Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Valuable and important... but

George Lakoff is a worthwhile thinker and presence -- and his latest discussion of the proper way to frame political discourse in America makes a valuable contribution. It would certainly be good if Democrats did what he suggests. It would indicate movement back toward being capable of political success and the capacity to turn that into a better world -- the capacity actually to govern.

However, his argument only goes so far. In the interest of reinforcing the long-term "brands" of these competitors, he tends to ignore the existing context -- the climate and zeitgeist within which these philosophical and moral struggles are playing out. I don't mean the issues du jour, much less the distractions and gaffe-mongering. I mean the broad trajectories.

Simply put, when things are heading south and people are unhappy -- are more fearful or angry than hopeful -- it's hard for an optimistic frame to resonate. And not surprisingly, nobody is offering one today. People keep chastising both Romney and Obama for not doing so -- but how could they? Nobody would hear it. What people are actually eager for is somebody to blame for how they feel. The Republicans have their candidate -- government. Obama and the feckless Dems have been reluctant to finger theirs -- the malefactors of great wealth, Wall St., the 1 percent. 

It's not surprising that Lakoff is happier these days with Obama. Our president is, finally, articulating a Lakovian frame -- the idea of the public. But unless the Dems effectively finger the opponents of that idea -- the enemies of the public -- it won't do the work it needs to do.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Actually Wanting to Win

This blog was forged in the Mt. Doom of the '08 primaries, fueled by the misogyny and anti-Boomer, "post-partisan" fallacies of the still-crawling-toward-Bethlehem-to-be-reborn Democratic Party. For many people, that is now yesterday's news. Perhaps this includes Bill and Hillary themselves. I have more trouble getting past it -- though I definitely want Obama and the Dems to win this November. Even if I can't get progressivism, even if I can't have someone who would read Krugman and turn those analyses into legislation... when forced to choose between feckless -- or even corporatist -- "centrists" and a batshit wingnut road to hell, I'll choose the former. It really will matter to millions of people's lives.


It is a mordant irony to see the political and policy fratboy amateurs of the Cult of the Precious turn, once again, to a Clinton to bail them out. After demonizing them, slandering them, rejecting the wisdom and the smarts that they had brought to this floundering institution. Once again, a Clinton is carrying their water, after they have pissed all over his leg. Once again, they find themselves turning to actual leaders, who actually want to win, and know how to do so.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Krugman again, on the mark again -- this time about the narcissistic dimension of our elites' insanity. I would just add that it's not only about wealth and privilege (pace F. Scott). It's about isolation (cue Jared Diamond). 

My experience in corporate America has made it clear to me that the putative emotional-familial structure of hierarchical organizations (and by extension, societies) is, in fact, a willful collective delusion. We tell ourselves that our leaders are like parents and those they lead are like children -- but the emotional truth is precisely the opposite. Executives are emotional babies, in need of constant stroking and assurance that they are wise, powerful, beautiful, beloved. The workers of any organization play the role of the grown-up, reassuring and protecting them. 

Why do we do this?  Because we want there to be leaders (and, eventually, to be a god). We find a life in which there is no final authority -- a genuinely open uiniverse -- too frightening. We're acutely aware of our own limitations, and we long for a loving authority who will protect us from having to be adults. So we invent one, we invent more than one. We tell ourselves and them that they actually exist.

This collective fiction can be sustained when the overall system is more or less stable and broadly beneficial. But when it breaks down, when the power imbalances get too wide, and a correction is required, the emotional dishonesty is suddenly unavoidable. What we're hearing from these criminal infants on Wall St. is not just the deranged hypersensitivity of the bubble-ensconced rich brat (though the thought does occur that bubbles beget other bubbles). It's the desperate cris de coeur of the naked emperor, the dreamer of the universal dream of inadequacy who has suddenly been woken up. They have to blame that on somebody. Being awake is too scary.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stop, now, what's that sound?

As someone once noted, paranoia strikes doofy -- this time in Nutlanta. Bike out of line, one of America's two major political parties come and take you away.

'Tis the time's plague, when the mad lead the bland.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Beyond shameless

John Yoo, the soft-spoken Dr. Strangelove of the imperial executive, the legal architect of the president's right to torture, has no bottom. Keep diving, and you'll never hit it. Even the Balrog eventually hit a floor.

Witness his remarkable op-ed in the Wall Street Journal denouncing John Roberts for, he claims, immeasurably strengthening the power of the Federal government. Yes, our government must be entirely free to spy on, detain, torture and kill us -- but god forbid it should seek to protect or help us.

This man is evil.