Nostalgia & Freedom

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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187 Responses

  1. Murali says:

    This Mr Kain is why I always come back to read you even though we tend to disagree often.While not necessarily as reluctant as you I am a libertarian only to the extent that being such does not harm the worst off. Lets get rid of the more horrible parts of the state first, then come back and take a look. That’s a sentiment I can put myself behind!Report

  2. E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks, Murali!Report

  3. Erik: This was a great piece.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Thanks, Mark. I appreciate that.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Very nice, Mr. Kain.

        I wonder if the nostalgia isn’t more for community, rather than freedom per se. Leviathan, centralization, and nannyism have replaced local mores and this does manifest itself as a loss of freedom, but again, not individual freedom of the libertarian stripe. [“Radical individualism” is not an unfair appellation, in my view, but I don’t use it pejoratively.]

        Conservatives are quite communitarian, too—social communitarianism rather than the political communitarianism of the progressive. Historian Barry Shain writes of the Founding era and “The Myth of American Individualism,” that federalism and the sovereignty of states [and broken down more, communities] was the real dynamic, Burkean “little platoons, etc., not radical individualism.

        Certainly race and gender were the casualties of this social order, and it was the central government that rectified these inequities. Hence, centralization cannot be blanketly condemned: it was Leviathan that was the instrument of justice.

        And so, the wise Pat Moynihan:

        “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

        Which leaves “libertarianism” in a bit of a pickle, since its individualism allies with neither culture/society nor politics/gov’t.

        What is the central libertarian truth? Yes, that man is best when he is free. But total freedom is a society in anarchy, and it doesn’t feed the poor either. Both left and right agree in their own ways that man is a social animal; each has it version of communitarianism. Where does this fact of human nature fit into libertarianism, whose primary dynamic is individualism?

        Man is not inherently good or rational, either. If men were angels [Madison] or merely reasonable devils [Kant], government would be unnecessary. Both society and gov’ts have had ways of dealing with man’s deviltry: what is libertarianism’s method?

        Well, those are my questions, anyhow. And although both left and right have an affinity for individual liberty, they also have cause to complain that individualism stands athwart their paradigms.Report

        • Chris in reply to tom van dyke says:

          That’s pretty much the opposite of what Kant said about rational devils and government.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke says:

          “Conservatives are quite communitarian, too—social communitarianism rather than the political communitarianism of the progressive.”

          Is that how it’s traditionally broken down? I’ve been thinking about this lately because we’ve got some close friends who are on the way out, crazy hippie left (which I mean in the nicest way possible) and their opinions on the community and the social are really indistinguishable from those of the paleocons I read, although they seem to come to different particulars.Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Rufus, it’s rather my own thought. Reading Shain’s “Myth of American Individualism” made me go back to the start and re-examine the prevailing narrative of America and liberty. Shain’s paradigm seems to hold up through Tocqueville, anyway.Report

  4. Sam MacDonald says:


    Well done. I think everyone should be so introspective. But you know what? I think you discount the value in political peeves. You say:

    “You suddenly see the public library as a symbol of everything that has been lost or that you imagine has been lost.”

    People can overdo it. But as big and nasty as war and torture really are… they are not things that absorb our every waking moment. And that’s a good thing, because the alternative is too horrible to consider.

    At the end of the day, things like smoking bans and profligate spending on midnight basketball don’t really destroy all that many lives, but their real value resides in bringing larger issue to the forefront. They are really useful stand-ins. Or metaphors. Or whatever you want to call them.

    I think specifically of the War on Drugs. My dear old mum has been known to say, “Well, so what? You can’t smoke some weed? Really… just get over it.”

    And that’s true. It really, really is. I can drink some whiskey. And even if I do get caught, the penalty isn’t all that severe. But as you know, the fact that I can’t light a dube is only the tip of the full, terrible iceberg. The same is true of seemingly minor things like library funding. My state has gone berserk with spending over the past 10 years, on all levels and with regard to all programs. If some people get worked up over that, I am glad.

    A few years back people were FURIOUS over a raise that the legislators gave themselves. It was a stupid thing to get worked up about. It amounted to 1/1,000,000 of the larger problem. But guess what? Who cares? A ton of incumbents got tossed out over it.

    Smoking bans aren’t killing anybody. But they probably aren’t saving anybody, either. And they are really, really stupid. I want people to get worked up over these things and things like them. It’s like a gateway drug for righteousness.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Sam MacDonald says:

      This reminds me of Obama laughing at the legalization issue. There are certainly many terrifying icebergs lurking beneath the surface of otherwise innocuous policies.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Sam MacDonald says:

      You see “i can’t smoke weed”.
      I see for profit prisons taking over America. Debtor prisons, laws made for profit.
      Kinda like the “no smoking” nannystate.

      Liberals don’t care enough to spend the moolah needed to make a nannystate. They’re too busy trying to help.

      Insurance companies have all the time and money in the world…Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    There never were any Good Old Days. The general postwar stagnation led to massive Fed intervention in the economy to stave off inflation. Eisenhower wanted government to tighten its belt: as it did, the economy sickened even more. The post-Korean War economy was already horrible and by the end of the decade, unemployment and deficits were at an all-time high. There was a little run-up in the middle 50s, but productivity always lagged.

    It was a time of ugly cars, ugly fashions, ugly music and ugly, fearful politicians. Lynching was commonplace thing. America’s overweening influence in the world led to coups and brushfire wars: our tolerance for dictators and strong men grew with our increasing dependence on foreign oil.

    Children were hardly safe in the streets of the 1950s. Street gangs made a sudden and violent reappearance, drug addiction rates skyrocketed. While America watched the suburban fantasies on their new television sets, the inner cities were collapsing. It was no accident: the suburbs could never have been created without America’s new policy of building interstate highways and multi-lane through roads. Combined with the GI Bill, ticky-tacky suburbs sprouted up like mushrooms on horse turds on some of America’s most productive farmland. The centuries-old paradigm of the town and city died and the suburban strip mall replaced it immediately.

    Howard Nemerov, arguably one of the best poets of the 1950s would write much later in life:

    So much of life in the world is memory
    That the moment of the happening itself—
    So much with noise and smoke and rising clear
    To vanish at the limit of our vision
    Into the light blue light of afternoon—
    Appeared no more, against the void in aim,
    Than the flare of a match in sunlight, quickly snuffed.

    What yet may come of this? We cannot know.
    Great things are promised, as the promised land
    Promised to Moses that he would not see
    But a distant sight of, though the children would.
    The world is made of pictures of the world,
    And the pictures change the world into another world
    We cannot know, as we knew not this one.Report

    • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

      That’s a weird picture of the 50s economy.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

        You sorta had to see it. The world is made of pictures of the world.Report

        • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Oh, I don’t think the 50s were perfect, but painting such a dire picture of a decade in which GDP per capita doubled, and employment skyrocketed, seems odd to me.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

            At the dawn of the 1950s, America stood alone in the world, the only nation which hadn’t been bombed into oblivion. Our prosperity was not so much a triumph as a default win.

            In pointing out it was not an unalloyed economic success, what with rampant inflation and the hollowing-out of the great cities, I do not paint a particularly dire picture. I give you the world as it was, the world I saw. I am sorry if it disturbs your pleasant fantasies: they were fearful times. Demagogues and hatemongers roamed the land and America turned inward upon itself, seeing Communist bogeymen in every closet and under every bed. It lashed out internationally, the coups in Iran and Guatemala and many another far-off trouble spot would ultimately backfire on us. There were already troops in Vietnam, observers and trainers, ready to pick up the cudgels for the French.

            There was a price to be paid for the rise of the suburbs. America stopped talking. It lapsed into passive acceptance, into the anomie of the new antidepressants: Miltown, the housewife’s drug. America sat on its self-satisfied ass, lit in the flickering blue light of the television.

            Marshall McLuhan has this pretty well summed up in The Mechanical Bride: The ordinary person senses the greatness of the odds against him even without thought or analysis, and he adapts his attitudes unconsciously. A huge passivity has settled on industrial society. For people carried about in mechanical vehicles, earning their living by waiting on machines, listening much of the waking day to canned music, watching packaged movie entertainment and capsulated news, for such people it would require an exceptional degree of awareness and an especial heroism of effort to be anything but supine consumers of processed goods.

            And that’s what America became, folks. Well, that’s what your parents or more likely grandparents became, if my take on the mean age of the readership of this blog is anywhere within the first standard dev.

            If you want a better world, well, my advice from out here on my part of the timeline is to first get off your dead asses and decide what sort of world you want. It will not be handed to you and your decisions will have consequences. Do not dream of goals, such dreams always mirages. Each moment is of infinite consequence: it is the here and now that we have liberty to act and the moral will to act responsibly. Just keep your eyes on the highway, making steady progress on your route through life. Oh be kind, said Plato, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Chris says:

        It’s not so weird if you hate the thought of happy white people.

        It is awfully cliche, though. I mean, the suburbs? Really? Beat that horse some more, the flesh hasn’t completely fallen off yet. Oh, and tailfins on cars. Again.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

          There were an awful lot of poor white folks out there in the weeds. The prosperity of the 1950s never reached rural America.

          But WTF. I guess it’s all a matter of what you saw. Hey, Duck, did you live through the 50s? I’m sorta interested in this cliché trope, do you have any recollection of rural South Carolina? I sure do.Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I dunno, some of what you say, in hind sight, is spot on. Apparently I’m a optimistic, nostalgic. I remember the neighbors sitting out on their porches in the summer, smoking unfiltered Camels, drinking Iron City, and bullshitting about the war, their jobs, their kids, the Pirates, and whatever in the crepuscular light of a warm summer evening. There was “Gunsmoke,” and “Have Gun Will Travel”, “Twilight Zone”, and Generous Electric Theatre to entertain.
            Cars were made of steel and gas cost $.21/gallon, a bus line fed a city of 24, ooo. We lived in “Irishtown” on the cusp of the ‘rough’ part of town, just a block or two above the river where the row houses were filled with screaming kids who’s old man worked in the mill, and the pottery, and the machine shop, who went to 3rd St. School, of 6th St. School, or Garfield School, or St. Al’s if you were a “Mick’ and damned few were on ‘assistance,’ ’cause their parents were married and found work where they could, and most of the time found a job for life, and woulda felt a great deal of shame being so helpless that you had to take money from the gummint. But, those who needed help with medical bills or rent or food found it in the plethora of community organizations that abounded: the Knights of Columbus, Masons, Eagles, Moose, Sons of Italy, Salvation Army and on and on.
            Growing up in the Fifty’s, in my hometown anyway, a kid learned stuff not so much becaue your parents took you aside and provided instuctions, but by watching how stuff was done, how lives were lived. There was no gummint stickin’ it’s nose into family business, teachers were still professionals and duly respected. Cops and firemen were honored for their occasional acts of bravery and you knew you could count on them.
            For the important stuff of life, you watched your old man, how he lived his life. You watched him go off to work sick as a dog and work a ‘double’, because that’s what a man does. You watched him pay his bills, feed and house his family and live up to his responsibilities, and not bitch and whine.
            Being the resident anti-modernist, I’ll take the Fifty’s over this ‘post-Christian’ era. Besides, this generation is incapable of ever making a movie like “Casablanca.”Report

            • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Besides, this generation is incapable of ever making a movie like “Casablanca.”

              So was that one, though they made some pretty good films that were much more subversive (I think of Spartacus or Paths of Glory (yeah, I’m a Kubrick fan).

              I also know quite well that the generations that grew up before the 50s thought the 50s were nothing compared to the 20s or 30s. My great grandfather was fond of pointing out to my grandfather that, sure, he (my grandfather) fought and lost an eye in Europe during the Second World War, but he (my great grandfather) fought in the First World War twice (for Italy, then for the U.S.), was wounded twice (once by the Austrians in the Alps, once by the Germans in the Argonne), and when he got home, he worked for the same mining company until he couldn’t work anymore (as a result of the black lung that eventually killed him), because that’s just how it was done back then. I’m not sure working yourself to death in unhealthy conditions, just to make enough money to get by and maybe buy a used Model-T someday is an ideal we should be shooting for, any more than is a heavily racially segregated, misogynistic culture that gave rise to, among other things, our wonderful military-industrial complex. Progress may not always be good, and good progress may not be inevitable, but a desire for an idealized past is rarely, if ever, very productive.

              Nostalgia is the disease that generations suffer when they’re no longer defining the culture. And it’s one we’ll all be infected with at some point.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, think spiritual not material.Report

              • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Yeah, my view of the 50s, spiritually, is probably very different from yours, since I associate the “spiritual” character of that age precisely with that segregation and misogyny, though I also see it as the age when people began to say enough is enough. There was something of a spiritual awakening going on, to be sure, though again, I suspect that awakening coincides with precisely the post-50s mindset that you see as inferior.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Chris says:

                Yes, you’re right. But, should we be surprised, that in the human drama, we got stuff moving toward evil and stuff moving toward the Good?
                I’m figuring it’s in our nature.
                I kinda look at it as if multi-cultualism, diversty, and PC are secular phenomenon of modernity grounded on a humanist ‘morality,’ which is moving successfully to destroy Christianity and an acknowledgement of the spiritual nature of man.
                But, maybe I’m wrong?Report

              • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                I think you’re wrong to identify spirituality with Christianity, or even organized religion. Other than that, sure, good and bad, all of that comes with being human, and in fact is a product of being human.Report

              • Well, RC, that’s sort of the “post-secular” argument, which at least can readmit metaphysics. Christianity’s narrative [rose from the dead, died for our sins] is a bit too much for the rationalist. Still, what replaced it was even worse, brute materialism.

                Dietrich Bonhoeffer was musing toward this at the end of his life, a Christianity without Christ. For the aspiring post-secularist, it might be admitted that it is Christianity [for lack of a real-world alternative] that has done the necessary exploration of metaphysics—beyond doctrine—and may hold more metaphysical truth than the modern, post-Christian systems, and something is worth learning and preserving there.

                And if you’re correct that there’s a component of man that longs for God or at least the metaphysical, that man is more than just the sum of his atoms and synapses, then the book is not closed yet atall.Report

            • You’re going to take that upper income tax bracket, too, Bob?Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                I wish I could!Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Chris, I just came across this comment of yours and wanted to briefly respond.
                I think in the ancient mists of the past ‘spirituality’ sprang from the idea of immortality or a longing for, or a curiosity in the ‘Beyond’. With that said, and not wanting to write a thesis, I think, for example the Classical Greeks did us great service in analizing and differentiating a mediation that was, in fact, what bro Voegelin calls an act of “engendering reality.” The difficulty in such an analysis is that while the symbols are here before us to discern, they are, in fact, the product of a truth of existence that is experienced in a spiritual reality or what he referred to as a ‘non-existent’ reality. And, that’s what I see as the difficulty, simply because we moderns, by and large, have never known that spiritual experience as an event in reality.
                In that sense there is no non-Christian spiritual experience today following the appearance, death, and rresurection of the Christ/Logos/Word. All philosophy if it is not philodoxy points toward the Word of God as rising in truth and freedom to love.
                The problem, at least the problem as Voegelin identified it, is that this phenomenon is seen by us as a sequence of events in time, a time that, ironically must intersect with the timeless, in three observable steps:
                1.There is an original, historical, event. In this instance, the Christ, (but you or I as individuals can engage our own spiritual event, and I have and perhaps you as well). Always there is an account of the event. The Gospel holds many, there are many more.
                2. There is a dogma created around this event so that it may easily and readily be passed among the communicants, the novitiates, and the curious who seek the truth.
                3. And, finally we reach an age of skeptical arguement re: the event. And, as you know that’s the age we are currently residing, in which there are elements of the inquiry in this post, particularly the idea of nostalgia.
                And, Voegelin’s analysis also points out that these events in the non-existent reality enter society as an ordering force in the historical process, and all of this is very complex and are always being lost and then found again…and then lost. The human drama.

                TVD, this comes as a surprise: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was musing toward this at the end of his life, a Christianity without Christ” and as Martha is my personal Biblical/Christian theologian I’ll make certain inquiries this evening.
                And, yes I believe, along with Plato, for example, that there’s a connection between the Beyond (I would say God) and that silly bipedial creature, man. In fact the ground of philosophy is predicated on the question of mortality/immortality and the difficulty for man in his considertions is the commingling of the existent and non-existent reality and the necessary tension of existence that appear when we differentiate the obvious symbols. Modern man, (snark alert!) in his great learning , have rejected the symbols of reality and thus condems himself to a false reality from which he tries to analize and solve the problems of his specie. Obviously, the problem is more complex than my silly words, but I think there’s some truth in my little nutshell.Report

              • Well, RC, to touch back on Rufus’ general consideration of the Greek mind, note that in the “Old” Testament, there’s no consideration of the afterlife beyond the same gray Hades the Greeks posited—Sheol.

                Until the Book of Daniel, anyway, in the final phase of OT authorship. The Psalmist, for one, with all his love of God, knows not what awaits him after this life; there is no promise of heaven or the like. This is the late Judaic innovation, and the Christian innovation is the possibility of a universality of salvation. [Jesus dies/atones for man’s sin, etc.—the sinner can be saved.]


                Of course there are Elysian Fields and the like, for the very favored. But most of us are condemned to the dim grayness of Hades or Sheol. In the Greek, Judaic, and even Zoroastrian formulations, there is sometimes posited a certain merit-based chance at a decent afterlife, but “salvation by works” is opposed by Christian theology.

                And for the Greek philosopher and many Jews, living well and living justly is done for its own sake or for God’s, not salvation’s.

                Thought I’d toss that out before your meeting with your theologian. The Psalmist has much in common with his Greek counterpart re the afterlife.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Any lawyer will tell you your worst witness is an eyewitness. Memory is tricksy, a great liar given half a chance. Indulging in pleasant reverie is the legitimate province of those too old to do anything else.

            My father tells me of his own father, the stationmaster for the Southern Railway in Lexington SC, coming down the main drag, wearing his filthy overalls — how embarrassed my father was of his own father, a feisty, quarrelsome little man, incapable of lasting friendships, a man who’d taught himself telegraphy in two weeks to avoid the trenches of WW1. He spent the war in a French chateau in the Marne, taught himself Greek, Latin and Hebrew.

            My grandfather’s people come straight out of a Faulkner novel. A little stepson, following the plow while his stepbrothers went to private school. His stepfather contracted syphilis, blamed my great grandmother and there she stands in the dirt road, forever locked in the amber of the tale as told by my grandmother, evicted from her own house, dying of syphilis herself. He married young, got the hell out of Blackstock Tennessee and his life played out as his sons died of scarlet fever or dead drunk, ramming into a bridge abutment or drowning in a quarry pit. My father outlasted them all, rejecting his own as had his father, as I have done in my own turn, as my son has done, all of us first retreating first into the military, then languages and from thence into their own lives.

            The past is never dead. It’s not even past. That’s Faulkner, from Go Down Moses, where we meet the character of Gavin Stevens for the first time. There he is, watching the wake, still not quite Getting It. Gavin, for all his fine sentiments and obvious nobility of character, can never enter the bitterness of that terrible chant, Go Down Moses, and leaves, bewildered by his own emotions. It’s at that point, and only at that point, where his heart is prepared for change, to see black people as just ordinary people.

            And that, folks, is the 1950s in a nutshell. My old man, racist to the core, gets saved at a Billy Graham rally and goes out as a missionary to Africa. The past is never dead. It’s not even past.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

              This may be your best one!
              Damn, there’s a novel in you that you should be writing.
              Re: ‘the past’, there’s a element of truth, as always, in your analysis, particularly when we consider that we were kids at that time.
              With that said, I think there’s a measurable, statistical, observable decline that, ironically, coinsides with a decline in racism, for example, as it existed back then.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Gavin Stevens appeared ten years earlier than that in Light in August, but he had only a small role, not enough to make it as dreary as The Town, The Mansion, or Knight’s Gambit. And there’s not that much space between Stevens and Horace Benbow of the even earlier Flags in the Dust and SanctuaryReport

  6. Lyle says:

    In another sense we did not worry as much about children’s safety back then. After all we rode bicycles without helmets (they did not exist) and the like. (I once flew over the handlebars and was knocked out, but the doctor told my mother to just have me watched, when she called, no ambulance etc). Children did not have car seats, and seat belts were unknown. (We had a 63 and it just had front belts, the 49 and 55 had no belts). To boot chemistry sets actually had chemicals. So if you evaluated how boomers (I am 60) were raised against todays standards things were hopelessly unsafe. Yet most of us survived.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Lyle says:

      If you shoot a gun at your face and miss, it doesn’t mean that shooting guns at your face is safe. There’s a difference between “un-necessary caution” and “didn’t know any better”.

      Most of the research supporting seatbelts and airbags wasn’t done until mid-century–but it does exist, and they do act to protect vehicle occupants from injury during an accident.Report

      • > There’s a difference between “un-necessary caution”
        > and “didn’t know any better”.

        True ‘dat. You’re more likely to be killed in a car accident than just about anything except the big three.

        Wearing a helmet on a bike is just plain good sense. That said, banning Happy Meals is probably not.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

          That’s certainly true.

          It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if it turned out that fifty years of fighting institutionalized racism and bigotry has resulted in a government that’s more intrusive and more overbearing than Orwell’s worst nightmares.Report

  7. Bob says:

    It all depends. I’m neoplastic about very little of my life through adolescence. I was raised in a small rural town where safety was never an issue. Bikes and walking the common mode of getting around. Hikes to the country and swimming in creeks and ponds. Sounds ideal. It wasn’t – for me. I could not wait to get out.

    I certainly don’t begrudge anyone fond memories but trying to reestablish some selectively remembered past is bound to fail.

    Enjoyed the piece.Report

  8. Jason Kuznicki says:

    I’ve got to admit I’m not much sold on nostalgia. Yes, I’ve lately been calling for a return to normalcy. By which I mean something like the 1990s.

    Even so, I wouldn’t want their web design.Report

  9. Wannabe Speechwriter says:

    This was a very beautiful post. However, you know who agrees with you on nostalgia? Paul Krugman-

    I think that opening the labor market to women, minorities, and immigrants was bound to drive wadges down. However, I don’t think giving more rights to unrepresented groups required the collapse in income we’ve seen in the last 30 years. This argument we keep seeing that social progress leads to more economic inequality is a false choice.Report

  10. DensityDuck says:

    The aerospace industry is certainly nostalgaic for the back half of the 20th century. That’s when we had all the money!Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Yeah, Sputnik went flying overhead, going beep beep beep and America’s collective sphincter puckered so hard it swallowed up that tacky Sears Roebuck sofa it was sat upon. The aerospace industry of the late 50s featured fiasco after fiasco.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

        You have no fucking idea what you are talking about. None. That was an embarrassing post even for you.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Alas, that I do have ideas and the facts to back them up. When it gets to this point, I win by default. I’d say it was a bit late for you to grow up.

          The 1950s aerospace industry featured boondoggle after boondoggle while various agencies quarreled among each other. We were forever playing catchup to the Russians until NASA was created, and even then it was half-o’-this and none-o’-that and excuses and cost overruns and generalized fuckfuckery on a colossal scale as we chased the Russians down the track. Now, thanks to NASA’s institutionalized idiocy, we have to send our astronauts to our own goddamn space station aboard a Russian rocket. Niggler, puh-leeze.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Dude…Corona? DMSP? Microprocessors? You’re saying that these don’t represent success stories, that they weren’t successful efforts, that they didn’t produce technology that’s useful and being used today? (Or are you suggesting that the Russians had all these things first?)

            You say you have the facts. Let’s see some facts. Not “oh we had to play catchup” this, or “generalized fuckfuckery” that. Show me the facts.

            If you want to point to Russian successes? Fine! That’s not the same thing as suggesting that there were no American successes, that everything the Americans did was “generalized fuckfuckery”.

            Look, you’ve obviously got nothing here beyond the party-line Sovophile bullshit that the aerospace industry has had to deal with since Eisenhower’s time. (And still has to deal with; viz. all the pantswetting over the PAK-FA, the S-400, the J-20, etcetera.)Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to DensityDuck says:

              The Russians never had to invent this stuff, they just stole it from us. We’d spend billions on a weapons system, they’d spend a few million to built the pill to kill it. All that money wasted on those thousands of nuclear weapons, the Strangelovean paranoia which led us to spend ourselves crazy to solve problems we didn’t have. The idiocy of Mutual Assured Destruction, the tub thumping American Exceptionalists, the fiasco in Korea — dismal days, the 1950s.

              I see I’m about to get the Tang Argument, wherein every modern invention can be ascribed to NASA. The microprocessor doesn’t even appear until the 1970s. We had enough real problems with the USSR and China that we didn’t need to scare up any imaginary ones from the fevered minds of Barry Goldwater and Robert McNamara.

              NASA reminds me of that old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor with a frog on his head. Doc asks, “What’s going on?” and the frog says “Started out as a wart on my ass.”

              Technology never solved anyone’s problems. All those spy satellites and U2 overflights and all those bombs we dropped from those B-52s, money entirely wasted. We never saw the USSR as a rotten old barrel held together only by the staves of our own war machine. Private industry never got a crack at space flight until Burt Rutan started building his own vehicles, precisely because the dead hand of NASA crushed that industry.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Technology never solved anyone’s problems.

                I’ve rewritten this comment three or four times and figure that I should probably just let you rewrite the sentence to say what you mean instead of assuming you meant what you said.Report

              • RTod in reply to Jaybird says:

                Indeed. I know that my wife who gets some pretty bang up treatment for MS would disagree with that comment’s face value.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to RTod says:

                Technology hasn’t yet solved the problems of muscular dystrophy. My heart goes out to you and your wife.

                There are three things which must never be said to the suffering and grieving. The first is I understand,. No I don’t. I’ll never understand. The second, more commonly uttered by the religious, and I cannot understand why, is God will help you through your suffering. In my experience, no He hasn’t.

                The third, the most pernicious, is some variant of You’ll eventually get over it. No you won’t. Not ever. Every day will sharpen that shard of glass as it worms its way into your heart and your every memory of your beloved will grow more intense until you live at last in the light of the west windows of the cathedral of those memories. I live in the light of such memories now. The face value of my commentary is nil. Would that I could pass away.

                O sages standing in God’s holy fire
                As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
                Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
                And be the singing-masters of my soul.
                Consume my heart away; sick with desire
                And fastened to a dying animal
                It knows not what it is; and gather me
                Into the artifice of eternity.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bp, yes He will, dude.
                My wife was healed from cancer and blindness.
                I prayed on my knees. I bartered my life for hers. In the end all of it was given up to to an understanding that His will, above all else, must be done.
                For the rest of my sinful life, I will bow before the Lord my God and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord of all that is.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BP – Actually, Multiple Sclerosis. And actually, despite the fact they the actual mechanism that causes it still baffles researches, there are several treatments that do an amazing amount. So score at least half a point for tech.

                But the confusion between MS & MD is somewhat irrelevant. As always I appreciate your thoughts.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to RTod says:

                …our prayers for her, RTod.Report

              • RTod in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Thank you Bob. Ours (such that they’re worth) back to you and the mrs. God bless.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “I see I’m about to get the Tang Argument, wherein every modern invention can be ascribed to NASA.”

                I should point out here that you’re the only one who’s brought up NASA so far.

                I like how you just totally sailed by the successes I cited. So you honestly believe that weather satellites aren’t a useful thing that we successfully developed?

                And before you say “NASA built those”…no, they didn’t. The weather satellite program was run by the Air Force and the NRO, and was exactly the kind of consistent and remarkable success that you believe never happened.

                “The idiocy of Mutual Assured Destruction…”

                …is an entirely-logical outcome of game theory. I guess you aren’t up on your logic studies. I mean, I’m sure you’ve read the Wikipedia article about the Prisoner’s Dilemma and therefore consider yourself an expert, but since you don’t understand where MAD came from then you clearly have a long way to go.

                Here, let’s ask this: Why, in the context of global nuclear war, would a ballistic-missile defense system be destabilizing?Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                The illogic here doesn’t befit you, Blaise.

                Blaise: “Technology never solved anyone’s problems.”

                RTod: “My wife sure benefits from advanced medical treatments.”

                Blaise: “There are some problems technology can’t solve.”

                The latter is true, but it’s also not what you set out to claim. Technology cured polio. Syphilis. Smallpox. Malaria. Typhus. Mumps.

                Don’t say that these aren’t your problems, or that some people still die from some of them. Your original claim just isn’t holding, and we haven’t even left medicine yet. Last night I really needed to talk to my mom in Cincinnati, too.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                He’s just stuck arguing for a wildly hyperbolic claim that he almost certainly didn’t mean, but used in defense of an earlier wildly hyperbolic claim that he may or may not have meant (the bit about the 50s space program, which was, in a way, in defense of his wildly hyperbolic claims about the 50s economy). Bad arguments are like lies; in order to keep the first one going, you have to tack on another, and then another, and then another, until you have no idea what you’re arguing for anymore.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                WTF, over. The 1950s, as advertised by Krugman, Chris et. al. were not the best of times. If the world progressed, and nobody’s saying it didn’t, was despite, not because of American Exceptionalism.

                Vaccinations saved lives by the untold millions. My parents stopped the last outbreak of smallpox in Niger. They got on the radio, the mission got word to the Embassy and the National Institutes of Health flew a DC-3 directly from Atlanta and parachuted that vaccine onto our property. My parents sent out runners to every village, warning people they were coming.

                But thanks to all that preventative medicine, the population of sub-Saharan Africa has exploded and AIDS has taken its place as the great killer, not of infants but of young people. Because those children were never educated, their cultures never advanced far and they lived to enter a world of grinding poverty and the destruction of what little uncultivated land remains.

                Does this imply we should not vaccinate children? No. But vaccinations didn’t solve the underlying problem. As we drain the lake in an effort to solve one problem, inevitably new ones emerge. And we must solve them, too. Let’s just not fool ourselves with this triumphalism business: there’s always a tradeoff with technology.

                In that same town, Dungas, the cash crop is peanuts. So the USAID program thought it would be a great idea to send out a nice new John Deere tractor with a plow and cultivator. The nice guys from the embassy came out, pictures were taken, the tractor was fired up. Despite the fact it wasn’t time for cultivation, the tractor was sent over a few hectares of ground, the sand and dust billowing up behind it as the cultivator bounced along.

                So the tractor sat there for a good long while, the sarki rigged up some sort of trailer thingie for it so he could pull things around. A few months later the tractor died. Nobody had ever been trained to change the oil, you see, and it became a plaything for children, rusting away in the center of town.

                Please, don’t tell me technology solves problems. Technology is where I make my money, those problems keep me in business.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I think there s a big difference between “technology doesn’t magically solve all problems for everybody” and “technology never solved a problem.”

                That you cure one disease but not all diseases does not mean that curing that one disease was of no help. It wasn’t that long ago that the average expectancy of a human wasn’t much past 40 years. It’s now in the 70s and rising, or at least it is in the industrialized world. And while it’s true that this can cause other issues that need to be dealt with (e.g.: in this case it screws up the model for social security) that does not mean that is a bad thing, or even a zero sum thing. Ask any 65 year old if they think having been dead for the past 25 years vs. not being sure if the SS safety net will take care of their future needs is a six-of-one kind of choice.

                One of the areas my company deals with is employee safety. The difference in frequency and severity from generations past is staggering. And that difference is due in part govt. regulation, and in part to technological improvement. Manufacturers 100 years ago might have a fatality or limb-loss injury as often as once a month. In the past decade, despite working with hundreds of clients, I have seen one death and no dismemberments. Surely this is helpful?Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                At some point, the word phrase “non sequitur” becomes to weak to describe a lack of a relationship between the thesis and the arguments for it. You’ve reached that point, passed it, and moved on to a world in which you’re basically talking to yourself about who knows what.

                By the way, I don’t think Krugman has ever suggested that the 50s were perfect, or even the best of times (though economically, in the U.S., they were pretty darn good, especially when compared forward and backwards), but they were good times in certain ways — ways that Krugman is clearly nostalgic for, me less so (I wouldn’t mind the tax rates, though).

                But dude, you keep arguing whatever it is you’re arguing at this point, ’cause man, it’s kinda funny to watch you dig holes. I could put music to it, or even make it into a serial: “Next week, on General Ivolgin theater: The General tells us of his time saving stranded Ross Seal Pups from melting melting pack ice during a raging storm off the coast of Antarctica, and how it relates to the negative impact of Republican policies on pricing structures in the pop gun industry. You don’t want to miss this episode!”Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “word phrase” is a really funny typo, by the way.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The 1950s and 60s were the heyday of advertising. Got a problem? Technology will solve it.

                When I’m watchin’ my TV
                and that man comes on to tell me
                how white my shirts can be.
                Well he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
                the same cigarettes as me.

                What is it with y’all? Have you so completely bought into this whiz-bang shit that you really believe it actually solves problems? Look, in the existential world of problem solving, you really don’t have a problem until you perceive it’s a problem. Then you’ll call me up, and people do every day, and I’ve got an appointment at 1400 and another at 1500, to ask me to help me define that problem. Consulting isn’t solving problems: define a problem well enough and it damned near solves itself. I’ll ask you how you make money, we’ll work out how you can make more by communicating more effectively with your customers, I’ll lay out the principles of an SOA solution so hostile systems can communicate with each other, and provide a nice little exception bucket for all the troublesome messages requiring human intervention and gosh, they pay me a lot of money to walk into their shop and tell them to their faces I don’t know anything and they must tell me everything.

                So when I say Technology doesn’t solve problems, people solve problems, I’m not implying diseases can’t be cured. We solve one problem only to create another. I have to write a people-summoner into the error handlers, so some poor programmer will get a text message in the middle of dinner and he’ll have to log in and issue a ps -ef | grep ProblemSolver to see if that solution is still alive.

                People have problems. People solve problems. Technology is not the solution. It’s the toolbox.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:


                I’m just going to repeat what I said earlier: I think there s a big difference between “technology doesn’t magically solve all problems for everybody” and “technology never solved a problem.”

                Can’t say that I disagree with your assessment about how advertising is an industry that plays loose with the truth. Can’t say as I understand why you thought that anyone in this thread was talking about had anything to do with advertising.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                @RTod: this got started when I pointed out the aerospace industry of the 1950s was Boondoggle Inc. Oh the snarling and barking and you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking abouting that resulted. Chris and the Dense One want to paint me as some Roosky Lover. It’s like watching so many barky chihuahua dogs. Would that either could write his way out of a paper bag, for there are substantive arguments against my points, any of which would be a welcome change from this ill-mannered Poo Flinging.

                We don’t have problems until we perceive we have problems. Advertising doesn’t attempt to sell us things, it tells us we have a problem and here’s a solution. Some of those problems are real enough, others are ginned up by focus groups and corporate psychologists. We must decide what problems are real, and in a consumer society, it’s increasingly difficult to determine just how real those problems might be. Me, I’d rather not have text messaging on my phone, but I do because everyone else does.

                The point of this essay was to delineate the problem of how we’re going to determine what sort of world we want. Now here’s my contention, and I’ve made it before, here. Every time a Middle Class emerged in history, from the bourgeois of the late Middle Ages to the Ozzie and Harriets of the 1950s, it was a temporary phenomenon. A shortage of labor combined with an increase in demand led to wage rises which did not last. As the markets became saturated, the Middle Class either moved up or moved out. That’s capitalism for you.

                So can we go on dreaming of a Middle Class? Product life cycles are short, too short to support the old paradigm of a Middle Class. There’s always someone hungrier who’ll do that work for less and those jobs will disappear. The economies of the future will continue to reward the Knowledge Worker and the Skilled Craftsman: we’ve barely scratched the surface of what the new connection-based societies are capable of producing. And yes, the wealthy will get even wealthier.

                While the world population continues to grow, there will always be someone hungrier than the current jobholder and the shit will keep on sliding downhill. We know how to deal with overpopulation: educate girls. Give a girl 12 years of education and she’ll have 2 children or less. Those children will survive, they’ll get vaccinated and they will receive at least as much education as their mother got. Whole host of problems solved all at once: as varies the lot of girls in this world, so varies the world itself.

                If the world population stabilized, this trend of ever-hungrier workers will attenuate and we’d see societies all over the world start to rise from the bottom up. The conditions for a Middle Class would re-emerge.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Got it. I was pretty sure I was not tracking – what I thought you had been saying seemed fairly solopsistic, which didn’t jive with what I have come to know about you.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Chris and the Dense One want to paint me as some Roosky Lover. It’s like watching so many barky chihuahua dogs. Would that either could write his way out of a paper bag, for there are substantive arguments against my points, any of which would be a welcome change from this ill-mannered Poo Flinging.

                Haha… It’s funny to see you flustered, Blaise. Since I haven’t said anything about Russia, and really haven’t said anything about the space industry, you’ve clearly lost it here. But whatever you need to tell yourself to keep going, General. It’s also funny to see you bitch and moan about personal attacks in lieu of arguments when you’ve yet to actually address what I’ve said about the 50s, instead tearing down completely unrelated claims (like, say, the 50s were perfect).

                By the way, I’ll say this again, but the only personal comment I’ve made about you (you’ve now made several about me), is the suggestion that you might tell a tall tale now and then (you might, if you haven’t already, look up Ivolgin). Everything else was directed at your statements here: that they were exaggerated, that they were further and further from the topic (the 50s economy), that they were unrelated to your theses, etc. If you can’t recognize the difference between personal attacks (you’re a teller of tall tales) and criticisms of what you’ve said (you haven’t presented arguments, and what you have presented is a piss poor substitute for arguments), I don’t know how to help you.

                You, on the other hand, have suggested I’m a bad writer (never claimed I wasn’t), that I ignore facts that don’t conform to my opinions (which facts, I’m not sure, since you haven’t given any related to my point, yet), that I resort to personal attacks because I have no argument (see above), that I’m a yappy dog, and I’m sure I’m missing a couple. So, to recap, I’ve accused you of telling tall tales, and otherwise addressed what I’ve said, whereas you’ve done little more, in relation to my point (that the 50s economy was pretty darn good — again, massive increases in employment, massive increases in GDP per capita, and hell, the creation of the modern middle class, just for good measure) than call me names. What you think is a high horse is really just a toddler’s rocking horse, dude.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                @RTod: this thread sure got weird in a big fat hurry. My great sin, it seems, is to have remembered the 1950s as a decade of fear and self-delusion, of the retreat of American greatness and the ferocious intellectualism which had defined the late 1930s, when mankind wrestled with the failures of Capitalism in 1929 and the failures of Communism in the 1930s.

                The late 30s and the whole of the 40s was defined by a war on Fascism, the unholy and incestuous child of Government and Industry. Fascism had its fans, for Italy and Germany arose first from the wreckage of the Great Depression. FDR had inoculated the USA with a dose of Socialism in an attempt to save Democracy and restore Capitalism but the economy still faltered. Stalin had crushed any dissent in the USSR yet still Communism had its defenders in the West and we would ally ourselves to the USSR, knowing Stalin was a monster, ultimately capitulating to him, sending half of Germany and all of Eastern Europe into slavery to his wicked state.

                The 1950s, like the 1920s, was replete with the philosophers of despair. But here and there in the 1950s, the hedonistic Beatniks and musicians emerged as had the holy fools of the 1920s. They were not entirely bad, the 1950s, nothing is wholly awful. But the 1950s don’t provide us with any useful paradigms. Instead, they provide us with the Cautionary Examples we ought to consider, for as their prosperity did not last, the go-go Capitalism of heady 1990s and early Oughts has given way to another hideous blowout. This time, however, our industrial might has been exported.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BP – no worries. Though for whatever it’s worth, I don’t think your “sin” was the way you remembered the 50s. I actually don’t think you sinned at all.

                Speaking as someone who has come to like you, though, you might try to hold back on the escalation of rhetoric sometimes. I think it leads to people not listening to what you’re trying to say, and you not noticing that people are missing your point – resulting in pissing matches rather than dialogue.

                Anyway, advice you can take or leave.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bob, you made the General out Ivolgin himself.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                @RTod: you’re probably right. Yet consider, when the thread starts with Point Blank Trollery such as You have no fucking idea what you are talking about. None. That was an embarrassing post even for you.

                Guess what. You know how we used to deal with a sniper? We’d fire a hundred rounds of artillery at him, just knock down every tree. We had the resources, the artillery battery had the time, they were bored, we were getting fired at, and we Solved that Fucking Problem by the Numbers. Justified their existence, preserved mine.

                Which is why I’m here to tell the tale.

                Now, upon examination of this thread, nobody chimed in to defend me, or to point out this bit of trollery. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest, not that you or anyone else might find anything untoward about You have no fucking idea what you are talking about. None. That was an embarrassing post even for you.. Therefore, I shall defend myself, by myself, and Seconds Out to anyone who wants to fucking schoolmarm me. I am not swayed in the slightest by finger-scraping or tendentious observations about who likes me and who doesn’t. Would that one of you had come in to tell the Dense One he was out of line to troll me in this manner.

                But for what it’s worth, RTod, you seem to be an honest man, well worth the trouble of conversation.Report

              • Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                FWIW, Blaise, I know exactly what you meant by, “Technology never solved anyone’s problems.”

                Technology doesn’t solve problems. It moves resources to a solution space, but that, in and of itself, usually causes additional things to occur (which are, themselves, often problems).

                Technology enables solutions, that’s not the same thing as solving problems.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I appreciate the effort, and the civility, but think it may be best if we just agree to disagree – which is cool by me.

                I have an instinctive distrust of Dogma in general, and a very specific distrust of Dogma that tries to show how the seemingly obvious is in fact a conspiratorially complex chain that confirms said Dogma. And to me, the assertion that any political stripe has it’s equal share of well read intellectuals, fools, opportunists, saints, power-mongers, people I’d be OK with my sister marrying and just really, really awful people seems so self-evident as to be a fact.

                Which is not to say that you might not be right, just that my ears won’t the best audience.

                It’s like when Bob tries to explain to me that I am really quite unhappy in life because I am agnostic, and goes to admirably great lengths to quote philosophers, theologians, and other great thinkers that I am not well read enough to have heard of to prove his point, and all I have to counter such intellect with is my lowly little happy life.

                I readily concede the ground claimed of intellectual merit, but can’t take my eyes off the real world long enough to consider the Dogma seriously. It’s just a me thing.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Got it. I won’t try to convince you any further then, at least for today. Let me mention, though, that this is exactly the sort of thing that motivates my reply to Chris. Ie, let’s take a look at the cultural alienation (from Team Red, especially) and try to unpack it directly instead of ignoring it.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Koz, you’ve just expressed precisely the view to which I was referring. I’m not saying there are no differences between Democrats and Republicans, or liberals and conservatives, or however we want to classify these people who make up the two poles of our mainstream political spectrum, but I am saying that separating them into teams, or viewing things as “us vs them” has not simply exaggerated those differences, but made dialogue between the two groups, who for all intents and purposes determine our political representatives, virtually impossible, to the point of it being almost comically (but, given its consequences, also tragically) dysfunctional.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “My pappy wouldn’t want me playing with no Yankees!”

                The funniest episode of Sgt. Bilko bar none.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Oops, misplaced. Should follow the idea of a test proving Bob to be a Yankee.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “…but I am saying that separating them into teams, or viewing things as “us vs them” has not simply exaggerated those differences, but made dialogue between the two groups, who for all intents and purposes determine our political representatives, virtually impossible…”

                I see your point, but I think you’ve got the chain of causality backward. It’s our differences that creates the animus between us, so we have to acknowledge the animus before we have a chance to unwind our differences.

                We will only be able to acknowledge the animus when we see what’s left without it. This will be particularly valuable for Team Blue. Outside the animus, there’s not really much there. Aside from their distaste of Republicans, their team has some important aspirations and preferences but not any clear idea of what’s possible and what they want to do.

                There’s a strong element of misanthropy underlying Team Blue. For example, just today Balloon Juice published this beaut. Nothing to do with the price of tea in China, just 99.44% pure pollution of our political-cultural space.

                And no, our team doesn’t do this. There’s no one on the Right that I know who has an ounce of respect for Oliver Willis, Barbara Boxer, John Edwards, or Ed Schultz. Nonetheless, if we disparage any of these people, there’s at least some attempt at a point; tasteless, tenuous or otherwise.

                We can hope things get better when a significant number of Blue Teamers quit devoting their energy to politics and start doing something else. And that’ll happen not because they start liking our team or trust us, but because they’ll be able to perceive their own opportunity cost.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Koz, under your theory, “Team Blue” has, at the same time, both the pernicious ideology that creates the difference between them and “Team Red” and leads to rampant increases in state power, and nothing but animus. Yeah, there’s nothing dysfunctional about your H.S. football approach to politics and policy. Go team!Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You know, Koz, this Team Red / Team Blue dichotomy didn’t appear in American politics until the GOP expelled its liberals, about the time of Reagan, though it had begun before. The vast exodus of the Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party formed a conga line and the GOP welcomed them with open arms. This, the party of Lincoln… (rueful laughter) .. your point about Dogma is unintentionally funny. Dogma hasn’t put in an appearance in the Congress in many decades.
                Forget Balloon Juice. Don’t cite them as some sort of litmus test, or I’ll resort to a random article in Weekly Standard since the election of Clinton if I want to cite Whiny Pissybabies, a rather more august coterie than the BJ ranters. The GOP has been the Party of Faux Outrage really since Nixon and his Silent Majority. And it’s ultimately a pointless exercise: disparagement is preaching to the choir.

                Sans animus, the GOP would be a big nothing. What do they actually believe? Look at these chumps at the last debate, Pawlenty groveling and repenting Cap and Trade, Romney earnestly denying his Health Care history, his stand on gays in the military, immigration, gun control, campaign finance reform, you name it, he’s repentin’ of it. Oh they’re all repenting, pandering to those rednecks and piney woods crackers. Yeah buddy, it’s a long way from Massachusetts to South Carolina.

                That’s why the GOP trends so heavily Evangelical: there’s no sin so shameful, no crime so pernicious, no stain so set but what Pardon from On High will wash it away, that the Sinner may be Born Again into a New Life in Politics.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well Blaise, you’re wandering a little bit again so I’ll just address this:

                “Sans animus, the GOP would be a big nothing. What do they actually believe?”

                A bunch of things, but the topical one is this: right now we are caught in a pincer between financial ruin and political intransigence. We can, if we’re lucky unwind or defeat the political intransigence and avoid financial ruin. Or put it another way, if we leave Team Red to its own devices, there will still be a United States in 20 years.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Heh. In the manichaean world of Team Red, 2008 didn’t happen, I guess. We came pretty damned close to the edge there, but hey, we can blame those pesky guardrails on the edge of the economic abyss for putting a few scratches in the paint on Team America’s Go-go Gadgetmobile.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Koz, under your theory, “Team Blue” has, at the same time, both the pernicious ideology that creates the difference between them and “Team Red” and leads to rampant increases in state power,…”

                This is the flipside to the last comment. If we leave Team Blue to its own devices, there may not be a United States in 20 years, in fact it looks increasingly likely that there won’t be. This has causes (ideology, statism, etc) and consequences (animus, etc.).Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Or put it another way, if we leave Team Red to its own devices, there will still be a United States in 20 years.

                I’m genuinely saddened, for you, that you believe that. Marcuse feels vindicated though, I’m sure.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “In the manichaean world of Team Red, 2008 didn’t happen, I guess.”

                Absolutely it did happen, but it’s been over for a while now and this Administration seems awful slow in getting the memo. Now is the time to get it done right, not necessarily done fast, and it’s been that way for 2+ years now.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                @Chris: I have not told any lies here, if that is what you are implying. All I’ve got from you is snark and harangue. Wild hyperbole, my hairy white ass, the 1950s were a strange decade. America started believing its own propaganda then, and the consequences are still being harvested from the coups we planted.

                I have more than Ideas, Chris. I have memories. I have the histories. The military industrial complex took off, yes it did, but its gains did not translate into much beyond the salaries it paid to the workers and the dividends to the profiteers.

                I had occasion to fly over AMARC and saw the fruits of our Cold War labor. What was deluxe becomes debris, and nothing faster than military technology.

                The fact remains, and nobody’s yet contradicted it from the facts, the 1950s in the USA were not a time of greatness but of fatuous self-delusion. We got our asses kicked in Korea. For all those tens of thousands of nuclear weapons we built, we couldn’t use them. The world had changed and we had not. The ruins of Europe and Japan were cleared away, new factories started up, setting the stage for the world we now see, where our manufacturing jobs have disappeared and even our service sector is propped up with imported talent. We weren’t importing talent in the 1950s, we were importing tchotschkes from Japan. When W Edwards Deming tried to sell his quality improvement schemes, he was laughed out this country, but they listened to him in Japan and they are following his edicts in China now.

                To say this is Wild Hyperbole is to deny the obvious, as we denied it then. Back then “Made in Japan” was a derisive little term for cheaply made, low quality goods. We sure as hell aren’t saying it now.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, I wasn’t intending, in that particular analogy, to imply that you were lying. The analogy was just that, an analogy: bad arguments are like lies in that you have to keep covering the previous one with a new one, so that you get to the point that you don’t even know what you were arguing for in the first place. I suspect most of us have done that, at one point or another. That you are doing it in this case is evident by the way that nothing you say is related in any way to your original point, or to much of anything.

                The hypocorism “General Ivolgin,” on the other hand, does imply…

                On point: since we’re only talking about the 50s economy, and since the 50s economy was pretty good by pretty much any measure, especially when compared to the previous and subsequent decades (seriously, a 100% increase in GDP per capita is pretty fishin’ good, by any standard), and since you haven’t suggested any reason to think otherwise (though trashing the space program(s), talking about vaccines in Africa, etc., is a nice way of avoiding doing so), I’m not sure what you think you’ve accomplished. But I’ve wasted time on you when my policy is to ignore you, a mistake for which I apologize to you and myself. I’ll go back to letting you tell your tales in peace.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I can understand that, Chris. Lots of people ignore facts that don’t fit into their Policies. I can’t afford that kind of thinking, I’m obliged to live in the real world, enduring the screams and moans of all my dying brainchildren. I’m a professional pessimist. It pays the bills. I sit around all day, contemplating failure points in the solutions I build. Of course, experience has put enough scars on my ass to the point where some of those failure points are obvious. But sometimes, under certain circumstances, the smart thing to do is to close all the open file handles, shit out large red warning labels and shut down hard.

                Which is kinda where your argument is going. You’ve now resorted to ad-hom, always the sign of a weakling who’s fresh out of facts. My advice would be to shine it on. Ignore me if you like, I can live without the ad-hom, and I will not weep any bitter tears when you don’t respond to what I write.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, I hope you guys arent’ too pissed with each other, that was one of our better threads.
                Bp, it appears you annoy our pal Chris in much the same manner I annoy Chris and some others. Must come with age, though the fellows on this blog are not engaged in ‘ageism.’ See, I’m ‘growing.’
                Chris, ya gotta relax and let Blaise be Blaise. I mean we’re not here to fix anything, are we? More like entertanment? Like making friends in a world that can be cold, dark, and just plain nasty. And, sitting around the fire bullshitting, waiting for the punchline.
                We’re all flawed dude. Maybe here at the League we learn to forgive, maybe learn something, maybe learn to be a friend?Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Who are you, and what have you done with Bob?


              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, since you haven’t argued that the 50s economy wasn’t pretty darn good, merely stated it as fact, I don’t know which facts I’m ignoring. I do, however, know that you are ignoring one fact: the actual meaning of ad hominem. My comments on you, which are limited to the nickname, aren’t related to your argument, and my claim that your arguments are irrelevant to the original point isn’t a personal attack.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Now Chris, did I tell any lies here? Did I deny the 1950s were grand old times for the USA? I said those grand old times were only grand by comparison to the rest of the world, which was lying in ruins at the time. This nation refused to face up to the problems it faced. We got bogged down in Korea, a war we kinda forget. Curtis LeMay and the rest of those paranoiacs convinced us the only way to combat the Rooskies was to build a fuckload of nuclear weapons and a bunch of bright shiny bombers. The money and talent wasted on SAC benefited a whole lot of aerospace workers who could and should have been out there in the civilian world filling the skies with wonderful new civilian aircraft and lightweight cars and trains and trucks which could zip along those great new highways we should have been building. And rockets. And new communications technologies. Just consider what a wonderful world it could have been.

                The one great truth of the Cold War was that they were more afraid of us than we were of them. Communism was a worse enemy than Nazism or State Shinto could ever be. But Communism can only arise in a feudal culture, where the people have no land and therefore nothing to lose. The Cold War lasted at least three decades too long: in our idiocy, we kept supporting Strong Men whose feudal cultures would eventually give rise to Islamism, and the threat of Communism is still with us to this day.

                Now it may well be that I’m all wrong here, but if you insist on putting me in the General Ivolgin camp, I’m afraid I shall be forced to taunt you for a second time. You’re a weak debater, but that’s a problem I can solve for you. You stick to what facts you can muster up in defense of your arguments and exhibit some good manners, for I say things to people they never forget and I’m not above doing that to you. I just don’t care. It’s a question of mind over matter: I don’t mind and you don’t matter.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, point to where I’ve suggested anything but that the 50s economy was pretty darn good, and then you can tell me anything you’ve just said is relevant to what I’ve said.

                If you must know, I think the 50s were a mess, culturally, though I focused on segregation and the rise of the military industrial complex, rather than your preferred targets, which is not to say that I disagree with you on the Cold War. As I said to Bob, the 50s were the beginning point of a cultural awakening — the civil rights movement, the counterculture, a new wave of the women’s rights movement, etc., that would carry us up to the 80s, and to some extent through today, though I tend to think much of what began there has been lost, at least in the form of momentum (there’s my nostalgia). But with the exception of the civil rights movement, those things were mostly seeds or seedlings in the 50s, so the 50s still remained a bit of a social and cultural wasteland. So, if you think I disagree with you on the 50s generally, feel free to argue that. I just don’t see what you’d be arguing against, or for.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You should have stayed out of this, Chris. You didn’t tell me I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about. That was the Dense One. You decided to horn in with some running commentary at #61. Hardly the time for you to start whining about what was and wasn’t said.

                Now you stay the fuck out of arguments you didn’t start. Am I making myself clear, here, tovarisch ?Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise, that got a chuckle. Thanks.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “I had occasion to fly over AMARC and saw the fruits of our Cold War labor…”

                Yes, you flew in an airliner that’s an evolution of technology first developed in the middle of the century, using navigation systems based on satellites first proposed and worked on in the middle of the century, and stuffed with microprocessors whose predecessors were invented to support the air-defense network built in the middle of the century. And you were able to make this flight because of satellite-based weather predictions–which satellites were, again, first built and orbited in the middle of the century.

                Your original argument was that “[t]he aerospace industry of the late 50s featured fiasco after fiasco.” You’ve backed off to “oh, well, all military spending is inherently foolish” and “technology can’t solve everything” and similar platitudes.

                You’re all done, hoss. All done.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, Duck, I got to fly in a few of those old transport planes and saw a whole lot of B-52s fly over in my day.

                Look, nobody says, least of all me, that technology didn’t advance in the 1950s. I’m saying the Cold War warped what might have been a much more fruitful economy for the benefit of the Military Industrial Complex which Ike warned us about. How did he put it?

                Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

                I think I’ll go with Ike on that one, not you. It’s manifestly clear the Cold War got off to a very rough start and there were boondoggles aplenty. What is a boondoggle? A waste of time, money and effort. Time, because we could have done so much more to spread democracy, money, well that goes without saying and manpower, ditto. We build nuclear weapons we could not use and bombers to carry them and ICBMs by the thousands and what value did they provide? They did not stop Communism, no that was left to people like me to sweat it out and pick leeches off my scrotum in a merry green hell.

                Your original thesis was You have no fucking idea what you are talking about. None. .

                Now I don’t mind trolls like you, Duck. I enjoy the repartee, don’t take any of this personally, you provide a big fat target for my recreational cruelty. You stick to what few facts are at your disposal, because you’ve got a long way to get to my level of trollery. This I will say, you’re off to a fine start, kudos for the effort demonstrated and you might yet make a good one. Follow my example, and I shall soon see to it that you rise in the ranks.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bp, I don’t wanna start flinging poo here but this is bs, “We got bogged down in Korea, a war we kinda forget.” And, you know it. If you wanna apologize for Harry T. have at it but that statement just don’t hunt, dude. You might wanna reconsider? Something like messin’ with the executive powers and screwing up the constitution based on the fact that FDR did it. The White House shoulda been burnt down.
                Also, your Commie-Democrat boilerplate revisionist history of the Cold War is not your top work here! You’re a hell of a lot better when you’re not drinking the Kool-aide and thinking as an analyist rather then an party apparatchik.
                Also, Chris or anyone else can come in and crap on this or any other thread whenever he pleases. What the hell would make you think otherwise? You’re not the boss of Chris!!!!!!Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bob, right, he’s not the boss of me, though I appreciate him calling me comrade like it would bug me! I’m sure you can set him straight on that one.

                What do you disagree with Blaise on related to the Cold War? I’m not sure it makes sense to say that Communism (with a big C) was a worse enemy than Nazism, but that’s mostly because I’m not sure what that means. Communism certainly lasted longer, and Stalin and Mao killed many more innocents than Hitler, to be sure, but deciding which is worse strikes me as the equivalent of trying to decide which is more deadly, being struck by a several-ton meteor or being struck by a several ton rock from Earth. But the rest of what he said, or at least the general sense that the Cold War led to all sorts of unnecessary craziness on our part, seems pretty true to me.

                I do think it’s odd to say we got whipped in the Korean War. We got whipped, then we whipped, then we got whipped, all in the first several months, and after that it was a pointless stalemate with no whipping being done by either side (except maybe in the skies). But his view of the Korean war seems like the least egregious of his hyperboles in this thread to me.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And, while we’re at it, let’s not miss an opportunity to reemphasize the depravity of the liberals.

                The root issue with Blaise, is that he tends to state facts or make assertions, where it isn’t exactly clear what he wants to conclude from them or how they relate to the topic at hand. It’s not that big a deal, except that it compounds with stubbornness (like Chris wrote). In the end, because of the free-form nature of this space, it’s still not that big a deal. Blaise can hold himself out as the final authority for this and that, but nobody else is required to engage him on that basis.

                The public-political square is much different. There has been a substantial tendency towards consolidation and centralization in the public sphere, and a weakening of the institutional barriers that might stop it. For example, one thing we’ve seen recently is the idea that it’s kosher that a Demo President can veto spending that he wants in order to intimidate Congress into appropriating money that they don’t want.

                These sorts of things build up much easier than they’re unwound. As time goes by we’re left with a big omelette of incomprehensible bureaucracy and unaccountable authority, where no one item is horrifically oppressive but taken together substantially narrow the possibility for autonomy. Especially if they are represented by agents like Blaise who insist that their authority is respected.

                Team Red has the way out, not because there can’t be people like Blaise playing for Team Red, but because our paradigm for to governance relies on state power less and community/voluntarism more.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                As far as I’m concerned, and remember I served valiantly in the Ground Observer Corps and earned my wings which are proudly displayed on my Franciscan University ball cap, the Soviet Union was a real and present threat who oft made it publically known their evil intent. Remember Nikita pounding his shoe at the glorious UN in his Madison Ave. knock off suit.
                With that said, Bp, our friend and fellow interlocutor, has a point but it is not well made, employs too much hyperbole, and like the good Dem he is, is way too critical of his country, though his country and party are not without criticism.
                In his book, “Gnostic Wars”, German scholar, Stefan Rossbach, argues that the Cold War was predicated on a belief held by both sides that in effect amounted to the “total externalization of evil” by both parties, including the ‘West’ in toto.
                Rossbach’s analysis is complex and indepth but generally speaking he addressed the issue of the Cold War from a spiritual context that was critical of the above mention ‘externalization of evil’. With that said, Bp should have addressed the Soviet Union from the perspective of a deformed ideological entity driven by what Rossbach refers to as not just an opponent on the world stage (following WWII) but a powerful force driven by a “metastatic faith in an imminent transfiguration of the world through revolution.” Which is pretty much standard Marxist fare, where the point is that these people where, like all tyrannical statists, pretty damned dangerous.
                I suppose I expect too much scholarship from the irascilbe Bp.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well, my little trolls-in-training, (though Robert has clearly been at this a while, he exhibits no mastery of the craft), when it comes to the construction of Shit Flingin’ Siege Engines, you must remember what Da Vinci (a fine siege engineer) once said

                Noi tutti siamo esiliati
                entro lo cornici di uno strano quadro.
                Chi sa questo, viva da grande,
                Gli altri sono insetti.

                We are all exiles
                within the boundaries of a bizarre picture frame.
                He who understands this, lives large,
                The others are insects.

                The Korean War remains a complete mystery to me. I knew people who fought it, they couldn’t enlighten me either. I’m not a Truman apologist. Nor was I around for FDR, I think he played with fire with this inoculation with socialism business. He may have prolonged the Depression somewhat, but at least we had a fine collection of well-fed young men to feed into the furnace of war in December of 1941. Hoo boy.

                The Cold War is a longish subject and it’s hard, even now, to sort out the lies from the truth. Had we backed Ho Chi Minh in his struggle for independence, we might have put a serious hurt on China. Jeffersonian democracy was Ho’s ideal. We backed the pusillanimous French and picked up their fight without a full understanding of the dynamics. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia could have been coopted toward democracy. Dividing Vietnam didn’t work out so well.

                I keep repeating myself in saying Communism is the logical reaction to feudalism. Islamism seems to be the reaction to Strong Man-ism. Galen’s doctrine of signs, always, always, revolutions are reactions to what came before.

                And a cheerful Fuck You to anyone who says I’m advocating Communism. AFAICT I’m the only one here who actually signed up to shoot them and I did. And had other people shoot them, too. I just didn’t torture any, thinking they could be redeemed by contact with civilized people who didn’t tell them lies. See, the great thing about preaching against Communism is explaining how wonderful it is to actually own stuff and buy nice treats for your wife and kids and how great it is to be able to quit your job and start up a business and employ other people and satisfy consumer demands and you don’t have to abuse anyone in so doing. Easiest sermon I ever preached. Sure, there are downsides, but the Communist understands government corruption, none better.

                Jeebus, you think this crop of Tea Party folks down at the pub is the first class of political naifs I’ve trained? For three years I had a captive audience. It brings back pleasant memories, discussing political theory with ackshul fackshul Communists. I didn’t have to waterboard them. They’d all turn up and argue this shit all day long, and boy howdy, I sure learned an awful lot about Marxism from them. I wasn’t trying to extract Useful Information from those skinny bastards. I was missionarying for Capitalism and Democracy. The very idea, that I’d carry water for Communism. I told them right from the start, we had no interest in killing anyone, that there would come a day when they’d walk out that gate and go back to their lives and when they did, they’d go out with a working knowledge of Democracy and by God they did, too. Made more converts there than my Dad ever did in Africa for Christianity.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                @Koz: “Team Red has the way out, not because there can’t be people like Blaise playing for Team Red, but because our paradigm for to governance relies on state power less and community/voluntarism more.”

                Why does this strike me as being exactly like the Lutheran Minister’s essay that Rufus posted, where he took Dan Savage’s sex advice as evidence of how classical liberal economics cannot work?


              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Chris, re: above, I love the guy.
                I could listen to his stories all day and then argue with him until midnight! And, please keep in mind, if you don’t already know, a librul, for me, is a seriously derailed individual suffering from any number of psycho-pathologies and perhaps spiritual problems. But, this dude is salvagable. He just doesn’t ‘play well with others.’Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Robert, Robert. You wonderful old demented creature. I don’t play well with others who point blank troll me. I play with them, as a cat plays with a bug on the porch. I don’t really want to eat them. I just enjoy the crunching sound.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Some people’s hot
                Some people’s cold
                Some people’s not very
                Swift to behold
                Some people do it
                Some see right through it
                Some wear pyjamas
                If only they knew it

                The pyjamas people are boring me to pieces
                They make me feel like I am wasting my time
                They all got flannel up ‘n down ’em
                A little trap-door back aroun’ ’em
                An’ some cozy little footies on their mind

                Po-jama people!
                Po-jama people, people!
                Lawd, they make you sleepy
                With the things they might say
                Po-jama people!
                Po-jama people, people!
                Mother, mary ‘n jozuf, wish they’d all go away!

                Po-jama people!
                It’s a po-jama people special…
                Take one home with you & save a dollar today
                Po-jama people!
                Po-jama people, people!
                Wrap ’em up
                Roll ’em out
                Get ’em out of my wayReport

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                wait… which one is the zappa?Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:


                Yeah a little bit but maybe less than you think. Team Blue is committed to every significant part of the federal/state intervention in society and the organizational bureaucracy that goes with it. They support most of them as individual initiatives but even the ones they don’t have to be there to provide political support for the rest.

                Jason wrote a great example of this here. In this particular example Jason seems to endorse that train of thought and if that’s really right it doesn’t speak very well for him. But in any case, it’s very dangerous for lib-Demo’s to decrease the money, authority or manpower of any arm of government because there’s a danger that one of their sacred cows will be gored next. And in fact this fear is especially acute now, it’s essentially dominating their thought process.

                Therefore there is a proliferation of jurisdictions, statutes, regulations, etc. Then there’s duplication, conflict, and other interactions between them and however they get resolved, it never works to the autonomy of the citizen, who has much less bureaucratic power. And when those people, people like Blaise except less intelligent, confront you, you can’t win even if they’re completely full of shit because they’re getting paid and you’re spending your own precious time.

                It’s one thing to deal with somebody’s issues as you choose to, it’s quite another to deal them as you have to. And every time you read about how the SWAT team busted the door on the wrong address and killed the dog, just remember it’s that way because Team Blue needs it that way.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz says:

                Koz, you’ve brought up that post about Texas twice in the last week or so, and both times I’ve failed to grasp what you are getting at.

                The conservative line on Texas is that liberals hate Texas for its fiscal discipline.

                The liberal line on Texas is that Texas is hypocritical, for crowing about its fiscal discipline while sucking bigtime on the federal teat.

                For obvious reasons, I’m not endorsing Texas’s fiscal discipline. I don’t see what the problem is here.Report

              • Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “For obvious reasons, I’m not endorsing Texas’s fiscal discipline.”

                Well, it’s not obvious to me why you shouldn’t be endorsing Texas’ fiscal discipline but my point goes beyond that. Basically your frame of this issue is bogus from soup to nuts (ie, see here and here).

                Texas is “sucking on the liberal teat” because of actions that they did not control and strenuously opposed when they occurred. In fact, a substantial part of the reason why we get things like the stimulus package is to politically coopt people into weakening political opposition to the ever aggrandizing state. Now, in this it didn’t work for Texas (they’re “hypocrites” after all) but for other jurisdictions it could and did.

                So when the time comes and the SWAT team busts down the wrong door, there’s nothing that can be done about it because people like you have weakened in abstract and concrete ways the ability of other parties to resist. Some libertarian.

                I’ve also got a couple of other quibbles with that post that might not be relevant.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz says:

                Well, it’s not obvious to me why you shouldn’t be endorsing Texas’ fiscal discipline…

                I’m just not in the habit of endorsing what appear to be illusions.

                Texas is “sucking on the liberal teat” because of actions that they did not control and strenuously opposed when they occurred.

                Sure, and yet they could have declined the money. They took it — something they were just urging other states not to do.

                In fact, a substantial part of the reason why we get things like the stimulus package is to politically coopt people into weakening political opposition to the ever aggrandizing state.

                No argument from me there. But let me ask you — why does Texas get a pass? You probably find liberal states blameworthy here, but they are only doing precisely the same thing Texas does.

                I find it mere tribalism. (If Texas enacted single-payer healthcare, would you support that too? I’m tempted to say you would. Just look at the Republican flip-flop on national Romneycare, a.k.a. Obamacare.)Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Every time SWAT breaks down the door, eh? How clever of Team Blue. Not only do they enforce draconian anti-drug, anti-terrorist and generally law and order candidates that the people cheer, they always manage to get the Red Team to campaign on and execute those policies for them. They must be oh so clever indeed.

                Look, if some Dem posted here that some ultra conservatives protesting soldiers funerals because God Hates Fags was proof that conservatism economic policy was bankrupt, I would hope that people would point out the silliness. Same goes both ways.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                No R, there’s nothing that “goes both ways.” You’re second hypothetical doesn’t make any sense, even as counterfactual. There is no relationship between God Hates Fags, American conservatism in general, or conservative economic policy (and for that matter you don’t pretend otherwise).

                There is a relationship between political support for Team Blue and the diminution of civil society (ie, SWAT teams), which I helpfully explained in prior comments. If you don’t understand the mechanism or want to disagree, then state your case. Mindless snark is mindless.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Koz –

                I think you misunderstood my point – my bad. I wasn’t using using that hypothetical as an example of American conservatism in general; in fact quite the opposite. I was saying that when you take a bad argument some knucklehead makes and declare it proof positive that all arguments of whatever political/religious/whatever direction he leans toward are wrong and your side is right it is silliness. I know a lot of liberals and dems; I don’t know any of them that would agree with what Blaise has been arguing in this thread. Therefore, you might want to hold off before declaring intellectual victory against 50 % of the country just because you’ve found a flaw in something Blaise wrote.

                And you also missed the point completely about SWAT – again, my bad. I wasn’t saying that Team Blue has nothing to do with the erosion of civil liberties. They absolutely do, and that they do is unconscionable. But my take on what you were saying regarding SWAT teams in the night seemed to lay that on Team Blue entirely. And since that visual you describe most often comes to mind with drug busts, suspicion of terrorist-related activites, and other assorted “law-an-order” issues, ignoring Team Red’s part seems… well, lazy. I don’t know where you’re writing from, so it may well be different than here. I’m from Portland, and the folks here that push hard for letting loose the police state to protect us from drugs, urban gangs and potential terrorists are almost all Team Blue – and their talk radio guys even make this a corner stone of why unlike Team Blue they are not “soft” on crime.

                In short, you seem to be thinking that I am here to argue that Team Blue is Good and Team Red is Bad. Not true – I don’t particularly care for Team Blue. My arguments against what you said about Blaise at first, and SWAT teams being a DNC issue, was that they seem to follow a All Bad Things Are Because of The Other Side, and If Something Is Bad My Side Wouldn’t Support It point of view.

                If I got your intent wrong, apologies.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “the folks here that push hard for letting loose the police state to protect us from drugs, urban gangs and potential terrorists are almost all Team Blue”

                Oops. I meant they are almost all Team Red. Got confused.

                Can’t we just call them all Team Purple and be done with it?Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Calling them teams, or at least thinking of them as such, is a good way to get into the absolute mess of a political system we have today. Witness Koz.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                So true, Chris. Though it does make it easier to follow the box score.Report

              • Pat Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Out sick for a day, and look what I miss.

                > I keep repeating myself in saying
                > Communism is the logical reaction
                > to feudalism. Islamism seems to
                > be the reaction to Strong Man-ism.

                This, by the way, is an honest-to-God, excellent observation. I’ve been reading quite a bit about Somalia lately and boy howdy does it just fit right in with this observation.

                There are other reactions to Strong Man-ism, but most of them fail because they themselves do not aggregate power well (see: hippies, 1960s). Radical Islamism doesn’t have that drawback. Roman Catholicism used to not have that drawback either, but the iron fist in the velvet glove (and all the misuse and good and bad that came out of that) went out of favor some time ago, justifiably so.Report

              • Chris in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Of course, capitalism is also a response to feudalism, in many ways, as any good Marxist will tell you.

                And I suspect any good sociologist or social psychologist would tell you that extremism, whether it’s Islamic or othwerise, tends to be a response to perceived helplessness, whether it’s the result of strong-armism, imperialism, economics.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “I think you misunderstood my point – my bad. I wasn’t using using that hypothetical as an example of American conservatism in general; in fact quite the opposite.”

                No, I got that part ok, that was the point of what I wrote 2 or 3 comments ago. The thing I think you’re missing is this: there is a mechanism, unique to Team Blue relative to Team Red, where things like SWAT teams and the rest of it become inevitable. And this mechanism isn’t obvious necessarily but it’s not that complicated either. And importantly for you I guess, it doesn’t depend on anything Blaise wrote in this thread, or even the fact that he plays for the other team.

                Let’s talk about it in terms of inertia: Ike Newton taught us that bodies that are in motion tend to stay in motion. The ever-expanding ship of state is a body in motion, at a particular speed and direction. It won’t stop by itself. Either somebody stops it, or it keeps going, or it crashes when it can’t go any further.

                It is the political maneuvers of Team Blue, not Team Red, that sap the strength of the citizens to overcome the inertia in the the ship of state. SWAT teams and the rest of it are the products of that inertia. If we want the government to be able to act to the best interest of our people instead of simply continuing in the same direction it is now, we have to be able to write Team Blue and their ability to organize the apparatus of government as political clients of Team Blue out of the equation.Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yeah, I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

                That just seems like a wordy, highly convoluted way of smoke-and-mirroring that your side is always right and the other side is always wrong, despite it appearing to us simpletons otherwise.

                You can make academic arguments about how anti-drug policies, anti-gay policies, the Patriot Act, law-and-order issues, etc. are really the DNC and the GOP was totally, totally not responsible at all for any of it, but I’m never going to see it. (And I HATE the DNC.)

                So we’ll agree to disagree.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Calling them teams, or at least thinking of them as such, is a good way to get into the absolute mess of a political system we have today.”

                I completely disagree with this. The cultural and spiritual alienation between Team Red and Team Blue is really really big. I don’t see any percentage in trying to pretend it isn’t there. We’re better off naming it for what it is, and dealing with it explicitly.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “You can make academic arguments about how anti-drug policies, anti-gay policies, the Patriot Act, law-and-order issues, etc. are really the DNC and the GOP was totally, totally not responsible at all for any of it, but I’m never going to see it.”

                Au contraire mon frere, if you can sit still long enough to follow a chain of causality, I think you just might. (Team Blue is much bigger than the DNC obviously.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The problem with pulling a “no true scotsman” is that you can’t move from “well, sure, the Republicans are kinda bad on this too” to “you should vote for them anyway”.

                I keep hoping that Tea will make its own party.Report

              • Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “The problem with pulling a “no true scotsman” is that you can’t move from “well, sure, the Republicans are kinda bad on this too” to “you should vote for them anyway”.”

                I’m not tracking you here, Jay.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Hey, Jaybird, if Tea party’s, what do you want it to look like?
                What will you tolerate from us anti-federalist lovin’ paleos? And, how do we hold hands with the libertarians who are known to do the hully-gully?

                I took that stupid test and found out I’m a moderate…..!Report

              • RTod in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “I took that stupid test and found out I’m a moderate…..!”

                Could be worse. Could have pegged you as a Yankee.Report

  11. Jaybird says:

    Yes, this is an excellent piece.

    I have heard stories from my parents and from other kids parents about how “it didn’t used to be like this”. Science Kits, for example, that had, for real, acid in them. I inherited a gun from my father that he ordered, as a kit, from a magazine when he was 10 (the ad targeted boys who wanted to build their own rifle). Lawn darts.

    All of those things strike me as things that, maybe, it’s kind of good that they aren’t as readily available as they used to be. (The gun, if I recall the story correctly, cost three dollars.)

    On another level… my parents survived science kits, three-dollar rifles, and lawn darts. Why do we think that our children won’t? Are we ignoring piles of bodies? (How many children died due to Jarts? Three-dollar rifles? Science kits?) Have we changed as people?Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      Lawn Darts. Report

    • Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      Nobody died from Jarts, IIRC. 3 dollar guns, maybe.

      There’s plenty of kids that blew their fingertips off with firecrackers, though. One of the kids in my second grade class almost lost an eye, he got lucky. My great-aunt was missing the top half of a digit because fans used to come with metal blades. You used to be able to electrocute yourself by dropping your hair dryer in the sink, that’s engineered out at not much of a cost.

      Wearing a bicycle helmet significantly reduces your chance of a major brain injury in a bike accident. They may be pretty rare to begin with, but having one sucks ass, so paying $20 for a decent helmet to cut down the chance you’ll be in a vegetative state isn’t such a bad tradeoff. I can’t understand the boneheads that don’t wear ’em, myself.

      Kids already have access to real chemicals, just look under the kitchen sink in most houses. Acids and bases right next to each other, bad storage for earthquake country.Report

  12. Chris says:

    Crap, that didn’t work. The “/ thread” got cut off.Report

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    The Southern Heritage movement is pure nostalgia (for a time and place that never was, but that’s not as uncommon as it should be.)Report

  14. Rufus F. says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how different people understand the past because it comes up in a small section of the dissertation I’m writing about travel that will deal with the post-Revolutionary French Romantics. I’m trying to contrast several different writers on how they understood the past, coming after what they all saw as a tremendous change. I like to look at them as three different models, although that has its limitations: Chateaubriand deals with the Revolution as a “river of blood separating the old world from the new” and mourns deeply the irreconcilable loss of the old world (he’s also the Frenchman who coined the word “conservatisme” if I remember right); Lamartine (or even more so Quinet) has a fascination with the past but a providential sense of history as progressing to some endpoint that makes reviving any aspect of the past a losing proposition; Nerval, though, seemingly sees the past as a hidden, latent source of power. He’s basically one of those devotees of the arcane, occult, and esoteric. But I think his position is more interesting- that nothing is ever lost in the collective psyche (in Jung’s rather amazing formulation). So he doesn’t strike me as seeing the past as worse or better or even really past; just as another source of potential influence no different from the present. I’m not sure if I’d call this nostalgia or broad-mindedness.Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Rufus, excellent analysis.
      The nostalgic is usually a mystic working arduously to recapture the experience.
      The ‘river of blood’ you spoke of went a long way to introducing the means and justification of destroying the mystical experience, thus introducing the modern with his horrific grotesqueries and his damned existence among the rubble.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        Certainly Chateaubriand was a believer in what we call the secularization thesis after Freud- that ‘modernity’ means the impossibility of transcendence. But, consider this: when Chateaubriand went on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1806, he lamented the fact that he was the last European who would ever go on a religious pilgrimage, since faith was dead on the lips of the 19th century; now, go look up how many Europeans went on religious pilgrimages in the 19th century!Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

          My point there being that Chateaubriand thought that he had a mystical experience in 1806, but that he would be the last to do so, given that faith would die out after the Revolution. But, if he was right, then we’d have to say that none of the pilgrims to Lourdes, for instance, had those experiences, nor did Marie-Bernarde Soubirous, which is what got them all going there. Whether or not moderns are living among the rubble, a lot more of them have found ways to transcendence than Chateaubriand ever expected.Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

            The two comments above are excellent.
            My response is that the secularized version of humanism (the absence of God) is rather hubristic and inherently wrong in it’s failure to comprehend the nature of man. Consequently, “C” was a bit to pessimistic.
            BTW, can you do a brief explication of the relationship, if any, between the work of ‘C’ man and his coevals and Comte?Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              I think a whole lot of French writers at that time are talking about the void left by the revolution and the need for a sort of social regeneration. Comte is influenced by Saint Simon and the Saint Simonians tend towards a sort of social religion that really isn’t very religious. Chateaubriand is a Catholic revivalist and tends towards mysticism, if not fundamentalism. Then you had Lamartine who nearly glamorizes fundamentalism- at one point writing about the Wahhabis as a sort of model- while taking mysticism to a point of being more theosophy than doctrinaire Catholicism, regardless of his protests.

              Of course, that’s the problem with Chateaubriand- he writes about going into the wilds and experiencing God in a sort of mystical way, with the intention of leading his readers to Catholicism. But, if you can experience God in front of a waterfall, why do you need doctrine?Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I was hoping you might explore Comte’s positivism and its effects on modernity, or rather rationalism, reason minus nousl, scientism, etc.
                I want to get your take on that and it’s effects on metaphysical developement in modernity.
                The key once we’ve differentiated the sundry deformations, their how and why, is the realization that, as Voegelin commentd, “Ony the millennial life of reason can dissolve its secular deformation.” And, here in the context of the ‘destruction of centuries’, not as a problem with modernity or there abouts, Voegelin identifies Euripides as the one who asked the most important question re: the meaning of life when he queried, “Who knows if to live is to be dead,
                and to be dead to live.”
                Of course, the question is grounded on immortality and modernity, scientism, has no reply for any movement into that realm.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                I’m not sure quite what you’re asking. My understanding of positivism and metaphysics is that the twain shall never meet and most philosophy departments I’ve seen have settled for the former over the latter. I have known some people who left philosophy departments for roughly the reason you’re talking about- because positivism cannot move into that realm and they found what it could deal with fairly dispiriting.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Oh, no big deal.
                I haven’t read Comte. Voegelin speaks of him as a part of a ‘cloud of new Christs’ (along with Saint-Simon, Fourier, Comte, Fichte, and Hegel). Not that these men where ‘Christians’ rather that they represented the movement of man moving tensionally toward an acknowledgement that man was on the cusp of moving beyond the merely human into a possible demi-god exsitence transcending the immanent (the Superman-Hegel’s work is grounded, at least early, in the work of Jacob Boehme and the German Pietists).
                In effect Comte and his coevals were participating in a grotesque philodoxy wherein they lacked the ability to apperceive the truth of existence and in failing that proceeded to developed a false self to participate in the ‘imaginative project of history.’ The end result, as you know, was a violent collapse predicated on what is essentially a spiritual disease of the soul of man.
                How do you see Comte?Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                I haven’t read him in over a decade. I don’t remember being particularly persuaded by him. My problem with the Saint Simonians was the incipient authoritarianism in their writings (a critique that Iggers takes about as far as it can go). That was sort of my problem with Hegel as well. Admittedly, Hegel once said “only one man has ever understood me, and he didn’t really understand me”. That man was not me.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F. says:

      M. Pascal disait de ces auteurs qui, parlant de leurs ouvrages, disent: « Mon livre, mon commentaire, mon histoire, etc. », qu’ils sentent leurs bourgeois qui ont pignon sur rue, et toujours un chez moi à la bouche. Ils feraient mieux, ajoutait cet excellent homme, de dire : « Notre livre, notre commentaire, notre histoire, etc. », vu que d’ordinaire il y a plus en cela du bien d’autrui que du leur.

      M. Pascal said about some authors, when speaking of their works, they always say: “My book,” “My commentary,” “My story,” etc. They’re like well-established middle-class people always talking about “My house”. They would do better, said that excellent man, to say: “Our book,” “Our commentary,” “Our story,” etc., because it’s plain to see there’s usually more from plenty of other people in them than their own contributions.

      -trans. mineReport

      • Rufus F. in reply to BlaiseP says:

        That’s what I like so much about Nerval- he’s more likely to invent something and try to attribute it to someone else than the reverse that many writers do. With Chateaubriand, I should mention that the book I have in mind, Génie du christianisme, is really just a rewrite of Madame de Staël’s De l’Allemagne.Report

  15. DensityDuck says:

    To bring in a comment from up-thread:

    Part of what we consider “freedom” in the past was, really, just ignorance. In the 1950s it might have been seen as unwarranted government interference to, say, put emissions limits on dioxins; but, in the 1950s, nobody really understood how bad dioxins were.

    Perhaps we’re nostalgaic for the ancient age of freedom, but maybe that’s the nostalgia of a child who’s been potty-trained.Report

  16. RTod says:

    E.D., I don’t know that I have anything to add to this thread without thinking about it for a while, which I will most certainly do. Even then, perhaps not. But I still wanted you to know that this is one of the finest posts or essays I have read in quite some time. More so than the posts that encourage wrangling and arguments, I suspect I will be thinking about what you have written here for a long time.

    Nicely done.Report

  17. Koz says:

    “I’m just not in the habit of endorsing what appear to be illusions.”

    I think it’s fair to say that Texas has pretty clearly demonstrated the ability to cut expenditures as necessary to protect the state’s financial position. What do you take fiscal discipline to be if not that?

    “No argument from me there. But let me ask you — why does Texas get a pass?”

    For what, taking the stimulus money? Because it’s the other states (and not all of them are “liberal” states btw) that agitating, begging, or requiring help from the feds to stay afloat. These other states are shifting costs to other parties who are probably not prepared to take them and are undermining everybody’s autonomy by consolidating the country’s financial problems in to one great big gooey mess.

    As far as Texas or some other jurisdiction enacting a single payer system, that might actually not be a bad idea as long as the services covered by it are sufficiently narrow. Even so, we’d still have the problem of the other health care services having preferential tax treatment if they come from our employers.

    As far as Obamacare is concerned, a fair bit of the opposition to this comes from the desire to stop the aggrandizing tendency of government in general, which applies in a different way now than it has in the past. A common thread running through a lot of these examples is the fact that nowhere do the proponents of such things stand up and say, “Yes, we can afford this and here’s why.”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

      The way that the cost of Medicare Part D and invading Iraq were carefully considered? Given who was president when most of the debt was generated, your child-like faith that the GOP will be serious about deficits is touching.Report

      • Wars are a one-off. Entitlements are forever.Report

      • Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        tu quoque is not an answer.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

          My team is better than your team. Its past performance is irrelevant.Report

          • Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Get it together. My point is that you can’t talk about your team without reference to the supposed failures of mine. Your response doesn’t refute my point, it emphasizes it.

            But, I can talk about my team without reference to yours. Therein lies the difference (at least one of them).Report

            • Chris in reply to Koz says:

              Except that you’ve tended to do little more than talk about your team with reference to the other. In fact, that’s sort of what calling them teams is about.Report

              • Koz in reply to Chris says:

                Maybe but I don’t think so. A fair bit of what I’ve written here is an attempt to explain in some detail what we can do without Team Blue, who I contend aren’t really needed at all. In fact, that was my point elsewhere in this thread where I claim that if we do it Team Red’s way, we know there’ll be a United States in 20 years. I’m not getting the Marcuse angle though.Report

              • Chris in reply to Koz says:

                Yeah, one dimension.

                Also, the Ryan plan? Seriously?Report

              • Koz in reply to Chris says:

                Not quite tracking. In any case, the point about the Ryan plan was pretty simple: if we pass the Ryan plan, we can be confident that the US will exist in 20 years. Current law, not so much.Report

              • Chris in reply to Koz says:

                Yeah, that’s insane. I don’t usually use that word, but that is.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Koz says:

              OK. Explain why I should believe your team is serious about fiscal restraint at the federal level, citing actual examples of it rather than talk.Report

              • Koz in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I dunno, because the House of Representatives passed the Ryan plan like last week or something.Report

              • Pat Cahalan in reply to Koz says:

                You think the House would have passed the Ryan plan if the Senate wasn’t around to kill it and the President wasn’t going to veto it out of hand if it got that far. I just don’t. I don’t buy it.

                I see it as political calculus, pure and simple. And if you’re correct, and I’m wrong, and Obama loses in 2012 and the Republicans get the Senate, I will bet you, right now, that in 2014 we’re still going to be talking about the debt ceiling.Report

              • Koz in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Maybe, but so what? Certainly we can’t proceed on the basis that such a thing is impossible. Many people thought it was inflammatory for President Reagan to call for the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Well, three years later it was gone.

                More than that, the question is unbalanced. Who did you vote for Congress in 2010, who do you intend to vote for in 2012? Show a cancelled check from the last time you donated to a D Congressdude, and tell one of ’em you’re going to vote Republican because of Demo budget intransigence. We can see movement in a week or two.

                Here’s the difference between Team Red and Team Blue. If you ask Team Blue what the basic economic-cultural foundations are and how strong are they at the moment, they’re incoherent. On the one hand, it’s no biggie: they think they can increase taxes and spend money on Medicare from now till the end of time. On the other hand, they also think we’ve got no chance: global warming, peak oil, and the beliefs of more pessimistic Left economists. Our team, we’ve got the answer: our foundations are weaker now than they’ve been for quite a while. But, they’re still there, and we need to strengthen them. Therefore, we have the way out.Report