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The Fallacy of Mark Levin's Ameritopia: What on Earth Can I Do?

The environmental activist Hazel Wolf once wrote that if one wanted to convince an economist, one had to talk to them like an economist.  In the contentious atmosphere of socio-political discourse, this is often easier said than done. The principles and fundamental assumptions of the economist are in the grand scheme of things are relatively easy to grasp.  The challenge becomes how to translate one's stance through the prism of those principles and assumptions.

When we confront, however, the vast scope of socio-political ideologies the situation gets a whole lot messier. 

This is no more clear than in the conversation between conservatives and liberals (with the acknowledgement that this divide is an over-simplification of political terrain in America).  It is pretty obvious we spend a good time talking past each other when we're not insulting the other.  Even within our own camps, the dialogue too easily devolves into flame wars.

There is a lot of reasons for this (many of them having to do with personal issues of the participants that have nothing to do with the topic of the discussion), but a key to this dynamics is we spend most of our time focused on the manifestations of the ideological paradigms (the public policies, the social critiques, the economic behavior) rather than on the fundamental principles and assumptions. 

Not that discussing these differences of opinion isn't important.  If anything they represent the here and now, and so require action, whether one advocates for or against this or that. This is something we can all agree upon, just as we can all agree everything is at stake in the outcome of the grand debate. The passion on all sides is evidence of that.

If one uses the blogosphere as an example of the grand debate, one can conclude we tend to focus pointing how our stance on this or that  is good and decent and the other's stance is not so good and not so decent.  The dynamics of the echo chamber has been discussed extensively, but it does change the reality spend a good portion of our time in our ideological trenches amongst our ilk, interrupted by the occasional skirmish with those in the other trenches.

Using a war metaphor, however, is completely off base. The aspiration should not be to conquer the other.  Such an approach only leads to, continuing the metaphor, the stalemate witnessed in the trench warfare of WWI .

We come back to Hazel Wolf and her economist.  We are in effect trying to persuade the other to willingly come over to our trench as if was the most obvious thing to do.  Yet in order to do this effectively, we have to spend some time in their trench.  No easy task and nothing like warfare. 

To put it simply, pointing out a racist's racism to the racist is not a very effective way to get the racist to stop being a racist.  To reform the racist, so to say, requires uncovering what drives the need to hold onto that belief and addressing those drivers.

In Ramona's latest blog, one of the readers in the thread mentioned Mark Levin's Ameritopia and so I looked it up, having to admit it is a catchy title if nothing else.  I found the text of his epilogue and it didn't take long for what I believe is the fallacy of Levin's stance and of the whole American conservative movement to pop up: 

In truth, man is naturally independent and self-reliant, which are attributes that contribute to his own well-being and survival, and the well-being and survival of a civil society.

There it is: naturally independent and self-reliant.  Nearly everything from the conservative's economic policies and social critiques radiates from this premise.

Levin adds, almost as an afterthought:

He is also a social being who is charitable and compassionate.

It is clear our social propensity and our capacity for compassion are secondary to the independence and self-reliance.  If one is first and foremost, independent and self-reliant - that is not needing the other and utterly separate from the other - then compassion and charity become a choice.  Not being those things would not effect one's well-being nor one's survival.  These secondary facets become a gift to the other rather than an expression of who we fundamentally are.

I obviously disagree wholeheartedly. 

In counter to Levin's assertion, I return to the Stockholm Sustainability Centre, which I first brought in the blog Stockholm (Resiliency) Syndrome.  The core features of our condition as they state it is:

Society and nature represent truly interdependent social-ecological systems;

Social-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems; and

Cross scale and dynamic interactions represent new challenges for governance and management in relation to interdependent social-ecological systems and ecosystem services.

These three core features provide a broad research direction, and will continue to serve  as a significant attractor  that allows for emergence of diverse approaches from different disciplines within a common framing.

Our wellbeing and our survival is dependent not on our independence and self-reliance, but rather recognition of and alignment with our interdependence with our social-ecological world. 

The point is this:

Mark Levin and I can discuss the U.S. Constitution and we will never come to an agreement because of this fundamental difference about human nature.

From my side, his fallacy distorts an understanding of from what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is derived.  He would have a similar view of my fallacy.

In my blog Happy 20th Anniversary, Agenda 21, I lamented over those who see the notion of sustainability on par with or even worse than socialism. Levin I have no doubt would point to the sustainability efforts nationally and around the globe as one more example of the effort to impose the tryanny of statism.  It would be one more of the

Pavlovian appeals to radical egalitarianism, and the fomenting of jealousy and faction through class warfare and collectivism, [that has] conditioned the people to accept or even demand compulsory uniformity as just and righteous?

So the point here is also:

I will get no where with Mark Levin or those who see the world as he does as long as I talk the talk of the sustainability and interdependence crowd.  In order to make progress, to facilitate the arising of those little epiphanies that will make all the difference, I have approach sustainability through the prism of independence.

At the moment, I am not sure how I can achieve this translation.  But I think it is doable. Maybe it is the architects on the edge who will come to the rescue.

In conclusion:

One of the entertaining facets of writing a blog is searching for the photos to act as companions to the text. For this blog I came across the photograph below that I think, while highlighting all those contradictions and paradoxes of being human, reveals our fundamental core is one of compassion arising from our living and unfolding interdependence.  Peace.

As another example of talking past each other, I have spent far too much time on other blogs discussing global warming issues with "skeptics" (I'm happy to say that I haven't bothered with this for a while). In an attempt to "disprove" global warming, they'd bring up the Kyoto Protocol. My thoughts would be, "what does a policy to address global warming have to do with whether global warming is happening?" To me, it was like arguing that bullets don't kill you because gun control laws are ineffectual.

However, I then realized that they bring this up because to them it's evidence of a conspiracy, and the existence of a conspiracy gives them license not to believe what the climatologists are saying.

Yeah it is a perfect example.  It will be "interesting" to watch them react to the gathering in Rio this year to celebrate and evaluate the outcomes of the 1992 Earth Summit, which produced the agreement that would become the Kyoto Protocol. 

The beauty of a conspiracy is that can't be proven it doesn't exist.  The lack of knowledge or evidence of its existence just proves they are being successful in hiding their conspiracy.

We do have to stand our ground on topics like global warming, we just should kid ourselves that the arguments for it existence is going to have any effect...that is until the outcomes are so severe it becomes like a 2x4 knocking some sense into them. Of course, by then it will be too late to do anything about it.

The question is what is driving the resistance to accepting it.  Of course, there is the desire to make money and adjusting to global warming means sacrifice.  One of the things Levin provides as evidence of the statism  tryanny the Obama folks want to impose is forcing all cars to get at least 32 mpg.  But what is driving that resistance to sacrifice.  If we were at war like in WWII, people can make the short term sacrifices.  But there's something that won't let them embrace long-term sacrifice for the greater good.  How to address that?  I don't know really.  But I do have to have the faith it can be done.

 

Society is by definition "social."  Levin does not dispute this, nor dismiss it as an afterthought.

How can I put this succinctly?

When thinking political philosophy, there are two broad schools of thought.  The first starts with the individual and extends his actions into the sphere of interpersonal relations, be they familial, commercial, or diplomatic.  This same school recognizes that individuals have their own motivations, their own goals, dreams, passions, skills, talents, and desires.  In a civil society governed by respect of private property rights, these individuals make choices of their free will, without coercion, to the ultimate benefit of all society.  Society - that is, all individuals who participate under the rule of law - mutually gain from the contributions of their neighbors.  This society - governed by the "free hand" (rather than the iron fist) is most productive because it encourages each individual to participate on their own terms, so long as the respect the domain of others.  It also, incidentally, is the only type of society that allows for an individual to be moral and ethical, for it does not treat them as clay, but respects their dignity and demands that they in turn respect the dignity of others.

 

The second school of thought is that of the author of this blog post.  It does not begin with the individual, but with objectives.  It begins with such abstract concepts as "universal healthcare" or "environmental sustainability."  Man must be prodded and goaded and eventually coerced into accepting the designs of a ruling class, be it a king, a group of legislators, unelected bureaucrats, philosophers, scientists, or "social engineers."  These experts create the goals which are to motivate the individuals, whether they accede to the objective or not.  The common trait of these experts is the excognition of a fantasy - that all can live in perfect peace and harmony, without want and desire.  That all nature can be preserved and still we can produce enough to live in abundance.  That pollution is unnecessasy.  That war is always a choice.  That people can live freely under socialism without fear of oppression.  This second school of thought implicitly accepts that one man or one small body of men can possess all the requisite knowledge to make good decisions on behalf of all.  While the first school of though expands the sphere of discretion of the individual by adhering to simple, universal rules, the second restricts it by dictating minute instructions to accomplish whatever fanatical idea it claims to champion.

Well, that's a start.  See Hayek's Fatal Conceit.

 

that all can live in perfect peace and harmony, without want and desire.

First, I would ask where you see I have stated such a thing.  I haven't and the reason for this is very dynamics of complex adaptive systems are inherently turbulent.  There can never be that "perfect" state. Putting humans aside for a moment, it doesn't take long to see the multitude of forces and counter-forces inter-playing with one another, never settling down.  The sea slowly erodes the beach, the storm crashes over a forest, toppling trees.  Go down to the microscopic level, and it is a flurry of activity.  I could go on and on.

Now bring into the picture.  Without language, our bodies are in constant flux wants and needs which must be responded to.  Sleep, hunger, and yes - sexual desires, to name a few.  No respecting individual would say perfect peace and harmony on this front can be quieted except maybe after a lifetime of contemplative meditation.  But not for those of us who step into the bustle of society.

But we do have language.  And more than anything, this breaks down the autonomy of the individual.  Before we are capable of realizing our selves as "independent" selves, we are immersed in the language of our society.  How one comes to see one's self, the world, and the relationship between the two is understood in and through this language.  There is no free will involved.  One does not choose the language. In essence it chooses us. 

And the notions of the culture - from gender to politics to the nature of one's own identity - is infused into that language.  Before one tries to contemplate what masculinity is, one  is handed an understanding of it.

In a civil society governed by respect of private property rights, these individuals make choices of their free will, without coercion, to the ultimate benefit of all society.  Society - that is, all individuals who participate under the rule of law - mutually gain from the contributions of their neighbors.  This society - governed by the "free hand" (rather than the iron fist) is most productive because it encourages each individual to participate on their own terms, so long as the respect the domain of others.

I have already blogged on the issue of private property rights - get off my damn lawn capitalism - but let me say here that this is probably the most utopian view of the world one can have.  Never in the history of humankind has there such an idealistic world.

For this is true:  The desires and needs - which you clearly state can be extinguished in any idealistic liberal utopia - will inevitably cause individuals not to respect the domain of others.  If one to go down the religious path - God had to command humans not to kill one another because left to their own accord, they would, among all the other sins. 

Levin in his epilogue quickly points out he is not advocating anarchy, but the only way to allow the "free hand" to have its fullest expression, is to remove all societal constraints. In other words, anarchy. 

And so what if I decide to damn my creek, which turns off the water to you downstram.  You say I ain't respecting you.  But I say I can damn the creek and still respect you, that you have no entitlement to the water flowing down from the mountain, and that you demanding I tear down my dam is not respecting me. 

What do we do to resolve this?

How does your free hand resolve this?

Why we appeal to the community don't we?  Or we go to war with one another.  The latter is not to benefit of all of society, since both of us are part of that society and one of us will lose the war.  So we are left to appealing to the community.  Which also decides on a winner and a loser.  But at least no one is dead.  Is this an iron fist?

So we are ultimately left no between iron fist and free hand, but a constant negotiation, never to end, between how in each situation we move closer to one or the other. 

Levin for instance, wails against all the regulations of

Inside the home, the federal government regulates washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, dishwasher detergents, microwave ovens, toilets, showerheads, heating and cooling systems, refrigerators, freezers, furnace fans and boilers, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers, lightbulbs, certain renovations, fitness equipment, clothing, baby cribs, pacifiers, rattles and toys, marbles, latex balloons, matchbooks, bunk beds, mattresses, mattress pads, televisions, radios, cell phones, iPods and other digital media devices, computer components, video recording devices, speakers, batteries, battery charges, power supplies, stereo equipment, garage door openers, lawn mowers, lawn darts, pool slides… toothpaste, deodorant, dentures…

If the washing machine he purchase was miswired and burned down his house, I doubt he would say - "oh well, buyer beware." Nor would he say that if his garage door opener slammed down on his new car the first day he used it.  Or if the baby crib for his newborn contained toxic chemical that put his baby into a coma.  No he would be outraged.  He would demand retribution. 

He would want the iron fist.

And so it goes.

Well, seeing as how you've dismissed Levin's entire premise of government, it's easy to set up a straw man of anarchy.  But Levin isn't an anarchist any more than Jefferson.

"...among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

See "Life."  Your example of damning a water supply and thus dehydrating a community, although extreme in the utmost, is quite obviously one purpose of government.  People don't only have property rights, but they also have a right to live.  And I'm about 100% sure that any functioning government would not allow a private citizen to cut off a water supply to an entire city.  Talk about a strawman.

​We don't find ourselves in danger of too little government.  From the list you quoted, and just looking around my desk as I type, I can't think of any product, any service I purchase that is NOT regulated on a FEDERAL level at some point in production.

​The genius of the free market is that it accepts imperfection because to wring it all out through regulation is to choke off production for the masses.  We have a federal government.  Even if it were to follow Constitutional bounds strictly, it would still be very powerful.  That same government mobilized to smash the Third Reich into the stone age.  When it needs to act in the general interest, it can, does does, and always has.  But that very government can only act powerfully if it overlays a vibrant, productive, diverse, and economically stable private sector.

​We not only have a federal government, but state and local governments.  They all do their fair share of regulating.

​The problem with your argument is that is has no confines.  There is no limit to what government can and should do.  And this is Levin's point.  Conservatives can point to the Constitution, a brilliant document written by some of the finest political minds in all of history that rationally and thoughtfully lays out a program for government on a national scale.  Your idea of government is Leviathan.

​What say you?

 

 

 

As far as it being an extreme example, you may not be too familiar with the history of the western states (you can also look at the current battles around the Colorado river).  But if it is too extreme for you, then you can check out the battles between the farmers and ranchers in US history.  As Scott Cook from U of Virginia details in his take on the history of Barbed wire [emphasis mine]

The greatest cause against barbed wire grew out of the closing of the Open Range. With the purchase of land and fencing in of the range, many small ranchers and cowmen were left without land for their cattle to feed on and without water for their cattle to drink from. Thus with the growing hatred of barbed wire, and now a new impetus for survival, many men of the frontier began to take action. The first steps were simply cutting down the fences, but quickly, the scene developed into a full range war. Small interests were matched against big interests, as blood was shed, fences were cut to pieces, and communities were torn apart. Vigilante justice reigned supreme, and terror seized the land. Eventually state legislatures were called to end the problem, which did not cease until the late 1880's. In the end, the barbed wire had won. Yet the range wars had made their mark on the history of the West as a final stand against the arrival of change.

The struggle over scarce resources can be easily the prism through which one can view the history of civilization, not just the United States.  And in the struggle, resolving the conflicts requires the government to intervene.

...is quite obviously one purpose of government.

So we both agree that this is one purpose of government.  And it would be reasonable to draw the conclusion that men left to their own accord will come into these conflicts.  The free hand is not all decent and good, but can lead to violence and discord within communities.

And so as we all pursue our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness conflict will ensure.  If one claims the individual is supreme, than you cannot deny the individual the right to do as he or she pleases.

The founding fathers did not believe the individual was supreme.

The founding fathers did not believe the state was supreme.

They understood that there was a never ending struggle for balance between the two.  The reason they created the Senate with its six year terms was to be a balance to the masses who were believe too easily swayed by their momentary emotions and passions.

Lets look at the preamble of the Constitution

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defenses, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

There is if anything a lot to be interpreted here.  What is "Justice"?  Whose definition will we go with?  How does one "establish" this thing we understand it?  Through the courts, set up by the people.  What is "domestic Tranquility"? And how does one "insure" it? - it requires power to do, and the right to over-ride the protests of the individual.

And the general Welfare.  Now there is ambiguous statement.  But it is not the Welfare of the individual, but the general Welfare.  Which means that there are going to be cases when specific individuals will have to make some kind of sacrifice as the government promotes this general Welfare.

When it needs to act in the general interest, it can, does does, and always has.

As I would argue the core of the conflict is not that someone as yourself does not believe the government shouldn't act in the general interest, but that you and I will argue over what is in the general interest. 

But that very government can only act powerfully if it overlays a vibrant, productive, diverse, and economically stable private sector.

Lets look at diverse for a moment.  The free market created an environment in which monopolies developed.  The individuals who were in control of these monopolies not only were unwilling to release their ability to sustain their monopolies, but actively used the power derived from these monopolies to undermine the general Welfare.  This can also be seen where a company seeking a better bottom line sends its jobs oversees, even though it is making a profit, just not as much profit as they would like.

It is a basic lie that liberals as matter of principle do not want a vibrant private sector.  Most liberals, like conservatives, work in non-governmental jobs.  They certainly don't want to lose their job, the roof over their house, the chance to buy the new car.  They are not anti-business.  Rather they believe that business should in the words of the US Constitution, do their part to ensure insure domestic Tranquility and promote the general Welfare.

And here is the kicker:  The more that the private sector ensures insure domestic Tranquility and promotes the general Welfare, the less incentive there is for the government to intervene.

The environmental movement in this country was given a huge boost in 1970s when the Love Canal incident came to light.

In the mid 1970s Love Canal became the subject of national and international attention after it was revealed in the press that the site had formerly been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical (now Occidental Petroleum Company).

...

Ten years after the incident, New York State Health Department  Commissioner David Axelrod (not to be confused with presidential advisor David Axelrod) stated that Love Canal would long be remembered as a "national symbol of a failure to exercise a sense of concern for future generations."

And this is very important:

I have never argued that the government should have no confines, such as, hmmm, that the government shouldn't tell a woman whether she can or cannot have an abortion.  I stand up for freedom of the press and free speech (and will fight for your right to say what you want).  It is telling that one of the bugaboos of the conservatives is the ACLU.  Nothing is more telling than that about how truly concerned conservatives are about real liberty and the rights of the individual.

The point is that the general welfare is supreme, not the individual and not the state. When the individual interferes with the general welfare, he or she needs to be limited.  When the state interferes with the general welfare, it should be limited.

And then we are back to arguing about what is the general welfare.

I want a more perfect Union. So do you.  Let debate rage on.

So say I.

I would add the below is mere hyperbole:

That all nature can be preserved and still we can produce enough to live in abundance.  That pollution is unnecessasy.  That war is always a choice.  That people can live freely under socialism without fear of oppression.  This second school of thought implicitly accepts that one man or one small body of men can possess all the requisite knowledge to make good decisions on behalf of all.  While the first school of though expands the sphere of discretion of the individual by adhering to simple, universal rules, the second restricts it by dictating minute instructions to accomplish whatever fanatical idea it claims to champion.

Of course one can find kooks on all sides, who make claims such as the one above.  I can do it with your side as well.  But no one in the sustainability movement will say all of nature can be preserved and still produce enough to live in abundance.  What is said is that we can interact with nature in such a way that it produces in abundance, but also in a way that allows the overall natural system to continue providing its services for generations to come.  That is a big difference. 

To claim the former is just a way to make the sustainability folk to be idiots.  Not that those on the left don't do this kind of over the top rhetoric which kills any meaningful dialogue.

Nor do I ever hear that one little group can possess all the requisite knowledge.

In fact, the proponents of sustainability rest their thoughts in part upon the premise that we cannot know everything - for the reason if nothing else because we are dealing with a vast vast multitude of complex adaptive systems, and it is impossible to know all of the outcomes of our actions.  The environmental thought holds the premise that we don't know enough to manage the complexity of nature.  It is your side that actually holds the arrogance that we can know how to manage all of the possible consequences of our actions.

Creativity and innovation arises not out of complete freedom but against the limitations we face.  The sustainability movement recognizes there are limits to our understanding, along with scientific evidence and cultural values which can inform our decisions in spite of our lack of knowledge.

There was a time when people used to just throw their waste into the streets, until people realized this caused disease.  Society put down the iron fist Tas you call it to made people properly dispose of their waste, including bodily waste.  To the benefit of the common good.  This was a move toward a more sustainable society.

Um, so William P, which school of thought is your favorite?

I have been going over this blog and over this blog and over this blog.

What is a mother to do?

We must include biblical myths in our school texts?

We must understand that regulating Wall Street will send us all to hell?

We must understand that Big Business will take care of us?

We must understand our place so that the unemployed should embrace $7/hr when they were making $25/hr rather than reap unemployment insurance?

We must understand and then recognize whenever we can that the new caste system is unassailable; that trusts and estates shall no longer be taxed?

We must understand that those who make their bread by the sweat of their brows must take whatever the elite tell them is the law?

We must understand that those who would not only rape our lands to disclose all resources available but pollute our waters and our air should not be held accountable?

Great picture. John Wayne was an idiot and a fascist and racist and ....oh who cares anymore?

Today's fascists just learned to speak in sweetened tones and learned to hide their animosity for the greater good!

I cannot speak with Cantor.

He cares not about right and wrong; he cares about his career and he cares about those who might fund his career.

At least Boehner drinks to hide his sins.

 

It is a pretty daunting task -to see the world as they do- like Being John Malkovich, but scarier.  Step right in if you dare.

There is a lot of reasons for this (many of them having to do with personal issues of the participants that have nothing to do with the topic of the discussion), but a key to this dynamics is we spend most of our time focused on the manifestations of the ideological paradigms (the public policies, the social critiques, the economic behavior) rather than on the fundamental principles and assumptions.

One cannot, however leave out the personal issues which more often than not influence ones actions, reactions, believes, prejudices and  thinking. We are after all emotional beings and emotions will quite often trump rational thought. Which is why we have laws etc.

People have mental blocks, fears, anxieties and resentments which color their thinking and they are very difficult to circumvent.  As this article in the Boston Globe points out, rational facts just makes irrational though even stronger quite often.

Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

Any attempt to dissuade some (far too many) of their error provokes a defensive response where in they will become in more entrenched in their beliefs regardless of the political, social or religious persuasion. 

This should be obvious though. After all it took until the late 18th century before we decided that burning people alive for their religious views might not be such a good idea.

I agree with you, but once we go down the personal issues path, it is very difficult to get back to the theoretical topics at hand.  But it is something that needs to be highlighted and discussed.

I dealt with cognitive dissonance in a recent blog Stockholm (Resilience) Syndrome which quoted from Genghis' blog on this topic, After the Rapture, Cognitive Dissonance Will Strike

The Globe article puts it nicely

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

The goal then how to walk the person toward the facts, to sit with the moment of cognitive dissonance.  This capacity to between two paradigms requires is what I believe Keats referred to as Negative Capability,

that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge.

Poets make good citizens, eh.

 

I can't hold it back any longer. Was going to stay out of the whole Mark Levin thing but it's just getting to me.  Mark Levin fans are being treated on Dagblog as if they are your average Rush dittoheads, your average Fox News listeners, or some working class blue dog types, amenable to actual real political debate.

I've listened to Mark Levin's show, many times, since like 2008 (it is on in NYC at an evening hour when I often go on errands in the car,) and I am now informing y'all:

he's not the same thing.

He traffics in rage & hate of the spectrum starting at the far left but going all the way over the center to and into the right, to like John McCain, especially name calling. Name calling is what he does. (Oh and Sarah Palin is his ideal fairy princess. Now that I think on what I just wrote, it comes to me: they traffic in the same kind of product, actually, though he is far far more enamored of the name calling, the negativity, and bemoaning everything "liberal" which is defined as just about 90% of everything in this country.)

His radio show is about as far from intellectual as you could find; Rush Limbaugh's show is a real William F. Buckley's Firing Line in comparison. Even his pal Sean Hannity is mild mannered and reasonable by comparison.

Those who know me on political forum meta in the past know I can be a fierce defender of welcoming right-of-center to conservative voices so as to defeat the echo chamber problem, to the point of chastising that one should consider that there are lurkers of that type reading what we write. And that the wrong kind of discourse discourages participation.

But in the case of Levin fans, I would just say: not welcome! Precisely because the main thing he practices is hate discourse, the kind that lots of websites ban.

To sum up this rant: Levin is a troll trainer in culture wars, that's what he sells. He really doesn't deserve all the considerate attention he's been getting on this site.

For those who think I might be overdoing it, here's an example picked quickly from You Tube, an example of a standard 6 minutes on his radio show :

Mark Levin Destroys Matt Damon.

Within that 6 minutes, here's some of that supposedly fine learnin' some fans here said he offers, transcribed by me:

Little puke; dumbass; punk; dufus, nudnik; loony; jerk; little fool; morons; liar; loser; schmuck; dummy; fools.

And that's just a little minor riff on Matt Damon, just for a break from the real nasty stuff.

Lest anyone think I'm cherry picking there, here's David Frum telling everyone the exact same thing about Mark Levin.

Really, he doesn't deserve the consideration he's getting here, he's just selling toxic garbage to those who like that, and, like David Frum has warned,  shouldn't really be treated like a serious participant in American political life until he changes his tunes.

 

William F. Buckley did sometimes make sense in a bizarre N dimensional universe kind of way.

Allow me to point out that he actually is a serious participant in American political life right now, as he is litigating against Obamacare in the Supreme Court case - his tune as-is.

http://www.landmarklegal.org/uploads/Supreme%20Court%20FL%20Obamacare%20Amicus.pdf

Frum, on the other hand, really isn't.

Ironically, and to my bemusement, you've actually adopted the same troll tactics you decry in your baseless attack against Mr. Levin.  Quite delicious.

The real hoot is that Levin desires to destroy Mr. Damon is because he expressed his concern about the possibility of Palin becoming president. Now what deep thinking individual would be concerned with that possibility...oh, yeah, that's right, all of them.

I've never listened to a Levin show before and now I doubt I ever will after that little example. But he does seem to have some serious cred with the conservative hardcores.  Eric Erikson in his review of Ameritopia:

Yet again, Mark Levin has another best seller. In all honesty, I have told Rush Limbaugh several times it is time for him to write another book. But, and no offense Rush if you read this, Mark has filled the void ably and, unlike a lot of talk radio hosts in America, fills that void with intellectual fire power, not pablum and crap.

So I guess dufus and nudnik has become intellectual fire power.

But now it seems like he is taking the torch from the likes of Rush.  We might be seeing the Levin dittoheads more in this campaign season.  Oh joy.

 

 

It did apparently help humans survive for many thousands of years.

The oldest question in political philosophy is Who should govern, and by what right?  I state this to point out that this debate is nothing new, and will not be resolved this century, much less in these posts.  To adequately understand the facets and complexities that go into attempting an answer requires a rigorous study over many years.  With that disclaimer, let me address some specific points and not get too far afield.

The ACLU was formed by Communists to undermine American society and the Constitution.  Conservatives don't support the ACLU because we support American civic values.  It's really that simple.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/stokjok/Founders.html

These days the ACLU spends most of its time outlawing God from public schools, law, and the public square.  When they're not pushing an aggressive secular-only agenda, they're busy defending ruthless bloodthirsty terrorists.

The history of federal meddling on the issue of abortion is sordid.  As Levin explains in Men in Black, the "right to privacy" was a contrived litigation strategy advanced over the course of a decade to legalize abortion - not by legislation, but by judicial fiat.  Before RvW, abortion was a state issue; after RvW, suddenly unborn children had no rights under law.  Incidentally, liberals and conservatives decry RvW as extraordinarily poor jurisprudence.  Think about it - what other aspect of life is the "right to privacy" applied to?  In another year or so, I won't even be able to choose not to purchase health insurance.  In most state, I can't marry several women.  I can't starve my children.  Hell, I can't even buy an automobile that doesn't measure up to mandated MPG standards.  It's obvious that right to privacy is a euphemism for abortion: nothing more nothing less.

As for the "general welfare" phrase in the Constitution, allow me to educate you.  First, this is the preamble to the Constitution, which is not generally considered legally binding, but an introduction to the document.  Specifically, the term "general welfare" was borrowed, if you will, from the Articles of Confederation.  Wrote Madison in 1830,

In tracing the history and determining the import of the terms "common defence and general welfare," as found in the text of the Constitution, the following lights are furnished by the printed journal of the Convention which formed it:

The terms appear in the general propositions offered May 29, as a basis for the incipient deliberations, the first of which "Resolved, that the articles of the Confederation ought to be so corrected and enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution, namely, common defence, security of liberty, and general welfare." On the day following, the proposition was exchanged for, "Resolved, that a Union of the States merely Federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the Articles of the Confederation, namely, common defence, security of liberty, and general welfare.

More information can be found here.

Moreover, a little logic tells us that if the Constitution was intended to promote a liberal (little l) interpretation of "general welfare," the same people who wrote the preamble would not have spent months debating the limited, enumerated powers of each branch of government.  If the intent was to grant the new federal government plenary power and empower it through pure democracy, the charter for such a government would look nothing like our Constitution - with its checks and balances, separation of powers, limited enumeration of authority.  We don't need to speculate about this; the idea of a Rousseuian government that would act to express the "general will" was debated at the Constitutional convention and dismissed in favor of a national government with limited scope.  Remember: it was the States who formed the federal government, and they only did so after ensuring that it could not trample on their own rights.  The Anti-Federalists nearly won.

Finally, let me say this.  For most of our history, debating the nature of tryanny in American has been somewhat academic.  Notable exceptions include slavery, which was unquestionably tyrannical, and the New Deal, which really did shake the foundations of the Republic.  (Review the critics of Roosevelt and you'll see what half the country thought of his central planning.)  Yet through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, there was not an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest the the American system was tottering.

We're way past that now.  This president will have added $5 trillion of new debt by the end of his term.  The debt to GDP ratio now stands at 100%.  Unemployment, when measured honestly, sits at 11%.  Our monetary base has doubled in recent years thanks to the Fed.  The president regularly flouts the separation of powers, mocks and taunts Congress, and brazenly says he'll act without them.  Just in the last two weeks, he's managed to get the attention of the Vatican by insisting that Catholic institutions provide birth control and abortions.  Illegal immigrants are no longer deported, even if they're convicted of crime.  Deportation numbers are forged, and Syracuse University is being stonewalled in their attempt to discover the true numbers.  For the first time in American history, the government is mandating that private citizens must purchase a service from a third party as a function of their existence (individual mandate).  The housing market and the construction industry are still on their backs, despite hundreds of billion of dollars in federal "assistance."  Our educational system is run by bureaucrats who don't teach, and who don't understand education.  The EPA has gone so far as to outlaw unpasturized milk, regulate dust on farms, destroy New England fisheries, and torment land owners with outrageous and minute regulation of their land.  The TSA gropes grandmothers, and yet to suggest that Islam is the driver behind most acts of terrorism is a "thoughtcrime."

An equally long and dense post could be written about the disastrous foreign policy which seems now to be leading to war.

With all this going on, we're supposed to worry that the government can't act swiftly enough to promote the "general welfare" ??  I'm sorry - you're looking down the wrong side of the tracks.

The oldest question in political philosophy is Who should govern, and by what right?  I state this to point out that this debate is nothing new, and will not be resolved this century, much less in these posts.  To adequately understand the facets and complexities that go into attempting an answer requires a rigorous study over many years.  With that disclaimer, let me address some specific points and not get too far afield.

The ACLU was formed by Communists to undermine American society and the Constitution.  Conservatives don't support the ACLU because we support American civic values.  It's really that simple.

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/stokjok/Founders.html

These days the ACLU spends most of its time outlawing God from public schools, law, and the public square.  When they're not pushing an aggressive secular-only agenda, they're busy defending ruthless bloodthirsty terrorists.

The history of federal meddling on the issue of abortion is sordid.  As Levin explains in Men in Black, the "right to privacy" was a contrived litigation strategy advanced over the course of a decade to legalize abortion - not by legislation, but by judicial fiat.  Before RvW, abortion was a state issue; after RvW, suddenly unborn children had no rights under law.  Incidentally, liberals and conservatives decry RvW as extraordinarily poor jurisprudence.  Think about it - what other aspect of life is the "right to privacy" applied to?  In another year or so, I won't even be able to choose not to purchase health insurance.  In most state, I can't marry several women.  I can't starve my children.  Hell, I can't even buy an automobile that doesn't measure up to mandated MPG standards.  It's obvious that right to privacy is a euphemism for abortion: nothing more nothing less.

As for the "general welfare" phrase in the Constitution, allow me to educate you.  First, this is the preamble to the Constitution, which is not generally considered legally binding, but an introduction to the document.  Specifically, the term "general welfare" was borrowed, if you will, from the Articles of Confederation.  Wrote Madison in 1830,

In tracing the history and determining the import of the terms "common defence and general welfare," as found in the text of the Constitution, the following lights are furnished by the printed journal of the Convention which formed it:

The terms appear in the general propositions offered May 29, as a basis for the incipient deliberations, the first of which "Resolved, that the articles of the Confederation ought to be so corrected and enlarged as to accomplish the objects proposed by their institution, namely, common defence, security of liberty, and general welfare." On the day following, the proposition was exchanged for, "Resolved, that a Union of the States merely Federal will not accomplish the objects proposed by the Articles of the Confederation, namely, common defence, security of liberty, and general welfare.

More information can be found here.

Moreover, a little logic tells us that if the Constitution was intended to promote a liberal (little l) interpretation of "general welfare," the same people who wrote the preamble would not have spent months debating the limited, enumerated powers of each branch of government.  If the intent was to grant the new federal government plenary power and empower it through pure democracy, the charter for such a government would look nothing like our Constitution - with its checks and balances, separation of powers, limited enumeration of authority.  We don't need to speculate about this; the idea of a Rousseuian government that would act to express the "general will" was debated at the Constitutional convention and dismissed in favor of a national government with limited scope.  Remember: it was the States who formed the federal government, and they only did so after ensuring that it could not trample on their own rights.  The Anti-Federalists nearly won.

Finally, let me say this.  For most of our history, debating the nature of tryanny in American has been somewhat academic.  Notable exceptions include slavery, which was unquestionably tyrannical, and the New Deal, which really did shake the foundations of the Republic.  (Review the critics of Roosevelt and you'll see what half the country thought of his central planning.)  Yet through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, there was not an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest the the American system was tottering.

We're way past that now.  This president will have added $5 trillion of new debt by the end of his term.  The debt to GDP ratio now stands at 100%.  Unemployment, when measured honestly, sits at 11%.  Our monetary base has doubled in recent years thanks to the Fed.  The president regularly flouts the separation of powers, mocks and taunts Congress, and brazenly says he'll act without them.  Just in the last two weeks, he's managed to get the attention of the Vatican by insisting that Catholic institutions provide birth control and abortions.  Illegal immigrants are no longer deported, even if they're convicted of crime.  Deportation numbers are forged, and Syracuse University is being stonewalled in their attempt to discover the true numbers.  For the first time in American history, the government is mandating that private citizens must purchase a service from a third party as a function of their existence (individual mandate).  The housing market and the construction industry are still on their backs, despite hundreds of billion of dollars in federal "assistance."  Our educational system is run by bureaucrats who don't teach, and who don't understand education.  The EPA has gone so far as to outlaw unpasturized milk, regulate dust on farms, destroy New England fisheries, and torment land owners with outrageous and minute regulation of their land.  The TSA gropes grandmothers, and yet to suggest that Islam is the driver behind most acts of terrorism is a "thoughtcrime."

An equally long and dense post could be written about the disastrous foreign policy which seems now to be leading to war.

With all this going on, we're supposed to worry that the government can't act swiftly enough to promote the "general welfare" ??  I'm sorry - you're looking down the wrong side of the tracks.

You should really stop trusting sites like "angelfire" for your facts. Anyone can post anything there. If you can find "In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU" by Samuel Walker in your local library, check it out. In it you'll discover that the ACLU was originally the CLB (Civil Liberties Bureau) and was founded by "social reformers, Protestant clergy, and conservative lawyers", not communists or even communist sympathizers.

As to your right to privacy assertion, a little research might do you some good there, as well. The right to privacy was not established in RvW, but in Griswold v. Connecticut, in 1965, and was about contraception, not abortion. That wrong piece of information also proves the fallacy in your conclusion.

As for your other assertions: I'm curious to know how you "honestly" measure unemployment, and whether you used that same measurement for previous presidents; your assertion that the president flouts, mocks, and taunts is clearly subjective; he didn't insist that Catholic institutions provide birth control or abortions; he's deported more illegal immigrants in his 3 years than G. W. Bush did in 8, but that fact is protected from you by your assertion of a forgery conspiracy; you can opt out of buying health insurance; the housing market is improving; your assertions on the EPA are imprecise and subjective at best; no one has ever been arrested for suggesting the Islam was a driver behind most acts of terrorism.

I could literally go through your entire post, point by point, and deconstruct it piece by piece.  I won't; there is no glory in rectifying willful delusion (i.e. "the housing market is improving," "he didn't insist Catholic institutions provide birth control and abortions").  All of this is well documented in recent news pieces, and you'll have to Google them without my aid.  I don't think that Bishop Dolan is arbitrarily picking a fight with the White House, do you?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/dolan-obama-betrayed-birth-control_n_1232364.html

As to your "right to privacy" rejoinder, I am well aware of the case history, and it starts before Griswald v. Connecticut.  See Poe v. Ullman, 1961. That's why I said "decade long" (i.e. 1961 to 1973).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe_v._Ullman

I did not provide any "wrong information."  The ACLU was involved in PvU, GvC, and finally RvW.

As for their Communist roots, here's what ACLU founder Roger Baldwin had to say:

"I am for socialism, disarmament, and, ultimately, for abolishing the state itself... I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

You cannot opt-out of Obamacare's individual mandate.  If you could it would be entirely self-defeating.  The law as written is intended to prevent those who "can afford" health insurance from not purchasing it.  An opt-out provision would render the entire idea behind an individual mandate irrelevant.

Syracause University is being stonewalled and harassed after filing a FOIA request for actual deportation numbers.

http://trac.syr.edu/foia/ice/20120104/

As they wrote on January 4, 2012:

"Case-by-case records provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that many fewer individuals were apprehended, deported or detained by the agency than were claimed in its official statements — congressional testimony, press releases, and the agency's latest 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics."

...

"The failure of ICE to abide by the mandate of the FOIA in a timely way about its immigration enforcement actions during the five-year period covered by our May 2010 request starkly contrasts with the repeated transparency statements of President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and many other administration officials since they came to office almost three years ago."

This is no conspiracy, unless you want to charge Syracuse University with conspiracy.  That's ludicrous.

Are you satisfied?  Would you like a very long list of egregious and unConstitutional affronts by the EPA?  

From ICE:

In their report, TRAC used a data set that represents individuals removed — regardless of the fiscal year that removal occurred — that can be linked to an apprehension that occurred in 2005. TRAC then used this data set to identify what it claims are the total number of ICE apprehensions in FY 2005, which is inaccurate. That data set is a subset of FY 2005 apprehensions. This is merely one example of TRAC's flawed analysis.

Another response as related Leslie Berestein Rojas

Last month, ICE officials cited vastly different accounting methods: When counting criminal deportations, for example, the agency includes administrative deportations in which the individual had a past conviction. However, if the crime doesn’t factor into the deportation case, it’s typically not found in the immigration court records, which the TRAC report analyzed. Many immigrants, particularly those who are in the country illegally, are removed solely on administrative grounds, whether or not there’s a criminal history.

It is possible that the Syracuse TRAC had its own agenda and attempted to utilize the data in such a way to meet that data.  Or they were just not knowledgeable on how to interpret the data.

Moreover according to ICE

During FY11, ICE responded to 16,488 FOIA requests.

So should I let ICE know that you are willing to increase your personal taxes in order for them to hire more personnel in order to repond to data requests?  I guess this also means you are for bigger government.

Moreover, it is interesting that you have now taken the side of the academic institutions, given that they have been over run by liberals, if not the Marxists.

And I'm not sure why the Church is all freaky about the contraception mandate. As this job application for the Sacramento Diocese indicates, first:

As a community of believers, we embrace as a matter of faith, the teachings, policies and beliefs of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, as defined in the Deposit of Faith. We, therefore, reject anything which is contrary to that teaching, including:
· abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, artificial contraception, voluntary sterilization, and the unnecessary use of capital punishment;

later it states that all employees must follow the teachings of the Church.  So while they would have to have insurance which allows for free contraception, none of their employees would ever utilize this facet of their insurance.

As for the Catholic church being required to provide abortions and contraception, that is a half-truth. They are not required to do so, but if they don't then they are not eligible for government funds.

As your link says, the Supreme Court did not find standing for Poe v. Ullman, so the right to privacy is not relevant there. The right to privacy came up in GvC, and it was about condoms, not abortions. Hence, your information was wrong, and your conclusion that right to privacy was all about abortions fails before it starts.

As for Baldwin, although he did make that quote, and he was a founder, there were several other founders who were conservatives, and Baldwin himself led an effort to purge the ACLU of communists in the 1940s.

You had so many half-truths, that I didn't feel I had the time to list out their specifics, but as for Obama's mandate, the opt-out provision is that you may pay a fine instead of buying health insurance.

Others address your ICS concerns.

As for your lists, I don't really have the time to wade through more stuff that you found on the internet that's not exactly true, so please don't bother.

I'm telling a half truth?  That Poe vs. Ullman was the genesis of the phony "right to privacy" isn't even controversial.  See this about.com article:

"Since no one had been charged with anything and no one could demonstrate any damage from the law, the Court refused to rule on it. In his dissent in Poe v. Ullman, Justice Harlan wrote that

I believe that a statute making it a criminal offense for married couples to use contraceptives is an intolerable and unjustifiable invasion of privacy in the conduct of the most intimate concerns of an individual’s personal life ...the intimacy of husband and wife is necessarily an essential and accepted feature of the institution of marriage, an institution which the state not only must allow, but which always and in every age it has fostered and protected. It is one thing when the State exerts its power either to forbid extra-marital sexuality altogether, or to say who may marry, but it is quite another when, having acknowledged a marriage and the intimacies inherent in it, it undertakes to regulate by means of the criminal law the details of that intimacy.

This dissent would play a role later on in Griswold v. Connecticut, and Harlan would refer to it in his concurring opinion in that case."

That the case as dismissed just goes to show you the entire premise was contrived, and that indeed it was a part of a strategy by the ACLU to legalize abortion.  Do you want me to spell it out?  Create a phony right however possible... then use that phony right, "emanations and penumbras," to legalize abortion.

Why am I not surprised that ICE disagrees with an ICE watchdog?

If this Catholic issue is just another non-issue, why do you think the Archdiocese is taking such a strong stand?

To believe you is easy; just don't trust my own lying eyes.

 

If you post links with an unverified user name, it will snag in the spam filter every time.

Look, I'm not a lawyer, but the half (at best!) truth I was talking about in that case wasn't whether it was Poe v Ullman or Griswold v Connecticut. Both of those cases were about contraceptives, not abortion. Your assumption that right to privacy was always about abortion and just abortion is therefore patently false.

I didn't say the Catholic issue is a non-issue, I said that they weren't being forced to provide contraceptives or abortion. They have a choice: they can either follow federal guidelines or not take federal funds. They want both. That's why the Archdiocese is taking such a strong stand.

Finally, what do you mean "don't trust your own lying eyes"? If you mean don't trust what you read on bogus web-sites, then yes, I agree. Do some serious research, and understand the difference between anglefire.com and more reputable sources.

And I think at this point, I need to reiterate the point of this particular blog:

There is a lot of reasons for this (many of them having to do with personal issues of the participants that have nothing to do with the topic of the discussion), but a key to this dynamics is we spend most of our time focused on the manifestations of the ideological paradigms (the public policies, the social critiques, the economic behavior) rather than on the fundamental principles and assumptions. 

This current part of the thread is a perfect example of what I am talking about (of which I myself not immune).

I have no doubt you could provide "a very long list of egregious and unConstitutional affronts by the EPA" - but the heart of the matter goes back to an interpretation of the general welfare, etc.  I will state since the EPA, like all human institutions, is developed by and run by humans, there will be some mistakes, some over-reach.  Just as I could provide examples of under-reach by the agency.  But for the most part we would be talking past one another.  And that is the point.

What VA said; and also

The checks and balances were put into place in part to keep the popular will from running rampant - as I mentioned above the Senate was formed to be more deliberative than the  House. Therefore, it was set up through the checks and balances to determine just what the general welfare is over time.  In this way, we could form a perfect union.

I don't have the time to go through all the points you bring up at this moment.  VA did a good job on a number of them. 

I would say about

Our educational system is run by bureaucrats who don't teach, and who don't understand education.

The reality is that most schools were driven by school boards - whose members usually never taught.  And to use this logic, since most parents do not teach, you are arguing that parents should have no say in their child's education.  Bravo.

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