Saturday, September 13, 2014

Never Growing Up: Still 12 After 38 Years

I was one of the early subscribers to Mother Jones magazine,  I don't remember but I think I had the first issue, which I bought on the news stand and I subscribed after that.  I was young and callow, respecting no sacred cows, and had an unbounded and, as it would turn out, unfounded faith that the kind of political change I'd seen happen in the 1960s would continue.   We knew that because, as we would come to say, the left had the facts and the facts would guarantee our ultimate success.  The Nixon administration was, we believed, an anomaly and after overcoming the political plesiosaurs, who were scheduled to to go extinct, we would recommence to win elections and Supreme Court cases. It was just a matter of time and a waiting game.  All we had to do was continue as we had been.  We had unbounded faith in the Supreme Court, based on the, as it would turn out, entirely anomalous Warren Court, which had already passed into history.  But our eventual success was a sure thing.

Only, not, as it turned out.

Beginning in 1980 it became increasingly obvious that there was something very seriously wrong with even our most basic political expectations.  The courts, staffed by Republican appointees, unsurprisingly became increasingly right wing.  Fueled by the "free speech" ruling of Buckley vs Valeo -which had widespread support from "liberal free speech advocates" and broadcast media deregulation,  Republicans made gains and used the media to make conservatism and, then, paleo-conservatism fashionable, winning a generation of younger people even to its most insane ideas.  The recently asserted shift in that, away from the extreme right,  wasn't to the left or the liberal side of things, it was to another position on the right, libertarianism.   Libertarianism is widely mistaken as liberalism, even among many liberals who haven't really understood liberalism.

Increasingly, I became dissatisfied with the line of leftist journalists and their articles which were not informed by the disasters that began, not in 1980 with the election of Reagan but in 1968, with the election of Nixon if not earlier.

I started dropping subscriptions, The Progressive, Mother Jones, even, eventually The Nation.  I retained a subscription to In These Times which seemed to be more interested in the real agenda of the left, winning elections and changing laws for the better than their better known companions. It wasn't that I was abandoning the left, it was that I was, increasingly, aware that too many of the nominal leftists, especially those who made a living by scribbling, weren't really serious about winning in politics and passing a genuinely liberal platform of laws.  Many of them were sufficiently affluent or had affluence within their grasp for the real agenda of the real left to not be the real focus of their interest.

After going online and reading more of the content of those and other magazines of the left,  again, I'm left with seeing a few sensible articles with a real goal of convincing people that the traditional American liberal agenda is right and serves the common good but also lots of writing which, largely, doesn't serve that cause. Lots and lots of writing for those magazines and websites is guaranteed to harm it, politically and culturally.  Even to negate its intellectual foundations.  

I see most of the magazines nominally of the left serving the self-deluded preening of those stuck in the same place I was in 1976, convincing themselves that there is nothing wrong with some of the worst ideas and, more so,  the practices of "the left".  It is not uncommon for them to assert, tacitly or explicitly that it is the stupid mass of humanity that are the problem and they would, somehow, take power and change things while mocking and insulting the majority of people, intentionally offending them, depending on Supreme Court rulings to enable them to do that under "free speech".

I have come to believe that there is a tendency among those who write and sell images and movies for a living that makes them quite short sighted, mistaking their professional and, um, artistic liberties as being the most important thing and the only important thing in the entire universe, certainly in politics.  In that they are merely showing that those who are self-interested are too narrowly focused to produce a realistic, successful politics of a decent society.   The libertarian, who used to be universally mistaken for a liberal, Nat Hentoff, has involuntarily volunteered to be my poster example of that, though there are hundreds who could serve as well.


Mother Jones has a bit of atheist click bait up which proves that even when there is a legitimate use of an event to make a point that you can screw it up by appealing to self-indulgence.   The story is about the possibility that a stupid 14-year-old kid could get two years in juvie for posting photos of himself getting a simulated blow job from a statue of Jesus, using live photos instead of photo-shopping.  I agree with the comments that said the kid should get some hours of community service for violating private property and being a public nuisance.  If he were permitted to do what he did then every stupid kid would be doing it and that wouldn't be tolerated.  Elections would be lost, worse judges appointed to enforce them, etc.  That is the real life alternative under the Roberts Court or, really, in reality.

Despite what the Christian bashers claim, if he used an entirely secular statue of a soldier at a war monument for something similar, I believe the reaction would be far more serious and he would find himself in a lot more hot water.   If, say, he used a statue of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. or Malcolm X that way, even the Mother Jones kids would not see it the same way.   I can only imagine what a fundamentalist using the tacky statue that the atheist "Pagans" of New York City propose to inflict on residents of Oklahoma would elicit from the atheist clickers.

This story could have made a small article about over-sentencing for a stupid and minor violation of private property and the stupidity of offending people, needlessly. Or it could even have been used to set off a legal debate about the wisdom of laws against intentionally giving offense, on which reasonable people might legitimately disagree.   But, being primarily a political blogger, it is the politics of it that interest me the most.  

Mother Jones and the writers of stories like this know full well that they are inviting atheist clickers and other haters to click away, stupidly, offensively, ignorantly about how stupid the c. 85% + percent of the population who are Christians are, how they have a right to offend Christians and how Christians are stupid for being offended when they intentionally offend them.  And, if someone, such as yours truly, brings up the fact that offended Christians vote and that their votes are what, ultimately, determine what the laws that are passed are and how those laws are interpreted by judges appointed by elected officials - when they aren't elected, themselves - the atheist click club have a swivet about how that isn't fair and it's mean and that people are poop heads for voting in reaction to them.  

Those who can think that far ahead will prophesy that they are on the verge of winning, man, and then things will be different.  The same things we were telling ourselves back in 1976 when Mother Jones was new and Ray Mungo - a minor, former merry trickster style scribbler of the time -  held the position as its "Religion Editor" to some very juvenile results.   As I recall Mungo's act didn't make it with me to 1980, the final straw coming, as I recall, even before his self-indulgent scribbling over his irresponsible stunt bankruptcy. By 1980 I didn't find that kind of cunningly irresponsible behavior among adults funny anymore.   I certainly didn't after Reagan was elected.

Apparently the ability to get atheists to click onto stories like this one has an effect on what Mother Jones reports and how it reports it.   Which would be stupid but less stupid if it were not selling itself as a serious political magazine, allegedly advocating serious political change through elections.  It is even stupider when the effects of this in the general society are considered.

In one of the idiotic comments, the over-the-top claim is made that what is being done in this case is "akin" to issuing an assassination threat over drawing a cartoon of Muhammad, which it clearly is not.  Though that brings us to the fact that no matter how much atheists want to ignore it, the fact is that what offends people is not for them to say.  Nor is it for them to say how offended people will be by things they say and do.   And it is certainly not within their ability to prevent people from acting on that offense, by voting against the side they believe has intentionally offended them or, in the most extreme case, responding in ways that get people killed.

People on the play left had better get used to the fact that it is not going to convert The United States to atheism or even a form of dereligionized secularism in their political behavior.  

The history of mockery and derision of Christians by those on the left has been very useful but only to our political opponents and it will continue to be because after a decade of the most intense and concentrated expression of that derision and mockery, atheism has hardly increased its percentage and the left is totally and absolutely hollowed out and powerless.  Barack Obama's election is the best we have to show for things and that isn't even where we were in 1964, it is no where near that high water mark for liberals in politics.

That was about the time that the Supreme Court rulings on prayer in schools and other rather minor issues began to give the fundamentalist right something to rally round.  If that ruling, which was right and good, AND WHICH WAS BROUGHT ORIGINALLY BY JEWISH PARENTS.  had not become the hobby horse which atheists like Madelyn Murray (O'Hair) hijacked and rode to fame and fortune, perhaps it would not have been so useful to the fundamentalist revival.  Lots of religious people who were minorities in their geographic area and others approved of the ruling.  But that's not how it was used, by atheist and by the Republicans who saw the opportunity in what was, actually, a rather minor issue of rights but which was of enormous cultural significance for an enormous number of people.  People who voted in the increasingly conservative and reactionary politicians, those who, within that period, made Barry Goldwater go from on the most extreme right to a center right politician.

The importance of the tiny number of atheists nominally on the left who insist on acting like jerks in weakening and defeating the left will have to be faced because they are not growing up.  The evidence is that they will never grow up.  I think they don't grow up because they, by and large, don't really care about the agenda of the left.  They certainly don't care enough to learn anything from the disaster that the past fifty years have been for the left, for the agenda of traditional American liberalism.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Gospel Is The Most Radical Thing Of All

In the commemoration of the attacks of 9-11 yesterday, in the pious invocations that came to me over the filter of the media, I didn't hear this*, the hardest of all hard teachings of the man who was so often invoked yesterday.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount. 
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Luke 6:27-32

I would guess that every, single Christian who has ever lived, even the best of them has found it impossible to live up to this standard.   We all fall short of this standard but the closer we could get to it the closer the world would come to the most radical of all possible political ideals and surpass those.   There is nothing I know about that comes close to the radical content of this message that completely rejects pragmatism and the cynical view of human life as transactions in a crooked market place.   There is no Marx or other secular radical whose vision comes close and none whose program is as likely to really change things for the better.   The others are just another form of transaction, not removing life from that muck and mire.

* Though I would have if I'd gone to mass, as, by chance, it was the gospel reading for yesterday.  Curious to hear what a priest might have to say about it, I listened to this recording of yesterday's mass on Catholic TV.   The excellent homily begins at about  8:30.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Answer To A Complaint block my comments!!!!!......

Well, that's the cleaned up version of it.  

Contained in the rant is the weird belief that I'm obligated by the First Amendment of the Constitution to post comments by people who misrepresent what I said, who don't understand what I said, who call me names (really, you think I haven't heard worse before?) who insult me, who insult other people ....

No, I'm not required to host comments like yours and I won't.  Not anymore.  There are plenty of blogs that allow you to lie about and insult people, this isn't one of them.  I can do what is in the right of anyone in any medium, choose what I decide to host.   If you want to disagree with something I said, disagree honestly with what I said and your chances of getting through moderation will increase. 

Also a right, if you choose to provide me with easy to write material on a day like this one, when I'm scrambling to make a living,  I'm going to use what you give me.  

And in extended form, almost how I'd put it today, from my first months of blogging.
The quite rude e-mail challenges .....

“ ... you are against freedom of speech how can you call yourself a liberal ..."

I am the kind of leftist who has left behind the comfortable world of easily repeated ideas for the much more troubled and confusing world of real life. When I see inequality and preventable suffering and early death in real, living people and other beings it somehow seems more urgent to me than if a commercial opportunity is lost in a movie or book deal. NOT that I’m unconcerned about book burning or its more modern equivalent, it just isn’t my FIRST priority.

As stated in one of my early posts, I don’t even get to considering if fascists and Nazis are given every courtesy. I don’t wake in the night and worry that there is a liberal somewhere suppressing their freedom to advocate destroying other peoples’ freedom along with many lives. You can add the commercial lives of pornographers, pimps, stockbrokers, executives, board members, think tank dross, media whores and many others to the bottom of my list of concerns. Maybe there will be time to worry about their rights to publish their lies and junk once we’ve secured the non-commercial right to tell the truth effectively, in the mass media. That day isn’t coming anytime soon, though.

By the way, it might shock or even please you to know that I don’t advocate suppressing any kind of non-photographic depiction of even the most immoral sex act, provided no living beings or photographs are used in its production and the exhibition is to consenting adults only. It’s the use of people and animals I’m opposed to, not sexual stimulation, no matter how much it might disgust me. I won’t delay a letter supporting nutrition programs or barrier island protection to spend time defending the ‘artiste’s right of expression’ but I don’t advocate suppressing it either.

Writing this blog has forced me to think out and write out a lot of ideas that just went randomly through consideration before. It comes down to what is most important in real life and what will put the left in power. Many blogs are based in repetitions of the Liberal Code of Ethics, no one needs another one of those. We have been following The Code into failure for the greater part of a century. Time is short, we have to try new things. You’d think that would come naturally to liberals.

As leftists, as believers in equality, in the common good, as believers in democracy and liberty we need to act in the most effective ways possible for the good of living beings. Anything else is political pulp. Leftism, liberalism that puts more value on theories than it puts on real lives turns sour. Those kinds of liberals and leftists are the ones who get book deals, who get their faces on TV and their voices on radio. Their ideas are unchallenging and easily digested, much easier to take than real life. You’re more likely to get that from listening to a public health nurse or minimum wage sales clerk

In addition to a quick read or listen, the standard theories can provide a lifetime of intellectual diversion. Their alleged ideals can make you feel good about yourself as you sit in your middle class or higher level abode, far above the suffering mass of humanity who, good liberals regret, are suffering. The regret of the comfortable theorists doesn’t extend to regretting that they aren’t really going to do a damned thing about it if it means making themselves in the slightest bit unpopular among the gate keepers of progressive propriety and thus unmarketable.

Then there are the great liberal thinkers who turn out to be conservatives, most typically under the cover of theoretical revelation. They usually didn’t exhibit much concern for people without power or connections as leftists, being more interested in their intellectual tinker toys. It is too little noted how much better most of them do for themselves as conservatives. The rewards of apostasy are great.

Here I can answer another e-mailer a couple of months back, no, I’m not a contrarian. I don’t oppose ideas just to be a jerk, to preen in a pose of rugged individuality. I don’t want to have anything in common with Christopher Hitchens. And, please notice, I’m anonymous. There are exactly two other people who know who I am in real life and they’re not always impressed. They tell me.

I don’t care much for theory. Tried it, found it wanting, found its social milieu fraught with dishonesty. The ease and fun of rearranging ideas was a temptation when I was young but when I noticed the first intimations of mortality the urgency of actually leaving a better world for younger people eclipsed them. The left has had decades of failure chasing theories and purity. Until it puts real life before theory it will continue to fail.

There is a story that, settling in Southern California after having to flee the Nazis, Arnold Schoenberg was approached by a movie producer who had been told, with epic understatement, that he was a great composer. The producer wanted him to write music for a movie version of “The Good Earth”. While discussing the project the producer described the wife going in from the field, giving birth and then returning back to work. Schoenberg is reported to have said, “Who needs music at a time like that?” . The great ones know that life is more important than even the greatest art.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I don't know why only one piece is appearing on the home page of the blog, that happens from time to time.  If you want to read something else, you can get to it from the archive.

No Time To Write Today So Here's A Recent Exchange

This began with a comment at Mother Jones about Hillary Cinton's praise for the at-large criminal, Henry Kissinger.

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    This is about as close to being a deal breaker for me as it comes. I have yet to understand why she did it.

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        Do you follow her historical actions? If so, this is not new at all.

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            A measure of hypocrisy and dishonesty is almost guaranteed in politics. We aren't choosing among saints but among which of the rotters is the least rotten. That is reality, if you don't try for the less rotten you are bound to get the more rotten.
            In an ideal world I'd be choosing between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren but this isn't an ideal world.

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                Nice. But accepting the lesser of two evils for decades has gotten us to the place we are now. If you were hiring a new employee, would you use the same least of two turds, or would you find a good canidate?

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                    Choosing the worst of two evils would not have gotten us to a better place.
                    On the other hand, I am confident that if Hubert Humphrey had won in 1968 things would be a lot better than they are now.

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                        Reality. If you own a company, and you are hiring a new CEO. Do you settle, or demand the best? I think if you settle, you end up struggling, like our country has been for a few decades.

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                            The country is not a business. To ignore that even if there was a functional left in the United States that could elect a real liberal as president, on occasion, it wouldn't have the choice of choosing the president by itself is the beginning of a common delusion on the left. We don't get to get who we would want in an ideal world, we get to make the best choice from the possible candidates who will, really, take the office the next January. Getting "the best" is not a real possible alternative of us "demanding the best" in the real world we live in. We will get either of the lesser of two evils provided by the nominating system we have , not "the best". We can only come closer to it instead of farther from it. It's high time that the left grew up and faced reality instead of the idiots such as the Greens and the others who refuse to face reality.
                            It's a complex problem, for the left. But another big part of the delusion is that the fad for free speech absolutism, which has been adopted by the fascist wing of the Supreme Court to corrupt our politics just as it has the corporate media to sell itself as a propaganda arm for the far right, among other things, destroying better possible candidates during the nomination process. Howard Dean, Tom Harkin, Mo Udall... were all vetoed by the media who concentrated on weaker more centrist candidates, who, even when they manage to win, govern to the right of Dwight Eisenhower. They don't have any choice because the media begins to attack them as soon as they have the nomination and even if they win. It accounts for a good part of the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations. They destroyed Jimmy Carter's administration and subsequent Democratic presidents drew the lesson that they had better not try to do anything in the agenda of real Democrats or they will be similarly attacked.
                            Media deregulation, removing the Fairness Doctrine, and, especially granting them a permit to lie under the Sullivan decision, all supported by the most foolish people on the left, is what produced our corrupt political system after a short period when it was somewhat better.