Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Radical moderation is no virtue

A follow up to the previous entry...

I believe that consensus is the preferred route for society and government. In fact, I'm fairly uncomfortable with conflict, at least face to face. I think civility should be the default pathway for society. I simply don’t believe we should be a slave to it merely for its own sake. In fact, we mustn’t. Radical moderation can be just as dangerous as radical extremism. It seems counterintuitive but it’s true.

I believe that consensus is the preferred route for society and government. It should be the default route. I simply don’t believe we should be a slave to it. In fact, we mustn’t. Radical moderation can be just as dangerous as radical extremism. It seems counterintuitive but it’s true.

Without agitation and contestation, we would not have had great social advances like: women’s voting, the end of slavery, the end of segregation/apartheid, consumer protection laws, health and safety laws, worker protection laws, unemployment insurance, the 40 hour work week and many other things that make America a first world country.

Warm and fuzzy bipartisanship has led to many abominations including: the Patriot Act and the war on civil liberties, the deregulation of the financial industry that led to recent economic meltdown, the aggression against Iraq, the Vietnam War, the internment of American citizens of Japanese origin in the 1940s, the genocide against Native Americans, to name but a few.

Yes, the ultimate purpose of agitation is to form a newer, better consensus. But neither is of any value in and of itself. The objective is that which is better. Not only can you not make omelettes without breaking eggs, but even after you break the eggs, you still have to stir things up to get something useful.

Think of it this way. Pick any despotic regime in history. It was no doubt led by extremists. But the extremist regime could not have survived without the active cooperation and acquiescence of moderates. Of people who maybe didn’t agree with the regime but didn’t want to shake things up or were afraid to make waves. Sometimes extremism is actually principle. Sometimes moderation is complicity. Not always but at times. Neither is a virtue in and of itself. The key is know when which is appropriate.

Instead of radical moderation, how about moderation in moderation.

Maybe we need a little *more* incivility

Civility and consensus are my default preferences, but boy, they make it hard sometime. In mainstream political analysis, the description 'bipartisan' is designed to make us turn our brains off, clap our hands like robots, squeal in joy like school girls and sing Kumbayah about 'cooperation,' 'civility' and the like. So imagine my reaction I read about this Congressional effort to invalidate the 5th Amendment by allowing the head of state to detain his nation's citizens indefinitely and without charge. Initially, I was outraged. This isn't possible. After all, wasn't such an abomination one of the main grievances in America's Declaration of Independence? But then, I just numbed my mind and intoned warm-over nothings about this joyous effort at bipartisanship and that made it all better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The class warfare against the Occupy movement

The UK Guardian has a great op-ed about the well-coordinated police crackdown on the Occupy movement. 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality, it notes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Where liberals go to feel good

This wonderful column entitled Where Liberals Go to Feel Good by Chris Hedges (one of most astute observers of contemporary society and politics) should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the complete impotence of the liberal class and the death of the Democratic Party as an instrument for progressive change.

Friday, November 18, 2011

'More equal economies grow faster'

Even the very establishment journal Foreign Policy ran a piece conceding that international evidence suggests that more equal economies grow faster.

It notes that equality of opportunity and the famed pursuit of the American dream are not quite what they are advertised to be. According to an analysis by economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis at the Santa Fe Institute, of children born to the poorest 10 percent of parents in the United States, more than half remain in the bottom fifth of incomes as adults.

In other words, socialism (to employ the most grotesquely misused word in American politics) is good for everyone.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Want smaller government? You got it!

One of the easiest ways to get elected is to promise smaller government and lower taxes. It sounds great as rhetoric because it's removed from context. In first world countries, there is an equation, a link between taxes paid and services to citizens provided. Different countries define that equation in different ways but it's there in every developed country. One of the most brilliant things strategically the American far right has done is to break that link, to focus only on the undesirable part (taxes) without discussing their relationship to the desirable part (services).

I'd have less problem with the smaller government/lower taxes rhetoric if its espousers were honest about the consequences. Yeah, they sometimes use rhetoric like "We all have to make sacrifices" (all usually meaning the 99%) or "tough choices have to be made. But it's all passive tense stuff, vague, nebulous and deliberately evasive. Just once, I'd like someone to have the guts to run for office on the platform of "crappier roads" or "higher crime."

Here are a few examples I've heard in the media recently about people who got their desire for smaller government...

-School districts across Indiana are getting rid of busing;

-Some municipalities are dealing with budget shortfalls by turning off streetlights;

-Warren County (NY) tried to seriously scale back its meals for seniors program until town supervisors (all conservatives) in the municipalities affected revolted.

It's funny how everyone loves smaller government and lower taxes when it's a theory but a bit less so when it actually affects them (THEM!). No wonder conservatives typically avoid being completely honest about the *full* consequences of their rhetoric.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy vs the Tea Party

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

The American political system pretty much boils down to the craven and corrupted Democratic Party, the venal and corrupted Republican Party and smaller parties who are mostly well-intentioned but don’t show the tiniest desire to become remotely electable (bearing in mind there are thousands of public offices below the presidency). What a depressing state of affairs. No wonder there’s so much frustration and anger that’s been expressed via the non-partisan Occupy movement and the formerly non-partisan Tea Party.

The Tea Party has been taken over by the Republican Party (the Dems would love to co-opt Occupy but they haven't succeeded yet), but there are still strains within it that remain independent and certainly the anger that originally animated it was organic; most of them are part of The 99 Percent too. The left likes to look down their noses at the Tea Party as comprising The Other, ignorant, racist rubes, but this ignores what the two movements share.

Both the Tea Party and Occupy reflect the anger of ordinary people against a corrupt system that serves the elites and not the people... or rather, at the expense of the people. The main difference lies in the response. The objective of the Tea Party is to starve government of money, since cash is what feeds the beast of corruption. Occupy's is to re-direct that money so it's used in a more humane manner. Both want to blow it up. One wants to replace it with something better; the other believes that something better is not possible so replace it with nothing.

Both really diagnosis the same problem, but offer different prescriptions.

Friday, November 11, 2011

APA critic pleads guilty to pollution charges

Last year, the Post-Star published a controversial story on Adirondack Park Agency critic Leroy Douglas and his battles with the agency. A follow up: Adirondack Almanack reports that Douglas recently plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of pollution.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Occupy is not about more handouts, but fewer

"If money is constitutionally protected 'speech,' then so are tents." -seen on Twitter

NPR's All Things Considered did a piece on Wall St. profits. It noted that Wall St. has made more money during under 3 years of the Obama administration than it did during all 8 years of the Bush administration. A Washington Post reporter pointed out that these profits were the direct result of government policies -- across two administrations -- in response to the financial crisis.

THIS is what Occupy is all about. It's not hostility toward people for having money or at corporations for existing. It's an anger at public policy that represents taking money from working people to hand out to corporations making record profits. It's an anger at the most grotesque form of of wealth redistribution.

Occupy is based not on a demand for more handouts, but for fewer.

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Help Occupy Glens Falls

If you're following the global Occupy movement and would like to participate, Occupy Glens Falls has twice weekly general assemblies at the Civil War monument downtown (across from the library). They are typically held Saturdays at noon and Wednesdays at 5:30 pm. You can also follow their Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Latest Circulation Numbers for Lee Enterprises, Inc. and the Post-Star

14th in a series by contributor Mark Wilson
(©2011 Mark Wilson)

The semi-annual report of American newspaper paid circulation was released this week by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Readership of Lee Enterprises, Inc. daily newspapers continues to drop, with total circulation loss from a year ago at 41,298 (or 2.99 percent).

The Post-Star, which in recent years has suffered some of the worst percentage circulation losses of all Lee newspapers, improved its standing among its peers in the latest filing. The paper—still fourteenth largest in Lee’s stable with average daily circulation of 26,113—lost 665 paying readers since last year. That loss amounted to less than 2.5% of its circulation, which is better than Lee’s average percentage loss since last year, and better than the numbers the Post-Star posted six months ago. A complete breakdown of the latest circulation figures can be found here.
Since the last circulation numbers came out, Lee has combined two Illinois dailies—the Journal Gazette of Mattoon and the Times Courier of Charleston — reducing to 52 the number of daily newspapers owned or partially owned by the company. Since 2008 Lee has shuttered two papers and merged two others. The Davenport, Iowa-based company is still looking to restructure a roughly one billion dollar debt that comes due in just over five months.
On a personal note: Friday, November 4th was Mark Mahoney’s last day as the Post-Star’s Editorial Page Editor, and chief editorial opinion writer. He will soon put his legendary reasoning and writing skills to work for the New York State Bar Association in Albany. As a onetime contributor to Mark’s pages (and who, on at least one occasion, caused him all sorts of grief), I wish him all the best in his new career.