Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ah, The Thrown-Ups Are Back

Over on SadlyNo! we are treated to a scarifyingly pithy photo album reminding us of what has happened since the Republican "Grown Ups" took over from "Inexperienced and Immature" Democrats.

The last time we were treated to this flabbergasting self-congratulatory line of delusion from the Theocrats and Oligarchs who both hilariously imagine themselves Destiny's Chosen Instruments and together predominate the Killer Clown Punditocracy of Movement Conservatism was when the Bushites were trying to peddle the would-be Boy King as a kindly moderate surrounded by the world's greatest ever Brain Trust of advisers compared to an alienating technocratic Gore tainted somehow by the corporate mediated serial scandals of the Clinton era. (It pays to remember that this actually didn't work, so he had to steal the election, of course, but here we are anyway and the point is that things didn't quite end up as we were told to expect.)

It honestly beggars belief that this is a line supporters of a "Grown Up" (one might almost say superannuated) McCain would try to drag out against a presumably "Inexperienced" Obama, but I suppose even Republicans tire of directing their energies always only to coming up with new ways to send dog-whistles to the now dwindling generation of hard core racists who make up the remaining bulk of the Republican base, apart from a few thousand sociopathically greedy multi-millionaires and psychopathically faithful theocrats.

23 comments:

De Thezier said...

Obama "inexperienced"?

* community orgainizer,

* constitutional law professor,

* successful legislator with a knack for building bipartisan coalitions,

* immensely gifted political leader who came from nowhere and won the nomination of the world's oldest, largest and most successful political party.

I guess the question becomes "inexperienced" at what?

De Thezier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg in Portland said...

I guess the question becomes "inexperienced" at what?

Starting wars of course. The only thing that matters to the fascists in the heartland. Obama will never be a "warpresnit" no matter how much he talks about bombing Pakistan. You've got to understand the Amerikan political landscape better DT. There are lots of factions who reduce statecraft to one particular thing. Fascists think it's war (on drugs, hippies, terra, mooslims, whatever). Libertarians think it's protecting (their) property. Theocrats think it's making the country safe for Jesus. Everything else is tyranny, communism, faggotry and l33tist intemuhlectul libruhlism. That's what the "experience" rhetoric is a proxy for . To state these ideas directly would look stupid even on Fox News.

McCain has the war experience thing. He doesn't have much experience though at making us love Jesus or making sure the government is reduced to the size and role it had in 1790. That's why the Repug base doesn't show up to vote for him like you saw two days ago in Wisconsin. Even the warmongers can't work up much enthusiasm for him. The reason I think is that all three of these factions (libs,theos,fascists) feed off of each other. The fascists are not especially religious (a few are even vehemently atheistic) but they like the cruelty of the libertarian program and the sheer balls-to-wall craziness of the theocratic one largely because so much of that program is directed against women and fascism is often an indicator of some serious psycho-sexual damage.

De Thezier said...

greg in portland said:

Starting wars of course. The only thing that matters to the fascists in the heartland. Obama will never be a "warpresnit" no matter how much he talks about bombing Pakistan. You've got to understand the Amerikan political landscape better DT.

Oh I don't claim to be an expert but I am well aware of the reactionary American political landscape. I was simply rethorical and you actually gave the answer I was hoping to hear. ;)

McCain has the war experience thing.

From the Amazon.com book description of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick:

"John McCain is one of the most familiar, sympathetic, and overexposed figures in American politics, yet his concrete governing philosophy and actual track record have been left curiously unexamined, mostly because of the massive distractions in his official biography, but also because of his ingenious strategy of talking ad infinitum to each and every access-craving media person who happens by. The more he has spouted, the less journalists have bothered trying to see through the fog.McCain gives the voting public what it wants but can't find -- a flesh-and-bones political portrait of a man onto whom people are forever projecting their own ideological fantasies. It is a psychological key for decoding his allegedly 'maverick' actions, and the first realistic assessment of what a John McCain presidency may look like. McCain will quickly lay out in overlapping detail the root cause of the senator's worldview: his personal transformation from underachieving punk to war hawk uber-patriot, in which he used the "higher power" of American nationalism to save his life and soul.As McCain wrenches himself inside-out in pursuit of the prize that eluded him in 2000, McCain will look behind the war hero, behind the maverick reformer. Journalist and pundit Matt Welch brings to this project an investigative eye and a coolly analytical mindset to provide Republicans, Democrats and Independents a picture of the man in full before they enter the voting booth in 2008."

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0230603963/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books

De Thezier said...

Any respect I had for McCain has been deleted after reading this New York Times article:

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk
By Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and Stephen Labaton
Published: February 21, 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/us/politics/21mccain.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnlx=1203627818-Mki608V4blCjN1MFw/%20QTg&pagewanted=all

smartypants said...

This article is great and not only that, but it's absolutely correct.

Rather than being cynics, we should be realists. Democracy is reasonably good at some things: pushing scoundrels out of office, checking their worst excesses by requiring openness, and simply giving large numbers of people the feeling of having a voice. Democracy is not nearly as good at others: holding politicians accountable for their economic promises or translating the preferences of intellectuals into public policy.

THAT might sound pessimistic, but it’s not. Many Americans will be living longer, finding new sources of learning and recreation, creating more rewarding jobs, striking up new loves and friendships, and, yes, earning more money. Just don’t expect most of these gains to come out of the voting booth or, for that matter, Washington.

And if you’re still worrying about how to vote, I have two pieces of advice. First, spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference. Second, stop worrying and get back to work.

Greg in Portland said...

THAT might sound pessimistic, but it’s not. Many Americans will be living longer, finding new sources of learning and recreation, creating more rewarding jobs, striking up new loves and friendships, and, yes, earning more money. Just don’t expect most of these gains to come out of the voting booth or, for that matter, Washington.

Of course, it'll just happen. The Technology Fairy, working closely with the Market Gnomes will see to that. There's no need for actual policy initiatives to avoid disaster.

Second, stop worrying and get back to work.

Hit cruise control, pop a Star Wars DVD in the player, prop your feet up on the dash and have a beer. Ignore any screams or sirens you hear.

Eric in Seattle said...

Of course, it'll just happen. People like you, working closely with Democracy will see to that.

Stop driving, prop your feet up on the dash and rant about the election. Ignore any screams or sirens you hear.

(Just switching words around gets the opposite thing, and it isn't much worse than the original.)

Greg in Portland said...

My point was that the article smartypants quoted (and especially the passage he picked) is just the usual "trust in God (the Market) and mind your own business" quietistic crap that the business elite has been spewing forever. This is not a call for Dale's kind of local and p2p democracy but a typical Establishment statement of the futility of getting real change through politics of any sort combined with appalling naivete about the prospects for just "muddling through" things like global warming and Peak Oil.

Stop worrying and get back to work. The only thing left out was the call to go shopping and buy a new TV. Personally I think he should just have ended with a hearty "Resistance is Futile puny human!"

peco said...

What actual (and major, and wanted by progressives) change has happened recently? The Republicans still seem to be winning (except for elections, but just winning an election doesn't count as a change). Of course, there have been some changes, but the market has caused more change (obviously good change, like smaller phones).

peco said...

("even just counting obviously good change, like smaller phones" is what I meant)

Greg in Portland said...

even just counting obviously good change, like smaller phones" is what I meant

So the point is that the market produces both good and bad changes. No kidding. What most people actually want (even ill-educated heartlanders who are still waiting for Jebus to show up and fix everything) is for sane government policy to step in and direct the market in ways consistent with, oh say human survival and well being. Left to itself the market gives you all sorts of deadly, stupid crap like Hummers, McMansions, Chinese toys filled with lead, yachts the size of WWII destroyers for the rich and the American health care "system" for the rest of us. But it does give us those tiny phones we all love. I guess that makes up for it all.

The market is basically like evolution itself, random, undirected and with all the foresight of a cave cricket. Evolution did produce some cool stuff (like us I must say) but not before untold quintillions of beings suffered needlessly. This is not a good model for running a society, particularly if you have certain specific objectives, like mitigating global warming or moving rapidly to alternative energy, in mind.

peco said...

But it does give us those tiny phones we all love. I guess that makes up for it all.

Within the last 50 or so years (major good things only):

Market, partially government:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer

Market only:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_system (some)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution (if you don't like this, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture)
Most other software
Most electronics
(many, many more small things)

Non-market, non-government:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-governmental_organization
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_software
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

Government only:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_rights
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Environmental_Protection_Agency
(minor improvements)

Major bad things:

Market, partially government:
(nothing?)

Market only:
Bad working conditions
(other things too)

Government only:
Wars
(maybe some other things)

Anything else?

Dale Carrico said...

The stoopid, it burns us!

Dale Carrico said...

Greg from Portland said: many things that I agree with, and in a tone I approve of.

For those keeping score at home.

smartypants said...

I emphasize the following:

spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference.

This view is quite correct. I would extend it further to hypothesize that a Presidential candidate's domestic policy record is a poor predictor of the domestic policies that will pass during his or her administration. In contrast, that same candidate's foreign policy record has relatively more to say about what foreign policy will be like during his or her administration.

We don't need to settle the perennial free market debate in order to grok these points.

smartypants said...

The market is basically like evolution itself, random, undirected and with all the foresight of a cave cricket.

It's actually been proven that the cave cricket has twice the foresight of your average congressperson.

Evolution did produce some cool stuff (like us I must say) but not before untold quintillions of beings suffered needlessly.

True, but to really, efficiently exterminate millions of sentients, you need a good, strong government.

Greg in Portland said...

True, but to really, efficiently exterminate millions of sentients, you need a good, strong government.

And as well all know there's no difference between social democracy and Stalinism. But this isn't even really right these days. All you really need is a lazy, incompetent government given over to free market fundamentalism. Then nature with the help of CO2 should do the rest. No need for any cattle cars or ovens at all.

peco said...

Global warming, the market, and all governments combined still cause far fewer deaths than other things (various diseases, aging, famine). It would probably be more helpful to focus on those instead.

Dale Carrico said...

True, but to really, efficiently exterminate millions of sentients, you need a good, strong government.

This is not only wrong but palpably and idiotically wrong: Not only can bad strong governments also manage this feat, but so too can any number of other kinds of organizations that are not typically thought of as "governments" in popular parlance.

Given the imbrication of public private institutions and the multilateral complexity of the civic sphere for centuries, most of the simplifying assumptions on which this whole set of exchanges seems to me to be premised are, frankly, rather ridiculous.

First, there simply are no "markets" autonomous from regulations made possible by authorities invested with legitimacy, and, second -- as Foucault put the point and Arendt before him -- we cut the King's head off centuries ago and it's high time for our political discourse to reflect these facts by moving past conventioanl sovereign figurations of statehood (ignorant fulminations by wingnuts about unitary executives notwithstanding).

Dale Carrico said...

Global warming, the market, and all governments combined still cause far fewer deaths than other things (various diseases, aging, famine). It would probably be more helpful to focus on those instead.

I'm all for universal basic health care and more funding for medical research and development, but I see no reason to disarticulate the demand for a democratization of healthcare from the politics of sustainability and climate change -- indeed, most people who care about either issue can easily describe the ways in which the politics of the one overlap with the politics of the other.

As for describing "the market" or "all governments" as causing death, in some abstract construal that seems to imbue them with a false quasi-personhood while at once being altogether indifferent to the indefinitely many actual historical forms that can be subsumed under each category with enormously different consequences in fact to the lives of actual people in the world -- some enabling more flourishing, some facilitating slaughter -- it seems to me that there is a fatal amount of confusion being testified to in glib statements of this kind.

By the way, as an aside, I disagree that it makes any sense at all to focus more money on research into ageing likely to benefit very few if anybody any time soon, than into neglected diseases, problems of universal access to clean water, subsidizing a rapid, extensive, and intensive shift into permacultural lifeways, and basic income provision.

Maybe I am wrong to read such a priority in what you say, but if I am right, I think this view is well and truly fucked up. This isn't to deny the value of medical research into the remediation of conditions hitherto associated with a folk understanding of "the ageing process" -- but there is nothing about such a recommendation that should be taken to endorse foolish and fraudulent talk about ending mortality or justifying a further deprioritization of urgent needs in overexploited areas of the world to indulge the interminable greed of incumbent interests.

Greg in Portland said...

First, there simply are no "markets" autonomous from regulations made possible by authorities invested with legitimacy

Come to think of it in my comments I admit that I did tend to set the market and the state out as independent rival entities. Of course if you look at a lot of the worst excesses of modern life like McMansions and Hummers there is always a great degree to which these outcomes are facilitated by the state. There's little point in a huge house in a desert canyon 50 miles from your job if the government won't build you a nice freeway, fight wars to ensure your sacred right to cheap gas and run water pipes out to you.

Of course true libertarians would agree with this and demand that the state stop building roads at all. They even busy themselves with working out how road networks and other civil society functions could be privatized. Some even want to privatize police. Of course wherever these things are actually tried as in South America or Iraq they turn first into a disaster and then a riot on the part of the people getting screwed. It's sometimes amusing to point out that history and modern times offer many working models of this pure libertopia in fact. Feudalism in Europe and the Afghan warlord system come to mind.

All these gyrations are a desperate attempt to eschew politics in favor of some kind of DIY society. This attempt is made in the first place due to the extreme lack of confidence in the political system as you see in smartypants' comments above about the lack of foresight of congress. It helps to look at other, frankly more successful societies like those in Europe that truly are moving rapidly towards alternative energy and GHG reduction for instance or that have had universal health coverage for decades. All of this is due to democratic politics setting the agenda and limning the arena in which "the market" can act. I admit that the current American system does seem uniquely broken but a lot of the reason for that is precisely the kind of anti-politics expressed by so much of the right wing and particularly the libertarian types. Since even anti-politics is still political though you start to get what we've all seen for decades - people send representatives to office who think that the government can't do anything right and shouldn't even try and then guess what, they are proven right. It's like being the psychic who predicts that the bank down the street will be robbed on Tues. On Tues you go rob the bank.

Dale Carrico said...

Just to be clear, my tirade about folks who don't get even the basics of the political and yet bloviate about it was not directed at you, Greg in the least.

true libertarians would... demand that the state stop building roads at all. They even busy themselves with working out how road networks and other civil society functions could be privatized. Some even want to privatize police. Of course wherever these things are actually tried as in South America or Iraq they turn first into a disaster and then a riot on the part of the people getting screwed. It's sometimes amusing to point out that history and modern times offer many working models of this pure libertopia in fact. Feudalism in Europe and the Afghan warlord system come to mind. All these gyrations are a desperate attempt to eschew politics in favor of some kind of DIY society.

This point cannot be stressed enough.

Even if some free marketeers will admit that the mobilization of free market mantras in the mouths of conservatives yields disaster after disaster, they will often still retreat to abstraction, promising like all True Believers do that the failures arising from their rhetoric and models on the ground demand more purity, more conviction, more intensity in the implementation of the fantasies...

What those of us who understand the utter bloadsoaked bankruptcy of market fundamentalism must remind gullible people of the libertopian minarchist faiths is that even in principle the "privatization" of all "services" functions not to eliminate the state but to brutalize it -- warlordism isn't peace and prosperity, organized criminal gangs isn't a Norman Rockwell painting.

The left anarchist's point that the state will usually deploy its legitimated violences in the service of incumbent elites demands the state be democratized, not smashed.

But the right anarchist's point that state coercion impedes the spontaneous ordering of market mechanisms is far worse -- because it is completely disconnected from reality: there is no "spontaneous order" but only the articulation of interpersonal power dynamics by institutions and norms such that things that pass for market outcomes are neither more nor less spontaneous than those eventuating from accountable regulation or p2p formations or any number of other kinds of articulation.

The right's fetishization of "market processes" is always a signal of their identification with certain incumbent interests among others, that they go on to treat as natural and thereafter fail to notice in their statelikeness, just as they describe any market outcome as paradigmatically nonviolent, however duressed its terms in fact.

In practice, in theory, in the abstract, at every level the so-called free-marketeers are completely wrongheaded.

They advocate the pre-political worldview of gangsters and then fancy themselves some curious admixture of Howard Roark and St. Francis of Assisi. Everything they touch turns to shit. Those who know better need to stop coddling them.

It's too easy for well-meaning but not-very-knowledgeable people to be bamboozled by their pir-charts and formulae because they are very simple and easy to remember and easy to construct a kind of virtual reality around that might pass for a model of the world so long as one is just pampered, just lazy, just enough in denial to overlook all the guns and where they're aimed.