Monday, February 04, 2008

Halftime Fun and Some Diffs Between Liberals & Conservatives

(apologies in advance for an off-subject rant, for there is undoubtedly copious amounts of gratuitous political missives floating about, without having to read another. This one is general, but personal, not to mention entirely true. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty)

Watching the Superbowl (or in my case the good half of it) got me to thinking about a few of the minor things that distinguish American liberals from conservatives. What, pray tell is the connection to the SuperSpectacle? Giants stadium, for a start combined with the fact that one seemingly cannot escape from Election 2008, now in full-swing, though still with a mind-numbing 270 days or so before the Nov trigger date. Why-o-why can we not have a single day upon which the parties conduct their respective Round-One Selections? And may we please limit this selection date to no more than 90 days before the general election? And finally, anyone caught airing gratuitously self-serving political ads prior to 180 days before the General Election will be disqualified - with no exceptions. And, oh yeah, people: Please do NOT let politicians kiss your baby...

Back to the thread and the connection I wish to reveal. You see, all is NOT well in the Meadowlands Giant's Stadium. Witness this NY Times report, or this one from Can't Stop The Bleeding depicting errrr less-than-salubrious behaviour at "Gate-D" where (apparently) women are [successfully?!] taunted to expose themselves, perhaps for the greater morale of NY Jets fans. This doesn't surprise Cassandra, though the similarities remain with my experiences more than twenty years ago. Now before you all go and get yourselves excited, let me first explain. A maddeningly (i.e. unfathomable and inexplicably) conservative friend took me to a NY Giants game one Sunday at the Meadowlands. Actually, for me it was an Eagles game, but there was no need to telegraph this fact to the other 75,000 blue-and-white Giants fans. Some watery beer was drunk. Fumbles and turnovers witnessed, mostly Eagle-inspired (this was after the days of Jerry Wolman, voucahbly professional sports' least astute owner EVER, but before the days of Donovan McNab). More beer was drunk. Then half-time. My conservative (though generous amongst friends) companion then bought us six-more foul and overpriced "beers". I assumed he bought that many because it was watery.

We went outside and camped ourselves leaning against the inner wall overlooking the central area of one of the circular pedestrian ramp-ways (depicted right) that are strategically positioned at the corners of the stadium. We imbibed a bit more, smoked a cigarette. I noticed more people congregating and looking down. Didn't think much of it. My friend
took out a dollar, and tossed it over the wall whence it floated down many floors below, before settling on the ground level. Other people started tossing coins, their chimes echoing over the noise as they hit the bottom. Were they, like pennies in a fountain, making wishes to insure the Giants overcome Phila's feeble efforts? I couldn't imagine what was to come. My "friend" now tossed a fiver ove rthe side (thats prolly $50 v.2008.2 money). More coins. More dollars - even a few tenners - showered down. There was some commotion going on below. Someone was climbing the fence at the ground level, a young black kid it seemed. The gallery was now filled to the brim. My conservative friend had an ear-to-ear grin, and proudly said: "Watch This!" The kid went over the top of the fence, landed feet-first inside and started scurrying to pick-up money. As soon as this young gladiator started, Romanii in the galleries began hooting and howling and pelting him from all sides and all levels - five and six floors up - with coins, anything and everything, making him cover his head, and whincing as they hit him. Half-full cups of Pepsi and Ice cubes created mini-explosions as the fell from more than 100 feet up. One even hit its target. The kid was going for the paper. My "friend" hurls one of the beers down with venom - it misses the mark- but the spray-shrapnel leaves a slick foaming residue, upon which he slips. More coins hit him, and after 45 seconds like a rider bucked off the Electronic Bull, he scurries out and over the fence, less enthusiastic than when he began. I look over at my "friend" (inverted commas indicating my increasing discomfiture) and he's laughing his ass off, and can't understand why I don't find it as amusing as he does. This continues with several more black kids having a go, before the audience runs out of beer, money and ammunition, the second-half is set to begin, and police make their way to break up the spectacle. So, I'd suggest if the NYT fuss is over the exposing of one's tits for some cash, I'd say while it's certainly no LESS venal, and probably a cultural improvement over 20 years ago.

Liberals think that such a spectacle is simply "wrong". They may not wish to legislate against it, but they viscerally feel something's awry, and will at the least try to both understand the problem, and if possible, solve or ameliorate it, with respect to the conventions of sober-minded cost vs. benefit analysis. Conservatives, by contrast, gleefully see as a reflection of, no Celebration of "the market - for nobody made them do it." This ignores links between their poverty and society as if their fate and condition is somehow, entirely self-inflicted. Though even IF one accepts society's organization and events which have gone before were responsible for the poverty, lack of opportunity, or what have you, (strong motivators the world over), one still needs to feel some responsibility to the community and society, to feel the least bit culpable. In the curious conservative mind, however, "the best public interest" seemingly "is no public interest!" This sufficiently distances The Conservative from the tether of any responsibility such that he/she can now self-justifyingly pursue that which may please them, without respect to consequence to others or the common the good. It also apparently is without regards to the inherent logical inconsistencies and hypocrisy of such a position. Indeed, The Conservative desires to see a firm line on immigration, but sees no problem in hiring a housekeeper or nanny working illegally in order to save money, nor do they understand the connection between their "cheap" restaurant food, and so-called "efficient" distribution system, and the same "cheap" illegal labour that makes it so. They are likewise intent upon maintaining a robust defense and projecting American power abroad, yet fail to see the connection between the expenditure and the revenue required to fund it. They similarly believe that the private sector is always the best answer to delivering services to the people, yet fail to comprehend that this same private sector has caused America to spend approximately 17% - or between one-and-a-half to TWICE what other OECD nations expend - for WORSE outcomes and hardly-extensive coverage. Yet despite their apparent faith in the private sector, they do not seemingly believe that the one and the same private sector's welfare can be left to chance, such that further knee-jerk monetary & fiscal pump-priming - even beyond which is implied by the Taylor Rule - is required to save the private sector from itself. And there are more logical singularities: inconsequential to the important policy debates, highly indicative the flawed reasoning around which Conservative thought orbits. In their world, every life is apparently sacred (unless it be a gay or lesbian life), and personal liberties are sacrosanct so long as they are evangelically-approved - a moral rock/paper/scissors outcome that confers superiority to guns over sex, and flags over birth-control pills, and images of murder over those of, yes, a woman's [divinely created?] teat.

It's a shame to have to generalize, for there are undoubtedly logical and principled people, who may be labeled conservatives though who abhor such inconsistencies, but such is the nature of the two-party system. Maybe its not conservatism per se, The Republican Party - a strange form of crony-moralistic-authoritarian- feed-my-selfish-greedy- friends-at- the-troughism that was characteristic of the Nixon and Bush-2 Administrations and which spawned all manner of strangeness, from "disco" and "bell-bottoms" to Abu-Ghraib, Creationism, and the emergence of Alberto Gonzalez.

Liberals undoubtedly make policy mistakes, but importantly they will be different mistakes, resulting not from venality and mal-intent, but from mis-calculation, or well-intentioned mis-understanding. The people they will hire will be more honest, or at the very least, less corrupt and partisan in respect of the money-interests of their friends and themselves. All these distinctionsmatter. Liberals' mistakes, in general are akin to smoking pot - dopey, but endearingly benign - whereas conservatives' mistakes resemble those resulting from a bourbon binge- leading to all manner of baseless intoxicated triumphalism and a car-wreck or two, often with fatalities, including more-than-a-few innocents, which is the bothersome bit, in what might be an otherwise satisfyingly Darwinian outcome. But the bottom-line is that flexible, but clear-thinking, the public interest, and less-than ideological, outcome-driven result - virtuous prerequisites for societal leadership in modernity will more likely result from the Liberal mind, than the faith-based and parochially-selfish. Please vote accordingly.

For years, my "friend" and I bridged our political differences, though since the abortion of this administration and the realization of this Cassandra's most dire warnings, and the increasing role of "faith" in his politics, I speak and correspond with him less and less. I do not know whether he has tired of defending positions that dangle from "sky-hooks", or whether he, like America, prefers not to confront the embarrassment of what "being so wrong" has brought to the country...


Anonymous said...


Have you thought about the morphing of the Right over the past few decades? Taft, aka "Mister Republican", was against the US being in NATO. Now the US gets to spread democracy at gunpoint in a long or even endless war. Not really endless, though, as the American economy will be on lifesupport at some point.

It seems to me that a big part of this morphing is from a more live-and-let-live, good government approach to an aggressive, and even indifferent way of looking at things.

But this may have been inevitable as the government has become so powerful that the old approach was no longer viable for conservatives. I told my liberal friends decades ago that they wouldn't be happy when Republicans decided that they liked an activist government.

Another thing I've observed is that conservatives have been called names for so long, that they no longer cared if they were called heartless. They either ignore the words or relish the attacks.

Mencius Moldbug said...

This is why I'm a reactionary, not a conservative.

Conservatism simply makes no sense. A conservative is someone in a boat on a fast-moving river which he feels, for some vague reason, is flowing toward a waterfall. So he rows opposite the flow. It does not get him anywhere in a forward direction - in fact, it does not seem to do much of anything at all. It might get him a job, though, although it will not be a very stable job.

A reactionary is someone who has the same feeling, but rows sideways or at least diagonally. His main concern is to get off of the freakin' river.

Of course, if you are confident that progress is just progress and there is no waterfall, both the conservative and the reactionary are crazies and they are both wasting their time.

For a while I've been looking for a single piece of evidence, something anyone can read in five minutes, that makes the case for a waterfall. Sort of a neoreactionary Donation of Constantine, except not forged. So far my best candidate is this - give it a shot.

It strikes me as clear that Rudd's letter represents pure evil in the most modern and effective form that 1968 had to offer. It also strikes me as clear that the "stickup" was generally successful. Grayson Kirk lasted another six months. But he was basically finished. As for LeRoi Jones, he is of course better known as Amiri Baraka.

If you agree with this logic, the resulting institutions are the educational equivalent of HIV-infected T-cells. Whichever political faction is the most effective in opposing them is the faction I support. Of course this is at present a very low bar, but the yahoos you describe above - Yahoo though they be - clearly come the closest to clearing it.

Certainly closer than most of the intelligent and thoughtful people I know. I find this conundrum extremely dangerous and unpleasant, but it is the reality I see. I hope others can at least evaluate the possibility that I am right.

If you still have trouble imagining how I could be concerned, imagine if right-wing Christians captured the universities in just this manner...

"Cassandra" said...

Anon - There is nothing that deterministically suggests conservatives should be so, or behave thus in America. They just have. I actually believe that people are genetically predisposed towards progressiveness or conservatism in reasonably stable distrubtions across global populations, and there is (one might surmise) good evolutionary reasons for such a balance. I accept this, and people's whose politics differ, for diversity is generally good, if not sometimes absurd. But my target here is not to slander pure ideology, but damn the looting and thievery that's been fostered by this administration for parochial gain and retention of power - which has cleverly preyed upon genetic predispositions, manipulable belief structures, economic ignorance, moral fears and limited political choice within the American system to appropriate the levers of power for rather cynical parochial gain. In this sense, I hope my friend Moldbug understands this is no personal attack, or attack upon his values, but more an indictment of the class of leader that cloaks themselves in a bastardized conservative ideology, that bears little resemblence to the purer philosophy or offshoots.

(I wrote this Moldy, before your comment, but was waylaid by munchkin duties, and a confrontation with British Airways).

As for Rudds letter, it's not a bad start on your 300-second quest, but I see it as a folly of youth, rather than pure evil, Luc Besson-syle. Not without risk (witness what the Bolshies or Mao wrought), but likely to dissipate with time, a child, and confrontation with the practical difficulties of the daily grind, even in Shangri-la. Your picture is vivid, and effective (as usual). Your taunt to don your vision, is easily accomplished, but I find it a bit of a straw man. Bad ideas are simply bad ideas, and they are spawned across the ideological continuum. Your strategy (if I understand it correctly) seems strangely idealistic for you: "Oppose them all, for none are sufficiently perfect (though those in particular are hideous..."
Reality is satisfycing. I feel able to make the less-bad decision, choose the least-bad evil, tolerate a few cranks from whatever persusion, for the sake allowing the possibility of brilliant eccentricity. The choice we face is not National Socialism v. idealistix 60s version of Mao's barefoot Dr. China (before having its accreditation revised), is it? Surely the systemic political choices we face are far more about tempering potential abusive power-relations, minimizing negative and maximizing positive externalities inherent in every decision we (individual corps, local/state/fed/intl govt) make that affects others, than anything ideological except where the ideology encroaches upon these most basic tenets. I have little fear that Amiri Baraka will triumph in the marketplace of ideas, I DO fear thieving assholes wrapping themselves in religion or patriotism and preying upon basic fears to systematically usurp or abuse power for parochial gain. For IF you can do it for that, it can be appropriated for eugenics and whatever other nefarious agenda it pleases. Mild left, Social Democracy (in post WWII Western Europe ex-Italy) or mildly authoritarian state-capitalism seem far more successful (and sustainable) by comparison, than any of the extremes. The question is: How extreme is current America on the scale?!?

CB said...

Moldbug -

The assumption that you can steer off at an angle and somehow escape an environment is, to say the least, a little curious. Emigration to untarnished Edens is no longer a real possibility.

On another note, there are many who think that the waterfall (with all its weaknesses as a metaphor) IS the political opposition

Mencius Moldbug said...

I think the relevant question is: who is closer to triumphing in the marketplace of ideas? Amiri Baraka, or George W. Bush?

When you compare Bushism to the activities of, say, the John Birch Society at its height, I think there is no comparison at all. Conservatism in America is wildly unfashionable among all the most influential people, and only getting more so. What is even left of the Reagan movement? Huckabee? Who is the Huckabeeist Amiri Baraka? I can't even start.

Whereas when you look at, say, this, you see that Rudd's successors are extremely alive and well. After all, they were never defeated - unlike the John Birch Society. If someone is undefeated, it strikes me as wise to assume he is still quite strong.

Why are there still "racial studies" programs on campuses? How in the world can this be consistent with anything that calls itself "liberal"? This is the elephant in the living room that no one wants to talk about. These movements have not gotten weaker at all. My suspicion is that they still exist because they perform exactly the same function they did in 1968 - they are a source of muscle for settling philosophical disputes. George W. Bush has nothing even remotely similar.

What I fear is not a Maoist revolution. It is a gradual transition into Brezhnevist stagnation, both intellectual and industrial. Certainly as far as the latter goes we are well on our way.

As for metaphors, they cannot be trusted. Probably the river and the waterfall was a little elaborate. My point is simply that political systems need not be reformed incrementally - they can be replaced.

The basic problem with the "marketplace of ideas" theory for me is that, while a marketplace of ideas is all very well and good, what we have in our educational system today is a marketplace of ideas in which Brennus has thrown his sword on the scale. Vae victis! But if you take the sword off, I think it's pretty clear which side of the scale is going to move upward. And I would hesitate to get on the wrong side of this bet.

Charles Butler said...


This all makes me happily remember when my (long late) older brother infiltrated the Canadian Nazi Party on behalf of the Mounties, got hold of their master plan of action, sold it for two thousand 1965 dollars to the Canadian Jewish Congress and buggered off to Mexico.

This notwithdtanding, the absolutely unacceptable authoritarian internal politics of all groups worldwide that have successfully claimed some sort of victim status can be directly traced to a certain Austrian with a funny moustache, from whose actions emanates the solution that has us erring on the side of - what's the word? - and fearing that any deviation will return us to the same old same old.

Meanwhile, all of the cultural and political movements that flowered in the 1960's have remained etched in stone and unaltered to this day, this despite the 'only constant being change' babble of the era. The children of the rebellious baby boom continue to pretend to rebel - but still against the morality of their parents' parents, as if it were even a factor in their lives. The error is in the assumption that the system remains closed, those outside either enemies - the USSR - or the third world - deserving of assistance on the inherent condition that they not attain any real power. These illusions are now null, but I find few suitable replacements.

Part two - Volker and the baby boom...


Anonymous said...

If you want to understand conservatives, all you have to do is read this book