Does anybody here care about Star Wars?
52 Movies: Week 2 - The Bird People in China

"Discussion is pointless and dialogue is dead."

Out for a walk Sunday evening, I was brooding about the state of politics and culture in the U.S., and my personal frustration at the complete closed-mindedness of many of the liberals I know. Sure, there are many, many on the right who are equally closed-minded. But for the most part I'm not trying to argue with them (although I have reason to think that my first and so far only "un-friending" on Facebook was a result of my mocking Donald Trump). And anyway those who are that way are mostly not educated people (or should I say "educated"?) who have a great deal invested in an image of themselves as being above all smart, reasonable, and tolerant, so I find their visceral reactions more forgiveable. What frustrates me most about many liberals is that they think of themselves as the intelligent, thoughtful, rational, open-minded side of this quarrel. And within some limits they are. But where conservatives are concerned their mental processes often revert to the same raw bigotry that they decry in racists. In a sad parallel, the most egregious example of this also has to do with race: the instantaneous reflexive labeling of any right-wing person or group as racist, regardless of or even in spite of the evidence (e.g. right-wing support for Ben Carson).

What had me thinking along these lines was an Internet "meme" which credits Obama with "saving the country" in spite of "unprecedented racism and hatred." Saving the country from what? It didn't say (not that there was space to do so--Internet memes have replaced bumper stickers for simple-minded sloganeering). A right-minded person wouldn't need to be told, and therefore anyone who asks to be told is not a right-minded person. Where is the evidence that opposition to Obama is primarily driven by racism? If you have to ask, you're probably incapable of understanding, and by virtue of raising the question have placed yourself under justifiable suspicion of being racist, or at minimum "racially insensitive." 

And I was thinking about how someone on the right--me, for instance--would have an almost equal-but-opposite reaction to the meme, considering the statement laughable, believing in fact that Obama's presidency has done enormous harm to the country, and moreover that the reading of the widespread opposition to him as racist is itself an instance of the harm. I don't believe he would ever have been elected if he had not been officially black; he benefited greatly from the desire of white people, and not only white liberals, to feel good about themselves by voting for a black man. And he actually started out with a certain amount of good will from people who didn't vote for him, because of the hope of racial reconciliation his election represented. 

Well, so much for that.

I ended up pondering, as I often do these days, the fact that the division between what we can loosely call the right and the left has reached a point where the two sides can't even talk to each other. (The role that the Internet has played in exacerbating the hostility is considerable, I think, but that's a topic for another day.)

So I sat down at my computer and looked in on Facebook, and one of the first things I saw was a link to this post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker from which the title of this post is taken. He's talking about moral disputes, not so much political ones, although the two are very much connected these days.

When such irrationality prevails it is impossible to have a discussion. There are no moorings. There is no foundation for a discussion. The only way one prevails in an argument where there is this atmosphere, is to shout louder than the other person, and finally to hit the other person. 

And a week or so I'd read a similar thought from Michael Gerson, speaking of politics, specifically of the president's rhetoric on gun control.

But it matters when the president of the United States decides that democratic persuasion is a fool’s game. It encourages the kind of will-to-power politics we see on the left and right. In this view, opponents are evil — entirely beyond the normal instruments of reason and good faith. So the only option is the collection and exercise of power.

When the main players in our politics give up on deliberative democracy, it feels like some Rubicon is being crossed. 

Indeed it does. I've thought for a long time that the country has reached a degree of division which is going to be very difficult or impossible to resolve, and I'm running across more and more people who who are of the same mind. It isn't only conservatives. I've seen similar comments on left-wing web sites, generally in a tone of rage. And I certainly don't see any sign on the left that any compromise or reconciliation is being considered, except in the sense that Obama generally means it, i.e., that the opposition should quit fighting.

For forty years or so we've talked about being in a culture war, but it's only a war because it involves more than culture: it involves law and governance and mutually exclusive demands of them. Two cultures might be able to coexist within a framework acceptable to both--and perhaps the American system should accommodate that, up to a point, a point where the two are operating on such different philosophical bases that they can't agree on the framework. And that's the point we've reached. It's more and more clear that whether or not that coexistence is possible in principle, it isn't going to be possible in practice. Some say that this war has already been won by the progressives, who are now enforcing their will on the losers. But that may not be so easy. The losers may not be the ruling class--they do not possess the dominant institutions--the government, the press, the academy, the entertainment industry. But there are an awful lot of them, and they're pretty angry. I wouldn't bet much on the proposition that the United States as we know it will exist a hundred years from now.

Speaking of anger: I think the idea of Donald Trump as president is preposterous, and will no doubt continue to think so even if it comes to pass. But to dismiss his support as "hate"--and of course, always, "racism"--is to fail to grasp what is really happening. Here's a good piece by William Voegeli at the Claremont Review on that topic:

Demagoguery flourishes when democracy falters. A disreputable, irresponsible figure like Donald Trump gets a hearing when the reputable, responsible people in charge of things turn out to be self-satisfied and self-deluded. The best way to fortify Trump’s presidential campaign is to insist his followers’ grievances are simply illegitimate, bigoted, and ignorant. The best way to defeat it is to argue that their justified demands for competent, serious governance deserve a statesman, not a showman.

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This morning Francesca shared an article of Facebook that I had had open on my browser all day yesterday trying to decide whether to share or not. The quote that really stood out to me is this:

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

One reason why I really wanted to share this is because I have friends on Facebook, people whom I *REALLY* like, who share horrible ad hominem posts and other things that would fit the description in the paragraph above. These are friends on both the right and left, and it makes me so sad.

AMDG

I saw that. It's excellent and I'm going to share it myself later.

About the guns, I heard a really interesting piece on NPR yesterday about how many blacks are absolutely against gun control because their guns have always been and are now important to them. It would be interesting if this is what sways popular opinion.

AMDG

I do believe that we have to continue to talk with people if they will listen to us and we can do it in a charitable way. You never know how the witness of your life, or a chance word might make a difference.

AMDG

IMHO something happened with Clinton being elected that infuriated the right. But he was a good statesman/politician and worked with both sides. Liberal friends of mine think he was way too moderate. Then the Lewinsky scandal occurred and everything became crazy.

The left was infuriated with Bush being elected, the voting recount, Supreme Court decision, etc. Then 9/11 happened and the country rallied around the President and it would have been un-American not to. He and his cabinet got us into dubious wars which were supported by many who have since decried (is that word correct?) their support.

Then Obama is elected and the right has been furious about this and unhappy with him from day one. I do think there is some racism involved here, and until Ben Carson is elected I'm not sure that example is apropos.

We shall see what happens in the next election cycle. The right does not seem to be able to win, but of course they may. Trump seems like PT Barnum, and Cruz is against his own party.

Where I agree with you completely, Mac, is that the system appears to be broken. I only go out and vote because I feel it is my civic duty, not because I think it makes any sort of difference. I have a terrible view of almost all politicians, on both sides, and think Congress is awful and doesn't want to do anything.

At least a President is only with us for a maximum of eight years. Congress is forever.

And gun control!? Wasn't the sainted Ronald Reagan for sensible gun control? I can't even talk about this subject. Let's just all arm ourselves and have shoot-outs whenever we sense trouble. Great.

One view from the left.

You've failed to touch on two aspects of this:

1. Poor institutional architecture. Our constitutional system empowers both obstructive veto groups (who have politically-mediated economic interests at stake) and the legal profession.

2. Sociopathy in the professions. Society needs its referees, and ours are all frauds, by and large. The behavior of the appellate judiciary is an example of this, the behavior of the news media is another, and the behavior of professional associations is a third.

Well, goodness, I had no intention of presenting an exhaustive list of everything wrong. But yeah, those are factors. I'd say the first probably has more to do with general dysfunction than with the specific question of division. The second pretty much goes without saying for me. Alas, the fraudulence is beginning to dominate not just the appellate judiciary but also the Supreme Court.

I agree, Stu, that something happened in the Clinton years. Definitely things became more polarized. But they had been trending that way for a long time. People seem to have forgotten (or if younger than a certain age never knew) just how frenzied the hatred of Reagan was on the left. It was very much the same as the right vs. Clinton, the left vs. W, the right vs. Obama.

The crucial thing that happened in the Clinton presidency was that he behaved abominably and committed perjury, and his party chose to circle the wagons around him rather than cut him loose. Nixon resigned in the end because the Republicans felt they could no longer defend him. In a similar situation, the Democrats said, in Clinton's words, "Well, we just have to win."

It is a *huge* deal to say that it doesn't matter that a president has broken the law. I think that's the real Rubicon we've crossed. It's phase one of a gradual decline into autocracy that I suspect is in progress.

Sure, there is some racism in the opposition to Obama. There is also a lot of what you might call positive racism in his support--I really don't think he would have gotten the Democratic nomination without it. But just writing off the opposition as racism, period, or even mostly, is a huge mistake. I didn't vote for him but nevertheless had lots of good will toward him when he was elected. He's pretty much destroyed that. I suspect there are a significant number of people who are like me in that respect.

As for gun control--I'm not especially either pro- or anti-gun, but what makes me grit my teeth on the subject is the misinformation on the anti-gun side. I've actually been collecting some facts which I'm going to put into a blog post sometime in the next few weeks.

I totally agree, Janet. I didn't mean to suggest that one should refuse dialog if or when it's possible. I just see it breaking down on a big scale.

Oh, I know, but I just wanted to explain my endless engagement in seemingly hopeless conversations. ;-)


AMDG

Obama's tenure has, per Gallup, met with approval from a mean of 88% of black respondents over a seven year period, v. 47% of the whole body of respondents. The thing is, blacks tend to be very partisan Democrats. Black approval of Bilge Clinton stood at 81% (while that of the general public was 55%). Now compare the odds:

(88/12) / (47/53) = 8x
(81/19) / (55/45) = 3.5x


So, it does suggest a support premium for BO among black voters, though the ordinary disposition black voters have toward Democratic pols gets you about 60% of the way there [ln(3.5) / ln(8)] = 0.6.

BO's mean approval rating among the general electorate is unremarkable for an inept president with a mess of policy failures. It's slightly higher than Jimmy Carter's (47% v. 45.5%), about the same as that of Gerald Ford, and a shade lower than Richard Nixon's (47% v. 49%). I'm not seeing much indication that race is an important driver of the general public's view of BO, though I suppose if you did an elaborate regression analysis, you might discover something.

I think subcultural factors do explain some of the alienation people feel from Obama, but that's been true right along and true within the Democratic Party as well as with regard to the public as a whole. Not since Spiro Agnew have we had such a politician near as given to baiting subcultural adversaries, and Obama does it with much less provocation. I think our friend Stu does not quite get the implications of the President's gun control blather.

Things are so crazy now, IMO, that it seems the only things left to do are to wait for divine intervention and have a good laugh at the idiotic things which are happening.

But I do think that from time to time we come across people who are open to hearing about something of the truth, so I still think it's worth engaging in discussions.

People seem to have forgotten (or if younger than a certain age never knew) just how frenzied the hatred of Reagan was on the left.

Robert Bork did identify 1981 as a watershed year regarding the behavior of Democrats in the Washington establishment. The thing is, Reagan was much more confrontational substantively than any presidential figure other than Barry Goldwater and more confrontational formally than any figure other than Spiro Agnew. What was interesting about the Bush II years is that madcap animosity was directed at a man who was basically a status quo politician in the domestic sphere, blindsided by foreign affairs. However, he did not proceed abroad without almost unanimous consent from the opposition (re Afghanistan) and the consent of at least 1/3 of the opposition (re Iraq). Richard Cheney, a Washington apparatchick of more than 20 years standing and a man with very little color for public consumption, was turned into Darth Vader. Cheney's status may be attributable to the Iraq War & c., but Bush was certainly regarded with stupefying hostility for north of three years before the Iraq War began to go south.

He was regarded with intense hostility from the beginning. I well remember the way liberals of my acquaintance talked about him all along, before the Iraq war.

Speaking of Bork, the operation named after him also marks a turning point. Here was Teddy Kennedy engaged in open libel, certainly no higher on the moral scale than anything Joseph McCarthy did, and unreproved by his party or most of the press (which was much more monolithic at the time).

"Not since Spiro Agnew have we had such a politician near as given to baiting subcultural adversaries, and Obama does it with much less provocation."

The "bitter clingers" remark should have done for Obama's reputation what Romney's 47% (or whatever the number was) remark did for his.

I remember hating Clinton and being struck by the thought "This is how liberals felt about Reagan."

I sometimes joke that half the Americans I know think that Obama is a Muslim and the other half have George Bush derangement syndrome :)

I agree with Stu that the conservatives went nutz about Clinton, including about his sexual antics. He was actually fairly much 'in the middle', a 'cross the aisle' kind of politician. I was saying to a conservative in Manhattan how odd and unconservative the obsession about Clinton's sexual antics was, and he answered, 'Welcome to American Republicanism'.

Of course, in the Academic World non-leftism is regarded as stupid. This is part of how I have survived there for 35 or something years. Most of the real bigots never dream what my political attitudes are.

Since I came to America, I have never actually grasped the American health care system. It seemed I had something called 'Meritain', and I had to produce a card in a hospital or a pharmacy, to show that. When I came to NYC, it turned out I don't have health care here, only back in the MidWest (where I am going at the end of January for some help with my headache). I have tried to get Americans to explain their health care system to me, but they usually start SCREAMING within a minute, and I don't grasp what it is that they are screaming about. As for an explanation of what Obamacare is, forgeddit it. I asked half a dozen people, and they were ranting within thirty seconds. I asked an Irishman who has lived in America 30 years, but who remembers who it is like to be an alien here (he turned tail after a year, in his first appointment here, then came back, got over the culture shock and stayed). He helped me about a lot of things so I thought he could help me with this. The first words of his answer were 'I am a Burkean conservative BUT....' At that point, I gave up. He was on leave from SMU, not a midWestern University Irishman.

Here's your two sentence summary of the health care question: The American health care system is a crazy mess. Obamacare makes it worse.

This is where I trot out the post I wrote on the topic in 2009. It still seems quite accurate.

Regarding Clinton, the Republicans were absolutely right on principle in impeaching him. It proved to be a huge strategic error, but they were in the right. It's a common misconception--I think deliberately fostered by Democrats, which of course included most of the press--that he was impeached for having an affair (if it merited that term) with an intern. That made him seem like a charming rogue instead of the perjurer that he actually was. He was impeached for perjury, not sex.

This is a betrayal of the foundational principle of our government, which is the rule of law. I think it is a damned big deal when the chief executive of the nation--i.e. the person charged above all with faithfully executing the laws of the nation--commits perjury and is allowed to remain in office, and moreover not even especially disgraced in the eyes of his party and many others.

If he had been a Republican things probably never would have gotten that far. He would probably have been chased out of office for being a sexual predator. Instead feminists lined up to defend him, one famously suggesting that they line up to do a lot more than that to thank him for keeping abortion legal.

The Democratic Party--I don't include all Democrats in this, of course, but the party as such--seems to have embraced a power-at-all-costs approach to politics.

I agree with Stu that the conservatives went nutz about Clinton, including about his sexual antics. He was actually fairly much 'in the middle', a 'cross the aisle' kind of politician. I was saying to a conservative in Manhattan how odd and unconservative the obsession about Clinton's sexual antics was, and he answered, 'Welcome to American Republicanism'.

Viewing Clinton in ideological terms misunderstands Clinton.

Strange as it may seem to people who fancy the French sophisticated, some of us think there's ample manpower available for public life such that we do not have to resort to putting lying Lounge Lizards in public office. I'd be pleased if your friend in Manhattan would self-deport.

The Democratic Party--I don't include all Democrats in this, of course, but the party as such--seems to have embraced a power-at-all-costs approach to politics.

I think rather they have what Z. Barbu called 'a perfectly sectarian approach to morality'. What's moral is what assists our cause.

Good examples of why dialogue is impossible and conversation is at an end.

I am still hoping that some day a conservative can explain to me what he/she thinks the Republicans actually do for the people. The Democrats always want to expand government and therefore expand social services to people.

Feeling that one side is more "moral" than the other, and has concern that rights be denied people (no gay marriage, no abortion), when to me these are individual and religious concerns, not governmental, just seems fascist. While at the same time they point fingers at the current president and talk about Nazi Germany.

Bill Clinton lied about an affair, and should have been impeached for that? I said then and I'll say now, put any person in that position (which of course he did himself), and they will lie. Especially if they are a public figure. This was not something which threatened the government in any way.

Dick Cheney and George Bush conceivably lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction leading to the deaths of countless people in the Middle East, and for some reason they are not in jail.

So Obamacare doesn't work - where is there a Republican plan? Where is there a Republican plan to curb gun violence and/or do something about mental health situations that lead to this violence? I must say that I like Paul Ryan so far because he does not want his party to just say no, but to have plans.

We'll see who wins next year and what sorts of steps they take. I do wish that both sides would work together to help make the USA a better place.

One "funny" on the subject of guns. I was having a conversation with a Southern Baptist Republican about guns recently, so was being very careful with my comments as I did not want to argue. Then he says, "It doesn't make me feel any safer to know that my neighbors are 'packing'!" Amen to that.

Then he says, "It doesn't make me feel any safer to know that my neighbors are 'packing'!" Amen to that.

And his subjective feelings about his neighbors' guns should interest me just why?

Your interest is not my concern when making a post, Art. Nothing you have posted has ever interested me, so no harm no foul.

I am still hoping that some day a conservative can explain to me what he/she thinks the Republicans actually do for the people.


What any public official does: strike a balance between contending constituencies while providing for public goods, providing for the management of common property resources, &c.. You have Republican reformers who most certainly are not status quo politicians, but let's not pretend you or any partisan Democrat would be pleased at what they've done to break rent seeking Bourbon elements (Scott Walker), reduce the contribution of welfare programs to social pathology (Tommy Thompson), or improve public order (Rudolph Giuliani).

The Democrats always want to expand government and therefore expand social services to people.


You mean mo' money for those holding MEd and MSW degrees is 'doing something' for 'the people'?


Feeling that one side is more "moral" than the other, and has concern that rights be denied people (no gay marriage, no abortion), when to me these are individual and religious concerns, not governmental, just seems fascist.


Since when does anyone have a right to dismember another human being or soak them in caustic brine? Since when does anyone have a right to public recognition of their user-defined affiliations? Since when is criminal law, contract law, and matrimonial law something other than 'governmental'?

Bill Clinton lied about an affair, and should have been impeached for that?

The portfolio of offenses Bill Clinton committed merit a term of 30-37 years under the federal sentencing guidelines, per Richard Posner. He was stripped of his law license. His wife was hiding billing records from her law firm. His chumette Susan McDougal cooled her heels in federal prison for 18 months rather than testify in front of a grand jury about their land deals. His wife's crony Webster Hubbell and his successor as governor Jim Guy Tucker were convicted of crimes. After his conviction and disbarment, Hubbell cleared over $800,000 in 'consulting fees' in just eight months. Did I mention that the widespread noncompliance with FBI background checks by the Clinton's staff (because, per the frustrated agent who has written about it, the Clinton staff was shot through with drug users and tax scofflaws), or the requisitioning of masses sensitive FBI files on the political opposition by the Clinton staff, or the bogus prosecution of the director of the White House Travel Office (which ruined him financially)? Do you think the pardons lallapalooza as the Clintons were leaving office (complete with finder fees for Hugh Rodham) might say something about the general moral climate therein?


I said then and I'll say now, put any person in that position (which of course he did himself), and they will lie. Especially if they are a public figure.

Um, no, Gary Hart did not lie when the pix appeared in the paper, much less was he suborning perjury or parsing the meaning of 'is' in front of a grand jury. Neither did Jesse Jackson. Neither did Mark Foley. Neither has Dennis Hastert.


Dick Cheney and George Bush conceivably lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction leading to the deaths of countless people in the Middle East, and for some reason they are not in jail.

You mean that if you can imagine it, it happened, evidence be damned?


So Obamacare doesn't work - where is there a Republican plan?

You mean he's not to be held responsible for damaging health care finance (and you can read Megan McArdle for the gory details) because you haven't been studying the working papers produced by AEI and other agencies?

Where is there a Republican plan to curb gun violence

There is no such thing as 'gun violence'. Guns are tools. Those tools have operators. The 'Republican plan' was implemented by Rudolph Giuliani and William Bratton in New York. Democratic Party lawfare artists want to destroy it.


and/or do something about mental health situations that lead to this violence?

A very small share of homicides are committed by madcap schizophrenics like Jared Loughner. The impediment to civil commitment for creatures like Loughner, Holmes, and Lanza is the har-de-har public interest bar and their allies in the judiciary. This is not a Republican constituency.

I must say that I like Paul Ryan so far because he does not want his party to just say no, but to have plans.


So he teams up with the Democratic congressional caucus to ratify their plans and shiv his own constituency. There's a reason he's now spoken of with contempt in fora like The Other McCain.


We'll see who wins next year and what sorts of steps they take. I do wish that both sides would work together to help make the USA a better place.

It is not going to happen, because the Democratic Party's baselines are completely at war with sense. You can observe Mayor diBlasio in New York to see what they really want.

Darn it, Stu, it would take me two days to answer all that, although I would like to. You should just come here and talk to me.

AMDG

Next time I'm coming through Memphis I will stop to pray at the Cathedral and wait for you to appear, Janet! ;-)

Just for the record, I'm not a Democrat or Republican; I'm more Independent leaning Green and only vote because it is my civic duty.

I realize it is "magical thinking" to imagine that my vote and opinion means a great deal to the plutocrats in DC.

Too much here for me to respond to and still get other things done. One or two remarks:

Grumpy's admonition is to the point. But dialogue has to be based on truth. It's true that Clinton did not govern as a zealous leftist, and a lot of people on the right looked silly talking as if he did. But it's also true that he committed perjury and yet fought successfully to remain in office, and was supported in that effort by his party, in and out of government. I repeat, this is a really big deal. It is not a peccadillo or a policy disagreement. I can't think of anything short of actual treason in wartime that's of comparable seriousness. It struck a blow to the heart of our political order. The idea that we are a government of laws, not men, has always been precarious, but that gave informal approval to the opposite principle. Maybe that would have happened anyway, but it's still a powerful symbol of things going seriously awry.

It's probably true that most people would have lied in that situation, at least until they were under oath. Doesn't matter. Once you're under oath, you have no legal right to lie. An honorable man would have accepted the consequences of his actions.

I don't feel obliged to defend the Republicans, since I'm not one and only generally vote for them because I think the Democrats are generally worse, except to the extent of challenging statements about them that I think are incorrect. E.g. that they have no plan for reforming healthcare. Actually that's not true. I don't know that the party has a single official one, but there are a number of people on the right, in and out of the official Republican party, who have very specific proposals. They may or may not be any good, but they do exist.

The gun thing...like I said I'll talk about it another time. My only real concern in that argument is that it be based on facts, and there's a lot of non-fact-based argument out there.

Well, when you get to the cathedral, ask them for the number of St. Paul Catholic Church and call me and I'll come.

AMDG

What Stu said.

All of it!

AMDG

Or, all of it???!

AMDG

"This is a betrayal of the foundational principle of our government, which is the rule of law. I think it is a damned big deal when the chief executive of the nation--i.e. the person charged above all with faithfully executing the laws of the nation--commits perjury and is allowed to remain in office, and moreover not even especially disgraced in the eyes of his party and many others."

I agree about the impeachment of Clinton. Regardless of what he lied about, the fact that he committed perjury and remained in office was extremely bad. That would be just as true if he had been a Republican. The whole thing attacks the Rule of Law.

It does seem that a significant change happened in the nineties. I don't know how much of that had to do with Clinton.

"I have tried to get Americans to explain their health care system to me, but they usually start SCREAMING within a minute, and I don't grasp what it is that they are screaming about."

I don't discuss it much at all with people, except here. I did have a conversation with some long time residents here, who are from NZ. We just spent most of our time shaking our heads.

I have really enjoyed watching old c-span episodes on youtube of Brian Lamb interviewing Peter and Christopher Hitchens. (Skip all this if it's likely to bore you!) There are I think 3 clips from 1994 and 1995 and then another from 1998. The difference between the earlier clips and the later one was quite striking I thought. I don't know how much was just the result of the feud I think the brothers were in the middle of at the time, but it did seem that things were much more polarised - not just with the brothers but with the people who called in. There were certainly plenty of Reaganite devotees v Clinton devotees in the earlier clips, but the level of underlying hostility just struck me as more intense in the 1998 clip. Not that people were totally uncivil - it was more of an under the surface thing. Obviously this is just my perception, but I wasn't the only one to notice.

Interestingly, neither Hitchens liked Clinton at all, but they differed on Reagan. Hilariously, Christopher had persuaded himself that Clinton was right wing because he was in office and was now part of the establishment. I think that's a Trotskyist kind of view.

That there are a lot of sociopaths in politics and leadership strikes me as self-evident.

"Feeling that one side is more "moral" than the other, and has concern that rights be denied people (no gay marriage, no abortion), when to me these are individual and religious concerns, not governmental, just seems fascist."

I don't see how these can only be matters of private morals, even if I agreed with them.

As it is, I don't see those things as "rights."

Excuse me, 30-37 months.

That there are a lot of sociopaths in politics and leadership strikes me as self-evident.

"Sociopath" might apply to someone with the surfaces of the Hot Springs Lounge Lizard, or John Edwards, or Kristen Gillibrand, or Kelly Ayotte. These people lie effortlessly and guiltlessly and try to charm you at the same time. Hellary and upChurck Schumer have no charms. They're just willing to squash ordinary people like roaches, and they're brazen enough to avoid penalties.

One thing you might do is ask which of our recent presidents might qualify as sociopaths. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bilge Clinton are the only ones who might fill the bill, and Johnson's a stretch. Johnson was certainly unscrupulous, as was Nixon, as was Roosevelt on occasion, as is Obama (mostly manifest in casual mendacity).

The Kennedy myth--noble young president was saving the country but was slain by mysterious forces of reaction, or just "hate"--refuses to die even though the fact that he was a pretty nasty sexual predator, at least as bad as Bill Clinton, is well known.

As I said earlier about the health care system, it's clearly crazy, and Americans have a gift for creating insanely complex systems. Obamacare just piles on a lot more complexity. In principle I don't *necessarily* object to a single government-run health care system, but you have to consider the nature of the culture implementing it.

I didn't notice "fascist" in Stu's comment earlier. That's a bit over the top for views that until quite recently were normal in the definitely non-fascist USA.

'I don't see how these can only be matters of private morals, even if I agreed with them.'

"The personal is political," except when it isn't. The dividing line for the post-Sexual Revolution left generally pertains either to sexual issues or to matters arising from those issues. Things related in some way to sexual "freedom" will thus almost always get the benefit of the doubt.

I think your point has been proven, Mac. Fun little nicknames like Bilge Clinton, the Hag Chancellor Angela Merkel, etc. do not lead to dialogue.

I threw out the word fascist because there seems to be a tendency to apply this word to Obama and executive orders, Obamacare, etc. It was just hyperbole on my part.

All in all I think the American system works regardless of who is in charge. I'm glad that at least one person thinks that all of the people on one side are fantastic, with nothing bad to be said about them. Like I said before, for the most part it is better to distrust politicians, they just have it too good and do/say things in order to be re-elected.

Those things are the ones that the present-day left absolutely will not compromise on.

Cross-posted with you, Stu--I was replying to Rob.

But yeah, I have to agree with you about the fun little nicknames. Alas, it really can be fun to engage in that ("Bushitler!"). And yeah it's hyperbole to call Obama a fascist etc.

"All in all I think the American system works regardless of who is in charge."

That's just it--I fear that the system is beginning to fail in that respect, because it relies on some kind of underlying consensus that we don't have anymore. I hope that's just my natural pessimism.

Fun little nicknames like Bilge Clinton, the Hag Chancellor Angela Merkel, etc. do not lead to dialogue.

Clinton is a man who would have lasted about five minutes in a prominent position as recently as 30 years ago. He's treated as a respectable proponent, not least by the colleges and universities willing to pay him $189,000 for 50 minutes of boilerplate. You want me to speak deferentially of this man, you're wrong (and out of luck).

because it relies on some kind of underlying consensus that we don't have anymore.

The 'consensus' would be to respect legal norms and not engage in brazen lying. That 'consensus' has been unraveling for about 60 years now, and the responsible parties are to be found in the legal profession and academe.

The Kennedy myth--noble young president was saving the country but was slain by mysterious forces of reaction, or just "hate"--refuses to die even though the fact that he was a pretty nasty sexual predator, at least as bad as Bill Clinton, is well known.

Kennedy's satyriasis makes Clinton and Johnson look monkish. The Kennedys knew they had to put up a front, and with the co-operation of people like Philip Graham and Arthur Krock (as well as the dependents and hangers-on on the payroll), they were able to.

It was bizarre how rapidly and thoroughly the chatterati were able to stick Dallas with the bill for Kennedy's murder. Lee Harvey Oswald was a red haze denizen with delusions of grandeur who had spent two-thirds of his sorry-assed life in places other than Dallas and had only returned there (after a considerable hiatus) just a few months earlier.

I threw out the word fascist because there seems to be a tendency to apply this word to Obama and executive orders, Obamacare, etc. It was just hyperbole on my part.

Yeah, it's somebody else's fault. Thanks for the education.

"That's just it--I fear that the system is beginning to fail in that respect, because it relies on some kind of underlying consensus that we don't have anymore. I hope that's just my natural pessimism."

Maclin, I'm not especially pessimistic or optimistic, but I basically have the same fear.

Invective is fun, but not very productive. I hope nobody saw the initial version of my 1/12 9:52pm comment. I edited it within a few minutes of posting it. Originally "perjurer" was only one of a number of epithets.

"It was bizarre how rapidly and thoroughly the chatterati were able to stick Dallas with the bill for Kennedy's murder. Lee Harvey Oswald was a red haze denize..."

I know. Drives me crazy. Even today, 50-whatever years later, on the anniversary of the assassination you'll see some pundit talking about the climate of hate in Dallas, and its mystical powers.

"Kennedy's satyriasis makes Clinton and Johnson look monkish."

LOL!

Maybe I'm the only one here who enjoys Art Deco's gibes (jibes?), but they crack me up.

I have no deep interest in US politics, not being a voter, so it's not out of any tribalism.

"It was bizarre how rapidly and thoroughly the chatterati were able to stick Dallas with the bill for Kennedy's murder."

Interesting.

Stu said, "Feeling that one side is more "moral" than the other, and has concern that rights be denied people (no gay marriage, no abortion), when to me these are individual and religious concerns, not governmental, just seems fascist. While at the same time they point fingers at the current president and talk about Nazi Germany."

Well, as it happens, I think both sides of politics in Australia and England, for example (not sure about the US) are eroding our civil liberties. That concerns me no matter who's holding the reins.

Well, I didn't mean that England was eroding my civil liberties, particularly!

You never know what the English may be up to. I saw a Facebook funny the other day that I actually thought was amusing: it had Queen Elizabeth threatening to take America back if Trump wins. If she were more representative of the UK in general I might support that.

Heh--that joke apparently got around:

http://www.snopes.com/donald-trump-queen-england/

Yes, that's pretty funny!

Polite dialogue is difficult when people exhibit irrational, tribal contempt for 'Manhattanites', as Art Deco has done here. That's the thing: Art has always had this rationalist pose, but it is a thin veil over murky waters.

Grumpy, you said this:

I was saying to a conservative in Manhattan how odd and unconservative the obsession about Clinton's sexual antics was, and he answered, 'Welcome to American Republicanism'.

and now you say this:

when people exhibit irrational, tribal contempt for 'Manhattanites', as Art Deco has done here.

Which is curious, because I made no remarks on 'Manhattanites'. I made remarks about your friend in Manhattan (identified as such by you), who fancies (by your account) that he is oh-so-sophisticated compared to the rest of us rubes. To which I say, fine, but do not let the door hit your tuchus on the way out.

I'd be happy to have Queen Elizabeth as head of state, so long as we don't get Prince Andrew as governor-general until this Pedo Island mess has been sorted out and so long as we do not get A.M. McConnell as federal chancellor.

Being unpleasant does not produce respect for your views, or even get them a hearing. I certainly hope Grumpy is not on her way out, and anyway if anyone gets expelled from here, something I've never done, I'll be the one to do it. I didn't detect any he-is-oh-so-sophisticated tone in Grumpy's remark.

The great risk to me of having Elizabeth as queen is that it would presumably entail having Prince Charles as king before too long. Though I suppose he would be better than anyone we're likely to elect as president anytime soon.

Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

This passage from Ephesians was the reading in Morning Prayer this morning, and it made me think of this discussion, of which I have to admit, I have only read about a third.

And this passage explains perfectly the demise of dialogue and discussion. We don't try practice this even among ourselves. How can we expect those who don't believe to practice it? And without it, we can't hear each other. Do we even believe it? And if we don't, why are we even having this discussion at all, because we are virtual pagans and we're trying to defend something that is lying dormant in our own lives.

AMDG

Wonderful passage, Janet!

"I certainly hope Grumpy is not on her way out, and anyway if anyone gets expelled from here, something I've never done, I'll be the one to do it."

Perish the thought!

"The great risk to me of having Elizabeth as queen is that it would presumably entail having Prince Charles as king before too long. Though I suppose he would be better than anyone we're likely to elect as president anytime soon."

I hate to think who the next President will be.

I had read Art Deco as conflating the friend in Manhattan and the Irish friend, and suggesting that if he thought himself so much superior to Americans he shouldn't be living amongst them. I don't know if it would have passed his thoughts that his manner of expression left it open to think he was hoping Grumpy would remove herself.

Reading that over it's not very clear either. Sigh.

I’ve often wondered how different things might be today if Bill Clinton had been an honorable man and done the right thing by resigning the presidency. Beyond escaping the harm his perjury did to our constitutional way of government, it would have said, yep, there really are some standards and having sexual encounters in the Oval Office isn’t “just sex” and so okay, and I’m very sorry and ashamed that I betrayed your trust. That would have been somewhat healing, if nothing else.

Well, according to the tabloids, the Queen is arranging for William to have the crown after her, bypassing Charles. The tabloids differ as to Charles's agreement with this plan.

I don't see much hope for the US even under Her Majesty if the monarchy also becomes the domain of private disposition of power.

Sorry, I've been away from computers all day and still am, and it's hard to type a substantive comment on my phone. Interesting about the queen and Charles. He seems like a decent and intelligent person but also a bit of a ninny in some ways.

I've been busy and preoccupied for the past couple of days with family matters, so have not been able to give a lot of attention or thought to what's been going on here. In retrospect I think I should have deleted Art's most obnoxious comment. In the future I will be quicker to do so in cases like that. I really don't like doing so. But this blog has always been a place for civil discussion, and I intend to keep it that way.

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