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Post #1389 • September 11, 2009, 10:36 AM • 113 Comments

House of is busy preparing for the arrival of Clan Pretty Lady, so I direct your attention to the prolific recent postings of Joanne Mattera. Joanne spent the summer visiting fellow artists, many of whom have ensconced themselves into flower-dotted rural abodes in and around the state of Massachusetts. (Supergirl and I considered doing the same, but decided that we need to be in the city at least a few more years.) Too, this summer I visited Joanne's studio in Salem, and will post pictures soon. Turnabout is fair play, after all.



that guy

September 11, 2009, 12:56 PM

Since we have not had a Glenn Beck reference for a few days I would like to gingerly point out, dear blog readers, a website that was recently brought to my attention. Please click the above for a good laugh.


Chris Rywalt

September 11, 2009, 1:18 PM

Just one question for you, TG: Have you stopped beating your wife?


that guy

September 11, 2009, 1:20 PM

What? So confused.


Chris Rywalt

September 11, 2009, 1:21 PM

If you follow from that page to the Origins of it, you'll find a thread on Fark making this wonderful, yet apropos for this blog, parallel: "Ron Paul is like Tori Amos, but replace rape with taxes and terrible music with libertarianism."



September 11, 2009, 1:23 PM

Glenn Beck is beating is wife too? When will someone stop this man?


Chris Rywalt

September 11, 2009, 1:26 PM

I just thought that site you linked to was a wonderful, brilliant expansion on the quintessential loaded question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Note that there's no way to answer a question like that. Unless you're a Discordian, in which case you know the answer is mu.


that guy

September 11, 2009, 1:32 PM

Truth be told. I really didn't spend much time on the site. Shocker right? The domain name was so funny that I just had to post a link. Looks like Glenn Beck could be responsible for all unsolved evil crimes in the world. Just as I suspected all along. I suppose the left needs a new whipping boy now that Bush can not be blamed.


that guy

September 11, 2009, 1:40 PM

Ahh I see. No I have not stopped beating my wife because I never began beating her. Interesting.



September 11, 2009, 1:44 PM

Framing discussions with damning, unworthy questions is a common rhetorical strategy at Fox News. Here's the classic.



September 11, 2009, 1:46 PM

Which, I guess I should add, the Glenn Beck rape/murder meme is a response to.


Chris Rywalt

September 11, 2009, 2:55 PM

By the way, glad to hear the PLs are visiting you. When last I communicated with Stephanie, she said she was hoping to see you on her way through New England, then added, "I'd better call him." Nothing like making plans without consulting anyone!



September 11, 2009, 4:49 PM

Looks like Beck is back in art news after all.


Chris Rywalt

September 11, 2009, 5:55 PM

It's bad news when real live politicians are listening to talking heads like Beck.



September 12, 2009, 12:13 AM

The "hope" poster was not important art and the NEA is not an important institution. So these latest events don't matter. But I must say that, in my now 67 years, I have never seen the nation so politically divided, or apparently divided. I say "apparently" because I hope it isn't true.



September 13, 2009, 10:02 AM

John, not quite "more divided". The divisions are just more apparent, as they were in the 60s. This is not a bad thing. Not at all.



September 13, 2009, 10:50 AM

In the 60s, the "symbols" may have been more extreme in the opinion of some - riots for instance. But no one openly carried assault rifles to presidential speeches, which seems to be a greater extreme to me. Nor did any religious leader pray in public for the death of the president, as a moral act.

The current conflict is about abstractions like big government versus little government, with strange cross currents of inconsistency when it comes to specifics ... thanks, most likely, to 43,000 lobbies tearing at the government for special treatment.

It is a bad thing and a precursor, I think, to greater economic turmoil than most imagine.

But the NEA is just one grain of sand on the beach where all this is taking place.



September 13, 2009, 11:22 AM

"But no one openly carried assault rifles to presidential speeches... Nor did any religious leader pray in public for the death of the president, as a moral act."

I dont know where you are getting these facts, and I suspect some energetic research would find at least one religious leader in the 60s calling for the death of a president as a "moral act" - there's the story of the school kids in Texas applauding when Kennedy was shot, as a somewht oblique example. But I hardly think what a few nuts do stands for anything but just that.

The huge crowds which have gathered in opposition to current govetnment policies are clearly composed of plain folks who are worried about what the government is doing. If they have their facts wrong sometimes it may be becuse there is no one telling them the right facts. One way or another, it is as American as apple pie.

There are other things which are very different - the degree of "legal corruption" is one that strikes me - and there are no end of problems. But frankly I think the prospect of crippling long-term debt is way more real and more serious than any speciulation about our differences.


Chris Rywalt

September 13, 2009, 11:47 AM

Problems are eternally cyclical. Bucky Fuller liked to point out that solving problems doesn't lead to the end of all problems, it just leads to bigger and more interesting problems to solve.

My wife just asked me what's for dinner tonight. No matter how many times we answer that question, every night, there it is again.



September 13, 2009, 1:14 PM

Opie, the "huge crowds" and not going to solve the problem of "crippling long-term debt". Both sides of the current divide are as responsible for it as the other. America as a whole is a debtor nation.

Just as the trauma of foreclosure gets an individual out of mortgage debt, it will probably take some sort of trauma to get the country out of debt, especially since there is so much division that prevents even a modicum of working together to solve the problem. Extreme trauma, such as failure of the currency, would not give a rat's butt about which side of the political debate you are on. It would impose it's "solution" on everyone.

Groups of protesters against Obmamcare, even if successful, won't resolve the nation's utter addiction to debt - most protestors are debtors themselves. (I would guess that less than 1 percent of us are debt-free.)

There is also something strange about being against Obamacare but in favor of war after war after war and arming "friendly" entities (like we did Bin Lauden for the years we liked him) with expensive weapons, as well as wanting cheap goods by outsourcing jobs, and generally speaking continuing the most consumptive life-style ever known. The division is over how best to continue our rate of consumption, not how to eliminate it. Or something like that.

Severe enough trauma to our consumptive life style would eliminate it. Less than that, it will continue to grow. The "huge crowds" may do a "huge favor" for the lobbies that are against Obamacare, a favor that will enable those lobbies to get more for themselves so they can consume more. That's not a solution.

Yes Chris, things are cyclical. Conservatives began an upswing in 1994 that culminated by their dominance of the entire government from 2000-2008. Now that it has swung the other way, they are like over-sugared children getting angry that they can't have more candy. But rest assured, the time will come someday when they get it, assuming our way of life survives its current predicament.



September 13, 2009, 1:17 PM

Both the guy carrying the assault rifle on his back and the reverend who prays for the death of the president are documented on video that has been run natinally.



September 13, 2009, 1:22 PM

One last comment on opie's post: consumption and the debt it has led to is "as American as Apple Pie", just as criticizing the current government is "as American as Apple Pie". The problem is that while those in charge of the government regularly change out, consumption does not.



September 13, 2009, 2:20 PM

I'd be a lot less suspicious of those "plain folks who are worried about what the government is doing" if they had started hollering about runaway government spending and debt back when Bush was converting our $128 billion surplus into a $490 billion deficit. Nothing explains the sudden irritation with deficit spending except that the preferred party of a bunch of people suddenly left the executive. And because they were silent then, they have no credibility now. This Wilson person who has trouble keeping his yap shut is supposedly upset about federally supported health care for illegal immigrants. But you could buy a thousand dollars of care for each of the 12 million illegals in this country, and the total would still be seven percent of what we plan to spend in Iraq this year. So is the fiscally conservative Wilson against the Iraq war? Of course he isn't. They can scream their fool heads off, but it won't do them any good until they learn to operate a calculator.

If the anti-tax sentiments were taken to their logical conclusion, people would become directly responsible for the public services in, and quality of, their immediate neighborhoods. This would end overconsumption in ten minutes, because no one could afford it. I think it's a decent idea, myself, but I wonder if those "plain folks" understand it.



September 13, 2009, 2:29 PM

OK, John, I know. You keep saying this "we are all sinners" sort of thing, but the debt problem is now no longer just a problem, it can be (and has been reliably described as) leading to catastrophe.

As for wars, who likes wars? Not me. But there are all kinds of people out there who do and want to aim them right at us. They will not be deterred by rhetoric.

Almost everyone I talk to about it, in my upper-middle liberal academic environment, is in a dreamworld that everything is going to turn out Ok in the future because everything has always turned out OK in the end.

That is how I used to feel. I don't anymore. And I think those protestors, as bumbling and uninformed as they may be, are sensing tht something has to be done, that's all.

This is not Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. It is very simply serious stuff that needs to be fixed, and it is not getting fixed. And it will not get fixed until people get their heads out of the sand and learn what is going on.



September 13, 2009, 2:37 PM

Franklin, playing the blame game solves nothing. We all know Bush screwed up. This does not mean Obama should screw up.

It is time to stop being angry and taking sides and learn the facts and put people in government who will resist corruption and fix our economy.

This is not easy, and being asleep at the wheel or beholden to one party or philosophy or another or pissed about what happened in the past does not make it any easier.

I wish we could talk about art.



September 13, 2009, 2:47 PM

No, of course the "plain folks" don't understand political subtlety. They are not elected legislators are they?

But I can tell you one thing: the elected legislators better start understanding that there is extrordinary, virtually unprecedented public opposition to what they are doing. Those folks may not know much, but they are angry, and they vote.



September 13, 2009, 3:14 PM

I'm convinced that we could repel any attack directed at us if we ended all foreign military operations and devoted those resources to the defense of our borders. Bin Laden's one stated complaint against the US is its military presence in Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein's likely target for those WMDs he wanted so badly was Iran. If we spent money for defense on actual defense, we'd be as safe as houses.

My point about Bush wasn't to assign blame to Bush - it was to complain about the lack of political credibility behind ideas that I essentially agree with because they are being promoted by obvious hypocrites. The forces of government whom we would usually rely upon to reign in spending, for instance, went on an eight-year spending spree, and now look like clowns when they complain about spending. Wilson is a great example here. Even if he succeeds in preventing a healthcare policy that doesn't seem to exist in the first place, he will have removed a glass of water from an ocean of expenditure, most of which he approves. So onward the train rolls, unimpeded by the fact that Wilson is shoveling a little less coal into the engine than his colleagues.

Unprecedentedly angry voters, of course, gave us a Democratic supermajority in the House and a Democratic president. If they are now opposing their own decisions on the last two elections, it tells you how serious they are about real reform.



September 13, 2009, 3:37 PM

Your statement about Bin Laden is odd. Where on earth did it come from? Is it some left talking point? Someone who regularly makes statements like "It is a Holy War against Jews & Christians! These events have split the whole world into two camps: the camp of belief and the camp of disbelief.... There is only one God, and I declare that there is no prophet but Muhammad" seems to move somewhat beyond "one stated complaint" against the US, wouldn't you say?

Advocating a "Fortress America", as it was called in the '30, is interesting. Thank God we didn't follow it in the 30's nor the 50's, or we would be quite a different place, if we existed at all.

As for your last paragraph, it may be that the lack of interest in "real reform" on the left is precisely because what we are arguing about is not real reform. Change, yes, but not real reform. Not at all. Everyone is for real reform, and we will all know it and accept it when we see it.

Also, the matter has been settled anyway. As Maureen Dowd confidently declares in the NY Times today, anyone against the health care bill is a racist. Case closed.



September 13, 2009, 4:12 PM

The statement about Bin Laden comes from Ron Paul, made during one of the Republican primary debates. McCain also accused Paul of a stance that would have advocated isolationism even as an alliance of Japan and Germany was attacking the US and Europe. Paul smiled and shook his head, and McCain looked increasingly retarded the more he spoke. Paul's actual position about the matter is here.

We have two parties in this country, one of which believes in government's power to guarantee prosperity, given enough government, and another that believes in government's power to guarantee security, given enough government. That both of these are fool's errands is recognized by a 1% minority, but economic sanity is only going to be possible when both efforts are abandoned.

Life is painful enough; why read Maureen Dowd?



September 13, 2009, 4:30 PM

why read Maureen Dowd?

Why not listen to Obama's pr guy. He explicitly stated opposition to Obamacare is NOT racist.

And to Franklin's statment "another that believes in government's power tO gurantee security, given enough government" I would add that the same group believes, somehow, that it guarantees prosperity too.

In the early stages of a very long economic cycle the desire to consume is good. It motivates people to work, and when combined with credit, creates an expanding amount of work that can be done. If we had to save up enough money to buy a house outright, few houses would be built. Consumption and its blood brother credit are born in optimistic times, when there is great confidence in the future.

But when consumption and credit expand past a certain point, the virtuous cycles they create become vicious. Optimism turns to pessimism because the debts can no longer be adequately serviced and when almost everyone is a debtor as is the case now, the disaster that can form amounts to collapse, widespread pessimism, and hard wired chaos in the streets.

Franklin is right about wars. There has been no reason to fight in one since WWII. I'm not good at history, but would not be surprised if the truth is we have fought in more wars than any other nation since then.

Franklin is also absolutely right about the credibility of those who have suddenly started complaining now. Maybe they should move to the Iraq we have supposedly saved and learn to throw shoes.



September 13, 2009, 6:34 PM

The desire to consume is fine. There is no such thing as overconsumption per se. There are, however, ruinous amounts of debt, ruinous ambitions, ruinous assumptions of risk, and myriad other ways to ruin oneself. Adam Smith noted that human behavior oscillates between greed and fear, and in the end what caused the Great Recession was not enough fear.



September 13, 2009, 7:42 PM

John the credibility thing is just dumb and beside the point; it's just more more blaming and avoiding the issue. If people are hypocrites then be aware of it and don't trust them, but this does not mean that a hypocrite is wrong or incredible every time. You go by WHAT MAKES SENSE.

Who says it is unimportant, except that you read what people like Hanson, Krauthammer and Will write because they are likely to make sense. That does not mean that they will make sense at any particular time. It's like looking at art in museums vs galleries - your chances are greater, that's all. And you take what Nancy Pelosi says with a great big grain of salt becuse your experience tells you that is the wise thing to do.

Most of the population does not know what is going on and they trust elected officials to run the country. There are some people who know something about what is going on and pay attention but they seem to get all wound up in parties and theories and mythology that fits their neuroses and blame games and all that, and forget that every intelligent person who gets into this stuff has a certain obligation to BE INFORMED and understand what MAKES SENSE.

John, my understanding is that when you actually read HR3200 you came out of it with a quite different opinion than you had before you read it. This is what happens when we learn facts. If everyone knew everything about everything there would be very little disagreement.



September 13, 2009, 8:29 PM

The Great Recession IS an expression of fear. It is the pessimistic side of the cycle between greed and fear.

When I read the house bill (and senate too) I came out of it knowing neither of them were up to the task that needs to be performed.

Credibility is not dumb. Lack of credibility is a problem. If anything makes sense, these two statements do.

I go along with your statement about Pelosi. You are either too generous or have your tongue in cheek, though.

Greed and overconsumption are blood brothers too.



September 13, 2009, 10:53 PM

Credibility is important when you are deciding to whom to pay attention, not what to believe. I used the phrase "credibility thing", which I rather carefully pointed out was the position of disbelieving people because they have proven to be hypocrites in the past even though they may be correct about certain things at any given moment.

This is not a sensible position. If Nancy Pelosi said something that made sense I would believe her, after I recovered from the shock.

The only way to appraise any legislation is to learn the facts and apply common sense. Very few are doing this with the so called Health Care matter.

Not only that, we haver Cap & Trade coming up, which is, if anything, a worse boondoggle than Health Care. Check it out. It's a doozey.

As Joe Friday used to say, "Just gimme the facts, ma'am".



September 14, 2009, 12:25 AM

Speaking of Joe Friday, click on the url for a good time.

Conservatives really do not care for politics, and they really don't like to govern. They typically do both only after all else fails. For instance, after about 18 months of the Carter Administration, conservatives rose up and efficiently put an end to that nonsense. Movement conservatives make up the most organized, potent force in the American political spectrum. They vote Republican in large numbers when they are moved to wrest control of that party from the moderate go-along-to-get-along 'Rockefeller' wing, which usually is in control of it and has been in control of it since before 2000. We are now seeing the initial phase of the next occurrance of that.



September 14, 2009, 5:14 AM

Those conservatives have not 'suddenly started complaining now.' They sang out loudly against Geo. W. Bush when he showed his true colors as a big govt. spender, and had resolutely turned their backs on him by the end of his second term. Maybe you didn't know that because the leftist media didn't pay any attention to them, which is one reason you're hearing them now: they've had it up to here with Washington and the media ignoring them, so it's pitchfork-and-torch time. Those people are only going to be polite about it for so long. Their complaints about spending is one of the reasons John McCain never had a chance. Conservatives wouldn't rely on Rockefeller Republicans to reign in spending any more than they would rely on liberals to do that.



September 14, 2009, 7:04 AM

Those conservatives ... sang out loudly against Geo. W. Bush when he showed his true colors as a big govt. spender, and had resolutely turned their backs on him by the end of his second term. Maybe you didn't know that because the leftist media didn't pay any attention to them...

The conservative media stifled all criticism of Bush when it wasn't characterizing it as treason, it treated Ron Paul abominably (with the notable exception of Tucker Carlson), and the first serious conservative critique of Bush I ever saw came from George Will, who by 2008 couldn't contain himself anymore. But if those conservatives were singing loudly, show me some links.

Ross Doubthat, the NYT's infinitely preferable replacement for the feckless William Kristol, has a fine column on the whole health care debate this morning.



September 14, 2009, 7:15 AM

Also, it turns out that I'm not the only one who has made a connection between Glenn Beck and postmodernism. Between this and gold breaking $1000 (I bought at $742), I'm feeling positively at one with the zeitgeist.



September 14, 2009, 8:36 AM

Conservative pundits all over the nation blasted GWB in unison for spending, especially late in his second term, and the loudest for his bailout package. And conservative voters everywhere rang the phones off of talk show hooks to endlessly commiserate with the hosts about it. Don't see how you could've missed that.

Are you still on that Beck thing? Well, OK, it's your blog.

And, except for the gold business (Congratulations.), you're welcome to the current zeitgeist if you really want it.



September 14, 2009, 9:18 AM

Franklin, please, your parallel between Beck and Postmodernism is absurd. There's just no connection of any kind, except maybe the over-the-top drama thing. But then, Pomo basically even discourages that.

It doesn't matter which side you are on or what you think about Beck or Obama or anything. It's just not there.

Can we get back to art?



September 14, 2009, 10:37 AM

Thank you Franklin for two great reads - Almond on Beck and Douthat on public anger.

In my view, anyone who favors intervention in foreign wars is a big spender and a proponent of big government. That includes W, Kerry, McCain, and Obama as leaders and most members of both the right and the left.

Douthat fingered something specific that rings true - People who played by the rules (I would add, "THINK" they played by the rules) are pissed that they got smaller benefits than those who did not. Curiously, to me, is the fact they are venting on the healthcare program, which is the biggest idea in recent times that has at least the "appearance" of helping those who play by the rules. As I've said before, there is nothing much in it that specifies exactly how it will help, and thus my use of "appearance", but still, it seems more like it wants to help the average citizen than either Paulson's or Geithner's bailout programs, which helped the richest of the rich. (Supposedly they helped us too, by avoiding the societal disasters the greed of these rich folks was poised to create.)

I say "THINK" because many, like "Joe the Plumer", are less than truthful about their own place in the larger scheme of things when they issue forth with their complaints. Moral righteousness in an affect that is so easy to assume and such an obstacle to working together. But it is a great tool for explaining away those who do not share one's every value.

Thus, I also liked Almond's fingering of paranoia as a powerful ingredient in our collective consciousness and how it can be manipulated. Again, the right does not have a monopoly on manipulation. Just as W said the sky was falling over Social Security and used fear in an attempt to refashion it more to his own liking, so is Obama using the same tactic to refashion health care.

I go back to something I said upstream. Never have I seen the country so divided politically. Now I might add that those who manipulate public mood have a much better understanding of how to animate citizens for political ends and much better tools for implementing their schemes.

I am as generally paranoid as anybody. Not so much about political plots but about what seems to me an untenable financial position the nation has slipped into. Both individuals and government are consuming too much and paying for it with money they not only don't have, but probably never will have. It seems likely that divisiveness will prevail over solving this problem until a sufficiently severe trauma comes up that utterly requires people to work together.

Because the conflict seems centered on values, not truth, I can't agree with opie that if everybody knew the truth they would agree. I do agree, however, (any irony aside) that because the division has become so marked, that "truth" has been mashed, squashed, and outright disregarded to an unusual extent, even for politics, to serve certain values over others.

I don't think mashing truth is necessary, though. There are worthy values in most of the various camps that can stand on their own without the embellishments that are more and more part of their delivery system.



September 14, 2009, 10:49 AM

Opie, don't you see that art is part of the cultural war that we only thought had faded? This despite art's utterly poor record for having any power to affect politics.

As I said somewhere, art and politics appear to intersect. Why and by what mechanism still escape me.

I suppose we could discuss the history of totalitarians who sought to control art of their own time as an extreme instance of cultural wars that were finally "won" by one side or the other.

Interesting, to me anyway, is that being subject to a dictatorship does not necessarily hurt the art. Look at the Catholic Church and Italian art of the Renaissance. Some great stuff, but none of it would ever dare depict Christ as remaining dead after his crucifixion (as he most likely did).



September 14, 2009, 10:58 AM

"Because the conflict seems centered on values, not truth, I can't agree with opie that if everybody knew the truth they would agree"

John, you are one of the smartest people I know, but you sure do come up with some crippled logic." Values" and "truth" are not mutually exclusive. The "conflict seems centered on values" precisely because everybody DOES NOT know the truth. (I prefer the neutral "facts" to the value-loaded "truth").

If everyone in the entire country knew everything there was to know about HR3200 the discussion would not be about values but about facts, and it is my further contention that these facts would cause a very large majority to be against the bill. You read the thing and this was, roughly speaking, your experience.

(PLEASE UNDERSTAND that I just made two SEPARATE contentions, not one).



September 14, 2009, 11:03 AM

I guess you are referring to my rejection of the idea that Beck is a postmodernist.

Yes, art is part of the culture wars. I am not against drawing parallels between the art war and the political war. In fact, it coule be very interesting. I just don't see any parallels between Beck & Pomo. In fact, I can't think of any. He maybe a clown, but his message is all basic value & common sense stuff.



September 14, 2009, 11:37 AM

Crippled or not, logic is beneath intuition in the order of getting to know things. Logic triumphs only in science, which hardly exhausts our capacity to know our world.

Yes there is a relationship between values and truth, but values usually (maybe always) stand higher in life and therefore trump truth, which is why the "moral majority" gets by with so much BS.

Yes I am against the current legislation on health care ... because it does not support my values. That it is mostly BS just adds to my position, rather than forms the basis of my objection.

That said, back to art, opie. You are very good with art history. What is your take on the way the Catholic Church had such control over what was and was not allowed to be depicted in the art of the Renaissance and yet the officially approved art was so powerful?


Chris Rywalt

September 14, 2009, 11:41 AM

The article Franklin pointed to -- which I read a couple of days earlier -- is satirical. The idea behind it is the right-wing authors clogging up the bestseller lists right now -- Beck, Malkin, and so forth -- are so ridiculously stupid, so hilariously wrong, so completely fabricated and unrelated to reality, that they must not be intended sincerely, but are in fact postmodern novels. The article doesn't seriously connect Beck to postmodernism in any way.

As far as Beck being commonsensical, OP, the guy writes stuff like "Our country is about to be stolen". Seriously? That's common sense?



September 14, 2009, 12:41 PM

Chris, I didn't say he always made sense, I just said his approach was common sensical. "Our country is about to be stolen" is rhetorical and hyperbolic but a case could be made to support it. Please understand that I was not IN THIS CASE defending Beck, just saying he was in no way Postmodernist.

Saying that he & others are "ridiculously stupid, so hilariously wrong, so completely fabricated and unrelated to reality", is not supported by the examples necessary for such an extreme statement. PLEASE lets not argue about it! It's pointless.

John let me run an ego trip and quote some of my quotes from the Painter's Keys site:

Too much freedom inhibits choice. Constructive narrowness clarifies choice.

Limitation of means is a precondition of excellence. Creative freedom chooses its limitations. Destructive freedom rejects them heedlessly.

Convention and restriction release inhibition and provoke the imagination.

The struggle to be original hates conformity, but the struggle to be better disregards it, or takes advantage of it to build workable conventions.

In other words, it really doesn't matter what you paint or how you paint as long as painting well is rewarded.



September 14, 2009, 1:03 PM

Thanks opie. Now, why is it that dictatorships applied to art usually don't result in the great stuff of the Renaissance? Seems like roughly the same things your quotes allude to apply to both the Renaissance and Russia under the communists.

For what its worth to anyone, I liked Beck most of the time he was on CNN. Perhaps a producer there was keeping a lid on his worst tendencies, or perhaps someone on Fox is stoking them. But where he was once interesting (on CNN), he has now become boring.


Chris Rywalt

September 14, 2009, 1:13 PM

For what it's worth, I can't personally say much for Beck's book or Malkin's or any of them, since I haven't read them. Nor do I intend to. My hyperbolic list of grievances against them was meant to be mildly satirical of's way of treating those right-wing authors, or anyway whoever wrote that column's way (I'm too lazy to look it up).

What I'm saying is, I don't really know if Michelle Malkin or Glenn Beck is batshit crazy. I have very little firsthand knowledge of them or anyone like them. So I'm not arguing, just reporting.

I think we're all pretty sure Beck isn't postmodernist. But to imagine he is can be kind of funny. Pretend for a moment he's the right's version of Stephen Colbert, sort of, and it's amusing.



September 14, 2009, 1:58 PM

You can check him out on Fox, Chris. He is alternately funny, dead serious and occasionally embarrassingly off-base. I kind of like the way be can be all-out without being snarky.

John, that is the inevitable rejoinder and turns the problem into something much more difficult. What happened in Russia was the same as what happened to Salon painting under very different political systems in the 19th C.

I guess when there is only one kind of art being made the best artists will make it because there is no other choice.

When there is a choice art goes where it can better express itself, or where it is more fun.


Chris Rywalt

September 14, 2009, 2:51 PM

I figured art always goes with the chicks are. Hubba hubba!



September 16, 2009, 9:20 AM

The real issue in the U.States right now is there are a lot of ignorant rednecks losing their shit over the fact that their president is a black guy. The alleged 'issues' of the so called 'tea-baggers' are obviously red herrings. It's not what the government is doing (if it was about bad policy, they would have been up in arms years ago), it's WHO the government is that they really have a problem with.

No doubt, Glen Beck, or Jonah Goldberg, or Ann Coulter, or Michelle Malkin, or Rush Limbaugh, or, or, or... would argue differently. Of course they would. That's their job. That doesn't mean they should be taken seriously, though. Ridicule is all they deserve.

Honestly, watching U.S. domestic 'politics' unfold is enough to make you want to puke in terror...

Just had to drop in my two Canadian cents, so you know we're watching.



September 16, 2009, 10:10 AM

The notion that all of our problems devolve into racism has suddenly become all the rage.I didn't know this nasty mental virus had gotten all the way up to Canada, and that it could so readily addle really smart people.

This is frightening.



September 16, 2009, 10:43 AM

Thanks for the comment MC. Jimmy Carter was right in his observation that some of the dissent is based more on race than policy (how much could be debated), but I am sorry he brought it up. Instead of getting down to the work of the nation, we now have additional stimulation to debate why there is opposition, instead of what part of the opposition contains useful ideas and how can they be incorporated into solving problems.

The tea baggers have points to make about government spending, though they typically are opposed only to certain programs, while advocating continued spending on other, very expensive ones, like the military, and they tend to harp against the separation of church and state that is absolutely essential to our way of life.

To the extent they are ticked off about all the money given to wall street, certain banks, the auto industry, and pork for each and every congressional district in the country, I am with them.

I am especially concerned about the government's tendency to impose extra taxes on successful businesses and provide subsidies to unsuccessful ones. And I detest the way Goldman Sacks used its government protections as cover to engage in even more systemically risky trading than before, in order to pay back what it owed. The government, through the Fed, is keeping the yield curve distorted with near zero interest rates for short term money and much higher rates for long term. As Warren Buffet has pointed out, any dolt of a banker can make money under this contrived situation, which appears to have been created for their benefit. Those who suffer from it are the very few who save money and who are debt free - those who have not only played by the rules, but have acted prudently. This very small group gets almost zero return on their savings so that incompetent bankers and drunken debtors can continue partying into the abyss that they edge closer and closer to every day, with the government providing the liquor to keep their spirits up, so to speak.

I would be happier with the tea baggers if I didn't know that most of them are full participants in the underlying problem. But I must be content with the fact they are calling attention to a portion of what's wrong, no mater what their motive, and no matter how hypocritical they might be in real life.



September 16, 2009, 10:47 AM

And MC, now that you have entered the fray, how good or bad is health care in Canada?

As you know, both sides of the debate south of your border use Canada to provide examples of what is wrong with their opponent's view.



September 16, 2009, 10:51 AM

MC, just so you'll know, John's comment notwithstanding, when the American Left begins to sense that it's losing a policy debate, they begin to make desperate moves, one of which is to throw down the race card in unison, on cue, in order to distract the electorate from the fact that the debate is not going so well for the Left, and to keep the Leftist kooks kookified. That's the red herring in the present American political discourse. The Right instinctively sees that as evidence that the Right is prevailing in the policy debate. American politics 101.

You'd do yourself and our Canadian friends a service to look into things a little further than you seem to have. Thank you in advance.



September 16, 2009, 11:05 AM

Speculation about the future is treacherous, and therefore so is this. That said ...

On the contrary, Tim, the debate is going well for the left. There will be an "Obamacare" law enacted and the right will hate it.

I could just as easily say the antics of the right are a recognition that they are about to lose as you say the race discussion is a sign of desperation amongst the left.

My regret will be that whatever is passed will not be nearly as good as it could have been, because it will be passed by brute force leveraged by just one side of the discussion.



September 16, 2009, 11:52 AM

John, the Left and Obama will persist in their piledriving if they want to jeopardize their chances in 2010. If they succeed with a bill being passed, it will be because they've reverted to the incrementalism they resort to when piledriving doesn't work.

The Left resorting to accusations of racism is such a condescending cheap shot, it's clear evidence that the Left is losing it. When the Left gets to the point where they're rolling out Jimmy Carter mumbling about race, it's because they don't know what else to do.

By "antics on the Right," if you mean the 'tea-baggers' activities, they're ordinary citizens trying to be heard, and it's not a Rightist part of the electorate.
The reaction about the Left's healthcare plans is not really about politics, though the Left goes to such extremes to politicize it; it's about a plan that is perceived as REALLY bad, and about a Federal Government which consistently ignores peoples' right to petition governmnet. The tea parties could've been seen coming 50 miles down the road.

And if you mean what pundits are saying, we've already had the conversation about the role of punditry.

But now everyone on this blog participating in this exchange knows pretty well where each stands, and this exchange isn't going to do anything but repeat essentially what's already been written, so howbout we agree to let time tell the rest of the tale?


Chris Rywalt

September 16, 2009, 12:10 PM

Jimmy Carter favored decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

I'm reading Playboys from the late 1970s. Very interesting stuff. Also, Johnny Carson pitched Dacron suits. Yuck.


Chris Rywalt

September 16, 2009, 2:09 PM

Salon has an interesting article on Glenn Beck's personal bible, The 5,000 Year Leap. In short: He's bugfuck nuts.



September 16, 2009, 2:16 PM

Opie, remember when I was talking about credibility? This is the kind of thing that happens when one doesn't have any. A particular population that didn't say peep during eight years of the most overreaching, profligate administration in history is now screaming bloody murder about government takeovers and government spending. These crowds of suddenly concerned taxpayers never have a black face in them. Calling them racist is a cheap shot, but unfortunately, since they have no credibility, it sticks. If a senator from New York had an outburst on the floor of a Presidential address, it would have just been rude, but since a white senator from South Carolina did it, we now are obliged to ponder what degree of cracker we're dealing with. I'm not justifying any of this; I'm saying that credibility is a main issue in politics, not a side issue.



September 16, 2009, 2:45 PM

Franklin, that particular population did roundly criticize the last Administration for profligate spending, etc. The reason we're hearing from them the way we are now is that the last Administration ignored them. As I wrote before, people are going to be polite about things for only so long. This has been brewing since way before the last inauguration. I don't see how you could've missed it. And the news media has apparently done a great job giving the fake impression that no blacks are involved.

You are correct about credibility in politics. That's why playing the race card will, this time, backfire bigtime in the Great Uniter's face. Everybody already knows it's inapplicable and a shabby ploy.



September 16, 2009, 5:18 PM

Franklin, Your position is not credible.

In politics credibility deriving from past action is seldom a consideration until it becomes too great a burden. Otherwise Charlie Rangel would long since be out on his ear , the people would be screaming that Obama is broken most of the promises he made in the election and no one would take Barney Frank seriously about Fannie and Freddie.

The pro and con on the townhallers semdom concerns their credibility.. Those who are pro point to the numbers and the strength of feeling and the issue positions. Those who are against say they are racist and uninformed and trotted out by bifg organizations.



September 16, 2009, 5:27 PM

Then, Opie, the question is which position has credibility at the moment. From my perspective, the townhallers are perceived as credible because they aren't perceived as having a political agenda. Now the Obama Administration is trying strategies to see how it can undo that credibility.



September 16, 2009, 6:07 PM

They are not worried about credibility, they are worried about numbers and intensity of feeling, because they know that is what counts politically. It is not possible for the Democrats to deny that the townhall things are happening so they lash out however they can, the latest being the dissent-is-racism thing

The responsible person must resort to facts. The problem for the health care advocates is that the more people learn the facts the less they like the proposed legislation.

Rushing the first bill through didn't work so now work has started on revised bills. The Baucus bill was recently released, which at least has an honest take on costs, but for that very reason it is now getting attacked from both sides.

While I don't think dissent is racist, it seems we do have a real culture war going on which pits white middle class against blacks who are less affluent, and this is becoming more apparent, more visible, as the struggle proceeds. I think this is the result of circumstances rather than racism, but it certainly will look racist and indeed, derives from racist policies of the past.

This is very unfortunate, because it is clear to me, at least, that honest, uncorrupt government that truly hs the interest of the nation at heart is good for everyone.



September 16, 2009, 6:52 PM

And the news media has apparently done a great job giving the fake impression that no blacks are involved.

Last I checked, Fox was part of the news media, and is soft-pedaling all the unsavory aspects of the demonstrations (which are inevitable at these kinds of things) with the same fervor with which they highlighted them at every anti-Bush protest. So between Fox, flickr, and the thousands of right-leaning blogs, someone, somewhere, must have a photo of a black person participating in a demonstration of 60 or 70,000 people. Link to it, and I'll believe. Or don't, and I'll continue to believe that they weren't involved, and continue to sympathize if not agree with MC's characterization of the crowd.

Opie, you may remember that during the Paul campaign, it surfaced that a newsletter produced by Paul's office contained some racist material. Paul, forced to answer to charges of racism, pointed out that racism is absolutely contrary to libertarianism and called for an end to the Drug War, which disproportionately targets minorities. He continues to be the only politician in the last presidential campaign to make that connection. I agree - honest government would benefit anyone, as would minimalist government in which rights and due process were assured rather than prosperity and security.



September 16, 2009, 7:19 PM

Franklin, I have no links, and I don't pay any more attention to Fox than I do to the other networks. I've already explained that and why. I can say that I've lost count of the number of black people I've heard on radio talk shows talk about their experiences at those town halls. And I've found radio talk shows to be as good a barometer of the goings-on as any. Plus Pick your poison.

I disagree with your contention about Ron Paul. Others have made the 'war on drugs'-minorities connection, but they don't tie it to ending the 'war on drugs' because they understand that the connection is incidental, not racial. A very tough question.

Though Opie's point about numbers and fervor is well taken, I agree that credibility, or perception of credibility, plays a role in political games. Otherwise, why would the Democrats be doing so much in an effort to attack and undermine the perception of credibility of the townhallers?



September 16, 2009, 8:06 PM

For opie and Tim: A study was just published tonight in the New England Journal of Medicine. It surveyed a large randomly selected group of doctors in a wide variety of specialties in all regions and found that the majority of them as a whole, and a majority in each specialty, and in every region of the country, FAVOR INCLUDING A "PUBLIC OPITION". Here is a summary from the article:

"Overall, a majority of physicians (62.9%) supported public and private options (see Panel A of graph). Only 27.3% supported offering private options only. Respondents — across all demographic subgroups, specialties, practice locations, and practice types — showed majority support (>57.4%) for the inclusion of a public option (see Table 1). Primary care providers were the most likely to support a public option (65.2%); among the other specialty groups, the “other” physicians — those in fields that generally have less regular direct contact with patients, such as radiology, anesthesiology, and nuclear medicine — were the least likely to support a public option, though 57.4% did so. Physicians in every census region showed majority support for a public option, with percentages in favor ranging from 58.9% in the South to 69.7% in the Northeast. Practice owners were less likely than nonowners to support a public option (59.7% vs. 67.1%), but a majority still supported it. Finally, there was also majority support for a public option among AMA members (62.2%)."

Regarding the expansion of Medicare, the survey found:

"Overall, 58.3% of respondents supported an expansion of Medicare to Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 years (see Panel B of graph). This support was consistent across all four specialty groups, with proportions in favor ranging from 55.6% to 62.4% (P=0.08)."

Most, if not all doctors want to help people and want to be fairly compensated. It is obvious that they do not find expanded government involvement in health care to be a hindrance to their goals but to the contrary, it was found supportive of them. They are in a very good position to know what works, inasmuch as they deal intimately with both public and private health insurance.

Medicare comes out of this survey smelling like a rose, that is for sure.

And the purely private option, according to the 72% who rejected it, seems like it might stink.



September 16, 2009, 8:52 PM

John, the issue is costs, not whether doctors want to ensure that they get paid.



September 16, 2009, 8:53 PM

Well, yesterday I read a Gallup or Rassmussen poll (very large sample) that said 2/3 of the doctors in the country were against the current legisltion. So go figure.

Franklin, there have been black people seen, participating in, performing for and being interviewed in these demonstrations. Obviously I don't have photos, but I have seen them. You have not because presumably you have not been watching.

This does not obviate the fact that there are very few black people there. But your leap of logic, that because there are few black people then the crowd is racist, is a stunning leap of illogic for someone as smart as you are. There are plenty of perfectly good reasons for this, the most salient being that most black people voted for Obama and are emotionally tied to his success - for perfectly reasonable (and also, BTW, often racist) reasons - and do not want to publicly oppose him in any way.

All this stuff has racist overtones, inevitably, given our history. I would hardly expect there to me many black people in these crowds. But that DOES NOT, by any stretch, mean that the crowd is RACIST. That does not make sense. And you are allowing yourself to fall into the dissent-is-racist trap which seems to be nothing more than desperation about legislation the American people do not want. Think about it!

I feel as though I am being dragged into this because we (you and I & John, and now Tim, and MC and others up until recently) have been having such productive art discussions for so long so sensibly and logically and I think courageously, and now we are going off into lala land. Can we go back to art, please?



September 16, 2009, 9:17 PM

Carter certainly has managed to introduce a large distraction into the discussion of health care. Obama himself excluded that through his press secretary a week or so ago. With O taking the high road, so should the rest of us, including Jimmy Carter, whose record on human rights is excellent.

Trying to explain positions based on "motive" is treacherous, always. (The dems are desperate, the repubs are scared, etc.)



September 16, 2009, 9:31 PM

John, my, my... Do we really want to imagine that the Obama Administration wasn't behind the sudden timely appearance of Jimmy? Anyway, enough! Time will tell everything.



September 16, 2009, 9:34 PM

Tim, of course docs want to get paid, but their professional fulfillment comes from treating disease, not cashing checks. No doctor wants to recommend a treatment only to find out the patient can't have it because they are either not rich enough or they are poorly insured or not insured at all.

The doctors responding to the survey reported in the NEJM with a positive on the public option are probably choosing professional fulfillment over higher income for themselves, inasmuch as the public option will introduce additional pressure to contain their fees. I have talked about love before with respect to what you later found to be a rumor about Obama. In this case, though, it seems clear that the majority of these respondents are, in fact, expressing love for their fellow human beings as well as a desire for professional fulfillment. That's the way I see it, anyway. I admire them for that.

And they certainly raises a question for those who oppose government expansion in health care on the basis that it will drive doctors out of medicine into more lucrative fields.



September 16, 2009, 9:40 PM

When I said that the racism charge sticks, I did not mean that it was true. (Sorry if that wasn't clear.) I meant that it becomes an issue that the accused group is obliged to repel because it has no credibility. If they had been storming the Bush White House over its profligacy, and were now storming the Obama White House over its profligacy, it would have credibility and the racism charge wouldn't stick.

Because it has no credibility, the reliance on numbers and intensity of feeling is creepy, and I say that as someone who would be inclined to agree with them. (Not the Obama = Hitler nonsense, but the notion that healthcare is not the government's job.) I'm not a big fan of screaming people anyway, but there's a big difference between passionate discussion and having to suffer every dumbass who thinks that the government is trying to euthanize Grandma. I agree with John - I believe that we're going to get a healthcare bill with a public option, partly because the Democrats are running the show at the moment, partly because the opposition has been moronic, and partly because the political cost of ramming the bill through will have been forgotten by November 2010 by the majority of voters, particularly if the economy recovers. Accusing Obama of being a socialist didn't keep him out of office and I doubt that it's going to keep the bill from passing.

Frankly, I'm wondering if the Republicans even want to win this one. Plenty of people die and go bankrupt because of declined coverage in the current system, so just imagine what they'll be accused of if they kill healthcare reform again in this economic climate. Maybe it's strategic to whip up the base with a lot of rhetoric about the end of the American way of life, let the damn thing pass, and present themselves as principled, beleaguered Americans and all that hoohah come election time.



September 16, 2009, 9:45 PM

You know Tim, Chesterton wrote about "the neat, well lit prison of one idea". Once you focus too narrowly in what you are willing to consider, any and all phenomena can be explained by the narrowness, even though it has nothing to do with what's going on. Hemingway wrote a short story with that as its title.

Obama said race didn't have a bearing on disagreeing with him. Why project a sub-rosa contrary agenda and motive on him for which there is absolutely no iota of evidence?



September 16, 2009, 9:50 PM

John, doctors recommend treatments as much because their attornys order them to in order to be able to protect them from John Edwards-type law suits as not. That alone drives costs through the roof. Tort reforms happened in Texas. That alone has attracted 7800 doctors to the state to date.

In the USA, a doctor's practice is a business. You must know that costs because of govt meddling already have driven doctors out of their practices and caused others to cut way down on their hours.



September 16, 2009, 9:58 PM

If only 70,000 people were protesting for tort reform, interstate insurance sales, and the decoupling of insurance from employment! Oh well.



September 16, 2009, 10:07 PM

John, listening to what politicians say is something to do, I guess. Better to watch what they do.



September 16, 2009, 10:08 PM

Tim, the majority of the docs surveyed in the NEJM want the government to get more involved in health care and and even larger majority do not want the government to get entirely out of health care. At minimum, these folks have learned how to cope with the government and the role it plays.

It is counter-intuitive to think that when the government drives up the costs of a medical business that docs would cut back on hours because that cuts back on the income that is needed to service those higher costs.

BTW, this discussion yields new information to me anyway. You keep saying things that surprise. Franklin and opie keep adding as well, though not so surprisingly.



September 16, 2009, 10:12 PM

So Tim, you were privy to a conversation between Jimmy Carter and someone from the administration in which they discussed his "timely" introduction of the race card?

Come on, you are speculating.



September 16, 2009, 10:24 PM

John, it's not counter-intuitive if you're running a business and you have kids and a mortgage, etc. In the face of increased costs you have to make choices, whether you love your profession or not. Just ask a few doctors.

Re your #79, I have some land I'd like you to look at.



September 17, 2009, 9:49 AM

Sorry if I misunderstood you Franklin. This idea of lack of credibility because no black faces therefore they will be seen as racist seems absolutely jesuitical to me.

There are zero signs saying "Down with black people" and ten thousand signs saying one way or the other we don't like government telling us what to do. There's not a whiff of racism in the whole town hall thing, not one iota, ever.

What makes things like this "stick" is bumbling idiots like Jimmy Carter fanning the flames.

This discussion gives me a headache.



September 17, 2009, 10:56 AM

There are zero signs saying "Down with black people" and ten thousand signs saying one way or the other we don't like government telling us what to do.

As I said above, unsavory elements are inevitable at these kinds of things, but there have been numerous sightings of overtly racist signage. There has also been a concerted effort to brand Obama as a Nazi. In this case, the premise is too ridiculous to scan, and once it falls out, you end up with images of white people walking around with swastikas. (As much as I dislike the attempted Nazi attributions, the ones that try to equate Obama with both Hitler and Stalin simultaneously really frost my shorts. You have to conclude that these people don't know that Hitler attacked the USSR under Stalin and that communism and fascism are not compatible doctrines.) (By the way, LGF is a conservative blogger who began as an anti-jihadist but has lately turned to criticism of idiocy in conservative politics.)

The charge of racism is a distraction, and it's going to work because the charges of Nazism and socialism are distractions. I wouldn't mind banging all their heads together, but that's politics for you. As Mencken said, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Unfortunately, demonstrations encourage outlandish statements, and outlandish statements encourage backlash.



September 17, 2009, 11:14 AM

OK out of tens of thousands of signs, one of Obama as "massa", one Muslim, one birther and one "idiot".

Four signs, one with oblique racial reference, one with religious reference and two with no racial content at all? C'mon!! Give me a break! This amounts to the exception that proves the rule.

And comparing someone to two mass murderers is illogical because the murderers were themselves opposed?? You need to take a course in logic!

As I said this is giving me a headache.



September 17, 2009, 11:42 AM

The Nazi and Stalin tags aren't intended as distractions, but are admittedly crude ways of expressing the idea of intrusive govt., coming largely (with the exception of some carried-away pundits who exaggerate for effect) from people who have good instincts about govt. intrusion but don't have the sophistication to express those instincts as prettily or as eruditely as we might like. The racist tag has no substance or basis whatever. It's orchestrated and timed and put forward by Liberal leaders aided by media for the sole purpose of distraction.



September 17, 2009, 12:04 PM

No, Opie, comparing Obama to any mass murderer is illogical. Comparing him to ideologically opposed mass murderers is stupid. By the way, exceptions disprove the rule. That one photo set might not provide sufficiently numerous examples for your liking, but unlike these black tea partiers you've seen so much of, I can link to them.

Tim, again, either everyone gets a pass for good instincts and imperfect expression, or no one does. Liberals have already passed the data through the same filter you have, but in the other direction, and concluded that people who genuinely care about healthcare reform are calling out a bunch of loudmouth racists who have been put up to protesting by cynical Republican operatives. This is also absurd, but no less than your comment in #84.



September 17, 2009, 12:23 PM

Comparing him to a mass murderer is WRONG and EXTREME and lots of other bad things but it is not ILLOGICAL.

FURTHERMORE my POINT was that comparing two mass murderers was not LOGICALLY INVALIDATED (as you said it was) because they OPPOSED EACH OTHER.

Good grief!!



September 17, 2009, 12:42 PM

Heard part of the big O's speech at the University of Maryland this morning. If pure words can solve problems, he is the master-in-charge. His talk was breathtaking. Perfect story, perfect cadence, perfect timing, perfect conclusion, leaving everybody ready to change the freaking whole world.

The more I see Obama the more I like him; the more I saw W the more I disliked him. Thus it was to W's advantage to lay low and is to O's advantage to step up and address the public.

O and his cohorts will get something passed for health care into law. The opposition just had better get over it. They need to pick a better place to make a stand. Franklin analyzed their prospects pretty damn well at the end of #73.

Whether it explains your headache or not, opie, you are not winning this argument.



September 17, 2009, 1:14 PM

Franklin, Now you imagine that my take has been filtered. Or maybe you don't and you're just saying that. I really don't see how you could know one way or the other. If I point out your error, you will dig your heels in even further. And you will say I'm doing the same. And on and on and on to nowhere. Howbout if we declare you and John the WINNERS? Will that allow us to move on from an exchange that is going nowhere but in circles? If not, could you let me know what will? Maybe if I just stop replying?


Chris Rywalt

September 17, 2009, 1:29 PM

Obama is a good public speaker. He's by no means the best ever, or even the best alive right now, but compared to what we've been seeing lately, he's fantastic. I mean, his other failings aside, George W. Bush was no orator. Neither were Clinton or the elder Bush, or Reagan even. And forget Carter, who today isn't doing so well, either. Their opponents were pretty terrible speakers, too, and the past few batches of Congresscritters....

So, by way of contrast, Obama seems like the second coming of Cicero. But he's no Jesse Jackson.


Chris Rywalt

September 17, 2009, 1:45 PM

Finally, someone is willing to speak the truth.



September 17, 2009, 1:47 PM

John, Now you are doing it. You can love Obama all you want but I was arguing about logical particulars only, not about whether or not Obama will prevail, so what you say has nothing to do with my argument.

This is ridiculous, particularly when carried on with two of the very smartest people I know.



September 17, 2009, 2:07 PM

Chris, I wasn't a Reagan fan at the time of his presidency, but since then I've had occasion to read and watch a good many of his speeches, many of which he wrote himself. Whether or not I agree with what he was about, I find those speeches to be exercises in concision and clarity, very refreshing when placed next to, for instance, the drone of vague, hollow platitudes of an Obama speech, all image and no substance. He comes across as a hack with a schtick, gotten from condescending smartalecs like Julian Bond. And I've seen him drop out of that schtick into the street patter that is his real voice enough times to know that the schtick is just that. But I agree that he does know how to work a crowd in ways that a guy like GWB could never hope to.

By the way, Franklin, the error in your second para of #85 is your apparent assumption that both 'sides' have the same intention. Wrong, but I don't have any links to prove it, so I take it all back.



September 17, 2009, 2:40 PM

Opie, maybe I do need to take a course in logic - I had no idea that it was compatible with wrongness and extremity. Of course you're correct that ideology doesn't play into a comparison if the main thrust has to do with Hitler's and Stalin's body count, but I gathered that the complaint against the health care bill was ideological in nature, not that Obama was planning to execute supposed undesirables by the millions, which would be news to me.

Tim, every statement you made in #84 was unprovable. If you'd like to propel the conversation in a particular direction, cite evidence. Regarding #92, I don't claim to know anyone's intentions unless I know them personally and intimately. I assume that among groups on all sides of a given issue, some members have good intentions, some bad, some a complicated mixture thereof. You, apparently, assume something more in agreement with your political preferences.

John, I hope they don't just live with it, but try to work in useful reforms and stick an expiration date on it. The spirit of cooperation on both sides looks pretty strained at this point.

But he's no Jesse Jackson.

It worked - I coughed. In fact, So did my cat.

Listening to W speak used to drive me clean up a wall. Obama has delivered on at least one implicit promise: the leader of the free world no longer sounds like an uninformed high school principal from Lubbock.



September 17, 2009, 3:06 PM

Franklin, who has proved anything on this merri-go-round? You? All that is revealed is that it keeps going round and round.

If you want to think of my remarks in #84 as speculation, that's your choice. I think of them as common sense. Speculatively speaking, I think I'm on solid enough ground.

No evidence, so I guess that means I lose the debate, uh, conversation.



September 17, 2009, 3:14 PM

I count myself as one of those who will have to "get over it" to some extent when the law is eventually enacted, though I am hardly right wing. I still hope it will reform tort law and reduce the costs of defensive medicine, for instance, but do not expect that it will. Nor do I expect it to truly cover everyone. And I would be flabbergasted if it says what is actually going to be covered. (The doctors who want Medicare extended down to 55 year olds are the only ones saying anything that specific.)

As Ron Paul said the other day, it will be incremental ... more than we have now, but with lots of work left to do (Paul might say further destruction left to do).



September 17, 2009, 3:17 PM

Tim, winning an argument never proves anything, especially that one is "right". Likewise losing does not prove one "wrong". Whatever the truth is, it continues its merry way irrespective of how earthlings engage each other. Opie used to say arguing was fun, though ...



September 17, 2009, 3:35 PM

John, "...winning an argument never proves anything", exactly, but I think you're addressing that to the wrong person. Things might be a little more engaging if we got away from this digging in of heels and debate-style gymnastics where it seems players are trying to score points rather than fairly consider what is being written. If it will help, I hereby acknowledge that some of us are more skilled at debating than others.

Having said that, at this point, I don't know whether either debate mode or conversation mode will help this exchange.



September 17, 2009, 4:17 PM

Perhaps if a debate emerges again there could be some kind of time limit so that the exchange couldn't devolve into an exercise in pointless (except to score points and keep from being scored upon in the course of beating an argument into the mud) adversarialism.



September 17, 2009, 5:11 PM

Tim, I'll say this for common sense - it's better than no sense at all. But if you make assertions that either can't be proven or can't be validly formed, then there's no potential basis for agreement among differing participants in the conversation. You assume the left has bad intentions? I assume that they're controlled by psychic gophers. Now we have two assertions with no evidence, and no basis for argument except to see if your suspicion of the left is stronger than my belief in psychic gophers.

Personally, if I stated what I thought was true and couldn't prove it in any fashion when called upon to do so, I would at least have a hard look at the original premise. As Robert Henri said, precious few people think what they think they think. Proceed as you see fit.



September 17, 2009, 6:02 PM

Franklin, thanks for the explanation or lecture or whatever that was. You're making me think of Laney Davis running breathlessly around the Clinton White House and on TV screens repeating endlessy, "You have no poof! (He was trying to say proof.)

In a conversation (your label, not mine, though it's actually a contest, not to mention an opportunity to show off certain pet skills) is there some reason why agreement or disagreement has to proceed from a statement? Is there some reason why resolution has to occur right then and there? What's the point of fiercely promoting a view to a point where you're making no sense, grabbing at straws, copping tones...?

You have your idea, I have mine. Neither can be proven or disproven. An impasse. Let it go at that.



September 17, 2009, 6:29 PM

you guys look like you are having a lot of fun.

as i mentioned on a previous post, it is crazy how seemingly fairly with it people (who seem to have a good bit of information) can have such drastic takes on politics (ideas), and read people so differently. baffling! opie, even if you and tim and franklin and john had all the facts i think you would still end up on opposite sides of this thing. something else is going on?


Chris Rywalt

September 17, 2009, 7:51 PM

Psychic gophers. Pretty funny. I'm smiling.

I don't know if you coughed about Jesse Jackson's oratory abilities. He may not say anything sensible -- I haven't checked out enough of his speeches to tell for sure -- but he's got a good grasp of rhetoric. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote how ironic it is that the foremost critic of Western civilization is also one of the last practitioners of its highest art.



September 17, 2009, 9:03 PM

I think you are right 1. We have different values. They lead to places that are sometimes similar but other times are very different. "Argument" comes in as the various skills in articulating those values are brought to bear.

It does not have to be an impasse, though it often can be. Articulating a value well can sometimes persuade another to adopt it or incorporate some aspect of it as their own.

The constitution, as written, certainly did not respect, much less articulate the equality of black people with whites. But this was changed as the argument in favor of their equality finally prevailed. Nor did it have the same respect for women that it had for men, and so on.

As the big O put it the other day, such arguments are not so much about "truth" or "facts" as they are about what kind of character we wish to have as a nation of people. It is not a matter of "proof" but of commitment and action, though it is safe to assume some actions might be better than others for fulfilling the commitment, and therefore "facts" are relevant. In our own blog sphere, I hope that each of us holds the basic value that every citizen deserves good health care. Assuming so, the debate is about further action in implementing this value, about which I am not surprised there are great differences because implementing this value would be a great change in the national character.

And none of us are exactly shrinking violets.



September 17, 2009, 9:08 PM

Tim, Franklin's code cuts off comments after a week.



September 17, 2009, 10:16 PM

I hope that each of us holds the basic value that every citizen deserves good health care.

Not me. There are several citizens for whom I do not wish good health care. In time one accumulates these, unfortunately.



September 18, 2009, 7:49 AM

John writes "Heard part of the big O's speech at the University of Maryland this morning. If pure words can solve problems, he is the master-in-charge. His talk was breathtaking. Perfect story, perfect cadence, perfect timing, perfect conclusion, leaving everybody ready to change the freaking whole world."

I can see you, John, arms raised, drifting to the front of the tent shouting "hallelujah" with the other sinners to be be saved by the almighty O.

Take comfort in the Lord, my son. The End is near.



September 18, 2009, 8:56 AM

The End of this loopy loop I hope. Come on, guys. Are you sure this is worth it? It's starting to follow a certain inflammatory pattern, and the acrimony that seems to be piling up is disturbing. You can deny it, but regardless I don't think this kind of back and forth over politics shows the best of yourselves. I'm not afraid to tell you guys how brilliant I think you are, and what a privilege it is to read the heavy-hitters at work here most days, but this seems like it's getting ugly and might have a price attached to it. No offence Opie, but 105 and 106 might be the 'written equivalent of behavior that would get you punched out in a bar'. I know everybody's got thick skins, and you all probably enjoy the chance to flex your overgrown brains without worrying about egos, but even sparring sessions can get out of hand sometimes.

Now you have four Canadian cents-worth. Spend it however you like.



September 18, 2009, 9:08 AM

When you guys are talking about art, your skills and experience are probably unequaled. Some of this discussion though, reads like Jelloworld.



September 18, 2009, 9:22 AM

I don't diwsagree with you, dude, but please understand that #105 was not aimed at anyone here, and #106 was tongue-in-cheek, which I am sure John understands well enough.



September 18, 2009, 9:49 AM

Don't worry dude, I love opie and always will. I thought his #106 was funny. #105 made me a little sad.



September 18, 2009, 10:03 AM

Sorry John. It was probably better left unsaid. It's just that there are a few special individuals I have encountered in my long life who are utterly unforgivable. Perhaps it is a fault of mine.



September 18, 2009, 10:20 AM

As a coda to all this, if anyone is still interested, let me say that the NY Times does have one sane columnist, David Brooks, who usually has a reasonable & balanced viewpoint on the "issues of the day". Here is one, with a nice anecdotal account, called "No, it is not Racism":



September 18, 2009, 10:32 AM

Looks like Brooks agrees with the great O.



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