Subsidiarity and Saddleback

My frustration was showing a couple of weeks ago in a post titled: “Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary, not exclusive, binary and competitive.”

That post consisted almost entirely of the sentence “Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive,” repeated 10 times with each repetition linking to a different longer and deeper discussion of subsidiarity, “sphere sovereignty” or some other framework explaining and exploring the nature of moral responsibility as unavoidably differentiated, mutual and complementary.

My frustration was compounded shortly thereafter by a parade of posters visiting here from Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, most repeating some variation of their pastor’s belief that moral responsibility is exclusive and binary — an either/or, competitive framework rather than a multi-layered, mutual framework of supporting, cooperative and complementary roles.

The members of that congregation believe — rightly! — that “the church” is responsible to meet the needs of the needy, to empower the powerless and to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the least of these.

Unfortunately, due to an ethical and biblical confusion that seems pervasive in that congregation, they therefore conclude that this means that only “the church” bears any such responsibility, and that it is somehow improper or wrong for other actors and agencies, especially governments, to regard themselves as also responsible.

That’s reprehensible theology and, if they really believed a word of it, would reflect an appalling biblical ignorance or illiteracy.

But fortunately they don’t fully believe what they’re saying.

There’s plenty of evidence that they don’t really believe this. I’m sure, for example, that this congregation’s commendable outreach efforts in pursuit of what it claims to believe is its exclusive responsibility includes providing assistance to some families in which a grandmother is raising her grandchildren due to the absence, for whatever reason (death, addiction, incarceration), of their parents.

I’m certain that when the folks from Saddleback encounter such families, they do not seek to seize these children from their grandmothers, or to rebuke those grandmothers for providing such care. That would be consistent with what they claim to believe — that the church is exclusively responsible for those orphans and that this grandmother is thus unjustly usurping the proper responsibility of the church.

But for all their claims of disbelieving in Big Grandmother, they don’t usually act in the lunatic manner that their purported framework of exclusive, binary, competitive responsibility would require.

Despite their vocal denunciations of it, in other words, at some more instinctive level, they appreciate the inescapable nature of subsidiarity. In some unarticulated, only vaguely understood way, they  partially recognize the reality that moral responsibility is always, unavoidably, mutual, differentiated and complementary.

Part of what keeps them from understanding this more clearly, I think, is a murky ecclesiology that makes it difficult for them to explain to me or to themselves what they mean by “the church” when they claim that “the church” is solely and exclusively responsible to care for the poor. Do they mean “the church” as an institution? Or by “the church” do they mean those individuals who belong to that institution, acting individually?

I suspect that if we had been able to discuss that question at greater length than their drive-by declarations in my comment section had allowed, they would have been open to the idea that “the church” could mean both of those things.

That would have been a small but positive step toward getting past the dangerous mistake of viewing responsibility as exclusive. Once it is established and accepted that a Christian bears such responsibility both in their capacity as an individual and in their capacity as a member of the institutional church, then we have opened the door to a fuller, more human understanding of responsibility. Once the possibility of such a both/and is recognized we no longer need to be trapped by an inability to imagine or to understand anything other than either/or. That can open the door to finally understanding more clearly that moral responsibility is always mutual and complementary, and to understanding the foolish destructiveness of trying to think of it as a binary, exclusive, zero-sum competition.

This possibility of both/and is also something that they already know to be true. And because they know it to be true, at least dimly on some level, their actions are never wholly in accord with their professed belief in the inhuman nonsense of exclusive responsibility.

Every church member knows that no church member is only that or exclusively that. Every member of Saddleback Church is also many, many other things as well: a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a neighbor, a friend, a resident, a worker, a fan, a consumer, a user, a producer, a supporter, a contributor, a customer, a client, a traveler, a bystander, a passer-by, a stranger, a citizen.

I don’t think that our friends from Saddleback would really want to argue that they bear a responsibility to assist the poor and the weak exclusively in their capacity as members of the church. Yes, they may say that is what they believe — that such responsibility bears on them as church members but not as citizens (or parents, or workers, or customers, etc.). And they may say that it would be improper and wrong for them to attempt to assist the poor and the needy in any other capacity — and that it would somehow be especially evil to attempt to give any thought to the poor and the needy in their capacity as citizens.

But none of them lives like that.

No one could live like that because life itself is — inescapably and unavoidably — differentiated, mutual and complementary. Trying to compartmentalize one’s life to accord with their purported belief in exclusive, binary categories of responsibility would be impossible.

At the very least, I suspect, our friends from Saddleback would concede that when acting in all their other capacities apart from their role as “the church,” they ought not to be making things worse for the poor and the needy that their “the church” has a responsibility to help.

Let’s consider some examples of the sort of thing I mean:

Mr. Smith spends his Saturdays volunteering with a church program that assists poor families who have fallen prey to predatory lenders. Monday through Friday, however, Mr. Smith manages an inner-city check-cashing outlet that hooks those same poor families on roll-over pay-day loans with an APR of more than 2000 percent.

Mr. Jones meets in the evening with a church group that writes letters to lawmakers, advocating for stronger laws against sexual trafficking. When he’s not in church, Mr. Jones can be found managing the brothel in the back of a strip club, where young women from the developing world are kept as virtual slaves.

Mr. Johnson faithfully volunteers one day every week, week in and week out, with the church’s job bank program, helping people gain the financial independence that comes from earning a reliable and adequate paycheck. Mr. Johnson earns his own paycheck as a political pundit, advocating for budget austerity measures and massive reductions in the economy’s aggregate demand to ensure that unemployment remains far above its natural level for years to come.

Those are all extreme examples, and particularly loathsome and sinful examples at that. But the monstrously irresponsible and counterproductive behavior of Messrs. Smith, Jones and Johnson differs only in degree and not in kind from the exclusive notion of responsibility being promoted by our confused friends from Saddleback — and from many, many other places as well.

Note that the extreme compartmentalization of these three hypothetical hypocrites is not just permissible according to the purported belief of our friends. According to what they claim to believe, such extreme compartmentalization and hypocrisy is mandatory for members of “the church.”

For anyone who believes that “caring for the poor is the responsibility of the church and not the responsibility of citizens” such compartmentalization is as obligatory as it is monstrous.

And thus,  not being monsters, most of the people who claim to believe such inhuman nonsense do not behave consistently with their impossible, un-biblical, un-democratic claims. They don’t condemn grandmothers or responsible lenders for “usurping” the role of “the church.” They don’t condemn church members for failing to be pimps or predators in their lives outside of church.

In short, they’re not fully able to sustain the bewilderingly strange lie that responsibility is exclusive, binary and competitive. The world they live in won’t allow them to do so. They may decry subsidiarity as socialism, deeply confused about what both of those words mean, but they can never truly escape the inescapable network of mutuality.

Because that sentence that out of frustration I repeated 10 times — and have repeated here in whole or in part many more times — isn’t just a normative statement. It’s also a descriptive statement. It describes reality — and just because our friends claim to deny reality doesn’t mean they aren’t stuck living in it along with everybody else.

Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive.

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  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    First?  

  • Chrissl

    Hmm. It seems more likely that the belief system being expressed is that such responsibility belongs to the *church* and not to the *government.*

    The missing middle premise in here is that somehow “the government” appears to them to be a different, alien and completely separate entity from “the citizens.”

    Several decades of being told by their leaders that “the government” is a quasi-alien and superfluous institution controlled by “liberals” will do that to you.

  • eyelessgame

    just to “me too” what Chrissl said – it’s not that they believe “only our church has responsibility”, it’s that they believe “government does NOT have responsibility”. And this is because they have been taught that the government of the United States is their enemy.

    I don’t know that it’s possible to see this other than the result of the deliberate machinations of the Goldwater Right and its allies – the people who began framing evangelical Christianity in terms of prosperity gospel, dating back to 1964, in a conscious effort to forge a majority coalition of the low-tax wealthy with well-meaning but deceivable Christian churches.

    I have trouble finding rhetoric strong enough to describe this assault of Mammon upon Jesus without offending people I do not wish to offend.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly. From that usage, I conclude that to most people who fling the accusation, “socialism” merely means “something I don’t like for reasons I’m not prepared to disclose.” It’s how elderly Tea Partiers who are collecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even VA benefits can still attack the ACA as “Socialism” with a straight face — the ACA is “socialism” because it’s government money going to help “those people,” where as those other programs, which are obviously more socialistic in character than anything Obama has ever proposed, are not socialism because they exist to help “the right kind of people.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly. From that usage, I conclude that to most people who fling the accusation, “socialism” merely means “something I don’t like for reasons I’m not prepared to disclose.” It’s how elderly Tea Partiers who are collecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even VA benefits can still attack the ACA as “Socialism” with a straight face — the ACA is “socialism” because it’s government money going to help “those people,” where as those other programs, which are obviously more socialistic in character than anything Obama has ever proposed, are not socialism because they exist to help “the right kind of people.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly.

    I’ve given up on League of Ordinary Gentlemen.  They have collectively decided that being stupid AND evil is better than conceding that Nancy Pelosi was right, even once.  “Barry”, as they call him, really is a Marxist and they are not being ironic.

    Tragic, because that was once one of the better libertarian web-sites.

  • Anonymous

    As a ‘Barry’ who decided to refrain from posting there yesterday, I agree.  In the end, movement conservatism is a false front of the right, so that they can have a ‘third opinion’ which acts as if it’s impartial.

  • Anonymous

    As a ‘Barry’ who decided to refrain from posting there yesterday, I agree.  In the end, movement conservatism is a false front of the right, so that they can have a ‘third opinion’ which acts as if it’s impartial.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly. From that usage, I conclude that to most people who fling the accusation, “socialism” merely means “something I don’t like for reasons I’m not prepared to disclose.” It’s how elderly Tea Partiers who are collecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even VA benefits can still attack the ACA as “Socialism” with a straight face — the ACA is “socialism” because it’s government money going to help “those people,” where as those other programs, which are obviously more socialistic in character than anything Obama has ever proposed, are not socialism because they exist to help “the right kind of people.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly. From that usage, I conclude that to most people who fling the accusation, “socialism” merely means “something I don’t like for reasons I’m not prepared to disclose.” It’s how elderly Tea Partiers who are collecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even VA benefits can still attack the ACA as “Socialism” with a straight face — the ACA is “socialism” because it’s government money going to help “those people,” where as those other programs, which are obviously more socialistic in character than anything Obama has ever proposed, are not socialism because they exist to help “the right kind of people.”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly. From that usage, I conclude that to most people who fling the accusation, “socialism” merely means “something I don’t like for reasons I’m not prepared to disclose.” It’s how elderly Tea Partiers who are collecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and even VA benefits can still attack the ACA as “Socialism” with a straight face — the ACA is “socialism” because it’s government money going to help “those people,” where as those other programs, which are obviously more socialistic in character than anything Obama has ever proposed, are not socialism because they exist to help “the right kind of people.”

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com Michael Mock

    The thing that always galls (and puzzles) me when these conversations come up is this: have these people no sense of history? Is there no understanding whatsoever of how and why these various programs were put in place? It wasn’t a Secret Liberal Cabal sitting around brainstorming on how best to undermine our bold and moral society. These programs came about because there were people who needed help who were not getting it. If “the church” wasn’t sufficient assistance back then, why would you think things would be different now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    If “the church” wasn’t sufficient assistance back then, why would you think things would be different now?

    Because… Shut up, you Commie Socialist Marxist, you — that’s why!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    And also because we don’t “have prayer in school”!

  • Anonymous

    Every time I hear this, I think back to all the public schools I substituted in only a year ago, and all the “First Priority” and “See You At The Pole” flyers on the walls, and laugh.  Coerced prayer, IMO, isn’t really prayer at all.  Or as Claudius says in Hamlet, “Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

  • Anonymous

    I would say that at best these people are stunningly ignorant, having been lied to by their leaders – with church leaders prominent in those lies.  Frankly, I’v also given up on the (white) Evangelical movement – it still clings to its core as the Confederate slaver false priests; the former anti-slavery evangelicals don’t have the guts to call false priests false priests.

  • Anonymous

    I would say that at best these people are stunningly ignorant, having been lied to by their leaders – with church leaders prominent in those lies.  Frankly, I’v also given up on the (white) Evangelical movement – it still clings to its core as the Confederate slaver false priests; the former anti-slavery evangelicals don’t have the guts to call false priests false priests.

  • Anonymous

    I would say that at best these people are stunningly ignorant, having been lied to by their leaders – with church leaders prominent in those lies.  Frankly, I’v also given up on the (white) Evangelical movement – it still clings to its core as the Confederate slaver false priests; the former anti-slavery evangelicals don’t have the guts to call false priests false priests.

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    “Have these people no sense of history?”

    Given the gradual dismantling of the U.S. education system by conservative forces over the last half century, probably not.  Not of any history we would recognize, anyway.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    The right wing doesn’t have a sense of history – what they have a is a memory hole and a notepad.

    First they jot down any bullet point of something awesome they think conservatives did, or something awful they think liberals did* – then they take everything else and shove it down the memory hole.  After that, if it isn’t on the list, it didn’t happen, and if any information countermands the list, then that information is biased and wrong.

    This is how you end up with people believing FDR was an unpopular President who’s programs were/are widely hated, did nothing to get us out of the Great Depression and who’s only contribution in WWII was letting the generals do their thing.

    All of which is of course, bullshit; and anyone who’s cracked open a history book knows that.   But these people don’t read history books – they read Glenn Beck’s books, and Jonah Goldberg’s books, and Anne Coulter’s books.  If it’s not in those then it’s off down the memory hole, never to be thought seriously on again.

    *Note that it’s entirely probable that they’ve got who did what backwards when they write the list.  The list isn’t in depth or even about accuracy;  it’s about an easily recitable set of bullet points one can use both to rapidly establish cred within the movement and to rapid-fire bludgeon anyone who actually tries to countermand them with, well… actual information.

  • Lori

     All of which is of course, bullshit; and anyone who’s cracked open a history book knows that.   But these people don’t read history books – they read Glenn Beck’s books, and Jonah Goldberg’s books, and Anne Coulter’s books.  If it’s not in those then it’s off down the memory hole, never to be thought seriously on again.  

     

    Most of them didn’t read Goldberg’s idiotic ramblings and I’m not convinced that most of them finish Beck & Colter’s books either. I think they skim the books, watch Beck on TV (well, listen to him on the radio now) and watch Colter’s interviews on Fox. And we can’t forget the idiotic mass emails that they send around to each other without ever questioning where those emails start. 

    The believe whatever sound bites and illogical crap comes out of all that because the “right” people said it so it must be true. That’s how it works, right?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The believe whatever sound bites and illogical crap comes out of all that because the “right” people said it so it must be true. That’s how it works, right?

    I reiterate my assertion that it is absolutely essential to begin teaching logic at a very early age and continue hammering that education home into people at every level of schooling thereafter.  

    Maybe then we would have fewer people making such absurd arguments from authority fallacies.  

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Absolutely.  Critical thinking skills too.

  • Anonymous

    wait…Seriously? There’s actually people in America who think FDR didn’t help with the Great Depression? While even the fucking mainstream media is bringing up the need for a Works Progress Administration or Civilian Conservation Corps? Tell me you’re exaggerating. Lie to me, if necessary.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, there are, sorry. I think they might’ve all read the same book – “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes. Or heard the talking points from it, anyway.

  • Anonymous

    The right-wing of the economics professoriate has been pushing that lie for decades.  The Great Depression and the New Deal were like a slap in the face for them.  Their theories don’t account for what happened, so they wave it away.

    One tell-tale is to see if they show a chart of GNP growth/shrinkage and the unemployment rate during the 1930’s, because that shows incredible change going on just as FDR took office.   Instead, they’ll try to skip over it, and talk about how things were still bad during the late 30’s (without honestly saying how much they had improved).

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Okay, they don’t exist… (That’s a lie.)

    The John Birch Society has long hated Roosevelt, as have the wealthy (especially financial sector) elites, and as the country has become more polarized and the right has become easier to lie to with impunity, a lot of folks have gotten history turned upside down for them.

    But to get a similar idea of their unwillingness to accept history as it happened, try talking about Iran-Contra to a Republican, or mentioning that Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial massive tax cuts proved disastrous.  I won’t even go into the bizarre view that Reagan was somehow the only reason the Soviet Union collapsed.

    So yeah – there are people who think FDR did nothing helpful; or that his projects were actively harmful; just as there are people who think Reagan was all sunshine and lollipops and that he never compromised with a liberal, never had to admit a mistake and never, ever screwed up royally.

    It makes my migraines act up just thinking about it.

  • Lori

     But to get a similar idea of their unwillingness to accept history as it happened, try talking about Iran-Contra to a Republican, or mentioning that Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial massive tax cuts proved disastrous.  I won’t even go into the bizarre view that Reagan was somehow the only reason the Soviet Union collapsed. 

    The other day on a thread over at TNC’s blog I saw the best description of the relationship between the current Conservative movement and Reagan—they’re writing Reagan fanfic and have retconed most of his presidency. 

  • Anonymous

    Because, scarily enough, they would consider Reagan to be too far to the left with his ‘workfare’ program and raising taxes.  So they have to re-write his life.

    If for no other reason, these people have to be stopped so that they cannot rewrite history.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon
  • Consumer Unit 5012

    The other day on a thread over at TNC’s blog I saw the best description of the relationship between the current Conservative movement and Reagan—they’re writing Reagan fanfic and have retconed most of his presidency.

    Here, have two internets.  Give the second one to whoever said that first.  :D

  • Lori

     Here, have two internets.  Give the second one to whoever said that first.  :D 

    Both internets belong to TNC commenters. It turns out that my sketchy memory merged 2 comments from this thread: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/rules-for-radicals/243087/#disqus_thread

    Within a longer comment Dex said:

    The closest thing to a leader in the Republican Party is some sort of
    bizarro fanfic portrayal of Reagan’s ghost, which apparently has changed
    his position on everything he stood for since his death, but that’s
    another story. 

    To which WCBound replied:

    I love “Bizarro Fanfic Reagan” and now can’t help but think of the GOP’s use of him as retconning his presidency.

    Bonus LOLs–roas added:

     
    “Bizarro Fanfic Reagan” would be a great name for a band.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

  • Anonymous

    wait…Seriously? There’s actually people in America who think FDR didn’t help with the Great Depression? While even the fucking mainstream media is bringing up the need for a Works Progress Administration or Civilian Conservation Corps? Tell me you’re exaggerating. Lie to me, if necessary.

    My own father does not believe it, despite being an otherwise intelligent person.  He honestly believes that the only thing that pulled us out of the mire of unemployment and misery was World War II.  The only thing.

    He also believes that global warming cannot possibly be caused or exacerbated by human beings (it’s a “natural cycle,” you see), that gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because anal sex is icky (in Dad’s world, only gay people have anal sex, and they do it all the time), and that raising taxes for corporations and multimillionaires will demolish his six-figure income and require him to sell the house and furniture and buy some tiny little cottage somewhere and cheap fiberboard furnishings.

    It takes a massive amount of denial (“LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS!!!”) to believe all those things, but somehow, he manages.  And that’s just politics–don’t get me started on his religious views!

  • Tonio

    Is your father a “grump”? Among the people I know who favor those positions, they all seem to share a certain outlook on life. They generally don’t like other people very much, viewing themselves as trapped in a world of fools and idiots. It seems to be a combination of resentment and cynicism.

  • Anonymous

    Is your father a “grump”? Among the people I know who favor those
    positions, they all seem to share a certain outlook on life. They
    generally don’t like other people very much, viewing themselves as
    trapped in a world of fools and idiots. It seems to be a combination of
    resentment and cynicism.

    Well, my mother does call him “Becker,” after the doctor from the 90’s sitcom…

    The really odd thing is, he’s one of those “bootstraps” types who literally built himself up from nothing.  I’ve tried time and time again to show him that the path of upward mobility he chose is no longer available and failed every time.  As far as Dad’s concerned, poor people can rise to upper-middle-class prosperity within 2 decades, success = money, and anyone who believes otherwise is either self-deluded or just plain stupid.

    There’s a reason I avoid having conversations of any sort with my father.  It all leads back to religion and politics, and it takes a lot of self-control to avoid blowing up in his face (I get that unfortunate tendency from him, near as I can tell).

  • Tonio

    I know at half a dozen people like that, including a couple of owners of small businesses. Too often I shake my head at the anger they seem to carry around with them every day. Forget about chips on their shoulders, they have canisters of Pringles the height of the Washington Monument on there. I keep wanting to ask, “What has happened in your life to make you like this?”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Is your father a “grump”?

    Does he show the signs of Fox Geezer Syndrome?  (yes, even conservatives are complaining Fox News is bad for people.)

  • Lori
    Is your father a “grump”?

    Does he show the signs of Fox Geezer Syndrome? 

     

    My parents do. Oh how I wish there was a vaccine for FGS or that it would at least respond to antibiotics.

  • We Must Dissent

    Is your father a “grump”? Among the people I know who favor those
    positions, they all seem to share a certain outlook on life. They
    generally don’t like other people very much, viewing themselves as
    trapped in a world of fools and idiots. It seems to be a combination of
    resentment and cynicism.

    Being a grump is cleary not a sufficient condition. I usually the world as full of fools and idiots. I had a friend who nicknamed me “Eeyore”. I think that because the world is full of fools and idiots, you cannot trust anything important to private individuals and groups.

  • We Must Dissent

    Is your father a “grump”? Among the people I know who favor those
    positions, they all seem to share a certain outlook on life. They
    generally don’t like other people very much, viewing themselves as
    trapped in a world of fools and idiots. It seems to be a combination of
    resentment and cynicism.

    Being a grump is cleary not a sufficient condition. I usually the world as full of fools and idiots. I had a friend who nicknamed me “Eeyore”. I think that because the world is full of fools and idiots, you cannot trust anything important to private individuals and groups.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    Come on. There are people who think that the Holocaust never happened — is this really that surprising?

  • http://gocart-mozart.blogspot.com/ gocart mozart

    “Have these people no sense of history?”
    If by history you mean stuff that actually happened, then NO.

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    “Have these people no sense of history?”

    Given the gradual dismantling of the U.S. education system by conservative forces over the last half century, probably not.  Not of any history we would recognize, anyway.

  • Anonymous

    These programs came about because there were people who needed help who were not getting it.

    They don’t care much about helping people who need help.  They care more about helping people who deserve help.  So a single mother could get food stamps from her state government without being required to renounce her slutty ways and becoming a born-again virgin.  Hell, she can even (potentially) get aid without even facing judgment from other people.  Even many liberal churches would giver her aid without expecting her to change, but at least they would have some opportunity to try to convert her if the topic came up.

    I’ve always liked to help people.  But even when I was actively Christian and a member of a mainline Protestant church, I hated doing volunteer work with my church or any explicitly religious group.  It was always about wielding charity as a bludgeon to control people, no matter how subtly that idea was framed.

  • Anonymous

    These programs came about because there were people who needed help who were not getting it.

    They don’t care much about helping people who need help.  They care more about helping people who deserve help.  So a single mother could get food stamps from her state government without being required to renounce her slutty ways and becoming a born-again virgin.  Hell, she can even (potentially) get aid without even facing judgment from other people.  Even many liberal churches would giver her aid without expecting her to change, but at least they would have some opportunity to try to convert her if the topic came up.

    I’ve always liked to help people.  But even when I was actively Christian and a member of a mainline Protestant church, I hated doing volunteer work with my church or any explicitly religious group.  It was always about wielding charity as a bludgeon to control people, no matter how subtly that idea was framed.

  • Lori

     The thing that always galls (and puzzles) me when these conversations come up is this: have these people no sense of history? Is there no understanding whatsoever of how and why these various programs were put in place?

    I assume this is a rhetorical question, but if not the answer is no, they don’t. 

    They’re getting their history from stellar sources like Glenn Beck U and David Barton. (Barton is the total whackadoo that Mike Huckabee says he would like to force people to listen to, at gunpoint as necessary.) 

  • Lori

     The thing that always galls (and puzzles) me when these conversations come up is this: have these people no sense of history? Is there no understanding whatsoever of how and why these various programs were put in place?

    I assume this is a rhetorical question, but if not the answer is no, they don’t. 

    They’re getting their history from stellar sources like Glenn Beck U and David Barton. (Barton is the total whackadoo that Mike Huckabee says he would like to force people to listen to, at gunpoint as necessary.) 

  • Anonymous

    “Have these people no sense of history?”

    I don’t think they do. Pretty much every history or current events book I’ve read that was written by a conservative has been a disgraceful example of poor scholarship, poor writing, and poor editing. Even the ones not written by the likes of Beck, Goldberg and Coulter. (I recently read parts of a history of Young Americans for Freedom that sounded like all the minutes of all their meetings. Yawn.)

    It’s come to the point where I’m seriously contemplating the existence of a Bizarro History where FDR fiddled while America burned, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush were big liberal softies, Reagan was the best thing since sliced bread, and Bill and Hillary Clinton were mob bosses. If this Bizarro History exists, conservative historians are doing a great job of recording it.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    It’s come to the point where I’m seriously contemplating the existence of a Bizarro History where FDR fiddled while America burned, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush were big liberal softies, Reagan was the best thing since sliced bread, and Bill and Hillary Clinton were mob bosses. If this Bizarro History exists, conservative historians are doing a great job of recording it.

    http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page/

    You can get even with thank me later.  :D

  • Anonymous

    See also this hilarious animation funded by Mike Huckabee. Personally, I find it fitting that the one kid is wearing a Blood Angels helmet -“hyper-religious fascists with an intense bloodlust” is a pretty good descriptor of many in the tea party.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Why does this exist? SWEET EMPEROR WHY!?

    =][= By the authority of the God-Emperor of Mankind I banish this heresy! =][=

  • Anonymous

    It exists because the animator tried to think outside the box.  Specifically the METAL BAWKSES!

    Seriously, though. =) Either the animator is a Spehs Mahreen fan, or they thought the idea of vampiric religious zealots who hulksmash everything in their path would be subversively appropriate. =)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    We have arrived, and it is now that we preform our charge.  In fealty to the God-Emperor, our Undying Lord, I declare Exterminatus upon the Internet site of YouTube.  I hereby sign the death-warrent of an entire site, and consign a million videos to oblivion.  May Imperial justice account in all balance.  

    The Emperor Protects.”

    “It is human nature to seek culpability in a time of tragedy.  It is a sign of strength to cry out against fate, rather than bow one’s head and succumb.  In the end, many will fault the hand on the sword that felled YouTube, the Ordo Progressiveous, but the Inquisition merely preforms the duties of its office.  To further fear them, redundant.  To hate them, heretical.  Those more sensible will place responsibility with those who forced the hand of the Inquisition.  With some fortune, they may foster this hatred into purpose, and further rule their own fate by coming to the Emperor’s service.  Yet ultimately… it was I who set these events into motion, with a single blow from my killfile, Site-Splitter.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m already liking this featured “essay” which is actually a list of…something. Politicians with careers. I think.

  • http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/ Andrew G.

    Rather amazingly, Conservapedia’s article on the New Deal, at least as it appears now, while showing the expected biases, does not plug the “FDR worsened the Depression” position; it even presents the fact that a majority of economists disagree with that statement.

    The crazy is reserved for the articles ‘Great Depression’ and ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt’ which make the contradicting claim that FDR’s policies did make it worse.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    The hilarious bit is it’s entirely probable that all 3 articles were written by the same troll (there are estimates that suggest half the editors on that site are just Poes out to annoy Schafly. … I admit I’ve considered doing it myself too; but ultimately I’m too lazy for that.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Incidentally, I find this opinion piece to be particularly apropos to this post.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    That’s reprehensible theology and, if they really believed a word of it, would reflect an appalling biblical ignorance or illiteracy.But fortunately they don’t fully believe what they’re saying.
    I love reading phrases like this because I know Fred is about to drop some righteous smack-down. And for once, I’m using the term “righteous” in an entirely literal context.

  • Jim Daniel

    When I was a young boy in Oklahoma, back in the late 50’s, we would often see people who had spent most of Saturday night drinking and Sunday morning sitting in the pews of our church.  Why this belongs here is that at the time all of Oklahoma was “dry” and the church was ‘officially’ anti drinking.  One day in my Sunday school class when we were being taught about commandment of not bearing false witness a boy asked if giving testimony on in church about the evils of drink after drink on Saturday wasn’t giving false witness.  He was told “no, it’s not.  Because ‘man’ is weak.  When you gave testimony on Sunday you really did mean not to drink, but by Saturday the devil had tempted you into drinking again.” 

    When I asked my dad about this he smiled a little sadly and told me what his father told him.  The weakness in man wasn’t giving in to the drinking but rationalizing being a good church member when you had sinned.

  • Bificommander

    Not to put a fine point on it, but I looked through the comments on that previous thread, and I didn’t see any “parade of poster” ignoring Fred’s point. All comments I saw agreed to various degrees (and were mostly from regulars), were doubts on the value of churches as a whole (which is kind of a different discussion) or were made by Monoblade (who is a regular, like it or not). Did those other visitors post somewhere else or email Fred or something?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    Which previous thread are you talking about? There were at least two of them on the same subject, I think.

  • Bificommander

    The “Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary, not exclusive, binary and competitive.” that Fred directly links to at the top of this article.

    Maybe I’m understanding it incorrectly, but it sounds like Fred claims readers of the blog that inspired that particular post stopped by and left comments in the “Responsiblity” threat, but I don’t see any.

  • Lori

    Most of the people defending Warren and his lousy theology turned up in the “Warren’s a big ol’ liar” thread. 

  • Anonymous

    Chrissl:

    The missing middle premise in here is that somehow “the government” appears to them to be a different, alien and completely separate entity from “the citizens.”

    This.  As best I can tell, they see the “government” as a faceless entity rather than an organization of human beings all working together.  “The government” is like the Borg to them.  It may be composed of seemingly individual units but they’re all linked by a hive mind and so are interchangeable.  “Bureaucracy” is viewed similarly. I guess it’s the personification of an abstract idea, which is certainly a natural way of trying to fit something hard to grasp into one’s story, but the problem is that the personification is being treated as a real being which takes the face/place of the individual with whom one is dealing.

    (A bit of a tangent:  I was trying to get some information from a government agency and was told by a friend that I couldn’t take on the bureaucracy to get what I needed.  I told him that it was a good thing that I wasn’t “taking on the bureaucracy” but rather looking for the one person who had the information I needed and a willingness to share it with me.  It took less than two hours of phone calls to find that person with each prior person I spoke to being as helpful as possible.  It’s funny what happens when you treat people like human beings.)

    Anyway, it seems to be a similar problem to how some people view groups other than themselves.  For instance, the conversation on a previous thread regarding Islam. 

    Michael Mock:

    …have these people no sense of history?

    That’s the problem with revising history to satisfy your own prejudices and support your own stories—you never actually learn from it.

  • Anonymous

    Chrissl:

    The missing middle premise in here is that somehow “the government” appears to them to be a different, alien and completely separate entity from “the citizens.”

    This.  As best I can tell, they see the “government” as a faceless entity rather than an organization of human beings all working together.  “The government” is like the Borg to them.  It may be composed of seemingly individual units but they’re all linked by a hive mind and so are interchangeable.  “Bureaucracy” is viewed similarly. I guess it’s the personification of an abstract idea, which is certainly a natural way of trying to fit something hard to grasp into one’s story, but the problem is that the personification is being treated as a real being which takes the face/place of the individual with whom one is dealing.

    (A bit of a tangent:  I was trying to get some information from a government agency and was told by a friend that I couldn’t take on the bureaucracy to get what I needed.  I told him that it was a good thing that I wasn’t “taking on the bureaucracy” but rather looking for the one person who had the information I needed and a willingness to share it with me.  It took less than two hours of phone calls to find that person with each prior person I spoke to being as helpful as possible.  It’s funny what happens when you treat people like human beings.)

    Anyway, it seems to be a similar problem to how some people view groups other than themselves.  For instance, the conversation on a previous thread regarding Islam. 

    Michael Mock:

    …have these people no sense of history?

    That’s the problem with revising history to satisfy your own prejudices and support your own stories—you never actually learn from it.

  • Anonymous

    I keep trying to figure out exactly where and how the anti-government thing started, not to mention what weird route it took to get to the point it’s at now.  I can understand disliking a government policy or feeling that some law is wrong or unjustly applied or anything along those lines, but when you have citizens of a democratic nation who hate and fear their government, something very bizarre has happened.  And someone, somewhere benefited from this, or the idea would never have been so successfully sold.

    I have the vague idea that maybe the distrust of the goverment – due to lying about Vietnam and Watergate, and the like was somehow coopted by the conservative movement, but I really don’t know.   I am, however, really baffled.  How can anyone “love their country, but fear their government,” as I see on bumperstickers. It makes no sense.

    The memory hole and a notebook theory is good, but how’d we ever get to that point?  Why haven’t liberals and middle of the road people and, well, everyone but the “oh noes, taxes!” crowd said “WTF!?”  I know we all do it on a local scale, but where are the politicians and other people with a bigger audience?  Are they just really effectively drowned out by Fox News?  What happened?

  • Tonio

    In the case of the US, I suspect it has its roots in the frontier mentality and its hostility to intellectualism, and solidified when the government came down on the side of civil rights in the 1960s.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    Prohibition probably didn’t help either. It’s hard to respect a government that creates laws that it can’t enforce; at best, it makes the government look weak. At worst, it makes them look corrupt, especially when the most blatant beneficiaries of the law are corrupt bureaucrats and the Mafia.

    Scandals like Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial also foster the image of the government as being mired in sin and corruption. Conspiracy theories probably play a major role; when you have large sections of the country who believed that Truman’s State Department was filled with Communist spies, that President Johnson or the CIA murdered John Kennedy, that the government faked the moon-landing, that Hillary Clinton murdered dozens of her close friends and colleagues, that George Bush cheated his way into the Presidency, and that Barack Obama is some kind of foreign agent from Kenya or Indonesia or whatever. Stir in the paranoia of the fringe movements (Posse Commitatus, the John Birchers, right-wing militias) and their elaborate conspiracy theories about the UN, the new world order, the bankers, the corporations, the Zionists, and it’s not exactly surprising that there’s so much of this stuff out there. 

    For every legitimate reason to mistrust the government, you have about five others that are just random nonsense and when you mix those all together you have a powerful formula for hate and fear.

  • P J Evans

    I seem to recall that prohibition was pushed by the same kind of people, in mindset, as the ones who are currently supporting the teaparty. They were sure that banning alcohol sales and consumption would fix everything that was wrong.

    There are still bootleg alcohol sales in dry counties in those red states.

  • Lori

    There are still bootleg alcohol sales in dry counties in those red states.

    I lived in a dry county for a while years ago and I didn’t know of any illegal liquor sales. What we did have was a huge liquor store right off the highway about 6 inches across the county line. Making a booze run was just a part of life and probably at least half the county did it on a regular basis. People would go every few weeks and load up. In the parking lot of that liquor store every day looked like New Year’s Eve. There were also bars just down the road from the liquor store and people went there too.

    The only thing accomplished by being a dry county was lower tax revenues and higher rates of drunk driving accidents.

  • P J Evans

     Where I was at the time, all the county lines went to dry areas – you had to go well past them to get to any place where you could legally buy alcohol. They’re allowing some sales now, so the bootleggers probably have a lot less business. (Prohibition there was pretty much a joke anyway: you could join a ‘private club’, for a very nominal membership fee, and buy alcohol to where you were drunk or broke. There were a lot of ‘clubs’ – they all looked like bars to me.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    In mind set, perhaps, although they were called ‘Progressives’. I don’t think that people like Susan B. Anthony would necessarily have been in the Tea Party nowadays though.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I keep trying to figure out exactly where and how the anti-government thing started, not to mention what weird route it took to get to the point it’s at now.

    The Civil War?

  • Anonymous

    I keep trying to figure out exactly where and how the anti-government thing started, not to mention what weird route it took to get to the point it’s at now.  I can understand disliking a government policy or feeling that some law is wrong or unjustly applied or anything along those lines, but when you have citizens of a democratic nation who hate and fear their government, something very bizarre has happened.  And someone, somewhere benefited from this, or the idea would never have been so successfully sold.

    I have the vague idea that maybe the distrust of the goverment – due to lying about Vietnam and Watergate, and the like was somehow coopted by the conservative movement, but I really don’t know.   I am, however, really baffled.  How can anyone “love their country, but fear their government,” as I see on bumperstickers. It makes no sense.

    The memory hole and a notebook theory is good, but how’d we ever get to that point?  Why haven’t liberals and middle of the road people and, well, everyone but the “oh noes, taxes!” crowd said “WTF!?”  I know we all do it on a local scale, but where are the politicians and other people with a bigger audience?  Are they just really effectively drowned out by Fox News?  What happened?

  • Daughter

    It wasn’t that post, it was Fred’s post titled, “The Purpose Driven Lie,” which was specifically about Rick Warren.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The memory hole and a notebook theory is good, but how’d we ever get to that point?  …I know we all do it on a local scale, but where are the politicians and other people with a bigger audience?  Are they just really effectively drowned out by Fox News?  What happened?

    Sadly, this is nothing new and not terribly surprising if you accept a cynical perspective. The modern term for what happened is truthiness, the things we want to believe, that sound believable to our ears.

    Everyone knows the first half of the quote “Truth is stranger than fiction…” but the second half is just as important: “…because fiction has to make sense!”

    Narratives have compelling power because they do make sense in a senseless world. Narratives have the power to comfort and to reassure. Facts & evidence can challenge your beliefs, while a strong narrative instead leaves your beliefs intact (if not supported!) and challenges the facts!

    Narratives are simple. “The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves!” Never mind the 14th amendment, or that slaves states in the Union weren’t affected by the EP, or that the EP had no binding authority on any rebelling state that chose to return to the Union, and it’s authority wasn’t recognized at all in the Confederacy.

    Narratives are exciting and dramatic, they give meaning to simple acts. Refusing to mail in your Census form, and defiantly slamming the door in the face of a hired government lackey is part of a larger act of independance and rebellion and FREEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOM!!!1!!1. Never mind that the guy at the door is a temp worker, and the Census data is mostly used for allocating tax dollars to communities, and the only legally required Census questionaire doesn’t ask about voter registration, income, gun ownership, or any other terribly suspicious things.

    We didn’t “get to that point”, we’ve always been at this point. The only real change is how easily and effectively other people can share a narrative with us. Fox News is one narrative, nationwide, to every big city and small town across the country, all at the same time.

  • Daughter

    I want to echo what people have said here.  The objection is to the government caring for the poor, not to individuals in whatever capacity.*  In fact, they’d applaud the grandmother, because a family should care for relatives first (and several Scriptures state such), and the church should only step in if there is no family or the family can’t.

    * And I agree as well, the relentless demonization of government by the right has made people ignore that our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

  • Albanaeon

    Here’s what I don’t get.  You hear “Government is the problem,” then read “We the people” and not realize they are saying YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.  I personally wouldn’t find that to be all that inspiring of a message to rally around.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd Studge

    I think the idea is they don’t believe that government-as-it-exists is actually made up of regular working people or that it acts in the interests of said regular working people.

  • Anonymous

    I think the idea is they don’t believe that government-as-it-exists is
    actually made up of regular working people or that it acts in the
    interests of said regular working people.

    If they were ever regular working people, which mostly they weren’t since mostly they’re lawyers, they stopped being so the moment they started getting paid whatever absurdly high number congresscritters are paid. And they’re certainly not acting in the interests of regular working people. We know this because [insert rant].

    The trick is gonna be getting congresscritters paid the median income of their districts.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd Studge

    Especially since ‘getting congresscritters paid’ involves going through Congress.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Sadly that won’t work.  The honest politicians (if there is such a thing) who are not independently wealthy (and there are some who aren’t) will suffer for it; while those who are independently wealthy already or are less-than-honest simply won’t care, because their salary isn’t where their real money is coming from to begin with.

    Also while their salaries are definitely well above average, a Representative ‘only’ makes 174k a year – which while significant*, isn’t really absurd.  It’s basically half-again as much as a middle-of-the-road lawyer makes; which well… and well, as you note that’s what a lot of them were/are – so the salary itself is not a big increase in income.

    So as attractive as something like that sounds… I don’t think it would actually have the desired impact.

    *I certainly don’t think it’s a remotely poor salary that’s for sure.

  • Tonio

    And part of their problem is their definition of “regular working people,” which conveniently excludes not wealthy CEOs but non-whites, intellectuals and entertainers.

  • http://indiscriminatedust.blogspot.com Philboyd Studge

    Yup.  Although it’s probably worth noting that applies to many Republicans, not all conservatives.

  • Anonymous

    I think the anti-government comes from two things, both of which are pretty childish.  Part of is that if they can’t have it, nobody can.  They want to kill the government off just so the liberals can’t have a part in it.

    Another part of is a toddler-like rebellion.  Nobody can tell them to eat their vegetables and put away their toys.  Or tell them to not eat contaminated OTC meds and to clean up their industrial waste.

    I’m sure there are many more reasons but this childlike rebellion is at the core of it.

  • Anonymous

    I think the anti-government comes from two things, both of which are pretty childish.  Part of is that if they can’t have it, nobody can.  They want to kill the government off just so the liberals can’t have a part in it.

    Another part of is a toddler-like rebellion.  Nobody can tell them to eat their vegetables and put away their toys.  Or tell them to not eat contaminated OTC meds and to clean up their industrial waste.

    I’m sure there are many more reasons but this childlike rebellion is at the core of it.

  • Jay

    Just so I’ve got this straight:

    (1) Members of the Saddleback congregation want to pick my pocket by taking a charitable deduction for their contributions…thereby raising my tax burden.

    (2) They then come back to the well by operating the church as a nonprofit — that’s more lost revenue that comes out of my pocket and everyone else’s.

    (3) Next, they want to bundle their own money with mine and that of every other taxpayer, and then divvy it up among those that they deem most deserving.

    (4) They do this using the authority and might of the United States government. If I want to opt out of their personal project by withholding the appropriate amount from my tax bill, I can be prosecuted for tax evasion.

    (5) And they accomplish this without giving me access to any of the democratic levers that would be available to me if this was a government program. Flatly: I am compelled to hand them my money, and then they redistribute it as they see fit.

    The motto over the door must read something like: “This machine kills cognitive dissonance.”

  • Jeff Weskamp

    What Tea Partiers mean by “socialism” is, “Anyone who wants to give taxpayer money to other human beings for any reason.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    And how many of those Tea Partiers are collecting government financial support? 

    I am seriously interested in learning that number.  I suspect it might be illuminating. 

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    I’ve concluded that any use of the word “socialism,” especially in the
    context of efforts to combat poverty, is simply a smokescreen for
    something else, usually racism, sexism or classism. No one who actually
    knows what the word socialism means could possibly think Barack Obama
    was a socialist, let along a “Marxist” which I have heard repeatedly.

    My Tea-Partyish father explained this as Obama having a secret plan to have the government assume more and more control over the U.S. economy, as evidenced by its bailout of the U.S. auto industry and banks, the Health Care Reform bill, &c.

    I’m not saying it makes sense, or is true, or has any chance of being true or making sense. But that’s what he believes. As far as I know, all his political information comes to him via Rush, Fox, or similar sources.

  • Lori

     My Tea-Partyish father explained this as Obama having a secret plan to have the government assume more and more control over the U.S. economy, as evidenced by its bailout of the U.S. auto industry and banks, the Health Care Reform bill, &c. 

     

    At least your dad has a sorta, kinda coherent idea about just why Obama is so terrible. It’s totally untrue, but it hangs together internally. 

    My dad’s positions are completely incoherent. He’s mad because there haven’t been better COLA increases in SSI and Medicare. He was upset when my nephews unemployment ran out. He’s upset that I’m not eligible for unemployment. And he blames all of those things on Obama. Because Democrats want to tax and spend and are just bad because we just need to cut the budget. 

    He thinks he has an economic POV, but what he really has is a hatred of abortion and QUILTBAG rights and more than a touch of racism (which he will never admit to).  He buys into whatever the Right says about the economy because he sees them as the “good” party because they represents his social values. He jumped on the Tea Party bandwagon because they were the most angry and he’s really angry. A match made in heaven. 

    And if he forwards one more of those lying mass emails to me I’m going to totally lose my shit. 

  • http://plantsarethestrangestpeople.blogspot.com/ mr_subjunctive

    Well, that’s Dad’s theory for why it makes sense to call Obama a socialist. His theory about why Obama is so terrible is different, though also simple and mistaken.*

    * (Obama is a Democrat; Democrats are bad; therefore Obama is bad.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    And if he forwards one more of those lying mass emails to me I’m going to totally lose my shit.

    In my experience, the easiest way to get off those mailings FOREVER is to “reply to all” with a systematic breakdown of all the ways they’re bullshit.   (Warning:  may cause hurt feelings in people who deserve it.)

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Hehe, indeed… though it CAN result in return fire as well; but meh, that’s when you break out the spam filter.

  • Lori

    In my experience, the easiest way to get off those mailings FOREVER is to “reply to all” with a systematic breakdown of all the ways they’re bullshit.   (Warning:  may cause hurt feelings in people who deserve it.)  

    I’ve done that. It got me off my brother’s mass email list (at the expense of further straining our already strained relationship), but it doesn’t work on my dad. I no longer get all of them, but every now and then he just can’t resist passing on an especially “good” one that he’s just sure I need to see. The most recent was another rehash of George Soros, the shadowy figure who controls Obama. 

    I was thisclose to sending back some home truths about the people who control the Tea Party. The Kochs and Don Blankenship as why the hell scarier and more evil than Soros could ever dream of being. I just didn’t have the energy to get into it when I know it won’t make a damn bit of difference. Dad is as impervious to evidence as the rest of the Teas and trying to talk to him is like banging you head against a wall, only less fun. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    that George Bush cheated his way into the Presidency

    I don’t think he “cheated” in terms of personally being responsible for any of the things that enabled him to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote in both the nation at large and Florida, but I do think his election was illegitimate — some 90,000 overwhelmingly poor and black Floridian voters were wrongly prevented from voting when they arrived at the polls on the basis of felony convictions that weren’t actually there.  Based on the voting patterns of those in this demographic who weren’t disenfranchised, more than 90% of them would have voted for Gore, giving him a clear majority.

    In addition, the uneven distribution of obsolete punchcard voting machines (which routinely “spoil” and fail to count 2-3% of the ballots run through them) vs. modern optical scan machines (which have a spoilage rate under 0.01%) also almost certainly cost Gore more votes than Bush’s margin of “victory” — punch cards were used mostly in poorer districts that leaned Democratic, whereas the wealthier Republican-leaning areas had mostly upgraded their machines.

    Then of course there was the “butterfly ballot” idiocy.  I’m confident that was pure lack of forethought on the part of the Palm Beach County Board of Elections, not conspiracy, but it still cost Gore thousands of votes (unless you believe that Pat Puke-Cannon was actually more popular among elderly Jewish retirees from the northeast than any other demographic in Florida, in which case I have an absolutely gorgeous piece of realestate on the gulf coast of Louisiana to sell you….).

    Sorry for the derail, it just bugs me to see people who recognize that the outcome of the 2000 presidential election was not an accurate reflection of the will of the majority of Americans or of Floridians who went to the polls to vote that year implicitly lumped with the looniest of right-wing conspiracy theorists.  If you want to include a token left-wing loony conspiracy theory (of more recent vintage than the ones surrounding JFK’s assassination), try the “9-11 was an inside job” paranoiacs.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with everything you say, but it still boggles my mind that the election was even close enough that the irregularities made a difference.  Ditto for 2004.

    I don’t believe 9/11 was an inside job, but I would like to know why Bush and Cheney actively resisted any investigation of it until it was forced on them years afterwards.  This in a country that spent millions and an enormous amount of commendable effort recovering a single plane (TWA 800) from the ocean floor and reconstructing it in order to find out what caused its accident.

  • Tonio

    I would like to know why Bush and Cheney actively resisted any investigation of it until it was forced on them years afterwards

    Perhaps there was a massive amount of incompetency and bungling of the warnings that the Administration received and they wanted to avoid the massive public fallout. What looks suspicious to me is that Bush pushed for invading Iraq within days of 9/11.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     What looks suspicious to me is that Bush pushed for invading Iraq within days of 9/11.

    Bush was pushing to invade Iraq _before_ 9/11.  9/11 just gave him something he could use to whip this country into a war-frenzy.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/10/28/65588/-Exclusive:-in-1999,-candidate-Bush-wanted-to-invade-Iraq

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    It’s worth nothing that Bush’s massive, throbbing War-on for Saddam Hussein is one reason I don’t believe the Truthers’ conspiracy theories have any basis in fact.  If BushCo HAD actually staged 9/11, they’d have planted evidence that it was all Saddam Hussein’s fault, not some guy they didn’t care about in a country they didn’t care about.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with everything you say, but it still boggles my mind that the
    election was even close enough that the irregularities made a
    difference.  Ditto for 2004.

    I voted for Bush in 2004, but that’s because I didn’t pay close attention to politics or womens’ rights until 2005.  (I was also a “good Catholic,” or at least trying to be, which meant marching lockstep with whatever I was told the Vatican said.)  I basically opened the Reader’s Digest, read the party platforms, and weighted them by my views of their relative importance. (I almost voted for Kerry because he would end the Iraq War, but Bush’s pro-“life” stance tilted me back in the other direction.  On other issues I was split about 50-50.  In hindsight, I really, REALLY wish I’d weighed the War as more important than the abortion issue.)

  • Anonymous

    I agree with everything you say, but it still boggles my mind that the
    election was even close enough that the irregularities made a
    difference.  Ditto for 2004.

    I voted for Bush in 2004, but that’s because I didn’t pay close attention to politics or womens’ rights until 2005.  (I was also a “good Catholic,” or at least trying to be, which meant marching lockstep with whatever I was told the Vatican said.)  I basically opened the Reader’s Digest, read the party platforms, and weighted them by my views of their relative importance. (I almost voted for Kerry because he would end the Iraq War, but Bush’s pro-“life” stance tilted me back in the other direction.  On other issues I was split about 50-50.  In hindsight, I really, REALLY wish I’d weighed the War as more important than the abortion issue.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I agree with everything you say, but it still boggles my mind that the election was even close enough that the irregularities made a difference.  Ditto for 2004.

    In 2000, both sides were trying (in Bush’s case, pretending) to be More Moderate Than Thou, so the actual liberals stayed home in droves.

    In 2004, I am fairly certain that Bush and Kerry met at the Skull and Bones Clubhouse and flipped a coin – Bush won.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    In 2000, both sides were trying (in Bush’s case, pretending) to be More Moderate Than Thou, so the actual liberals stayed home in droves.

    I also think that the Green Party had something to do with it.  As both candidates were trying to be moderate, a not-insignifigant amount of leftist voters cast their vote for a third party as a form of protest, figuring that even if the candidate they were voting for did not win, they were stuck with a moderate either way, and the protest vote would get the Democrats to wake up.  

    Which means that there were probably more people who would have preferred Gore than would have preferred Bush, they just would have more strongly have preferred someone even further left than that.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    In 2000, both sides were trying (in Bush’s case, pretending) to be More Moderate Than Thou, so the actual liberals stayed home in droves.

    I also think that the Green Party had something to do with it.  As both candidates were trying to be moderate, a not-insignifigant amount of leftist voters cast their vote for a third party as a form of protest, figuring that even if the candidate they were voting for did not win, they were stuck with a moderate either way, and the protest vote would get the Democrats to wake up.  

    Which means that there were probably more people who would have preferred Gore than would have preferred Bush, they just would have more strongly have preferred someone even further left than that.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    Another problem the “let the church do it” crowd has is an inability to do simple arithmetic.  Take the money that churches can provide and divide it up among all the folks who need help with their medical bills; it doesn’t come near to balancing.

    An exercise for any church that wants to do some good for their community:  dental care for poor children.  It’s not that expensive compared to regular medicine and it’s not covered well by Government programs.  (We had a well-publicized case here in the DC area a couple of years back where a kid died of an infection while his mother was going crazy trying to get someone to pull his bad tooth.)  How many kids could your church help?

    Or maybe they just like the thought of stepping over bodies in the gutter.

  • Lori

    Another problem the “let the church do it” crowd has is an inability to
    do simple arithmetic.  Take the money that churches can provide and
    divide it up among all the folks who need help with their medical bills;
    it doesn’t come near to balancing.

    If the government wasn’t taking people’s money at the point of a gun they would give way more to charity and the churches would have enough to take care of everyone who really needs help. The lazy, undeserving moochers who have been free-loading off the government would just have to get jobs, which would cut way down on the need and everything would balance just fine.

    I wish I was making that up, but I’ve heard more than one person make that exact argument. It’s part of their total disconnect from reality.

  • Tonio

    Maybe the “let the church do it” crowd is motivated not just by simple bigotry, but also by a belief that giving charity to someone is endorsing the person. They might believe that religious organizations are, or should be, entitled to deny charity to anyone they please. For example, they might see teen mothers as simply needing lectures on keeping their legs closed.

  • Tonio

    To expand on my point, Münchner Kindl in the other thread provided a link to the Cracked piece 10 Things Christians and Atheists Can Agree On. The author claims that Christians are offended by the idea that mass murderers and kindly grandmas would face the same fate at the ends of their lives, and compares this to how non-Christians are offended by eternal damnation. I’ve already said that these two ideas aren’t even Bistians, their real objection would seem to be to any lack of inherent justice in the universe. That may be their root objection to government involvement in charity or most other endeavors. They could see government as usurping the role of their god in terms of interfering with inherent justice. Legalization of same-sex marriage, to use one instance, may amount in their view to government rewarding or endorsing homosexuality, or at least not judging it as wrong.

  • Tonio

    Uh, that should be “I’ve already said that these two ideas aren’t even comparable in terms of offensiveness. But if the author of the article is correct about these particular Christians, their real
    objection would seem to be to any lack of inherent justice in the
    universe.”

  • Tonio

    Uh, that should be “I’ve already said that these two ideas aren’t even comparable in terms of offensiveness. But if the author of the article is correct about these particular Christians, their real
    objection would seem to be to any lack of inherent justice in the
    universe.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Fred:  I don’t know if the modifier “virtual” is called for in your hypothetical Mr. Jones case. The victims of human trafficking are slaves in the meaningful senses of the term. In some cases, the chains holding them down are actual literal chains.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Fred:  I don’t know if the modifier “virtual” is called for in your hypothetical Mr. Jones case. The victims of human trafficking are slaves in the meaningful senses of the term. In some cases, the chains holding them down are actual literal chains.

  • Anonymous

    And likewise I doubt they discourage eligible members from receiving such governmental assistance as food stamps, social security, the eic and child tax credit on their returns, unemployment benefit, etc ad nauseum

  • FangsFirst

    It’s the disconnect, I swear. And the sad part is it’s…just that. There’s no cognitive dissonance. They don’t see a need to think further¹ because the explanation fits. We are “running out of money”² and they feel they are still paying a lot (see all studies and observations on what happens when someone gets a raise or paycut–living up to means) and thus it has to be where the money is going *out,* and they don’t see any change in what they are receiving and we have always had police and fire departments and highways and so on and so forth, so it must be something else–more people deciding to just be lazy and take money from the government! Surely that could be increasing!

    Alternatively: we need the above, but it *must* be possible to get a job and earn enough to live on, because everyone they know does, and when so-and-so lost his job, the church helped him out and eventually he got back on his feet, and they’ve never known anyone who STAYED on entitlements, but surely someone does, and they can’t possibly DESERVE it, because there’s NO WAY anyone could need it that long, therefore this should be a sacrifice, but one that can be overcome.

    The whole thing is fascinating in a morbid way. It often seems like they simply do not get any farther than the negative aspects of something, which is why I am often uncomfortable with lumping it all into racism too quickly. “Vouchers! That will fix education!” then I saw an article about a place doing it: $6000 a year. A nice discount if you have the money to *almost* pay for it, but pointless if you don’t have the money to afford private schooling EVER. And I don’t think that thought factors in. I think it’s, “But if we all just got MONEY from the government [hahaha] for us to CHOOSE a school, we could all choose the one we wanted and ta da happily ever after!” Which doesn’t take into account the fact that you would have to give everyone with children around $10k a year or more per child, depending on where they lived, and there would still be the insistence that this should somehow not come from everyone’s taxes and blah blah because the overall need for society as a whole to fund the next generation (even if you hate kids and never want to have them, as you will still need to have new people to provide services for you, even normal non-“What about when you are old and infirm?” factors).

    I think the worst part is all of it comes down to imaginary groups of people “The Government” as an amorphous force that has no connection to the people they know personally who work for it, “The Education System” as having no relation to the people who educated some kids they know even if not their own, “The Scientists” as this fringe group who only look at X issue that bugs them, not as a collective field that interrelates constantly…all Dunbar’s number stuff I guess.

    ¹And I try very heard to make sure that saying those things does not make me hypocritical, which is why I try to balance my comments about corporations, especially having worked in a variety of the retail ones. And try not to suggest that it is an “evil conspiracy” to force X, Y, or Z on those of us on the “front lines.” It’s numbers up there and between the inability to feasibly examine each market and draw a proper curve to create proper payroll and the fact that it’s seen from a distance as a minor cut across the board–as well as the fact that decreased income leads to cuts somewhere, though arguably, I admit, not necessarily the right places–well, it just seems to add up to a shitty system, and blaming it on “our corporate overlords” and suggesting malevolent or thoughtless plots just seems unrealistic. I tend to think it adds up more from demand for caps on visible inflation wherever possible and the competition this creates, followed by the ability for some products and services to be offered via various loopholes (eg, many websites can sell you something cheaper, what with decreased overhead and no sales tax, driving B&M locations to try to at least resemble this, or to ignore it, either cutting profit or cutting sales). Blah blah blah. I think about this a lot as I get very annoyed at listening to customers accuse retail businesses of attempting to gouge them with generally unchanged MSRPs (where of course the MS stands for Manufacturer Suggested, but the accusation is leveled where it is visible: the store in question) and then the implication from employees that it is all just pure evil and taking as much advantage as possible, and then at least a little accusation (I just don’t get to hear it) leveled at the ‘front lines’ for poor performance–based on averaged metrics that cannot but fail to keep all the relevant factors in place (varying clientele by market, varying local economies, varying hours of shopping, personal strengths and weaknesses of each employee, etc). The internet’s unseen eeeeeeevil influence on retail is a personal bane, and the drive behind it is not evil internet overlords or the people whose jobs depend on the internet, but the need for everything to be cheaper and cheaper–necessity for some, luxury desire for others.

    ²Do not worry, Andrew G., I’ve read about MMT, and so far as my otherwise uneducated mind goes, I am with you ;)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Not to mention that Christians, often with the backing of the church in its institutional form, were many of the people pushing for government programs to promote social welfare in the first place.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Reagan fanfic? Let’s hope they never get around to Reagan slash. And if they did, who would be the other person?

    Ah, of course … Ollie North!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Nope, surprisingly enough Jimmy Carter.  Believe it or not, Jimmy’s the top.

  • Anonymous

    Believe it or not, Jimmy’s the top.

    Not really a surprise … he had the balls to correctly describe the malaise and an appropriate response while Reagan just mouthed pretty platitudes about “morning in America.” Tra-la.

  • Lori

    Item# 4897 on the “They have no sense of historical reality” list:

    Remember the recent dust up over Michelle Bachmann signing that (ostensibly) pro-marriage pledge that included language which suggested that blacks were better off under slavery? Remember the troll who stopped by to inform us that we were all just picking on Bachmann for partisan reasons because it was obvious that she didn’t actually think that blacks were better off as slaves and signing the pledge was just an political error?

    Yeah, not so much.

    Now that Bachmann is running for president folks have started going back to take a longer look at her. In 2002 her Senate campaign put out a list of her “must read” books. 

     
    John Adams by David McCullough

    Ludwig von Mises by Israel M. Kirzner

    Robert E. Lee by Steve Wilkens

    Understanding the Times by David A. Noebel

    Declaration of Independence

    George Washington’s Farewell Address

    Federalist Papers

    Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell

    Modern Times by Paul Johnson

    The full title of the Wilkens book is Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee With a title like that you can see where this is going. Wilkens pushes the idea that blacks were happy enslaved to their good Christian masters

     Northerners were often shocked and offended by the
    familiarity that existed as a matter of course between the whites and
    blacks of the old South. This was one of the surprising and unintended
    consequences of slavery. Slavery, as it operated in the
    pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an
    adversarial relationship founded on racial animosity. In fact, it bred
    on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause.
    The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith. 

    http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/09/291362/bachmann-slavery-abolition-must-read/TL;DR—No, the kind of people who support the Tea Party do not have any realistic grasp of history. They simply believe whatever fairy tale makes them feel good. And yes, Bachmann apparently really does believe that slavery was good for blacks. At the very least she believes that saying that slavery was good for blacks helps her candidacy. She has now made fair too many ignorant remarks about slavery for there to be any excuse to pretend that they’re simple mistakes. 

  • Lunch Meat

    I have a request…can anyone point me to some good, thorough books about US history that were written by historians who are a) at least accepted by intellectually honest moderates and b) not famous for being leftists? Most of my history courses were in a private middle school that I don’t trust for anything (because all I learned is that we’re really a Christian nation, promise!) and the one course I took in high school was not very detailed. I no longer trust all the obvious “facts” I grew up with (like that FDR did not help with the depression) but I don’t know where to start looking for the truth or, honestly, why I should believe what people here are saying just because I trust y’all more and want to agree with you. Also I would like to have some citations on hand to prepared in discussions and the like. If anyone can help me with this I would really appreciate it.

  • Rikalous

    I have a request…can anyone point me to some good, thorough books
    about US history that were written by historians who are a) at least
    accepted by intellectually honest moderates and b) not famous for being
    leftists? Most of my history courses were in a private middle school
    that I don’t trust for anything (because all I learned is that we’re
    really a Christian nation, promise!) and the one course I took in high
    school was not very detailed. I no longer trust all the obvious “facts” I
    grew up with (like that FDR did not help with the depression) but I
    don’t know where to start looking for the truth or, honestly, why I
    should believe what people here are saying just because I trust y’all
    more and want to agree with you. Also I would like to have some
    citations on hand to prepared in discussions and the like. If anyone can
    help me with this I would really appreciate it.

    I recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. It’s not exhaustive, but it was written to counteract misconceptions about American history.

  • Anonymous

    Actually I would like to really not recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me. I read it and found a lot of what I would consider misinformation about topics that I had read fairly extensively about. It’s been a long time since I read it so I can’t provide specifics. At least take it’s interpretations (or anyone’s) with a grain or two of salt.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    I prefer Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, Lizabeth Cohen, and Richard Hofstadter among others.

  • Rikalous

    I have a request…can anyone point me to some good, thorough books
    about US history that were written by historians who are a) at least
    accepted by intellectually honest moderates and b) not famous for being
    leftists? Most of my history courses were in a private middle school
    that I don’t trust for anything (because all I learned is that we’re
    really a Christian nation, promise!) and the one course I took in high
    school was not very detailed. I no longer trust all the obvious “facts” I
    grew up with (like that FDR did not help with the depression) but I
    don’t know where to start looking for the truth or, honestly, why I
    should believe what people here are saying just because I trust y’all
    more and want to agree with you. Also I would like to have some
    citations on hand to prepared in discussions and the like. If anyone can
    help me with this I would really appreciate it.

    I recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. It’s not exhaustive, but it was written to counteract misconceptions about American history.

  • Anonymous

    Lunch Meat, I don’t know about thoroughness–no book that’s reasonably in depth can be all that thorough. But Ira Berlin is an excellent historian for the areas he writes in.

    But really, the best place to begin would be with some colleges and universities. Most have their courses and associated books online, and you can get a pretty good list of accepted books from there. You could also call a history professor at one of those institutions and ask. The receptionist staff in the history department will help you find a professor who would be glad to offer help in finding a few books to get started with (as opposed to the inevitable curmudgeonly jerk who won’t give you–or the president of the institution–the time of day).

  • Anonymous

    Lunch Meat, I don’t know about thoroughness–no book that’s reasonably in depth can be all that thorough. But Ira Berlin is an excellent historian for the areas he writes in.

    But really, the best place to begin would be with some colleges and universities. Most have their courses and associated books online, and you can get a pretty good list of accepted books from there. You could also call a history professor at one of those institutions and ask. The receptionist staff in the history department will help you find a professor who would be glad to offer help in finding a few books to get started with (as opposed to the inevitable curmudgeonly jerk who won’t give you–or the president of the institution–the time of day).

  • Anonymous

    ohiolibrarian:

    Reagan fanfic? Let’s hope they never get around to Reagan slash. And if they did, who would be the other person?

    Ah, of course … Ollie North!

     
    AAAAHHHHHHH!!  DO!  NOT! WANT!
     
    Lori:

    Item# 4897 on the “They have no sense of historical reality” list…

     
    And who could forget Palin’s thrilling retelling of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”  Apparently, he was warning the British .
     
    Lunch Meat:

    I have a request…can anyone point me to some good, thorough books about US history that were written by historians who are a) at least accepted by intellectually honest moderates and b) not famous for being leftists?

     
    If one wants a thorough book then one generally has to find a book on a specific aspect of history. So where do you want to start? 

    History, like science, is ultimately people taking a bunch of pieces of information and trying to tell a story with them.  As new information comes to light, the story must be revised.  Still, each author will tell the story differently (see Lori’s post). 

    Whichever books you end up reading ask yourself these questions: What is the author’s background?  Why did the author write this book? Who is publishing this book?  What sources are being used? What biases might the author be bringing to the story because of background or narrative choice?  Is there a thesis? What story is being told?  What message is being conveyed?  What is being omitted? How is language being used?  (I can give an example if anyone wants one but it would take up some space so I’m not including it here.)
     
    Being able to answer these questions will allow you to judge the work on its own merits and hold to the good while acknowledging its weaknesses (unless it’s so off the rails that you just have to say “there is no good here”).  This way you will be able to honestly discuss topics in history and maintain a viewpoint that adapts to new information.  You also won’t be relying on someone else’s argument from/appeal to authority which is always a plus. 

    Edit: formatting

  • Anonymous

    ohiolibrarian:

    Reagan fanfic? Let’s hope they never get around to Reagan slash. And if they did, who would be the other person?

    Ah, of course … Ollie North!

     
    AAAAHHHHHHH!!  DO!  NOT! WANT!
     
    Lori:

    Item# 4897 on the “They have no sense of historical reality” list…

     
    And who could forget Palin’s thrilling retelling of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”  Apparently, he was warning the British .
     
    Lunch Meat:

    I have a request…can anyone point me to some good, thorough books about US history that were written by historians who are a) at least accepted by intellectually honest moderates and b) not famous for being leftists?

     
    If one wants a thorough book then one generally has to find a book on a specific aspect of history. So where do you want to start? 

    History, like science, is ultimately people taking a bunch of pieces of information and trying to tell a story with them.  As new information comes to light, the story must be revised.  Still, each author will tell the story differently (see Lori’s post). 

    Whichever books you end up reading ask yourself these questions: What is the author’s background?  Why did the author write this book? Who is publishing this book?  What sources are being used? What biases might the author be bringing to the story because of background or narrative choice?  Is there a thesis? What story is being told?  What message is being conveyed?  What is being omitted? How is language being used?  (I can give an example if anyone wants one but it would take up some space so I’m not including it here.)
     
    Being able to answer these questions will allow you to judge the work on its own merits and hold to the good while acknowledging its weaknesses (unless it’s so off the rails that you just have to say “there is no good here”).  This way you will be able to honestly discuss topics in history and maintain a viewpoint that adapts to new information.  You also won’t be relying on someone else’s argument from/appeal to authority which is always a plus. 

    Edit: formatting

  • Lunch Meat

    If one wants a thorough book then one generally has to find a book on a specific aspect of history. So where do you want to start?

    Well, considering I don’t know anything about anything, I would start with the beginning and go from there? So…colonialism, Revolutionary War, to begin with, then western expansion, early politics, slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction… I’m such a poor student of history I’m not really sure what the areas of study and historical periods are, to be honest. Maybe it would be better to start with an overview that would point me to other, more exhaustive sources.

  • Lori

    I think this may be a bit more than Lunch Meat is looking for, but for others who may be looking for good history to read I want to put in another plug for Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways In America by David Hackett Fischer. It’s long (and heavy), but IMO not a difficult read. It’s interesting in its own right and as a bit of an antidote to some of the myths about the founding of America. 

    His scholarship seemed solid to me and other people whose opinions I respect admire him, so I felt like I was on pretty solid ground with him.

    FWIW, he won a Pulitzer for his book on George Washington (I haven’t read it, but IIRC it focuses on Washington as leader of the Continental Army). 

    Because of the 150th anniversary of the war’s start I’ve been reading a lot on the Civil War this year. So far I think I’ve most enjoyed 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart. I finished that book feeling like I had actually learned something and broadened my perspective in a useful way. 

    I’m currently reading The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln & American Slavery by Eric Foner. It came highly recommended, but I haven’t gotten far enough to have an opinion yet. 

     

  • Anonymous

    Lori, If you enjoyed Albion’s Seed, you might be interested in The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers by George MacDonald Fraser. Yes, that’s the author of the Flashman series.

  • Lori

    I’ve heard about that one, but never read it. It wouldn’t normally be top of my list of topics, but the fact that it’s a well-respected history written by the same guy who wrote Flashman does give it a certain draw. 

  • Anonymous

    David McCullogh is a very engaging author to begin with.  You might start with John Adams and 1776 for an introduction into the American Revolution.  (I also greatly enjoyed The Johnstown Flood.) 

    Ian Toll’s Six Frigates is primarily about the beginning of the U.S. Navy but the author does an excellent job putting it within cultural, political and technological context so that one can get a pretty good idea of post-Revolution America up through the War of 1812.  It has a great bibliography and endnotes.

    I just finished Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne and thought it was a pretty good overview of the conflict in the American West.  Gwynne told two parallel stories, the first being that of the Native American tribes, particularly the Comanche, and the second being that of Cynthia Ann Parker and Quanah.  It has a very extensive bibliography and endnotes as well.

    Dash1’s idea was also really good.  I like to go to the local university’s bookstore at the start of the semester and walk down the shelves recording the ISBNs for the various required books.  Oh, hey, it’s that time of year again!

    Edit: formatting

  • Anonymous

    If they were ever regular working people, which mostly they weren’t since mostly they’re lawyers, they stopped being so the moment they started getting paid whatever absurdly high number congresscritters are paid. And they’re certainly not acting in the interests of regular working people. We know this because [insert rant].

    $174,000/year.  Not chump change, but not exactly ‘absurdly high’.  Especially when a fair number could earn 65 times that in the private sector.

    See also this hilarious animation funded by Mike Huckabee. Personally, I find it fitting that the one kid is wearing a Blood Angels helmet -“hyper-religious fascists with an intense bloodlust” is a pretty good descriptor of many in the tea party.

    Holy crap.  You cannot convince me this is not intentional.  And… frankly, this explains a lot about american conservatism, – they’re under the impression the Imperium of Man is a model to be emulated!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    $174,000/year.  Not chump change, but not exactly ‘absurdly high’.  Especially when a fair number could earn 65 times that in the private sector.

    And — I realize this is hard to comprehend to people who live in other parts of the country — for someone living in DC, that’s _comfortable_, but it’s not _rich_.  For the sole breadwinner of a family with children, it’s — well, it’s still comfortable, but not enough to meet the sort of cultural obligations that position entails.

    (This is not meant as a “Wah, it’s so hard to make ends meet on a mere $400k!” rant. But when a congressman’s salary is still in the “A run of unexpected expenses will break you” range, you start to see why many of them, while not exactly being on the take, are reluctant to enact policies that would get them blacklisted by the private sector)

  • Anonymous

    Uh-huh. DC probably has people making the same money I do, too. Eleven dollars an hour. From that perspective, a congresscritter has it fucking made.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Yes. It turns out that you can react to “I make $200k a year and I am still have to worry about money” by thinking “So fuck those poor people, I’ve got problems enough of my own,” or you can react to it by thinking “So if it’s this hard for *me*, there’s no way that I can dismiss someone making half, or a quarter, or a fifth as much as me as lazy or underserving; to keep it together under those conditions would take a freakign superhero.”

    I don’t know why so many people choose the first instead of the second.

  • Lori

    Uh-huh. DC probably has people making the same money I do, too. Eleven
    dollars an hour. From that perspective, a congresscritter has it fucking
    made.

    Yes, DC definitely has people trying to live on $11/hour and less. They live in lousy apartments in bad neighborhoods. It’s an argument for better jobs in the District, not for paying Congress less though. We already have enough trouble attracting decent people to run for office without telling them that they’re going to have to live in a walk up in southeast.

    Decent real estate is always at a premium in the DC area. The thing that’s irritating to me is that housing prices shot up in several areas faster than the rest of the housing bubble right about the time the army of well-paid lobbyists descended at the start of W’s administration. They did to the real estate market in parts of Maryland and northern Virginia what ex-Californians did to Seattle and Portland.

  • Lori

    A bit more on the issue of self-education: Last month there were some threads on TNC’s blog where people talked about getting an education outside of college. Not in the spirit of putting down or dismissing going to college, but in recognition that not every can and that even those who do can’t explore all their interests there.

    The discussion focused on good lecture series available online. Several of the ones that got high marks from the Horde were history lectures. Check out both the post and comments here: http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2011/06/steal-this-diploma/240866/

    and here: http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2011/06/that-ghetto-university/241122/

    I can personally vouch for Blight on the Civil War and the Horde is pretty ridiculously smart so I trust their recs.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    Lunch Meat – I don’t know if this is helpful to you at all, but here’s a link to the reading lists I compiled for my PhD Comps. I read … most of these, and I can probably send you comments on several of them if you like. KKS at #38 in the first list is Kathryn Sklar (her husband was my adviser for Early American, so her book was required). http://little-carrot.livejournal.com/237885.html

    http://little-carrot.livejournal.com/238609.html

  • Anonymous

    Of course you can live in a rather nice rooming house in C St. at below market rates. With maid service.

    All you have to do is pretend it’s a church.

  • Kukulan

    I know this thread is getting a bit old, but I just ran across
    this which I think is pertinent.

     

    From “Turning
    Poverty Into an American Crime
    ” by Barbara Ehrenreich at Counterpunch:

     

    The viciousness of the official animus
    toward the indigent can be breathtaking. A few years ago, a group called Food
    Not Bombs started handing out free vegan food to hungry people in public parks
    around the nation. A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances
    forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places, leading to
    the arrests of several middle-aged white vegans.

     

    One anti-sharing law was just overturned in Orlando, but the
    war on illicit generosity continues. Orlando is appealing the decision, and
    Middletown, Connecticut, is in the midst of a crackdown. More recently,
    Gainesville, Florida, began enforcing a rule limiting the number of meals that
    soup kitchens may serve to 130 people in one day, and Phoenix, Arizona, has
    been using zoning laws to stop a local church from serving breakfast to
    homeless people.

     

    So, apparently, government does
    have a function: preventing others from helping those in need.

     

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that if you assume some
    people just hate the poor – I mean seriously, viciously, maliciously
    hate the poor – it explains a great deal and has great
    predictive power. Ask yourself how someone who hates the poor would act in any
    given set of circumstances and, sure enough, that’s what they will do.

     

    So the question isn’t so much ‘Why are they doing
    this?’
    as ‘What did the poor ever do to them to inspire such
    vitriol?’