Talk radio, taxes, and the Bible

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206 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Matthew 17:24-27 were the verses I first thought of.

    24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

    25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

    26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

    27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      It’s an interesting quote, but it isn’t quite appropriate. I’m presuming you use the King James translation, when there are clearer translations available.

      The Temple Tax
      24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

      25“Yes, he does,” he replied.

      When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”

      26“From others,” Peter answered.

      “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

      So, it’s not quite appropriate. The issue at hand was not that a tax was levied by the local government, but that it was levied unfairly only to outsiders. I would suggest, in line with the incessant number of loopholes available in the tax structure only to the wealthy in the current tax system, that in context of this verse most of those loopholes seem to be quite morally unacceptable.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If it was good enough for Paul, it should be good enough for you.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          I can’t remember the last time I went fishing, took a coin out of the fish’s mouth, and had enough to pay my taxes – so what worked for Paul in the instance of an apparent miracle seems not work for me, certainly not to materialize coin in my pocket come April 15th. Yet clearly biblical reference not only states that I should pay my taxes to the secular government, but also that “christian societies” who were recipients of the Letters of the Apostles should make provisions to take care of the poor, sick and needy.

          And as seems to be repeated over and over on the talk radio stations, we are a “christian nation” with a “judeo-christian foundation of laws.” Except apparently for when we’re not and it comes time to pay taxes.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        To address the real point, I get the idea from the story that the Temple Tax shouldn’t be levied to the people who are children of God… but, let’s face it, the grey beards are the grey beards and we shouldn’t offend them. We should pay the tax but let’s use someone else’s funds.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Think about it this way: Peter is the fish. The tax collectors throw their line in, he’s the first fish they catch, he opens his mouth and there’s money inside (at least, in potential, because he agrees that Jesus should pay the temple tax.)

        On a more practical level, what do you find when you open a fish’s mouth? Fish meat. Which can be sold. So I’d interpret the parable as Jesus telling Peter to go catch a fish and sell it so they’d have enough money to pay the temple tax.

        So, really, Jesus was probably saying “you see this thing that happened to us when we rolled in? We’re gonna go do it to some other poor sucker. And hey, Pete? You ain’t the lead singer of this band. Next time keep your damn mouth shut.”Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        I suspect the moral of the story was not a lesson in civics or economics.

        Jesus points out that taxes are collected from eveyone but “the sons” i.e. the rightful heirs to authority.
        The temple authorities were attempting to collect a tax from Jesus, therefore he notes they were not treating him as a rightful son and heir, but as an outsider. A prophet in his own town, etc.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        What do you know about how the temple tax worked? Was it specifically levied on outsiders?

        Because to me, what Jesus is saying here is that, since he is God’s son, him paying taxes to God is faintly ridiculous. But, since it’s a social convention, and since there’s no harm in complying with it, he’ll follow it.

        So what I get from it is not a message on economics, but: follow the laws and customs of your society, whether they are convenient or inconvenient to you, whether they seem reasonable or unreasonable, unless they are actually contrary to morality. But that’s really secondary – the main purpose of the statement and the whole passage is for Jesus to re-emphasize the point that he is the Son of God.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Eye for an eye” was a call for restraint. The historical and contextual meaning of that notion was that ONLY an eye for an eye, ONLY a tooth for a tooth. Before that saying become commonly accepted practice, folks would get killed over an eye or killed over a tooth. The MOST you could do was that which was done to you. This was a maximum. Not a minimum.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      IIRC, the context was that of bearing false witness.
      An eye for an eye is the punishment exacted for giving false testimony.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Should have added earlier:
        Our laws in these United States are of the very same manner for aiding and abetting, accessory after the fact, and misprision.
        Throughout the ages, this very same context is still rendered as just.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Have you read Walter Wink at all?Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Never heard of the guy.
          But do you have a point at all without addressing my reading habits?
          Just wondering…Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t have such a problem with the jiu-jitsu if they had a rationale for it. Even if I disagreed with it, at least there would be a place to discuss. It’d be one thing to say, “We should use a Biblical framework for moral decisions, but the Bible couldn’t/didn’t provide an appropriate framework to ascribe to economic decisions.” At least then, we can have a conversation, if only about the extent to which economic decisions are mutually exclusive from moral decisions. But instead, all that is focused on is the ends and whatever means, with frameworks themselves being the means, are necessary to achieve them are acceptable to employ, no matter what jiu-jitsu they involve.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      And by “they” in the first sentence, I mean everyone who employs it. My criticism is not specific to conservatism or any other singular group.Report

    • Avatar Al says:

      Citing the Bible as supporting any of the modern choices for economic policy, certainly including either Republican or Democrat in the United States, seems fairly absurd. Taking care of the sick does not call for using the state to do that and in Christ’s time there were no welfare states nor the prospect of them. On the other hand this host seems to have managed to get wrong Biblical injunctions on taxes. Both the host and the caller seem to err.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        This should come as no surprise. When people cite a religious text, all they are doing is taking what they already believe and cherry-picking quotes to support their position. Well, people do this with all kinds of texts, but I find it especially interesting when people do it to a book they claim to consider holy.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        I’m inclined to say “not so fast” to your argument.

        The earliest Christian communities – the ones we get the Letters of the various Apostles from – generally set themselves up into self-governing religious communities. They were engaged in creating small governments unto themselves, and these governments did in fact set aside funding and support for a “welfare state” to take care of the sick, poor, and elderly among their number. Jewish communities of the time obeyed similar law from scripture and talmud requiring the appointment of Jewish community officers to ensure that alms money was distributed to the needy in order to meet the basic needs of a dignified standard of life.

        It therefore follows logically that a “judeo-christian nation” with a “judeo-christian foundation” ought to have a strong and fair social safety net of programs to take care of the poor, infirm, and elderly. Which is odd given that those in American society who most strongly profess christianity simultaneously treat the poor, elderly and infirm, verbally and personally, with such little respect and regard.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          That’s nice.
          But we’re sorta more or less judeo-christian via the godless English who famously told il papa FU in a big way.
          So what the Hebrews did in 100 AD doesn’t matter near as much as what Henry did in our judeo-christian context.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          They [the early Christians] were engaged in creating small governments unto themselves

          “Governments?” Not so fast. [This entire argument depends on appropriating the word “government.”]

          The government was the Roman Empire. [See the letters of Julian the Apostate complaining about “Galilean” charity, how pagan Rome falls short in comparison.]

          When you give to “Caesar” what is his, you submit to your oppressor. But in our democratic republic, we set policy. We are Caesar. Different discussion. Jesus is silent on government.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            When you give to “Caesar” what is his, you submit to your oppressor.

            Is that what Jesus commanded? What would he have us do with al Qaeda then? Submit to them? You’ve inferred something that I don’t really think you’re ready to endorse.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            By that same token when you “give to God what is God’s”, you submit to your oppressor too.

            Paying Taxes to Caesar

            13Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

            But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

            “Caesar’s,” they replied.

            17Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

            And they were amazed at him.Report

            • Avatar Katherine says:

              Treating the passage as a dissertation on tax policy misses its religious point. Jesus is specifically turning aside a question that was intended to trip him up politically, and using it to address a greater religious matter.

              ” ‘Whose portrait is this’….Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. Caesar’s image is on the coin. What is God’s image on? Us. Human beings. We are made in God’s image. We are to give ourselves to God, to His service, to live as He would have us live.

              When you go to a specific Bible passage looking for a political message on a specific issue, you’re very likely to miss what the passage itself is meant to say.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        “…in Christ’s time there were no welfare states nor the prospect of them.”

        You can’t look at Rome of the time and consider that a true statement. Free water and grain subsidies for the urban poor were hallmarks of public policy. Within a hundred years of Christ, Rome had additional welfare programs for the poor and specifically for children.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        The New Testament can’t tell us much about economic policy because the church was a persecuted minority at that time, without influence on matters of governance.

        However, we can get an understanding of God’s commands on the principles that should guide our government from parts of the Old Testament, since parts of it were written as laws for a state ruled by God. The existence of the Year of Jubilee indicates that God does not view property as sacrosanct in the way the modern world does, nor does He particularly care about economic efficiency. Redistributing all the land every fifty years is basically equivalent, for the time, to abolishing inheritance – there is a limit to how poor or how rich anyone can get, and no family gets a permanent advantage. This may reduce economic incentives, but that is not the point – the point is to ensure humility, to ensure people remember that the land is God’s, not their own, and that what they have is not the sole product of their own virtue or work. In addition to the Year of Jubilee, portions of the tithe are to be set apart for providing for the poor – a specific equivalent to taxing people in order to provide for social welfare.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      The parable of the talents.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Major Premise: That which the host believed to be correct and just at the start of the call must be affirmed as correct and just by the conclusion of the call; any and all challenges from any and all opposing points of view must be quickly and forcefully demonstrated to be devoid of logic, evidence, or moral praiseworthiness.

    Minor Premise: the Bible is an authority of unquestioned and unquestionable Truth and moral authority on every relevant subject. Note that the caller fails to challenge the validity of this premise.

    Postualte: The Bible can be made to support whatever the more clever of the two interlocutors wants it to say (e.g., Matthew 4:5-9, in which Satan cites Scripture).

    Conclusion: Piety is the last refuge of the scoundrel.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Postualte: The Bible can be made to support whatever the more clever of the two interlocutors wants it to say (e.g., Matthew 4:5-9, in which Satan cites Scripture).

      On occasion, I get hit with “even the devil can cite scripture!” in an argument. In response, I made up a joke that I enjoy telling:

      Q: What’s the difference between Satan and a non-denominational Evangelical Christian?
      A: Satan can quote scripture.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      This is my favorite comment in weeks, Burt.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      I don’t agree with you there.

      Certainly the host’s major premise is that he is correct, and must be affirmed as such. The fact that he is in possession of the dump button and inevitably takes the last word from opposing callers, usually calling them derogatory names in the process, reinforces this to his audience.

      As for the minor premise, both caller and host were arguing from the biblical perspective, but it seems to me that this was an attempt to get the show’s host to see his own hypocrisy in picking and choosing when to apply – or not – the bible. The caller was not challenging the validity of the host’s insistence that the biblical “eye for an eye” existed, but trying to get the host to apply the biblical framework more broadly. In essence, ceding one point from the host – the biblical framework – in order to make points about the unfairness of the legal system and the reason and responsibility for citizens to pay taxes enough to cover the social needs of society.

      Your insistence that the discussion is incorrect because both are failing to challenge the “minor premise” of biblical moral authority seems akin to having two people talk about buying cars with better gas mileage only to have someone insist that the entire country ought to be forcibly converted to hydrogen fuel-cell automobiles. Certainly there’s room for discussion, but sometimes accepting a basic premise point (that you are going to argue using a biblical framework, or from the premise that the US’s infrastructure presently supports primarily gasoline-powered vehicles) is required to get into the discussion that needs to happen.

      Conclusion: Piety is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

      Counter-conclusion: sometimes you have to engage people on their own turf, because if you don’t you’ll either have no discussion at all, or you’ll get something rather resembling this with one side insisting on discussing moral right, secular theory, secular morality, and natural law while the other side sticks their fingers in their ears and shouts “la la la bible la la la can’t hear you la la la bible” over and over again. While obviously nothing came of this particular conversation, I’m hopeful that maybe someone in the audience heard something influential in terms of biblical morality and it was at least a good-faith effort by the caller to engage the host in a rational discussion starting at a common premise.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The caller was not challenging the validity of the host’s insistence that the biblical “eye for an eye” existed, but trying to get the host to apply the biblical framework more broadly.

        Yes. The caller was essentially trying to get the host to stop engaging in modular thinking. And that’s a difficult thing to do, no? The situation of the person described in Conor’s post and of the person you’re critiquing in this post is that they hold a bunch of beliefs, that each one of those beliefs can be justified by modular thinking, and that they resist applying any one justificatory framework fully generally. There is the attempt at rational justification, but it fails – do to selectivity, adhocery, strawmanning, whatever. That’s another way of saying they hold inconsistent or unjustified beliefs, and do so on a transparent level.

        Another conclusion that emerges from this type of analysis – or so it seems to me, anyway – is that the actual (psychological, say) justification for any belief held by a modular thinker is merely that it’s held.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      Conclusion: Piety is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

      Not really.
      More often than not, piety is their very first refuge.Report

  5. Avatar damon says:

    Funny, I stopped listening to “right wing” media when I realized it was the same as “left wing”, i.e. often little thinking and all emotional. This post serves to support that. Little critical thinking involved at all. Fortunately I was able to find a local radio host, now off the air, that was a critical thinker. He often savaged both sides. 🙂Report

  6. Avatar Al says:

    I think the idea that conservative thinking is “modular” and that they are undertaking “mental jiu-jitsu” is a misunderstanding. Conservative or traditionalist (my preferred term) thinking might be summarized, at least in some countries, as supporting traditional family structures. Why certain social policies are favored is then obvious. Economic policy, meanwhile, should not involve state interventions that eviscerate the need to rely on one’s family for material support. That Europe has such weak family structures and such strong welfare states seems no coincidence to me.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Hi Al-

      How do you define “traditional family structures”?
      How do you apply your version of “traditionalist thinking” to situations that have little or nothing to do with family, e.g., the death penalty?
      Do you align yourself with folks who ascribe to a more common definition of conservatism that includes seemingly never ending fund increases to the military, cuts to education, and various other policies that are often decidedly unfriendly to families?

      These aren’t meant to be gotcha questions. I appreciate you articulating your personal perspective and am curious to hear more about it.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      > That Europe has such weak family structures

      citation needed.

      Note: not all EU countries are Sweden.

      Secondary note: Strong welfare states do have a higher incidence of single unit households, because the children don’t move back in with their parents when they can’t get a job. The flip side to this is that they also have a much lower incidence of family-provided care for elderly citizens, which means that the adult with an elderly family member that requires living assistance can still work and contribute to the economy, rather than dedicate their time to hospice care for a single individual.

      Now, whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing is certainly up for discussion.

      • Yeah, “weak family structures” definitely needs a citation. Are we talking about inter-generational connectedness? If so, then as you point out, not all of Europe is Sweden. Or are we talking about willingness to make a marriage work? In which case, the US’ divorce rate is amongst the highest in the world, trailing only some countries in the former USSR.

        Etc., etc.

        [Standard caveats that Europe is not a monolith]Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        Even Sweden does not in fact have weak family structures. It looks that way to Americans, but it is not in fact the case. All of the Nordic countries, including Sweden, are extremely homogeneous and conformist cultures. If everyone behaves in essentially the same way and holds essentially the same opinions, two of the things that American associate with “strong family structures” in American communities disappear. Firstly, most people don’t bother to get married. There’s no need for responsible family types to distinguish themselves from trash, there are no tax advantages, and there is absolutely no option of not supporting your kids once you have them. Secondly, there is no real economic dependence between adults in the same family or community, because the welfare state makes it unnecessary. In turn the welfare state can be as strong as it is, because there is no belief in an underclass of people taking advantage of it, because everyone behaves in essentially the same way.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Of course, it isn’t true that everyone behaves in exactly the same way. A welfare state must necessarily have beneficiaries and funders. In theory, everyone could be getting out exactly what he pays in over the course of a lifetime, but I guarantee that’s not how it works in practice.Report

        • Avatar Katherine says:

          I think what you describe is, for at least some conservatives, the heart of the problem with the welfare state. You’re describing a nation that has replaced family and community with government.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        Secondary note: Strong welfare states do have a higher incidence of single unit households, because the children don’t move back in with their parents when they can’t get a job. The flip side to this is that they also have a much lower incidence of family-provided care for elderly citizens, which means that the adult with an elderly family member that requires living assistance can still work and contribute to the economy, rather than dedicate their time to hospice care for a single individual.

        Now, whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing is certainly up for discussion.

        And worth discussion. Now, granted, families are not perfect, but a society where parents are cared for by their children in their old age, and retain strong relationships with the younger generations, seems preferable in many ways to the frequently alienating and institutional environment of old folks’ homes. I am not an economic conservative, and disagree with at least some socially conservative positions, but modern society’s constant move away from personal relationships and towards institutional ones is something I see as a problem.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      “weak family structure” in “Europe” doesn’t pass the smell test. Strong and massive citations are needed and even then, i’d have to ask how many people from what countries in Europe have you known.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I think he mostly had Sweden in mind. I think the same is true of Denmark. That this does not constitute “Europe” is a pretty valid counterargument.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Even still “weak family structure” is a big statement that is in no way supported. I’ve said it before but the left wing parties in Western Europe have a lot of social spending and gov involvement which supports traditional family roles and styles. Uni HC, for example, can allow more one parent working families since HC is not a concern. Support of uni pre-school or child care also makes it much easier for families to get by with one parent working and/or makes is easier for parents to stay at home.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            All of this is true, yet it’s nonetheless interesting to note that these policies do not actually increase procreation rates.

            “Weak family structure” is, I think, inherently subjective and dependent on how one defines “weak” (which is probably not the word we should use anyway, due to the negative connotations, “fluid” might be better) and “family” and “structure”. But I think it’s worthwhile to accept it as a value judgment… though a value we can accept (and say that Sweden is not a model that we want to emulate) or reject (and say there’s nothing wrong with what’s happening in Sweden).Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Well as far as emulating Sweden, they are great skiers and often match a stereotype of , admittedly subjectively defined hotness. But then again there is that ABBA thing to hold against them.

              Lesser procreation with still significant amounts of fornicating is associated with higher income. I don’t think social service system have anything to do with it.Report

            • Avatar Simon K says:

              Sweden’s fertility rate is actually 1.98, not very far behind the US (2.1) and UK (2.0), and has been steadily rising for quite a while. I don’t think this is what’s meant by “strong family structure”, though – I think that’s based on misunderstanding of cultural factors.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              2 factoids: France’s 2003 heat wave killed 14K. Many elderly died. Neglect?

              Also, “Nearly a third of European men between 25 and 34 live with their parents.”

              There’s something in here, though I dunno what. Mostly that Europe sucks.


              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’m not sure what point you’re trying to get at, if there is one. “Europe Sucks” is an invalid point.

                Many younger Americans are living with their parents again. Or have had their parents move in with them.

                This is not a new concept. Generational households, at one time, were much closer to the norm, especially among European-immigrant families. Europe has a long history of multigenerational households as viable and in most European cultures, the rite of passage for moving out from their parents’ home waits until they get married or find a job too far away to live with the family. And it’s no coincidence that the largest subset by race happens to be asian, as recent immigration from China and India – both places with stronger traditions of multi-generational households – would indicate to follow.

                As for heat waves and the elderly, that’s a worldwide phenomenon. Heat waves affect the elderly in a variety of ways different from the younger population. I’m not sure what you’re getting at with your flippant accusations of neglect.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Oops, too many links again apparently. Would someone mind…?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Many younger Americans are living with their parents again. Or have had their parents move in with them.”
                Is this really a cultural shift though? Or just a response to the economic times?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Dunno, Kaz. You’ll like this one though, and Al won’t:

                Eurostat presents report on Living arrangements in the EU27. The message is clear and does away with ideological prejudices: Three out of four children in the EU27 lived with married parents in 2008. One child in seven lived in a single parent household.


                I don’t feel like looking it up, but I suspect the US right would be way happy with that. Mebbe even the left, heh heh.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Who is Al?

                I certainly am in favor of kids living in stable, supportive households. For most, this seems to be with married parents. For a small minority, I’m sure a single family home or other arrangement would be ideal, but these tend to be extreme cases. I certainly am not arguing in favor of more children living in less-than-ideal situations. I was just curious if the current trend meant things were really changing or if people were simply out of options. My brother lived home for a few years after college. This was not because of some family first value that he had that the other three of us didn’t. It was because he had no money.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Let’s dial back the tone a bit, OK? The deaths of the elderly in France was a national scandal.


                As death toll estimates in France soared from 2,000 on Aug. 14 to as high as 13,400 last week — geometrically higher than anywhere else in sunbaked Europe — the country has been forced to admit that many of its 4.6 million people aged 75 and over do not receive anything like the care of the Sainte-Agnès residents. Often, in fact, they are ignored or forgotten, left to fend for themselves or die alone.

                It’s a national reckoning that is not coming easily. The immediate flush of media attention last week centered on the sexier political debate over the slow and initially dismissive reaction by the conservative government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, much of which was on holiday as the death toll mounted. Raffarin has refused to accept any blame, while President Jacques Chirac was bizarrely silent — and on vacation in Canada — for the duration of the heat wave. When he finally addressed the crisis in televised remarks last Thursday, Chirac avoided finger pointing, instead emphasizing that “family solidarity [and] respect for the aged and handicapped” are necessary to avoid future tragedies. Doctors and health experts, the people no one listened to during the heat wave, are telling a larger, darker story. The heat wave only made visible, they say, a crisis that had been under way for years: a chronically under-funded and understaffed elder care system combined with a national habit of shutting senior citizens out of sight and mind.

                “The French family structure is more dislocated than elsewhere in Europe, and prevailing social attitudes hold that once older people are closed behind their apartment doors or in nursing homes, they are someone else’s problem,” laments Stéphane Mantion, an official with the French Red Cross. “These thousands of elderly victims didn’t die from a heat wave as such, but from the isolation and insufficient assistance they lived with day in and out, and which almost any crisis situation could render fatal.”Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Have you ever been to Europe? Here’s a hint: Compare it’s latitude with the US’s. Start with France. Take a look at it’s average temperatures.

                Heat waves kill the unprepared and the unacclimated. I — a native of Houston, Texas — can casually wander around London on days where natives are warned to avoid exercise and drink plenty of fluids, because what’s hot to Londoners is practically “mild winter” to me.

                And for unprepared — there’s a reason air conditioning is pretty much a requirement for living in Houston (and why I once was shocked when my cousin from North Dakota referred to working AC in a car as a ‘luxury’), but not in England.

                Or most of France, for that matter.

                European heat waves tend to have large fatalities, compared to America, because the population is older and the infrastructure not built for higher heat. Because it doesn’t get that hot.

                I spent time in Italy in 94. Or 94. I think 94. One of the worst heat waves they’d had in a long time. It was over a hundred in Rome the two days we were there, and in the high 90s in the hills above Florence where we spent most of the trip. Our hotel in Rome was the only time in the entire trip I had AC.

                I can tell you this — we had it a lot easier than the poor locals.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Trivia: Minneapolis and Tuscany are on approximately the same latitude. For any given lattitude, Europe’s climate is much milder, than the continental US thanks to the Gulf streamReport

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Marsailles, France is roughly twenty-five miles further south of the North Pole than is Portland, Maine.

                Sunny, sultry Madrid is at basically the same latitude as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I believe it’s the nearness to the ocean that moderates Europe’s temperatures more.
                But yes, Barcelona is roughly the same latitude as NYC.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                True – the climate is warmer that it would otherwise be for the latitude because of the warm ocean current, but has less variation in temperature because the ocean acts as a heat sink. Similarly, California has a cool climate for its latitude, but at the same time a very moderate one, because of the cold ocean currents.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And though the Bay Area has a million microclimates, the rule of thumb is very simple: the more you have air circulation to the water, the cooler and milder the summers. That Tom Wolfe managed to write (in A Man in Full) that a resident of arid El Cerrito (right on the Bay) dreams about moving to cool, lush Danville (cut off by a range of hills) tells you everything you need to know about his meticulous research methods.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Some people don’t have *sunglasses* The Right Stuff *YEAAAAAAHHHH*Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I seem to remember reading that no part of Europe is further than 300 miles from the ocean.Report

    • Avatar Andy Smith says:

      This can be generalized a little more. Liberals identify most strongly with the most recently evolved social organizations, which is to say the nation and now the entire world community. These are also the largest and most complex organizations. Conservatives identify most strongly with the older, smaller, least complex societies–families, local communities. It is in this sense that liberals are progressive, since evolution progresses by creating successively larger and more complex societies out of smaller, simpler ones. Conservatives are more traditionalist, continuing to identify with those social organizations which were the first to evolve. I think this is a better understanding of liberal vs. conservative attitudes than Lakoff’s nurturing vs. authoritarian family models (which fail to explain several key differences between liberals and conservatives).

      This does not mean that liberals are anti-family, since families and local communities continue to exist as they are included within larger societies. But the role of families changes as larger social organizations form. In particular, liberals believe many decisions traditionally made at the family level (e.g., our view of minorities; our responsibilities to people in need; our attitude towards the environment) should be made at the national or trans-national level. Liberals, unlike conservatives, don’t see this as an infringement on freedom, because they identify more strongly with the larger societies, and perceive themselves as contributing to the decision-making process at these levels.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Liberals are much more likely to be not socialized to be conformist drones. Which is something that was bred deliberately into men during the agricultural revolution.
        [Insert comment about homosexuality and football here.]Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          This is a really good comment.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Ooops. Yours is a good one too Kimmi, but I meant that to reply to Andy.Report

        • Avatar Andy Smith says:

          Well, conformity is of course more closely associated with smaller groups. Early hominid (our own species and precursors) groups required conformity in order to survive. We became very good at recognizing differences between in-members and out-members (this is true for all types of animal societies, of course). When larger organizations began to evolve, those containing many different sub-groups, it became necessary for us to become more tolerant of these differences. So I would say that this is the basis for the tendency of tolerance to be associated more with liberals.

          Another relevant thinker here is Jonathan Haidt. In The Righteous Mind, he claims that conservatives are stronger supporters of group values, such as loyalty, authority, and sanctity, and goes on to argue that this failure puts liberals at a disadvantage in some political battles with conservatives. But I think it’s very clear that what Haidt means by these values is simply as they are applied to relatively small groups. Liberals can be just as loyal as conservatives, but their loyaltyis directed to larger organizations (think of labor unions, which are basically national or even international organizations; or political protests like OWS), and can appeal just as much to authority (e.g., political correctness). Conversely, whereas Haidt argues that liberals have a stronger orientation to values such as care, fairness and liberty, conservatives exhibit these values just as much, but in the context of families and local communities, rather than at national and transnational levels.Report

          • Avatar Andy Smith says:

            Here’s one right out of today’s news. I follow boxing a little, and also have spent some time in the Philippines, so I’m quite familiar with Manny Pacquiao, considered one of the two best fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world. A couple of days ago, he was quoted making some anti-gay remarks, and consequently was banned from a mall in LA, where he was going to be interviewed at the time.

            The ban has since been rescinded. Manny was initially understood, apparently incorrectly, to quote favorably a passage from Leviticus suggesting that gays should be put to death. He now denies that, and insists that he has gay friends and relatives, and that all he was saying was that he opposed gay marriage, because it is “against the word of God”.

            Predictably, Manny has received a lot of criticism for even his toned-down version. But also predictably, someone today castigated the “liberal thought police” for trying to impose their views on gay marriage on everyone else. I think this can be very clearly understood in the framework I suggested above. To those of us who identify most strongly with societies at national if not planetary levels, it’s obvious that gays should have the same right to marry that heterosexuals have. It’s clearly a matter of civil liberties. But to those who identify more strongly at the family and local community level, the notion of gay marriage is a threat to the heterosexual marriage that was essential to creating the family and local community in the first place.

            Haidt would see this as liberals promoting care and fairness vs. conservatives standing behind loyalty, authority and sanctity. But one could just as well say that liberals are loyal to the national or world community, recognizing its authority over that of the local level, and in the context of that community, seeing the sanctity of every kind of human interpersonal relationship. Conversely, one could say that conservatives are concerned with caring for their families and local communities, which they feel are threatened by broadening the definition of marriage.

            From this point of view, the reason liberal vs. conservative arguments are so unending and intractable is because all of these different-level groups exist and interact, with each level to some extent dependent on higher and lower levels. Liberals can’t completely deny the validity of any arguments in support of families, because without some kind of reproductive unit, everything would collapse (until artificial life takes over, of course ?). Conservatives can’t completely deny arguments based on national and transnational societies, because they are ultimately created by proliferation of families.

            I’ll just throw out one other recently-read book of interest, E.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth. In a rather stunning move for one of the world’s preeminent evolutionary biologists, he has become a strong supporter of the idea of group selection. Long discredited by most scientists, this view holds that much of human genetic evolution (not simply cultural evolution) resulted not from individuals competing with each other for reproductive success, but different groups competing with each other. In this environment, those group-oriented values identified by Haidt like loyalty, authority and sanctity evolved because they gave certain groups advantages over other groups (Haidt makes much the same point, without the vast knowledge of animal biology that Wilson can appeal to). Individuals who were better able to empathize, cooperate, read other’s minds, and so on, formed stabler groups. Wilson thinks that the interplay between individual and group traits is the major source of human conflicts, both within and between individuals. I would just add that at every new level of social organization—family, tribe, community, nation, world—the conflict between self and group re-emerges.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              You’re on a roll, Andy.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Andy, there is a lot of stuff here. You, i think, are putting far to much weight on national/planetary view of liberals. I can’t see how that has anything to do with gays being able to legally marry in the US. In what sense is a transnational view of humanity being presented as a rational for gay marriage in the us? Have i missed something?

              Furthermore, if conservatives are more family focused then they shouldn’t care what other families are doing. The conservative argument that gays can’t marry because it will affect hetero marriage is much more of large state view that you ascribe to liberals. Why does gays marrying in LA or Texarkana affect the hetero marriage of a couple in Smallville, Ark? The view you are presenting still doesn’t answer why gay marriage is threat to hetero marriage.Report

              • Avatar Andy Smith says:

                ” In what sense is a transnational view of humanity being presented as a rational for gay marriage in the us?”

                It’s not necessarily a conscious rationalization. (In fact, most of the basis of our political views is pretty clearly unconscious.) It’s more that liberals have empathy for a broader swath of the human race. This is basically what identifying with larger social organizations means. Even conservatives who tend to be anti-gay would likely not discriminate against a gay family member (think of Cheney’s daughter). To identify with a larger community means that it is like “family” for you. One feels protective of gays and other minorities in much the same way that a family-oriented person would feel protective of family members. Which means granting them the same rights as you grant yourself.

                And conversely, liberals have much less problem with authority at this level–political correctness, e.g., and all these governmental regulations that conservatives detest–because it is viewed in much the same way that a family-oriented person would see discipline at the family level as necessary. Conservatives feel government regulations are imposed from without. Liberals see themselves as part of the group that is developing and promulgating these regulations, just as family members tend to have some understanding of why discipline must be imposed within the family.

                “if conservatives are more family focused then they shouldn’t care what other families are doing.”

                Every person or group, at any level, has some boundary within which it identifies itself, or something closely related to self, and beyond which it recognizes as “other”. If one is identified most strongly with family, as I claim conservatives tend to be, then other families are exactly that, other. Interacting families form larger units, of course, local communities and eventually nations and beyond. To the extent that the families are alike in their backgrounds, values, etc., they will relatively easily form a larger, cohesive group, and conservatives may identify with this as well. But when the family structure is very different, this cohesiveness is lost, and these other families remain other, foreign. Just as someone identifying strongly with the national level will tend to view other countries as opposition to some extent, and often a potential threat to one’s own existence.Report

            • Avatar Rod says:

              You said it better than I tried to in another comment section. Thanks for the reiteration.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        This can be generalized a little more. Liberals identify most strongly with the most recently evolved social organizations, which is to say the nation and now the entire world community. These are also the largest and most complex organizations. Conservatives identify most strongly with the older, smaller, least complex societies–families, local communities.

        That’s damn interesting, Andy. Seems accurate at first blush.

        [It rather fits the old saw that liberals believe history started with the morning paper.]Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          It is interesting. It seems to be descriptively accurate and it accounts for lots of the standard justifications and criticisms each side levels against the other.Report

          • Avatar Andy Smith says:

            “accounts for lots of the standard justifications and criticisms each side levels against the other.”

            Anyone who follows political arguments (everyone here, obviously) knows that one of the commonest criticisms either side levels against the other is hypocrisy. Conservatives say they are against massive government spending, but continue to throw vast amounts of treasure to defense. Liberals say they are for individual freedom, but champion federal regulations that encroach on just about every aspect of our lives, And so on and so on.

            I think a root cause of this hypocrisy is that neither liberals nor conservatives really appreciate that their differences are not so much over particular values or actions, as where these values or actions are to be applied. For example, neither conservatives nor liberals have a corner on the fiscal responsibility argument. Neither mind contributing large amounts in taxes as long as the money goes to things they perceive are for their benefit. Conservatives believe that national defense is for their direct benefit, because it protects their families and local communities, which are not large and complex enough to protect themselves. Moreover, the more you identify with family and local community, the less understanding and empathy you have of other communities, particularly those outside your nation, and therefore the less trust you have for them, and the more need you have to be assured of protection from them.

            Liberals, in contrast, believe that social welfare programs are for their benefit, because they help people that liberals empathize with, consider themselves related to. They have a greater tendency to feel that we are all in the same boat, so that helping people in need is actually helping themselves. The same with environmental programs. Again, it is not a matter of being fiscally irresponsible, but a matter of spending money that is perceived to benefit oneself or some group that one identifies with. (This does not mean that both liberals and conservatives can’t be fiscally irresponsible, only that this issue has to addressed by first recognizing what an individual believes is for his/her benefit, then debating whether particular policies will promote that benefit.)

            Likewise, neither conservatives nor liberals have the edge in values like liberty or individual freedom. Conservatives tend to be strong supporters of capitalism, free markets, because individuals or very small groups of individuals can be players at this level. Even when they are members of very large corporations, they are getting a huge direct individual benefit. They resent regulations, because these rules inevitably are handed down from much larger social organizations that conservatives don’t strongly empathize with. At the same time, conservatives tend to be strong supporters of laws against crimes against persons and property, because again, these laws are perceived as being of direct benefit to the families and local communities they identify with.

            Liberals show stronger support for governmental regulations, because they identify more closely with the larger societies that are formulating these rules. The view is that “we” are making these rules for “our” benefit, not “they” are making these rules that hinder “us.” But the same broader empathy means liberals tend to take a somewhat more tolerant view towards crime. In the liberal view, law-breakers are also part of society, part of the family, and while they may have to be disciplined, they also have to be treated as empathically as possible.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              A particularly good sub-thread here.
              I have nothing to contribute; just to say that I truly enjoyed it.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              What Will H said: good subthread, I don’t have much to add, just sorta trying to digest it…

              I guess I have one thing to add: I really like this critique!Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        But how does this explain conservative economic policies? I don’t see how identification with family and local community should lead to support for the multinational corporation and belief that wealth correlates with merit regardless of how that wealth is obtained.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          It doesn’t, until you switch filters.

          Family and local community are representative of the Burkean values of stability and caution, of the careful prudence and thrift that the Biblical values of sobriety and self-denial promote. Through this filter, parents carefully scrimp and save, hoarding their wealth to pass on to the next generation, by denying themselves the pleasures and consumption of goods;

          Multinational corporations are the embodiment of rugged individualism, the can-do spirit put in practice, and the uniquely American skill of mastering the world.
          It is only by being adventurous, of risk-taking and seizing the day that wealth can be created. Through this filter, we must go for the gusto and live life to its fullest because we deserve it. Cash is to be spent, debt is good, and our lives are given meaning by shopping and consuming goods.Report

          • Avatar Katherine says:

            But how does combining those two frames work? In the first frame, live is given value primarily by our relationships with others and with God. In the second frame, live is given value, as you say, by possessions. The first one is consistent with a Biblical ethos and with social conservatism. The second one is directly contrary to it.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              It was pointed out by better voices than mine that there is a clash between God and Mammon.
              Yet even when Christ Himself critized the worship of money, societies all around the world spent the last 2000 years insisting He didn’t mean what He said He meant.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I think one way to resolve it is to think of conservatism being concerned primarily (or initially) by local issues. Insofar as conservatives support multinational corporations, (according to the view upthread) they’re not supporting the multi-nationalness of them but rather the local-ness of them: that they originate in the US. (For example, conservatives don’t think that French multinationals ought to have free reign to control US assets.) Another point that might be relevant is that the new face of conservatism – the Tea Party – was initially focused around the very issue of eliminating corporate influence in federal policy. (I think people have forgotten that.)

          As to the other point – the disregard about how corporations make their money – I think that one’s trickier. Of course, it depends on what counts as questionable profit-maximizing practices. But as a first guess, I’d say it’s justified – again – by an affinity for more local control. That is, a preference for employers to make money independently of outside interference. So the preference isn’t to permit whatever the corporation wants to do; it’s to minimize forces external to the company which would determine what it must do.

          That all may be way off, of course. I’m still working my way thru what Andy wrote.Report

  7. Flattered to see my theory being taken seriously enough to test—and even more flattered that you see it holding (at least in this case). Thanks!Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Yes, the theory works for the dumbest MFers you can find on talk radio.

      Were you to listen to Dennis Prager, a Torah scholar far more listened-to than the unnamed local mook of the OP, you’d find an argument that you’d have great difficulty contending up with.

      [FTR, I don’t exactly agree with his pro-death penalty position, but I think he gets the better of the argument.]Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        thank you.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think that it is interesting that you dismiss the intelligence (“dumbest MFers”), integrity (“mook”), and listening audience (“far more listened-to”) of the radio host in question while simultaneously asserting you have no idea who he is (“unnamed local mook of the OP”).

        More importantly… while this is but one anecdote, and therefore not enough by itself to prove the theory, the extent to which it is representative of of conservative talk radio hosts and conservatism in general is yet to be proven or disproven. What do you say to disprove it, sir, besides simply holding up on counter-example?Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Yes, the theory works for the dumbest MFers you can find on talk radio.

        Pardon my incredulous thought, but this sounds suspiciously like a mildly disguised “no true scotsman” comment.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          I see these vague accounts and “just another example of blahblahblah” and my eyes glaze over.

          I submit the each side has its fringe and using the fringes to discredit the entire side is not valid argument.

          The left gets Al Sharpton. He even spoke at the 2004 Dem convention. He even has a show on MSNBC. You wanna play the dumb MFer game, you lose.


          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Does Sharpton display the same ideological inconsistency… the jiu jitsu as MA describes it… as the gentlemen cited here?

            The question is not one of INTELLIGENCE, as far as I see it. But consistency. And one need not be a purist. But constantly shifting frameworks seems to be akin to building your foundation on sand. And using the dump button seems like you’re just going to stick your fingers in your ears when someone tells you your house is sinking.

            When I listen to people who I might more broadly agree with make pisspoor arguments, I get incensed. Sometimes even more than when I hear folks I disagree with make pisspoor arguments. When Bush was in office, I thought it was dumber-than-dumb every time an opponent focused a criticism of Bush on his ears or word flubbing or accent or whatever. Even if it was policy related but otherwise innocuous, wasting your breath on petty things is stupid. You only get so many opportunities to make a point. If you waste them on stupid points, you lose, get tuned out, or expose yourself as an idiot. It is one thing if you are making a joke; it is quite another to say, “How can you vote for that man’s economic policy??? LOOK AT THOSE EARS!” Serious people don’t make non-serious arguments. And you ultimately harm more than yourself if you are a mouthpiece for your “side” and reduce their perception to one of being non-serious.

            I’m asking you sincerely, Tom, if you do the same? I could understand why you might more broadly defend these folks here, as the attack dogs can certainly go off the rails. But is there a part of you that looks at that guy and says, “What a fishin’ baffoon. I have to clean up this ish?”Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Kaz, I guess I don’t take infotainment so seriously. And as an apologist by disposition rather than a polemicist, I tend to focus on the 30% somebody gets boldly right than the 70% that’s off. I could even make the case for Sharpton, except for the blood on his hands—the real world stuff. My heart really isn’t into scorched earth debating.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I don’t think you need to take it seriously. And I don’t think it always comes from “infotainment”.

                My question is: Do you ever hear a conservative make an argument that you would ultimately agree with but is so non-serious that you want to shout at the guy for ultimately undermining your side of the aisle?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Absolutely, Kaz. I feel that way about Edmund Burke a lot. Agree with the premise, agree with the conclusion, often a really crappy argument in the middle.

                As for the non-serious part, I guess you’re referring to demagoguery. It’s problematic. What I’ve got out of Haidt [and hearing several interviews as well] is that

                Which is odd given that those in American society who most strongly profess christianity simultaneously treat the poor, elderly and infirm, verbally and personally, with such little respect and regard.

                probably isn’t demagogic. The writer actually believes this. Which is all the more painful on a personal level and bad for the republic that we believe 1/4 or 1/2 of our fellow citizens are this heinous. What hope have we as a nation if our survival depends in the good half of us conquering the other?

                Now, there are memes on the right that make me wince, that the left favors the welfare state in order to create a dependency that translates into votes and political power. I do think this is the result—what percentage of the 47% who don’t pay income tax vote Democratic?—but it’s not right to misread the left’s genuine compassion for such base motives.

                Or the meme that “the rich” structure “the system” to keep us all in thrall. People—Dem bosses or the captains of industry—simply don’t have the time or sophistication to rig the world so well.

                —I will add that I see this last meme among the Paulites and the listeners to Art Bell UFO radio. Michael Savage’s audience is in there too, as is far-left Pacifica radio’s. This is a sort of tertium quid, and I saw a poll recently that had a Ron Paul candidacy pulling equally from Obama and Romney, as did Perot from Clinton and Bush41.

                I don’t read a lot into it. We should both be glad we have a place to park our crazies.


              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Which is all the more painful on a personal level and bad for the republic that we believe 1/4 or 1/2 of our fellow citizens are this heinous.

                What percentage of the population once truly believed in Jim Crow, or slavery? What percentage even today believe in banning interracial marriage, or in other bigoted ideas? Some percentage of our fellow citizens are apparently always that heinous.

                Or the meme that “the rich” structure “the system” to keep us all in thrall.

                The Romans called it “bread and circuses”; by the middle ages it had become the fealty system. For a while the Catholic Church had it down to a science once they’d managed to make that whole “divine right of kings” thing an article of religious faith.

                Today we have a variety of names for it. Regulatory capture is certainly one of them, but if you want an example of modern fealty systems today, all you have to do is look at Wal-Mart. Six people in the US control as much wealth as the entire bottom 30% of the population and it’s built on an insane system of discrimination, deliberate exploitation of the physically or mentally handicapped, and paying such incredibly low wages that make the government have to step in with social programs (like food stamps) to subsidize the families trying to exist on a wal-mart wage.

                Now there are some better companies out there to work for, but for most of the people on the US today, employment is a modern fealty system. You’re tied to your job and woe to someone who leaves without having another one lined up because quitting your job means no unemployment benefits and no ability to keep your health insurance even under the insanely expensive COBRA pricing schemes. The system is so broken that fearful employees putting up with insane bosses and rampant abuses and humiliations at work has become a new normal.

                People—Dem bosses or the captains of industry—simply don’t have the time or sophistication to rig the world so well.

                If that were true then we wouldn’t need safety standards and OSHA. We wouldn’t need financial regulation. We wouldn’t need anticompetitive practices laws. Yet obviously we do, and have needed them time and again. Take one look at the unconscionable, but “enforceable” and ubiquitous non-compete clauses built into employment contracts in the software industry that basically make it impossible for employees who quit or are fired to find employment elsewhere for a year or two.

                Modern fealty system. If you’re not too blind to see it for what it is.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I had a long response to this which apparently disappeared, unfortunately. In a nutshell, I think we would all be well served to avoid demagogy. That might seem to go without saying… but, sometimes those are precisely the things that need to be said.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Kazzy, just for the record, the mental jui jitsu terminology is from Conor’s original post that sparked my decision to write about this incident.

              “Conservatives have grown accustomed to the mental jujitsu involved in switching modes as they switch issues, and they are careful never to apply a mode out of turn. That’s why they rarely mention their otherwise-vaunted love of liberty when discussing individual sexual choices.”Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Would you care to be specific about what you claim is vague in my account? I have attempted to transcribe, as best I could, the verbatim conversation. This is made difficult by an unsteady writing hand and the lack of available podcast audio of the radio program.

            Having now canvassed the radio dial for talk shows at various hours, the local host is definitely not an outlier. He is very representative of both the tenor and logic, if one chooses to call it that, of the discussion lines of right wing radio programs. Equally interesting has been the ability to flip between 3 different stations throughout a day and hear over the span of 12 hosts the same argument on a given day repeated over and over by each host. Either the radio hosts are so ideologically similar that they all think alike and sieze on precisely the same topic like a hivemind, or they’re getting tip-offs and marching orders from somewhere.

            Now, if you insist he is an outlier, you’re insisting the entire radio dial are outliers. Again, this sounds like a poorly disguised “no true scotsman” comment, and your follow-up about Al Sharpton a needless non sequitur.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              I listen to the same talk radio as you did, and reject your caricature. Except perhaps for the local host you’re bagging on, whom I will stipulate is as bad as you say. But I reject any theses built on bottom-feeding the other side, and I do my best not to tar folks like yourself with Matthews and Sharpton.

              Although I think Sharpton’s intrusion on the real world, as a speaker at the 2004 Democratic convention, to be probative. Infotainment, the Toy Dept., is not.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You have yet to respond to say what you claim is vague in my account.

                Further, you are accusing me of “bottom-feeding the other side”, when I have made a great effort to span the radio dial and listen to as many shows, both those national and local, as I can. I’ve even tried to get some of the podcasts of people you’ve mentioned like Dennis Prager. I’ve listened to Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Boortz, , and the morning and evening drivetime hosts locally.

                Again, in my estimation after listening to a number of these shows, the content of my previous post as well as this guest post is representative of the larger right-wing talk radio movement.

                Right now I really don’t see the point in continued conversation. If you must continually accuse me of “bottom feeding the other side”, or loose some other insult, I’ll simply assume you are trolling me in a slightly more sophisticated manner than DensityDuck previously, and request you don’t bother responding to me again.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Bottom-feeding” was not meant as insult, just a description, since I’ll stipulate the talk radio host in your OP as an idiot, but thet he’s the bottom, not the best—the best being far more representative and important.

                To engage the best of the other side is the only valid form of argument. To engage the worst arguments of the other side is a corollary of the straw man fallacy, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be guilty of that.

                I could pick off the worst arguments of dumbest MFers around here [present company excepted: none of them are on this thread!] as “just another example of the intellectual crapitude of the left,” but to what end?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think MA’s point is that he’s not bottom feeding, or cherry picking, or taking the worst arguments conservatives put forward. He’s talking about the mainstream conservatism that most (some? how many?) conservatives identify with.

                Of course, if you want to say that arguing against anything other than your preferred academic treatments of conservatism constitutes bottom feeding, then then the type of conservatism MA is criticizing isn’t the type of conservatism you hold. And if so, then you have no reason to try to defend it. In fact, if it’s not the conservatism you adhere to, what are the reasons for thinking MA’s bottom feeding by critiquing it?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It’s the whole idea of a caricature getting in the way of a valid view of the mainstream.
                Dan Savage is one scary bastard. I almost called the police over hearing that guy one day. I was flipping through the radio stations in a strange city and thought I had got one of those neo-nazis on the public access channel.
                That guy’s a weirdo. And he’s an outlier, no matter how many stations might run his crap. He’s just another shock jock.
                Huffington Post, on the other hand, is really what mainstream Leftism is all about.
                Daily Kos is what mainstream “progressivism” is all about.
                And those are some really scary bastards.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Dan Savage is the guy who founded the It Gets Better Project. I think you mean Michael Savage?

                And calling Michael Savage an outlier is hard to justify. He’s the 4th highest rated conservative radio show host in the country, and it turns out the title of one of his books is a phrase that keeps popping up from the callers on the various shows I’ve sampled, “liberalism is a mental disorder.” Calling him an outlier is like calling Hannity or Beck outliers, and I don’t think that the case can be made in a valid way for any of them.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh I get that point about caricature, Will. One way we can avoid it is by having more nuanced views of sub-groups within conservatism. One of them, I submit, is the talk-radio crowd. I know alot of those people. They listen to Rush and Hannity all day long and that’s where they get their views. And as MA has said in his post and comments, local conservative talk radio mimics the tone, content, structure, of national talk radio. So it seems to me disingenuous for a conservative – or anyone for that matter – to say that the views expressed by those talk radio programs don’t reflect the views of the listeners, or that the audience doesn’t form a subgroup within broader conservatism.

                Just as it’d be disingenuous for a liberal to deny that DKos is a subgroup within liberalism.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Have it your way. You get Al Sharpton. You lose.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Sharpton is a clown, but not half as vile as Limbaugh. And Michael Savage makes Sharpton look like Bill Cosby, or maybe Perry Como.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Al Sharpton has blood on his hands. The rest is toy store stuff.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                So does Hillary, but we covered it up.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Beck is an outlier. Too paranoid even for Foxnews? Yeah, that’s an outlier.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Please explain the “blood” on Sharpton’s hands. Seriously. Did he kill someone?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON!Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                There’s definitely a difference between a pedal tone and a drone.
                In a way, it’s an issue of validation, both in-group and out-group. Of course, the out-group seems to have an inherent interest in dealing with the most extreme terms; hence the ‘Obama is a socialist’ concept.
                And of course, both sides do do it, and particularly so at the extremes, because it feels like a winning strategy or something. Or maybe there’s something about their character that just wants to be vehemently against something. At any rate, whatever the cause, it’s there.

                I think the whole talk radio model is basically Art Bell all over again. In fact, these types of programs are very close to incitement.
                As far as conservatism goes, talk radio may have served a useful purpose at one point in history, but has far outlived its usefulness. It’s more of an impediment now.

                Hannity is known, even among conservative circles, for being, let’s say, too accommodating to his guests. If you want to see something funny, take a look at this. It starts getting interesting about 2 minutes in, and it gets really uncomfortable at 9.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Sadly instead of working for justice for Trayvon, folks only want to go out and hurt white people. Sadly it has been ignored by the media. Maybe the press will do something as the violence gets worse.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Thousands of people peacefully marching across the nation and protesting a pattern of criminal bigotry and behavior by police, and your accusation is that they “only want to go out and hurt white people.” I don’t know whether to be appalled, disgusted, or both.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                I shouldn’t have implied that no one is interested in legitimate peaceful change. Sadly there are those that only want a reason to hurt whites to make themselves feel better. You can be both appalled and disgusted but that is a fact and the PC press does their best to cover it up.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                If that was the only story you could find about Trayvon justice beatings then you weren’t looking that hard. Fortunately the evidence for Zimm looks better each day and oddly the liberals here have been silent about it.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:


                Fortunately the evidence for Zimm looks better each day and oddly the liberals here have been silent about it.

                It only seems odd to you from your tribal frame. Liberals (at least me) weren’t incensed because we believed without a shadow of a doubt that GZ was getting away with murder. I wasn’t there; neither were you. We were upset about what seemed to be only a very cursory investigation of the death of an unarmed young man.

                While I’m certain there will be some folks that will be dissatisfied with an acquittal — and at least an equal number that will be upset about a conviction — my primary concern was simply that a proper investigation be conducted and the appropriate charges filed. That has happened and I, for one, am perfectly happy to let the system work and allow the chips to fall where they may. I’m just not that invested in a particular outcome.Report

              • I suppose you have links to other stories that show not only that this is happening, but also that it is getting worse? And, most importantly, that such attacks occurred because of outrage over Travon Martin, rather than being crimes that would have occurred anyhow, but the attackers used the Martin case as a post-hoc justification?

                As for the evidence looking better for Zimmerman each day, and liberals being silent about it, nothing I’ve seen that has come out even remotely addresses what liberals have been saying about the case all along, or at least not the liberals that I read. The evidence might be making the media’s initial coverage look worse, but most of the media’s coverage has been abysmal from the beginning.

                I will, however, admit that I was wrong about the propriety of the affidavit- it’s a piece of crap. But not for the reasons Dershowitz was ranting about. Moreover, based on what I’ve seen since, the prosecutors had plenty at their disposal to draft a much stronger affidavit that would have been far less crappy. That they didn’t seems inexcusable to me.

                None of which is to say that Zimmerman is guilty- I’ve got no idea if he is, given the SYG law.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The latest is that an internal police report determined that Trayvon’s death was avoidable if Zimmerman had stayed in his car. That is, if he’d done what the dispatcher told him to do. To me, that means Zimmerman has to come up with a compelling reason to have left his vehicle to pursue (stalk? carefully watch?) Trayvon.


                The source is apparently the USA Today.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Liberals, as Mark pouts out, have wanted nothing more than a full investigation and a just result. Conservatives have wanted Martin made into a thug and Zimmermann vindicated for killing him. I get really tired of hearing how both sides are at fault.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Link for the other Trayvon justice beatings.


                Cops got the preps but claim there is not enough evidence to say it was racial


                and the Norfolk VA Trayon beating that the local paper ignored, which is even more amusing since the victims were paper employees


                I find it amusing that when a white hurts a black it is automatically racial but when reversed it is hard to hard to ever say it is racial even when the perps say so as in the case of the 78 year old man.


                Yes this was avoidable. Did you see the witness report that Trayvon was “straddling George Zimmerman and pummeling the neighborhood watch captain “MMA style?” I guess if Trayvon hadn’t attacked him, GZ wouldn’t needed to defend himself.


                Are these the same liberals here that kept telling everyone here that GZ was racially profiling and stalking TM and that fact alone made him guilty of murder? Who was it here that kept telling me that there were already enough facts to show that GZ was guilty?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You’ve posted three links.

                The first is debunked.

                The second one falls into the category of “justification after the fact”, as does the third “NebraskAttitude” posting, which for its justification that it has anything to do with Trayvon has a single comment by a moron posting on twitter.

                Not a post saying the perpetrators shouted something, not a post saying that the perpetrators planned it after, not anything like that. One random person in a twitter feed said something stupid.

                This does fit an overall theme that seems to come up in the right-wing radio I’ve been examining; at least 4 times I’ve heard segments where the hosts tried desperately to convince their listeners that there’s an epidemic of black-on-white racial violence going on. And I have no idea why, unless it’s dog-whistling to racist personalities or attempting to stoke racial resentment from whites.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Who was it here that kept telling me that there were already enough facts to show that GZ was guilty?

                I don’t know. Who?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Btw, in saying that I’m acutely aware of the tension created if someone were to use some liberal whacko’s arguments to critique my views.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Exactly. And I reject the broad brush and caricature of what and who “mainstream” conservatism is. You wanna talk Paul Ryan, an elected official? Fine. You wanna talk some mook on local talk radio? We’re in WTF turf. In fact, Al Sharpton is much fairer game, for reasons given.

                And there are plenty of cogent biblical arguments for capital punishment, or why Jesus does not promulgate the welfare state. And the arguments on the other side aren’t bad either.


              • Avatar M.A. says:

                If the arguments on the other side aren’t bad, I’d like to hear you make them and see for myself if I agree.

                As for Paul Ryan (thrown out by his own state, now a wonk who shows up on the national scene every few years to make waves to propose a supposed budget that would get flunked by a 1st grade math teacher) and Al Sharpton, I’d put them on equal footing. But neither of them is mainstream. The morning drive-time talk radio shows get reasonable ratings. I listened to the top 10 of national talk radio, either via radio or podcast, and they all match tone, tenor and topic of the local radio hosts very closely.

                So I disagree that we’re in WTF turf. By my analysis, the local radio guy is an echo of the national shows, either miraculously matching their topics with regularity or getting coordinating suggestions from the same places that they do. And the national shows are just as likely to take on a “token liberal caller” and play the shout-down, talk-over, dump-button “what an idiot, aren’t we glad we are all smarter than the libs, now for some ads and weather” game as the locals.

                If you’re not a “mainstream” conservative, then I don’t really need to discuss your case, as my critiques and two guest columns so far are based on ongoing study of mainstream conservatism as presented through their talk radio network(s).Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yes, I understand your analysis, M.A. I demur strongly. Comparing Paul Ryan and Al Sharpton?

                Which is odd given that those in American society who most strongly profess christianity simultaneously treat the poor, elderly and infirm, verbally and personally, with such little respect and regard.

                Again, we have illustrated Jonathan Haidt’s argument, but I’ll try my best not to take this sort of talk as “mainstream” liberalism. But it’s getting hard.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Comparing Paul Ryan and Al Sharpton, yes. Sharpton has been a candidate for office, never elected, but with a long history as a force for social change in the US. Paul Ryan is something of a joke in public policy whose purpose of the last few years seems to be to promote the most insane, mathematically impossible budget proposals that could be put to paper in order to make it look like the republican side is “compromising” in budgetary talks. I halfway suspect the main reason that this randian mental midget gets to be a party spokesman is that he’s one of the younger crowd (only age 42), can still make creditable use of hair-gel and doesn’t have an obvious beer gut. Prognosticating his future, I’d say he runs as an empty suit for Senator or a Governorship sometime around 2016 with an eye towards a 2020 presidential run.

                But I digress a bit.

                I took the time to read a number of analyses of the Ryan Plan budget from multiple sides politically, and all of them came to the same conclusion I did – this wouldn’t get past a 1st grade math teacher, let alone a respected economic analyst.

                And as said before, I’m still waiting for you to describe what you claim is vague in either of my guest posts or my arguments here, and I’d like to hear you present the arguments “from the other side” that you insist “aren’t bad either.”

                I begin to suspect it will be quite a long wait for either.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                There’s a line between Christian charity and masochism, and I do believe I crossed it many comments back. I’ve had my say. I reject your premise of some local mook on talk radio having much significance.

                As for good arguments from the left, i’m rather in line with the Vatican’s teaching that in the West, capital punishment’s net effect is negative, anti-life, and therefore is uneccesary. [Albeit not intrinsically immoral.]

                As for the Christian welfare state, I’d probably go with a natural law argument via Vattel, that as it’s man’s nature to be a social animal and none of us gives birth to—or raises—himself, the good society acknowledges a moral debt to each other as natural, i.e., consistent with our human nature and our material reality.

                [With the proviso the natural law also includes the good sense we were born with, and there’s no excuse to defy reason with destructive social policies.]

                I’ve had enough of talk radio for now. I don’t take it 100% seriously. If we don’t take actual politician rhetoric seriously, why talk radio? Peace.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                It’s worth pointing out that this is, in a way, the inverse of the argument we had back when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut (*). People pointed out that there were plenty of liberal commentators who’d said similar things, and worse, about conservative women. We were informed that those commentators didn’t count because they weren’t “mainstream”, or because they had small audiences, or whatever.

                (*) and boy howdy didn’t she disappear from the news awful fast once people took a good look at her?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                fwiw, I don’t remember the argument being idiotic media pundits on the left weren’t “mainstream.” It was that they didn’t have the same level of influence over the party.

                Bill Maher and Keith Olberman are just as big pompous gas bags as Limbaugh, and just as mainstream. The difference is lefty elected officials don’t have to publicly grovel when they’re caught disagreeing with them.

                This, it should be noted, is a difference in party, not pundit. It in no may makes the Limbaughs of the world any more icky than the Olbermans.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And I reject the broad brush and caricature of what and who “mainstream” conservatism is. You wanna talk Paul Ryan, an elected official? Fine. You wanna talk some mook on local talk radio? We’re in WTF turf.

                How about this: the Arizona Sec of State is making noises about keeping Obama off the ballot because he (Bennett) is unsure of Obama’s citizenship. Now, whether this comes to fruition or not (it probably won’t) or whether this turns out to be motivated by pressure from the base or not (it probably is) is irrelevant. What it shows, it seems to me, is that birtherism is a ‘mainstream’ enough issue in conservatism that the Sec of State feels justified – politically, substantively, whatever – in expressing the view at the highest levels of state government.

                Given this, in what way does it make sense to say that Arizona doesn’t reflect mainstream conservatism? It certainly seems mainstream in Arizona’s conservative community.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s fairer game, Mr. Still, but a deeper look is that it’s political gamesmanship, not a serious attempt at anything. & BTW the talkradio I listen to is assiduously anti-birther: they flush such calls so as to not embarrass the GOP and the Right.

                Anybody who’s hearing birther stuff is listening to fringe, usually local. I mean even Glenn Beck doesn’t play that.


                On the air today, popular radio host Glenn Beck mocked ‘birthers’ and claimed there is a concerted campaign to get those questioning Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility onto the airwaves — a strategy Beck said would actually benefit Obama.

                “‘There’s always games being played behind the scenes at a talk radio show,’ Beck said. ‘Rush has always called them seminar callers. But instead of being coy with the seminar callers or with you, I’m just going to expose the game that is going on. Today there is a concerted effort on all radio stations to get birthers on the air.’

                “‘I have to tell you, are you working for the Barack Obama administration?’ Beck scoffed. ‘I mean, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.'”Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                What about Drudge, then? Their top story for a couple of days has been new birthed proofReport

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Follow the source, RTod. It’s a tweak on BHO, going to his lack of a paper trail. No transcripts, his girlfriend in his autobio a “composite” character. Where are his friends from 15 years old? The press found everybody who ever sniffed Romney’s deodorant at 15.

                The reason is they didn’t look for things they didn’t want to find.


                “Note from Senior Management:
                Andrew Breitbart was never a “Birther,” and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of “Birtherism.” In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.
                Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama’s ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.
                It is for that reason that we launched “The Vetting,” an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other presidential candidates)–not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.
                It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below–one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review.
                It is evidence–not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Because I’m in a mood, I’ll say that Drudge is just pointing stuff out that was out there but was never covered by the media for reasons similar to the reasons that Edwards’s affair wasn’t covered.

                No, not that there was a conspiracy or anything like that… it’s similar to Republicans not caring about David Vitter’s problems with exchanging currency for goods/services.

                One of the best examples I can give is Obama’s High School Yearbook page from when he was a senior. Have you ever seen it?

                If you have, was it before or after the 2008 election?

                If you haven’t, isn’t that odd?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I haven’t seen it, so obviously I’m not surprised. I’ll google now….

                … and now I’m back. Am not getting it. Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choon gang?

                Don’t get me wrong, not disagreeing, just not understanding why I should be shocked that this is just coming to my attention now?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Do you know what “choom” is? Like, what would hold the interest of a “choom gang”?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Tom, yeah, yeah, I get that. But fwiw, if the right does, as you so often say, want no part in the “born in Kenyan story – that it’s concern about it is all a liberal fantasy, and they want everyone to see that – then I’m not sure this is helping their message. Even with that paragraph.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I did not until just now, no. And yeah, I’m surprised that it’s IN the yearbook, and that it wasn’t ever reported on.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                That’s what I find interesting. You haven’t seen Barack Obama’s yearbook photo until today, and only now found out that he gave a shoutout to the Choom Gang.

                Do you think that a member of the Choom Gang might have been worth interviewing in 2008, or 2012?

                Would you say that digging into the candidate’s high school adolescence is not particularly interesting?

                For my part, I don’t find the “Obama was born (elsewhere)” flyers to be particularly interesting… but I do think that it’s particularly interesting that I’m hearing about them today and that I didn’t hear about them earlier.

                Hey, did you hear about Romney’s dog?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                TVD says: “BTW the talkradio I listen to is assiduously anti-birther: they flush such calls so as to not embarrass the GOP and the Right.”
                Which talkradio do you listen to? I’d be much more interested in those folks than what I hear now.
                Coincidentally, I caught Hannity today on the drive home. He was talking about how he wasn’t a birther, not now, not then, not ever. Fine. Dandy. I’ll take him at his word. He then went on to say, “But I do find it curious that his birth certificate took so long to come out. Why didn’t he release it? What’s he hiding?” To his credit, he did fit this into a larger narrative about the supposedly most-transparent-president-ever’s lack of transparency, citing the college records and other such things. I don’t know that Obama ever claimed to be the most transparent ever, but I do remember some line about the best disinfectant being sunlight so let’s give Sean credit for that. I’ll also concede that I don’t know what is commonly made available by sitting Presidents, so I’ll concede his point that Obama is outside the norm. I also have no idea if the concealment of records is done at Obama’s request or by someone else, such as the institution that holds those records. But, again, let’s assume Hannity is spot on and the Obama Administration itself is behind the concealment. Alright, alright, with all that said, Hannity clearly has a point. Why has Obama concealed so much? Great question. Would love to know the answer. However, why muddle up what might otherwise be a really solid criticism of the President with a mention of the birth certificate. Even though he disclaimed that he isn’t and wasn’t ever a birther, as soon as you bring up the birth certificate, you risk getting lumped in with birthers. Fair or not, birtherism is such crackpot silliness that hitching your wagon to a horse that looks like the birther donkey, even with several other horses in the pack, isn’t the brightest move. So why did he do it? Was it a “dog whistle” or “red meat” for the base? I have to wonder. “Hey guys, I’m not birther… but they DO bring up a good point…” Very, very curious. I’m not necessarily asking you to defend him, but pointing out a way in which birtherism can be employed by a non-birther. And Hannity is no local mook, obviously. Top five listening audience, last I checked, and the drive-time slot in NYC.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Agreed, Tod. I don’t go into BHO’s past: it’s a 3rd rail. But this shows the press was every bit as uncurious about BHO’s past as it is thorough about Romney’s.

                I did want to rectify what the Drudge buzz was about, and also that a Hugh Hewitt or a Limbaugh or even Glenn Beck give the birther crowd the cold shoulder, contrary to an apparent common perception on the left.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Kazzy, the guess on the Right is that BHO playing the delay the birth certificate game was Rope-a-Dope.

                The logical explanation for the complete absence of academic transcripts is that they kind of stink.

                BHO was the “president” of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, not its editor-in-chief.

                In other words, not the valedictorian, more like the Prom King.


              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I’m not sure that I do find it that “interesting.” I mean, I find it interesting, I just don’t find it “interesting.”

                It’s like when Dems used to gouge their eyes out that no one cared all that much that Bush had been a cokehead (and perhaps did a little duck and run when we was supposed to be on NG duty) at the same time, they kept having to hear about Al Gore inventing the internet when had already been fairly well documented that he never said so.

                Fringe dwellers aside, people latched on to more negative stuff about McCain than Obama for the same reason that the same is going to happen with Romney when he faces the same guy. And it’s not a press conspiracy. It’s that Obama’s a likable guy, and the other two just aren’t so much, really.

                People that aren’t pol junkies are happy to find things wrong with people they don’t find very likable, like McCain, Romney… and Kerry, and Gore, and Dole. And they’re amazingly tolerant of the foibles of people that are likable, like Obama, and Bush, and Clinton, and Reagan. Ain’t fair, but there you have it.

                Do I find that interesting? I do, I really do. Do I find it “interesting?” Nah.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Is it common practice to interview high school friends of a Presidential candidate? It is my understanding that “Bullygate” was prompted by the friends themselves coming forward of their own volition. Is this accurate? That sort of changes things. If “Choom Gang” members came forward and were rebuffed by the media, that is a much different story. But if it isn’t SOP to seek out such historical connections and those folks only tend to make it into the news when they put themselves out there… then there really isn’t anything out of the ordinary?

                My stepfather played college baseball with G.W. Bush. He was sought out by ESPN to do an interview on Bush’s athletic career. I believe this was on ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza” which was sort of like a crappy Morning Show about sports. My hunch is that my stepfather was sought out because he was readily available… lived in the NY area and was likely easily found on Google on account of having once been the mayor of his town and working as a professor at a local university. They asked him about what kind of player Bush was and what sort of teammate and all that jazz… really nothing of any substance. They were simply capitalizing on the fact that a Presidential candidate actually had a legit sports career worth talking about. So they talked about it. They never asked him anything about his partying or any real character issues. Just BS about how he turned the double-play.

                I offer this only as the extent that I really know about how these things are done. My stepfather was never called by any other media outlet to talk about Bush in a more comprehensive way. Maybe other guys were. I don’t know. So, with the data point of one that I have, it doesn’t seem the norm to ferret out every friend from 30+ years back. But I could be wrong.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                My point there was not to litigate Hannity’s criticism. In fact, I went so far as to concede that it was all on the up-and-up, accurate, and legit. My question was solely about why he even brought up the birth certificate, when it is such a hot button issue that can quickly undermine the totally on the up-and-up, accurate, legit criticism he was offering. Why even talk about it?

                And, seriously, I’d like to know who you listen to who dumbs birthers. Are they West Coast guys?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                At this point, I’m expecting a major story about Romney’s Senior Quote and what it means.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                This would not surprise me.

                Huh… Have I ever told my Gary Hart press core story here? I can’t remember. If not, I should do a post on it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                To Kazzy: TVD’s talkradio is the Salem guys, Prager, Medved, some Hewitt. Follow the links for 24/7.


                I can’t deny I partake of guilty pleasures like Mark Levin, even a Michael Savage, albeit in smaller doses. It’s nice to hear the spittle-flecking on the other foot now and then.

                But keep in mind that the non-Salem guys almost universally were cool to Romney, whereas Medved likes him a lot and so does Prager, and Hewitt wrote a book about him for the last election cycle. [Dennis Miller fits in here too.]

                So let that give you an idea of just how influential talkradio is to the mind-numbed little robots. Not as much as legend has it: Romney’s the nominee.

                And the Salem guys, being center-right, I admit are a bit boring: a lot more info- than -tainment. You want -tainment, a Levin or Savage is your man. Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy Dubya getting ripped a new one by some potty-mouthed clown. Well, that door swings both ways.

                Loving Lovitz about now, bigtime.
                Jon Lovitz
                Because I criticized the President, it’s news? Last I checked, he’s President, not King! This is America! Freedom of Speech. what’s the bfd?


              • Avatar greginak says:

                fwiw, “I’m not a birther but…” Always ignore everything before the but. If someone isn’t a birther then they don’t care about the birth cert bs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’d like to know who you listen to who dumbs birthers

                There’s a faction of birthers actively arguing that Obama is, as a matter of fact, not a US citizen. Call that Birtherism A. Contrast this with mere uncertainty about Obama’s citizenship, because they heven’t seen definitive proof, or the long form, or whatever. Call this Birtherism B.

                Then for any given pundit or person, they can assert CATEGORICALLY!! that they are NOT!! birthers (Birther A) and then go on to express the beliefs held by birthers (Birther B’s).

                If they’re questioning Obama’s citizenship, or even granting legitimacy to others who question his citizenship, they’re birthers.
                It’s a clever trick.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                For the record, mentions of birtherism from the radio shows I’ve listened to have been given two types of treatment.

                If it’s coming directly from a caller, the host will concur on the what else don’t we know, why don’t we get the records, what is he hiding frame while carefully avoiding actually saying more than “I get you, I hear you, it’s really something to consider.”

                If it’s coming from the host, it gets the sort of treatment that the Breitbart site gave it – a kind of “we’re not birthers, don’t you dare call us birthers, but here’s something inflammatory that we know will really fire up the birthers anyways, doesn’t Obama stink” phrasing.

                I think calling it dog whistling in either case is a completely fair analysis.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Or: what greg said.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Still, I set the record straight on birtherism, see above. You prove RTod’s point, that birtherism remains a more potent weapon in the hands of Obama supporters than his opponents.

                If any good comes out of the Breitbart revelation, it’ll be to shame the press into doing its job, or at least apply more equal scrutiny to the 2 candidates.

                This assumes the press can be shamed, but I give it a 1-in-4 chance that if they smell an Obama defeat, they’ll give him the business just to prove they’re “fair.” I do believe that’s what happened in 2004, and John Kerry was easy to sacrifice to the gods of “fairness.”

                Obama hasn’t been all the nice to the press; their love for him is largely unrequited.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Limbaugh prints transcripts of every show, so the misquotes and caricatures do not stand. You can read what he had to say here [go for it!] . Not a breath of birtherism.


                If y’all gonna go spittle-fleck, might as well do it at the real thing.


                But this is the probative part, and has nothing to do with talkradio:

                LIMBAUGH: Who is Charlie Rose? Well, Charlie Rose used to work at CBS News. Now he’s back at CBS News, the morning show. He used to do an overnight CBS show or something on network television. He’s been at PBS doing the Charlie Rose Show at 11 o’clock at night interviewing everybody that’s alive for the last 20 years. Charlie Rose knows everybody, talks to everybody, reads the New York Times every day. So does Brokaw. And they got together on Charlie’s show, the 11 p.m. show on PBS, less than a week before the 2008 elections. Less than a week. Both of them staunch, unalterably supporting Obama. Listen to this sound bite, less than a week, one of the premiere, elite journalists in our country talking to one of our premiere, elite interviewers in our country.

                ROSE: I don’t know what Barack Obama’s worldview is.

                BROKAW: No, I don’t, either.

                ROSE: I don’t know how he really sees where China is.

                BROKAW: We don’t know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.

                ROSE: I don’t really know. And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?

                BROKAW: Yeah, it’s an interesting question.

                ROSE: He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational (sic) speeches.

                BROKAW: Two of them! I don’t know what books he’s read.

                ROSE: What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?

                BROKAW: There’s a lot about him we don’t know.

                TVD: Still don’t. He’s a centrist, they tell me. They tell me a lot of things.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I’m struggling to see where any record was set straight? So far I see an assertion that the birthers calling in to radio shows are left-wing plants, which I think I would file similarly to a “no true scotsman” fallacy. I see an assertion that birtherism isn’t mainstream within the GOP, which it may or may not be although certainly mainstream GOP personalities are willing to give it lip service from time to time.

                And the passage you quoted from Breitbart’s website is definitively what I would file under the “we’re not birthers, but here’s something we think we can use to score political points because it’ll energize the birthers” setting. Not exactly fair, equitable, or honest.

                I think I agree with greginak’s statement, “Always ignore everything before the but.”Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Funny how people who don’t share O’s political beliefs can never ever seem to think they know him. Its almost like not knowing him is just a proxy statement for something between ” i don’t agree with O’s politics” to “OMG scary commie socialist.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                TVD, You did set the record straight on birtherism. And fairly, as far as it goes. but how far does it go? What you’re saying is that reasonable conservatives reject birtherism for either pragmatic or evidence-based reasons. But there is a large swath of conservatives and GOPers – your people and party! – who are (apparently) unreasonable. On your own terms. And rather than take a dig at your party and people, I want to turn back to the original topic we were discussing: whether MA’s reporting on those people and their beliefs constitutes bottom feeding.

                It seems to me that it doesn’t. The situation in Arizona seems to like pretty compelling evidence to the contrary and that issues like birtherism are actually the mainstream view in conservatism. I mean, I could go to polls on this, that like 68% of self-identified conservatives express uncertainty about Obama’s citizenship, and all that, but I know you’d dispute it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’ve had my say, M.A. Is some joe on talk radio a birther? So what? Romney isn’t, neither is anybody out in the real world who counts. I set the record straight; you ignore it, fine. I didn’t write it for you.

                Peace, I’m out for the day. If y’all get off on the birther thing, the echo chamber’s all yours and I’m ruining the fun. I admitted I listen to Michael Savage now & then. A little guilty pleasure is good for the soul. Birth out.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Sorry, Mr. Still, I was writing my signoff when you logged in. Mostly, the guy in Arizona is playing games, and here at LoOG we’ve been through people jerking around the pollsters as a sort of signalling.

                Is Barack Obama the antiChrist? Put me down for 5 Strongly Agree. Then shove your poll up your ass.

                [Not you, Still, I mean the polltakers who, oh never mind, you know what I mean.]


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No worries Tom. And I appreciate the response.

                Peace backatcha.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Tom, I can grasp you saying that “the press” is “not curious” about BHO’s early life and documentation. I don’t agree, but I can get where someone might believe that the NYT, MSNBC and HuffPo might shave the dice when deciding how negative a story they want to commission on him.

                But last I checked, News Corp and its various tentacles was a member of “the press”; they have an effing front row seat at WH briefings. They have the highest rated news cable channel on Earth; they have the ears and eyeballs of more people on this planet than any other entity since Wm Randolph Hearst.

                How come the same folks who were able to hack the phones of members of Parliament, get the Prime Minister to rush out to the yacht of their CEO and lick his loafers, the people who field an army of investigative journalists to comb the records of anyone they like, somehow were unable to “vet” this candidate back in 2008 to find the dirt which we all know is there?

                The answer is obvious. Fox News is in the tank for Obama.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                People pointed out that there were plenty of liberal commentators who’d said similar things, and worse, about conservative women. We were informed that those commentators didn’t count because they weren’t “mainstream”, or because they had small audiences, or whatever.

                I recall the conversation went something like this”

                Why can’t you admit Limbaugh went way beyond the pale?

                Ed Shulz!

                He apologized abjectly the next day and was suspended for a week.

                Bill Maher!

                Yeah, he’s an asshole. Why can’t you agree Limbaugh is too?

                He wasn’t attacking her! It was satire! She deserved it!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                An agent got the facts wrong and/or spread some hype to sell books? Horrifying.

                By the way, Jonah Goldberg was not, contrary to what it says on the cover of his latest offering, nominated for a Pulitzer. And the latest book by Tom Clancy isn’t.Report

              • Avatar Jeff says:

                Yeah, Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh are EXACTLY the same as Matthews and Sharpton.

                I really don’t understand why anyone bothers to discuss with you.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I agree, Jeff, if I get to define “anyone.”


      • Avatar GBU says:

        I’m not convinced that Dennis Prager is more listened to than the right’s platoon of hardcore (and fragmented) media “personalities.” Rush alone commands more attention. Rush’s left cheeck commands more attention.Report

  8. Avatar dexter says:

    Several years ago and before my local paper halved its staff and doubled its prices so I let my subscription lapse, I enjoyed reading letters to the editor. There were three about god that stuck in my mind. A cat 4 hurricane was about to hit below Lafayette when it ran into a patch of really cool water and went to barely a hurricane. One man wrote to the paper that god had changed his mind about slamming Louisiana. I wondered if an omnipotent god knew he was going to change his mind. Another man wrote in to say that the earth was only six thousand years old and god had made the rocks look old to test our faith. I wondered why. The third and best is a lady who wrote in to say that the bible was definitely the word of god, but one has to know which parts to follow. I thought, “say whaaaat?”Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      You can actually reconcile each of these by pointing out that they are all examples of deceptive behaviour on the part of God (in the first case, God made it look like he was going to unleash a hurricane, but he really didn’t). In truth, Christians who rely on this sort of argument could be considered to worship a sort of “Father of Lies” if you will.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Were God to reside in a book, He would have made us all librarians.
        Legalism is one of the most prevalent of the bad practices of faith.Report

  9. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    future historians will rightly condemn us for how we go about this. there is a lot of starting with a preferred conclusion and backfilling a justification. i’m just as guilty as anyone.Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Incidentally, I cannot see the post graphic as anything other than a steampunky robot head.Report

  11. Avatar Rod says:

    A final, new framework was also injected at this point, a sort of monetary-morality theory that seems to pervade right-wing radio (which can be roughly translated as “those who have the money are moral and good, those who lack money are by implication immoral and bad people, you want to have money so that you can be seen as moral and good and you shouldn’t question or criticize those who have money because they are moral and good”).

    That’s actually a very old framework. It goes back at at least to John Calvin, who saw material wealth as evidence of God’s favor in a person due to that person’s righteousness. Of course the corollary is that poverty is evidence of moral depravity.

    And if all that’s true, then obviously taking (taxing) from the rich to give to the poor is simply wrong because it runs contrary to the judgement God has already rendered on those people. Pretty slick, huh? And mighty convenient for the “righteous” rich.Report

  12. Avatar M.A. says:

    It’s been a long discussion but there’s a question I’d like to bring up. A number of commentators (well, most just Tom Van Dyke, but a few others have made similar commentary on some of the names I listed) have insisted that various talk radio hosts are “outside the mainstream” and that the conservative or right-wing movement cannot be judged by their tone, tenor, behavior or comments.

    According to the current ratings numbers, the top right wing radio hosts nationwide are:
    Rush Limbaugh
    Sean Hannity
    Michael Savage
    Glenn Beck
    Mark Levin
    Neal Boortz
    Laura Ingraham

    According to the Talkers Magazine “influence” measurement, they are:
    Glenn Beck

    In the interest of fair notation, there are other names in that top 10; Ed Schultz is left wing, and the rest of the top-10 list are a couple of entertainment guys and Dave Ramsey, who as near as I can determine operates a cult of personality selling seminars and financial self-help books that contain content easily available for free via the internet, from honest financial advisors, or from anyone born before the year 1975. I can’t help but see Ramsey as a kind of predator making his money off of gullible people.

    To the larger point: I’d like to hear which of those listed above are “outliers” or “not representative” of the conservative or right wing movement. Because if we have to throw out the ones I suspect will get the “no true scotsman” treatment, then we’ve thrown out Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, and probably 75% of the movement itself – and who is left to represent them?Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:


      It was a fine and thoughtful post. You just have to realize that arguing with TVD is rather like banging one’s head against a wall – you’ll get a headache, and it won’t change the wall’s position a bit.Report

  13. Avatar bystanders says:

    Barely even an anecdote, but I turned on my local “Hot Talk” radio station on the way to work today (because the sports station was talking about some fake “sport” like basketball) and they were interviewing some WND columnist about Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s current investigation into the birth certificate. Apparently, not only was Obama born in Kenya, but Barack Sr. isn’t his real father, and Stanley may not have been his real mother. The hosts (who are local bozos) indicated no skepticism at all.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “…because the sports station was talking about some fake “sport” like basketball…”

    I think I’ve got the title of my next post… “What’s the matter with bystanders?” (who I’m assuming is Mike S).Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      If it were a real sport, the Bay Area would have a team that plays it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Um… The Warriors? What “Bay” are you taliking about? Hudson?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Um… The Warriors?

          Get real.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          The Warriors are not, in fact, a basketball team. They are a train wreck.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:

            I thought the Warriors were a street gang? “Waaaaariors, come out to plaaaay!”Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            We’ve all seen the Grantland piece, right? My only criticism is that in places it minimizes things. E.g.

            the Players Association suing to get Sprewell paid during his suspension, and somehow winning, even though, again, HE CHOKED HIS COACH

            That’s not accurate. It was an arbitration, not a lawsuit, and it wasn’t about getting paid. There were two issues:

            1. The Players Association argued that there is a small and well-defined set of action which can result in the breaking of a guaranteed contract, and choking your coach isn’t one of them. [1]
            2. The original suspension was for a full calendar year, and it would be a hardship on Sprewell to have to find a new team in mid-season. Thus the suspension should be shortened to just the remainder of the season.

            Note that winning on 1 makes 2 irrelevant, because he’s being paid regardless. Even so, the arbitrator found for Sprewell on both counts. So the Warriors are now on the hook for his contract again, and since there’s no way in hell they’ll ever play him or pay him another dime, they have to find a way to trade him before the season starts. Oh, but it’s not a regular off-season — there’s a lockout. They’re not allowed to talk to other teams about players until the lockout is settled, which is a whole two weeks before play starts. As a result, they settle for terrible trade [2] in which they acquire one guy who hated every minute he spent as a Warrior, one guy who was perpetually hurt, and one guy who was a real prince but, like most 57-year-olds, had lost a few steps.

            1. Think of the NBAPA as originalists who don’t believe in a living Basic Agreement. If James Naismith had meant players to be fired for choking their coaches, he would have said so.
            2. History suggests that they would have made a terrible trade anyway. Still.Report

  15. Avatar Yrs Truly says:

    As yrs truly sees it we r in for a long haul.

    The radio guys carry water. That’s what they do. Say one thing for media matters thy do a good job showing when th radio guys screw up.

    Back in 2006 Rush thrw a tantrum over losing elections, by 2008 he was carrying water for Mccain over real candidates. Its what they do and yrs truly is sick of it.Report