Here's the story:
Democrats challenge Ohio electoral votes -- Move delays official certification of presidential election
(Pasting this CNN story here just in case it disappears off the rest of the internet)
Thursday, January 6, 2005 Posted: 7:08 PM EST (0008 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Alleging widespread "irregularities" on Election Day, a group of Democrats in Congress objected Thursday to the counting of Ohio's 20 electoral votes, delaying the official certification of the 2004 presidential election results.
The move was not designed to overturn the re-election of President Bush, said Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who filed the objection.
The objecting Democrats, most of whom are House members, said they wanted to draw attention to the need for aggressive election reform in the wake of what they said were widespread voter problems.
In a letter to congressional leaders Wednesday, members of the group said they would take the action because a new report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee found "numerous, serious election irregularities," particularly in Ohio, that led to "a significant disenfranchisement of voters."
"How can we possibly tell millions of Americans who registered to vote, who came to the polls in record numbers, particularly our young people ... to simply get over it and move on?" Tubbs Jones told reporters.
The House of Representatives and Senate met Thursday afternoon in a constitutionally mandated session to count the electoral votes. Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, presided over the session.
The results from each state, read in alphabetical order, were ticked through quickly until Ohio was called, and a clerk read the letter of objection from Boxer and Tubbs Jones.
Cheney then ordered the lawmakers back to their respective chambers for two hours of debate on the merits of the challenge.
It is only the second such challenge since the current rules for counting electoral votes were established in 1877. The last was in 1969 and it concerned a so-called "faithless elector," according to congressional researchers.
Four years ago, after the disputed election results in Florida, members of the Congressional Black Caucus attempted to block Florida's electoral votes from being counted.
In a scene recalled in Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," lawmaker after lawmaker was gaveled down by Vice President Al Gore because no senator would support the objections, as the law requires.
House Democrats involved in this year's protest worked for weeks to enlist the support of a senator in their party, and Boxer agreed to join the effort Wednesday.
"This is my opening shot to be able to focus the light of truth on these terrible problems in the electoral system," Boxer told a press conference.
"While we have men and women dying to bring democracy abroad, we've got to make it the best it can be here at home, and that's why I'm doing this."
If one member of each body of Congress objects, congressional rules require that lawmakers return to their chambers to vote on the merits.
A simple majority vote in each chamber would overturn the challenge -- something that should be easily achieved in the GOP-controlled Congress.
Republicans dismissed the effort as a stunt, noting that specific allegations of voting problems in Ohio have been investigated by journalists and, the Republicans said, found to be untrue.
"But apparently, some Democrats only want to gripe about counts, recounts, and recounts of recounts," said Rep. Deborah Pryce, an Ohio Republican.
"So eager are they to abandon their job as public servants, they have cast themselves in the role of Michael Moore, concocting wild conspiracy theories to distract the American public."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan dismissed the challenge as "partisan politics."
"The election is behind us," he said. "The American people now expect their leaders in Washington to focus on the big priorities facing this country."
Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president, released a letter Wednesday saying he would not take part in the protest.
"Our legal teams on the ground have found no evidence that would change the outcome of the election," Kerry said.
Bush carried Ohio by more than 118,000 votes -- the Buckeye State win providing the margin of victory in the Electoral College race. The president received 286 to Kerry's 252 electoral votes.
"There are very troubling questions that have not yet been answered by Ohio election officials," the senator from Massachusetts said.
"In the coming months I will present a national proposal to ensure transparency and accountability in our voting process."
Kerry was not on hand Thursday. He is in Iraq to thank U.S. troops for their service.
CNN's Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
From a discussion on the Heterodox Forum started by John Faithful Hamer:
John Faithful Hamer: WHY IS COMMUNISM STILL COOL?: “Why is it still acceptable to regard the Marxist doctrine as essentially accurate in its diagnosis of the hypothetical evils of the free-market, democratic West; to still consider that doctrine ‘progressive’ and fit for the compassionate and proper thinking person? Twenty-five million dead through internal repression in the Soviet Union (according to The Black Book of Communism). Sixty million dead in Mao’s China (and an all-too-likely return to autocratic oppression in that country in the near future). The horrors of Cambodia’s killing fields, with their two million corpses. The barely animate body politic of Cuba, where people struggle even now to feed themselves. Venezuela, where it has now been made illegal to attribute a child’s death in hospital to starvation. No political experiment has ever been tried so widely, with so many disparate people, in so many different countries (with such different histories) and failed so absolutely and so catastrophically.”—Jordan B Peterson, preface to the new edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (2018)
Questions like this call for real answers, not comforting ones -- they need steel-manning. (Did you coin that term, John?)
Simple. Communism offers righteous struggle. The ideologies of liberal democracies do not.
(And it is STILL cool, because the struggle it proposes burns on beyond it's regularly updated objectives, until everything has been consumed by it)
Quentin MontagneReminds me of Orwell's 1940 review of MK:
"He has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life, there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags, and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result, a whole nation flings itself at his feet."
Obviously Orwell is talking about fascism here, but he even says the same thing applies to socialism.
Hard pill to swallow: Because the core values of Communism overlap a lot more with the core values as well as vectors of Liberalism than any Liberal (which includes JBP, whether it is prefaced by "classical" or not) would ever care to admit.
The general explanations which are echoed above (no true Scotsman, teachers' conspiracy, ignoring economics, overemphasis on Utopia etc.) are pertaining to the methods by which sympathizers wash Communism's feet and present it in a good light. This however, does not explain the pervasiveness of the ideology- so much so that it has not only survived its incarnation in the USSR, but some might argue it currently thrives, albeit under different guises - as well as the extremely high degree of acceptance it receives in the West, especially among highly educated elites. Why is the same not happening to even a remotely similar degree to Fascism which everyone (all Liberal, be it of the "classical", libertarian or socialist persuasion) agrees is pure evil despite having killed far fewer people, if we go strictly by the numbers (in a purely Utilitarian fashion)? After all, the Fascist ideology also has about 1000 years of Utopia in store for everyone on board with its tenets. Fascism glorified elites to the expense of everyone else. Fascism also doesn't require extensive reading of economy or history to grasp its core tenets. Shouldn't elites at least love an ideology glorifying elites? Apparently, no. Why?
Simply put, because the core tenets of Fascism are at odds with both the core tenets as well as opposed to the vectors of Liberalism, while the Communist ones are not. This is why so many "wide eyed idiot youths with no knowledge of history or economics" gobble up Communist ideals, because they are simply an extension of the oppression-fighting egalitarian-seeking society that their (classical?) Liberal great-great-grandfathers fought to create. The same ideals they are taught ever since they can walk that are good and just and true. That men are all (created? What happens if we remove the God that creates?) equal, that each person should be free from oppression, that everyone should fight tyranny, that all systems of government that centralize power in the hands of the few (or a single person, even worse) are pure evil because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are all normal values which are to be expected in a largely Liberal society.
Communism only overly exaggerates the egalitarian aspect which it deems the only true moral aspect to the detriment of the libertarian aspect of liberalism which is thrown down the wayside because it is seen as both selfish and elitist - both epithets associated with the tyrannical monarchy and the plutocratic aristocracy which Liberals, again, fought so hard to overturn a couple centuries ago. This also, partly, explains why Liberal elites try so hard to appear as if they are anything but elites.
This isn't a value oriented comment, it simply seeks to answer the original question: Why is communism still cool? In my view, try its hardest, liberalism cannot shake Marx's grim prediction: That it will inevitably lead to Communism or at least something very similar. The core liberal values are certainly pointing towards that direction if stretched towards a puritanically egalitarian extreme.
By appealing to unselfishness , vanity and ego.
This isn't all that difficult to answer. Now before anyone starts frothing at the mouth, Stalin and Mao killed more people than Hitler; the following is not a defense of communism as practiced in history or today.
The THEORY of communism is actually quite attractive to people who desire a caring more egalitarian society. "Let's govern ourselves in a manner that is egalitarian and flat structured where everyone gets a voice and is respected. Let's ensure everyone is cared for, valued and can live decently with proper housing food and clothing."
There is nothing wrong to preferring that ideal society to an individualist, capitalist, winner take all and devil take the hindmost society.
Please refrain from citing Pol Pot's killing Fields, Mao's great leap forward or the Holomodor under Stalin -- I am aware.
It is normal for idealistic young people (and old ones) to look at our western capitalist societies and yearn for a more humane system that helps everyone flourish not just the richest/most powerful/most able/most successful. A system that also crushes huge swathes of the population.
The problem with THEORETICAL communism is it doesn't account for human nature and communism in practice and in history.
And yet, there are instances of communist movements (which were in fact more socialist) in the developing world that did in fact increase education, literacy, women's equality and ability to learn and work while also combating government corruption. Such movements sent bright young village girls in Indonesia to the Sorbonne in Paris to study at University. It's not ALL a human rights disaster. But US foreign policy was to snuff out those political parties by any means necessary during the 1950s and 1960s - even if it meant funding and arming foreign regimes and militaries that would ruthlessly kill and disappear tens of thousands of people in mass terror operations. Who knows whether Indonesia wouldn't have been better off as a secular socialist democracy rather than living through the brutal Suharto regime and a current government now under the sway of Islamists? [Source:. The Jakarta Method, Vincent Bevins]
In my limited experience, the main driver, keeping people on board who otherwise should know better, is the belief that wealthy, privileged interest groups are actually waging an ongoing war against the rest of us, actually killing people sometimes with direct violence, other times by disease, famine, impoverishment, disenfranchisement ... . For most people, when you're in an actual war, the values of democracy and civil liberties become secondary, command and obedience are necessary as a matter of life and death, and you evaluate everything primarily by how you think it affects the war.
I think people inherently want an easy way out. Thats why fad diets and get rich quick schemes work so well.
Intrinsic theories of values and peoples general acceptance of altruism and self sacrifice as some kind of moral standard are the main reasons.
I've always heard that Communism works great in India's Christian state, Kerala, and that it's been Communist ever since independence. That may be a cruel myth, but it's worth checking out.
Then check it out and let us know.OK, it looks like they are officially communists, but in practice, they're a shining example of truly democratic socialism. And in politics, as distinct from economics or culture, they're liberal. It's hard to say if their economic model works in the very long run, because it's so interconnected with the rest of the world -- people get great educations and then earn their livings in the Gulf, the UK, the US ... . But it's hard to say if any real-life economic model works in the very long run, if it has one. (And personally I'm a hard-core libertarian.):
[Letter to the Editor published in Washington Post ca. Dec. 11, 1993. I was at a conference of libertarians near Washington on the day it was published, but none of them mentioned it to me.]
There is no factual basis for E. J. Dionne's charge that libertarians are "utopians." ["Libertarian Lure," op-ed, Dec. 6] It is an easy label to slap on anyone, and Dionne will get away with it because few readers are familiar with us, but no one who has even glanced at our publications could believe that we ignore "messy realities." Most libertarians think that because reality is so irremediably messy, voluntary cooperation under a strong, impartial common law system is the most practical, flexible way to deal with it. Unprovoked threats, force and extortion tend to have socially mischievous effects, and we think it is foolish to expect better results when well-intentioned governments use them than when private citizens do.
Unlike utopians, we don't hope to transform humans into angels or to make them cogs in some wonderful new system. We simply want governments to stop doing harm, and to let society manage its own problems by lawful means. Human societies have always had ways of looking out for children and old people, helping the poor and making people be responsible. For example, to adapt to the massive changes of the late 19th century, all sorts of voluntary mutual help groups, insurance and pension funds developed. Governments supplanted these (and outlawed some) not because they failed, but because of a Utopian faith in technocrats and large monopolies.
It will take a few years for society to wean itself from government, because much of its immune system, its shock absorbers, its lubrication, its ability to adjust, has been taxed and regulated away. As Meng-tzu observed 2200 years ago, "When taxes exceed 10 percent, the very old and the very young are rolled into canals and drainage ditches." It's especially hard to be generous and tolerant when nothing we own is secure, and everything is up for grabs by one political faction or another.
It seems that when libertarians aren't being called utopian or euphoric, we're accused of being cynics. Actually, we are squarely in the middle on the question of human goodness: we believe that people are pretty much good enough to govern themselves, but not good enough to govern each other very much. That is the view of human nature upon which America's system of government is founded.
"In his new book The Property Species, Chapman University law professor Bart Wilson offers a strikingly original look at the origin and meaning of private property. Unlike scholars who argue that property is a 'social construct,' Wilson argues that property is a deeply and uniquely human practice. Incorporating insights from history, linguistics, law, and his own laboratory experiments, Wilson illuminates the means by which our ideas of private property originate and gain their moral and legal force. In this conversation our Teleforum will examine how the institution of private property marks human beings as 'the property species.'" LISTEN
"Haidt isn’t just scolding liberals, however. He sees the left and right as yin and yang, each contributing insights to which the other should listen. In his view, for instance, liberals can teach conservatives to recognize and constrain predation by entrenched interests. Haidt believes in the power of reason, but the reasoning has to be interactive. It has to be other people’s reason engaging yours. We’re lousy at challenging our own beliefs, but we’re good at challenging each other’s. Haidt compares us to neurons in a giant brain, capable of “producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system.” Our task, then, is to organize society so that reason and intuition interact in healthy ways.
"... You don’t have to believe in God to see this higher capacity as part of our nature. You just have to believe in evolution. Evolution itself has evolved: as humans became increasingly social, the struggle for survival, mating and progeny depended less on physical abilities and more on social abilities. In this way, a faculty produced by evolution — sociality — became the new engine of evolution. Why can’t reason do the same thing? Why can’t it emerge from its evolutionary origins as a spin doctor to become the new medium in which humans compete, cooperate and advance the fitness of their communities?"
... Philanthropy: Do you consider private giving a form of free speech?
Strossen: Absolutely. And, much more importantly, so does the U.S. Supreme Court! In philanthropy, as well as in campaign contributions, what the court has held is that whether it’s on behalf of charitable assistance, some social-justice movement, a policy cause, a political candidate, a publishing platform, whatever, if the government says, “You may only spend X amount of money, and not more than that,” it is limiting your ability to convey your message effectively.
Philanthropy: Do you think donors have a right to be private or anonymous in their giving?
Strossen: Absolutely. And the Supreme Court supported this, interestingly enough, in a case that involved a corporation. Corporations include not just businesses but also nonprofits and other groups where individuals band together. But some critics dislike corporations and ask why they should have free speech, why they should they have the right to spend money in support of their ideas. The Supreme Court, though, has recognized both of those rights, and the right of incorporated groups to do their work anonymously. This came together in a historic case in 1958, involving a corporation some people considered disreputable—the NAACP. Like most other social-justice organizations, like most public-interest organizations all across the ideological spectrum, the NAACP is organized as a not-for-profit corporation.
Back in 1958, Southern governments were upset with the NAACP’s crusade against racial segregation, and they used whatever tools they could to try to stop the NAACP. One of their most potent threats was to require the NAACP to turn over lists of its members and donors. The Supreme Court recognized that if people had to reveal their identities, they would be exposed to hostility from critics, and many of them would have to end their support of the NAACP. If the court had not protected donor anonymity, NAACP and its civil-rights causes would have been completely undermined if not destroyed.
. . .
Philanthropy: One argument in your book is that when speech rights are curtailed, even on behalf of a vulnerable population, the vulnerable end up suffering for it.
Strossen: Yes. If you allow restrictions on speech where there are sharp differences in viewpoint, then of course over time it’s predictable those who are likeliest to be silenced are marginalized groups. That is exactly the pattern that we’ve seen throughout history and around the world.
It seems ironic to me that those who support censoring hate speech usually start with the premise that there is overwhelming oppression built into our society—systemic injustice. Well, if they are right, the last thing they should want is to hand over to our government more discretionary powers to discriminate.
Philanthropy: There was a hearing on Capitol Hill last year titled “How the Tax Code Subsidizes Hate,” asking if “hate groups” should have their charitable status revoked.
Strossen: One person’s hate group is somebody else’s love group. Black Lives Matter has been labeled a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as hate groups people who just have a different perspective from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
One organization I’m very familiar with is the Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF has been on the opposite side of the ACLU in many cases, and we could not disagree more strongly on some key issues. But I oppose their being labeled as a hate group. The idea of the IRS having the power to label hate groups is really frightening. It’s giving the government the power to suppress citizen action on the basis of ideological agreement or disagreement, which is really, really frightening.
The definition of a "hate" group has been in constant flux, no, expansion, for so long now that it's easy to forget that it was stable for generations. I always thought that the standard use of it for Nazis and other organized racists was unimaginative, and risked underestimating how dangerous they actually were, but at least everyone knew what it meant. American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell used it to describe his group's product as least as far back as the early 1960s, when he founded Hatenanny Records. In a 1991 college newspaper column titled "Bad Words to be Purged from the Language," I wrote,
"Hate speech, groups etc. As angry as they make us, Doug H. [prominent campus racial slurster] and friends are still expressing opinions, not hate. They probably have feelings of superiority, entitlement, self-pity, fear, envy, and contempt, but I doubt that many racists are possessed by hate or anything else unknown to the rest of us. The ones I know espouse sociological theories that were dominant until the 1940s, and think their own experiences empirically support them. They don't even dislike minorities, as long as they stay in their familiar and inferior "place."
With more space or forethought, I would have added that they often aren't expressing anything, they're just looking for words that will hurt, humiliate and enrage whoever they're using them against, or they're just trying to fit in with others, or show them that they can think of something powerful to say, and so on.
But this was still a "sidelines" kind of comment -- it wasn't about anything that was threatening me, or people I respectfully disagreed with, or any core values. It was just at that stage where you sense something "off" about someone's word choice, something that bespeaks some unknown, idiosyncratic, quirk in how they process the world, that might suddenly turn vicious under pressure if you had to trust or rely on them.
But now, Lord, ain't we got fun! At some point in the gay marriage movement, which itself had been outside the Overton Window of acceptable opinion until the early 90s, someone decided to label its opponents as "hate" advocates. Never mind that those opponents included Senators Clinton and Obama, at least officially. And now that the monopoly on "hate" victim status is broken open, everybody wants a piece of it.
In 2012, Randall Parker broke this ongoing process down in "On Labeling Opponents Of Multiculturalism As Hateful", citing and building on Jonathan Haidt's study showing why "The right gets the left better than the left gets the right":
That the Obama Administration would label a video that lampoons a religion as hate demonstrates why I so distrust Barack Obama. The primary use of the term "hate" is to label someone as outside of civilized discourse and deserving of pariah status. But lets get to root causes. Why use the term "hate" for this purpose? The role of hate looms so large in the elite liberal mind in large part because liberals lack the ability to understand non-liberal minds. The left has elevated their own psychological blindness and misunderstanding into a campaign of marginalization where they label their opponents as hate groups. This blindness of liberal minds to half the moral considerations used by conservative minds creates a condition very much like the Dunning-Kruger Effect where someone lacks the ability to detect the extent of their own misunderstanding, ignorance, and incompetence. ... This is the part that scares me. Will multi-culturalism and the desire to placate ethnicities at home and abroad cause an even larger reduction in freedom of speech than it already has? Speech codes in workplaces are already left-liberal. I'm expecting them to become more strictly enforced and for that enforcement to extend beyond the workplace.
The reason for this, as revealed in Haidt's study and vividly described by John Faithful Hamer:
Jonathan Haidt has found that when you give conservatives a questionnaire and ask them to answer it like a liberal, they’re able to do so with ease. When you ask them to answer like a libertarian, they’re able to do that too. Libertarians aren’t nearly as adept as conservatives, but they’re still fairly good at imagining how a conservative or a liberal might answer the questionnaire. Alas, the real outliers are the liberals.
In numerous studies, with respectable sample sizes, Haidt has demonstrated that liberals simply don’t have a clue. When you ask them to answer the questionnaire like a conservative, they answer it like a fascist. When you ask them to answer it like a libertarian, they answer it like a sociopath. The liberal conception of what makes the average conservative or libertarian tick is, Haidt concludes, way off.
Are liberals less imaginative than conservatives and libertarians? I highly doubt it. The virtues and vices are, it seems, to be found everywhere to varying degrees. Why, then, do liberals do so terribly on this “ideological Turing test”? And why do conservatives do so well? Haidt maintains that conservatives do well because they base their moral thinking on all six of the moral foundations (Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity, Liberty, Care & Fairness). Liberals do poorly because they base their moral thinking on only two of them (Care & Fairness).
Haidt’s explanation is fascinating. But it’s got way too many moving parts and a fatal flaw: namely, it implicitly presumes that liberals are somehow spectacularly deficient in imagination. I find it hard to believe that any sizable group of human beings could be spectacularly deficient in any virtue (or vice). That’s why I’ve come up with a simpler explanation for Haidt’s robust findings: liberals suck at this test because shutting down certain parts of your imagination has become central to what it means to be liberal.
Liberals haven’t just demonized their political opponents, they’ve demonized the very act of trying to think like their political opponents. Trying to sympathize with, say, a Trump supporter, has come to constitute a kind of thought-crime for many liberals (and almost all progressives). So it’s not that liberals have less imagination than conservatives or libertarians; it’s that they’ve set up mental firewalls that actively prevent them from even going there. Just as Odysseus’s men stopped up their ears with wax so they wouldn’t be tempted by the seductive song of the Sirens, many liberals have, it seems, set up taboo boundaries which more or less ensure that they’ll never have to empathize with a conservative or a libertarian. This is decidedly unwise, as it often leads to group polarization.
Just as the violent suppression of the labor movement pushed a lot of good people into the communist camp in the twentieth century, I fear that the outrageous attacks on nonconformists like Jordan Peterson may radicalize a lot of middle-of-the-road moderates in the twenty-first century. As Malcolm Gladwell makes clear in David and Goliath (2014), when you crack down on terrorism by demonizing an entire community, you invariably end up strengthening support for the terrorists; and when you crack down on the civil rights movement in a draconian fashion, you invariably end up strengthening support for the civil rights movement. What’s happening on the left at the moment is striking similar. Demonize everyone who seems to disagree with you and you’ll invariably end up strengthening support for those who actually disagree with you.
Telling people off on Twitter and preaching to the choir on Facebook can be fun. But it’s a dangerous kind of fun. Because you get intellectually lazy. Because you start speaking in a specialized jargon that no one outside of your safe space can understand. Because you develop a contempt for everyone outside of your élite group of cool kids that frequently leads you to dehumanize those who disagree with you. Live in your little bubble long enough, and you’ll become downright delusional, like the emperor in that Hans Christian Andersen tale.
The Final Wedge Cleaving Liberals from Progressives: Justice Alito's Speech and the "Two Minutes' Hate" Reaction.
"If you step on my foot, don't get angry when I . . . say 'Ouch!'" -- Minister Don Muhammad
When I was a campus ACLU leader in the 80s and 90s, I agreed with everything U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel J. Alito said in his speech to the Federalist Society last week. (Transcript here; video here, substance of speech starts at 17:30.) I still do. I realized even back then that some of my farther-left collaborators didn't agree with all of it, just most of it. But now, many of them don't agree with hardly any of it, especially suddenly controversial ideas like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and an independent judiciary. In case there was any doubt, they made that clear in their instant reactions to Justice Alito's speech. No longer "liberals," they now call themselves "progressives," after the late-1800s-early-1900s reformers who declared that democracy and constitutional limited government were outmoded, and that a nonpartisan expert elite should rule instead.
In college, we were taught what was called a "Marxist" critique of the "progressives": Whether foolishly or intentionally, they viewed their own cultural and economic elite interests as impartial, non-political, universal, benevolent and scientific. They were politically, culturally and economically anti-democratic. Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was a liberal and generational imperative to make sure that everything was done absolutely democratically and inclusively. But sometime in the 90s, this was replaced by a new prime directive: to be in harmony with "the international community" of unelected, unaccountable elites.
So the Progressives are back now, in force, and apparently trying to prove the truth and urgency of everything Justice Alito said about them. Kind of like threatening violence against someone who calls you violent. He criticized the growing intolerance of even mainstream beliefs, and thousands of tweeters and Facebookers responded by calling for him to be impeached for it. He criticized five Senators who had openly threatened to "restructure" the Court* if it did not rule the way they wanted, pointedly mentioning a foreign judge who told him about having judicial independence on paper, but with a tank pointing at his courthouse -- and Senators responded with more threats, saying he shouldn't be allowed to criticize them because that's "political." ( *Well, they now say they didn't say "restructure," their amicus brief just happened to quote a poll of people who said the court should be "restructured.")
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: "Supreme Court Justices aren't supposed to be political hacks. This right-wing speech is nakedly partisan. My anti-corruption bill restores some integrity to our Court by forcing Justices to follow the ethics rules other federal judges follow." Looking at her summary of the bill, that may be the only thing the bill does that is harmless or constitutional -- for now. But what she probably intended it to impose is a proposed reform to the judicial ethics rules, now withdrawn (for now), banning judges from the Federalist Society but not the American Bar Association. Because of course, in the fine old Progressive tradition, the ABA considers itself nonpolitical while advocating for thousands of left-wing public policies.
Los Angeles Congressman Jimmy Gomez tweeted, "Homophobic rhetoric isn’t a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of hate speech. These are stunning, harmful words from Justice Alito." To be clear exactly what he was calling homophobic, Constitutionally-unprotected "hate speech," he quoted the Justice: “'You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman' any more, Justice Alito said. 'Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.'”
Which part of that do Congressman Gomez and the other critics even disagree with? That "you can't say" it? That the vast majority agreed with it until recently? That it's considered bigotry? If anyone would disagree with that, wouldn't it be the "religious right"? Are they still around?
Many of the instant reactions seemed to be reacting to what people imagined Alito might say, not anything he actually said. For example, that he was against masks and shutdowns. Some headlines quoted his sentence, "The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty," as if that meant that he must be denouncing all such restrictions, not just stating a universally-recognized historical fact. Actually, he criticized a recent court decision that let a state single out churches for much stricter limits than casinos and other businesses. And more broadly, he warned that the now-necessary restrictions, and the executive branch's authority to impose them, were still subject to judicial review, and should not become permanent once the pandemic is over. The Young Turks, oddly, played a clip that included him saying that he was not criticizing most of the restrictions, and only questioning the legality of a very few of them, but then they spent ten minutes responding as if he had criticized mask mandates, calling him "insanely irresponsible."
An article titled "Jurists Shocked by Justice Alito's 'Wildly Inappropriate' Attack on LGBTQ Equality, Reproductive Rights, and More" merely played a game with the common versus the obscure meanings of the word "jurist" --
It quoted no judges, only two prominent legal journalists with law degrees, one lawyer/commentator, one law professor/former prosecutor, and the director of strategy at a "legal advocacy group." People certainly qualified to opine, but whose job is politics and advocacy -- very different from the impartial eminence "jurist" connotes.
Journalists who know better, or their editors who at least officially don't, began piling wild-eyed adjectives and warlike metaphors onto sometimes otherwise objective and balanced stories about the speech. CNN called it "ireful ... infuriated" with a "gnashing ideological tone ...". Roll Call, more subdued, said he "stepped into the ring ... to throw a few punches ..." and "targeted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse." The New York Times called it "unusually caustic and politically tinged," but admitted that it did not violate any rules and reflected his already published "judicial opinions, which have lately been marked by bitterness and grievance," and that several experts "said it was unexceptional for justices to describe positions they had already taken in their judicial work."
Slate, though, was in a class by itself, taking great pains to misrepresent the speech as unethical. It led with "Grievance-Laden, Ultrapartisan" ... "railed against COVID restrictions, same-sex marriage, abortion" [uh, no, he didn't actually criticize any of those, except for the restriction that singled out churches] and put an URL ending in "insane.html" on its article. "These comments revealed early on that Alito would not be abiding by the usual ethics rules, which require judges to remain impartial and avoid any appearance of bias" ... "a bitter partisan out to settle scores with the left. Flouting his ethical obligations, Alito waded into fierce political debates" ... "notoriously cranky, but he seemed to be in relatively good spirits ...".
Hundreds of Facebook commenters immediately called for impeaching him, some saying to throw in the Black guy while we're at it. Many claimed that the speech "revealed his bias," and they really seemed to believe that now that he had publicly revealed his beliefs about the issues he has ruled on, that that actually justified impeaching him, or demanding his resignation. Some said that he must be gay, sometimes using pretty graphic terms. Some demanded that the Federalist Society, too, must be abolished. Basically, there are a lot of fascists (I'm sorry, I mean "progressives") out there who believe -- or who pretend to believe so hard that they may actually come to believe -- that having conservative, libertarian, or mainstream-liberal-but-not-progressive beliefs should legally disqualify one from public office, and that actually advocating or working to implement such beliefs should be illegal.
I wonder what would happen if Senator Warren and the rest of the ProgMob found out that judges and Justices not only give speeches about the Bill of Rights and the need for an independent judiciary, and bristle at threats from politicians -- they actually write long opinions about every case they decide, even ones that involve political or controversial ideas, and the government actually publishes them! And they've been getting away with it for almost 700 years!
Clarification: was joke. Senator Warren was a professor at America's best law school, so of course she knows better. She just thinks that if enough of us pretend not to, for just long enough, we can pretend to rationalize court-packing by claiming the other side broke all the norms and packed the court first. And as a progressive, she honestly believes that only other people have ideologies or politics.
Before I had even finished watching the speech, my Facebook filled up with progressives suddenly convincing themselves that of course, we have always known that Justices aren't allowed to make speeches about Constitutional issues, evidently suppressing all their memories of a once-celebrated Justice named Ginsburg:
- "How can anyone have a fair hearing in front of this justice? He does not belong on the Supreme court. Who can take him on?"
- "He has abdicated his credibility and moral authority as a judge and must resign."
- "He doesn't even pretend to be impartial. Judicial sleeze."
- "Get rid of the Federalist Society."
- "They should never be allowed to put there personal ideas out publicly ...."
- "Omg....wow....what a nutcase! ... He, along with Trump, should be charged with murder for all these deaths."
- "Alito should be removed from the bench. He is making a political statement with his words about infringement of freedom."
- "Alito Outs Himself as Total Whacko."
- "He must recuse himself on all arguments involving these issues. He has revealed his bias!!"
- "Start the Impeachment process immediately. His ideas are too bias for his position."
- "Another one who could use a good boot in the neck."
- "Alito outs himself as full-on partisan crusader." -- U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
- "Such prejudicial opinions should disqualify him to sit as a Supreme Court Justice."
- "Time for partisan Supreme Court justices to be elected by the people rather than appointed for life."
- "Alito should be censured and removed from the Court. He violates his position."
- "Republicanism is a mental and social disorder. Alito needs to be impeached for speaking to a Republican Nazi organization like the "Federalist Society." They should be declared a domestic terrorist organization like the GOP, NRA, and a dozen others."
- "It shouldn’t be permissible for a sitting Supreme Court (or any other) justice to speak to radical organizations like the Federalist Society."
- "Appalling and sickening ... There really should be ways to remove justices with mindsets that are contrary to the very core of the Supreme Court's Constitutionally mandated role."
- "When a Chief Justice in the Supreme Court feels like he has to publicly make a political statement, he should lose his seat. That is not seperation of Church & State."
- "Religion is a lifestyle choice. Sexuality isn't."
- "'Justice Alito's wildly inappropriate speech is a reminder that Republicans have packed the Supreme Court with extremist politicians in robes -- and they're planning a partisan revenge tour,' said Aaron Belkin, director of Take Back the Court, a progressive group advocating court expansion."
- "'If there were enforceable recusal standards at the high court, this would be a ripe opportunity for a motion to disqualify,' said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan independent watchdog group ..."
- "How can he continue on the court with such a publicly revealed bios! I believe this is impeachable for an associate justice!"
- "Diarrhea of the mouth with prejudice aplenty!"
- "He needs to get the fuck out of OUR Supreme Court!"
Biden: Court-packing, even by the good guys, is "imperialist," "corrupted by power," "will lead inevitably to autocratic dominance."
"Levy's Law: When the One offers the Many an alliance against the Few, it is not for the purpose of benefiting the Many." -- Jacob T. Levy
"Sometimes the Senate has had to stand strong and toe the line against imperialist Presidential leanings.
"... The Senate .. stood firm in the 1805 impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. President Jefferson’s party had majorities in both the House and the Senate, and Jefferson set his sights on the Supreme Court. Specifically, he wanted to remove Justice Chase, a committed Federalist and frequent Jefferson critic, from the Court. Jefferson was able to convince the House to impeach Justice Chase on a party-line vote, and the President had enough members of his party in the Senate to convict him. But members of the President’s own party stood up to their President; the Senate as an institution stood up against executive overreaching. Justice Chase was not convicted, and the independence of the judiciary was preserved.
"The Senate again stood firm in the 1937 court-packing plan by President Franklin Roosevelt.
"This particular example of Senate resolve is instructive for today’s debates, so let me describe it in some detail. It was the summer of 1937 and President Roosevelt had just come off a landslide victory over Alf Landon, and he had a Congress made up of solid New Dealers. But the ‘‘nine old men’’ of the Supreme Court were thwarting his economic agenda, overturning law after law overwhelmingly passed by the Congress and from statehouses across the country.
"In this environment, President Roosevelt — and remember this old adage about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely — corrupted by power, in my view,* unveiled his court-packing plan—he wanted to increase the number of Justices on the court to 15, allowing himself to nominate these additional judges. In an act of great courage, Roosevelt’s own party stood up against this institutional power grab. They did not agree with the judicial activism of the Supreme Court, but they believed that Roosevelt was wrong to seek to defy established traditions as a way of stopping that activism. [* Italics above are words that were in spoken version but not printed.]
"In May 1937, the Senate Judiciary Committee—a committee controlled by the Democrats and supportive of his political ends—issued a stinging rebuke. They put out a report condemning Roosevelt’s plan, arguing it was an effort ‘‘to punish the justices’’ and that executive branch attempts to dominate the judiciary lead inevitably to autocratic dominance, ‘‘the very thing against which the American Colonies revolted, and to prevent which the Constitution was in every particular framed.’’
"Our predecessors in the Senate showed courage that day and stood up to their President as a coequal institution. And they did so not to thwart the agenda of the President, which in fact many agreed with; they did it to preserve our system’s checks and balances; they did it to ensure the integrity of the system. When the Founders created a ‘‘different kind of legislative body’’ in the Senate, they envisioned a bulwark against unilateral power—it worked back then and I hope that it works now.
"... In the end, Roosevelt’s plan failed because Democrats in Congress thought court-packing was dangerous, even if they would have supported the newly-constituted court’s rulings."
The American Revolution is why slavery ended in the North. It also redistributed property, the W.E.B. DuBois homestead reminds us.
From a comment to a post by Peter Wood on the substantively misleading and procedurally ridiculous 1619 Project:
Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;
By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament;
By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power;
By issuing and causing to be executed a commission under the great seal for erecting a court called the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes;
By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament;
By raising and keeping a standing army within this kingdom in time of peace without consent of Parliament, and quartering soldiers contrary to law;
By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;
By violating the freedom of election of members to serve in Parliament;
By prosecutions in the Court of King's Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses;
And whereas of late years partial corrupt and unqualified persons have been returned and served on juries in trials, and particularly divers jurors in trials for high treason which were not freeholders;
And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects;
And excessive fines have been imposed;
And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted;
And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied;
All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm;
. . .
And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare
That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;
That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal;
That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious;
That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal;
That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;
That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;
That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;
That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;
That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;
That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;
That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;
And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; ...
Happy Birthday to the self-deprecating vice-president who saved the Supreme Court and the independent judiciary
My cousin and contemporary John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner III (born November 22, 1868, d. 1967 when I was three weeks old) is known only for saying the vice-presidency "isn't worth a bucket of warm spit," or something like that. But he is actually one of the most important vice-presidents. In 1937, FDR relied on Garner, a former Speaker of the House and legendary back-room politicker, to get his "court packing" bill through Congress. The bill would have let the President appoint enough additional justices to create a compliant majority on the court. But
"From the start, Garner loathed the plan and thought that it would be a threat to party harmony. He began covertly to rally the opposition."
-- "Court-Packing Plan of 1937," by Lionel V. Patenaude, Texas State Historical Association, citing Lionel V. Patenaude, "Garner, Sumners, and Connally: The Defeat of the Roosevelt Court Bill in 1937," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (July 1970). Lionel V. Patenaude, Texans, Politics and the New Deal (New York: Garland, 1983). Bascom N. Timmons, Garner of Texas (New York: Harper, 1948).
Garner and his allies managed to make the environment for the bill so toxic that he finally was able to tell FDR he had to withdraw it. "Eventually, Garner was given credit for smoothing over the crisis, but he had also rendered himself persona non grata with the administration." So we have John Nance Garner to thank for the U.S.'s independent judiciary, which has given us everything from racial integration to gay marriage.
When incorporating was a privilege, only the privileged got to incorporate and do business. Do we really want to go back to that?
By WALTER OLSON at cato.org, citing
Country Mice Rebounding After Chaste, Stressful Summer
By John Crouch, in the Amicus Curiae, College of William and Mary
Copyright John Crouch 1992
The nondescript jumble of buildings just beyond the Gradplex looks like the place where lawn mowers go to die. Actually, it is the place where Professors C. Richard Terman and E. L. Bradley explore a question of growing urgency to mankind: How do populations control their numbers?
The Laboratory of Endocrinology and Population Ecology is no typical lab. Its genetically diverse mice live off the land in woods around Williamsburg, mingling freely. Though provided with nests, they prefer to build their own. And though they live in what Dr. Terman calls "a mouse welfare state" where their population might be expected to expand exponentially, certain natural forces, not yet understood, induce them to limit their growth non-violently.
Dr. Terman is an animal behaviorist and a population ecologist. His interest in populations was sparked by lemmings. He wondered how most species avoid doing the lemming thing, and whether some species may meet similar fates as they increase. He found that when he released a few mice in a large enclosure and provided unlimited amenities, they did not increase to the point of suicide, fratricide, or cannibalism. They became inhibited.
More formal experiments with deermice in the "Pop Lab" established that this asymptote, or population plateau, occurred while much living space was still unoccupied. They also revealed that there is no particular density or absolute number at which population levels off. Four populations in identical cages stabilized at 7, 13, 29 and 47.
Nearly all mice stopped reproducing or failed to experience puberty, for no apparent reason. The few newborns were mothered so enthusiastically that it just wore them out. The celibate mice spent practically all their time in one huddle, as if trying to lose their individuality.
Dominant females from the populations' founding pairs began hoarding food, though Dr. Terman always provided more than enough. Three or four handmaidens helped stock the hoards. Any mouse could dine there, but the hoarders fiercely berated those who tried to carry food away.
Dramatic though these results were, their relevance to life outside laboratories was unclear. So for the last ten years, Dr. Terman has moved his research into natural environments, where he has observed the same trends.
Populations of white-footed mice around Williamsburg do not level off permanently, but they stop breeding from May to July, a time of plentiful food in which a pair of mice could have a litter every 25 days. Each offspring could be a parent after 45 days.
Instead, the mice's reproductive organs remain minute during these three months. If they are taken to the lab, however, they quickly develop and reproduce. Dr. Terman has not yet discovered what change in the mice's environment triggers the asymptote. He tried providing surplus food, but it produced no effect. Nor does the chastity result from the weather, because in August and September all their organs swell tenfold and do what they were designed to do. And just as in the early experiments, there is no typical population density at which breeding stops.
Dr. Terman and Dr. Bradley, an endocrinologist, suspect that the mice are sexually stunted by adrenalin which they produce in response to stress. In each population, one or two dominant, fertile mice seem somehow to induce stress in the others through subtle signals which do not even appear aggressive to human observers. Dr. Terman thinks that these cues are given primarily by touch, rather than by odor, sound or visual body language. He has put pairs of inhibited mice in cages where they can see, hear, and smell their neighbors, but not touch them, and each time they have developed and reproduced.
Key questions about the phenomenon remain unanswered. Why does this happen from May through July? How exactly do the mice stress each other out, if indeed that is what they do? More importantly, what kind of natural selection has favored the evolution of this behavior?
Dr. Terman stresses that his project is "basic research," and discourages law students and other humans from directly comparing their plight to that of his mice. His research reminds mankind, on the one hand, that scenarios in which trillions of future humans live in hives or die in droves may make for exciting science fiction, but they are poor science. There will be no millenarian Malthusian apocalypse, because individual people, like Terman's mouse colonies, hit the Malthusian wall in small ways every day.
Terman's work further discredits the notion that prosperity automatically produces overpopulation. On the other hand, it also warns us that species limit their numbers by countless and unforeseen methods. To Dr. Terman, the question is not whether human populations will be limited, but how.
“The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution, African slavery, as it exists amongst us, the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the storm came and the wind blew.”
From the “Corner Stone” Speech, by Alexander H. Stephens, Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861
American Library Association condemnation of "Little House" attacks everything the ALA should stand for
The American Library Association and its subsidiary, the Association for Library Service to Children, have voted unanimously to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from an award given to children's book authors and illustrators for the past 64 years. They take pains to say they're only removing her name from the award, not trying to remove her books from libraries, but what they're really doing is far more fundamental: a leading organization is declaring a major children's author to be racist. And not just any major children's author, but one of the liberal heroes of the field, who obviously disapproved of the racist attitudes that were common during her childhood and even long after her death, who gave us strong, independent female main characters, and showed that the female perspective on life and on historical events was every bit as valid and important and compelling as the male. But the actual evidence they cite does not even purport to show that Wilder expressed or encouraged racism; it consists of subtle critiques that show how Wilder's racial liberalism could be improved upon; or that she is not where to go for a well-rounded, intensive, informed exploration of Indians' history and culture; or that any story told from the white settlers' perspective will include much that will irritate Native Americans.
Looking around the internet for Wilder's alleged racist passages, initially all I could find anyone complaining about are places where Wilder describes and portrays her parents' and other adults' varying attitudes. The whole point of these is that the author disagrees with those attitudes, and wants her readers to disagree with them, but wants them to know they existed and were predominant at the time. That, and the fact that some of the ALSC's statements seem to be specifically about those depictions, make it seem unlikely that there is anything actually racist about the books. That's also what I remember from reading them as a child and as a parent. The actual ALSC/ALA statements and background materials [links below] don't cite any particular racist messages in the books; they take for granted that Wilder's work has already been deemed racist, problematic, etc. One ALA memo says "her books reflect racist and anti-Native sentiments." The memo cites two academic articles on the subject:
One of the articles, Reese, Debbie. “Indigenizing children’s literature” (2008), Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 4(2), 59-72, does not reference anything that you could call racist in Wilder; it criticizes what facts or memories about Indians Wilder chose to highlight, but can't even convincingly speculate that there were other stories she knew and could have included instead in a childhood memoir. It laments the inclusion of a home visit from Indians wearing skunk glands, but doesn't say that that event didn't happen. The article's actual, legitimate, point is that reading Wilder's books is not the best and most balanced way to learn all about Indians generally and the Osage in particular. Not that anyone ever said it was.
The other article, Kaye, Frances W., "Little Squatter on the Osage Diminished Reserve: Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Kansas Indians" (2000), Great Plains Quarterly, 23, finds Wilder to be racist only on the grounds that any story told from the white settlers' perspective is racist. It actually makes sound, admirable, resounding arguments for that view, but the arguments do not support the message that educators, librarians, students and the public will take away from the ALA's move, which is to single out Wilder as racist and inappropriate. Kaye's article admits that Wilder, and her character in the books, have advanced and humane views for her time. And in fact, that
"The reader of Little House on the Prairie does not identify with the unthinking dislike of Indians demonstrated by Caroline Ingalls or the family bulldog, Jack, nor with the 'only good Indian is a dead Indian' philosophy that Pa explicitly rejects."
Kaye argues that Wilder's very liberalism is what makes her view of Indians so "insidious": By portraying them as suffering victims, she makes their exclusion from the land seem inevitable, and tolerable --
"The myth of the necessary tragedy ... that arises when the determined farmer meets the nomadic wanderer, the tragedy played out in Judeo-Christian myth from the time of Jacob and Esau."
Wilder portrays "good Indians" and thus implies that they were better than "bad Indians" who fought back, Kaye argues. Pa's "good Indian" friend is like Uncle Tom, which makes Wilder as racist as Harriet Beecher Stowe. And that fighting back was justified by a long history of treaties that the settlers were breaking. Kaye provides much interesting history and subversive description of the Osages. She makes valid criticisms of little Laura's views of certain historical events and land-use questions -- she should not have considered farming superior to buffalo hunting, nor complained about the government removing her family and the other white settlers for having no legal right to settle there.
But those have very little to do with what children read the books for, or what they remember from them. Nobody reads these books to learn about Indians. In the 1930s, maybe the Little House books were how some kids got their impressions of Indians, but for at least two generations there have been books widely available that let us at least try to see native and white American history from the natives' side.
If the ALA is relying on Wilder's depictions of racist attitudes that she obviously disagrees with, that means that an organization devoted to popular literacy and critical thinking is endorsing blatant intellectual dishonesty, by willful, simplistic, misunderstanding, in order to be "doing something" about racism even against a victim who isn't guility of racism. Pretending that readers can't distinguish between portrayal and approval, and shouldn't have to learn to do so. (Meaning that obviously Huckleberry Finn will be back on the banned list, and Jack in the Beanstalk must be suppressed for saying giants should grind Englishmen's bones to make bread.) With the predictable result of toppling a literary giant just because she could not see quite as far as the Lilliputians who stand on her shoulders; and permanently shelving a set of books that really do turn kids on to reading, and to history, when there is no reason to believe that other books can do the job just as well.
If on the other hand they're relying on the subtler academic critiques cited in their memos, then they are calling Wilder's books racist based on completely misrepresenting their own evidence, unless they're actually saying that all stories from the pioneers' point of view are now inappropriate.
Dr. Seuss is next. I'm not making this up. See p. 2 of the "ALSC Awards Program/ Strategic Plan" memo
ALA statements and materials on Laura Ingalls Wilder:
- ALA/ALSC statement regarding the Wilder Medal Name Change
- About the Children's Literature Legacy Award
- ALSC Awards Program Review Task Force Recommendation: Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
- Background Document memo: "ALSC Awards Program in Context of Strategic Plan"
By John Crouch in the Brown Daily Herald , Brown University, Providence, R.I., 1991
"Because I do not learn their words, I am called a heretic."
I once tried to compile a history of "PC." As a Southerner, I knew that the highest form of history is genealogy, so my inquiries first led me to some ancestors who were Presbyterian Covenanters. They were having some differences with the Puritan Commonwealthmen, led by Oliver Cromwell. Each of these sects had an exclusive contract with God, stating that the other was headed for a bad place and should be expedited there. (Think about it: these covenants were not contradictory, but complementary. God knew what he was doing.) After a pitched battle, Cromwell suggested that everyone should come together and cooperate with him in an exciting new broad-based ecumenical venture known as Persecuting Catholics. He offered my forebears exciting public service jobs as military policemen in exile. They agreed, and in return he deferred his natural inclination to confiscate their heads.
Soon they were in Ulster, doing the Lord's work. Then it was off to Barbados to practice their techniques on rebellious slaves, and then to Maryland, to do it to the Indians and Catholics. In time they settled down and became highly useful members of the community, raising tobacco and sailing to Africa to buy slaves. In occasional fits of public-spiritedness they would lynch a papist or two, but they mostly minded their own business for six generations until some outside agitators built Washington, D.C. in their neighborhood.
A more recent forefather of PC and related irritations was Horace Mann '19, who dominated the debating societies of Manning Chapel. These groups combined the functions of class discussion sections, dorm unit "workshops", the student government, and the Herald letters page. Kathleen Kendall, a rhetoric professor, wrote that Mann proved his points with "overstatements," "name-calling," "sophistry," "chest-thumping chauvinism," and "an abundance of star-spangled prose ... No one challenged his sweeping generalizations or lack of pertinent evidence." Doubtless the alumni pined for the grand old days of discipline, morality, and western culture.
Then again, Brown's administration didn't set a very mature example for Mann. They once fined him for violating their ban on Independence Day observations. This holiday was considered disruptively democratic, divisive, and deeply offensive to the Federalist community, which always felt left out.
Brown has a venerable tradition of expelling the politically incorrect, including President Bennie Andrews '70. Wildly popular, he was especially admired for his success in exhorting students to fulfill their human potential by volunteering for the Spanish-American War (once fabulously PC). So the trustees were especially shocked when he began advocating silver coinage. A man who believed in that could be neither sane nor moral, so they had to banish him before he poisoned the whole community.
PC flourished in Athens at the same time the Spartans were perfecting communism, so I hardly think either idea can have permanently "died" in the past year. It is true that, like Stalinism and McCarthyism, it had lost its real power before mainstream liberals began anathematizing it, or even giving it a name. (Four years ago, "PC Person" was a classist, fattist, WASPist, smartist term for a typical scholar at Providence College.) But while political circumstances change quickly and unpredictably, human nature changes too slowly to measure. Like some observers of political savagery in past decades, I would blame PC's inhumanity not on the counter-culture, communism, anti-communism or fundamentalism, but on certain strains of the human personality: control freaks, conformists, trendies, groupies, and opportunists. At least in my experience here, the intolerance that provoked so much resentment and ridicule was practiced not by political activists, but by encounter-workshop facilitators and a few administrators. Likewise, it should be obvious that Dartmouth's persecution of conservative journalists, and the Brown administration's rudeness toward liberal protestors and union organizers, relate not to the politics of left and right but to simple institutional self-interest.
But some cultures and ideologies may prove more PC-resistant than others. By "culture," I mean something we each help shape, not a genetic heritage that pre-determines us. Many people presume there is a certain inviolable space around individuals, and that all are equally human. In cultures that take such ideas seriously, certain rules develop: People are to be persuaded only by reason, and not manipulated, lied to, or forced around at gunpoint. People are given the benefit of the doubt, and not charged with unworthy motives or mental infirmity without proof. But at the same time, they are seen as ultimately responsible for their beliefs, having reason and free will. At times, concepts of "gentlemanliness" and "sportsmanship" have been current (and it is worrisome that our new less-sexist language has no words for them yet). They advise that an unfair advantage should not be pressed, that abandoning the moral high ground only hurts you in the long run, and that no disagreement may break the bonds of civility and charity. Where most people are willing to defend such standards, the PC might abandon their own tactics as counter-productive. In such a culture, Horace Mann went on to show that one can outgrow PC in the course of a mentally active life.
Our present culture, though, admires a no-holds-barred 100% dedication to one's chosen cause, fad or crisis, overriding all rules and distinctions, by any means necessary. So we should be grateful for our PC education -- it's probably excellent preparation for success in American politics, media, and business.
By John Crouch
On his 275th birthday, Thomas Jefferson is in danger of getting run out of town on a rail, his statues teetering on a slippery slope which we had been told would become dry and level as soon as Robert E. Lee was cast down it. We already knew he was a slaveowner and probably a race-mixing unwed father, but lately we’ve been confronted with the inhumane cruelties that slavery involved even at Monticello, and some are calling him a rapist and a child molester because Sally Hemings was a slave and was 16 when she first became pregnant.
But at the same time, without Jefferson, we would not have today’s movements for racial equality and other human equality, we wouldn’t have had the Civil Rights movement and its imitators, and even Abolitionism would have been very different and less popular. Now, it’s well known that he is where Americans think that we get most of our ideas about liberty. But what we forget, in these days when we’re focused on a mostly false opposition between liberty and equality, is that he is much more uniquely, and crucially, the source of our beliefs in equality, democracy, and universal human rights. As the author of the Declaration of Independence, as the founder of the Democratic Party, and as a powerful, lifelong agitator for expanding political liberty and equality.
Without him, the American Revolution, and the American idea, would likely have been about defending the hereditary rights of free-holding Englishmen. Perhaps inspiring enough to achieve independence, perhaps not. But not much of an inspiration to the rest of the world, and far less appealing to Christians and philosophers than declaring our independence by announcing:
"That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
This ideology and theology of radical human equality was not Jefferson’s invention: it had colorful, eccentric champions during the English Civil War and Commonwealth era (1640s-50s), Quakerism seems consistent with it if not based on it, and Hobbes and Locke used it in different ways as a starting point for their philosophies. The idea had recently been expressed in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and in George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights. But Jefferson put it at the top of America’s founding document, its public statement of what its war was about, where everyone read it or had it read to them.
And Americans would not have their wide and deep belief in equality and democracy if it were not for the ongoing work of Jefferson and the political party he founded, which was always the democratic party even when it was still named “Republican” or “Antifederalist.” Even when it fostered and exploited racism, it did so using democratic rhetoric that ultimately arcs towards equality for all. Even now and in the days of Woodrow Wilson when it seems like the more elitist and “Progressive” party, it pays truly valuable lip service to democracy and believes it can reconcile all such contradictions; it contains multitudes with more consistently democratic impulses, which they carry with them to other parties if they leave the party in disgust, fear and sorrow. Even the Whigs and the modern Republican party inherited more from it than from the old, aristocratic Federalists.
Lately both the elitist Progressives, and a few loud, immature, shallow Libertarians, like to pit liberty and equality against each other. They envision a wealthy and antisocial Individual exercising individual liberty for his own amusement and benefit, at the expense and indulgence of a democratic government that seeks to constrain him for the common good of the many and the poor. But that wasn’t the situation in Jefferson’s time, nor for most of our history, nor today. Jefferson and generations of his contemporaries feared governments that suppressed individual rights in order to suppress the majority and subvert or prevent democracy. They saw absolutist governments create privileged elites, not equality. They knew that democracy can’t function as democracy if individuals aren’t free to express their actual beliefs, spread news, and try to persuade each other and their representatives. Nor without the other freedoms in our Constitution. And they fought for individual liberty, not because it let them do selfish things or express their unique selves, but to be free to do what they thought was their duty to God and to society.
On Jefferson’s birthday, we remember that he was far from perfect on issues of liberty and of equality. But he worked to expand both of them, and so should we.
"Investigating" citizens who lobby against you (AKA "petition for redress of grievances") has a long and un-American history
"At the behest of the Roosevelt administration in 1935, the U.S. Senate established a special committee to investigate lobbying activities by opponents of the ... Public Utility Holding Company Bill. Chaired by Hugo L. Black (D-Ala.), the “Black Committee” expanded its mission into a more general probe of anti–New Deal organizations and individuals. The committee used highly intrusive methods, notably catch-all dragnet subpoenas, to secure evidence. It worked closely with the IRS for access to tax returns and with the FCC to obtain copies of millions of telegrams. When the telegram search became public information, there was a major backlash from the press, Congress, and the courts. Court rulings in 1936, resulting from suits by William Randolph Hearst and others, not only limited the committee’s powers but provided important checks [on] future investigators, including Senator Joseph McCarthy."
How "Snowflakes" Cause Police Shootings, Lynchings, Witch Burnings ... But Only Because Our Culture & Institutions Encourage Them
Not the Onion. Not "Reno 911". This is why hypersensitive "snowflakes" are such a serious problem. They make completely innocent, ordinary people get treated like dangerous criminals. In the old days it led to witch burnings, then lynchings, and nowadays police shootings. I was reminded that "snowflakes" are so deadly when I saw a timely article about lynchings, including some men and boys who were lynched for "frightening" white women and girls. One was a Leesburg, Virginia teen who put a bag over his head to startle a white friend. Another is merely reported to have "acted peculiarly."
These days, as a Charlottesville, Va. area farmer recently explained, it's "Nervous white women in yoga pants" who "see something, say something" when they see a black man where they don't expect any to be. Over 12 times, "police would 'happen by' and sometimes even question me five or ten minutes after I got a strange look from a passerby ... I know to smile and give them the non-threatening black guy kind of thing, but all it really takes is for one of us to have a bad day and I could end up another tragedy in the street."
But back to the lady in this incredibly credulous news story and viral youtube craze. She saw four people in different places doing stuff like walking down the street or sitting in their cars, and just KNEW they were a gang of sex-slaver kidnappers. And she still hasn't been evaluated for paranoid schizophrenia. She's too busy being lauded as a hero on Facebook for "surviving" it and "raising awareness." Got 2900 likes, 5200 shares so far.
THAT WAS MY ORIGINAL FACEBOOK POST. BUT HERE'S MY LATER CAVEAT.
I had a great post ready to go, but I thought I had better listen to her whole miserable 13-minute video about it first. There were a couple key facts the original news article, though sympathetic to her sick crusade, left out, which make her fears about the first guy subjectively reasonable.
- He was walking behind them and she slowed down so he'd pass them, and he slowed down too. Either because he was a stalker, or because her family took up a lot of the sidewalk and he couldn't get past them without brushing too close, which would reasonably give offense and alarm.
- They U-turned, and he U-turned too. Either because he was a stalker, or because he wanted to ask her husband something -- which he, in fact, did. She doesn't say what he asked her husband.
After that, she was running on fear, and that's why she saw fellow-conspirators everywhere, including one guy who looked over her 5-year-old daughter like a man looks at a woman, as we used to say before it became dicey for a man to look at a woman that way. She saw him do that, although her perception may have been warped by her fear, and in my experience people often read way too much into what they think they see on people's faces and eyes.
And then she talked to people who specialize in working with sex traffic victims. And they, like all specialists in any particular social problem, saw that problem everywhere. Whatever she described, they said it was something sex traffickers had been known to do.
So she wasn't actually the most dangerous, paranoid-schizo snowflake in the blizzard, but to apply her logic, she MIGHT'VE been, and we need to "raise awareness" about such people.
But while we're at it, let's raise awareness of the things we do that fan the flames, I mean fan the snow machines, and figure out how to do better.
Monumental exploration of working class "voting againsts its interests" totally begs question, what econ policy IS in its interests?
Trump isn't reducing government, but he's ruining Government's Godlike Magical Mystery Mojo, AKA "Statism"
I'd only add that his beliefs were deeply sincere, and not self-interested. He really thought a pro-business meritocracy would be better for everyone.
The party created to oppose consolidation of power by bankers and elites can now openly embrace the man who unapologetically advocated for it.
(where you can also read how Hamilton's economic and immigration policies were pretty much the same as Trump's!)
Right "wallowed in cloying sentimentality and curdled resentment", "sour, whiney, complaining, crybaby populism"
George Will contrasts the legacies of Buckley and his friend Chambers
"Corporations are people" is irrelevant to "Citizens United" and other federal-law cases -- just read the case's name!
The phrase "corporations are people" deliberately conjures up images of huge money-grubbing businesses that don't care about people, getting favors from a government that cares more about them than people. It's widely known to come from from early, "Gilded Age" pro-business interpretations of the 14th Amendment. And yet the very name of the "Citizens United" case should be a giveaway that the freedom of non-profit groups of citizens, advocating about political issues, was at stake in the case. Do those who scoff at Citizens United, for supposedly saying corporations are people, really believe that civil rights groups, women's groups, antiwar groups, veterans' groups, and religious groups, have no Constitutional rights?
The second half of the case's name, "v. Federal Election Commission", is a big clue that 14th Amendment case law about "persons" has nothing to do with it. The part of the 14th Amendment about persons and rights, Section 1, solely restricts what states can do to people or "persons". It reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
But the First Amendment, which works directly on the federal government, and indirectly on states through the 14th Amendment, focuses on prohibiting the government from violating freedom of speech, press, or religion, with absolutely no exceptions concerning who or what is speaking, publishing, etc.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ...
There is a reference to "the people" in the second half of it:
"... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United does not say corporations are people. Instead it points out that the First Amendment does not make exceptions for who is doing the speaking or publishing; that all effective speech costs money, and that an argument that "corporations aren't natural persons" is not wrong, but irrelevant to the First Amendment.
Joe Albanese pointed out this crucial but apparently never-noticed distinction today, reveling in the irony of Ben & Jerry's using its free-speech rights to argue against corporations having free-speech rights, in "Is Big Ice Cream Trying to Hijack Our Democracy?" Former Federal Election Commission member Brad Smith says more about groups' free speech rights, and another threat to them, in "Tester’s assault on corporate rights is an assault on people’s rights."
I wish people would read the case opinion before criticizing it, but if you don't do that, you could at least read the case's name and the most important sentence in our Constitution.
Since the 1970s, the non-political media has taught us that everyone is essentially a consumer, not a producer or a citizen; men and masculinity are silly, and women are super-competent. The 80s added safety-mania to this mix. And that children (the ultimate consumers) are superior to adults and nothing's more important than focusing on children, no matter how excessively nor what else we sacrifice for what kids supposedly need or want.
This article by Carrie Gress reminds us how such ideas spread, and how often we need to notice and resist them, instead of passively absorbing them from sources that we don't think are selling ideology. That's extremely important even though I don't necessarily agree with most of her perspectives on such issues.
Also, this process happens even when there's no top-down conspiracy to spread ideas -- advertisers and entertainment producers use these common themes because they want to be fashionable, soft-newsworthy, and "relevant", to flatter their target audience, and not to shock or alienate them (except for faux-shocking that's actually conformist).
Of course it can be intentional and coordinated, like the Clinton administration's stealth attack on Congressional "economic extremists" via the women's magazines, supposedly non-political because they were reporting on threats to government spending programs that they pretended were non-political. This at a time when the administration felt too weak to attack the new Republican majority in Washington or in the political media, but they instead laid the groundwork for the lasting unpopularity of fiscal conservatism. Even while flattering Gingrich that he had won and that "the era of big government is over."
Slavery. Necessary for the safe existence of the African race in America. Beneficial to both races. Authorized by "the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations".
"Slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."
Free speech, press, and association (against slavery): "They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides."
"Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."
Politicking (against slavery): "By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments."
"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."
Electing an antislavery President who says a half-slave nation cannot last.
"The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state."
Economic policies: protectionism, corporate welfare, monopolies, pork-barrel spending, etc.:
"In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade."
"Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency."
"The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country."
"But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded-- the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all."
"All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. ..."
"They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance."
- "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst."
- "It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice."
- "It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists."
- "It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better."
- "It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives."
- "It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system."
Not cooperating with return of fugitive slaves.
"In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia."
"They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose."
U.S. not protecting us from attacks of "savage Indians" and "Mexican banditti."
Some states have given citizenship to certain people in violation of the Constitution, and their votes helped turn the federal government against slavery.
Our original ratification said we could revoke it when the U.S. government's delegated powers were perverted to our injury and oppression, and now it's oppressing all the "Southern Slaveholding States".
With our neighbors seceding we must choose a side.
"Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England."
"Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's [Erector] set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship. To write in plain vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox."
The Prevention of Literature
About a year ago I attended a meeting of the P.E.N. Club, the occasion being the tercentenary of Milton's Aeropagitica — a pamphlet, it may be remembered, in defense of freedom of the press. Milton's famous phrase about the sin of ‘killing’ a book was printed on the leaflets advertising the meeting which had been circulated beforehand.
There were four speakers on the platform. One of them delivered a speech which did deal with the freedom of the press, but only in relation to India; another said, hesitantly, and in very general terms, that liberty was a good thing; a third delivered an attack on the laws relating to obscenity in literature. The fourth devoted most of his speech to a defense of the Russian purges. Of the speeches from the body of the hall, some reverted to the question of obscenity and the laws that deal with it, others were simply eulogies of Soviet Russia. Moral liberty — the liberty to discuss sex questions frankly in print — seemed to be generally approved, but political liberty was not mentioned. Out of this concourse of several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose. Significantly, no speaker quoted from the pamphlet which was ostensibly being commemorated. Nor was there any mention of the various books which have been ‘killed’ in England and the United States during the war. In its net effect the meeting was a demonstration in favor of censorship.
There was nothing particularly surprising in this. In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy. Any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution. The sort of things that are working against him are the concentration of the press in the hands of a few rich men, the grip of monopoly on radio and the films, the unwillingness of the public to spend money on books, making it necessary for nearly every writer to earn part of his living by hackwork, the encroachment of official bodies like the M.O.I. and the British Council, which help the writer to keep alive but also waste his time and dictate his opinions, and the continuous war atmosphere of the past ten years, whose distorting effects no one has been able to escape. Everything in our age conspires to turn the writer, and every other kind of artist as well, into a minor official, working on themes handed down from above and never telling what seems to him the whole of the truth. But in struggling against this fate he gets no help from his own side; that is, there is no large body of opinion which will assure him that he's in the right. In the past, at any rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic — political, moral, religious, or aesthetic — was one who refused to outrage his own conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:
Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known
To bring this hymn up to date one would have to add a ‘Don't’ at the beginning of each line. For it is the peculiarity of our age that the rebels against the existing order, at any rate the most numerous and characteristic of them, are also rebelling against the idea of individual integrity. ‘Daring to stand alone’ is ideologically criminal as well as practically dangerous. The independence of the writer and the artist is eaten away by vague economic forces, and at the same time it is undermined by those who should be its defenders. It is with the second process that I am concerned here.
Freedom of thought and of the press are usually attacked by arguments which are not worth bothering about. Anyone who has experience of lecturing and debating knows them off backwards. Here I am not trying to deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of anti-social selfishness. Although other aspects of the question are usually in the foreground, the controversy over freedom of speech and of the press is at bottom a controversy of the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers. In saying this I may seem to be saying that straightforward ‘reportage’ is the only branch of literature that matters: but I will try to show later that at every literary level, and probably in every one of the arts, the same issue arises in more or less subtilized forms. Meanwhile, it is necessary to strip away the irrelevancies in which this controversy is usually wrapped up.
The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, of either wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privilege. The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that ‘the truth’ has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of ‘the truth’ and merely resists it out of selfish motives. In Communist literature the attack on intellectual liberty is usually masked by oratory about ‘petty-bourgeois individualism’, ‘the illusions of nineteenth-century liberalism’, etc., and backed up by words of abuse such as ‘romantic’ and ‘sentimental’, which, since they do not have any agreed meaning, are difficult to answer. In this way the controversy is maneuvered away from its real issue. One can accept, and most enlightened people would accept, the Communist thesis that pure freedom will only exist in a classless society, and that one is most nearly free when one is working to bring such a society about. But slipped in with this is the quite unfounded claim that the Communist Party is itself aiming at the establishment of the classless society, and that in the U.S.S.R. this aim is actually on the way to being realized. If the first claim is allowed to entail the second, there is almost no assault on common sense and common decency that cannot be justified. But meanwhile, the real point has been dodged. Freedom of the intellect means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings. The familiar tirades against ‘escapism’ and ‘individualism’, ‘romanticism’, and so forth, are merely a forensic device, the aim of which is to make the perversion of history seem respectable.
Fifteen years ago, when one defended the freedom of the intellect, one had to defend it against Conservatives, against Catholics, and to some extent — for they were not of great importance in England — against Fascists. Today one has to defend it against Communists and ‘fellow-travelers’. One ought not to exaggerate the direct influence of the small English Communist Party, but there can be no question about the poisonous effect of the Russian mythos on English intellectual life. Because of it known facts are suppressed and distorted to such an extent as to make it doubtful whether a true history of our times can ever be written. Let me give just one instance out of the hundreds that could be cited. When Germany collapsed, it was found that very large numbers of Soviet Russians — mostly, no doubt, from non-political motives — had changed sides and were fighting for the Germans. Also, a small but not negligible portion of the Russian prisoners and displaced persons refused to go back to the U.S.S.R., and some of them, at least, were repatriated against their will. These facts, known to many journalists on the spot, went almost unmentioned in the British press, while at the same time Russophile publicists in England continued to justify the purges and deportations of 1936-38 by claiming that the U.S.S.R. ‘had no quislings’. The fog of lies and misinformation that surrounds such subjects as the Ukraine famine, the Spanish civil war, Russian policy in Poland, and so forth, is not due entirely to conscious dishonesty, but any writer or journalist who is fully sympathetic for the U.S.S.R. — sympathetic, that is, in the way the Russians themselves would want him to be — does have to acquiesce in deliberate falsification on important issues. I have before me what must be a very rare pamphlet, written by Maxim Litvinoff in 1918 and outlining the recent events in the Russian Revolution. It makes no mention of Stalin, but gives high praise to Trotsky, and also to Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others. What could be the attitude of even the most intellectually scrupulous Communist towards such a pamphlet? At best, the obscurantist attitude of saying that it is an undesirable document and better suppressed. And if for some reason it were decided to issue a garbled version of the pamphlet, denigrating Trotsky and inserting references to Stalin, no Communist who remained faithful to his party could protest. Forgeries almost as gross as this have been committed in recent years. But the significant thing is not that they happen, but that, even when they are known about, they provoke no reaction from the left-wing intelligentsia as a whole. The argument that to tell the truth would be ‘inopportune’ or would ‘play into the hands of’ somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable, and few people are bothered by the prospect of the lies which they condone getting out of the newspapers and into the history books.
The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary. Among intelligent Communists there is an underground legend to the effect that although the Russian government is obliged now to deal in lying propaganda, frame-up trials, and so forth, it is secretly recording the true facts and will publish them at some future time. We can, I believe, be quite certain that this is not the case, because the mentality implied by such an action is that of a liberal historian who believes that the past cannot be altered and that a correct knowledge of history is valuable as a matter of course. From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revelation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or on the other hand, that modern physics has proven that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one's senses is simply vulgar philistinism. A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual. The exact sciences are not, at this date, menaced to anything like the same extent. This partly accounts for the fact that in all countries it is easier for the scientists than for the writers to line up behind their respective governments.
To keep the matter in perspective, let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this essay: that in England the immediate enemies of truthfulness, and hence of freedom of thought, are the press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but that on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all. It may seem that all this time I have been talking about the effects of censorship, not on literature as a whole, but merely on one department of political journalism. Granted that Soviet Russia constitutes a sort of forbidden area in the British press, granted that issues like Poland, the Spanish civil war, the Russo-German pact, and so forth, are debarred from serious discussion, and that if you possess information that conflicts with the prevailing orthodoxy you are expected to either distort it or keep quiet about it — granted all this, why should literature in the wider sense be affected? Is every writer a politician, and is every book necessarily a work of straightforward ‘reportage’? Even under the tightest dictatorship, cannot the individual writer remain free inside his own mind and distill or disguise his unorthodox ideas in such a way that the authorities will be too stupid to recognize them? And in any case, if the writer himself is in agreement with the prevailing orthodoxy, why should it have a cramping effect on him? Is not literature, or any of the arts, likeliest to flourish in societies in which there are no major conflicts of opinion and no sharp distinction between the artist and his audience? Does one have to assume that every writer is a rebel, or even that a writer as such is an exceptional person?
Whenever one attempts to defend intellectual liberty against the claims of totalitarianism, one meets with these arguments in one form or another. They are based on a complete misunderstanding of what literature is, and how — one should perhaps say why — it comes into being. They assume that a writer is either a mere entertainer or else a venal hack who can switch from one line of propaganda to another as easily as an organ grinder changing tunes. But after all, how is it that books ever come to be written? Above a quite low level, literature is an attempt to influence the viewpoint of one's contemporaries by recording experience. And so far as freedom of expression is concerned, there is not much difference between a mere journalist and the most ‘unpolitical’ imaginative writer. The journalist is unfree, and is conscious of unfreedom, when he is forced to write lies or suppress what seems to him important news; the imaginative writer is unfree when he has to falsify his subjective feelings, which from his point of view are facts. He may distort and caricature reality in order to make his meaning clearer, but he cannot misrepresent the scenery of his own mind; he cannot say with any conviction that he likes what he dislikes, or believes what he disbelieves. If he is forced to do so, the only result is that his creative faculties will dry up. Nor can he solve the problem by keeping away from controversial topics. There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone's consciousness. Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought. It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism is deadly to any kind of prose writer, though a poet, at any rate a lyric poet, might possibly find it breathable. And in any totalitarian society that survives for more than a couple of generations, it is probable that prose literature, of the kind that has existed during the past four hundred years, must actually come to an end.
Literature has sometimes flourished under despotic regimes, but, as has often been pointed out, the despotisms of the past were not totalitarian. Their repressive apparatus was always inefficient, their ruling classes were usually either corrupt or apathetic or half-liberal in outlook, and the prevailing religious doctrines usually worked against perfectionism and the notion of human infallibility. Even so it is broadly true that prose literature has reached its highest levels in periods of democracy and free speculation. What is new in totalitarianism is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment's notice. Consider, for example, the various attitudes, completely incompatible with one another, which an English Communist or ‘fellow-traveler’ has had to adopt toward the war between Britain and Germany. For years before September, 1939, he was expected to be in a continuous stew about ‘the horrors of Nazism’ and to twist everything he wrote into a denunciation of Hitler: after September, 1939, for twenty months, he had to believe that Germany was more sinned against than sinning, and the word ‘Nazi’, at least as far as print went, had to drop right out of his vocabulary. Immediately after hearing the 8 o'clock news bulletin on the morning of June 22, 1941, he had to start believing once again that Nazism was the most hideous evil the world had ever seen. Now, it is easy for the politician to make such changes: for a writer the case is somewhat different. If he is to switch his allegiance at exactly the right moment, he must either tell lies about his subjective feelings, or else suppress them altogether. In either case he has destroyed his dynamo. Not only will ideas refuse to come to him, but the very words he uses will seem to stiffen under his touch. Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship. To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox. It might be otherwise in an ‘age of faith’, when the prevailing orthodoxy has long been established and is not taken too seriously. In that case it would be possible, or might be possible, for large areas of one's mind to remain unaffected by what one officially believed. Even so, it is worth noticing that prose literature almost disappeared during the only age of faith that Europe has ever enjoyed. Throughout the whole of the Middle Ages there was almost no imaginative prose literature and very little in the way of historical writing; and the intellectual leaders of society expressed their most serious thoughts in a dead language which barley altered during a thousand years.
Totalitarianism, however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy — or even two orthodoxies, as often happens — good writing stops. This was well illustrated by the Spanish civil war. To many English intellectuals the war was a deeply moving experience, but not an experience about which they could write sincerely. There were only two things that you were allowed to say, and both of them were palpable lies: as a result, the war produced acres of print but almost nothing worth reading.
It is not certain whether the effects of totalitarianism upon verse need be so deadly as its effects on prose. There is a whole series of converging reasons why it is somewhat easier for a poet than a prose writer to feel at home in an authoritarian society. To begin with, bureaucrats and other ‘practical’ men usually despise the poet too deeply to be much interested in what he is saying. Secondly, what the poet is saying — that is, what his poem ‘means’ if translated into prose — is relatively unimportant, even to himself. The thought contained in a poem is always simple, and is no more the primary purpose of the poem than the anecdote is the primary purpose of the picture. A poem is an arrangement of sounds and associations, as a painting is an arrangement of brushmarks. For short snatches, indeed, as in the refrain of a song, poetry can even dispense with meaning altogether. It is therefore fairly easy for a poet to keep away from dangerous subjects and avoid uttering heresies; and even when he does utter them, they may escape notice. But above all, good verse, unlike good prose, is not necessarily and individual product. Certain kinds of poems, such as ballads, or, on the other hand, very artificial verse forms, can be composed co-operatively by groups of people. Whether the ancient English and Scottish ballads were originally produced by individuals, or by the people at large, is disputed; but at any rate they are non-individual in the sense that they constantly change in passing from mouth to mouth. Even in print no two versions of a ballad are ever quite the same. Many primitive peoples compose verse communally. Someone begins to improvise, probably accompanying himself on a musical instrument, somebody else chips in with a line or a rhyme when the first singer breaks down, and so the process continues until there exists a whole song or ballad which has no identifiable author.
In prose, this kind of intimate collaboration is quite impossible. Serious prose, in any case, has to be composed in solitude, whereas the excitement of being part of a group is actually an aid to certain kinds of versification. Verse — and perhaps good verse of its own kind, though it would not be the highest kind — might survive under even the most inquisitorial regime. Even in a society where liberty and individuality had been extinguished, there would still be a need either for patriotic songs and heroic ballads celebrating victories, or for elaborate exercises in flattery; and these are the kinds of poems that can be written to order, or composed communally, without necessarily lacking artistic value. Prose is a different matter, since the prose writer cannot narrow the range of his thoughts without killing his inventiveness. But the history of totalitarian societies, or of groups of people who have adopted the totalitarian outlook, suggests that loss of liberty is inimical to all forms of literature. German literature almost disappeared during the Hitler regime, and the case was not much better in Italy. Russian literature, so far as one can judge by translations, has deteriorated markedly since the early days of the revolution, though some of the verse appears to be better than the prose. Few if any Russian novels that it is possible to take seriously have been translated for about fifteen years. In western Europe and America large sections of the literary intelligentsia have either passed through the Communist Party or have been warmly sympathetic to it, but this whole leftward movement has produced extraordinarily few books worth reading. Orthodox Catholicism, again, seems to have a crushing effect upon certain literary forms, especially the novel. During a period of three hundred years, how many people have been at once good novelists and good Catholics? The fact is that certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition. Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age, and certain arts or half-arts, such as architecture, might even find tyranny beneficial, but the prose writer would have no choice between silence or death. Prose literature as we know it is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual. And the destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic, and the poet, in that order. In the future it is possible that a new kind of literature, not involving individual feeling or truthful observation, may arise, but no such thing is at present imaginable. It seems much likelier that if the liberal culture that we have lived in since the Renaissance comes to an end, the literary art will perish with it.
Of course, print will continue to be used, and it is interesting to speculate what kinds of reading matter would survive in a rigidly totalitarian society. Newspapers will presumably continue until television technique reaches a higher level, but apart from newspapers it is doubtful even now whether the great mass of people in the industrialized countries feel the need for any kind of literature. They are unwilling, at any rate, to spend anywhere near as much on reading matter as they spend on several other recreations. Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio productions. Or perhaps some kind of low grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyor-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.
It would probably not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery. But a sort of mechanizing process can already be seen at work in the film and radio, in publicity and propaganda, and in the lower reaches of journalism. The Disney films, for instance, are produced by what is essentially a factory process, the work being done partly mechanically and partly by teams of artists who have to subordinate their individual style. Radio features are commonly written by tired hacks to whom the subject and the manner of treatment are dictated beforehand: even so, what they write is merely a kind of raw material to be chopped into shape by producers and censors. So also with the innumerable books and pamphlets commissioned by government departments. Even more machine-like is the production of short stories, serials, and poems for the very cheap magazines. Papers such as the Writer abound with advertisements of literary schools, all of them offering you ready-made plots at a few shillings a time. Some, together with the plot, supply the opening and closing sentences of each chapter. Others furnish you with a sort of algebraical formula by the use of which you can construct plots for yourself. Others have packs of cards marked with characters and situations, which have only to be shuffled and dealt in order to produce ingenious stories automatically. It is probably in some such way that the literature of a totalitarian society would be produced, if literature were still felt to be necessary. Imagination — even consciousness, so far as possible — would be eliminated from the process of writing. Books would be planned in their broad lines by bureaucrats, and would pass through so many hands that when finished they would be no more an individual product than a Ford car at the end of the assembly line. It goes without saying that anything so produced would be rubbish; but anything that was not rubbish would endanger the structure of the state. As for the surviving literature of the past, it would have to be suppressed or at least elaborately rewritten.
Meanwhile, totalitarianism has not fully triumphed anywhere. Our own society is still, broadly speaking, liberal. To exercise your right of free speech you have to fight against economic pressure and against strong sections of public opinion, but not, as yet, against a secret police force. You can say or print almost anything so long as you are willing to do it in a hole-and-corner way. But what is sinister, as I said at the beginning of this essay, is that the conscious enemies of liberty are those to whom liberty ought to mean most. The big public do not care about the matter one way or the other. They are not in favour of persecuting the heretic, and they will not exert themselves to defend him. They are at once too sane and too stupid to acquire the totalitarian outlook. The direct, conscious attack on intellectual decency comes from the intellectuals themselves.
It is possible that the Russophile intelligentsia, if they had not succumbed to that particular myth, would have succumbed to another of much the same kind. But at any rate the Russian myth is there, and the corruption it causes stinks. When one sees highly educated men looking on indifferently at oppression and persecution, one wonders which to despise more, their cynicism or their shortsightedness. Many scientists, for example, are the uncritical admirers of the U.S.S.R. They appear to think that the destruction of liberty is of no importance so long as their own line of work is for the moment unaffected. The U.S.S.R. is a large, rapidly developing country which has an acute need of scientific workers and, consequently, treats them generously. Provided that they steer clear of dangerous subjects such as psychology, scientists are privileged persons. Writers, on the other hand, are viciously persecuted. It is true that literary prostitutes like Ilya Ehrenburg or Alexei Tolstoy are paid huge sums of money, but the only thing which is of any value to the writer as such — his freedom of expression — is taken away from him. Some, at least, of the English scientists who speak so enthusiastically of the opportunities to be enjoyed by scientists in Russia are capable of understanding this. But their reflection appears to be: ‘Writers are persecuted in Russia. So what? I am not a writer.’ They do not see that any attack on intellectual liberty, and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought.
For the moment the totalitarian state tolerates the scientist because it needs him. Even in Nazi Germany, scientists, other than Jews, were relatively well treated and the German scientific community, as a whole, offered no resistance to Hitler. At this stage of history, even the most autocratic ruler is forced to take account of physical reality, partly because of the lingering-on of liberal habits of thought, partly because of the need to prepare for war. So long as physical reality cannot altogether be ignored, so long as two and two have to make four when you are, for example, drawing the blueprint of an aeroplane, the scientist has his function, and can even be allowed a measure of liberty. His awakening will come later, when the totalitarian state is firmly established. Meanwhile, if he wants to safeguard the integrity of science, it is his job to develop some kind of solidarity with his literary colleagues and not disregard it as a matter of indifference when writers are silenced or driven to suicide, and newspapers systematically falsified.
But however it may be with the physical sciences, or with music, painting and architecture, it is — as I have tried to show — certain that literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes. Not only is it doomed in any country which retains a totalitarian structure; but any writer who adopts the totalitarian outlook, who finds excuses for persecution and the falsification of reality, thereby destroys himself as a writer. There is no way out of this. No tirades against ‘individualism’ and the ‘ivory tower’, no pious platitudes to the effect that ‘true individuality is only attained through identification with the community’, can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind. Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible, and language itself becomes something totally different from what it is now, we may learn to separate literary creation from intellectual honesty. At present we know only that the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity. Any writer or journalist who denies that fact — and nearly all the current praise of the Soviet Union contains or implies such a denial — is, in effect, demanding his own destruction.
One last leftover from my attempt to provide a full history of "Borking" and "Burgering" during the Garland nomination:
"Justice Robert Trimble died in August 1828 as the election campaign between President John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was concluding. Adams allegedly asked Henry Clay to consider replacing Trimble, and Adams then nominated John Crittenden in December 1828, after Jackson won the general election. The Senate postponed any vote on Crittenden until Jackson became President. After Jackson became president the following March, he named John McLean to the position.
Justice Peter Vivian Daniel died in late May 1860 during the race that saw Abraham Lincoln win the White House. President James Buchanan failed to get Jeremiah Black confirmed as Daniel’s replacement in February 1861. Lincoln finally had Samuel Miller confirmed in July 1862 to replace Daniel.
Does the West have the will to survive, defend its values, civilization? Most important presidential speech since Reagan?
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive ... . Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
That's thoroughly presidential, something that has needed to be said for decades, and yet it's also true to what Trump seems to stand for. (And for the record I've never been a Trump fan."
"The president made his sharpest criticism of Moscow since taking office, urging Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran,” and asserting that it must “instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”
"And Mr. Trump moved to reassure Poland and other allies fretful about Russia’s aggression, making a full-throated endorsement of the collective defense principle that undergirds NATO, something he was unwilling to do during his first trip to Europe as president in May.
“The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” Mr. Trump said."
Left & right should read Christopher Lasch to see where they, & their opponents, went wrong & got us here
Leftists master the game of long-term policy change, tacking against strong headwinds. Can libertarians or conservatives do it?
Whatever you think about the merits of the issues, you've got to admire gun controllers' and other social-change movements' strategy and tactics, but also recognize their dishonesty -- their eternal cycle or ratchet between "This legislation merely imposes slight restrictions that hardly inconvenience any reasonable person, we would never try to take away your rights", and "That legislation has failed to seriously reduce the underlying problem and it's time to just ban everything" -- as Daniel Payne does in "Gun Controllers Know Their Policies Won’t Stop Murder. They’re Playing A Different Game", at The Federalist:
... If their proposed remedies would be so obviously and demonstrably unlikely to solve the very problems they claim to intend to solve, then why do gun controllers keep advocating these ridiculous and counterintuitive laws?
The answer is not hard to see. Gun control advocates, like most political actors, are pragmatic and practical. They understand that certain legislative goals and ambitions must play out over a period of time rather than in a political instant. You can see this type of long-game strategy in, say, the American health-care debate: after seven years of Obamacare, Democrats are increasingly pursuing single-payer, something that was much less feasible before the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, Sen. Harry Reid has explicitly stated that Obamacare is intended solely to be “a step in the right direction” towards single-payer, nothing more.
So it is with gun control: liberals propose these useless laws and regulations not in an attempt to honestly curb gun violence but rather in a long-form attempt to pass other laws down the road. It will be much easier to ban large classes of semiautomatic rifles, after all, after five or ten years of banning scary-looking AR-style “assault weapons.” It will be far easier, too, to sharply restrict firearm purchases after a decade of regulating ammunition sales, the latter of which will soon begin in California.
This doesn’t have to be some grand conspiracy theory or dark, shadowy intrigue. Gun controllers are not stupid. They understand long-form political action as well as anyone. They do not like guns and they are more than patient enough to play the drawn-out politics necessary to curtail American gun rights.
... To be fair, I get it: if the situation were reversed, and I were starting from a legal position in which gun rights were severely restricted in this country, I would play the same game if necessary. It’s the smart thing to do.
I notice that now that the chronic con artist Brianna Wu is running for Congress in the Boston area, the New York Times seizes the opportunity to define Gamergate as simply an Internet harassment campaign -- no debate necessary, I guess -- and CNN casually describes Gamergate (inaccurately) as a movement that believes there should be no women in gaming.
Disturbingly, the establishment left is perfectly willing to just ride out the storm and then carve its lies in stone once everyone's attention has moved elsewhere. I'm not sure how people interested in telling the truth can match that relentless, tireless evil.
That's how they do. That's one of the parts of politics that I learned on the playground: people's reality is what they start repeating because it's what people are saying and what they think people want to hear them say.
The greatest example of this silent switcheroo that I've witnessed is how in the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell, a wider swath of policymakers and educated people learned about market economics, and everyone conceded that socialism didn't work. Democratic President Bill Clinton proclaimed, "The Era of Big Government is Over." Newt Gingrich took over Congress and for a couple years, no one in Washington told him he wasn't the best and the brightest. Ever since the backlash from his hubris in the 1995 government shutdown (which White House chief of staff Leon Panetta later bragged about orchestrating on NPR), the GOP has been afraid to make public arguments for why free markets work, fearing to scare away some fraction of its precarious majority coalition. In that vacuum, leftist academics, writers and politicians rushed back in like the tide, teaching whole generations that market economics was totally disproven. Not by actually engaging with what free-market economists and philosophers actually taught, but just by sidestepping it and repeating that all of that had been discredited at some point.
Following "current affairs" too closely leaves no room for deep background to understand them, "Current Affairs" magazine says
'...There’s something deadening about religiously following“current” affairs, because remaining current precludes getting in-depth background knowledge. Reading the newspaper becomes ritualistic rather than useful or educational. It’s always funny that the more time you spend trying to “stay informed,” the less informed you actually become compared with someone who doesn’t stay informed but goes out and learns untimely things.)'
It took a Brit to have the daring, and the permission, to effectively poke a hole in the American media's universal chorus about how Londoners are Reeling, Traumatized, Quivering, Disoriented, Shell-Shocked, Incapacitated and Under Siege.
Because in Britain you can straightforwardly argue for Fabian Socialism or whatever Oliver believes, without having to convince yourself that you speak for a consensus of all responsible and respectable members of the community. But in the US, generations of progressives have learned not to advocate socialism directly, or at least to dare not speak its name, when addressing the general public. Instead, around 1970 the media started talking to us as if we were not citizens but a mass of passive Consumers, overwhelmed by events too large for individuals or voluntary groups to handle. A view of ourselves that typical Americans had always vehemently rejected, but it was central to the views of Progressive-Era leaders, New Dealers, and establishment leftists.
Not all leftists -- the old Populist farmers, the Civil Rights organizers, and many 60s radicals believed in self-help and self-organizing. But the Progressive leftists, who already dominated all mainstream social institutions, feared and loathed as "false consciousness" anything that made individuals feel self-sufficient, empowered, free, etc. Everything from driving cars instead of relying on public transportation, to civilians owning weapons, to any way of providing for our needs or wants that was not governmental or government-dependent.
So the media started pounding us with one too-big-to-comprehend Crisis after another: Gas shortages. Random terrorism. Inflation. Unpredictable "lone gunman" assassins. Global Cooling. The Population Bomb. Random Urban Violence. Drug Epidemics. (I'm not saying they conspired or fabricated these things; it's about how they began to portray them, which was based on, and/or encouraged, the Progressive view of individuals and "Society".) What could an individual do about anything? Wait for government experts to solve the problem. And tie a yellow ribbon on something -- we only started doing that sort of thing during the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, and we're still at it.
Little things that reinforce that view of mankind still bug some of us. Everything from the ribbons being yellow to the obvious connotation of pronouncing the Sept. 11 attacks "Nine-Eleven". Needlessly shortening "terrorism" to "terror" probably has something to do with it too.
9/11 seemed to radically dethrone this paradigm, at least for a while. It began with World Trade Center management telling everyone to stay at their desks until safety officials assessed and determined, etc. It ended with passengers organizing an unarmed assault and making their 737 explode in a field before it could kamikaze the White House. But the herd mentality is strong, the left-wing "hive" endures for generations and knows when to tactically retreat or change the subject temporarily, and they've trained us to want what they're selling.
Oliver has given us a widely-publicized chance to re-evaluate the whole passivity paradigm. I hope we'll take it. After all, from the time of the Battle of Britain through the Berlin Airlift, the news spin about our allies under attack was completely different.
And on the eve of WWI it was even differenter: the English were proud of their resistance and their Reeling, with more than one beer in hand:
The Rolling English Road
Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.
His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.
My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.
Bland "token" Black characters: a huge improvement, a necessary first step, Kenneth Kelly told Charles Schulz
Us kids of the 70s uncomfortably recall all the plain-vanilla TV and movie characters who merely "happened to be black". Perhaps none was plainer-vanilla than Franklin from Peanuts. But it turns out our discomfort was shared by their creators, even when they were considering whether to introduce them. And it was answered powerfully by moon-lander designer and housing discrimination activist Kenneth C. Kelly, who wrote to Charles Schulz after hearing that Schulz was considering adding a Black Peanuts kid but was worried about "patronizing" tokenism:
"... on the subject of including Negro kids in the fabric of Peanuts, I’d like to express an opinion as a Negro father of two young boys. You mention a fear of being patronizing. Though I doubt that any Negro would view your efforts that way, I’d like to suggest that an accusation of being patronizing would be a small price to pay for the positive results that would accrue!
"We have a situation in America in which racial enmity is constantly portrayed. The inclusion of a Negro supernumerary in some of the group scenes in Peanuts would do two important things. Firstly, it would ease my problem of having my kids seeing themselves pictured in the overall American scene. Secondly, it would suggest racial amity in a casual day-to-day sense.
"I deliberately suggest a supernumerary role for a Negro character. The inclusion of a Negro in your occasional group scenes would quietly and unobtrusively set the stage for a principal character at a later date, should the basis for such a principal develop.
"We have too long used Negro supernumeraries in such unhappy situations as a movie prison scene, while excluding Negro supernumeraries in quiet and normal scenes of people just living, loving, worrying, entering a hotel, the lobby of an office building, a downtown New York City street scene. There are insidious negative effects in these practices of the movie industry, TV industry, magazine publishing, and syndicated cartoons."
I've finally encountered one of those alt-right people -- so they aren't a myth after all. A Facebook commenter talking about "Cucks" and leaving a picture of their Egyptian frog god, Kek AKA Kuk AKA Pepe. I decided to look it up to see what on earth it was all about, and it just left me feeling soiled and stupider than before. It's mostly defined in even more obscure and irrelevant terms, in the language of guys who feel they have no stake in society and just want to spout abuse. Also numerology and "magick". But it kept dimly reminding me of something, and after a few days, I remembered what it is. The Pogo series about the "Kluck Klams" may be the most heartstring-tugging Pogo strips ever. Not because of the unrealistically easy happy ending. Certainly not the stuff about "Go away, you frighten our children", which has long since become a sick, control-freaky liberal cliché, and just makes me mutter, "You wish your children were scared!" What gets to me -- and did even when I first read it back in grade school, when I had hardly any ability to pick up on emotions in other people, or in books -- is the smart, plucky little boy's unquestioning devotion to his horribly misguided, quite likely evil and criminal, father ...
Everything I needed to know about Hillary Clinton* [*until now], I learned in the first year of law school, the first year of Bill's presidency. We didn't have the internet, so we had to remember news events and utterances that were important to us, and we couldn't -- and weren't required to -- whip out a shareable web link to prove everything we said. (Such exercises were reserved for the junior law review editors, miserable creatures who lived in the library seeking citations to back up such statements as "The sun rises in the East".). I didn't have a TV, and newspaper reading varied depending on exam preparation, internship work, etc. I heard a lot but I missed a lot. Like most people who nonetheless think they have a right to express opinions about their government.
Since 1993 or '94 I haven't been much interested in anything purporting to prove Hillary's criminal or corrupt, because I already knew I wouldn't vote for her based on what I "knew" about the Travel Office firings and her "Let them eat cake" moment -- saying she wasn't responsible for "every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America" as a way of shrugging off any concern about her health care proposal's effects on small businesses and jobs. This piled elite nonchalance on top of an ugly tactic I was then observing in bullies everywhere, from brutal, racist cops to university administrators to politicians who would leave a market half-free, half-constrained, and then blame the resulting chaos on the free market. Cuffing a guy's hands behind your back, knocking him down and then laughing at him and belittling him because he can't pull yourself up by his bootstraps, can't hold his pants up, etc. Or saying students, employees or customers needed to be "responsible", but only as a way of disclaiming any responsibility for what you and your institutions do to them.
The Travel Office firing was chilling and clearly very wrong to five or six of its seven employees, but there's a whole history of investigation that shows no crime Hillary could be reasonably prosecuted for, and only ambiguous scraps of evidence that might point to her being flagrantly unethical. And likewise, even a cheat sheet covering a lifetime of possible scandals, by the unsympathetic Washington Examiner, shows nothing really damning. Bottom line, her character is dingy and battered, grungy, and if she has committed crimes herself, the most likely and numerous ones are the administrative/regulatory kind that many respectable people accumulate over a lifetime. But her zeal and anger inspire loyal staff to do cruel and unusual, perhaps criminal, things on her behalf, for reasons ranging from Arkansas patronage, to foiling potential enemies, to transcendent ideology.
Whoever really was responsible for the firings was pretty clearly acting (1) legally and (2) unethically, meanly, nastily, and with utter disdain for ordinary working people and how one's actions affect them. Which fit perfectly with the "undercapitalized entrepreneur" attitude. The Travel Office staff formally served "at the will of the President" and could be dismissed at any time, so it was totally legal to fire them. But in practice they were non-political career employees, just like the kitchen and housekeeping staff. Five "had no financial authority in the office."
The director of the travel office, who had worked his way up from the bottom from 1962 to 1982, may have been doing a fine job getting travel arranged for everyone, but he had no use for, nor knowledge of, conventional accounting, and devised his own "country storekeeper" method for collecting advance payments from media businesses sharing the costs of press pool travel, and refunding or collecting any difference afterwards. It sounds like whenever paper records were left over he piled them in a closet. All of that was not necessarily illegal -- this wasn't a business that had to pay taxes, and I don't know what kind of record-keeping the law actually required for that government office, but it reasonably could dovetail with the only criminal charge against any of the travel staff -- embezzlement of $54,000 from refunds and $14,000 from petty cash, using a personal account as the office's petty cash fund. He was tried for that, and acquitted. But the White House can't be blamed for investigating -- it would have been a scandal not to.
But White House had fired the entire seven-person staff at once and meanwhile called in the FBI to investigate the office's finances, announcing both actions to the press at once. On top of the usual effects of being fired, this certainly made it look to any potential future employer, and everyone else they interacted with, as if they had all been fired for some criminal wrongdoing. All seven later "testified that the accusations by the Clinton White House had ruined them financially by forcing them to incur massive legal bills to clear their names," the LA Times said. And replacing them with the Clintons' associates and cousin, who had been lobbying for the investigation and the positions, made it look as if the Clintons had not only fired, but tried to incriminate and prosecute, ordinary, innocent working people simply to make jobs for their cronies. As if, as Vince Foster wrote in his suicide note, "Ruining people is considered sport." That's probably not a crime, but it's still vile.
But Hillary's actual involvement is not so black-and-white. After all the investigations by Kenneth Starr and his successor, long after I had stopped listening, it sounds like all she had to do is indicate once that she implacably wanted those people gone, and the Clinton's senior staffer did the rest, leaving the Clintons' hands sort of clean. Like with Henry II and St. Thomas à Becket. Well, she also apparently kept reminding aides that she wanted the situation resolved through swift action, but she may not have had to get any more specific than that, at least on paper. The Special Prosecutors' verdict was thatHillary had testified falsely when she said two years later that she had no involvement at all, but that there was insufficient evidence to convict her of knowing or intentional perjury or obstruction of justice. Indeed, it looks like the firing was mostly the doing of staffers who firmly believed from experience that they had to move ruthlessly to not only remove, but discredit and destroy, anyone who stood in the way of what Hillary wanted. As Clinton aide David Watkins wrote, "We both know that there would be hell to pay [if] we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady's wishes."
There is a remarkable level of consensus about the known facts of this scandal. Even a site claiming that all Clinton scandals have been debunked has nothing to say about this one except that the firings were legal and the Special Prosecutors found insufficient evidence of perjury or obstruction of justice by Hillary. The White House later issued a self-critical report, apologized to the staffers and found jobs for five of them; the director and one other staffer retired.
- "For White House Travel Office, a Two-Year Trip of Trouble" By Toni Locy, Washington Post, Monday, February 27, 1995
- "Memo Places Hillary Clinton At Core of Travel Office Case" - NY Times 1/5/96
- "Travelgate Inquiry Suggests Signs of Lies by First Lady" - LA Times 6/23/00
- "In old memo, a glimpse of conflict ahead for Hillary Clinton?" - LA Times, March 15, 2014|By Cathleen Decker
- "White House Rebukes 4 In Travel Office Shake-Up" By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, NY Times July 3, 1993
- "A brief guide to Clinton scandals from Travelgate to Emailgate" By 5/17/16
- "Hillary's Arrogance" - October 13, 1993|By Tanya K. Dietrich
- "An archetypal analysis of Clinton: Her former mentor reflects on where the first viable female presidential candidate may have gone wrong."LA Times May 12, 2008|By Robin Abcarian
Willingly or not, Bill Clinton presided over mildly free-market policies and welfare reform. The federal budget grew during his time but shrunk as a share of the economy. Federal deficits were reduced, then eliminated and turned into surpluses. He was enthusiastically for free trade. His very early attempt at an artificial "stimulus" was defeated, with money instead going where it was actually wanted, needed, and productive of things consumers valued and could afford. Hillary is rejecting all of that, as we saw in the first debate, Peter Suderman writes in Reason:
"It’s worth noting ... that the North Carolina town Trump spoke in was named for a man from a slaveholding family,"
Wait -- you better not say anything about this if you're in Washington, DC, Washington State, Washington County, Jacksonville, Madison, Monrovia, Leesburg, Jefferson City, Fairfax County, Carroll County, Henry County, Polk County, Van Buren County, Cobb County, Clay County, Bolivar Heights, Bolivia, Grant Park, Hannibal, Hancock, Houston, or at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, George Washington University, or George Mason University. Or at Little Caesar's. Or in July or August. Or at the Errol Flynn Marina or Brown University, named for self-confessed slave traders.
But ... those places weren't named for those guys BECAUSE of their slaveowning or slave-trading. Well, neither was Kenansville. What -- you thought they named it for Kenan when he made it into Slaveowner Magazine's annual "Top 40 Slaveowners" feature? Actually, James Kenan was an early leader of Stamp Act protests and the prewar Committees of Safety, a state militia general, sheriff, state senator, and state-constitution convention delegate. He was also a delegate to a 1774 provincial convention that banned the slave trade. In the state's U.S. Constitution ratifying convention, he chaired the crucial "committee of the whole" that studied debated, and put together the final Report on the Constitution, amendments, and on the dicey, crucial question of how to hold out for what became the Bill of Rights without abandoning the Union.
Just goes to show, you can be as right and pure and as good as they come and your opponent may be every depraved varmint in "Would You Like to Swing On a Star" rolled into one, but just shoot one cheap shot from your glass house, and that's all that some people will focus on, completely devaluing and discrediting all your valid arguments, and it'll all come down to this:
Historian and blogger Steve Casburn, writing before the election, gives an overview of the last four major party realignments and eras of dominance. All driven by "widespread visceral fear or disgust; a widely held sense that the party in power has failed beyond redemption." ... "A generation of new voters associates the GOP with recklessness, stupidity and deadly incompetence, and will vote Democratic by a wide margin for the rest of their lives. As soon as that generation begins voting in large enough numbers to outweigh the dying generation shaped by the 1960s, the realignment will happen. Heckuva job, Karl Rove."
The rest, which is great reading, is at Will the cycle be unbroken?