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Comments by CK MacLeod

On “Soon to be lapping up on a shore near you…

Rex Caruthers wrote:

In truth,they are fairly helpless when things go wrong.

In truth, aren't we all?

Purely as a matter of practical politics, what you label "deniability" would, yes, be nice to have. What I've been inveighing against the last few months has been a rightwing radicalism, a kind of utopian constitutionalism, that to my mind isn't really conservative at all. When it's joined to an attitude that seems to say "environmentalists are all nitwits," then the right makes itself hostage to the headlines.

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@ bob:
I'd say that's a good example of what I've been trying to talk about.

I've been impressed with how many conservatives have reverted to the tough love position reflexively: It shows you how ideological the right has become in the Age of Obama. I think a few years ago, there would have been a wider clamor, even in the base, to assert that of course conservatives are in favor of responsible environmental regulation and a balancing of interests, but it's in the nature of the conservative coalition that it will include a bunch of very voluble people who are dismissive of environmentalist concerns and desperate to minimize them where not completely ignore them.

I rarely say the next words, but Krugman was exactly right when he pointed to Limbaugh's unfounded speculation regarding eco-terrorism as signaling awareness that the rightwing narrative had taken a hit.

Over at the HotAir Greenroom, when you put up a post, you can choose to place it within a category. The category list was imported, with a handful of additions, from Michelle Malkin's blog. The only option for environment and related issues is "enviro-nitwits."

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Also added to RecBrow - here's an article on Cheney's supposed involvement:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/2010/may/03/usa-dickcheney

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@ narciso:
I had the idea that someday he would send me something worthy of a post.

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@ narciso:
And that has what to do with the viability of his political positioning? Why doesn't it make an anti-oil stance from him more credible?

BTW, Rex, do you have a link to the "Cheney's fault" thing?

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@ narciso:
What's cynical about it in Newsom's case - whatever that case may be? It's just a late permutation of Kropotkinism, which was itself a late permutation...

On “Sarah Palin shouldn’t be pretending Glenn Beck is normal

@ Rocketman:
I think one of your original comments - about GB's method of stitching together facts in a distortive manner - is more indicative of his overall approach. Getting stuck on isolated factoids tends to serve his purpose, encouraging relatively trivial skirmishes while leaving the the main action unaffected. In that, he practices a crude version of what intellectually more sophisticated polemicists and partisan scholars do. He gets away with it because his national "high school class" may not know very much at all about the subjects he covers, and is happy to absorb information in a way that, in scapegoating others, seems to boost them.

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@ Fourstring Casady:
That's a great idea! Thanks for another terrific contribution!

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@ fuster:
I think "pecksniff" is an O'Reilly word, or a contraction of an O'Reilly word - don't ask, if you don't know, not worth it. In contracted form "pecksniffian" reads as vulgar. Don't know if that was the intention. Style point, maybe. No points for congeniality.

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@ fuster:
(I can't go chiding some commenters for attacking others, then leave up comments like the one from RagnarD that consist of nothing but insults - knowing what likely will eventuate, sooner or later - you know, broken windows.)

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@ Fourstring Casady:
Missed you little para-frog, and your chirping against big bad Joe. Hope everything's alright in your zonality.

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@ narciso:
That's just ad hominem, narciso, against Lind. His article describes the intellectual pedigree of Beck & Goldberg's polemics. On that point, it would make little difference whether Lind is a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, top organizer for the Communist International, or resident in a suburban prison for the criminally insane. Can't it go without saying that you can disagree with someone on one or several points without presuming he's incapable of constructing a bibliography?

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@ Joe NS:
The "fury" in your posts is mostly what you direct at others who have the misfortune of actually being familiar with the subject at hand. Rocketman described an incident. I didn't witness it, but it strikes me as the usual Beck, and I didn't find the description hard to understand at all. It seems to me that when you have difficulty "understanding English," your reflex is to blame others and then insult them.

FYI - Beck seized upon Jonah Goldberg's LIBERAL FASCISM sometime last year (a work whose flaws I discussed at https://ckmacleod.com/2010/04/09/on-re-reading-liberal-fascism-defining-fascism-down/ ). Since that time, he has also had the distinguished, very rightwing scholar Ronald Pestritto, whose critique of progressivism JG borrows from, on his show as a guest. To critique Pestritto, you may need to consult other scholars - you can get some hints here. (Incidentally, I believe that the image that accompanies that article is manufactured, and salon.com should be ashamed if so - Beck if not.)

Beck is also basking in the glow of high ratings and his new Fox following, and he would hardly be the first person in the history of the mass media to have been "promoted" above his competence, and to have his weaknesses exposed under the intensified glare of fame, perceived widening influence, and mega-bucks.

All of the flaws you concede, and others, have been magnified by the attention he's received, and by the requirements of his shtick (as I try to suggest in the concluding paragraph of the top post). It's a familiar story - the classic American media model being "Howard Beale," or, if you prefer literary references, "Elmer Gantry." Other literary and historical precedents are, of course, numerous. What's lacking so far is the climax - though sometimes the Beck-Gantry-Beale types simply fade away. Rush has avoided either fate, so far (though he's come close to blowing up and has had to weather a catastrophe or two), I think because he's a lot smarter than Beck, and guided by a larger political purpose and a deeper understanding of it.

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@ Joe NS:
Joe, read my virtual lips: You don't know what you're talking about. You're basing your opinions on assumptions and speculation.

It's now a little more understandable to me why you would be going on and on in this furious, "preening" and "high-minded" craptastical defense of the intellectually indefensible and politically very highly questionable. I'd like to be able to say that someday you might sit down and watch GB on Fox closely, and feel a little embarrassed about ever having passionately defended that, but over recent days you've just about convinced me that your ideological commitments and prejudices are too deeply embedded even to be touched, much less dislodged.

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@ Joe NS:
The comment highlighted by Rocketman and me strongly suggests that you do not consider yourself able to respond on the content of his current show. My suggestion is that you spend some more time at the beach bar before next rising up for the defense - and on the attack against others more familiar with the case.

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Joe NS wrote:

If they’re intellectually threadbare,m as I’m perfectly willing to admit in advance they might be–I don’t have cable, so I couldn’t say–but Glenn Beck is not running a Great Books seminar ala Mortimer Adler.

Wait a second. You never watch Glenn Beck? All this on behalf of something you know little or nothing about firsthand?

Hilarious.

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@ narciso:
Please name the historian, or even the pundit, who blamed the Depression on Harding/Coolidge tax cuts. I'm really curious to see such a case being made. I have some vague recollection of someone comparing minimal margin lending requirements to tax cut policy as stemming from the same ideology and encouraging bubble economics, but what you describe is something different. And which historians "state" that "the New Deal got us out" of the Depression? Even lovers of the New Deal and Roosevelt, the ones with which I'm familiar, make the much more conservative claim that the New Deal was a "bold" response or series of responses to the Depression, that held the country together and did all sorts of wonderful things (which would have been wonderfuller if not for the evil arch-conservatives, but that's another argument). The "it was really WW2 and/or time that changed things" position is widely held, in my observation, not some secret truth bravely maintained by the rightwing illuminati.

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@ Rocketman:
Since you've replied to Joe, I'm not going to "moderate" his comment. I'd just put it in the pending queue ahead of asking Joe to get rid of the insults, but have now restored it. Sorry about his lack of manners.

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TR was indeed a Progressive, with a capital "P." He was effectively the founder of the national Progressive Party, running as its candidate in 1912 (at least read the Cooper chapter on "the Great Campaign"). He also happened to differ greatly on many issues from other Progressives, not to mention other progressives, which is a testament to the difficulty of assigning some particular coherent theory or obligatory praxis to progressivism vis-a-vis constitutionalism or anything else.

Unlike socialists or communists, progressives weren't as a rule anti-capitalist, though they were, with few exceptions, against pure laissez-faire capitalism. They were a reform movement, not a revolutionary one, and the constant attempt to render them as revolutionaries, virtual revolutionaries, creeping revolutionaries, revolutionary stalking horses, etc., mainly serves to make the renderer out as a reactionary.

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@ narciso:
Not the subject I was just discussing, narc. I was referring to the period ca. 1880 - 1920 - original (P)rogressivism. I haven't seen a case as to the unconstitutionality of all of 2009-10, not to say I doubt that one could be made or would be surprised to learn one has been made.

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The original Progressives were very explicit about that: that constitutionalism was a hindrance to the implementation of their agenda.

This is where we begin to diverge I think in our understanding of progressivism and the progressive era. When you refer to "original Progressives" with a capital "P" it appears that you're referring to the Progressive Party, which never held national power, and managed to elect only a handful of representatives to the House and Senate. If you're referring to the original little P progressives, you can read through tons of material on and by them, and never encounter the question of constitutionalism. It just didn't have much relevance to the things they were dealing with, or, on the occasions that it did, they sought changes through constitutionally valid means.

As for the theorists, they're a different matter. Wilson, as a 29-year-old author seeking to make his mark, entertained a number of ideas - a parliamentary system, the necessity of not revering the Founding as a quasi-religious dispensation, various versions of "socialism" (in quotes because the meaning of the term was still in play in those days) - but he wasn't "original Progressivism." He wasn't even a nominal political progressive, though in those days people interested in new thinking and life styles generally might have called themselves "progressive."

Croly, Dewey, TR, and others writing and speaking during the 1900s and later all had a lot to say, and some took the question of Constitutionalism head on, but they spoke for themselves, in their time, not for "real, existing progressivism" in toto.

So who precisely are you referring to - check your Pestritto anthology if that's your source, please - when you described the O.P. as anti-constitutional? You don't identify them, instead you skip ahead to FDR, not remotely an O.P., then move to this observation:

I sense that you express often a view that soft socialism hasn’t led to hard socialism in America yet, and people are being alarmist to say it will — but it’s the very constitutionalism that you find unrealistic and radical that has held the harder socialism in check, as evidenced by the SCOTUS New Deal strikedown.

I don't find constitutionalism radical. I find radical constitutionalism radical, and contradictory to the spirit of the constitutional project and the American project, and therefore untenable.

The Constitution is the fundamental rulebook of our national political game. To implement socialism in the U.S. might require amendment of the Constitution, or a revolution. The former would allow for Constitutional Socialism - not something I favor, but not something "outside the rules."

A few years back an NFL progressive might have thought that an instant replay rule was necessary to preserve the integrity of the game, and the physical safety and other personal interests of the referees, in an age when millions of people watching on TV could see clear as day that a critical call was wrong. A radical NFL constitutionalist would have said, no, the rules are the rules, they can't be changed, and wanting to change them shows that you're a lousy fan, and if we keep on changing the rules then the game will be destroyed. It was good enough for Unitas, it's good enough for me.

Eventually, as we know, the NFL progressives won the argument, and, though there were problems with the application of the rule, and though there may be a few people who will never accept it, the rules were changed.

There's no objective standard for saying that the progs were anti-rulebook or anti-NFL. They believed in changing the rulebook, and, following the by-laws of their organization (I don't really know exactly how the decision was made), they got the rule changes they sought. Both sides were equally "constitutionalist" in that sense, and the game goes on.

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@ narciso:
Contentions had a post on what I believe would be that same ridic Newsweek reading - was that the one where they claimed that A deT was indifferent to slavery? Must have been reading a badly abridged version if so. Perhaps we can agree that DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA will likely be read with interest for much longer than last week's Newsweek.

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@ Zoltan Newberry:
Reminds me of Amiri Baraka, actually - you wouldn't have to do too much to the poem to turn it into a "real authentic radical attacks the sellouts & Amerika, too" piece.

Anyway, well-plied, Comrade Newberry.

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@ narciso:
I get the impression you haven't finished the Cooper book. Wilson flirted with imperialism early on, during the period you mention and when it didn't matter much, but the description of him as a reluctant to go to war, anti-imperialist in every way that counted once he took power, and virtually obsessed with achieving and ensuring peace - in that specific sense a "pacifist" - is very much supported by the later chapters. TR, almost to the day he died, excoriated Wilson for his failure to swing the big stick.

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@ Ken:
De Tocqueville's description of the extirpation of the natives - not the same as their murder - is to my knowledge unsurpassed. You should read it. The rest of the history of the extirpation of the native tribes is needless to say a broad subject. It's self-evident the preservation of their ways of life as they had pursued them and the expansion and settlement of the United States were incompatible. I think that fairly expresses how both sides saw the situation as it developed at the time. The removal of the Indians was a condition of the realization of America's manifest destiny.

I'm not some lefty calling up Michael Medved and asking for trouble. I'm familiar with the arguments you're making, and have been known to make some of them myself from time to time, on this very blog.

The "peculiar institution" was, during the period I was referring to, a mainstay of cotton farming and other forms of agriculture, the basis of the economy of the South. De Tocqueville's rather good on that, too, as a matter of fact, though unusually pessimistic for him.

Needless to say, whole libraries have been devoted to both subjects, so I doubt we'll discover anything novel about them here. I stand by what I wrote.

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