Archive for Philosophy and Logic

Last week was the funeral of North Carolina state senator, Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt. Big Baptist church. Two governors (one sitting, one ex), two former lieutenant governors, most of the North Carolina Council of State and more politicians of both parties than I have ever been in a room with at one time. After eulogies by senate colleagues, the preacher gave a sermon about salvation. I got the message. Just not the one he intended. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

“When I hear Republicans in the United States say that taking away people’s food stamps will do them good I ask, what do you know that allows you to say this?” — Avner Offer

Avner Offer is Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic History at Oxford and author of “The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950.” Chris Hedges shared Offer’s epistemological inquiry into what they know and how they know it at Truthdig. Offer studies neoclassical economics and “just-world theory.”

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Feb
01

The Monetization Of Human Beings

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David Simon on America as a Horror Show


We’ve changed and we’ve become contemptuous of the idea that we are all in this together. This is about sharing and about, you know, when you say sharing there’s a percentage of the population (and it’s the moneyed percent of our population), that hears socialism or communism or any of the other -isms they want to put on it. But ultimately we are all part of the same society. And it’s either going to be a mediocre society that, you know, abuses people or it’s not…

And that once they’re in that situation, they’re not only marginalized, they’re abused. I mean, we are the country that jails more of our population than any other state on the globe. More than totalitarian states we put people in prison. We’ve managed to monetize these irrelevant people in a way that allows some of us to get rich.

Now, we’re all paying for it as taxpayers for having this level of incarceration in American society which is unheard of in the world. But we let some people, you know, get a profit off of it. The monetization of human beings like that, you know, anybody tells you that the markets will solve everything, the libertarian ideal.

I can’t get past just how juvenile the thought is that if you just let the markets be the markets, they’ll solve everything.

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Jan
29

SOTU Postmortem

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For those who did not see the State of the Union address last night, as you could guess there were some amazing moments of non-applause by the GOP for things like, you know, sick people being able to see a doctor and ending decade-long wars. All the while — with the exception of calling out “Congress” for trying over 40 times to repeal Obamacare — the president remains, for the most part, unwilling to call out his adversaries for their obstruction. That is his temperament. And that ain’t working. A friend points out that sometimes being nice is not leadership, especially when faced with adversaries with no compunction about not being nice. The liberal tendency to be vain about being highminded can be a mistake (below). Sometimes a little rhetorical Roadhouse is justified. 

So, I’m posting an old piece from Digby (largely excerpted from others) that addresses the partisan divide and how the left, like Obama, doesn’t seem to “get it.”

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Jan
13

Doing It Right

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I advise liberals that if you’re thinking of voters as (or calling them) stupid right before going out to ask them to vote with you, maybe they don’t because you’re doing it wrong. Sally Kohn nails why that is true. Just because you don’t work at Fox News is no reason to apply the lesson.

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Compassion for America’s poor and the long-term unemployed is audibly absent among many of the well-to-do, their on-air groupies, and politicians who once upon a news cycle tried to rebrand themselves as compassionate conservatives. A caller to a progressive radio show this week asked when heartlessness became fashionable in America.

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The cattle barons are nervous and getting reckless.

The United States has come to resemble those iconic westerns with a Wild West economy in which cattle barons rule, politicians and lawmen are on their payrolls, and struggling settlers are either compliant or prey.

But after the 2008 crash and bailout on Wall Street, one after another Occupy, the Consumer Protection Bureau, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Moral Mondays and now Pope Francis have put the cattle barons on notice that their grip on power is weakening.

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Nov
26

A Vicious Set of Assumptions

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“America’s descending into madness,” writes Henry Giroux in his latest book. The author appeared on Bill Moyer’s program Friday as the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, Kennedy’s calls to public service and national aspiration have been systematically supplanted with an ethos of radical self-interest and tawdry appeals to men’s basest instincts. It is a world, Giroux asserts, in which elites consider that “survival of the fittest is all that matters” and that “democracy is an excess.” Giroux is appalled.

… the notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.

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Oct
26

Russell Brand In His Fullness

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Damn. I mean, damn.

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Gawker:

Throughout the interview, Brand repeatedly dodged Paxman’s efforts to trivialize his message — at one point Paxman literally called Brand a “very trivial man” — until finally, even the entrenched newsman appeared to relent against the rushing tide of Brand’s valid arguments.

Sep
30

Shutdown: Politics, Power and Money

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The poison pills are piling up in Washington. Now a “conscience clause” has been added to the Continuing Resolution:

To the laundry list of demands made by House Republicans fighting health care reform, with the shutdown of the government and default on the national debt in the balance, add this last-minute item: limiting contraceptive coverage.

Multiple sources are reporting that Republicans have added language to the budget bill before the House that would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women if the employer or insurer finds that care objectionable on moral or religious grounds. Obamacare rules require all insurers and employers except for religious nonprofit organizations to offer contraceptive coverage. This language would remove the contraceptive coverage requirement.

On the surface, this appears to be just a bone thrown to the religious right among other ransom demands in a bill that will go nowhere. It is. But the impulse behind these sorts of rules isn’t just religion. It’s about power.

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Sep
25

R Is For Royalist

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The Republican Party is acting out one of those dreary murder ballads with America. You know the ones, where the rejected suitor declares, “If I can’t have you, then no one can!” Then he murders the woman to put her out of his misery.

America, how we loved ye!

The Republican-led U.S. House voted last week to throw 4 million Americans off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), largely on party lines. Then it voted 230-to-189 to shut down the government if Obamcare isn’t defunded. Then Republicans threw a party.

At the National Review, Henry Olsen threw up his hands:

The conservative war on food stamps is the most baffling political move of the year. Conservatives have suffered for years from the stereotype that they are heartless Scrooge McDucks more concerned with our money than other people’s lives. Yet in this case, conservatives make the taking of food from the mouths of the genuinely hungry a top priority. What gives? And why are conservatives overlooking a far more egregious abuse of taxpayer dollars in the farm bill? [Emphasis by Jonathan Chait]

“It’s not baffling,” writes Chait, nor a stereotype. “Indeed, it’s the only analysis that persuasively explains the facts.”

On that note, a recent Facebook posting linked to yet another article attempting to explain how poor, conservative, white voters can vote Republican against their best interests. It’s a common complaint on the left and bad messaging. As if liberals seriously want Americans to vote what’s best for No. 1.

Conservative voters don’t vote against their best interests anyway. Because they don’t vote their interests. They vote their identities. (Lakoff’s Second Law.) The problem for the left is that many poor, white, red-state voters don’t identify with Democrats.

There are plenty of reasons why on the Democratic side of the aisle, many rooted in social rather than economic issues. Still, it baffles the liberal mind that struggling red-state voters don’t see how the Republican Party and its policies are screwing them and destroying the American middle class. Besides, how can working-class voters possibly identify more with plutocrats and corporate interests?

Perhaps because at heart some are simply royalists?

Historian Robert Calhoon explained the proportions of loyalists and rebels during the American Revolution: “Historians’ best estimates put the proportion of adult white male loyalists somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.” As many as 500,000 loyalists among a population of 2.5 million colonists. They were particularly numerous in the South.

More militant tea party types promote the idea popularized by Mike Vanderboegh that only three percent of colonists actually fought against British tyranny. This makes self-styled patriots feel special. They even have Three Percenter arm patches and t-shirts to display along with their AR-15s.

Yet there are signs in the tea party movement that the royalists are still with us – both on the streets and in our legislatures.

Ironically, the Tea Party Patriots and other corporate-sponsored tea party groups take their name from a famous act of vandalism against the assets of the largest corporation of its day. The British East India Company ran whole British colonies and raised its own troops. It was so in bed with Parliament that it got tax subsidies that allowed the East India Company to undercut the price smugglers of Dutch tea offered to American colonists. The Tea Act protected the East India Company monopoly and Parliament’s investments. This ticked off smugglers and, combined with a nifty anti-tax slogan, colonists too. It resulted in a memorable destruction of company property.

Now try to imagine the contemporary tea party participating in anything like that against the East India Company’s modern-day equivalents. Nouveau tea party members carry signs like, “Got a job? Thank a rich person.” They suggest that only landowners should get to vote. They advocate the elimination of corporate taxes. Like their East India Company forebears, today’s elites have raised their own army – no oath of fealty needed. Among its members you’ll find some of the staunchest defenders of a business model crafted to shield Wall Street barons and corporate princes from personal responsibility for their business dealings. Because personal responsibility is for little people, not financial royalty.

For all their patriotic bluster, the tea party dresses like colonists and acts like royalists. They’re more Tory than tea party. And they vote that way.

Historians estimate that perhaps only 20 percent of the King’s loyal supporters emigrated from the United States after the British lost the war. The rest stayed.

Two hundred-plus years later, their children are still with us. They have found a home in the Republican Party. It’s where corporations can order custom-tailored legislation and where a tradesman can dream that if he emulates his betters – or wins the lottery – he might find acceptance among them. Or failing that, maybe touch the hem of their garments as they pass. (Just last week. Pope Francis warned about the worship of money.)

Conservatives don’t vote against their best interests. They vote their identities, and some identify most with moneyed royalty. Perhaps that’s not so baffling.

(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)

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