The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
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    How Badly Do We Want Liberal/Progressive Values?

    Some here at Dagblog are big on saying that ‘all of us want the same things’, and sometimes it’s been a little more plaintive than others.  I’ve found myself resisting that in any but the most shallow meaning of the phrase, and over the past few days I’ve been coming closer to why I don’t think that it’s altogether true.

    In countless discussions on these boards, many maintain they are against war; no problem: everyone is except when they’re not.  To my mind, they’re not when they can offer endless justifications for Obama’s keeping these wars going and expanding into other nations, and spending more lives (ours and theirs) and billions and billions of our dollars on the effort. To wit: the new review clearly says that in about 2014 the US will start turning over security to the Afghanistans.  Maybe.

    We all want the financial industry regulated, but Obama can’t bear up under the pressure of Wall Street! many tell me; he can’t be seen as being anti-business, and still get the votes of people who work for corporations!!  And they either paid zero attention the many times the White House fought against the strongest regulatory amendments, or they’re just kidding themselves in defense of Obama and other Dems. 

    We’re all in favor of investigating fraud, but maybe a little insider trading investigative probe and some prosecutions are really enough to prove his administration is taking care of it all.  And Lord, how many times here I’ve heard that actually putting banks into receivership and cleaning them up, down-sizing them would upset the system, or cause the Market to quiver.  Far too many economists are saying that until that happens, there will be no recovery, or trust in the financial sector.  I believe them.

    It’s tempting to go through more issues, but here’s the thing: I think that every time we settle for far less than what we know is right, and what will help the country get back on its feet financially for most Americans and American workers, we’re aiding and abetting the status quo. 

    I think that every time we don’t squawk about the endless American Empire-building we’re expanding, not just maintaining now, we hasten the death of the middle class, and further destroy the under-class.  And when we don’t yell for fair trade instead of more NAFTA-like free trade, we harm American workers more.  And be clear: this President recently told the CEOs he met with last week that he is in hot pursuit of more trade deal, and he never renegotiated the ones he swore to while on the campaign trail.

    This video is a Grit TV Laura Flanders interview with Chris Hedges, who has a personal view of what’s contributed to The Death of the Liberal Class, his new book of the same title.  There are a couple points I’m a little skeptical about, but I love that he says that during FDR’s time, the country could have gone more fascistic, but instead went more socialistic, or ‘liberal’ because there was such a strong Leftist movement in the country.  And I love how he says, as many others have, that the radical left is important to keeping Liberalism honest, and that the more radical left has been absolutely marginalized in the country in recent history. 

    We all loved the dickens out of Bernie Sanders’ almost-filibuster over the crap tax-cut plan; what we forgot to notice was that he told us to get out in the street to protest it!  Yeah, I know; he’s old-school, but he was sure right: unless we fight for what we believe in, the oligarch and kleptocracy will end up winning it all.  It’s pretty close to that point right now: crunch time.

    If you can take twenty minutes, watch the video; tell me what you think.  And think about how badly you want Liberal/Progressive values.


    More GRITtv


    Excellent blog.  I think you really laid out some important questions and points.  This is exactly the kind of discussion we all need to be having.  I hope it can remain civil.  Yell

    I haven't watched the video yet (but I plan to), but I wanted to bring up something that first sprung to mind.  That is, as your title puts out there: how badly do we want it.  Another way of phrasing that is how much are we willing to sacrifice for it.  It is called a struggle for justice, etc because it is a struggle.  And a struggle requires sacrifice, which in my personal dictionary means letting go of that which one wants to truly grasp tight upon and grasping that which one wants to truly push away.  For instance, while I do work to fight poverty and such, I get a decent salary, etc.  All things considered, I'm not making a real sacrifices on this front.

    Also, since it is a struggle, we don't know how will it end.  There is a quote by Vaclav Havel that I always carried around with me during those days when I was taking it to the streets and logging roads and corporate headquarters:

    Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

    To keep on keeping on even when things seem to be going backwards and getting worse, to continue to make the sacrifices over and over again when success is not guaranteed is hardest thing to do.  Personally, I broke. I burned out.  There are a lot of reasons (excuses) (justifications), a lot of changes in views and notions. 

    I remember one rally towad the end when a lot of the few people who said they would show up didn't.  Me and a couple of the other organizers sitting there among the signs that had no one to hold them up, speechless, cold and defeated.

    But I know deep down I walked away because part of me placed my own comfort, my own well-being ahead of other living beings.  What I wanted for the world didn't really change at all.  There were just other things I wanted for me that became more of the priority.  I loss the will to make the sacrifices.

    Your comment reminds me of the last comment I quoted in my Dig We Must post, wherein the commenter blamed the boomer generation for not taking care of the infrastructure that their grandparents had worked and sacrificed to put in place. It doesn't take too much imagination to replace the word, "infrastructure" with, "freedoms" or, "rights" or even, "liberal/progressive values."

    Thanks for saying you hadn't watched the video; I wonder how many have before commenting.  I also agree that sacrifice is a key to commitment, and sometimes even taking risks for bold actions without knowing the exact outcomes, sort of combining critical assessment with imaginative hope, then acting, from anything to anti-war protests to working to get a politician elected. 

    LOL on the working so hard and accomplishing not much theme!  Me, too; decades' worth of effort that seemed to bear little fruit; but fortunately my career was so satisfying that it was easier to shrug off the the rest.  Sometimes.  ;o)

    So what you are saying is that I cannot really be liberal or progressive unless I agree with your preferred solutions to problems?  A bit dogmatic, don't you think?

    It is possible to agree on a diagnosis yet disagree on a prescription.  For example, regulating the financial industry:  a case can be made that it was ill-conceived financial regulations that led to the Crash of '08.  Is there a better solution?  I think so and hope someday to post it.   There is no rush now.  Too many liberal/progressives lined up too quickly behind the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  How many, even now, know what actually happened?  How is it possible to fix something if you do not even know how it works? 

    My ex- once asked me if I knew how to say 'trust me' in Yiddish.*  Turned out to be the same as 'how nice' in Southernese.*  Dodd-Frank asked you to trust them.  What states do they represent?  What are the big industries in those states? 

    Back to topic.  Labels like liberal and progressive mean different things to different people.  How much do you think you have in common with John Wayne on war or Walter Russell Mead on economics?  Yet both consider(ed) themselves Liberal.

    John Wayne:  "I have found a certain type calls himself a I always thought I was a liberal...I came up terribly surprised one time when I found out that I was a right-wing, conservative extremists, when I listened to everybody's point of view that I ever met, and then decided how I should feel...but this so-called new liberal group, Jesus, they never listen to your point of view..."

     In Mead's recent first musing on the L word he points out that 

    "Millions of people in this country are conservatives and even reactionaries who think they are liberals; we have millions more liberals and radicals who call themselves conservative."


    "while “liberals” and “progressives” still are sometimes out there on the barricades for some truly liberal and important values, most of what passes for liberal and progressive politics is a conservative reaction against economic and social changes that the left doesn’t like.  The people who call themselves liberal in the United States today are fighting desperate rearguard actions to save policies and institutions that are old and established, that once served a noble purpose, but that now need fundamental reform (and perhaps in some cases abolition) lest they thwart the very purposes for which they were once made."

    Is Mead correct?    What bold new ideas are coming from the left?  If being liberal and progressive means looking forward more than backward, how liberal and progressive are we?


     * Highlight to see translation or not if sensibilities are delicate>  Both phrases are humorous translations of 'f--- you'.

    Some hint as to which words to highlight, Emma? Doesn't seem to work.

    The ones after the caret > in the footnote, or just the entire footnote. :)

    How nice.

    And I mean that literally, Emma. Thanks for that. It's a phrase we can all use here at dagblog to keep the discussion ostensibly civil. I think ostensible civility is probably the most we can reasonably aim for.

    Literally as in actually nice?

    Two edits for a one line comment.  Time for something to eat.


    Literally literally, Emma. You're just toying with me now. That's not nice.

    I mean, that is nice. Very, very nice.

    Hope you had a nice dinner.

    Progressives have been churning out bold new ideas for decades and decades.  Very few of them have been implemented by a government that is committed to preserving the established political, social and economic power of extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.  But that doesn't mean that there are no exciting and forward-looking progressive ideas about how to reorganize finance and investment, redistribute wealth, re-energize the engines of democratic prosperity, reform corporate governance, transform the conditions of work and change our relationship with the natural environment.  It's not the fault of progressives that the established regime squelches progressive ideas when they have barely gotten off the drawing board.

    Of course people for whom the challenges of inequality and economic injustice are not such a big deal - people like Mead - will not be very excited by these very exciting ideas.  He's more interested in rather helping American capitalism save the world from the clutches of the Evil Muslims.  And of course, if you are an old-style laissez faire liberal defender of unregulated free enterprise dynamism, like Mead, and think a move toward a more sustainable, economically equal, and carefully governered world organized around a social commitment to the common goiod, is a step backward rather than a move forward, then efforts to build the latter type of world aren't likely to look like progress to you.  Progress is in the eye of the moral beholder.  Everyone has their own ideas about which changes would make the world a better world, and therefore in which direction progress lies.

    Mead is right, though, about the confusions surrounding the world "liberalism".  The use of the word "liberalism" as a label for neoliberal market fundamentalism and laissez faire free enterprise, a use which is still more prevalent in Europe to refer to the classically their classically "liberal" parties, is a more traditional and less confusing usage than the strange American habit of using "liberal" to describe social democratic or neo-socialist ideas.

    Progressives have been churning out bold new ideas for decades and decades.  Very few of them have been implemented by a government that is committed to preserving the established political, social and economic power of extremely wealthy individuals and corporations.  But that doesn't mean that there are no exciting and forward-looking progressive ideas about how to reorganize finance and investment, redistribute wealth, re-energize the engines of democratic prosperity, reform corporate governance, transform the conditions of work and change our relationship with the natural environment

    Sorry, but what bold new ideas?  Examples?  What I have mostly heard and read seems so timid, so rooted in vanishing social and economic paradigms and good riddance to them.  Only what comes next may be even worse unless someone not only comes up with bold new ideas but can also sell them to the general public.  That really may be the key problem.  Liberal and progressive salesmanship is terrible and often counterproductive.  Example: single-payer health care should be a done deal, or fait accompli if you prefer, but it isn't because the other side focus-grouped and Luntzed its arguments to key words and phrases understandable instantly by the general public while the left argued amongst themselves.  They turned out to be singularly unprepared to seize the opportunity of a generation. Now we have Obamacare, worse than nothing.

    FWIW, I read Mead because he is intelligent and I like history not because I necessarily agree with his point of view.  I also like Daniel Larison at The American Conservative Magazine, some of the younger libertarians who are just brilliant but still enamoured by libertarianism because they are so young.  I have found myself agreeing with Pat Buchanan and Noam Chomsky on occasion.  How's that for being liberal?

    Certainly that was not what I meant, Emma.  We've had bucketsfull of conversations over the meanings of the terms here; I threw out a few many had agreed upon over the past few months, and tried to describe some positions along a continuum of 'mildly care' or 'extrememly care', coupled with my own needs and beliefs.  This was to be a conversation, as in: tell me what you think.  I named some jumping off points, offered Chris's points of view toward the same end.

    About your take that it was 'ill-conceived financial regulations that led to the crash of '08': I'd counter that it was the dismantling of financial regs under Clinton and avidly anti-regulatory Republicans that led to increased fraud that caused the housing market bubble, coupled with the lack of enforcements of any remaining regulations that were on the books, both in the banks and commodities markets. 

    It gets a bit stickier when we might try to say which Dems and Liberals supported Dodd-Frank, and which powerful regulatory amendments were offered, but shot down by the White House, Geithner, and Congresspeople who were receiving large contributions from Banking Lobbyists.  From my vantage point, there was a pretty concerted effort to disregard the smartest economists in the country who strongly advocated for healthy regulation and enforcement, and the personnel to investigate fruad and prosecute it.


    I think you provided an excellent framework for discussion, and the body of what you wrote was rich with ideas. I think you're right that we (people who consider themselves liberal/progressive) don't always agree even on the goals, let alone the methods. I'm amazed sometimes at how I've seen those words defined here - amazed, because clearly my definition is right!

    On some issues, I feel the "progressive" position is clear: no to war, yes to universal health care, yes to a living wage, yes to protecting the environment.

    On other issues, I feel it's less clear. For example, "free trade". It seems that most liberals here (and I could be wrong) are against it because of how it harms national labor interests. There are also reasonable environmental arguments against it. That said, one could also argue about the removal of artificial national barriers as being a good thing. I don't want to derail your primary point with a discussion of the pluses and minuses of free trade, though.

    That said, as you point out, even on those "clear" issues, there's always room for gray areas. Were we right to fight the Nazis in WWII, for example? I mean, if you're against all war, all the time, the answer would be no, right? I consider myself a pretty hard-core pacifist, so this question weighs particularly heavy on me.

    Anyways, you raise some good questions. I wish I had some good answers.

    The Unions and many progressives see a big difference between Free and Fair policies; I confess I supported NAFTA as an engine for increased cooperation, and in a better world, trade would be beneficial to even cultural understanding and sharing. The dearth of environmental and toxic chemical uses has been disastrous, as in 'we dump our DDT to Mexico, they use it, then we import their produce'.  Stupefying logic.  Anyway, a discussion for another day. 

    I had meant especially 'opposition to these wars'; I must not have been clear.  But so often on the boards I hear folks maintain that they are against them, but excuse Obma's extensions of them based on some thinking that holds no weight to me.  The metrics again: a heavy majority of Americans oppose the wars, yet some 6% of people based their votes on it (not that there was much of an alternative, in any event.)  Almost no one cares enough to even read.  It's one of my main blogging topics, that and Empire and how its costs always have led to downfalls.  Hmmm.  So when people here don't see it as a problem for middle class economic pain, I am bumfuzzled. 

    World War II is ineresting; was it this Hedges video or another talking about the war as having different causes thanconventional wisdom speaks to, but leaving out: The Japanese Bombed Us!  LOL, pretty big thing to leave out!  Anyway, the Nial Ferguson The World at War series gave some counterfactuals some play, and Ferguson traced a lot of the causes of the bloody 20th century to decaying empires' faltering economics and ethnic cleansing as major causes (as well as psychotic dictators.)  But yes, grey areas abound.  My thing was prompted by the patchwork quilt of opinions on what things are worth fighting for, which rolling over for, but hearing we're all desirous of the same things. 

    I had a bit of a discussion over torture here, and was stupefied to hear some defense of it in those certain situations. WTF?  I think it's undeniable that Dems we would push back harder if many of Obama's policies and actions were performed by a Republican, yet there's so much silence from 'the Left' on too many major issues.  And this blog was another attempt to figure out who the hell we really are, and what we believe strongly, and what we just loosely believe. 

    Anyway: sorry for the yammering, but the degree to which too many of accepted Obama's disastrous tax cut bill ('He couldn't help it') and now this about social security and other 'sacrifices' the middle and under classes will bear just has me a bit crazy.  And scared.  thanks for your good comments, you unverified Atheist, you!

    WWII is very interesting. There are some interesting similarities (as well as many drastic differences, of course) with the Iraq War. From what I've gleaned (and I'm no historian), FDR used Pearl Harbor to justify entering the war in a manner similar to (but yet different from) how Bush used 9/11 to justify invading Iraq. In both cases, there were already plans in place. In this analogy, Afghanistan is Japan. Now, please don't get me wrong. I am against the War in Afghanistan. I want us out now. I'd vote for Obama again, but it's only because I prefer a kick to the shin to one in the gonads (if you'll pardon yet another analogy).

    Yep, there are those who say FDR knew the planes were on the way, and didn't warn the base; hideous thought, isn't it?  I guess as far as voting for Obama, we'll see, but as he kicks more of our (gender non-specific) huevos, like others, I can envision scenarios where he may not even be running by a general election. 

    I think that every time we don’t squawk about the endless American Empire-building we’re expanding, not just maintaining now, we hasten the death of the middle class, and further destroy the under-class.

    This is not an easy argument to make since evidence runs to the contrary.

    The greatest expansion of the middle class in the U.S. happened Post WWII during the Cold War, when defense spending and empire building (Marshall plan, military bases and things like Peace Corps and enabling defense of other countries with weapons and spies and diplomats and propaganda.) Yes, the GI Bill helped a great deal, but after they finsihed college, there had to be white collar jobs created to hand out to all of those heads of young families who were going to buy the houses and cars and applilances built in union factories.

    We still have come nowhere near the defense spending in the 50's, no matter how you figure it. Prior to that, in WWII, we took a ton of young men out of the job market and had a gignormous amount of GDP as military/defense.

    Suffice it to say, there is still no proof that the FDR way is the way to permanently have low unemployment and a healthy middle class. It may well be that it could have, but you have no proof. And you do have to argue against the only example we have, the post WWII boom corresponding with high defense spending and a growing empire, the whole becoming a world power thing.

    P.S. Going further back for examples of rising middle class, the Industrial Revolution, it's an understatement to say it's another huge can of worms, even less easy to argue about. Perhaps the easiest way to point that out is to say socialists saw the middle class, the "bourgeoisie," as in league with enemy. The idea of a middle class, as we define it at least, is inextricably intertwined.with both capitalism and expanding trade. A "chicken in every pot for every working man" is not about a growing middle class. Rather, becoming middle class is the ability to hire a laundress instead of doing the laundry yourself , or alternately, inventing washing machines and then having many people become able to afford them (and not many people can afford them if the labor to create them is very expensive.)

    Empire has more costs than just the defense budget, Howard  I think one of the huge differences between now and post WW II is that so many people were employed, factories made money and we were all paying taxes at much higher rates, and investing in the country: an Interstate Highway system, airports, water projects, schools, colleges, subway systems, etc.  Now much of that is going to seed, and we don't invest, and the way the tax structure has been re-structured, the wealthy and businesses pay less and less.

    You must have looked into the percentage of GDP over the time frame; I haven't, or at least I can't remember any numbers.  But in the many articles I've read on the US overextension of bases--literally over a thousand by now, massive Embassy-building (which is likely not included in the military budget per se, I can't begin to imagine believing that it's not breaking us financially.  Even just the interest on borrowing a billion dollars a month for Afghanistan is not chump change.

    But it is good to bring up arguments to the contrary, and see what pops.  Thanks.


    Factories during the late 40s thought the early 70s were making money because most had huge Cold War defense contracts and there was little competition from overseas.

    AA's comment was brilliant. I have to admit that I wondered about linking American empire building with the death of the middle class. While I agree with your premise, it seems to me that it makes more sense to tie domestic reliance on unfettered free market principles to the demise of the middle class. If we can correctly identify the misguided policies, we have a better chance of fixing them, imho.

    Most of what I've read about Empire and being on a permanent war footing insists that it's middle-class taxpayers footing the bills, and that more money being borrowed, more being printed over the decades, and the dearth of investment in our country's technology and crucial infrastructure is contributing to wage stagnation since 1773.  C makes a good argument about the rise of industrialism in emerging economies playing a part, too. 

    The dismantling of financial regulations and ignoring the monopolization of industries is more current, I think. 

    I found this interview with Hedges to be very disappointing.  Apparently he is an afficianado of Chomskyan "anarchism" or "libertarian socialism" - a deeply confused and immature form of political thought whose destructive popularity on the left over the past four decades is partly responsible for two generations of progressive weakness, failure and lost ground.

    The global labor movement of the 19th and 20th centuries was not about "individualism".  It was about social solidarity and social justice.  The success of the democratic socialist and social democratic movements of Europe, along with the New Deal in the United States did not happen because people exalted individualism and individual freedom above all other values.  These movements prioritized social values and a commitment to the common good.

    It is impossible to achieve enduring social change, or to build a more just, more equal and more progressively prosperous society if one insists on permanent "suspicion of all forms of power" and "holding structures of power" at arms length.  The aim of progressive renewal of our society is to replace the hierarchical structure of power dominated by unequally distributed wealth and unaccountable corporate command by a more democratic and egalitarian power structure.  Democratic and egalitarian aspirations are just as much need of institutionalized power structures to achieve their vision of a more equal and just society as are any other political outlooks.

    If one's political ideals exalt powerlessness and embrace the fear and rejection of political power, then one has no just cause for complaint if those ideals are never put into actual social and political effect.

    Without energetic governance and the rule of law, the unregulated freedom of the most self-assertive individuals naturally channels itself into narcissistic and self-aggrandizing schemes of explotation, self-differentiation and domination.  It takes hard and vigilant work to build and maintain a society of democratic equals, and democrats and social justice advocates can't shy away from building political and governmental power, or from using that power to advance the common good, and protect their society from the assaults of predatory individualists.

    It is not possible to exalt in a coherent way both "the rule of law" and "rebellion".   Hedges outlook seems pathetically confused and fundamentally incoherent.

    Libertarianism is not as socialist, democratic or social democratic ideal.   "Libertarian socialism" is a contradition in terms and an expression of unresolved moral and emotional conflict.  And progressives cannot move forward in building a new and better if so many in our ranks are held back by people whose moral development is arrested in this kind of permanent adolescent "anarchism".  Anarchism is not a political philosophy of grown-ups who have achieved a mature emotional and intellectual reconciliation of dreams and reality.

    American society provides an amazing abundance of liberty by any historical standard.  We really don't need more liberation from each other.  We need more cooperation, solidarity, communalism, socially organized action and re-commitment to social and community obligations.

    Ask not how you can be more liberated from your fellow Americans.  Ask how you can build new cooperative and committed bonds with your fellow Americans and work with with them to build a better world.

    Nicely said.


    I agree that Hedge's mention of individualism sounded a sour note; my mate and I talked about it, and decided it was more Libertarian than not.  That he was so involved in the labor movements acting as a force ratcheting FDR to social welfare programs and unions didn't mesh, but I thought the argument that Liberalism needs strong radical voices on the Left was good to hear as we argue on the boards for some nebulous unity lest we sink the chances of Democrats being elected. 

    He also mocked at some length the tendency of Christians who began asking, "How does this or that policy affect me?" and for Democrats to pay lip service to helping working people and the poor, and not really gear their votes toward that end.  I think his anger at the hypocrisy of the Church leading him straight to the belly of the dark results of our policies in Central America caused a bitterness that does come through, and that may be where his contempt for power structures originated, though I confess after listening to the interview twice that didn't even register.   

    I didn't understand his contention that permanent war started after WW I, either. Which reminds me, Dan: did you ever see Niall Ferguson's series for PBS on his alternate views on the causes of most wars during the last century?  If so, I'd love to know what you thought.  I'm a bit gullible, so I bought much of his argument that the causes were all essentially cultural/ethnic at root.  I will say I think his economic theories are weak, though.  ;o)

    Do understand that I didn't think Hedges had a recipe for success; it was his grasp exactly of the solidarity of workers and social justice I liked, and the importance of a strong Leftist movement that is missing now, and that too many Dems have become 'courtiers' to the powerful elite, and that income resistribution is ratcheting always to the top tiers.


    "The global labor movement of the 19th and 20th centuries was not about "individualism".  It was about social solidarity and social justice.  The success of the democratic socialist and social democratic movements of Europe, along with the New Deal in the United States did not happen because people exalted individualism and individual freedom above all other values.  These movements prioritized social values and a commitment to the common good."

    Mr. Kervick, 

    You have put your finger on the disease that ails our political body more than anything--the long demise of the idea that there is a common good that is in all our interests to defend and to fight for. FDR understood that idea and worked tirelessly to see it take root in our national collective consciousness, but since the Reagan years such an idea has been under attack and is now reduced to an ethos that is only  invoked in times of crisis, as it was with Katrina, or institutionalized in well meaning NGOs. While their work is hugely important, they make an idea that is at the core of any just society--the common good--the project of a separate organization and not of the collective body of citizens.

    This dying idea must be quickened with new life so that the 21st century is not the century of the Plutocrats, Oligarchs, and Financiers; if the first decade is any indication, it stands to be their century, and poverty the destiny that is awaiting most of us, even those of us who have a "middle class" life.

    The Robber Barons are Reborn, but I don't see anyone remotely resembling FDR.

    Star--I have to dash but I'll comment on your piece later. Thought provoking for sure.

    This all depends on a person's world view. How I interpret things or the course of action I choose to take depends on the template I use for understanding the world. And that varies from person to person.  Example:  I am a vegetarian and a big supporter in the better treatment of animals. I am not a member of PETA however because I do not understand nor agree with many of their tactics. Instead of protesting the treatment of animals I engage in animal rescue. I stop on the freeways and have rescued many animals or I check on animals to see if they need assistance (unfortunately most of them are deceased from injury before you get to them). Because of these actions I have had others start to do this as well or they know they can call me to let me know if there is a situation that needs to be looked into.  I also volunteer at a couple of wildlife organizations to help protect wildlife, rescue them, and to educate the public. My actions are less in your face and more dealing with the practical day to day issues. So who has the better way of dealing with this?  People who do as I do or PETA? Neither. We both play a role that fits our world view and how we feel we can contribute to this world and make it a better place. 

    PETA does a better job of keeping the issue of animal rights in the whole publics eyes. My MO is a more moderate stance. Not moderate in label so much as in world view. I tend to look at things from a more practical and less extreme point of view. That doesn't make my pov better than someone who engages in more extreme language and actions but my pov is just as valuable. I can effect change in this more subtle manner but I would fail miserably if I acted in a more extreme manner. It is not who I am.

    I realize that once politics enters into the equation our philosophical differences start to seem insurmountable. But that would be a shame if we didn't realize that the variety of thoughts and views here actually give the big picture far better than one person's world view. What I described above was about me and how I see and do things but I understand that while this is right for me others have a different path. Looking forward to continuing to try to understand other's views (even if they sometimes frustrate me...a lot).

    Moral of this story: I don't see Liberal progressive values successfully being reduced into a simple narrative.

    I think you're saying that you're living your values, and leaving the politcs of animal rights to others who are more extreme.  I can see that; it's also hard to know if PETA's actions bring their desired results (wearing fur, for instance), or trying to stop medical experiments on rats and dogs.  Sticky topics that are morality vs. practicality.

    But I was trying to look at the strength of our political beliefs more: what do we stand for, and how far do we push for what we endorse vs. what we settle for in the name of vague practicalities that frame the discussions here on the boards.

    I think the morality and practicality intersect to a large extent but yeah, I am living my values and doing so by playing to my strengths instead of wasting time being ineffective in a role I don't fit.

    But regarding your second paragraph that was kind of what I was trying to address as the overall theme. I think we may on principle stand for the same things but there is going to be disagreements on what equates to living by those principles. As an example your comment about war. I disagree that by going with Obama's plan that this is supporting war. I disagreed with up going to war due to lack of a cogent argument but I also understand that leaving is a complex issue. I am not expecting a quick withdraw. If I had a magic wand and could undue what was done I would but I don't expect such a complex issue to be resolved quickly. I truly don't see the value in a "quick" withdraw. Although I will listen respectfully to anyone who wants to make that argument. I have been known to change my mind, maybe one or two times in my life. :)

    I agree that there is little power at times in this fragmentation of beliefs but I don't want to be like most conservatives who are lock step with one another. Sure there is power in that "of one mind" thinking but at what cost. Reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time honestly.

    I wish I could give a more comforting and helpful answer to this but this is all I have to offer.

    And I appreciate your answers, Emerson.

    Fine post stars.

    Me, I've entered a "tragic" mode as far as the USA is concerned. Tragic in the sense that the hero, a great individual, is condemned to a bad ending because of a mistake or a character defect and that this contrast between greatness and inevitable disaster is what makes for the grandeur of tragedy.

    America's great defect, character flaw and mistake is slavery and its after effects. The wounding itself and trying to heal this wound is the root of America's tragedy. In the 30s and 40s FDR formed a progressive coalition, which still dominated American politics even when the Republicans took the White House in 1952. In great part it was built around the poor white people of the "Solid South", at that time many if not most African-Americans, at least those relatively few in the north, who were allowed to vote, despite their poverty, still voted for the party of Abraham Lincoln, the one that had freed them from slavery. During the ideological struggle with the Soviet Union, racial discrimination and segregation were impossible to sustain and the social engineering of the Civil Rights Movement became inevitable.

    At that point, we discovered that the poor white people of America, and not only the south, hated black people even more than they loved their own children or themselves and would vote to deprive themselves of all that they needed desperately: health, education, etc, just to keep African-Americans from also enjoying these benefits. Nixon and Reagan built the "Republican or Conservative Renaissance" on this hatred and finally broke the progressive coalition that FDR had built.

    This is the tragedy we are living at the present and in the foreseeable future, and explains how the left in America today seems a strictly "parlor pink" operation, inhabited by well-educated people with little need of a welfare state, while those who need a welfare state desperately reject it.

    Tragic conclusion: The most noble act of American progressives condemned the progressive movement to death. If that isn't tragedy I don't know what is.

    I think that every time we settle for far less than what we know is right, and what will help the country get back on its feet financially for most Americans and American workers, we’re aiding and abetting the status quo. 

    The status quo is not only a structure that deprives financial security for citizens but is, in some way, the provider of that benefit. To stand completely outside of that structure is a form of resistance that rejects capitalism itself as a form of exchange. All other forms of resistance that accept this form of exchange are based on ideas of how to correct for the imbalances of power that the accumulation of capital creates without stopping the accumulation. The great number of different opinions on this matter make the "we" in your expression of "we know what is right" a difficult being to perceive.

    Roughly speaking, the differences of opinion can be divided into those who see a way to structure the marketplace to stay competitive as a natural development of growth and those who see the development of massive corporations requiring something more. Of the latter, JK Galbraith proposed the idea of countervailing force:

    new restraints on private power did appear to replace competition. The same process of concentration that impaired or destroyed competition nurtured them. But they appear not on the same side of the market but on the opposite side, not with competitors but with customers or suppliers.., private economic power is held in check by the countervailing power of those who are subject to it.

    While Galbraith definitely considered government in terms of law and policy to be a component of this countervailing force, it was the rise of organized labor and collective bargaining that exempified how this resistance took place in the actual marketplace. If he is right about this, it is "our" power as consumers and the consumed that is the true David to the corporate Goliath.

    The 'we' was referring to those of us here who believe that an unfettered marketplace is working poorly, and that there need to be fair ways to redistribute wealth, by tax code overhaul, by strengthening unions, funding more employees in regulatory bodies, strengthening weak anti-trust laws, prosecuting fraud in the mortgage market, making HAMP work for mortgagees facing foreclosure; you know the list. 

    For my money, it's time to realize that there is no invisible hand, there must be 'countervaling forces' reenacted in the financial industy, and that we need to pressure our President and elected officials to help in the effort.  'Move your money' and similar activism has only helped so much.

    What more do you envision, Moat?

    You've always been so great, Moat, when I asked you to translate for me at the Cafe; I admit, I was just on the edge of asking again, but I think I got it.  ;o)

    The matter of "an invisible hand" is part of the distinction I would like to make. The general notion that the good of society at large be can be advanced through the self interest of rational actors is an essential component of the argument that we should reform/monitor markets so that they are competitive and not riddled through with criminal activity. This observation is a far cry from agreeing with a Hayek (for instance) that interventions on the part of the State are totalitarian events by definition. Nor is working for a larger region of competition within markets the same as saying that attaining it is a sufficient condition for all social goods and benefits.

    The latter idea makes up the socialism of Ronald Reagan where the growth of the entreprenurial sphere is imagined to replace the state's methods of redistribution so all may enjoy the American "economic lifestyle". The right to a certain kind of economic life is implied in this expression that is the flip side of what AA was referring to about how "a chicken in every pot" is not the same as guaranteeing a thriving middle class.

    In any case, I think it is important to see the difference between efforts to remodel the markets and what can be done as a participant within them. Change on one side cannnot replace the work needed on the other.


    Robert Kuttner says Obama will love some of the Catfood Commission reccommendations in his SOTU speech:

    "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.

    The idea is to pre-empt an even more draconian set of budget cuts likely to be proposed by the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as a condition of extending the debt ceiling. This is expected to hit in April.

    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.

    How to put this politely? For a Democratic president, this approach is bad economics and worse politics."

    Back at the Café I took incredible shit from people for being a "premature Obama doubter". I got the feeling that he was all hat and no cattle from the get go and everything that has happened since then has bourne me out. I had him pegged as a sort of lightning rod to carry off and ground all the progressive energy that the Bush era had generated. The man to neuter the left. I'm still waiting for some of the people who gave me such a rough time to apologize.Innocent

    "I got the feeling that he was all hat and no cattle from the get go and everything that has happened since then has bourne me out."


    Good to know you don't let things like facts or real-life events invade your cocoon of prognosticative certainty.

    You have kept the faith? Tell me the wonders of Obama, for verily I thirst.

    Oh, and he built a swing set for the girls outside the Oval Office

    You learn something everyday.

    Seriously, if somebody sold you a Ferrari and delivered a Chevy... what would you call that? The audacity of hope? If you wait patiently enough the Chevy will become a Ferrari?

    I was willing to settle on a Volkswagen.  I still like to think I got a Subaru Outback, but am happy that most "volks" know we got a "wagen".


    Not that every volk wants to sit in it. 

    Oh, hell, what do I know, David?  I'm just a naive, clueless dumkiss.  Laughing


    No you are not, you are a beautiful soul.

    I had no faith to lose to begin with.  Prior to his election, I consistently maintained that the only thing that could prevent him from a transformational president was the bloc of conservative Democrats in the Senate.  And I still view them, in cohort with an utterly despicable Republican caucus, as the primary obstacle to much better legislation.  Finally, the financial crisis has not worked to his favor, and no, I don't think he could have successfully done any of the things argued for on the left without either precipitating an even worse downturn, or having every proposed solution thwarted by the Senate. 

    That said, he has gotten several pieces of significant legislation passed, and our foreign  policy has been pretty good.  So, his tenure to date has been better than the worst case scenario I envisioned prior to the election, if not as good as the best.  If anything, his failures have highlighted how intractable the establishment's resistance to anything resembling progressive change has become.  Hopefully, he can capitalize on that resistance in his second term.

    But you're bald assertion that he is an irredeemable failure has no basis in reality.  You apparently think 2008 was 1932 and we were electing another FDR.  Neither of those things are remotely true.  He's done as well as any Democrat could have done given the circumstances he's faced to date.   

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