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uncle ebeneezer
09-15-2008, 04:29 PM
I thought this was pretty great:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2008/sep/15/johnmccain.sarahpalin?gusrc=rss&feed=commentisfree

Ocean
09-15-2008, 04:40 PM
I thought this was pretty great:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2008/sep/15/johnmccain.sarahpalin?gusrc=rss&feed=commentisfree

Great link!

More international embarrassment for this country...

bjkeefe
09-15-2008, 08:04 PM
I thought this was pretty great:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2008/sep/15/johnmccain.sarahpalin?gusrc=rss&feed=commentisfree

Tomasky says he got that as an email. I think the original is due to John Ridley: The Conservative Palinguage Guide Vols. 1 and 2 (http://www.thatminoritything.com/?p=53193).

Just for the record.

uncle ebeneezer
09-15-2008, 08:21 PM
This was pretty great too:

http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/socialstudies.php

bjkeefe
09-15-2008, 08:28 PM
This was pretty great too:

http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/socialstudies.php

LOL!

Man, if this doesn't sum up the McCain campaign's disdain for reality, I don't know what does:

You have more, um, youthiness. What is 72? That's just a numeral. Same two digits as 27.

cragger
09-16-2008, 11:21 PM
Sure is fun to read about Palin's lack of qualifications and pretend that it matters isn't it? Or trash Mr. Straight Talk for his sleazy, dishonest and cynical campaign. And hope that with the economy, national finances, and constitutional democracy in tatters, the dollar in the toilet, the prospect of a nation crippled by unending and expensive wars while unwilling to address its real problems, as well as the likelihood of a generation or more of extremist and partisan control of the Supreme Court that Obama and the Democrats will somehow manage to avoid again pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory. And that Santa will bring you a pony.

No offense meant. It's awfully tempting to imagine the prospect of a mediocre presidency in the context of the stream of often really terrible ones we have seen over the last 44 years or so and contemplate the progressive degeneration of what was once the American ideal. And to pretend that gosh, this time people will finally see through the sizzle being sold and recognize the maggoty steak underneath. Hey maybe, just maybe, they will. We are looking back at 8 years of pretty unmitigated disaster. Obama might somehow squeak out a win. The odds are probably about two to three to one against it.

As noted in the latest Loury/Mcwhorter diavlog, presidential elections don't turn on issues. Modern democracy in the USA is not a marketplace of ideas. Elections swing on pushing people's buttons. On the manipulation of impulses that are often as outmoded and counterproductive in the current world as the fight-or-flight response is when triggered by a job stress. The Haidt article referenced in the "Why Republicans win" thread may not be 100% complete and correct, but it's a pretty good start at an explanation about what is enough to win 7 out of 10 elections and probably pick up the eighth win as well. Just why the hell do you think that the majority of the US votes repeatedly for governments that are against their rational best interests in favor of themes and peripheral issues? "Predictably Irrational" diavlog anyone? The one on primate behavior? On emotional responses and ethics? (I know many have knowledge beyond mine in some of these areas but restricting references to BHTV, its hard not to say "hey, connect the friggin' dots").

So yeah, as unenthusiastic as I might be about the idea of an Obama presidency, or indeed most anyone else's, it is nice to see some web links showing that there are folks out there who see through the bullshit and recognize how dishonest and awful McCain/Palin are. I understand celebrating that. But the whole thing strongly recalls the last folks dancing wildly and pretending that the Masque of the Red Death has not gotten into the castle.

I'm not blaming you. There is something about contemplating what this country was founded on, where we have come to, and where we are most likely going that is just so damn pitiful sad.

bjkeefe
09-17-2008, 01:39 AM
cragger:

Not sure what your point is. I share your distaste for the uninformed electorate. I think anyone who cares about issues and policy prescriptions long ago made up his or her mind. Now we're down to looking for right buttons to push for those who will vote based on that.

So what's so wrong with hammering on the idea that McCain is running a campaign of lies? And what's wrong with adding a little humor for seasoning?

cragger
09-19-2008, 08:23 PM
Geez, a point? Do you want it to get around that folks need to have a point in order to post? Might that kill the whole chat room? I can't really say I had one beyond venting after finishing the leftover Vin from the Coq Au but I'll try briefly.

I guess if so, it is that I am coming to be of the opinion that, considering society as a whole and thinking about the body politic here in the USA due to the times, we have passed the point at which our technological sophistication and social structures have outstripped our ability to control them in crucial ways due to the lagging state of our psychological/social evolution. While there are surely people that would question the exact categories Haidt lists in his article as referenced above, I think that they are generally valid and that in terms of politics the issues of ingroup identification and submisison to authority are vital to understanding the general failures of political systems to work well in promoting the general welfare of the people they rule. I submit that in many ways, this failure has been true for some time.

Consider Haidt's two general classes of thinkers, which he discussed in ethical and moral terms. It isn't hard to see that a tribal group who considered collective submission to the strongest authority figure around a positive value would have an advantage in controlling access to the local food and water supplies over a group that practiced what Haidt described as "Millsian" ethics and had group organization based more strictly on how they treated each other rather than on strengthening the group, and who therefore cooperated less in the competition, or with less aggression since that tends to be a factor in the alpha leader profile. Brought forward into recent centuries at the least, I think that this propensity to identify as ingroups and submit to authorities has been as outmoded and counterproductive to the welfare of people in general as the fight or flight response is in the face of many modern stresses. In some sense, we are our own worst enemies.

I think this also explains the different reactions people have to political/moral things like Youtube videos of police abusing captives. "Millsians" tend to think that whatever might or might not have happened earlier, once someone has been captured the treatment is unjustifiable. That guilt must be established legally, and any just punishment then legally meeted out. Many people however will insist that the treatment must be justified, because the police are doing it although they may not put it in those terms. The police are authorities of their ingroup. They are almost automatically correct. People tend to defend their worldviews, it is threatening to them not to.

I think that what makes things far worse than our own faltering and fumbling attempts to govern ourselves would otherwise lead to is that these tendencies and characteristics are subject to easy manipulation. Hence the obvious and continual fearmongering - the repeated "my main job is to keep you safe" rhetoric (with the obvious concommitant "you wouldn't be safe without me"), the constant litany that the Soviets will get you, the Red Menace, the Yellow Peril, the Islamists, the boogeymen. Its a message that for many people will dominate any concerns they have for other issues and get them to think first about lining up behind the authorities ruling their ingroup.

I also think the instruments of power now available due to technology as well as understanding of psychology make the problems related to these archaic tendencies and the sophisticated manipulation of them alarmingly worse. It's not like they weren't bad enough in the relatively recent historical past. I'd go on about the 100 million or so killed in wars over the last century, enabled by widespread submission to authority and ingroup issues but ... enough.

So these brief thoughts may not be a point, and probably not a very sharp one if at all. Triggered by the celebration earlier in this thread about some fading of the glow around a couple politicians and my failure to put on a happy hat and join in.

And there is nothing wrong with hammering away on the absurd dishonesty of the McCain/Palin - saviors of mankind and jus regular folks aside from being straight-talking reformers and general paragons of virtue - narrative. And nothing wrong with celebrating agreement elsewhere in the blogosphere or elsewhere. Or celebrating in general. Hell, if the masque is in the castle maybe you might just as well dance as mope around.

I'll go take some vitamin C now. Keep fighting the good fight.

bjkeefe
09-19-2008, 09:53 PM
Geez, a point? Do you want it to get around that folks need to have a point in order to post? Might that kill the whole chat room?

Heh. No, I really meant it sounded like you had something to say, but I wasn't able to get it. Thanks for elaborating.

So these brief thoughts may not be a point, and probably not a very sharp one if at all. Triggered by the celebration earlier in this thread about some fading of the glow around a couple politicians and my failure to put on a happy hat and join in.

No, I think I get your point now. You are saying, loosely, that we're at the point where our society has become too complex to manage, or govern, or campaign to govern, in a sensible or perhaps even adequate way. You think it's trivial to care about the current choice for next president, especially given what's being discussed and what affects the mood of the electorate.

If I have that right, then all I can say is I agree, mostly. It's just that I don't see any way to fix the larger problems that you list, at least not right away, and so in the meantime, I am concentrating on something that's within reach. I'd also that even if it may be in some senses dwarfed by other concerns, this election seems to like a non-trivial branch point for our country. If we have a long road yet to travel, I'd at least like to start heading in the right direction.

Ocean
09-19-2008, 09:58 PM
Cragger,

You have so many intelligent arguments in your post, that I won't even try to address them in this reply. But I want to address what comes across as your own despondent reaction to it. I'm not saying it wouldn't be justified to feel cynical, but rather that it's simply not helpful.

You may want to submerge yourself in this gloomy aspect of reality, but don't forget to come out. Learn what you need to learn and come out and breathe. If you stay there you are not effective in action. All the potential of your reasoning and understanding gets lost. My advice is: come out and think how we can start getting out of the mess we are in. What is the direction to follow?
What can you do as an individual to contribute to the solution?

When you start looking at the solutions rather than the obstacles, the path start to look clear and the surroundings brighten up.

And just for the sake of my curiosity, coq au vin? Who's cooking? :)

cragger
09-22-2008, 11:42 PM
Ocean and BJ, If I might reply to both of you in thread order in one post -

BJ - No I don't at all think it is trivial to care about the choice of the next president. Given the choice between what is likely to be poor overall governance and likely terrible governance, the lesser of evils choice is certainly preferable. And before going overboard on the potential upside of an Obama presidency I remind you that there have been exactly two Democratic presidents in the last 40 years. Did either Carter or Clinton represent a branch point that changed the direction of the country?

So sure, I hope Obama wins and intend to vote for him. All I rationally expect however is that the downward slope of various trend lines will be less if he wins. In the best imaginable case for his intent, he would or will still be in a position of swimming against quite a tide.

Since you seem to be an internet political junkie, you may have already seen the new Burton article on rationality and politics:

http://www.salon.com/env/mind_reader/2008/09/22/voter_choice/index.html

A better description of the study results and discussion given therein may be the widespread lack of rationality and how it applies to politics.

It seems to me that the intersection of psychology and politics indicates that democracy as we practice it in the USA just doesn't work. It is a system design that does not lead to desirable results, depending of course on how you define desirable. I am defining it in terms of "promotes the general welfare, and secures the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." It was a nice idea but we have yet to figure out how to make it work with human psychology, and the problems have been magnified a hundredfold by the party system, the current manipulations of that psychology, and the nonstop inducements to simply identify with a particular ingroup/party and have done with it.

So boo McCain and rah, rah, rah, go Obama. I hope he wins, but I think the larger and more interesting and critical problem is given the human condition that constitutes the players we have to work with, how should the systems that define the game be changed to achieve better results for at least more and ideally all players in a relatively stable or peacefully evolving environment, and how can we achieve those changes in the face of the implacable resistance and far greater leverage of the players who have shaped the game so that they are now winning. After all, once someone wins the game is over and the losers, if they have enough power, have little choice but to throw the board over and try to start anew. History says that process hasn't generally been pleasant.


Ocean - No worries, any despondency is limited to the political realm. I am fortunate to be in a postion to insulate myself from much of the march of folly, except of course my considerable own. It is often more rewarding to work to make one's own little corner of the world better in small ways than to struggle with the big picture. I don't post about that. Posts here tend to be restricted to that larger picture, in the knowledge that ultimately, those little corners have tended to get flooded by the larger tides of human affairs, however unwillingly.

My cooking by the way. Goes to show that at least some of us are at least somewhat trainable. So there you go, hope springs eternal!

Ocean
09-23-2008, 12:08 AM
Ocean - No worries, any despondency is limited to the political realm. I am fortunate to be in a position to insulate myself from much of the march of folly, except of course my considerable own. It is often more rewarding to work to make one's own little corner of the world better in small ways than to struggle with the big picture. I don't post about that. Posts here tend to be restricted to that larger picture, in the knowledge that ultimately, those little corners have tended to get flooded by the larger tides of human affairs, however unwillingly.

Yes, I'm glad to hear this is what you do. Sometimes the "big picture" is too big, too dark and too overwhelming. So the best is, to look around you, and see what it is that you can do, in your "little" corner. After all the big picture is made of many little corners. One has to start somewhere.

My cooking by the way. Goes to show that at least some of us are at least somewhat trainable. So there you go, hope springs eternal!

It's the simple things of life that make so much of a difference. When you take the simple and develop it into Art, even better. And, yes, Hope Eternal, what else? :)

Ocean
09-23-2008, 07:33 AM
I thought this was pretty great:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2008/sep/15/johnmccain.sarahpalin?gusrc=rss&feed=commentisfree

Thanks!

Just want to get the spam out of my screen...

bjkeefe
09-23-2008, 02:51 PM
BJ - No I don't at all think it is trivial to care about the choice of the next president. Given the choice between what is likely to be poor overall governance and likely terrible governance, the lesser of evils choice is certainly preferable.

Glad to hear that, at least. Another way of saying this is that things could always be worse, and in the case of the U.S., a lot worse.

And before going overboard on the potential upside of an Obama presidency I remind you that there have been exactly two Democratic presidents in the last 40 years. Did either Carter or Clinton represent a branch point that changed the direction of the country?

When I say branch point, I don't mean a magic bullet, where suddenly all things are fixed or everything is permanently set back on the right course. So with that in mind, I answer your question: yes, at leas in some senses.

Carter was a pretty bad chief executive from most accounts, but I thought he had some good ideas. His views on energy, while not implemented to the degree that one might have liked during his time in office, woke a lot of people up. If nothing else, conservation became a mainstream idea, thanks in part to him. Relinquishing control of the Panama Canal showed movement away from the US trying to dominate Latin America, and his work on negotiations between Egypt and Israel showed another way that U.S. could be an effective force for peace in the world.

Clinton, I think, did a lot to push back against the "tax and spend" label that the right had pinned on the Democrats. Except for True Believers, the GOP is no longer view as THE party of fiscal responsibility. Some of that credit goes to Clinton. I think his push for national health care, though poorly conducted and a failure during his tenure, moved the ball down the field.

So sure, I hope Obama wins and intend to vote for him. All I rationally expect however is that the downward slope of various trend lines will be less if he wins. In the best imaginable case for his intent, he would or will still be in a position of swimming against quite a tide.

Agreed, although I'd say there's more room for hope than you would. Survey after survey shows that a majority of the American public agrees with the liberal position on any number of policy issues. I think it's possible that a tipping point could be attained on one or some of them. Granted, he starts in a deep hole, and granted, there will be considerable reactionary forces working against him from day one, but I don't think the best imaginable case is as limited as you do.

Since you seem to be an internet political junkie, you may have already seen the new Burton article on rationality and politics:

http://www.salon.com/env/mind_reader/2008/09/22/voter_choice/index.html

A better description of the study results and discussion given therein may be the widespread lack of rationality and how it applies to politics.

It seems to me that the intersection of psychology and politics indicates that democracy as we practice it in the USA just doesn't work. It is a system design that does not lead to desirable results, depending of course on how you define desirable. I am defining it in terms of "promotes the general welfare, and secures the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." It was a nice idea but we have yet to figure out how to make it work with human psychology, and the problems have been magnified a hundredfold by the party system, the current manipulations of that psychology, and the nonstop inducements to simply identify with a particular ingroup/party and have done with it.

I did see that article, yes, but thanks for the link. There's a lot to what it says, although I think it's too easy to come away from it with too bleak an outlook. Not everyone is as irrational as that article suggests, and to be a little Machiavellian, realize that those who are can be persuaded to get behind the right policy ideas, even if you have to use non-rational ways to do it.

I also disagree that "we have yet to make it work" when you talk how our form of democracy. Even by your definition, I'd say we've achieved lots of general welfare and blessings of liberty. Granted, imperfectly and incompletely, but it's still a pretty good country. I do think we've gone off the rails, more so, over the past quarter-century, but I don't think we're permanently off them. It's going to take a lot of work to get back on track, to be sure, but I think we're going to be helped by the growing realization of how bad things have gotten going down some of the paths that we're now on.

So boo McCain and rah, rah, rah, go Obama. I hope he wins, but I think the larger and more interesting and critical problem is given the human condition that constitutes the players we have to work with, how should the systems that define the game be changed to achieve better results for at least more and ideally all players in a relatively stable or peacefully evolving environment, and how can we achieve those changes in the face of the implacable resistance and far greater leverage of the players who have shaped the game so that they are now winning. After all, once someone wins the game is over and the losers, if they have enough power, have little choice but to throw the board over and try to start anew. History says that process hasn't generally been pleasant.

I don't think the game is over, for one thing. For another, as you noted in the part where you replied to Ocean ...

It is often more rewarding to work to make one's own little corner of the world better in small ways than to struggle with the big picture.

... that's exactly how things get righted.

cragger
09-23-2008, 07:56 PM
When I say branch point, I don't mean a magic bullet .

Meaning of branch understood. I want to see a change in the sign of the slope of a trend line, rather than a temporary change in the magnitude of the negative slope before I call something a branch. Perils of overeducation that includes considerable scientific background.

So for example, I agree that Carter had some good intentions and instincts, but find that he had only a brief and ephemerial efect on the affairs of the nation. Thus I would not over-credit Carter for the environmental movement that began before his term and continued through and beyond it.


to be a little Machiavellian, realize that those who are can be persuaded to get behind the right policy ideas, even if you have to use non-rational ways to do it. .

To some extent that may be true; one could conceivably manipulate people so as to achieve better, or at least less bad results. I recognize that and have advocated as much in some of my more incendiary posts in other threads. The data does lead one to the conclusion that the problematic traits of human psychology are both most easily manipulated for ill rather than good, and that even absent manipulation they are such as to be net negatives in the modern world. We are all in a big hole and I suggest we need to do something other than try just try to dig faster than the other team. You might well note that I have not offered a solution, just insisted that there is a problem that needs a better approach and noted that human behavior and psychology makes determining and implementing that approach problematic. I think we are still on that step.


I also disagree that "we have yet to make it work" when you talk how our form of democracy. Even by your definition, I'd say we've achieved lots of general welfare and blessings of liberty. Granted, imperfectly and incompletely, but it's still a pretty good country. I do think we've gone off the rails, more so, over the past quarter-century, but I don't think we're permanently off them. It's going to take a lot of work to get back on track, to be sure, but I think we're going to be helped by the growing realization of how bad things have gotten going down some of the paths that we're now on.

The issue I have with the overall point I understand you to be making here is that of conflating the amounts of "general welfare" and "blessings of liberty" we have enjoyed over US history with the results of the actions of our political systems as they have evolved (or mutated) during that period since the founding and the evolution of the current party system, the common pattern of ingroup identification with those parties, and the development of consistently applied manipulation of psychological tendencies in particular including ingroup status, authority roles, and I'll throw in the Haidt's purity issue here as well. After all, Ingroup + Purity = Racism with a side of Militarist Nationalism, etc.

Consider the situation our founding fathers left us with. In the context of human history, a pretty damn sweet setup. I project a bit onto Jefferson here regarding the 200-year cycle he supposedly believed in, concurring "it will take them a couple centuries to fuck this up". Or as Franklin supposedly said "I have given you a Republic if you can keep it".

The US is singularly blessed with amazingly abundant natural resources, protected throughout most of its history from other world powers by vast oceans, bounded by only two nations neither of which has ever represented a major threat. Plus we have had the inconceivable bonus benefit of having had an open frontier for expansion for most of our history. This has offered a path to further resources and a major limitation on the reach and power of both government and powerful interests over many citizens during much of our history as well as a source of wealth and freedom beyond their effective influence and control. A unique safety valve. Since the Civil War, we have been spared the destruction and most of the impact of the wars of the world including those for which we could claim ownership.

I'm sure you are aware of all this. Its just a long way of saying that I question how many of the benefits you note we have enjoyed during the post-war (WWII) period most of us are familiar with are due to the actions, changes, and direction of our political systems during that period vs. how many are in spite of them and instead represent the characteristics of our rather blessed natural situation and fading benefits of our founding national legacy.

bjkeefe
09-24-2008, 12:08 AM
Meaning of branch understood. I want to see a change in the sign of the slope of a trend line, rather than a temporary change in the magnitude of the negative slope before I call something a branch.

Agreed. That's what I meant, too.

So for example, I agree that Carter had some good intentions and instincts, but find that he had only a brief and ephemerial efect on the affairs of the nation. Thus I would not over-credit Carter for the environmental movement that began before his term and continued through and beyond it.

Mostly agreed. It's not an easy task we have for ourselves, as you touched on later when you said, "most easily manipulated for ill rather than good."

I'm sure you are aware of all this. Its just a long way of saying that I question how many of the benefits you note we have enjoyed during the post-war (WWII) period most of us are familiar with are due to the actions, changes, and direction of our political systems during that period vs. how many are in spite of them and instead represent the characteristics of our rather blessed natural situation and fading benefits of our founding national legacy.

During the post-WWII period, we have seen considerable growth of the middle class, significant gains in civil rights for blacks, women, gays, and other minority groups, lots of accomplishments in environmental and consumer protection, growth in college attendance, and the development of a space program, just to name a few off the top of my head. Granted, a lot of these have slowed or even backslid, especially during the current administration, and granted, the reactionary forces have improved their apparatus for continuing to undermine these gains. Still, I don't think it's impossible to get things going in the right direction again.

cragger
09-27-2008, 10:17 AM
BJ

The point of your final paragraph is well taken and I confess to some rhetorical overreach in extending my criticism of our political state from my initial 40-year period to encompass the entire post war period, and in implying that absolutely no significant progress has resulted from national political achievements during that period. Certainly the civil rights area was significant, and came during that post-war, pre-Nixon interval.

I think that one WWII-era governmental initiative was also significant in terms of the "rise of the middle class", that being the original GI Bill that made the the post-war period the first time that a considerable proportion of the population received the college educations that spurred a lot of growth. Another artifact of my temporal extension.

I don't think you can credit that rise entirely to government however as it seems clear that the other two major drivers of movement into the middle class were the union movement and the tapping of that store of real wealth represented by the age of Oil. I also suggest that although we like to think of the US as a basically middle class country it appears that we are on the downside of the curve for the middle class and that it has been propped up for some time by credit-based consumption far in excess of economic sustainability.

For a rather more coherent discussion of some aspects of our political and economic failures and how they relate there is an excellent interview of Col. and now Professor Bacevich at:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

He doesn't get into psychology per se, but does note that the failures begin with us as citizens, consumers, and voters.

bjkeefe
09-27-2008, 08:29 PM
... I confess to some rhetorical overreach in extending my criticism ...

Happy to have you acknowledge it, but no big deal. We all do this when debating.

I think that one WWII-era governmental initiative was also significant in terms of the "rise of the middle class", that being the original GI Bill that made the the post-war period the first time that a considerable proportion of the population received the college educations that spurred a lot of growth. Another artifact of my temporal extension.

Agreed.

I don't think you can credit that rise entirely to government however ...

Also agreed. I would say, however, that this could be said about almost any change. One aspect of government is that it provides the mechanism to implement goals that are desired by The People, for lack of a better term. At least in the case when the people have some hope of participating in government.

I also suggest that although we like to think of the US as a basically middle class country it appears that we are on the downside of the curve for the middle class and that it has been propped up for some time by credit-based consumption far in excess of economic sustainability.

That seems intuitively correct, but to the limited extent that I understand macroeconomics, some credit-driven behavior is a good thing. I guess you're not really saying it's not, but I throw that out there just for the record.

For a rather more coherent discussion of some aspects of our political and economic failures and how they relate there is an excellent interview of Col. and now Professor Bacevich at:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

He doesn't get into psychology per se, but does note that the failures begin with us as citizens, consumers, and voters.

Thanks for the recommendation. I've been aware of this episode, but I haven't summoned up the right frame of mind to watch it yet. I don't know how much more of a mental beat-down I can take on these topics, given the current state of things. It's in my iTunes queue, though, so I'll probably get to it eventually.

BTW, did you see the PM I sent you, with a recommendation of my own?

cragger
09-29-2008, 05:07 PM
Brendan,

Yes, I did watch that. I hadn't realized he is still around. Like you said, he was a little slow in getting going, spending the first 2/3 on history although I suppose that was useful in making one of his points, that getting actual information to the citizenry so that they have a chance of making informed decisions and performing meaningful oversight of the government is at risk.

It is interesting in that although he and Bacevich are looking at things from very different points on the ideological spectrum they have come to essentially the same conclusion regarding the effective form of of current government, Ellsberg calling it the imperial presidency and Bacevich referring to it as a serial monarchy. Both seem to conclude that the congress has become a body largely ineffective at anything beyond ensuring its own re-election. All a bit reminiscent of the Roman Senate under the later empire in terms of maintaining the form while no longer performing the function.

You would find the Bacevich/Moyers piece interesting. Moyers is usually a gem. I don't know who is coming up in major media that will replace the sort of intelligence and integrity that he, MacNeil, and Lehrer have brought. The interview is one overall look 30,000 feet at some general outlines of the situation and problem, but the tenor shouldn't harsh your mellow too much.

Dealing with the election is fine. At some point, we have to stop just trying to minimize some symptoms and address the underlying problems.

bjkeefe
09-30-2008, 03:37 PM
Brendan,

Yes, I did watch that. I hadn't realized he is still around. Like you said, he was a little slow in getting going, spending the first 2/3 on history although I suppose that was useful in making one of his points, that getting actual information to the citizenry so that they have a chance of making informed decisions and performing meaningful oversight of the government is at risk.

Glad/hope you liked it. I know what you mean about the historical part, but I do like when people begin a talk like that with a review of events. Even if I feel like I already know what's being described, everyone tells the story a little differently, and there is both pleasure and something useful in hearing that. Especially when the one telling the story was personally involved.

It is interesting in that although he and Bacevich are looking at things from very different points on the ideological spectrum they have come to essentially the same conclusion regarding the effective form of of current government, Ellsberg calling it the imperial presidency and Bacevich referring to it as a serial monarchy. Both seem to conclude that the congress has become a body largely ineffective at anything beyond ensuring its own re-election. All a bit reminiscent of the Roman Senate under the later empire in terms of maintaining the form while no longer performing the function.

A great history teacher who I had in high school and my father (an amateur historian) both warned of this and I've been conscious of the creep towards the imperial presidency ever since. I wonder if the pendulum will ever swing back. It did seem to, at least in some ways, after Nixon. I had faint hopes a while ago that Obama would come into office and if not give power back, at least be more receptive to working with Congress to more clearly delineate the authority of the executive branch. Now, though, with all the immediate crises, I'm afraid he'll be like any other executive and think that the best chance to solve problems will be to keep his office as unhindered as possible. Maybe when we get some breathing space, though.

I take some small comfort in how lame a duck Bush has become, after years of his party and half the other being nothing more than rubber stamps. I think, also, that the overreach by his Administration in so many ways woke a lot of people up -- not just bullying people into war, but the signing statements, the disregard for existing laws and treaties, the politicization of the Justice Department, the staffing of the bureaucracy based on loyalty and ideological purity rather than competence, etc.

You would find the Bacevich/Moyers piece interesting. Moyers is usually a gem. I don't know who is coming up in major media that will replace the sort of intelligence and integrity that he, MacNeil, and Lehrer have brought. The interview is one overall look 30,000 feet at some general outlines of the situation and problem, but the tenor shouldn't harsh your mellow too much.

Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

As for the new blood, Rachel Maddow seems one likely candidate. I haven't watched her show beyond a few Web clips, being TV-free, but I'm hearing a lot of positive buzz about her.

I don't know that there will ever be figures like the ones you listed again, in the sense of widespread respect, due to the fragmentation of the news media. Not only is it far easier for people to pick and choose (based on charisma, ideological slant, etc.), but it's also far easier for people to think that they're getting the news if they spend their time with the infotainment offerings.

Dealing with the election is fine. At some point, we have to stop just trying to minimize some symptoms and address the underlying problems.

Agreed. I just think that with Obama in office, things get easier in that regard. One more month.