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Comments by b-psycho
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On “Thesis of Theses (re Samuel Goldman on The Religious Origins of Liberalism)

I never liked the whole "enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing. I will admit though that when it comes to conservatives the AmCon crew strikes me as more reasonable, if only because they seem willing to question the larger contradictions in political conservatism for the sake of the philosophical/cultural form.

Jennifer Rubin? Sorry dude, I'd call her an extremist nutjob and hack. I still think it instructive that on WaPo's right-wing beat they effectively picked her to replace Dave Weigel (who appears to have been excommunicated from a movement he never actually was part of -- he wrote for Reason, ffs!).

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Evolution of an individualist concept initially found by way of a certain religious belief to a point where it doesn't require that belief makes sense, really. Otherwise it'd have just remained the religious equivalent of talk of "the rights of Englishmen" from back then -- including an implication that non-Christians are void, or somehow less deserving of liberty.

Their view of Christianity was their path. It's not the only one.

Conservatism, as far as it even appears to be a coherent philosophy (generally there's correlation between extent to which it's associated with everyday politics and extent to which the term is more a grunt than an actual description), appears to me to turn this on its head. Their claim is that order -- in their conception, a very specifically defined order that happens to match their own preferences, more like enforced conformity -- is required for the liberty that classical liberalism seeks (or sought, you could say). It's an inherent contradiction though, as if you can't be other than what most are or challenge tradition then where exactly does the freedom part come in? It's like saying someone has a right to wear a hat, only to respond to them taking that hat off in public with contempt, if not outright violence. That's not a "right", that's a command.

BTW: would I be wrong to interpret something about the AmCon types largely rejecting exceptionalism kind of grinding your gears a bit?

On “On the Neo-Imperial Interest

I don't expect perfection. I just want to stop paying to manage a world that doesn't want to be managed.

If people in different countries wish to live in different ways, let them, any spreading of our ways should be only by example, not by secret manipulation or threats. It's not like we're doing so hot really, what with finance having us by the short hairs still after nearly crashing everything.

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I feel like being somewhat brief tonight:

Is it that, assuming the public understanding about our way of life & it requiring global dominance is correct, to oppose such dominance as unjust is to effectively state that our way of life itself is unjust?

Is there no first step to ending it that doesn't amount to demanding a New Man?

On “note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel

I'm kinda surprised, as devout as Larison is, that he didn't remark on the theological implication of that line. Seems to elevate such a earthly construct like that should practically punch his button. Not that theology is or should be a significant reason for opposition to the U.S./Israel relationship continuing*, but he has that among considerations he makes already.

(* - my take as a heathen is that it's a waste of resources & serves only to enrage the locals towards the U.S. due to implicitly co-signing what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians and the hypocrisy of screaming "DANGER!!" about possibility of Iran going nuclear when Israel has nukes already.)

On “Open Thread

Violating ones liberty, if done hard enough, tends to lead to violence from those people in response. I figure expecting reasonable people to anticipate such response & think "gee, maybe I shouldn't do that..." isn't too far fetched, god or no god.

Or are you in general saying non-believer should translate to "has no code at all"? People believe things, & disbelieve others, we're human.

On “Larison’s Feaver

re: Feaver's list of myths: I recall hearing the 3rd one from war supporters (i.e.: "Iraq is strategically important because of its oil, & we have an opportunity to make Iraq more politically favorable to us") to an extent.

The discussion around this is portrayed as "hah, we're gonna steal their oil!" vs considering oil as a factor by the opposition at all being denounced as crazy talk. If ones argument in opposition is more along the lines of "what a sovereign foreign nation chooses to do with its natural resources is not a legitimate grounds for war", just because Damn Hippies can agree with it doesn't make the concept itself nothing more than Damn Hippie "Blood for oil!" talk (to extent that being such automatically sticks it Out Of The Mainstream, that is).

On “Open Thread

If "sin" is sin because it's alleged to be harmful, that calls for two explanations: evidence of its harm, and why the term "harm" isn't enough.

If "sin" is "my god said not to do this" and nothing more, then if the person you're speaking to doesn't follow your god...well then, it's irrelevant. It has as much gravity as arguing over favorite ice cream flavors. I love chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but I'm not going to claim it's self evidently absurd or terrible to not like it.

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Sounds like Miguel is thinking of it in terms of upholding "traditional values" -- by force if necessary. Even though it getting to that point means the value being "defended" by government is gone, & to bother is an imposition rather than restoration.

On “Holder to Paul: “I point to my mask!”

“America does not torture” asserts a preferred concept of America, in the manner of a self-validating proclamation or enunciation of faith, and at the same time is a clear acknowledgment of an at best unsettled claim regarding alternative concepts and the actions undertaken under them. “No, the President will not kill Americans not engaged in combat” says, “Yes, the President, possibly on no one’s judgment other than his own, may kill or order the killing of anyone.”

Holder in the post-filibuster letter says No. You say the No really says Yes. What is the difference between that and saying "Holder is lying"?

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You said that in finally saying "no" Holder was lying. That's what I meant as the falsehood, not the remark on your part.

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As wide as their definition of "combat" has been abroad, what actually keeps it as narrow at home as they intend to convey (you suggest falsely) with that reply to Paul?

If the standard that Rand Paul held up to the executive branch there is inherently unfollowable, then it's to say there's nothing of particular note to defend by whatever actions are taken to begin with. If "America" must torture, or kill based on the vague & manipulable, in order to continue then that is the exception destroying exceptionalism.

The idea of a society that doesn't tolerate murder on Because I Said So grounds may be an idealistic thought, but there's reason it exists. We aspire to be more than beasts.

On “Foundations of the Founding (Legitimizing Legitimacy 2)

Remember what I said about different interpretations of "democracy"?

-Majority en masse rule I reject because it leads to whoever gets the short end of the stick being marginalized, even blatantly oppressed simply for not conforming.

-"Representative" majoritarianism is a contradiction in terms, and really should be called Oligarchal Pluralism because that's what it is in practice -- elites occasionally arguing on the few things they disagree on, changing nothing.

So those are out. But small-scale, radically decentralized, with exit easy and voice direct? That kind of "democracy" I'm cool with. Because by then it approaches the best kind of organization: voluntary. No rulers, just associates, partners, political equals.

If you're talking that interpretation, then yeah, you could say I'm a radical democrat, with emphasis on "radical". If majority en masse is your definition, then hell no. Majority en masse leads at best to constant whining by the majority about anyone who isn't them being defective or "not really (member of nation)" -- at its worst it leads to genocide.

What about people who don’t care, or whose aspirations and values would be equally or much better embodied in an aristocracy or a monarchy or one-party state than in a decentralized radically democratic or anarchic system?

People who don't care...don't care. Though I'd say sooner or later the effect of what is going on while they're not caring will inevitably smack them when they least expect it.

People better off in an aristocracy or monarchy? Who would be, other than the monarch or the aristocrat? Even if that were possible, why impose that on everyone else simply because a few may prefer it or see benefit?

I invoked the "social contract" because that's generally how people defending government philosophically back up the concept, the implication being that we agreed to it all simply by existing. I'm partial to Lysander Spooner's response to that, obviously.

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For the record, I'd say the question they were asked was inherently flawed because of the assumption of objectivity. That different people thought different events were significant due to their own frame of reference shouldn't surprise anybody, that can't help but be the only point to asking the question because you can't measure "change" like you'd measure cooking ingredients.

About "legitimacy" I'm not sure what I'm leaving out. Governments generally claim to be representations of the whole of their population, implying that The People rationally agree to what is done. Their authority is thought of as a contract, agreed to by all sides and binding. Yet in practice no government ever holds up their end of the contract, and I'd argue that the nature of government (monopoly of force) is such that none ever can or will make good faith effort to attempt to since they have no incentive, so such agreements are void.

On “Identifying Our Identity and Legitimizing Our Legitimacy

Obviously not.

Are you saying there's justification for not treating palestinans as political equals?

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Are they generally kept separate? Given different, stricter rules to follow than everyone else? Or are they political equals with the Israelis?

From my reading of the situation, there's a lot of concern about demographics in Israel & maintaining a certain balance as key to its survival. To say the life or death of a country depends on preventing "too many of *those* people" entry & inclusion is inherently racist.

This isn't to say the palestinians are perfect, mind. Just, well, look who has the upper hand.

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When they're treating Palestinians with constant suspicion & sterilizing black Jewish immigrants...well what else do you call it?

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You see the identity formations as powerful, even useful in a utility sense. That they are powerful I actually take as given, which is why it's so difficult to confront the assumptions that tend to creep up within them & the actions taken up in the name of such: people can conflate criticism of acts or rationale as criticism of their very identity. Their usefulness I take on a case by case basis, even individual by individual if necessary -- if ones preferred construct leads them to be a good, decent helpful person in general then that's fine, if it leads them towards conduct that violates people and general assholery then it is not. That said, there is such thing as patterns of behavior & it'd be a stretch to dismiss a common construct if it keeps reappearing in that context.

That nationalism & the like exist and are powerful is clear. You argue the Left tends to underestimate them. I ask if to properly estimate them must mean to see them as not just there to be dealt with but as objectively correct, as not just useful or not depending on how people react to them but as The Way Things Must Be, warts and all. I doubt it's possible to thread that needle.

As for false legitimacy, there's a reason for that within your definition of legitimacy. If it's about conformity to law, if it's demonstrable that the law-makers and enforcers tend to violate their own law, that contradicts the stated point to having the laws in the first place. Also, if the sources of the laws when enforced on the populace (assuming the regime in question claims to be "representative") are traceable to particular interests arrayed against much of the public expected to follow them, it collapses the liberal case for government as "Us" or simply expression of collective will of the whole -- it is instead Them, a tool of some against others. How can respect for the law be expected when in practice whether there is no law or the law is everywhere, arbitrary, & cruel depends on which side of the desk you're on or who you know?

In other words, the reason you're correct about my being "something of an anarchist" is because I've come to the conclusion that liberalism eats itself. Mainstream liberals can't end The Exception, so I say end the Rule, authority that cannot be checked is authority that should be nullified.

On “The Unquestionably Un-Complicated Matter of Torture

Even if the reports of people later found to not actually be involved with al-qaeda being tortured, even murdered over the course of all this "war on terror" are for your argument set aside (I'd rather not, but you suggest you're addressing solely those that were not innocent), does one have to sympathize with the tortured in order to condemn the torturing? What if you simply find the barbaric nature of it an inherent contradiction to the claim of moral right and justice assumed on the part of the party ordering the torturing?

Think about the times it's pointed out the horrific acts actual extremists engage in. There's an implied "we're clearly better than that". The fear of falsifying such should be stronger than it seems to be, IMO.

On “Django, Josey, and the Left

Saw Django Unchained & it was frickin awesome, btw.

On “YKY*5

Still surprised they did a 5th one. I've only seen 1 & 3 myself.

On “Note On Disbelief in Disbelief and the “Interrogation of ‘the Nones'”

...why would the hypothetical poll respondent follow the stated views yet still claim to be a Buddhist? Or are they defining Jesus *as* a form of Buddha? (or maybe they just smoked a lot of buddha...)

Anyway, that there is a give & take within the society between what someone believes or not & what the prevailing assumptions are shouldn't be seen as a revelation (not to say you're treating it as one). There are such things as levels of rejection, priorities, and throwing ones full weight of offense at every.single.divergence. from their own individual view is a great way to make life miserable -- and possibly short.

I've described my own view as being an "odds-based atheism" in the past, and I haven't shifted enough since to say it's not still correct. Ideally, if I could, would I remove "in god we trust" from the dollar? Yes, I would. Does it piss me off that it is there to the point where I turn down cash? Even if it said "to his lord and savior Jesus Christ be the glory!!" on it, no. I need the money.

On “A compact example of liberal illogic re Egypt cc @arabist @ibishblog

From my understanding, insistence on everyone following the same beliefs, traditional or otherwise, is the root of such political fights to begin with. There being, in the form of the state, a weapon to wrestle over to bend society to ones will regardless of what the people within it may think, encourages conflict while somehow being claimed as its resolution.

Well...yeah, the fighting stops when one side is all dead. Counting that as peace is horrible though.

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So basically if the liberals in this case admitted that since the Islamists want Islamism as a collective condition & not one individually chosen that liberalism in fact doesn't reconcile itself with Islamism or similar politically religious ideologies, their stance would be "what Islamists want is not individual liberty, therefore f*ck 'em".

Which would 1) be true*! but 2) result in the liberals losing.

Though it's not like they're actually winning now, TBH. I don't see a way for them to either, as marginalized as they've been. When the Islamists are the only ones organized then them ending up in charge is inevitable. Maybe they have to try majority absolutism on first before they get to liberalism.

(* - That said, I'm aware that Egypt's "liberals" are unlikely to be anywhere near as liberal as I picture liberalism meaning. But hey, I'm not Egyptian, that's on them)

On “Society of the First-Person Shooter

I notice a disconcerting tendency among mainstream liberals* to see restraints that most hurt normal people as legitimate in the name of restraint on the Crazy few.

No. If someone has done nothing wrong, & has not shown legit reason to suspect of such, there is NO such thing as a legitimate reason to restraint them, at all. To preserve liberty requires a presumption of it, to assume otherwise just leads to shackles on those that do not pose a threat.

(* - this is not to say the main impediments to freedom are from liberals. Rather, their ability to argue reasons that don't sound rooted in mere xenophobia & religion based bigotry makes their arguments for restraints more effective. )

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