Saturday, October 14, 2006

What Bugs You Most...

...about people like Ann Coulter?

[A] That they fanatically adhere to conservative beliefs on the basis of weak arguments.

[B] That they fanatically adhere to conservative beliefs.

[C] That they adhere to conservative beliefs on the basis of weak arguments.

[D] That they adhere to conservative beliefs.

[E] That they fanatically adhere to beliefs on the basis of weak arguments.


{Sticklers for completeness might want to include two more permutations, but I'll skip them.}


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A, though I think E and B are sufficient bug me significantly. I recall the first time I read something she wrote it was a painfully -- I hesitate to us the word 'reasoned' -- done piece about some Supreme Court decision and thinking that I had not before truly held the contempt for her that she deserved.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm missing the syllogism here. Seems more like tautology. Can't tell the Kant from the cant anymore.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom -- it's a Rorshach test.
The philosophically correct answer is 'E'.
The mindlessly partisan liberal choices are D or B. (D is a red herring to make partisan suckers go for 'B'.)
The agonized, principle conservative choice is 'A'.

The conundrum is 'C'. I'm not sure whether 'C' is even possible--can you persist in holding beliefs on the basis of weak arguments in a genuninely non-fanatic way? Isn't that the definition of fanaticism?)


10:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Only if you're a cyborg, Mac, or as CS Lewis called them, Men Without Chests. I continue to lean against capital punishment even though I find the arguments for it stronger. I freely admit my confusion.

I guess in the end, we have some inclination toward something beyond our reason. The only use for discussion is to make sure that we're not on some mental jag that a reasonable argument can deconstruct. Otherwise, as always, we're on our own, hearing the arguments, listening to the poetry, and comparing them both to real life.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom --

I understood Winston to mean 'claim' when he said 'belief', rather than 'tenet.' By fanatically held belief with weak arguments, I mean things like:

‘Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes,’ -- Tom Delay*

'Budget deficits don't matter' -- Dick Cheney

Saddam had WMD, and they are still there; the inspectors just didn't find them. -- Curt Weldon (paraphrase)

There are plenty more reality-defying claims used in setting modern Republican policy.

* Unless he meant that we should cut taxes to ensure the government is too broke to start a war. But nobody ever confused Tom Delay with an anarcho-capitalist.

-- mac

12:43 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


mac's on the right track...

I had intended to go back through and delete 'fanatical' from ALL the options...

Time for a do-over...

8:13 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I know you see cutting taxes as a moral offense, but the economy seems to have responded well to them. It's also my understanging that the deficit as a %age of GDP is OK.

Curt Weldon is an, um interesting fellow, who also wanted to charge Clinton with treason over his China/Loral deal. I could certainly live without him, as I'm living well without Tom DeLay too, who will not be missed.

Yes, "fanatical" was gilding the lily. Using it, especially multiple times, makes the author seem, well, fanatical.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I choose E, but would add another, F:

That they profess beliefs on the basis of weak, dissembled arguments.

You see, I believe that (many) people like Coulter actually choose conservatism because it is the political philosophy which excuses private wealth got by looting the common weal. If a liberal is corrupt and lining his own pockets, he's flying in the face of liberal ideas; if a conservative does the same, his actions are at least consonant with his ostensible philosophy. As I read in an essay a while back, conservatives feel that "since government is a whore, you might as well treat it like one."

And that's only the tip of the iceberg; consider for example, Anne Coulter's blithe suggestions that violence against liberals is just a peachy idea. Do we not have a choice between concluding either that "Conservatism is a violent philosophy" or "Conservatism, as a philosophy, can be used as a justification by those already disposed to violence." Lest I be accused of tarring all conservatives unfairly, I obviously do not direct this comment toward conservative pacifists. If there are any. Maybe the Amish.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom writes:
> I know you see cutting taxes as a moral offense, but the economy seems to have responded well to them.
>It's also my understanging that the deficit as a %age of GDP is OK.

I don't see cutting taxes as a moral offense. I do see running a structural federal deficit as a moral offense. I particularly see using a structural federal deficit as a political ploy to destroy social security as a moral offense. Thomas Jefferson proposed that all federal deficits should be paid off within 1 generation (20 years). He hasn't been disproven yet. (Previous attempts to devalue currency as a means to fund a government have generally proven disastrous for the economy and the middle class and working poor in particular.)

- mac

3:40 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I don't know who the 'you' was there.

We never talk about cutting taxes around here, do we?

Actually, I have some sympathy with the small government crowd.

Now, as for charging the Clenis with treason...NOW we're talking! He is, after all, responsible for every bad thing that's ever happened to this country including the Lincoln assassination...

I, for one, am just glad that we have an administration that has brought honor and respect for personal responsibility back to the White House.

Funny how of the following three presidents:

Reagan, Clinton, Bush '43

Only one of them did NOT deserve impeachment...and he's the only one that got it.

Crazy country, man.

Crazy country.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Winston --

it's an amazing phenomenon, init? Liberals like myself having to lecture conservatives on what are supposed to be conservative tenets, things like small debt, solid currency, and other economic basics. When Nixon and Rumsfeld implemented price controls(!), the Republican party lost it's economic moral compass. They had a chance of getting it back under Bush Sr, but the prodigal son lost it for all time.

Crazy, crazy country.


2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard conservatives bragging that they were going to impeach Clenis after the '94 election. He hadn't even met Monica yet; but now they had the votes, and the charges would follow. I've found over the years that assuming the worst about their motives is usually the best predictor of their next move. I remember back circa 1980 when I lived with rad-lefties in Cambridge, and read (wild-sounding) pamphlets about how the conservatives and oil men were going to get us mixed up in Middle East wars and what a mess it was going to be. It took a while, but the crazylefties turned out to be correct.

No Republican president since the Seventies, incidentally, was truly legitimate. 43, of course, stole 2000 in Florida and 2004 in Ohio, using increasingly complex methods; but Reagan stole the 1980 election through treasonous dealings with Iran during the hostage crisis, and Bush 41 was part of the same plot. If this seems baseless, read Robert Parry's earth-shattering archives demolishing 41's and Wild Bill Casey's alibis which "prove" they could not have gone to meet the Iranians in 1980:

3:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Will read, tho I'm skeptical.

The latest and most credible-seeming report I heard re: Reagan-Bush Iran-related electoral shenanigans went like this:

The Mullahs say that rich Republican donors were in cahoots with 'em, but no officials from Reagan-Bush were involved.

No one has any reason to take this seriously, as even I've forgotten the source...nothing like unsourced third-hand "information"...

4:29 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Mac, your statement is pretty close to what I read in the libertarian Reason magazine.

But if you can find any spending cuts Democrats want to make besides the defense budget, I'm all ears.

(Yes, yes, "corporate welfare," but that's really a very minor slice of the pie, not that I would object to cutting it.)

"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."---GBS

Fact is, we as a country like the New Deal, even compassionate conservatives, which is why Bush hasn't cut squat. Of course, we can't pay for it, as Europe is learning now, 30 years before the fit is scheduled to hit the shan here. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly what part of the New Deal can't we pay for?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I dunno, ask Europe. Their bills are due.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parry is not some amateur; he broke many of the Iran-contra stories with Newsweek and AP. Bartcop ( ) often calls Consortium News "The most important site on the Internet." It has other hair-raising investigative articles. I recommend starting with this one, which actually offers photographic evidence that Casey didn't make it to a meeting that was supposed to be his alibi:

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TVD, there are some who are less than pessimistic about the future:

While the pessimists fret about the problems to come as if ageing is some new challenge, they ignore the fact that this has been a remarkably constant feature of industrialised countries since the latter part of the nineteenth century, and societies have had no difficulties 'coping' with it in the past.


Because I care.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ya know, I have no Earthly idea whether New-Deal-esque welfare states can survive financially.

No idea at all.

I wish I did, but I just don't. This is the kind of question on which one should normally be able to depend on the authority of experts...but it's so politicized that I don't know whom to trust.

All I want is the straight up facts about this. I just want to know the answer. I've got no political axe to grind, I'll be satisfied with an answer either way so long as it's true.

So anybody know where to go to get, say, the unadorned consensus of, say, most economists on this question?

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the point is Social Security and Medicare, here are a few facts for y'all to chew on.

First of all, Medicare (which is a Great Society program and not a New Deal program FWIW), is an actual pending crisis, whereas Social Security is not. Moreover, Medicare is not a pending crisis because of the design of the program, but rather because of the same economics that affect all of health care: super-inflation of costs. Structurally, Medicare has a lower embedded cost of delivery (around 3%) than do private plans (10-25%). So putting everyone onto Medicare (or some other similar single-payer prototype like universal VA) and mimicking the reimbursements of the typical private plan would immediately drop overall costs considerably, without doing anything about the RATE OF INCREASE of costs, unless it imposed global system price controls. Not an optimal solution; very difficult problem and one not conducive to the brief discussion that's suitable here.

As far as economists, I would recommend reading everything you can get your hands on by Uwe Reinhardt if you want to get the opinion of probably the foremost expert in this country on medical economics.

Regarding Social Security, there is no crisis. I repeat, there is no crisis, just a phony one created by snake oil salesmen. Want proof? Check out SOCIAL SECURITY, THE PHONY CRISIS by Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot. Or go here:

This site includes links to the trustees reports, so you can go and read for yourself. The crucial numbers are these:

Trustee report date
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2004
Year when tax revenue falls short of benefits
2012 2012 2013 2014 2015 2018
Year when trust fund income falls below expenditures
2019 2019 2021 2022 2024 2028
Trust fund depletion date
2029 2029 2032 2034 2037 2042
Shortfall as a share of taxable payroll
2.19% 2.23% 2.19% 2.07% 1.89% 1.89%

So you see, the horrible catastrophe that awaits us has actually been RECEDING in time over the past six years, based on the Trustees' own reports.

What's more, the solution, say those who want to dismantle this successful program, is to cut benefits NOW to a level that we MIGHT have to cut them forty years in the future if productivity is far lower than it's averaged over the past two decades. It's laughable on its face as a real argument. (It's also interesting to note that, when concocting their comparative examples under private accounts, they assume capital market returns or 8%+, something which is nearly impossible to achieve under the productivity projections they want to use to disparage SS's prospects. But I digress)

The other thing the propagandists like to do is conflate the on-budget and off-budget deficits to make the structural deficit look larger, disguising the fact that Social Security on its own is far more solvent and well-funded than the General Fund itself. The surpluses in SS are used to hide the projected shortfalls in the General Fund, and then it's argued that we need to cut or eliminate SS because of the on-budget deficits it's helping to minimize in the first place!

Sorry for the long comment, but I think you should educate yourself about Social Security and the long effort to do away with it by the rabid right. It's a textbook example of their intellectual dishonesty in attempting to sell their *ideas* to America under false pretenses, using various think tanks and media outlets, funded by the very narrow groups who have an interest in seeing the social safety net shredded at the expense of the commonweal. Yeah, they have lots of 'ideas' for solutions to problems that don't exist.

P.S. Europe is not necessarily an instructive comparison, because most of the nations there differ from the US in terms of demographic makeup, productivity, generosity of social benefits, longevity and many other relevant factors.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Holy data Batman!

Don't you realize that we're only allowed to spin our wheels and talk through our butts around here?

1:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Our our collective butt...

The Overbutt...

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Don't you realize that we're only allowed to spin our wheels and talk through our butts around here?"

Quite the contrary. It's precisely because you don't do such things that I continue to read and lurk here.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've come round to the view that, as an economic approach, New Deal liberalism is pretty close to the sweet spot between the Scylla-Charybdis of fascism (monarchism, feudalism, or any scheme where a few nobles own almost everything and rob the commoners at will, and that includes Bush republicanism) and communism (i.e. extreme schemes where the State/Party own all and centralize economic decisions).

I have a pet theory that the REAL reason communism collapsed when it did; 1) centralized power is an irresistible lure to violent sociopaths, so you always end up with Stalin and Mao running the country; 2) central economic planning, even when done with best intentions and brightest intellects, suffers an information bottleneck, so factories make too much of the wrong things, none of others (anecdote: I've read that the Soviet Union, run by old men, had no tampon/napkin factories! Even a general's wife had to tear up old t-shirts, while an American working at Mickey D's could get a box of Playtex on the way home); and 3) being a secular dictatorship, offering no afterlife promises, the Communist state in the USSR died at 70, along with the babies of the Revolution, since if it couldn't deliver prosperity in one lifetime, it might not deliver in ten. A religious dictatorship, on the other hand, might last ten thousand years?

Although the New Deal was flawed by racism and other factors endemic to the mid-20th C. mindset, from a purely economic perspective I reiterate that I think it's near the sweet spot; and yes, the claims that it eventually goes bankrupt are rubbish; or, in any case, I would expect fascist and communist economies to go bust sooner.

Somewhere, I read the very interesting point that capitalism and communism, though they were at loggerheads, were both ultimately methods aimed at the same goal, technological materialism.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me amplify a bit on the previous comment: The Chinese communist government didn't collapse, it just stopped being a communist government; they kept the antireligious angle but dumped an economic model that was obviously about to fail.

Also, when I mention the 'information bottleneck' in centrally planned economies, you might wonder for a moment where the information is being processed in a capitalist/free market economy. Answer: it's distributed. Every customer in every shop is handling a small part of this information processing, which of course means more orders for Tampax and less for AK-47's back at the factory. It's a computer metaphor, and that makes it 'hep' and 'groovy.'

7:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Somewhere, I read the very interesting point that capitalism and communism, though they were at loggerheads, were both ultimately methods aimed at the same goal, technological materialism.

There is something to that. You would not like where it leads.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Resistance is futile."

7:18 AM  

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