the first. From day to day however, they continued to live the late '50s lives they'd lived before, even if they grew their hair cautiouusly longer. Nixon won the election.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:02 AM
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323: maybe if you work really hard, you can add a main verb, too.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:03 AM
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319 is pretty darn funny.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:04 AM
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326: that unlikely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:05 AM
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320:Cite please. Links and quotes are appropriate when calling someone a liar on a question of fact.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:07 AM
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317, 319: One problem with the labels is that 'liberal' is often equated with 'leftist.' Because commitment to procedural justice should be a bedrock of conservative thinking, too, and it's hard to argue that when "liberal" is opposed to "conservative."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:07 AM
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312: Remembering 1968, I don't know that they are that different. If they are different, they probably aren't better.

Well bob, it was the combination of your writing:

109 was a horror. What has happened to this country that all the kids now look like jocks and soshes? Where did my generation go so wrong?

and signing off a another comment with "what a drag it is getting old" that inspired the effort.
...and something tells me it may be a bad sign (for me) if I remember your comments better than you do.

309: (to read and bob) I like bob's comments, they are kind of a wacky counterpoint to whatever is actually going on in the thread, like the recurring joke motifs in Laugh-In (which I am old enough to remember). But I am confident that bob is up to taking some good-natured ribbing as well as the occasional exasperated jab.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:10 AM
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one could assign labels not just by means, but also by where things lie on a person's hierarchy of values.

I think this is right. And indeed, I was trying to say something like this -- so thank you for putting it more clearly than I was able to .

On the merits, it seems to me that here in American, individual liberty and proceduralism are placed at the top of the hierarchy almost by default. That default seems to me like implicit liberalism. I don't think the left (or the right) has historically assigned as much weight to these values as have liberals. For some, when promotion of individual liberty conflicts with, e.g., alleviation of poverty, or maintaining social stability and coherence, individual liberty loses.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:12 AM
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314- But you are going to tell them about how people took to the streets when Fawn Hall testified, right?


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:14 AM
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here bob says he's ten years away from SS.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:15 AM
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My comment didn't cover pure identity politics and sexual politics. Identity politics can be right-left-center-anything. The Nation of Islam is basically right wing. Any kind of nationalism tends right, except when it's a poor and oppressed minority. Even then the nationalism can squeeze out the socialism. A certain number of sexual liberationists and gender-identity politicos are apolitical and would be Republican if allowed.

Feminists bring to the fore issues male liberals and leftist have tended to neglect. And that's good, but they don't conflict with the other liberal-leftist issues, just add more to the mix.

Environmental issues would be a right-left neutral if American conservatives weren't batshit crazy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:17 AM
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On the merits, it seems to me that here in American, individual liberty and proceduralism are placed at the top of the hierarchy almost by default. That default seems to me like implicit liberalism. I don't think the left (or the right) has historically assigned as much weight to these values as have liberals. For some, when promotion of individual liberty conflicts with, e.g., alleviation of poverty, or maintaining social stability and coherence, individual liberty loses.

This seems exactly right. Are you suggesting that maybe the most relevant distinctions (and maybe the labels we should adopt) relate to what one believes should be done when promotion of individual liberty conflicts with, e.g., alleviation of poverty, or maintaining social stability and coherence?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:18 AM
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espionage, yeah, fascinating
i for example always admired Richard Zorge, but when i mention him to my Japanese coworkers they always fret
i watched the trailer of Lust,caution, interesting
i remember my surprise when i first watched Japanese tv dramas on WWII, and their soldiers' caps had five-angular stars on it! so strange i thought only the Red Army caps were that


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:20 AM
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334:Should have been "around ten" I apologize.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:20 AM
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Should have been "around ten" I apologize.

Don't worry about it, Bob, these kids know so little about Social Security that they do not realize that there is a big window of time in which one could start drawing it, so being a decade away from drawing Social Security is a very general phrase, sort of like--"I get stuff in the mail from AARP", which many of us do.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:27 AM
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Are you suggesting that maybe the most relevant distinctions (and maybe the labels we should adopt) relate to what one believes should be done when promotion of individual liberty conflicts with, e.g., alleviation of poverty, or maintaining social stability and coherence

I think I am suggesting something like this. Although I might put it slightly differently: the labels speak to a general default, or inclination, of which values are most central and which should generally prevail in cases of conflict. The old classical liberals will usually incline towards liberty and process in these conflict cases (although not always -- it depends on degree. To take an obvious example, lots of liberals acknowledge certain wartime restrictions on liberty as legitimate). Modern American liberals have taken a lot of classical liberalism on board, and tend to operate in similar ways. I would suggest that the Left, in general, defaults more towards ameliorating unjust/oppressive relations.

That said, I do think that this different hierarchy of values results in liberals worrying more than leftists about the danger of extensive state power.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:29 AM
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Environmental issues would be a right-left neutral if American conservatives weren't batshit crazy.

I don't think this is right at all. Environmentalism naturally demands stricter and stricter regulations on industry and economic activity; economic conservatives are going to naturally loathe this. What you describe as "batshit crazy" - the anti-science, anti-environmental dogma of the contemporary Republican party - isn't some aberration in the history of the American right, it's the culmination of decades - centuries, really - of conservative thought. Environmentalism, like labor and any other movement ultimately based on the regulation and oversight of the power of the ruling class, was going to necessarily find a home on the left.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:31 AM
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Not all conservatives are freemarketers, and not all freemarket conservatives are anti-science and batshit crazy.

Just as American liberalism welded together liberalism and socialism, American conservativism welded together free-marketism, Christianism, and militarism, and all of them gravitated toward their most excessive forms.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:38 AM
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I get mail from SS telling me what my benefits would be if I started drawing now, so I'm convinced that bob's claim tells us nothing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:39 AM
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325: OFE, I assume your 1968 perspective was from England and it is interesting if the "McCarthy campaign" is in fact your most memorable summary of the American political scene that year (together with Tet of course). But I would say MLK and Kennedy assassinations and the Chicago convention would rate higher in most American's minds.

You are correct though that most people make The Big Chill Fallacy that all of America's youth were caught up in protests etc. In fact much of the "60s" happened in the early 70s. And even then it was certainly not universal, I recall seeing Agnew appearing on TV with several student "leaders" (am I imaging this? I cannot find any hint of it on the 'nets), at least one took him on about the war, but the one I remember best was from Kansas or Kansas State, he saw himself as a representative for the Silent Majority and said that the biggest concern at his school was whether there was enough on-campus parking.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:46 AM
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The earliest you can claim except for disability is age 62. Full benefits are at 65 or 67 depending on DOB.

I doubt what you said, Ben. I think I remember being told "If you retire at age 62, based on your contributions to date and only those you'd get x$ a month.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:46 AM
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I will admit to misremembering. Apologies to bob. Still. I declare a moratorium on referring to the 1968 convention unless you were actually one of the politicians involved.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:46 AM
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I have gotten the same mail as Ben: if you start drawing on Social Security now, you would get $x. I don't know if they mean in case of disability, or just purely theoretically.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:49 AM
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344: I suspect it's a little bit like the French resistance. Everyone was in it after the fact. I did a little research in college on the late 60s and early 70s riots, and not only are most young people not rioting, most of the riots in the archives were not the result of the young white Vietnam protester demographic. Older, whiter, and more blue collar.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:50 AM
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325: 3 important things happened in '68: Wait, so you don't rate the King and Kennedy assassinations at all? Did you just mean in the UK?

340: That said, I do think that this different hierarchy of values results in liberals worrying more than leftists about the danger of extensive state power.
I'm very dubious about this. While I would agree that many leftists of the last 160 years have not been skeptical enough about state power and its growth and use/misuse, I'm not sure what the evidence is for saying that liberals, as a class, have been significantly more skeptical. To my reading of that history, it would be more accurate to say that liberals have been skeptical about the prospects for positive radical change coming from the state, while just as you might expect, leftists have been skeptical about the prospects of positive incremental change emanating from that same source.
Once again here, though, I feel like the ideological waters are getting hopelessly muddled. What are liberals but a subset of leftists? Unless we're using a very narrowly defined conception of liberals as the inheritors of Classical Liberalism, then most liberal ideals would seem to me to be watered-down versions of proposals that originally sprang from the radical left.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:51 AM
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Just as American liberalism welded together liberalism and socialism, American conservativism welded together free-marketism, Christianism, and militarism

And free-marketers were going to necessarily be opposed to environmentalism, just as free-marketers were necessarily opposed to labor. Is the claim you're making here that free-market ideology didn't necessarily have to become an integral part of American conservatism? I guess I'll buy that, but I don't see how it pertains to your previous claim about environmentalism (i.e., that it would've been left-right neutral in some way that, say, the labor movement wouldn't have been, if American conservatism had been differently aligned).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:51 AM
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I wasn't there, I wasn't alive, but I want to punch 1968 Abbie Hoffman in the stomach. How does this factor in?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:52 AM
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344: Drat, I was wondering why no one had grabbed that low-hanging fruit, and in my hubris, I assumed I had time for a double response.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:53 AM
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344. You're right of course, firstly in that nothing that happened in American internal politics looked all that important from outside that year, and secondly that the assassinations were more important than the MacCarthy campaign, although I would argue that the Chicago convention was in fact the culmination thereof. I'm afraid that RFK made little or no impression outside the USA, alive or dead, but I'd forgotten that MLK was shot that year (for some reason I was convinced it was '69).

But your point is absolutely right: there were two "'60s": the urban trendy '60s which lasted from about '59-'68 and the alternative '60s, which was mainly in the 70s. In retrospect the former was more interesting and productive.

In other news, I see that Cernig the Newshogger is now on board with my view of Obama as early Blair.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:58 AM
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342: I'm with stras on this one. You might as well say that if American conservatives weren't batshit crazy, they'd be liberals. American conservatives can't make their peace with environmentalism for a lot of the same reasons they can't abide unionism.

Certainly, as you point out in 342, you get into trouble when you make generalizations, but stras was working from your generalization:

Environmental issues would be a right-left neutral if American conservatives weren't batshit crazy.

In fact, while the dominant mode of American conservatism is anti-environmental, there are certainly plenty of conservatives in this country who regard environmentalism and conservatism as being intellectually consistent. As you say:

Not all conservatives are freemarketers, and not all freemarket conservatives are anti-science and batshit crazy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 10:58 AM
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No, Stras. Freemarketers will support environemntalism at the point when they believe that it is economically rational, which in many respects it is. Initially the inveterate antagonism of free-marketers to any government action at all kicks in, but when the economic effects of environmental degradation become negative for them, freemarketers cut deals. Not the batshit crazy ones, though. Carbon taxes and pollution credits / taxes have been talked about for awhile now over on that end.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:06 AM
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1968 Abbie Hoffman was certainly a prat. So were a lot of the other "student leaders" (who were predictably 10-15 years older than most of the rank and file young people they were "organizing"). Sometimes you can almost sympathize with Todd Gitlin, a little bit, just for a moment.
The real heroes (if we need "heroes") of that era were the regular people who stepped outside of what was conventional and possible in order to try to get to the roots of what was rotten and corrupt about our civilization and try to dig it up for the compost heap. From NLF fighters to the Cockettes, from San Francisco Diggers and Dutch Provos to Civil Rights campaigners in Northern Ireland, a hell of a lot of people saw an opening and rushed to take their chance for making things better. Of course, I wish they could have solidified more of their gains before the reaction set in, but they had to try.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:06 AM
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350: As it is, the environmeentalists have been fairly successful at splitting off Republicans from their leadership (as have feminists and gay rights people). Republican moderates were a factor in the party for some time, but it was usually the environment, gay rights, and abortion that they were moderate about. Not fiscal policy, government spending, war, or labor issues.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:09 AM
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I declare a moratorium on referring to the 1968 convention unless you were actually one of the politicians involved.

The 1968 convention - and election - were public events with at least arguable relevance to current events.

If you feel that the folks alive in 1968 are asserting an expertise that they lack, then the appropriate response is to provide them the benefit of your superior knowledge. If you feel that the events of 1968 are being misapplied to current events, I'd be interested in hearing why.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:11 AM
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351, 356:Steal This Comment! and Fire!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:15 AM
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355: But the freemarketers you're talking about aren't the ones running the freemarket wing of the American conservative movement. The people you're talking about are largely limited to a handful of center-right economists and policy people who have, after years of flirting with denialism, come to grips with the fact that global warming is real and have come to favor policies like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. But there is no one in the conservative elected political class who advocates anything like that. For all intents and purposes, "free market conservative" in America means "someone who wants as few regulations restraining the actions of giant corporations as possible, and wants to use the tax code to redistribute wealth upwards."


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:16 AM
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If you feel that the folks alive in 1968 are asserting an expertise that they lack, then the appropriate response is to provide them the benefit of your superior knowledge.

As I understand it, mcmanus claims that there's no evidence that mcmanus was alive or politically aware in '68.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:18 AM
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356: do you mean 10-15 years younger?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:20 AM
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359: Hear, hear ! Seems to me the derision of 1968 Abbie Hoffman is just misapplication of the DFH narrative.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:21 AM
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358: They're asserting that merely by being alive during a public event, they have a greater understanding of its relevance than people who are aware of a public event, but weren't alive during it. There are reasons I could find this plausible, were it backed up by actual expertise and perhaps an argument. But merely being alive? The cool things about public events is that they're recorded, and people who weren't alive at the time (or who were young teenagers) can learn from it. And we surely all recognize that our understanding of historical events often benefits from the passage of time.

The idea that being alive during an event confers gravitas on your unreflective opinions: that's the rhetorical move I find maddening. As to why the 1968 convention is not particularly relevant, you'll have to ask bob, who hasn't specified why he referred to it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:26 AM
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But the freemarketers you're talking about aren't the ones running the freemarket wing of the American conservative movement.

We're back where we started. The freemarketers I'm talking about are not the batshit crazy freemarketers. It's the batshit crazy one who run the Republican party.

At one point it came out that it wasn't the oil industry making all the noise about Alaskan oil. The reason Bush pushed the issue is because he had to make sure that the anti-environmentalists in his party were happy. Anything he did to harm the environment helped him with his base.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:26 AM
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I declare a moratorium on referring to the 1968 convention unless you were actually one of the politicians involved.

It's about time I outed myself as Zombie Hubert Humphrey. Sorry for the last forty years, folks.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:28 AM
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You kids don't know nothin about nothin.

You neither, McManus. You twerp.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:28 AM
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Goddammit, stras. Are you the one that ate GWB's brain?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:28 AM
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361:You may misunderstand

As I understand it, mcmanus claims that there's no evidence that mcmanus was wasn't alive or politically aware in '68.

I cite 359 as evidence, but that sentence may have an excess of negatives to reconstruct.

And there is mention of the 66 and 67 pennant races on this very blog, tho that may not be dispositive.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:31 AM
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We're back where we started. The freemarketers I'm talking about are not the batshit crazy freemarketers.

At this point I think we're just No True Scotsmanning each other.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:32 AM
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I think I am suggesting something like this. Although I might put it slightly differently: the labels speak to a general default, or inclination, of which values are most central and which should generally prevail in cases of conflict.

The problem is that a lot of work is put into translating policies into forms that at least pay attention to the principles that seem most sacred. So "individual liberty" is not attacked head-on--that is, the extent of the conflict is not clear--instead, people say that "individual liberty" makes no sense in the absence of (a), (b), and (c). It looks as if liberals are more comfortable with the existing order--and existing interpretations of the foundational principles--than leftists; whether there is a discontinuity between liberals and leftists seems to be unclear, and different people have asserted each side of that question.

At base, the issue seems to regard with what groups one is willing to make alliances. The reason I was interested in something like a formal difference between "leftist" and "liberal" is because such a difference yields at least one easy referent to check the extent of your trust for a potential ally. But, thinking about it a bit, I'm not sure that formal reasons get us very far in questions of trust. I tend to be uncomfortable with labor issues and, more so, with populism. But I trust in people like Apostropher and Joe D, and they liked Edwards, and, therefore, on that ground, I trusted Edwards. Why do I trust Apo and Joe D? Dunno, probably the cock jokes.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:33 AM
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I'll reiterate my own lesson of the sixties: by July 1968 it was hopeless, not only because of the assassinations, but because the war, which quite rightly had become the major issue, was a Democratic war and half the Democrats supported it. "Working within the system" was hardly possible.

What if.....?

Suppose Americans had supported the war and elected Humphrey, so that Humphrey could have ended the war, expanded The Great Society.

Nice dream, but not really possible. The war wasn't the Democrats' only problem -- there were also the racial problems (multiple riots: George Wallace). And opposition to the war was too strng for Humphrey to escape or finesse. It seems unlikely that he could have ended the war quicker than Nixon did. In 1968 Nixon was able to run both as the war candidate ("I'll be tough") and the peace candidate ("By being tough I'll end the war").
Suppose the anti war people had worked within the system and waited four years?

Events were moving faster than that, and there was a sense of urgency. Four years isn't a long time to wait to pass a healthcare bill, but four years is a long long time in war years.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:38 AM
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366. Welcome back!.

I claim no particular expertise on 1968 or any other year, beyond the truism that regarding it as seriously analogous to 2008 is boooollsheeeet.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:41 AM
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364:I didn't mention the Convention

312:Remembering 1968, I don't know that they are that different. If they are different, they probably aren't better

What can be useful in experience are the things not recorded as "major events." The ubiquity of Vietnam protest, every large campus, every medium-size town, and how that felt, is very hard to communicate.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:44 AM
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The U.S. politician who seems to most resemble Blair to me is *Bill Clinton*, only he at least wasn't in office & directly responsible for Iraq. I really do not get the Blair-Obama comparisons. And if English people are going to tell me: "you don't know Blair well enough to judge," I'm going to tell them: "you don't know Obama well enough to judge".

As for the liberal/leftist thing: like I said above, I perceive Amnesty & the human rights movement as more liberal than leftist & that's why I am actively pissed every time y'all use "liberal" to mean "weak assed centrists & apologists for empire", as if the weak ass centrists in this country weren't constantly falling over themselves to show why they weren't liberal.

I have read an awful lot about 1968, & anyone being all "what do you know, you were -10", had better actually remember these things because they were caught up in them at the time. I don't like millenials congratulating themselves on how much smarter & more effective they are than the hippies; still less do I like the older generation alternating between telling us we're apathetic & indifferent & hopelesly naive & idealistic/scary cultists who should get off their lawn.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:45 AM
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356: do you mean 10-15 years younger?
No, I meant older. Hoffman was born in 1936, Jerry Rubin in 1938, Bobby Seale in 1936, Huey P. Newton in 1942. Bernardine Dohrn was also born in 1942. And Emmett Grogan was born just on the cusp of the Baby Boom in 1943.

Which is to say, many of the people most closely associated with Baby Boomer activism were not Boomers themselves. Which is significant, given that so much of the mythology of the Sixties is wrapped up in trying to psychoanalyze and pathologize the Boomers. Hence, the idea that much of 'the Sixties' really happened in the 1970s. Which I'm lukewarm about. Certainly the really excessive stuff in the anti-war and Black Power movements mostly happened post-Fred Hampton and post-Kent State, but a lot of the groundwork was laid in the actual 1960s by Baby Boomers doing shitwork and people born in the interwar period taking credit.

"Everybody else walked into a room -- Emmett sauntered."


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:49 AM
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I would like record to show that Katherine posted 375 from my lawn. Get off, Katherine, and take your cult of apathy with you!


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:49 AM
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What can be useful in experience are the things not recorded as "major events." The ubiquity of Vietnam protest, every large campus, every medium-size town, and how that felt, is very hard to communicate.

Fair enough, but "how that felt" is going to differ a lot by age and the nature of the exposure. I just heard someone say that, because he was very young during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he wasn't very scared. But he also noted that his parents and teachers (and I think even older kids) felt very differently.

still less do I like the older generation alternating between telling us we're apathetic & indifferent & hopelesly naive & idealistic/scary cultists who should get off their lawn.

That's because as an urbanite, you're objectively anti-lawn.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:52 AM
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378: And one's own personal experiences aren't a reliable guide to the overall zeitgeist. If you read the accounts of the Kent State shootings (like, the newspaper articles published that day), what one thought about it depended on the sort of person one was.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:57 AM
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373:I would not call it complete bullshit.

I think, if I may call it "Obamism" provisionally, may help communicate to a younger generation something of what it felt to be part of or observing a movement.

I recognize the "energy" out there, that energy coming from years of frustration and disillusionment, coming from various negative objective problems. It is not useful to claim that there are no lessons to be learned from all the many previous popular movements.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:57 AM
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For reasonable reasons, the leaders of the youth movement tended to be older than 20 or 25.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:58 AM
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re: 375

See, bob, at the end of the day it is not left against right or men against women, it is young against old. Never trust anyone under 50. Let us stand together and keep them off our lawns.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 11:59 AM
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No problem, old man. We'll just wait till the housing market collapses and buy your damn lawn.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:01 PM
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348: did a little research in college on the late 60s and early 70s riots, and not only are most young people not rioting, most of the riots in the archives were not the result of the young white Vietnam protester demographic
(and 364: You are right to a degree, but overstate)

From my experience and readings what did happen during and after that for a time was that a more general sense of conflict with "the Establishment" did penetrate further into the standard middle and upper middle class white youth experience. You could do a lot of analysis on what caused it (drugs, Vietnam, plain old demographics, assassination hangover), but it was pretty damn easy to get tear-gassed, hassled involved in semi-riot/disturbances even leading a pretty non-exceptional Midwestern middle class lifestyle like I did at the time. (And some if this was due to activities that would not rate a second glance today being of unnatural interest to the police back then.)

Kent State is illustrative. I was not there, but otherwise had a pretty direct experience of the milieu, area, times and knew some people who were there for parts of it. Kent State was minorly radical by Ohio standards, but Water Street in Kent was majorly a bar destination (age 18 3.2 beer in those days) for Kent students, high schoolers with fake ID, other college students (Akron & Cleveland areas), local bikers etc. There were often small scale disturbances that were mostly apolitical (and they certainly did not end with the events of 1970). The events leading up to May 4th were basically a combination of Cambodia-induced anti-war political activities on campus getting mixed in with that volatile scene on Friday and Saturday night, resulting in asshat extraordinaire James Rhodes calling the ill-prepared Guard out. The rest is history as they say.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:01 PM
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Let us stand together and keep them off our lawns.

Lawns are amputated estates with which Capital buys off the bourgeois. First against the tool shed!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:05 PM
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384:Word

Is this an election campaign or a social movement/moment? If this is just an election I'm gonna go mow my lawn.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:07 PM
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384: I forget the percentages, but while the Vietnam war protesters were white, middle to upper middle class, the majority of the violent political events in the years we studied (1967-early 70s) were a) race or b) union. The archive contained newspaper clippings of all politically-related violence in that period. There's a lot of truckers throwing bottles and beating up people.

And again, I don't deny that living through an event or experiencing the milieu can give you some insight. I'm only objecting to using it as a rhetorical bludgeon.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:09 PM
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Off My Lawn department: I grumble a lot about changes in academia that happened between about 1945 and 1970 -- I experience the end of it as an undergrad (with a few of the tenured and unpurged oldtimers still around, hanging on by their fingernails). It was a done deal by 1980 when I finally graduated.

About 2003 or so I realized that no one born after about 1960 (younger than 43) could possibly remember those events, and that very few younger than about 55 could. But a 43 year old academic is a middle-aged, usually-tenured adult. (I was thinking specifically of Holbo, who does not have a Wikipage by the way.)

So key events I remembered as painful defining moments in my personal history had become, for most of the world, ancient written history, and unread history at that.

By 1980 the Vietnam War itself had become prehistoric memory to some of my fellow undergrads (5 y.o. in 1968, 12 y.o. in 1975).

With any luck, you motherfuckers will get old too one day, you know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:10 PM
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Fuck your stupid lawns. Lawn care is an incredible waste of water.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:10 PM
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Writing a John Holbo Wiki sounds so tempting. Adam Kotsko too. Someone stop me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:11 PM
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384:more general sense of conflict with "the Establishment" did penetrate further into the standard middle and upper middle class white youth experience

Well, besides upper middle class whites...you had blacks, feminists, electoral & party reform, environmentalists and downscalers back-to-the-earthers, gays etc...and the beginnings of the neo-cons, social cons, tax revolt on the other side.

Very little of this was organized, controlled, or generated top-down from Washington.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:13 PM
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389: I water my lawn with the blood of innocents.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:14 PM
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390: Don't, Emerson. You end up fucking with people's lives in ways you do not know. Those people, or people affiliated with them, may reasonably want and deserve a modicum of privacy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:15 PM
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Is this an election campaign or a social movement/moment?

It's an election.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:16 PM
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In general the white anti-war movement was non-violent. But large groups of angry, uncontrolled, essentially leaderless people are frightening regardless of what actually happens. At a Rodney King demonstration I went to some anarchists started an unscheduled, uncontrolled free-form spinoff action, and it startled me because it had been 20 years since I'd seen anything like that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:16 PM
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free-form

Is that a euphemism for "naked"?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:18 PM
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They're both becoming public figures, and both are included in other articles. Kotsko's Zizek book might make him someone famous we used to know. It might be good for someone (not me) to write pre-emptive articles.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:20 PM
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It's a euphemism for "stabby".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:20 PM
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394:I am gonna mow my lawn. And we have an excess of water in Texas. Could be a global warming thing.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:22 PM
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396: I think that the anarchists were trying to get someone to break a window or something like that. There was no goal, destination, or plan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:23 PM
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I water my lawn with the blood of innocents.

Meh, a little better, but I'd be happier if you were using your blood to grow something more energy efficient, like trees or a nice green roof.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:28 PM
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But large groups of angry, uncontrolled, essentially leaderless people are frightening regardless of what actually happens.

It is interesting the forms even violent protest takes. Even though I had been in peace marches small and large in the US before, the first time I was ever exposed to tear gass or saw Molotov Cocktails was as a tourist in Paris in 1972, when I walked into the middle of a protest against US actions in Cambodia. However, while it looked dangerous (to my teenaged self, at least) I do not think anyone was hurt. Later, when I was stationed in Korea, there were periodic student protests outside our camp (US Headquarters for Korea) that sometimes involved Molotov Cocktails and throwing things, but again people rarely got hurt. I assume the former, and know the latter, was to an extent political theater where everyone knew that there were limits (do not actually burn shit down and do not seriously injure the protesters). When I think of the riots in the 1960s in the US, they were mostly different. They mostly were uncontrolled, unplanned, leaderless and destructive--mostly of the persons and property of those who were rioting.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:30 PM
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Meh, a little better,

You're not accounting for the amount of water needed to produce an innocent. Not better.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:31 PM
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Ideal: You have lived the craziest life.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:33 PM
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Can I water my lawn? Be damned if I let it runoff down to Houston.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:37 PM
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Ideal: You have lived the craziest life.

Thanks. Really, though. if you live long enough, you can squeeze some interesting anecdotes out of a life. As LizardBreath, who worked with me for over two years can attest (although it was a while ago, now), I am actually intensely boring IRL, particularly compared to most of the people who comment here, who seem to be genuinely interesting (if sometimes enigmatic, SCMT).


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:40 PM
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387: the majority of the violent political events in the years we studied (1967-early 70s) were a) race or b) union.

Oh, yes I agree. I think there was a general rise in open conflict with the "authorities" in all parts of society, I merely note that it was widespread enough to even have a significant impact on my little insular world.

402: Yes, the real "markers" of discontent and violence that made an impression on me were Watts race riots in 1965 with a trail of other cities over the next several years - notably Detroit and Newark. several dozens killed in each of those three. As someone mentioned upthread they were part of a societal shock close in magnitude to Vietnam. Part of the interesting thing on LBJ's legacy of Civil Rights is that as far as I know at the time any credit he may have gotten for it was overwhelmed by discontent (by all sides, but for different reasons) with the racial aspects of society.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:41 PM
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395: But large groups of angry, uncontrolled, essentially leaderless people are frightening regardless of what actually happens.

Yes, the greatest personal threat from a mob I ever felt (or frankly that I was worried I might join in and help commit) was at an outdoor concert (Billy Preston followed by Deep Purple). Deep Purple was late and the the place went crazy (at a racetrack and part of the stands were burnt down etc.). But the worst for me was a mud pit that formed right by where I was; a totally wasted guy became a mudman and then in the madness, a shower of bottles and other objects were thrown at him and he went down—I recall ashamedly thinking (through the haze of my own altered state) "They're going to kill him, and I'm not going to do a thing." Some semblance of awareness must have rippled through the crowd as the shower ceased and he suffered only minor injuries (not that he noticed them).

406: Don't believe any of it, all personal stories on the Internet are bullshit.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 12:54 PM
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The site has stopped accepting comments from my blackberry. Maybe it's the blackberry.

I remember some things from 1968: King and Kennedy, Chicago, even a kid would know something was going on. My school that year was K-12, and the seniors were talking about the draft etc.

I'm quite sure that my son will remember watching Senate roll calls with me on the DTA and our amendments, although he was 10 at the time. (To be fair, he had a better grip on the Constitution than a whole bunch of people running around calling themselves "Federalists.")

All that said, I think familiarity with 1984 and 1988 is a whole lot more relevant to the kinds of arguments we have than anything about 1986. Cala and Katherine, what I mean by that, and I'm not trying to pull age but just to explain something, is that when I was your age, the word "liberal" was widely understood to be a slur: one can't maintain much in the way of illusion about our fellow countrymen/women in the face of that. Katherine's criticism that this makes people like me overcautious is spot on. The fact remains, though, that we live in a country that not very long ago at all re-elected That Guy president. By a pretty good margin, over all.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 2:17 PM
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1968 dammit!


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 2:18 PM
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The comments about age remind me of something I've wondered about my own growing up from time to time, and it's possible someone here might be able to do something interesting with it.

I was born in 1965. I'm the third of four children; the oldest is a decade older than me, then there's about two and a half years to the second, then a longer gap to me, and another couple of years to the youngest. Mom and Dad grew up in the Depression - Dad had his college studies interrupted by World War II. It seems like the vast majority of my circle of real friends of about the same age were the first kids in their families, or maybe the second. Having brothers or sisters as older as mine was very much unusual. Their parents were, as a general thing, maybe 5-15 years younger than mine, and the differences in expectations and histories definitely made a difference in my upbringing in a lot of ways.

What I've always wondered but never really bothered researching was, is someone in my situation as demographically unusual as I seemed to be?


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 2:21 PM
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360

"... The people you're talking about are largely limited to a handful of center-right economists and policy people who have, after years of flirting with denialism, come to grips with the fact that global warming is real and have come to favor policies like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. But there is no one in the conservative elected political class who advocates anything like that. ..."

Really? What about this?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 5:28 PM
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He's changed his mind, James. That was five years ago. And it's exactly because McCain used to say that kind of thing that the Republican political class (and a lot of Republican voters) absolutely hate him.

Give it up, Shearer.

Or put your own cards on the table once in awhile, and quit playing Quibble and Snipe.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:19 PM
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I love Abbie Hoffman. "We will break every law in this country, including the law of gravity".

In 1996 I hated my parents' bourgeois compromises. I was doing an internship in Chicago with a living wage campaign, and was so much more radical than they. My dad came in to town to visit his parents. The Democratic convention was in Chicago once again, and I was planning to go and protest with some of the interns. The Trib ran a retrospective pullout section. My dad pulled out a page and said, "Check it out, it's your mom and me." They were seated in Grant Park at the base of the statue, shortly before being teargassed.

Sigh. Everything comes back around.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-23-08 9:50 PM
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"He's changed his mind, James. That was five years ago. And it's exactly because McCain used to say that kind of thing that the Republican political class (and a lot of Republican voters) absolutely hate him."

It's on his campaign site. You have some evidence he has changed his mind.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-24-08 12:42 PM
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"Or put your own cards on the table once in awhile, and quit playing Quibble and Snipe."

I don't think I have exactly made a secret of my views. Anything in particular you want my perspective on.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-24-08 3:15 PM
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