Michael Maiello's picture

    Whiny, Whiny, Centrists

    The mushy middle has spoken and the bipartisanship that we saw during the extraordinarily productive lame duck congressional session just won’t do.  Yes, that’s right.  The very people who have been agitating for both parties to “reach across the aisle” are not happy with the way in which it was done.

    Here’s Thomas Friedman’s complaint and here’s Ross Douthat’s.  The criticism goes like this: it’s easy to get along when all you have to do is cut taxes, offer services to 9/11 heroes and end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell years after most of the population had gotten over the fears and prejudices that made the policy necessary in the first place.  These are not the compromises that the so-called moderates are looking for.

    Instead, in Friedman’s words, they are looking for brave leaders from both sides who will stand up and take things away from the American people.  In Friedman’s case, he wants people who will take away pensions and social services and reinvest in education and green technology.  In Douthat’s case, he wants to take away pensions and social services and use the money to pay down the country’s debts.  It’s easy, they say, for members of both parties to collaborate on policies that people actually like.  Where are the brave champions who will join forces to bring us policies that people will hate?

    This is an interesting way to evaluate a democratic government.  Try as I might, I can’t seem to find any of the early proponents of democracy who say that the entire point of the exercise and the source of the government’s legitimacy is its ability to consistently thwart the will of the people.  Sure, you need to have some systems in check to keep folks from running amok as large crowds can sometimes fall prey to all manner of mania and Bieber Fever, but for the most part we’re supposed to believe in the collective wisdom of the people.

    So if the people, say, like Social Security and Medicare, it would probably make sense to trust them on that and not just assume that they’re base, greedy and don’t know what really serves the greater good.  The centrists view the people as children and the government as disciplining parents.  Somebody has to stop the people from gorging themselves on candy!  This is the same kind of paternalistic theory of government that has been used throughout history to justify dictatorship after dictatorship.  Only in this context it’s akin to telling the people that they can have democracy but that they can’t use it to get what they want.  They can have democracy but that have to do as they’re told by the brave bipartisan heroes.  These centrists want somebody to finally stand up and tell the spoiled brats of America, “No!”  I get why these centrists want that.  It’s because they’re weird.  But I don’t get why anyone else would want that.

    I certainly hope that Barack Obama takes a step back and asks himself why he got into politics in the first place.  I sincerely doubt that his initial goal was to scale back the Social Security program.  If Obama gets two terms and there isn’t some enormous economic collapse, he will have presided over the creation of at least $104 trillion (that assumes total GDP at post crisis levels and no increases over 8 years, the real figure will be higher).  There are 175 million working age people in the United States.  So over 8 years and with no growth the economy would generate $75,000 per worker, per year.  That’s a lot of money and is half again more than median income.  So don’t tell me that we have to make tough choices because of the nation’s finances demand it.  We actually have a lot of leeway for making policy.  But we have to set out priorities.  I think the people should do that, not some mythical centrist hero who will tell us what needs to be done for seemingly no other purpose than the sport of shoving unnecessary bitter medicine down our throats.



    Yeah, the money is there. We could get the debt paid in full in six years with a proper transaction tax on Wall Street.

    Ohhhhhhhh, there is no money scream the meanies. Shite!!!

    Now the House is lost and will be proposing the outsourcing of our highway system as well as the destruction of the EPA and several other Federal agencies and the Senate will (or should) say frick you and the government will shut down and that will be a win/win for everyone!!


    Wow.  Can you throw up some numbers or a link on the transaction tax revenues?  Because if that's true, and if you say it, I bet it is, then you could even argue that since the debt isn't due in 6 years that an adequate transaction tax could be very, very small.

    From CEPR:  http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ftt-revenue-2009-12.pdf

    You get to do the digging, ya lazy thing!  ;o)  This part's easy to copy and paste:

    As Table 1 shows, most of the revenue projected from the tax would come from stock transactions. If there were no reductions in trading from the 2008 level, then a tax of 0.5 percent on each stock transaction would raise almost $220 billion a year. If trading fell back by 50 percent, then the tax would still raise almost $110 billion a year on stock trades. The second largest source of revenue is bond trading. Assuming no reduction in trading volume, a tax that was applied at a rate of 0.01 percent for each year to maturity would raise $52.4 billion annually. Assuming a 50 percent reduction in trading volume the tax would raise $26.2 billion.

    Thank you for looking this up. I have done blogs on this and I am working on other things.

    Make it 2%. Hell you gotta pay 6-8% for a frickin car or a bibycle. In Europe it is half a percent I guess.

    Add a 50% tax on all corporate bonuses and a lot of this national debt would melt away!!

    Thank you, Stardust!  I think I know how to raise more money with an even smaller tax.  Add a Tobin tax on currency futures (Forex) and commodities futures transactions and a tiny, per trade, tax on derivatives volumes.

    yes yes yes!!


    Yeah, but do Friedman's "the people" WANT a Tobin Tax or a transactions tax or, heaven forbid!, a tax on derivatives when they could instead have a cut in Social Security or Medicare? {{end of snark}}

    Excellent framing here, Destor, that compels the reader to see the manufactured dilemma that has become our Common Wisdom. These discussions are all about allocation of wealth. Friedman and the others too often try to frame this "bad medicine" argument as a preemptive effort to stall any re-apportionment of economic benefit. Friedman & Co. are fearful of anything that would limit the flow of the "wealth firehose" that is presently pointed in their direction, even whilst others die of thirst.

    You cover the territory here with a clarity that is refreshingly obvious. I wish this essay of yours was declared mandatory reading for those who make decisions on our fiscal policy in Washington. Only those most craven or deranged could read this and NOT see that this discussion about "trashing the middle class to save the middle class" is an exceptionally cruel and indefensible hoax. It really IS all about democratic choices. "We, the People" say they want their Social Security and Medicare and the other social safety nets. It then becomes imperative for the government to determine how this might best be accomplished, and they simply cannot hold harmless in the effort those oligarchs who feel entitled to their increasingly rapacious appetite for the common wealth.

    Q: Which do you prefer as the target of our economic policy?:

    A.) Continuation of Social Security and Medicare as part of a sustainable network of social safety nets?

    B.) Assurances that "Bob the Hedge Fund Manager" can augment that Cobra GT with a Lamborghini when he gets the new garage completed at the estate?

    The answer is pretty obvious, and it frightens the hell out of asshats like Friedman.


    ha!! You make my day every time!!!


    Thanks, DDay. I wish I could be around more, but I know I can't cover the territory any better than this blog by destor. It's a great piece!

    Stay warm, friend!

    A Mythical Centrist Hero is something to be.

    I never thought of Friedman as a centrist before. He worked for years advancing the Cheney agenda . After watching him celebrate the fabrication of lies to advance what he sees as the greater good, it is hard to take anything he says as something that somebody might say.

    Your results may vary

    Great Friedman link from June 2003, his fantasy of 'four reasons' to invade Iraq are so much BS you wonder how many martini's he had before penning the piece.  The 'moral' reason being 'Saddam bad, killed thousands, US good..... (...uhh...wait a minute... the war will kill hundreds of thousands, destroy Iraq, turn it over to a radical cleric from Iran, drive Christians not murdered out of the country, and ruin countless lives).

    Friedman should be forced to join the millions of displaced Iraqi's living in a hovel in Jordan or Syria, escaping terrorists we, the United States, let loose in Iraq with his full support, and not in his $10 million dollar home outside DC. He could then tell us in expanded prose about the morality of the war.

    I can't believe he wrote this: "But I have to admit that I've always been fighting my own war in Iraq..."

    You're dead on with this one. "Bipartisanship" is code for "hurting the little guy."

    The key to the code is social and economic class: these policies are "bipartisan" in that they benefit rich, privileged Democrats and rich, privileged Republicans. In fact, everyone Friedman and Douthat know would be helped by these policies! They can't imagine what the hangup is.

    I think you're basically spot on here.  The main thing that comes to my mind is just who is Friedman and Douthat, and other whiny whiny centrists, trying to convince?  The median household is just about exactly 50K the last time I looked, thanks in large part to two income households.  That makes for a lot of households who are pulling in the range of 50K to 150K.  As much as many of these people might want to help out the "less fortunate," if they are convinced it is in their long term interest to make those cuts the really wealthy interests will have won. This is not to mention the (generally young) workers in 30K to 50K range who see themselves someday in those upper brackets.

    So it is not only a matter of setting the priorities, but making a case why in these particular instances of policy around such things as medicare and SS it is in their interest not to listen to those whiny whiny centrists.  One of the hurdles is that for many of these folks, the op-ed section of the NY Times is one of their the few go-to places for perspectives on these matters.  If only we could get a blog such as yours in front of them, just even for one day.

    The other thing that springs to mind is the on-going dilemma of when should the politicians listen to the people and when should they follow their "conscience."  We all have at least one issue (Gitmo springs to mind) that we hope the politicians will not listen to the people and instead "do the right thing."  As long as we tend to all agree that there are occassional exceptions to the rule that the People should be heeded, then we find ourselves in the mess of arguing over exactly when do we apply that exception.

    I think we agree that there are occasional exceptions.  The Bill of Rights and other rights affirming Constitutional amendments are really meant to deal with most of them.  No, we don't vote on how to treat that minority group.  But this... this is just a question of allocating resources.  The broader society has a stake in that!

    The problem is that having a stake in an issue doesn't mean that the individual or group will conclude on the right course of action to deal with the problems of that issue.  They might right on about it, too.  Folks can paint themselves into the corner by complaining about the ignorance of the voters when they, for instance, vote the Republicans into power in both the executive and legislative branch, then try to push a particular stance on an issue by resting it on the wisdom of the People. I think there is a general meme or conventional in the circles of power that most Americans are low information voters (which is not the same as believing them stupid, although many believe that, too).  Such a meme flows in the very subtext of pieces like those of Freidman and Douthat.  There is almost a given perculating through these pieves that if it has to do with complex things like economics, if the People are for it, chances are the right course would be to do the opposite.

    The other thing that springs to mind is the on-going dilemma of when should the politicians listen to the people and when should they follow their "conscience."

    Isn't that addressed by the House vs. Senate thingie:


    with the exception of Constitutional matters, as per the House oath:



    So before the whole BP incident in the Gulf, we should have been drilling like crazy with offshore rigs?  And all those who want their representatives to close Gitmo should just keep their mouth shut? As should those who want to stop the death penalty?  And just who were those silly politicians who stood against invading Iraq think they were?

    I don't understand your reaction to my comment. I was just pointing out that in the original concept of these United States, the Senate, representing those states (and not constituents in districts,) is the body which is supposed to be putting a brake on some of the crazier stuff that the people's House might come up with in the process of pandering to their constituency as the latter is supposed to do. The Senate are the ones who are supposed to be using their consciences in a lord like way to introduce more long-term thoughts about the proper thing to do for the long term health of the union..And a reminder that the Judiciary was also intended as the ultimate insurance against the possiblity of tyranny of the majority (through the House) over the rights of the individual should the Senate fail as the intended brake.

    I guess my response was in part due to not be exactly clear what your point was.  This is in part due to my belief that the question is not addressed by the constitution, at least not in how politics and governance is played out currently.  There are those who passionately want Gitmo to be closed.  But a vast majority of Americans want it to remain open.  Should a Senator or Representative in the House listen to their constituency, or should they listen to those who say "do the right thing."  And there are those who believe it should remain open, who will tell both their Representative and their Senator that he or she needs to listen to the voter, the people, their constituency and keep it open.

    LOL!  You want Obama to "step back and ask himself..."  Ken Houghton at Angrybear is discussing the joke that Obama 'won' anything is the tax cut 'compromise' (oh, please.) and says, "Brad DeLong appears to confirm that Obama's inner circle would be best served by being placed in a circular firing squad, given live ammo, and being told to "do what is right."    Cool

    Then, quoting Mark Thoma about post-tax cut plans and the SOTU leaks: "The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address.

    White House strategists believe this can also give Obama “credit” for getting serious about deficit reduction — now more urgent with the nearly $900 billion increase in the deficit via the tax cut deal."

    Houghton again:
    "We have always heard that the first Black President would be subject to an increased threat of assassination. Only now do we discover that he intends to commit seppuku."


    You beat me but my goodness, we have a thousand hits.

    Gotta be worth something! hahaha


    Dunno about that, DD; everytime I access my own Posterous site, it adds something like 38 or 41 individual hits.  I can guarantee you that that's entirely bogus.  Tongue out

    Oh my dreams are quashed for sure. hahahahah

    Ah, well, Dick; you've still got Paris...   Innocent

    Nah, he took off with Helen a long time ago. ha!!!

    Wiseass; always gotta be pullin' out literary allusions on me, eh?

    Some posts seem to attract automated web crawlers that bombard them with hits. This is one of those. Normally, the hit counting software screens out crawlers, but it doesn't seem to work with this type. Google analytics, which keeps a more reliable count, says there were about 700 total page views (or hits) and 300 unique page views. The latter number excludes repeat visits by the same person.

    We haven't had a viral hit since the election, but we do get them sometimes. You can see who has been reading a post by clicking on the track tab. The blank anonymous ones are usually crawlers, but they can also be lurkers or email referrals. If something gets big traffic, you usually see a lot of referrers from google news, facebook, digg, twitter, etc.

    So... I'm not famous?



    Take heart. You're famous in the web bot world.

    Bots luv tights.

    I think the many people have learned that relying on denizens of MSM as indicators of how the pulic feels on any issue is futile. The MSM predicted that the Presidential race was going to be Hillary Clinton vs. Rudy Guiliani. They were wrong. The feelings of Friedman and Douthat are just that, the personal feelings of two NYT columnists.

    Allowing Gay military to serve openly was not easy. If it had been easy, it would have been done under President Clinton or President Bush. If getting the 911 health care bill passed were easy, it would have been done under President Bush.

    If getting payments to Black and other minority farmers for discrimination by the USDA were easy, it would have been done under President Clinton or Bush.

    Somehow you are invisioning a world in which struggles result in overnight victories. You need to review the history of the Civils Rights movement, women's suffrage and Gaay Rights.

    The bombing of the irmingham church with the deaths of three 14 year old and one 15 year old girl did not create racial equality, we have still not achieved that goal. Burning bras did not result in full equality for women, the battle goes on. Stonewall did not result in equal rights for Gays. Repealing DADT does not make military life for Gays easy or equal overnight, the battle will go on.

    Life is not easy. Polls may show that people believe in equal rights for all. Life in 2010 tells that Secession celebrations with white-washing of Slavery are occuring in the open. Limbaugh and his ditto-heads are ranting about Femi-Nazis. Reporters areasking how soldiers are going to cope with showering with Gays, who as Barney Frank notes, do not dry clean themselves.

    Remarkable things happened, even if they seemed easy to you.

    So if the people, say, like Social Security and Medicare, it would probably make sense to trust them on that and not just assume that they’re base, greedy and don’t know what really serves the greater good.

    What about the majority of the people who want to cut taxes, ban gay marriage, penalize illegal immigrants? Or, historically, the majority of the people who favored discrimination, slavery, etc. Are you willing to follow the will of the people no matter where it leads? Isn't it the essence of a conscientious stand to do the right thing even when it's unpopular?

    I'm not taking a position on SS and Medicare here, just noting that championing the will of the people seems like a good idea only as long as the people agree with you.

    I think this a questionable use of Reductio ad absurdum.

    Many of these are policy questions. As far as that goes, it's easy to answer: yes. In a democracy, the majority really should decide the majority of these issues - even if sometimes the majority's opinion sucks ass. Although, for the record, a majority of Americans support RAISING taxes on those making more than $250K and also favor far more aggressive taxes on corporate bonuses; I definitely think Obama (on behalf of the Dems) should have gone with the majority on that one. (The majority also supported a Public Option, National Exchanges and hated mandates ... for the record; not that I'm bitter or anything).

    However, there is an assumption that the discussion here is contextualized within the American system of democracy. In that regard, there are a clear set of parameters defined in the constitution which specifically address discrimination, slavery and the like. The American system has checks and balances that allow the will of the people to be represented in legislature while providing for the Judiciary to assert constitutional protections in the event of overreach. Those vaunted founding fathers figured out a way we could have our cake and eat it too - demand representation from our officials and yet have a buffer protecting basic values against humanity's own worse angels. As such, you appear to create a strawman fallacy when attempting to reduce the concept of elected officials in American democracy having a primary duty to represent the will of those who elected them into an absurd result of government policy compelled to endorse slavery/discrimination/etc. The judiciary ensures this is not a possible outcome under the constitution.

    Yeah ... sometimes being in a democracy results in people demanding shit policy, but it's not really as dramatic as your hypothetical. To me, championing the will of the people seems to be a good idea. Period. Officials are elected to represent, not to engage in a series of unilaterally arrived at conscientious stands. That would be more more akin to an elected dictatorship. IMO, a good rule of thumb for politicians might be: if you promise to fight for something during the campaign and everyone votes for you, it's an appropriate issue over which to make a stand; if you promised not to do something during the campaign, it can not be the sign of an honorable politician to make a stand on doing exactly that once elected to office (classic GOP, BTW).

    I genuinely believe that if an official disagrees with the electorate, they should be using their bully pulpit to change minds rather than just ignoring the will of the people - and I think that officials are too timid about assuming this important aspect of leadership these days. That said, I put more stock in the electoral process than partisans seem to. I believe this is the point where public input is designed into the system. A platform is like a contract and the elector's vote binds the politician to that contract, so any issues of disagreement should be plain at the time of election. Once we've agreed on what they plan to do, I'm paying the son-of-a-bitch six figures to go to Washington and fight like hell to make the list of things on our contract reality so my ass can get back to work. Sometimes representitives agree to stand-down on certain beliefs in support of a saner platform (as with Ron Paul) and sometimes voters agree to support someone with disagreeable aspects in their stated platform (as with Walt Minnick), but everyone should know basically to expect from politicians on policy after the election process unless something completely unforeseen comes up (Note: modern Republicans acting like assholes is NOT something completely unforeseen ... that's like a universal constant now).

    I know you are speaking generally, and not to SS/Medicare in specific. But to tie it in; that seems the real issue here more than a randomly expressed public will. It's pretty clear where the public stands - and as a result politicians with both parties paid homage to championing Medicare and Social Security to win in the last election. Regardless of how one feels about the policy, if they propose major cuts (with broad support) within six months of an election where they didn't even mention the idea, that would be slimy as hell. (A-Man seems to think they won't do this ... sure hope he's right).

    When the issse of Gay marriage was put to a vote, on most occassions it went down to defeat. Foes of immigration (for Latinos) want to require police departments to be able to stop and demand  that people withcertain skin hues produce proof that they are indeed US citizens.  If put to avote many municipalities  would have Confederate flags flying over city and state property. Are you saying that the will of the people should stand in every instance?

    How does such a stance differ from the "States Rights" position of Barry Goldwater?

    Again. There's a constitution that addresses the underlying question here - making it kind of moot. In the circumstance where what the majority of the people want to do is constitutional, yes, the will of the people should stand. Even if it pisses some other people off (me included, I'm not a wall flower). If there is a deficiency where the constitution itself is lacking in a needed protection/power, there is a mechanism for society to update the document as a reflection circumstances newly enlightened by progressing knowledge. I believe in American Democracy. Period.

    I'm not conversant with Goldwater's stance on States Rights, that was a bit before my time. But as a reasonably strong supporter of states rights generally speaking, I don't necessarily see that as the pejorative you seem to imply it being. I think I've been pretty clear about my position, you just seem to disagree. So beyond specious hypothetical questions and guilt-by-association, what do you see as a specifically articulated case against my point of view, and what to you propose as the alternative approach?

    I don't spend a great deal of time on this blog, so I made no immeediate connection between LazyKGB and kgb999. Goldwater had no prblem with private businesses refusing to serve African-American families. Goldwater's objection's were identical to the objections Sen Rand Paul stated when Dr Paul was a Senatorial candidate. Judge Robert Bork had a similar viewpoint and was part of the reason that there was strong objection to Bork being placed on the Supreme Court.

    The Civil Rights bill passed. I do think it is a fair question to ask how a strong supporter of Stae'srights would have viewed the Civil Rights bill. Rand Paul voiced his opinion and gave arguments to support his rationale. Paul is a US Senator, so his position did not prevent his election.

    Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court. Judge Thomas feels that the justices in Brown vs. Board made the correct decision. Thomas also believes that there was no Constitutional basis for the decision. I did ask LazyKGB to voice his opinion of the matter.

    Personally, I believe that Goldwater, Bork and Thomas were in error in their interpretation of the Constitution on State's Rights and Brown v. Board (in the case of Thomas). I would think that asking Thomas the hypothetical of how they (Thomas and Bork)  would have voted on the Civil Rights bill is proper.

    Is it proper for a state to allow local police officials to require legal citizens of that state to produce identification on demand? Latino US citizens would be forced to submit to such a demand if State's Rights triumphs over the individual.

    I do believe that the legislative decision on allowing gays to serve openly was proper. I believe  that legislators can trump errant courts. "Activist" judges are in the eye of the beholder. Corporations being allowed to participate ascitizens in political campaigns seems pretty activist to me.

    Sine "activist" judges are already in play, I have no problem when these "activist make decisions that are in line with my stance on an issue.

    Let me add this point. When States Rights is mentioned, a segment of the population refers to the Goldwater era. That is why there was a strong reaction to comments made by Rand Paul after his comments on the Civil Rights bill. A strong stance on States Rights has come to include a position that would favor a private business being able to refuse service to a certain group of people.

    The States Rights vs  Civil Rights debate is part of the history of the United States. To me, the States Rights debate was a part of a class in United Stes history. Goldwater. like Reagan is a  Conservative hero.. A review of the political views of these two gentleman is helpful in analyzing some of the core beliefs of classic Conservatives.

    When somone says that they are a strong supporter of States Rights, one assumes that the person is aware of the full context of that statement.

    I don't think that you want to bring the founding fathers into this discussion. They were mostly unvarnished elitists who were quite concerned about the electoral power of the rabble, which is why we have not-so-democratic institutions like the Electoral College.

    But leaving the fathers aside, we might ask, would government be better if our representatives voted exactly the way they thought people wanted them to vote? That was Bill Clinton, no? Government by opinion poll. I was never particular enthusiastic about this approach. Nor, I think, were most liberals at the time.

    Or let's take it a step further--government by popular referendum. California has a long history of brilliant referendums that have banned gay marriage, penalized immigrants, permanently restricted property taxes, and outlawed affirmative action, to name a few. Between education mandates and tax restrictions, the state's discretionary revenue is almost nonexistent. There have also been issues with misleading initiatives that tend to confuse voters, many of whom don't read beyond the one-line summary and are easily outwitted by butterfly ballots.

    No thank you. I'll stick with the representative system because the only people less competent to lead the country than our benighted politicians are the folks that elected them. And when those mostly weak-kneed politicians on very rare occasions buck the popular sentiment and risk losing in the next election in order to do the right thing, I'll pat 'em on the back for it.

    The nature of the founding father's ideology is irrelevant (although, it seems more accurate to say they were much like us - a group of people with very diverse points of view who formed a consensus which attempted to address the major systemic concerns raised by all participants). The structure they put into place has specific definitive properties that simply exist - regardless the frame of mind at the time of that structure's creation. I notice you completely ignore my real point that the nature of this structure provides the leeway for proper representation by the elected officials with the judiciary and constitution providing the protective backstop against excess - do you agree with this, or do you think I'm off base?

    I think your trite assessment that 100% of the American population is totally unqualified - or worse - to make decisions for themselves (while properly steeped in jaded hipster-chic) is lazy and inaccurate. But I am kind of curious ... what is an example you are thinking of as a politician having done something back-pat worthy?

    You have gone pretty far afield from my own stated opinion on the nature of the proper relationship between elected representative and electors. So, while you have (somewhat) effectively argued against government by referendum, nobody actually proposed such an arrangement as desirable. It kind of feels like you are answering the argument you wish had been made instead of the one presented. What do you think about the representative/elector relationship I actually articulated?

    Leaving out the ideology then...The structure that the founding fathers put in place restricted direct representation. It has since evolved to include more direct representation, but we are still stuck with some artifacts of the system that they put in place, such as the Electoral College and the Senate. As for the courts, they have not historically defended the nation from discrimination against blacks, women, etc. That's pretty recent. Moreover, there are plenty of issues in which the popular will is wrong, and the courts are not involved.

    Pat-worthy actions--not so many lately. I'll include opposition to the Iraq War and Guantanamo Bay, support for the financial bailout (though I know you'll disagree on that), and Republicans who voted against DADT. I'm sure that I've missed some.

    My point was that more democracy does not always mean better democracy, for which I gave you two examples, poll-voting-politicians and referendums. The bottom line is that I distrust the will of the people, not because I'm an elitist or a hipster but because I am a misanthrope. I will not defend my misanthropy further except to note that the People have given me plenty of reasons to doubt their sagacity.

    (That's not to say that I favor some other system. I agree with Churchill that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.)

    The mod mentality. People will generally go along with what every the majority says regardless of whether they personally believe it's best or not. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as two examples of this.

    I think that you mean the mob mentality. The mod mentality is something altogether different. Scooters and amphetamines are examples of that.

    It's when the mods form into a mob that things get really ugly.

    Mod-mob mentality. Very dangerous.

    Mod-mob mockery??

    Only when they can't get the scooter contingency organized to outflank the riot police.

    I was invited to join the Royal Bastards Scooter club in West Seattle.. so I am sure I can get them to help you out. They have really cool jackets. They even like my pink ensemble!

    You royal bastid, you....

    ...or should I say, "You royal pain in the arse", LOL.....


    hahaha, yes, there is even a formal greeting.. Hey ya Bastard!

    Cool.  Although you might think about a working on a good inspirational speech, like: Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our cool jackets, but they'll never take our freedom!!!

    hahahaha... nice I wish I could upload my laugh right here! You might take our cool jackets, but you'll never take our scooters er freedom!!!

    HA! love your added twist

    Alright...ALRIGHT....you have had your fun. Now can we get serious. You know what I meant.




    One of the issues here is whether in the process of debate on policies, the "voice of the people" (i.e. the majority) is something one should consistently turn to in order to prove the correctness of a particular policy stance. Is is something one turns to as the deciding factor, or it just one of many factors one throws into the mix when considering the contours of that policy. 

    Many liberals flipped out when Obama made the decision to allow more offshore drilling as part of compromise package in order to get a comprehensive energy bill through. Yet at the time, 70%+ of Americans favored expanded offshore drilling.  As president of the U.S. and not just president of the Democrats, one can say that he was setting policy based on the will of the people.  Those who hollered about how this was an awful policy decision -- given the premise of "the majority really should decide the majority of these issues - even if sometimes the majority's opinion sucks ass" -- should have just kept quiet. All the talk about the Constitution and the judical branch as the safegaurd really is worthless in such a case, since we are long way off from the planet and ecosystems being afforded the same rights as humans in American democracy.

    Of course even in this last quote you back off from being absolute by saying "the majority of these issues," as opposed to all of the issues.  Therein lies the crux really.  Which of those issues is open to debate.  Of course one would generally find that a person tends to define those exceptions to the extent that majority disagrees with his or her policy stances.

    But this system of trying to improve the conditions of things while allowing the majority of the People to dictate the unfolding of these policies is in part one of the reasons we get what we get.  While one could find that the majority of people supported the public option, one also found that majority of people were opposed to raising their own personal taxes to pay for it, or making any other sacrifice in their own quality of health care in order to help bring health care to those without any.  And to the extent that there was a way through this that would be acceptable to a wide swath of the country, it was blocked by Republican Senators and conservative Democrats that the majority of the people from those states had sent to D.C. to represent them and their interests.

    So when you say you want to champion the will of the people, then you have to champion those who resent Boehner back to the House.  Since you believe that it is a universal constant now that Republicans act like assholes, then you are accepting the idea that you need to champion the sending to power in House of Representatives.  As the Republicans in the House attempt to undermine the implementation of the financial regulations that were passed last session, you must champion this as well, for this is the will of the people as expressed through the last election. 

    And people really need to stop with this mythical bully pulpit notion.  It is just another twist of rhetoric to avoid having to lay some of the blame of what goes on at the feet of the People.  "If only Obama had used the bully pulpit on HCR, then the people would have rose up to demand universal healthcare," as if forgetting that from the beginning of the presidential primaries all through the general election the issue of HCR was one of the most consistent issues discussed, when candidate after candidate was at the "bully pulpit" pontificating on the right course of action.

    Personally, when I vote for a candidate, I am choosing the one that I believe while approach the policy decisions in a way that is most aligned with my own views.  This "contract" gives wide latitude to their behavior before I would go as far as say that he or she broke the implicit agreement.  The moment we make every vote on every bill a litmus test, is the moment we start getting the Angles and McDonnells of the political world.  No politician can possibly make 50%+ of their constituency happy with every action they take.  At some point along the line, they might do something like Crist and hug the President.

    The politicians who want to "reform" the entitlements can make their case.  If they are unsuccessful in convincing the majority of their wisdom, and carry out with the cuts, then this will open the door for many to rise up in the primaries in both parties.  That moment when the people really do get their say.  It's just that I am not going to agree that every time they have their say it is something worth listening to.

    There is some confusion about my position on the relationship of opinion polling to policy. I don't generally think that's a valid way to go at all - unless we're dealing with a totally out of the blue circumstance or something. The electoral process is where the real conversation and will of the people is articulated in it's most detailed form. I disagree comparing what someone fights for with what they promised to do constitutes a "litmus test" ... well, you can call it a "litmus test", but I'd argue that this is the exactly correct litmus test to use for assessment.

    You bring up a great nuanced example with offshore drilling. That's one of those areas where, had I been paying more attention, I should have given more credence to those raising questions about Obama's honesty. Obama's most public stance was against offshore - he made an amazingly strong economic and scientific case against the expansion. Then, after having won the primaries, he quietly mentioned that he'd consider compromising on it. But this was *technically* before the election (after the primary), so he kind of loaded the contract on this issue. Having been directly promised that Obama personally held an anti-offshoring stance as a part of the election process, those who protested at the presentation of a policy he himself had articulated as undesirable (yet possible under extreme circumstances) as his opening position were certainly not unreasonable to use Obama's own words in trying to pressure him to stick with the position he had articulated to win their primary votes. If he's got to fail someone's hopes, why not err on the side of better policy and promises to his base? (In retrospect, "liberals" were also 100% right - had Obama taken a strong offshore stance and made it a fight, he would have gone in to the BP disaster on a totally different footing than being stuck swimming in the oily results of shit-policy right along with the corporate executives.)

    I think it needs reiteration, my opinion is premised on us discussing the American system of government. Your assumptions on the implications of a Republican house are kind of absurd. I have a single representative. They represent me. I have to work within the reality that the people in my district selected Labrador - and were given a set of expectations for how he would conduct himself as a part of that campaign. This means two things really. One, since I disagree with Labrador on several key issues - I will be opposing him on some stuff. Two, there are some issues on which Idahoans disagree with Bohner; we fully expect Labrador to go against Bohner on those issues. A citizen's political expectations are not bound by an arbitrary delineation of "powers" divvied up by the political duopoly based on majority/minority determinations within the congressional body - that is an artificial construct for bureaucratic purposes and has nothing to do with a democratic majority as far as relationship with electors is concerned. From my perspective the situation in Idaho is somewhat by design - the big challenge for CD-1 Idahoans is now to get a viable Democrat who is better than Minnick in position early while at the same time finding a good Ron Paul faction primary candidate to undercut Labrador's Tea Party bona-fides.

    I have a similar view of expectations from Obama. My state delegation and presidential representative are the only federal political actors someone with my position in the electorate has an expectation-based relationship with. Sure, there is political value in pressuring representatives holding leadership roles regarding the conduct of that position with local impact - but mostly expectations there are based on that rep's relationship with their own voters. One thing terribly disingenuous "centrist" pundits have been doing is inventing opinions for folks in places like Montana (from their perches in NYC and DC) that totally don't match reality - and then saying these representatives are just doing what their voters want. That may be true in Nebraska , I don't know, but it sure isn't true in Montana - so IMO it makes every such assertion suspect. (BTW: Schweitzer is term-limited 2012 ... right in time to primary Baucus 2014! Just sayin'.).

    And I strongly disagree with your take on the bully pulpit. Elected officials have the capacity to command news coverage. For the Presidency, this is exponentially true. Corporations pay millions and millions of dollars for access to that vehicle when trying to influence opinion in favor of their products - yet when politicians are able to access this vehicle it can be treated as inconsequential? No way. That is a power. The ends to which this power are used should be a significant factor when assessing a politician's leadership. If an electorate is ignorant about the nature of their government and the basic details of policy, certainly some of the blame must lie with government leaders not bothering to invest in any genuine communication or outreach beyond a blizzard of attack ads every-other dozen months. Even the so-called use of the bully pulpit during HCR was largely a campaign style attack-ad festival and deployed pushback in the town-hall format backed by mega-millions in ad dollars - more a large scale coordinated political operation than bully pulpit.

    At this point, Democrats must be hoping independents will adopt your fluid interpretation of "success" compared to specific promises made on the exact policy questions addressed. So far, the farther right Democrats run, the more independents appear to hate them. I think that's the biggest problem those taking your view face, it seems to be distinctly non-infectious. Sure, there is always a ready and reasoned explanation why you aren't bugged ... and you have the mildly-annoyed that everyone else doesn't have your depth of perception and even-keel thing down to a T. But easy to dismiss is not the same as insignificant. Democrats dismissing what the voters have to say as "something not worth listening to" is quite likely why Republicans just took control of the House. The centrist Democrats aren't exactly shy in expressing disdain for the debased and ignorant nature of their fellow Americans ... which can't be helping considering centrists are ascendant as the face of the Democratic party (You mean the ones calling everyone ignorant racist moron children didn't win? Surprise!). IMO, addressing Social Security without first getting an electoral mandate by running and winning on a platform that prominently includes "entitlement reform" would be unconscionable. Trying to re-define "protecting Social Security" as meaning "willing to cut Social Security" takes the art of political spin to the point of inoperable. Time will tell. But damn, it will sure be a pity if the most prominent Democratic legacy post-2008 ends up being they were turned out of office in the midst of a depression for letting Social Security get all screwed up.

    On same sex marriage I think we're in the realm of rights and that it's frankly silly that we put things like that up to a vote.  On immigration, I'm okay with the people leading us in the wrong direction but would of course try to persuade them otherwise.  That said, there are still rights issues, not subject to popular will, involved for immigrants who already live here.

    As for tax cuts... the people may well choose badly, but have a real conversation with them.  Tax cuts for who?  What services can you do without?  In the recent tax debate we saw that most people were fine raising taxes on the top 2% but not on the vast middle.  You can dismiss that as self serving but it's not unreasonable.  Indeed, it was Obama's original position, too.

    Still, to answer your general question -- it is okay with me if the people don't do as I say.  They mostly don't anyway.  I do draw the line at human rights, of course.  Other matters of policy are up for debate.

    Well of course these matters are up for debate. The question is, when faced with a choice between the popular will and doing the right thing, are you really suggesting that politicians should go with the popular choice. I seem to recall that the Iraq War was very popular once, so popular that many Democratic politicians felt obliged to throw in their lot with George W.

    If a politician chooses to buck the popular will, that's their choice.  But they should have a clearly articulable reason for doing so and, of course, it's only "brave" because they have to realize they might lose an election over it.  I also think you have to take the intensity and the length of the people's preferences into account. "I wanna invade Iraq" wasn't an intense or long-held belief.  "I want to preserve Social Security more or less as it is," is an intense and long-held belief for the majority of the population.  It seems to me that in the case of Social Security the people are giving their leaders a pretty specific mission which is to deal with the budget without harming this program.  I don't see what's so admirable about a politician basically punting on that.

    "I seem to recall that the Iraq War was very popular once, so popular that many Democratic politicians felt obliged to throw in their lot with George W."

    I don't remember it like that at all.  What I remember being popular was a series of well orchestrated lies and fabrications by folks We the People trusted including politicians and their appointees, news organizations, other nations and a chorus of thinkers & talkers.  As the truth slowly untangled, so went the popularity.  I find the choice between doing the right thing and going with popular will unfair to The People.  Given good information, they're always the same.  We are that good. 

    But in real time decision making of governance, in this country and in this world as it is, the people are given plenty of bad information.  One can speak of an ideal scenario, where fully engaged and knowledgable individuals use only good information to make decisions and conclusions.  We don't live in that world, and it is hard to see a time when such an ideal would even be within sight, let alone a reality.  So given the world as it is, how shall we proceed?  (Also taking into account that much of what is "bad information" is passed along by sincere people believing they offering good information)

    Trope, you're killin' me!  What about my response to the comment by Genghis do you specifically disagree with?  It's probably just me, but you seem to be suffering lately from a mild case of over-intellectualizing.  It's as if Bobby Kennedy (or Shaw) himself mentioned to you personally that "there are those who look at the world as it is, and ask why?  I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" you'd have ten answers for both questions.

    Seriously.  I'm not confident you and I agree about "the world as it is," but maybe.  Regardless, let's proceed first by doing the right thing.  I maintain it will be wildly popular.  What do ya say?

    I find the choice between doing the right thing and going with popular will unfair to The People.  Given good information, they're always the same.  We are that good.

    Good information is not very difficult to find. The trouble is that so many people don't listen to the good information. They prefer the lies. Why, for instance, do so many of The People  watch The Glenn Beck Show? Nor do I mean to single out conservatives. There are plenty of liberals who prefer comfortable lies to the truth as well. And let's not forget all the happy innocents who don't want any information at all other than which celebrity cheated on which.

    If the People are really That Good, they have a funny way of showing it.

    PS As for The People making the right choice even if they were somehow forced to get the right information and only the right information, I think that you don't know The People very well.

    C'mon Genghis, good information is often dificult to find.  I don't need to go further than this site for an example.  Every day competing opinions and references on a plethora of subjects appear in these threads.  Who among us has the market cornered on all this easy to find information?   

    Further, not that many people watch Glenn Beck.  3-4 million, maybe.  1 percent.

    PS I don't think you know The People all that well.  Now we're even.

    Less than 2 million.  I looked.  About the same as all the other cable news shows he is up against combined.  That is still about 48 million less than watch the embedded agitprop on broadcast tv every night. 

    This is kind of a funny case in point.  I looked at the link you provided and geez, I'm not an idiot, but they could simplify that information.  Couldn't they?  And because the data is for only Dec. 27th, I went searching for some sort of average.  I got a few numbers, anywhere from 3 million down to 1.7 million.  One thing seemed clear:  his audience has been shrinking the past year.  Still, I'm not certain about any of it.  Maybe I am an idiot.

    Your case in point misses the point entirely. It's not about tracking down a particular piece of information, its about using sound judgment to distinguish good information from bad.

    Here's an interesting poll:

    As Democrats struggle to salvage health-care-reform legislation, a new NEWSWEEK Poll shows that while a majority of Americans say they oppose Obama's plan, a majority actually support the key features of the legislation. The findings support the notion that Democrats have not done a good job of selling the package and that opponents have been successful in framing the debate. The more people know about the legislation, the more likely they are to support major components of it.

    The last line seems to support your case. All we need to do is to get the info to The People, and they'll make the right choice. Presto!

    And yet, there was plenty of available information at the time that the health care plan was being debated. Every major newspaper, magazine, and blog offered a breakdown of the proposal. Most of them were reasonably accurate. It might have been difficult to comprehend all the intricate details, but the main pillars where clear enough.

    But what most people heard was DEATH PANELS and YOU LIE!

    Why? Because that stuff is far more interesting than boring old details about guaranteed benefits and insurance pools. It triggers deep emotional responses. Nor is this the first time. Remember the Harry & Louise commercial from the 90s?

    If you cheerfully present boring but true information to The People while your opponent delivers delicious little lies, you will lose--as many political candidates have discovered to their detriment--because so many of The People prefer the lies to the truth. Poor judgment.

    PS Beck's show is the second most popular cable show news show in the country after Bill O'Reilly's. His radio show reaches about 18 million a month. With books and internet, Beck estimates his media footprint at 30 million, which is probably not that far off. And if you think misinformation from Fox News and talk radio has not impacted American politics, then you must have missed the last election.

    PPS Speaking of books, duplicitous right-wing screeds routinely dominate the #1 nonfiction book slot. It seems that many of The People prefer these books to balanced analysis.

    We seem to have a difference of opinion.  You wrote up thread that good information wasn't difficult to find.  I think it's often very hard to find.  You've enhanced what you meant:  "It's not about tracking down a particular piece of information, it's about using sound judgement to distinguish good information from bad."  I think you're making a distinction without a difference.  Tracking down bits of info, comparing competing results, chucking source A and hanging onto source B, fact checking, trusting this gal and not believing a word that guy says, these are tough chores.  When I write good information is hard to find, this is pretty much what I mean.  I don't think my "funny" illustration misses the point by too much, certainly not entirely.  Could be we just haven't agreed on terms.  Not sure.

    I don't think that 2-4 million people watching Glenn Beck is that many people.  His media footprint is substantially larger.  I could have assumed you meant that, but it isn't what you wrote.  I don't like the influence he enjoys.  I think you're more concerned about it than I am.  Maybe not.  Either way, I think it's a tiny part of where we disagree.

    Fundamentally, from what I can cobble together from these brief exchanges, we disagree on some deep, philosophical question of the nature of man or something.  Are we inherently good or bad?  As of this moment It seems I think the former and you think the latter.  But at this point I'm prepared to be wrong. 

    Kyle, if you assume that people are naturally good, you need to make sense of why they are often very bad. I made the point about the influence of right-wing media only to demonstrate that many people are willingly resorting to very bad sources of information. To that point, Glenn Beck's whole media footprint is relevant. Indeed, the footprint of the entire right-wing media machine is relevant. In fact, I think it to be fairly obvious that people all over the world and throughout history have been susceptible to demagoguery. This susceptibility is not simply due to ignorance, though ignorance can exacerbate it. It involves a willful disregard for the truth.

    So how do you make sense of the willful disregard for the truth? Karl Marx and other philosophers have argued that people are naturally good. To explain their apparent selfishness, Marx argued that the capitalist system had corrupted them. Get rid of the system, and the inherent goodness will come out. (Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way in any existing socialist country.) So what is your explanation for the appeal of demagogues?

    For the record, the point that many people don't have time to get the news is irrelevant because many other people clearly do have the time, and they're spending that time at Fox News and right-wing radio. The claim that Glenn Beck only fills a niche is also irrelevant because the point is that people are listening to his message, whether or not that they would be just as happy listening to some other demagogue deliver it.

    I'm really under qualified to go much further.  I'm just a toy maker.  But what the hell.

    I maintain people are good.  It seems obvious to me.  6 billion people doing their best against some long odds.  That's my evidence.  Pretty weak, for sure.  There it is.

    You suggest it's "fairly obvious that people all over the world and throughout history have been susceptible to demagoguery."  I couldn't agree more.  But you continue that it isn't simply a function of ignorance, but "involves a willful disregard for the truth."   I can't make that leap with you.  I don't see a case for it.  People are wrong about any number of things, they'll believe all kinds of shit and do stuff that's bad for them over and over.  But these aren't the result of people thumbing their nose at the truth.  People think they're right and they believe the shit.  The good news is we can be persuaded.  Our minds can change.

    What bothers me about this conversation is I get the impression you're more than willing to dump the lion's share of responsibility for our current condition on the backs of the masses.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems you're blaming the victim a bit.  I just want to run a little interference if that's true.  Me, I think it's a relative handful of assholes ruining it for the rest of us.  What the hell, I'll go all in.  Those guys are victims too. 

    Don't worry, I've heaped pages and pages of blame on the manipulators. But I'm convinced that they're only successful because people let themselves be manipulated. These people don't have to watch Fox News. They want to. Most of them are smart enough see through the corny, indefensible conspiracy theories. But they want to believe.

    Wow, you've described a neurosis of massive proportions. No offense, but I hope you're wrong.  Your last sentence reminds me of a scene in a movie.  A boy/girl couple is arguing about him not pitching in to do the dishes more often.  Finally the girlfriend tells him what she really wants is for him to want to do the dishes.  He asks, "why would I want to do the dishes?"  Anyway, Happy New Year! 

    Happy New Year to you. I hope that I'm wrong too, but what I've seen is a growing trend towards popular paranoia. It's not Red Scare level yet, but it gets bigger ever year.

    Idaho has been a bit of an eye opener to me. Living somewhere like D.C. or NYC or Vegas, there is a constant bombardment of people trying to get over on you. Every cab, every bus stop ... every free space screams something different but always "look at me!"  And then there are the people, "can you spare a dollar" ... "Hey, my cousin can fix that dent while you are in the store" ... It is non-stop all day, every day.

    Imagine if you had never needed to grow defenses to any of that because it just wasn't really there. Now imagine if someone who professionally crafts techniques to influence the most jaded minds deployed those same tools and a couple million bucks. I don't think "people want to believe" exactly. IMO, they have life issues and just don't want to think about it that hard. So they take the easy answer ... which ends up being the answer someone just spent a million bucks to ensure is right on the tip of their tongue.

    A person doesn't have to watch Fox. Even if they don't, every other outlet will obligingly dedicate 80% of their coverage to discussing the messages Fox is advancing. At this point, the entire national conversation is driven exclusively by what Fox decides will be important. All the other networks just cover Fox.

    Why on earth would anyone's marriage fall into the realm of rights?

    While it is true under current law that there are privileges granted to legally married couples, those are more properly classified as procreation subsidies or more accurately as political spoils.  

    Speaking economically as a single woman, I am already disadvantaged.  Why should I support expanding the DINK demographic via gay marriage?

    Speaking as what is known as a second-wave feminist, I had hoped that state-sanctioned marriage rooted in property law would by now have been consigned to the dust bin of history along with notions of gender.  Why should I support a 'cause' that perpetuates both?

    Seriously, why.  I am not trying to be mean or flippant or confrontational.  I have given the issue considerable thought and simply cannot come up with a rational reason to support it.


    I'd be fine with the state getting out of the marriage business all together, for all the reasons you've come up with.  Getting the state out of it would essentially legalize any marital union you want.  You'd be "married" if you went around saying you were.  Which is good enough for me.  But so long as the state is in that business it has an obligation to treat all couplings equally, though.

    Maybe I should be careful what I ask for or at least how I ask. :-/

    I guess I am not fine with the state getting out of the marriage business altogether.  Marriage is or should be a serious commitment between people.  Some sort of legally-binding contract seems appropriate.  Plus there are all sorts of existing marriages based on common law that should not be negated on what may turn out to be nothing more than a fad.  There also probably should be some legal protections/prohibitions on what an individual can take on or give away -- like other contracts.  What the state should not do is approve who marries who as long as all parties are legally competent to enter into the contract.  

    Well, I'm fine with that too.

    Not to be gadfly but isn't the notion that marriage is between a man and woman to borrow a phrase you used for the social security stance a long and intensely held belief by the majority of the people to this day?  In fact, isn't that one of the primary arguments used by those who resist expanding the definition of who can get married, that it is one thing the majority has agreed upon stretching back to the beginning of civilization (and even beyond that) (I guess it would stretch back only about 10,000 years since that was about when the earth was created). 

    Ah, but again... rights are the framework within which the popular will is allowed to work.  This is a rights issue.

    Ah, but again...whose rights? the states? the individual? the community's right to decide what is decent and proper?  Does the federal government really have the authority to tell a company it cannot hire child laborers when those children's parents say that it is ok to hire them?

    We have made great strides in the rights as individuals in this country within the context of all of us "created equal" (although through the implied creator this phrase affirms the theological foundation of those who are the primary opponents to expanding the rights of marriage to those who don't fit the man/woman notion of the heterosexual imperative).  But I don't think there can ever be a final achievement of balance between the individual freedom of expression and the community (majority) view of the "way things ought to be."  Politically and culturally, and all the mix in between, we will constantly be attempting to reinforcing one and then the other, seeking some humane and compassionate balance.

    All rights are individual rights.  A community might decide what's good and proper but it has no right to force that decision on dissenters engaging in consensual private behavior like deciding who to marry, who to sleep with, what to read, etc.

    I agree with you, but in the history of humans this has not been a notion which has not been generally held.  The blog I am currently wrestling with (and have been for quite some time) deals in part with the 1957 trial of Ferlinghetti in San Francisco on obscenity charges because he tried to sell the poem Howl.  The trial was not to decide whether such a charge was ludicrious or not, but whether Howl had redeeming social value, thereby affirming the notion that the society could determine to censor that which it deemed without social value.  I think you and I will be long gone from this earth when society eventually "evolves" to that point in which the individual does rise to that place in the hierarchy of things by which the individual's fundamental rights of expression are given preeminence.

    That's true.  I kind of live in fantasy land sometimes.  Very much looking forward to your Ferlinghetti post!

    We all kind of live in fantasy land sometimes. Some more than others, of course.  I would say that enjoy reading your blogs because you are one the voices "out there" that tends to undermine the fantasies we all so easily slip into.  Speaking from my personal view, caught in the prisonhouse of language and immersed in our culture(s) as we are, the slippage into fantasy land is inherent in our "condition."  We cannot help but affirm this or that fantasy land while trying to tear down another.  It is an unceasing struggle, one in which I would consider a fundamental struggle for liberals.  Keep up the great work.

    A suggestion to take a break from that wrestling by watching The People vs. Larry Flynt. (No matter what, it's a very entertaining movie). And afterwards, it might get you thinking about how the Judicial branch of government often does eventually come around to protect minority.interests. It just takes some time sometimes. Seems to me you are one that's usually pretty supportive of incrementalism, why not in this case? "The people" make mistakes sometimes a lot of times, but in the system we have, suprisingly those mistakes often seem to get fixed over time, not immediately. Nobody in the founding clan promised it would go easy or that no wrong would be done.

    I hear what you're saying.  I tend to believe that it would be hard to come up with a better system than what we have.  I don't believe that we haven't made progress.  We have made a lot of it, in large part because the courts have had those who have risen to the challenge.  In fact, with regards to gay marriage the courts have a pretty good record recently.  It's the people with their referendums and such that are the sticking points. 

    I guess I would say I am supportive of incrementalism not because it is the preferred way to go (just like most people I want to get to where I want to be NOW!), but that it is the only way to go in order to achieve our goals without risking losing what gains we have achieved. And these days while there are some significant advances (e.g. repeal of DADT), there are signs of backsliding on all the fronts as those who are threatened by advance of a liberal agenda (politically and culturally) that would see the expansion of individual rights of those in culturally oppressed groups.

    The way forward never has been and it never will be.  I would say it makes the going just a little more rougher if we fall into the romanticization of the People, just as I would say the same about the romantacizing of the Individual, which I happen to be doing now. Dagnabit.

    There is an argument that if the gay community really wanted to make a fundamental change in society that what they should be seeking is to seek an equality on the civil unions front.  In this country, marriage is still tied to the religious ceremony.  By seeking the same marriage as the straights and breeders, they were in fact just reinforcing the paradigm structure which is the source of their oppression. By breaking the tie between the status quo religious institutions and the "marriage" contract, they would be undermining those institutions' ability to maintain the heterosexual patriarchy upon which they are founded.  In this way, it would open up the possibility of rearticulating the definition of gender, allowing for its expansion, as the state, through the civil union process, would be more likely over time to see no inherent interest in maintaining traditional definitions of gender.

    Yeah, the religious component to marriage is what the government should have no interest in.  I don't care if some church somewhere recognizes a marriage.  That's up to the people in that church.  What I do care about is that the state meets its obligation of treating all people equally.

    Are you sure state involvement in marriage is a result of the involvement of religion and not the other way around?  I tend to think the state's involvement is the result of property rights.  State licenses and registrations were/are nothing more than records of property title transfers of a woman and her progeny.  That belief is still reflected in the language  of marriage and family law.  Fathers giving away their daughters,  wives taking their husbands' last names, the legal ability to disown children. How can anyone think marriage laws are not essentially  property laws.

    Being old enough to have been stifled by notions of gender, I have no desire whatsoever to expand their definitions.   I also completely reject the notion that sexual preferences are reflected in them.  


    If one goes back in time, for most of human cultures, there has been little difference, if any at all, between the institutions of the state and the institutions of religion.  The two emerged and unfolded together over time so there is no way to say which came first.  And really that would be just academic.  Even in those who might profess that two should be separate, the ideas of the state inform how people view religion (think of the hierarchies, esp. in conservative churches) and the ideas of religion inform how people view the state.  Down below the surface, where few go, and those who do spend little time, these are mesh and twist with one's personal experiences.  Relations with one's actual father and mother will influence how one views the Father who is up there.  I would say it also influences how we see the Father (and maybe someday Mother) who sits in the White House. 

    The best way I would put it is look at the way law is practiced in eastern Afghanistan villages.  This is where the mix of state, religion, and family come together quite explicitly.  We have set up ideals about the Law, as something objective and untarnished by the individuals who bring it forth. 

    I agree with the notions of property law as it relates to the marriage, etc.  The only thing I would stress is that those laws and all laws for that matter achieves its validity because it granted as so by the diety.  Even in this country: all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.   Whether it is government or law, the ability of society to function civilly depends upon a shared understanding and agreement over the legitimacy of that authority.  Once that legitimacy is questioned, all hell breaks loose.  Religion has always been the easiest way to achieve that consent of legitimacy.  And why they fight like hell when any attempt is made to undermine that religious foundation. 

    In this country, and elsewhere, a rather unique (although not unheard of before) attempt at basing the legitimacy through secular means is being attempted.  This does not mean that for many of the citizens who operate in and through that secular infrastructure still rely upon and depend upon the religious notions as forces to stabilize the interactions.  It is part of the reason why so many are unwilling to break the bond between what is the legal ceremony of a civil union with the religious ceremony that is the marriage between a "man and woman before the eyes of God."  In the latter case, to not have the eyes of God present, as a witness and conferer of legitimacy, the marriage is deemed illegimate and non-binding even in a legal sense (even though the state says it can be achieved without the eyes of God down at the court house and performed by a justice of peace.)


    Apples : Oranges.  Holy Matrimony : State-licensed marriages.

    As far as I know, no one here is advocating prohibitions on church weddings or couples plighting their troths in Holy Matrimony.  And I get the appeal (especially to women) of having a separate repository for legally-binding marriage contracts where passionate promises of the night before are still recognized the morning after.  I think that a Marriage court where contracts can be filed like Wills at Probate courts* would be a good solution.

    What would you say to my Scots Presbyterian ancestors whose marriage on the Ulster Plantation was not recognized by the State which required all marriages to be performed by Anglican ministers?  Was it not Holy Matrimony?

    *At least locally, the Probate court will file Wills pre-death.  Not sure about other jurisdictions.


    Well this is getting a bit out of hand.  The point I am trying to make is if we want to expand our nation's collective understanding of what constitutes a relationship, what constitutes a "legal marriage," of what constitutes gender (as well as the dynamics of how gender is constituted so to say), in a sense, to put as as Butler did, to determine what bodies matter (in both senses of the word), then we need to acknowledge that we are going to have to upset a lot theological carts along the way.  Including those of lawyers, judges and lawmakers from D.C. on down. 

    And as far as your ancestors are concerned, my personal opinion was it was Holy if those who participated in it felt it was Holy.  But that is a great example of how religion in this country has openly infused itself into the interpretation and implementation of the letter of the law. 

    But that is a great example of how religion in this country has openly infused itself into the interpretation and implementation of the letter of the law.

    And I thought it was illustrative as to how the Establishment Clause, the separation of church and state, ended up in the Bill of Rights of an overwhelming British and overwhelmingly Protestant people. 


    That, too.  As I've said, part of this country's history is an attempt to try a secular approach to governance. Which is pretty damn remarkable. But even though they wrote in the separation of Church and State, this did not immediately alter the views of the people.  By what I mean by this is the beginning of an interview with Nancy Cott regarding her book Public Vows:

    Why did you write Public Vows?

    There is a tendency to view marriage as completely private and that eclipses the aspect of marriage as a public institution. In some ways, it seems a banal subject -- obviously marriage is a legal institution. Yet we don't always think of it that way. There has been a lot of work done on the personal experience of marriage and how it affects husbands and wives. But the history of marriage as a political institution hadn't been put together. I focused on how marriage related to the question of the nation and national identity. Questions such as who belongs to the nation, how do we determine that, and what are the rituals and symbols that support it. A particular form of marriage--monogamy on a Christian model, with the husband as the primary provider-- has been embedded and supported in the national political framework of the United States, and has thus shaped who "the people" are.

    Marriage comes with many assumptions, particularly when it comes to monogamy. Where did the idea of monogamy come from and how is it political?

    Monogamy comes from Christianity, and as far as its political function, monogamy was a notion of governance (husband over wife and children) that became established by the medieval period and has been very important in Western political theory. In U.S. law, monogamy has defined sexual morality. Until the beginning of the 20th century, sex outside marriage was considered immoral and so monogamy was the dividing line between morality and immorality--the legal view of this stayed the same until the 1940s. The larger public meaning of monogamy is hard to discern because it's so deeply imbedded in our political system-- but at the time of the American Revolution, statesmen saw direct and positive parallels between monogamous marriage based on the couple's mutual consent, and republican government based on the people's consent-- so that governance between a husband and wife was similar to the governance which takes place between an elected politician and the public. The pairing of monogamy and representative government (both assumed to be highly desirable) was contrasted with the pairing of polygamy and despotism (both assumed to be very reprehensible). That's why there was a federal government campaign against the Mormons for practicing polygamy in the 19th century--for political, not only religious or moral reasons. The deep revulsion against polygamy stills exists today and even people who consider themselves sexually emancipated feel hostile towards polygamy. I think this has something to do with monogamy being so deeply embedded within our western political (as well as cultural) framework, though it goes unacknowledged as such.

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