Monday, October 25, 2010

Raindrops on roses

[Just for the record: I object strongly to using the word “suck” as an epithet. But you play the hand you’re dealt.]

I read Reclusive Leftist for the first time in a while and found a new post, the first since September 30 and the first substantive one since September 7. Entitled “I hate the world”, it begins:

When you’re off in a vortex of writing, totally disconnected from the real world, it’s easy to forget just how godawful the world really is. God, it just sucks.

Then I read a post by Megan McArdle entitled “Explaining The Anger That Consumes Debate on the Web”. McArdle cites the recent Scientific American article on sacred values versus secular values and says:

For me, this resonates with my growing disgust at the level of anger in the blogosphere. I don't mean irritation, pointed jibes, or even spirited discussion; I mean an aggressive revelling in rage.

According to McArdle, it’s the Hell’s brew of sacred values and money that explains weblogs wallowing in wrath:

we're fighting over a lot of taboo trade-offs, in a context where we can't help but bring money into it. The result is the rage of people who cannot bear to see their sacred ideals profaned--and worse, to see the profaners walking around apparently happy. Only a primal scream of outrage will do.

I disagree with McArdle. (End of world to follow soon.) I think people just like being angry. Not justifiably angry - that’s tiresome and burdensome and requires, like, you know, morality and thought and maybe even - gasp - action. No, justifiably angry is a drag. Self-righteously angry on the other hand? That’s a blast. Self-righteous anger feeds and is fed by so many other delightful demons: arrogance; moral superiority; selective blindness; bonding with the group against The Other; intellectual snobbery; dehumanization, even demonization, of the “enemy”; a little data drop out; a lot of data drop out; that nasty little tickle in the gut when a point - however cheap, however cruel, however dishonest - is scored and that even nastier little glow when a cheap, cruel, dishonest point is applauded and linked!

Self-righteous anger is fun, it’s invigorating, it gets people out of bed in the morning. Self-righteous anger drives blog hits, sells cable shows, makes sweeping claims without the trouble of investigating those claims or backing up those claims and - even better - without the need for context or introspection or, Heaven forfend, balance. It constantly ups the ante: everyone who lives on and for self-righteous anger has to be angrier than he or she was yesterday and angrier than anyone else who is self-righteously angry: This sucks, that sucks, the whole world sucks.

And it’s all your, his, hers, their fault.

Sacred values? To someone who lives on and for self-righteous anger, the only sacred value is whatever he or she is angry about today.

Comments are open

Comments are open. Some recent posts may not allow comments because comments weren't allowed when they were written. I attempted to reconfigure those but may have missed some.

Let's talk self-interest

It’s an oft-repeated belief on the Left that white* working-class voters who support Republicans are voting against their own economic interests. After all, Democrats will take money away from the fat cats and spread it around to everyone who isn’t a fat cat. Therefore, white working-class Republicans must be ill-informed or led astray by conservative rhetoric (or conservative lies) or stupid or all of the above. For those on the Left to say so is simply being truthful.

I don’t think so. What Democrats represent is the redistribution of wealth from those who have more to those who have less. Democratic rhetoric claims this redistribution flows from those few who have a lot to the masses who don’t have a lot. But that’s not what the white working class sees. The white working class sees that people who are poor get stuff for free - housing, food, medical care - while those who work have to pay for this stuff themselves. The white working class sees that people who are very rich somehow manage to stay very rich and even get richer: the working class guy who lost his job, lost his medical insurance, and lost his house is looking at the Wall Street guy who got buckets of money because letting his firm fail would destroy the economy. White working class guy has got to be wondering exactly whose economy has been saved from destruction; it certainly isn’t the economy he lives in.

I suspect the white working class is asking themselves exactly whose money has been taken to give to the poor and - since more redistribution is on the horizon as more of ObamaCare kicks in and if some variant of cap-and-trade gets through and as the effects of financial regulation begin to be felt - they must also be asking themselves whose money is going to be taken in the future. It can’t be people who are poorer than the white working class - they don’t have money to redistribute. So far it doesn’t look like it’s going to be people who are rich - even if their taxes go up there’s no reason to think their special relationship with the government will disappear. That would seem to leave the working class.** Their money will be taken if not through higher income taxes then through a VAT; cap-and-trade; inflation; having to pay bank fees; tighter and/or more expensive credit; forced purchase of particular forms of health insurance; more job loss; or simply by piling a incomprehensibly huge national debt on the backs of their children and their children’s children.

If you look at what the Democrats say they’re going to do then, yes, when the white working class votes Republican you can argue it’s voting against its own economic interests.*** But when you look at what the Democrats have actually done, I’d say the white working class figures - quite rationally - that it’s better to hold onto what little they have rather than risk being the people on the wrong end of the continuing redistribution. This doesn’t mean they think the Republicans are going to help them or, for that matter, hurt the wealthy. It simply means the working class hopes the Republicans will allow them to keep what they earn. They entertain no such hopes about the Democrats.


* I write here of the white (presumably non-Hispanic) working class because that’s the contingent that swings between Democrat and Republican. I think the same economic factors apply to the non-white and Hispanic working class but they are more solidly Democratic.

** I’m leaving aside the middle class. I don’t think the working class is stupid enough to think anyone is going to take money from the middle class and give it to the working class. Nor do I think the working class is stupid enough to think taking money from just the middle class is going to be enough to accomplish the myraid forms of redistribution either underway or in the works.

*** Yes, we could have another whole discussion about whether even if the working class was on the receiving end of redistribution they would support it and want it (there are interests that are not economic) and yet another one about whether the Democrats’ program would be in the working class’ best economic interests in the long term. What I doing here, though, is ruminating on why the Left’s “voting against their own economic interest” claim is weak even in the very short term.



News Flash: Inflation Is on the Way - Kevin D. Williamson at Exchequer on the new issue of TIPS.

Trouble with the humans - The Economist article that jarred this post loose

Of Reds, Racists and Rubes - Anglachel. My favorite snippet (but read the whole thing): People are motivated by rational self-interest, especially in times of need.

Capital Expenditure - Anglachel again. This is one of her posts where our world views are so different I struggle to understand her and quoting Bob Somersby makes her even more opaque while quoting Paul Krugman makes her even less accessible to me. However, if I understand her correctly what she’s saying is that Barack Obama did not and does not have a unifying ideological view of how the world works or how the world should work and this has handicapped him. This combines with - or possibly causes - Obama to be timid in going after what he wants and even in arguing for his desired outcomes.

I agree - this is my view of Obama. He lacks a coherent view of what he wants to have happen, how to get there, and - most important - how all the pieces have to fit together to get him there; in addition, he appears unable or unwilling to take the heat for what he believes in perhaps because he doesn’t believe strongly in anything except himself. The result is the kind of half-hearted, piecemeal legislation we see in ObamaCare. It is neither a huge overhaul that has a chance of working nor a modest, step by step fix with few unintended consequences. Instead it’s Frankenstein’s monster; almost any other outcome - including doing nothing and moving to a Canadian system - would be better than what Obama’s combination of ideological laziness, political ineptitude, intellectual shallowness, and general incompetence have given us.

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In? - Frank Rich:

But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

An astonishing piece since Rich spends much of it chastising the Obama Administration for its failure to “unstack” the economic order but winds up by concluding that much of the blame rests with the GOP, its deep pockets backers, and the mean old Supreme Court. (As an aside, blaming the last makes me incredibly weary. I’m sick of hearing that when the Supreme Court does something a commentator agrees with , it’s rightfully the ultimate arbiter of our fates and perfectly justified in riding roughshod over elected officials and the wishes of the voters but when it does something that same commentator disagrees with, it’s a captured and corrupt political cesspool. Pick one.)

Obama the snob - Michael Gerson.

The Psychology of the Taboo Trade-Off - Scientific American on sacred values versus secular ones - especially monetary ones.

Tea Party to the Rescue - Peggy Noonan. Of particular note is Maureen Turner’s explanation of how she ended up supporting the Tea Party: I have voted Democrat all my life, until I started listening to what Obama was promising and started wondering how the hell will this utopian dream be paid for?"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yes, I know

I said I wasn’t going to be blogging. Apparently, however, all it takes to start me writing again is deciding not to blog. Maybe I should just announce every week or so that I’m not blogging any longer.

Whores, running dogs, and Anglachel

Anglachel is writing again, about the Jerry Brown campaign’s consideration of the word “whore” to refer to Meg Whitman. Her initial post is here; follow-up here.

As always, I find her writing extremely interesting, on point, and well thought out within her coherent world view. Since I do not entirely share that world view (although I also do not entirely dismiss it), I don’t necessarily find her conclusions compelling; I do, however, find her to be indispensable reading.

Her initial post is about the incident itself and what it says about how slurs of this sort are used to keep women in line. I’m almost reluctant to quote any of it since I think it should be read in its entirety but her conclusion echoes so perfectly what I said to my husband that I can’t resist (emphasis mine):

Back to the gubernatorial campaign. An apology for calling a woman a whore for having engaged in ordinary campaign bargaining misses the mark. An apology is simply "Ooops, our bad. We'll hang up the phone next time. Sorry you feel offended. (snicker)". It is words. The only reassuring action would have been to hear, as the next element in the phone conversation, a roar of disgust that someone attached to the campaign would dare utter that suggestion.

Anglachel’s second post is about the reaction she’s seeing to both the incident and the outrage over it and is even more worth reading than her first post. She lays out more strongly her claim that Whitman was behaving exactly as every other (male) candidate does; that is, there as nothing particularly “whorish” about her behavior even if you do not consider it in the sexual sense. She also has high praise for Bill Clinton’s on-key campaigning in California. Like Anglachel’s first post, this one should be read in its entirety but an especially notable quote from it is:

... the larger failure of the Democrats to take seriously the disaffection of large blocks of Democratic constituencies after the horrific slash-and-burn primaries of 2008. In particular, the deliberate deployment of misogyny opened wounds that have not healed for many of us who previously and strongly identified as Democrats and who now are not willing to give candidates, especially male candidates, much leeway in how they and their campaigns deploy gender-based appeals and attacks.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure she’s right about this. Brown may have stepped into a political problem he doesn’t understand but I am not convinced that it is going to keep those who are - or who claim to be or who should be - concerned about misogyny from voting for him. After all, Barack Obama’s viciously misogynistic campaign against Hillary Clinton and even more viciously misogynistic campaign against Sarah Palin did not keep him from being elected President with 56% of women voting for him versus 43% voting Republican.

I find Anglachel’s discussion of how this incident appears to Hispanic voters and to working-class Catholic voters in general far more believable. It lends support to the idea that when it comes to social values (what Anglachel calls “cultural signifiers”), Republicans are more in line not just with working-class non-Hispanic white voters but with Hispanic voters as well. (If the Democrats succeed in awarding American citizenship to the large number of Hispanic illegal aliens in this country, they may find that they have created a massive pool of votes not for themselves but for their opponents.)

Finally, I feel compelled to repeat what I’ve said before about Anglachel:

If you want to know how an intelligent liberal (I do not believe she would say “progressive”) with an integrated view of the world and a deep respect for those who bitterly cling to their guns and religion thinks, this is a must-read. If someone like her was running the Democratic Party the Republicans might actually be dead in the water.



Although I’m not sure Anglachel is right about how big a problem Democratic Party misogyny will be for voters - even women voters - in California, she is absolutely correct in tying the Brown campaign slur to the 2008 campaigns. I wrote about this in my first post about Fourth Wave Feminism. Even if you don’t read my post, you should read the referenced Little Miss Attila post on American Sharia.

NOW endorsed Jerry Brown in the California governor’s race the day after the Whitman-whore episode blew up. Anglachel doesn’t discuss that; perhaps, like me, she realizes NOW destroyed any claim it had to represent women or to be called a feminist organization during the 2008 campaigns and therefore what NOW does in these situations is irrelevant.

When I think about Institutional Feminists and how willing - even eager - they are to do the bidding of their male Democratic masters, I am reminded of that wonderfully descriptive but sadly now little-used term: running dogs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Extol Uniformity

I saw a car yesterday with two bumper stickers:

Celebrate Diversity

Go Vegan

So not all forms of diversity, then.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Going dark

I’m going dark - well, darker - for a while. I’ve started a number of posts lately and can’t “close” any of them so I’m going to stop trying. Comments are disabled although you can always reach me via my email address in my profile - look to the right-hand column and down.

I’ll check back on November 3 and let you know if it rained in Poughkeepsie on the 2nd.