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August 31, 2012


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GM plant in Jamestown?

Glenn Kenny

Oops, fixed.


"Last night, while many of you were watching what Badass Digest writer Devin Faraci, invoking The Simpsons, aptly characterized as "Old Man Yells At Chair,"

If I were running the DNC, I'd see if I could slap together a 10 minute scripted routine, for network-coverage-hour TUESDAY NIGHT, instead of Thursday night, of Morgan Freeman talking to an invisible Romney in an empty chair.

They could get big laughs, big echo-chamber coverage, and slip in a key policy point or two they want to get heard loud.


I predict this movie will be about as effective in removing Obama from office as Fahrenheit 9/11 was in removing Bush. This one probably won't win an Oscar though. Take that as you will.


Ah, I stand corrected. It was Bowling that won. Fahrenheit didn't get nominated, I think because Moore himself wanted to focus on the Best Picture category (for which it didn't get nominated).

At any rate, what's interesting to me about all this rabid (and completely perplexing, given his low-key personal demeanor) Obama hatred is how it's really a desperate attempt to cover up the increasing ideological incoherence of the Right.

I mean, for all D'Souza's attempts to outflank Obama on national security, conservatives tend to hypocritically criticize him from an isolationist perspective rather than a neoconservative one. Meanwhile, for all the heated liberterian rhetoric of the Tea Party, the unpopular specter of social conservatism keeps rearing its head.

The biggest issue, to me, is that self-described conservatives generally tell you the distinction between left and right is not based on ends (we all want to reduce poverty, suffering, etc. as much as possible, they'll tell you) but on means. They just don't trust government to do a good job; and anyway, however well-intentioned, government action infringes on individual freedom, and conservatism is all about freedom.

Well, except when it isn't. Notice how quickly this philosophical starting point falls apart when applied to other areas of conservative policy, where the focus is on limitations and security and order. Outside of the economic arena, "conservatism" (in quotes because its questionable if this is an apt term for the ideology, however fashionable among its acolytes) seems to be more a matter of fundamental values than practical means. Or rather, of opposition to CERTAIN values, which brings together many people whose core values are, in fact, quite different.

United by opposition to the end-goal of the Left in all its forms (and the Left is, whatever its other qualities, quite a bit more coherent in what it sees as fundamental values), but for different reasons, this bizarre coalition of isolationists and neocon hawks, Randians and Religious Righters, law-and-order authoritarians and paranoid militiamen doesn't really have a firm leg to stand on.

No wonder it's reduced to yelling at a chair.


MovieMan; you said it better than I could.

Joel Bocko

Two interesting convention moments to illustrate my point (or two points really, one that conservatism - and perhaps American political ideology in general although conservatism's the big game in town right now - is rooted more in emotions than ideas; and the other that, particularly on foreign policy, conservatism is a house divided):

-From 2008. McCain gave what I thought was an excellent speech, a moving account of his time in Hanoi which, rather than heroicize the experience, humanized it. In some ways, it was classically conservative - about human limits, about the importance of social cohesion, about stoicism and doing your duty and being responsible in an almost existentialist fashion. Unfortunately, these themes have little currency in the conservative movement today, which is more about self-satisfaction and guilt-free judgement of others. McCain's speech was received with tepid applause, without the full-throated enthusiasm that greeted his running mate, whose speech was a vapid celebration of SUVs and hunting and stickin' in to those liberals. It was largely devoid of substance and far more about style (indeed, policywise Palin had not been uberconservative in office: but she looked and spoke the part of Red America - a cultural rather than truly ideological identity). And the crowd ate it up.

-From 2012. Condoleeza Rice's address (which contrary to the pundits' opinion, I found rather terribly delivered; while the content was well-written enough, she didn't seem at all comfortable with public speaking, odd because she is or was a professor, wasn't she?). The crowd doesn't seem to know how to respond to her warnings that conservatives, tired as they are of nation-building and the costs of war, can't turn their back on shaping the world stage. Applause is pretty hollow until she gets to her punchline: "We must lead, and we can't 'lead from behind'". Finally the crowd lets loose, and you can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from everyone: phew, she took a potshot at Obama! Never mind that her point is only effective if you embrace the internationalist pretext on which American leadership relies, something Rice does and most conservatives no longer seem to or at least would rather awkwardly ignore while bellowing about taxes and spending. (On a related note, the New Republic had a great piece on how remarkably ignored Bush has been at the convention, like those 8 years were just completely forgotten.)

For the sake of equal opportunity, and because this was actually one of the most embarrassing political moments I've ever seen (seemed like a slyly satirical moment from an Altman film, perhaps Tanner '88):

-The 2000 Democratic convention. Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant men alive, appears in a video to address the convention. It's a slower moment in the day, folks are milling about, but then suddenly scattered cheers and thunderous applause break out. That's nice, I think, they're paying this man the respect he deserves. But as that computer voice continues on about global warming and respect for science the CSPAN camera finally follows the flow of the noise and slowly pans away from the monitor...to catch Joe Lieberman working his way through the crowd, high-fiving delegates before exiting to rapturous glee, as if it was '64 and the Beatles had just made a surprise appearance at a teenybopper slumber party. When the camera panned back to Hawking's address it was over. But, hey, at least they caught what was important.

Joel Bocko

Btw, MovieMan0283 = Joel Bocko. Sorry for the confusion.


".... Obama got himself elected 'while nobody was looking.'"

This is so true. Think about it for a minute: Do you, or anyone you know, even really remember 2008 taking place AT ALL????

I rest my case.

David Ehrenstein

Dinesh D'Souza is lower than pond scum. The roots of his rage are obvious. While hailing biologicallhy from Indai he is several shades darker that I am, not to mention the POTUS. Being Indian he won't "count" as "black" by our "scientific" raicst lights. Yet this certainly didn't stop anyone from caling him a "nigger" his whole life.

Back when he was at Dartmouth, Dinesh and his then-grlgriend, Laura Ingraham, got the names and home phone numbers of gay and lesbian students. They would then call up the parents of said students and denounce them.

IOW a typical Republican.

David Ehrenstein

Here's Dinesh's model


Joel Bocko

Yeah, Dinesh has some dark shit in his past from his college Young Republican days. Rhetorically they were like the Weathermen (though luckily they didn't build bombs; at least not then - instead they grew up to encourage the U.S. government to use its own in an unnecessary war). Self-satisfied excessive bellicosity for self-satisfied excessive bellicosity's sake.

Indeed, the intellectual facade of present-day conservatism's rhetorical tenor is largely derived from the gleefully look-Ma-I'm-subversive-while-still-playing-it-safe Young Republicanism of the early 80s. And that, in turn, is heavily influenced by the form, if not the content, of 60s student radicalism. Here's a great piece on how and why a lot of far left-wingers shift all the way to the right instead of mellowing into moderation:


All of this is not to say radicalism, in a good cause, doesn't have its virtues (or that we couldn't use some of it right now), but it is to note that the radical tendency to see the world in black-and-white is ironic, given that ultimately the two extremes may have more in common with each other than with the vast middle ground they try to either claim or, more often, consign to the other side.

(Also, this is not an attempt to say "both sides are to blame" although in the big picture Leftist ideologues have done as much damage as Right-wing ones; at the present moment, in America, the far Left's influence is virtually nil while conservatism's obsession with ideological purity is perhaps unprecedented.)

Joel Bocko

Also, and I'm far from the first to note this, for all their screaming about Saul Alinsky and his dire effect on the president, it's the Right that has (sometimes openly; see Dick Armey) used the tactics endorsed in Rules for Radicals. Obama doesn't seem to follow Alinsky's approach at all. Which, frankly, might be the problem.

David Ehrenstein

"Also, this is not an attempt to say "both sides are to blame" although in the big picture Leftist ideologues have done as much damage as Right-wing ones"

Yes it is. That's PRECISELY what it is.

How old are you Joe? I'm 65. I remember the 60's and more important the 70's quite well, being a gay activist and all. Among ogther things.

Scum like Dinesh have nothing to do with the left in any of its forms.

Joel Bocko

Oh come on, David, you can't tell me Stalin and Mao never did any damage? Both were members of the Left, and more importantly (since one can contest if authoritarian leaders can ever TRULY be left-wing) they were embraced by many on the Left.

Please keep in mind that by the "big picture" I mean globally and historically, not just America in the past 50 years. Any ideology that suggests the end justifies the means, that individual people are pawns to some greater purpose, is inevitably going to cause suffering and quite possibly not even achieve its aims in the process. It's a historical fact that there are ideologies on the Left which reached that point. They don't form an entirety or even a majority, but they're there and they've been very powerful at times.

Also, the connection between the New Right and the New Left is pretty clear and in some cases pretty explicit (as I said, Tea Party leaders have been quite open about borrowing Alinsky's strategies). The point is less about content than form, and hence in that arena my observations are less about judgement than observation. Indeed, I kind of wish Obama would return to his supposed "roots" and fight fire with fire more often.

As for age, I'm 28 but have much respect and admiration for the 60s generation, which doesn't mean I'm uncritical of it.

Don R. Lewis

If I had the time, resources and money, I'd love to be making a doc right now about the (seemingly) successful "whisper campaign" the right is waging to paint Obama as "other." It's so disgusting yet so obvious and brilliant. Since calling him the "n-word" outright won't work, there's a constant stream of allegory for what Mr. Obama "is." I'm sure it started long before but I first noticed it when McCain snapped in 2008 and referred to him as "that one."

D'Souza's film seems to tie into this (both in topic and success...preaching to the choir, anyway) and it's frankly a little scary. I think race is a huge elephant in the room and the GOP's platform is basically "do we want this house N*****. running our country for another 4 years?? He can do what he wants since he doesn't have to risk wrecking his re-election..." Cue "Putney Swope."

Joel Bocko

And sometimes the allegory drops; I heard someone the other day, after a few drinks, growl the "n" word as punctuation to an anti-Obama rant. Followed, of course, quite promptly by "I'm not a racist; I use that word around my black friends all the time" etc.

There's really no other explanation for how VISCERAL the hatred is. I understand how, say, Clinton or Bush, who had charisma but also an in-your-faceness about them, could garner this kind of reaction. But Obama? He goes out of his way to appear conciliatory and genial, does not relish strident partisanship (indeed, his campaign was partly built on overcoming that tone of debate), and has a low-key, professiorial demeanor that simply doesn't invite the fierce hatred he's encountered. I can understand people disagreeing with his policies, but the amount of vitriol in some quarters goes beyond that. Unless the temperature on the Right has just become so heated that anyone leading the "other side" is viewed as the Devil Incarnate.

And funny, I thought back in '08 that one reason to vote for Obama over Hillary was that he wouldn't, that he COULDN'T, provoke the same intransigent hatred that she did - that his calming presence would work to make more room for debate. Boy was I wrong.


The ghost of Winston Churchill says: I wouldn't piss on 9 out of 10 of the know-nothings who pass for the modern American Right even if they were burning like Dresden.

David Ehrenstein

I'm not talking about Stalin and Mao. I talking about the knee-jerk false equivalency you and your kind traffic in so glibly.

The Tea Party was created by the Koch Brothers not Saul Alinsky. Why are you feigning abject stupidity? All you know of the left is what scum-sucking Trotskyites like the late and unlamented (at least by me) Christopher Hitchens have told you.


Good God! http://cityarts.info/2012/08/31/dreamcatcherbubbleburster/

David Ehrenstein

"The one thing D’Souza’s theory is not is conspiratorial"


Joel Bocko

Sure, David, whatever. I've evinced no sympathy for the Tea Party whatsoever, I'm merely noting that they (opportunistically) use Alinsky's strategies, while (glibly) condemning Alinsky and attempting to tie Obama to him. It's classic political jujitsu. I'm not even sure what were supposed to be disagreeing about but apparently you are so enjoy your secret and have a nice day.

David Ehrenstein

What "secret"?

Joel Bocko

You tell me. I came here to criticize D'Souza and somehow wound up cast as the standard-bearer for the Koch brothers.

David Ehrenstein

That's what flse equivalency gets you baby!

Joel Bocko

I noted an similarity in FORM between Dinesh and the very left-wing extremists he claims to oppose. And I also noted that in the big picture left-wing extremists have done as much damage as right-wingers, which is where Stalin and Mao come into it. Both points are pretty unarguable.

I went out of my way to note that I do not consider Right and Left to be anywhere near equally baleful in American politics. Bringing up the Weathermen, a group I would assume most liberals and radicals scorn, was meant to reflect badly on D'Souza, and point up his ironic hypocrisy; I'm not sure why you took it as an insult to people marching for gay rights in the 70s. The Weather-type folks were too busy holed up plotting harebrained revolution to take part in those events.

So again, what false equivalency?

Jeff McMahon

Oooh, I'd pay money to see Trog.
Joel Bocko, I had exactly the same thoughts about Obama vs. Hillary Clinton in 2008, that her past history of being hated by the GOP vs. his conciliatory tone and senate career suggested he could usher in a fresh bipartisanship. That all changed sometime in early 2009 when the GOP decided on a scorched-earth campaign and the Tea Party magically came into being.

I also don't understand what Mr. Ehrenstein is upset about beyond taking issue with a clearly qualified general statement.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Dammit, Glenn, how dare you get my hopes up for a Times Square showing of Trog?!??!

Mr. Ehrenstein does not need an "about" to be upset.

Tom Russell


Surely that fact is not in dispute.

Joel Bocko

Yeah, naivitee. Bipartisanship is ultimately impossible with this GOP. Or maybe any incarnation of the modern GOP - Carter and Clinton certainly had fiercer opposition than Reagan or Bush I (who took as much flak from his own right-wing as from Democrats), or even Bush II until 2006.

It's less that the Democrats or liberals are inherently more conciliatory (although there are tenets of liberalism which make conciliation palpable, there are tenets of traditional conservatism which - theoretically - should also make conciliation palpable, such as caution, weariness of excess, a desire for checks and balances - yet somehow they never come into play).

It's that, I think, the Democratic Party psyche, since the fallout of the 60s and ESPECIALLY since Reagan, just assumes - rightly or wrongly - that the U.S. is majority conservative, and that its popularity is tenuous, so it's always willing to compromise. Republicans tend to govern and especially to run on the same premise, full of confidence that their ideas are embraced by the American mainstream (even though, really, they aren't). When Democrats lose, they have a tendency to push for the center - even the relatively liberal candidacy of Obama was marked (as you and I noted) by a can't-we-all-come-to-the-table spirit of post-partisanship. Whereas when Republicans lose, they double-down as we are now seeing.

If in the long run they continue to lose it will be interesting to see if they ever change their approach; how much will it take to remove the ideological blinkers and get some pragmatism going? Of course if Romney wins in the fall, we can expect a further escalation of the Tea Party rhetoric, even though we can probably assume that any potential victory would be in spite of the right's extremism, rather than because of it. One of many reasons to hope for an Obama victory.

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