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Generalizations and Stereotypes
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, April 28, 2006

Glenn Greenwald makes, I think, a fairly illiberal error in this attempt at justifying generalizations...
Whenever I write a post about the tactics and behaviors of Bush defenders, some pro-Bush bloggers invariably write responses accusing me of unfairly generalizing, trafficking in stereotypes and prejudices, and exhibiting anti-Bush fanticism. [...] It is impossible to avoid generalizations when discussing political groups and the rhetoric and tactics those groups use. Everyone who talks about political conflicts by necessity resorts to generalizations at some point.
[...]
As necessary as they are, generalizations are fraught with risks and dangers. In any group of any size, the generalized statements which accurately describe the group's behavior will be inapplicable to various individuals who compose the group. That's just the nature of generalizations, and while that means one should exert caution when using generalizations, it does not mean that they ought to be avoided. They shouldn't be and can't be.
This is a difficult and blurry distinction, but I think Mr Greenwald is crossing the line from generalizations (helpful) into stereotypes. (harmful)

A little background: a generalization is "a statement about a class based on an examination of some of its members". So far, so good. Greenwald has certainly noted enough partisanship among bloggers on the right. But that's not all there is to it, because while it is "based on a finite set of observations and experiences", it also "claims to hold true for the larger set". "Insufficient or nonrepresentative evidence often leads to a hasty generalization." And hasty generalization is a logical fallacy "committed when a person draws a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough".

Not only is Greenwald's sample size of bloggers not large enough to draw generalizations about, e.g., "authoritarian cultists", he must ignore the instances in which those bloggers do criticize the administration in order to assign them a psychological profile.

Unfortunately, the result is a subset of generalizations. Stereotype: "A generalization, usually exaggerated or oversimplified and often offensive, that is used to describe or distinguish a group."

Now, let's be honest. No matter how liberal, libertarian or generally open-minded we fancy ourselves, we all engage in stereotyping. Being human, I do as well. As Tom Maguire points out, "for a certain type of market appeal, [hyperbolic generalizations] are a great option". I would argue that we're pretty much driven to it by natural and biological necessity, though we can overcome it at times. Still, stereotypes can be very harmful, because they differ from a generalization in an important way:
A "stereotype" is a generalization about a person or group of persons. We develop stereotypes when we are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information we would need to make fair judgments about people or situations. In the absence of the "total picture," stereotypes in many cases allow us to "fill in the blanks." Our society often innocently creates and perpetuates stereotypes, but these stereotypes often lead to unfair discrimination and persecution when the stereotype is unfavorable.
Is Greenwald engaging in generalization or stereotype? Consider the following paragraph from Greenwald's post, in which I replace terms relating to "Bush defenders" with another group...
The idea that one can't talk about those things because some people who support [Islam] may be nice, good, honest people — or because some [Muslims] are complex people with mixed motives that aren't susceptible to generalized descriptions — is just absurd. The [Muslim religion] is identifiable by overriding attributes, tactics and behaviors which have had an extraordinary impact in fundamentally changing our country. Of course that movement is going to be talked about as a movement, and it ought to be.
Unfortunately, a lot of people — especially on the Right — tend to speak about Islam and Muslims with exactly that kind of stereotype, as if a small minority of terrorists out of a billion Muslims is sufficient to tar all Muslim adherents with the same brush. A lot of other people criticize that, and rightly so.

Glenn Greenwald is employing precisely that kind of stereotype; a harmful, unfair and ultimately destructive form of generalization. As Roger L. Simon writes, that "approach encourages the worst in us". Yet we all do it, and, frankly, I'm not sure that even the best-intentioned among us can avoid it entirely. But we're all better for trying.
 
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I don’t think Greenwald even really believes what he’s saying there. He’d turn on a dime if it was blacks instead of republicans.
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://catallarchy.net/blog/
I didn’t add this in the post because I didn’t want to get to far afield, but I think it’s important to mention that I think Greenwald would surprise some of his critics. I think he’s far more classically liberal — even libertarian — than his current affiliation might let on.

I only criticize him because I think he’s got the intellectual capacity to write a lot of important stuff — and, in fact, is writing it — and I think he’s worth reading and writing about. I suspect that his current peer group is probably coloring his perceptions of "the other side", but it’s my belief that Greenwald is ultimately against aggregations of power and skeptical of government in general, rather than merely of Bush or Republicans in particular.

Of course, I’ll have to wait until Democrats are in power to find out if I’m right. :)
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Unfortunately, a lot of people — especially on the Right — tend to speak about Islam and Muslims with exactly that kind of stereotype, as if a small minority of terrorists out of a billion Muslims is sufficient to tar all Muslim adherents with the same brush. A lot of other people criticize that, and rightly so.
Well, yes. Nevertheless, we are in an open conflict with a group of people. I would agree that using the generic "Muslim" for the group is indeed inappropriate, and serves to obfuscate issues more than clarify them. That, however, does not address the related problem - what do we call that group of enemies?

Stephen den Beste took up this problem several years ago and came to no satisfactory conclusion. The closest we seem to have is "Islamic fundamentalism", and that’s what I typically use.

But I believe that many on the right use the term "Islam" or "Muslims
as the term for our enemy because there is no generally accepted term for that group of people. The mass of Muslims who presumably don’t agree with the fundamentalists’ desire to kill us don’t make things any easier. They tend to keep their mouths shut instead of contradicting their jihad-minded co-religionists who are upfront about taking on the Great Satan. That makes them look in many people’s eyes as defacto allies of the jihadists.

(We’ve discussed this before. There are two potential reasons for the reticence of the mainline Muslims to openly oppose the jihadists - fear or that they agree with some substantial portion of the jihadists’ program. As outsiders, I don’t know how we can judge the relative influence of those two reasons.)

So some on the right are probably engaging in stereotyping and others merely in sloppy terminology. I think both are mistakes, but I’m somewhat less concerned about sloppy terminology.

If we had a consistent term for our enemy, we could see who’s just stereotyping. But we don’t.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Matt McIntosh writes:
I don’t think Greenwald even really believes what he’s saying there. He’d turn on a dime if it was blacks instead of republicans.
Um, not likely. Moreover, he isn’t speaking about "Republicans," but rather about "Bush defenders." Two different things. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him disparage Republicans per se.

Jon adds:
I think Greenwald would surprise some of his critics. I think he’s far more classically liberal — even libertarian — than his current affiliation might let on.
He’s said as much in his comments. But he has also written that at the moment, it is the Bush "right" that controls the country — Executive and both houses of Congress. I agree with him about the dangerousness of Bush’s theories of Executive power. But I think all the "cult" blather is overwrought and that he would be advised to let that go.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
So some on the right are probably engaging in stereotyping and others merely in sloppy terminology. I think both are mistakes, but I’m somewhat less concerned about sloppy terminology.
Good points all around, Billy. I prefer the term "Islamic jihadism", but it’s six of one/half a dozen of the other.

I don’t have any grand theory about why the Islamic community has been fairly and apparently restrained in their denunciation of Islamic jihadism, but I would venture a few more non-negative suggestions:

1) Islam is a very decentralized religion and its adherents don’t necessarily feel connected to, or responsible for, other sects of Muslims. (in much the same way that Baptists don’t feel terribly connected to Mormons)

2) Islam is a very decentralized religion and, without an organization or populist leaders, criticism of Islamic jihadism is less likely to be heard.

3) Muslims are speaking out against Islamic jihadism, but the ones speaking out are not the ones who get media attention. A Muslim friend of my fathers was immediately and viscerally critical of Islamic jihadism in the aftermath of 9/11. You read about his criticism in the news, right?

I’m sure there are more, but those spring to mind.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I prefer "Islamists" as it’s shorter and conveys the ideological slant that’s dangerous. "Islamists" are a much larger group than "Islamic terrorists" but are key enablers and suppliers for the latter. At the same time, both groups are subsets of "Muslims."

And, surely, the fact that you know a single Muslim who has simultaneously spoken out against murdering innocents and did not get national media attention for that achievement is not evidence of much of anything. Indeed, it certainly seems that the "nice Muslims" get plenty of coverage. The post-9/11 meme was that innocent Muslims were being targetted by Americans for revenge, which was unadulterated crap.
 
Written By: James Joyner
URL: http://outsidethebeltway.com
Were the silent Germans who did nothing any better then the active Nazis?

Silent approval is giving the Islamists just as much power as active support.



As far as politics goes, "we" ought to concentrate on articulating our positions more so then trying to make a sound bite attacking "them" and "their" positions.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Isn’t stereotyping really just "usually faulty induction about which we disapprove"? Of course, as a matter of deductive logic, the leap from "Some X’s are Y’s" to "All X’s are Y’s" or "This X is a Y" is always fallacious; but that’s okay because it isn’t a matter of deductive reasoning in the first place, it’s a case of (usually faulty) induction. When we call such reasoning stereotyping we are not merely calling attention to the logical problem but making a normative judgment as well. Generally speaking, that is.

Moreover, the case in point is an example of the essentialist fallacy. Consider: what do all applications of the phrase "Bush defender" have in common? I submit that the answer is nothing or, at least, nothing worth calling the essential meaning of the phrase. Certainly, it doesn’t, can’t mean someone who always defends Bush on every occasion. (How small a group would that be? Would Laura qualify? Would even Bush, himself?) Would anyone who had on only one occasion ever once defended Bush personally or regarding one particular issue, action or decision qualify? Well, strictly speaking the answer would have to be yes, and yet it is clear that that is not the sense of the term as used.

The problem ("or at least one problem," he said, qualifying himself) is that adequately qualifying generalizations is (too often) tedious and leads (generally) to stilted, leaden prose, (arguably) fine for (most) academic writing but (usually) fatal among the (majority of the) commentariat.

Or something like that.

 
Written By: D.A. Ridgely
URL: http://
Jon,

This is how I read Glenn’s post: Generalizations are useful and necessary when describing political "followers" or groups, but if they are not properly supported by representative examples then they become stereotypes, which are bad.

You right-wingers are so busy refuting anything that smacks of critisism of your "dear leader" that you don’t bother thinking it through. That’s a generalization, and one that I believe is well supported by representative samples of right-wing blog posts and comments such as the ones on your blog.

If you want to argue otherwise (I mean form a logical argument, not smear and attack of course) then show me a sample of right-wing bloggers and commenters who carefully and intelligently refute Glenn point by point. If you can do this then I will retract my generalization. By the way, don’t bother citing people like Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djerejian, unless you can show that their (revised) views are representative of Bush followers.
 
Written By: Mads Kvalsvik
URL: http://madskvalsvik.blogspot.com
Mr. Ridgely writes:
The problem ("or at least one problem," he said, qualifying himself) is that adequately qualifying generalizations is (too often) tedious and leads (generally) to stilted, leaden prose, (arguably) fine for (most) academic writing but (usually) fatal among the (majority of the) commentariat.
Exactly so. Anyone who has long read Greenwald’s blog would be familiar with the many, vast, innumerable times he has linked to and discussed a "Bush defending" blogger. He is well aware that some (even many) of them take issue w/ Bush and the GOP on a variety of domestic issues, and even were on Bush’s right with regard to that absurd flap over the Dubai Port World deal.

Nevertheless, as his many posts have indicated — and as I agree having left the pro-Bush plantation and thereafter being treated quite poorly by former allies — it is not permitted to dissent from Bush on foreign policy or domestic security issues, unless one does so from the right. To dissent in those two related areas, earns one accusations of not being serious about terrorism, and even of being that most noxious of creatures, the ubiquitous "moonbat."

That is the phenomenon I see Greenwald trying to capture. Bush defenders can and do disagree among themselves on a whole host of domestic issues, but the tie that binds — often cutting off circulation to rational faculties — is national security/foreign policy. The least hint that Bush and his neoconservative advisors are the wrong people to be in charge of national security, simply is intolerable for many Bush defenders. Enough of them, in my view, to justify a generalization.

So, I think Greenwald is within reason in his generalizing. (And I don’t think stereotypes are such a bad idea, either. We rely on them daily for the useful information they provide.) While we libertarians may rightly insist that before the law the individual is always the unit of moral analysis, as a pure matter of information theory, and writing that is not encumbered by distracting discursions into qualifications, the generalization (when supportable and reasonable) is necessary and proper.

That all said, there is a great deal of antagonism to Greenwald around the Bush-supporting blogosphere owing to the "Bush Cult" meme he launched. Sociologically speaking, Bush defenders are not members of any kind of cult, and the term is virtually always meant invidiously. Bush defenders are simply experiencing great cognitive dissonance over what they were told would be true about the Iraq war, in the face of its ugly and chaotic reality. Many are digging in, which is an all too human response. Unless most human beings are cult members, the intransigent Bush defenders are simply behaving like ideologues unwilling to face disconfirming evidence, not like cultists.

Greenwald writes with passion, which I like. But sometimes the passion drives rhetorical excess that might lose him some who would otherwise consider his arguments.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Mads Kvalsvik demonstrates the unwarranted assumption:
You right-wingers are so busy refuting anything that smacks of critisism of your "dear leader" that you don’t bother thinking it through. That’s a generalization, and one that I believe is well supported by representative samples of right-wing blog posts and comments such as the ones on your blog.
Jon Henke is not a right-winger. (Nor am I.) He didn’t vote for George Bush, so could hardly be characterized as embracing him as a "dear leader."

I also greatly — very greatly — appreciate Glenn’s writing and his blog. But to disagree with something he writes, which I do from time to time, does not render one either a right-winger or a devotee of "the leader."

In my view, Jon’s criticism of Glenn’s use of generalizations is off. But I set forth why that was so; you might try that, instead of leaping to grossly inaccurate accusations about Jon Henke and we supposed right-wingers who comment here.





 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
You right-wingers are so busy refuting anything that smacks of critisism of your "dear leader" that you don’t bother thinking it through.

...

If you want to argue otherwise (I mean form a logical argument, not smear and attack of course) then show me a sample of right-wing bloggers and commenters who carefully and intelligently refute Glenn point by point. If you can do this then I will retract my generalization. By the way, don’t bother citing people like Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djerejian, unless you can show that their (revised) views are representative of Bush followers.


How generous of you to offer to enlighten us with your superior judgement and knowledge. First you insult and make unwarranted assumptions (as Mona noted) and then graciously offer to retract if someone can meet some unclear standard of argument for which only you get to judge the validity.

This is the kind of childish "argument" I’ve come to expect from the left. While I have plenty of disagreements with the right (like so many others here, I’m not a conservative), they seldom exhibit the arrogance of the typical leftist that you have just captured so well. I can at least discuss issues with them. With the left, I can only prostrate myself before their superior intellect, or they lapse into insults.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
To my surprise, Mona misses the money quote in Mr. Kvalsvik’s comment (he alliterated); to wit:
If you want to argue otherwise (I mean form a logical argument, not smear and attack of course) then show me a sample of right-wing bloggers and commenters who carefully and intelligently refute Glenn point by point. If you can do this then I will retract my generalization. By the way, don’t bother citing people like Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djerejian, unless you can show that their (revised) views are representative of Bush followers.
Now, this is interesting on several grounds. First, the logic (Mr. Kvalsvik’s term) here is that if one cites someone "like" Sullivan and Djerejian, then that person is either not among the "right-wing bloggers and commenters" (or "right-wing-nut-job half of the blogosphere" as he terms it in his own blog — are they really a full half?) or "not representative of Bush followers."

Of course, if it turns out (as I suspect) that he considers "right-wing bloggers and commenters" roughly coextensive with "Bush supporters," the disjunctive here does no work. But we’ll let that pass. The interesting thing is the work "like" does here; namely, it reduces his challenge to "show me an X that as I define X’s isn’t really an X, and I will retract..."

Finally, one wonders what would count as a sample. I need produce only one white crow, for example, to "refute" the assertion that all crows are black. But, of course, if by Mr. Kvalsvik’s definition all crows are necessarily black, he will remain unconvinced however pale my offered Corvus may be because he will reply simply, "Yes, but that isn’t really a crow."
 
Written By: D.A. Ridgely
URL: http://
Mr. Ridgely writes:
Now, this is interesting on several grounds. First, the logic (Mr. Kvalsvik’s term) here is that if one cites someone "like" Sullivan and Djerejian, then that person is either not among the "right-wing bloggers and commenters" (or "right-wing-nut-job half of the blogosphere" as he terms it in his own blog — are they really a full half?) or "not representative of Bush followers."
And the amusing thing is, if he is an inveterate reader of Greenwald’s blog it is likely he is aware of Djerjian’s significant criticism of Bush only because I brought that to everyone’s attention over there in comments; Greenwald then discussed Djerjian in several updates (giving my openly known pseudonym a h/t both times he did that). So, our interlocutor is asking us — and us includes me — to cite examples, one of which he knows to foreclose because I already brought it to his attention.

But in any event, why Djerejian should be off limits as the sort of example he asks for is beyond me.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Well, that’s just it, it sounds like if the sample presented doesn’t have the behaviour indicated, then it just doesn’t qualify.

If A is X and NOT pro-B, then it can’t be X, because all X are X and pro-B

********

If people would stick to explaining where they are on the issues, and stop trying to explain where the other guy stands, we’d all be much better off.

A proper political test would be much like a personality test. Most people would have tendencies which conflict with the stereo-types attached to labels.

I say let’s pan political parties all together. Every candidate should represent themselves, and stand for what they believe. Of course, part of being a representative of a people is putting aside your personal beliefs to vote the way the people want you to vote, or to serve a greater good.

But, the way it is, most politicians serve themselves, then their Party, and then the country.

What’s interesting to me is all the navel gazing that’s going on lately.

A couple of interesting entries I’ve found about this subject.

http://www.spot-on.com/archives/000359.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/04/26/opinion/meyer/main1546871.shtml

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,193080,00.html
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
I wonder if Mr. Greenwald would have the same opinions were he to turn his post around. Instead of looking at Bush defenders and Bush supporters, look at Bush attackers and Bush opposers.

There are many whom I suspect are mislabeled, or falsely generalized, by Greenwald (and certainly Mr. Kvalsvik above), that are as likely to be Bush opposers as often as Bush supporters - Immigration, Medicare, Tariffs, Embryonic stem-cell research, etc. And to employ my own generalization, the utter hatred of Bush by the left blinds them from this key distinction. I’d posit, that many of whom Mr. Greenwald labels Bush defenders are in fact defenders of rational thought and opponents of partisan hypocrisy; they are not defending Bush per se, rather rejecting fallacious, and oft times malicious, hyperbole set forth by Bush attackers as honest debate.


 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Who is the person who asked right wingers to read Glenn’s blog and refute Glenn point by point? Can you think of a greater waste of a right winger’s (or anyone’s) time? Political blogs suck. Sorry, just pointing out the obvious. Political followers on the left or right suck. Think for yourselves for once.
It’s an echo chamber circle jerk, with left and right pitching in equally.
 
Written By: Anarchist
URL: http://
Political blogs suck.

And yet ... here you are.

Kind of you to demonstrate not only the pretentious idiocy of the black bandanna brigade and a textbook case of cognitive dissonance, but crude stereotyping as well. A threefer.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://quantum-sky.net
I’d posit, that many of whom Mr. Greenwald labels Bush defenders are in fact defenders of rational thought and opponents of partisan hypocrisy; they are not defending Bush per se, rather rejecting fallacious, and oft times malicious, hyperbole set forth by Bush attackers as honest debate.
Yeah, that sounds like me. The foolishness and malice I see every day exhibited by Dems and the Left (since 2001) have forced me off my normal political neutrality. I consider myself less a "conservative" and more an anti-"liberal." I defend most Bush’s foreign policies not because I’m ideological or in love with the guy, but because I find many of the criticisms of it unfair.
 
Written By: equitus
URL: http://
If people would stick to explaining where they are on the issues, and stop trying to explain where the other guy stands, we’d all be much better off.
Truer words are seldom uttered, Keith.
However, with expediency in mind, it is often useful to site the perceived moronic viewpoints of the opposition. In my personal experience, it is very useful when informing juiced pub dwellers.
Hey Frank, you know that idiot senator ______, well this is what that douche bag thinks, and this is why I believe…
I think your right, though. Orators would be well advised to adhere to their own opinions and suggestions without resorting to defining the beliefs of their counterparts.
I say let’s pan political parties all together. Every candidate should represent themselves, and stand for what they believe.
You know, I heard that same thing come out of the mouth of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect a few years ago. Say what you will about “The Body”, but I always had a soft spot for the Navy SEAL.
Perhaps it’s my affection for third party candidates. Or this,
Ventura vetoed a bill to promote recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, saying:
"I believe patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice [such as voting, attending community meetings and speaking out when needed]. No law will make a citizen a patriot."
HOOYAH!
(Gotta’ love that stuff.)

Cheers.

 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I am with Equitus, I am a slightly right leaning libertarian, and I have about run totally out of patience with the Republicans. Unfortunately I see no help coming from the left because the opposition party has become increasingly inhabited by viscous extreme moonbats (yes a generalization). There is plenty enough of true thing in which to criticize the Bush Administration but these guys feel that they have to make up a bunch of crazy conspiracy theories and transfer all of their totalitarian tendencies to Bush.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
There is plenty enough of true thing in which to criticize the Bush Administration but these guys feel that they have to make up a bunch of crazy conspiracy theories and transfer all of their totalitarian tendencies to Bush.
Absolutely. It continues to amaze me that the left can be so inept as to fail to take advantage of such an easy target as Bush.

For long periods of time, he’s almost left the playing field completely to them. They could talk seriously about the conduct of the war and lack of planning for the occupation. I’m not much in sympathy with that viewpoint - the world is a complex place and I don’t expect precognition on the part of our leaders, but there are voters that have higher expectations.

They could put forth serious proposals for reforming Social Security and Medicare. They could craft a coherent immigration strategy and press Bush on his fuzziness in that area.

But nope. It’s all "Bush lied, people died", "Halliburton!!!", and even "Bush caused 9/11 to start a war for oil!" or some such nonsense. Oh, and BDS-induced flip-flops like John Kerry talking about unilateral action in Iran. Those guys were all incensed about unilateral action in Iraq (only one letter difference!), but this time Bush is working through the UN and Europe, so Kerry apparently took up a contradictory position by simple reflex. ("Sindgin Polevaulter, I understand for the last few years you’ve been contradicting people?" "No, I haven’t!")

I’ve long said that they’re delusional, unconnected to the real world. And I’m far from being the only one who feels that way. The mainstream left is pretty close to those whackjobs you see in Evan Coyne Maloney’s videos at http://www.brain-terminal.com. And normal people recoil from madness, so the left continues to flounder.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Billy Hollis writes:
But nope. It’s all "Bush lied, people died", "Halliburton!!!", and even "Bush caused 9/11 to start a war for oil!" or some such nonsense. Oh, and BDS-induced flip-flops like John Kerry talking about unilateral action in Iran. Those guys were all incensed about unilateral action in Iraq (only one letter difference!), but this time Bush is working through the UN and Europe, so Kerry apparently took up a contradictory position by simple reflex. ("Sindgin Polevaulter, I understand for the last few years you’ve been contradicting people?" "No, I haven’t!")
What I’ve come to conclude is one has to move beyond the level of discussion in most of the blogosphere. I’ve been on both sides — voted for Bush in ’04, and when I supported him, the usual suspects thought I was wonderful, and the anti-Bush "moonbats" called me names. But since I’ve come to be very critical of Bush and the GOP (beginning with the Schiavo bullsh*t, but moving into the NSA warrantless surveillance matter that involves the larger and more over-arching issue of Bush’s theory of Executive power, and the manifest poor planning for the aftermath of deposing Saddam) I’ve been absolutely reviled by people who used to think I was oh-so-smart-and-reasonable.

John Kerry is the worst Democratic candidate imaginable, and they got the defeat they deserved when they opted for him. But he isn’t the only Democrat out there. Howard Dean is, in fact, not crazy. Yes, he is angry. Well, you’ve got the GOP machine running around depicting ALL Democrats as bad on terrorism and national security; as raging leftists. That isn’t Howard Dean. He has a perfect NRA rating and was a fiscally conservative governor. That he opposed the war in Iraq under the circumstances and at the time that he did (he didn’t rule it out as an option with proper planning) does not render him a moonbat. He’s not George McGovern.

Then there is Russ Feingold. I hate the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill — it would be the odd libertarian who didn’t. But setting that aside, he is a civil libertarian’s dream. Doing some research on the drug war, I found that much of his opposition to The Patriot Act involved his objections to provisions that were purely going to enhance federal powers in criminal investigations, especially in the drug war context. Russ isn’t likin’ "sneak and peak" searches. I don’t either.

It seems to me it is time to stop reflexively rejecting every position taken by every Democrat, just becasue s/he disagrees with this or that GOP proposal related to national security. Bush and the GOP are, in fact, not terribly competent in that area.

There are right-wing analogs to the left’s fevered conspiracy theories about Bush. And the right can be just as vicious and crazy. Remember lesbian Hillary who had an affair with Vince Foster, whom she had murdered, while she and Bill were running a drug cartel? (Talk about "derangement syndromes.") I canceled my subscription to The American Spectator in the early 90s, after that rag began advertising on the Limbaugh show and adjusted their standards accordingly. It became All Bill ’n Hill All the Time. They "reported" that Hillary screamed at Bill that "I need to get f*cked, too" one night after he supposedly returned from catting around. Well, that isn’t political commentary, it is Jerry Springer crap. The right really can be as awful as the left.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Mona, the problem with your analysis, is that few mainstream Republican pundits or politicians are apeing the most far out ideas of the extreme right. While, on the other hand several Democratic mainstream politicians and pundits blog on places like Kos and Huffington, and spew out pure venom.
Also, this has been going on for years. I remember democrat pols saying that the republicans want to make grandma eat dog food, start a nuclear war, bring back Jim Crowe, etc. Hateful things.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Kyle writes:
Mona, the problem with your analysis, is that few mainstream Republican pundits or politicians are apeing the most far out ideas of the extreme right. While, on the other hand several Democratic mainstream politicians and pundits blog on places like Kos and Huffington, and spew out pure venom.
Also, this has been going on for years. I remember democrat pols saying that the republicans want to make grandma eat dog food, start a nuclear war, bring back Jim Crowe, etc. Hateful things.
With all due respect, none of that violates or alters my analysis. The GOP controls all branches of the federal government. It’s politicians don’t need to "get creative" and exploit the Internet — and are somewhat less adventurous about such new ways of operating anyway. So what if Russ Feingold posts at Kos? Kos’s site is explicitly dedicated to advancing the interests of the Democratic party. Yeah, Kos made that heinous "screw ’em" comment, but his readers admonished him for that, and he issued a retraction. All in all, Kos is no more nutty on the left than Freeperville is on the right; and Democrats who want to exploit the Internet would be foolish indeed not to choose the largest blog — one dedicated to their Party — as a platform. Doesn’t mean they embrace every post or comment there, but it gets their message out.

Pure venom and hateful things, you say. Because I object to Bush’s outrageous and monarchical theories of Executive power, and have come to be very critical of his handling if Iraq, I was told to "f*ck off and die" at Protein Wisdom, and others agreed with that sentiment. Ramesh Ponnuru just published a book entitled Party of Death, arguing that’s what the Democrats are. Michelle Malkin loves the book, and agrees the Democrats are part of a death cult, along with Planned Parenthood. The GOP and its defenders are every bit as venomous in their attacks as any Democrat has every been. The Clinton Derangement Syndrome of the 90s is but one other, long piece of evidence for that.
















 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
The GOP and its defenders are every bit as venomous in their attacks as any Democrat has every been. The Clinton Derangement Syndrome of the 90s is but one other, long piece of evidence for that.
So that makes it OK?

While reading Greenwald’s piece, I was thinking of that period. Thinking that a better study of generalizations would be to compare Clinton defenders to Bush defenders, and Clinton opposers to Bush opposers. My comment above about defenders of rational thought is just as applicible to someone seemingly defending Clinton when confronted with a Burtonesque "you had Foster murdered" attack.

The problem as I see it, stems from the absolute committment to a position that fails to convince the majority. Instead of re-evaluating ones own position, one starts adding speculation, rumour, fantasy, and invective as further supporing evidence.

And to give an example, if I am unconvinced that Bush is extending executive power beyond constitutional limits, throwing in terms like "monarchical" will most likely lessen your ability to sway me to your POV. Similarly Jon’s attempt to deem Gitmo a gulag.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Bains writes: So that makes it OK?

No. it means exactly what I argued, to wit: that one cannot reasonably argue that is just the left/Democrats who engage in extreme, bizarre and utterly vicious attacks on the other side and its President.

You continue:
if I am unconvinced that Bush is extending executive power beyond constitutional limits, throwing in terms like "monarchical" will most likely lessen your ability to sway me to your POV. Similarly Jon’s attempt to deem Gitmo a gulag.
I use the term "monarchical" advisedly, and with an understanding of what it is our Founders did not want the office of Executive to be. The controlling Supreme Court case in matters such as Bush’s decision that he is above some 750 laws, is Youngstown Sheet and Metal, in which the High Court told Harry Truman that the president must obey the laws of Congress in all but the most rare, isolated and truly exigent circumstances, and he must do so even in time of war. The concurring Opinion in that case is the one applied by the SCOTUS, the Opinion of Justice Robert Jackson, who wrote of the power Truman was claiming to violate the law in the name of national security:

The example of such unlimited executive power that must have most impressed the forefathers was the prerogative exercised by George III, and the description of its evils in the Declaration of Independence leads me to doubt that they were creating their new Executive in his image. Continental European examples were no more appealing. And, if we seek instruction from our own times, we can match it only from the executive powers in those governments we disparagingly describe as totalitarian.
And Justice Jackson says this in a footnote:

We follow the judicial tradition instituted on a memorable Sunday in 1612 when King James took offense at the independence of his judges and, in rage, declared: "Then I am to be under the law — which it is treason to affirm." Chief Justice Coke replied to his King: "Thus, wrote Bracton, ‘The King ought not to be under any man, but he is under God and the Law.’" 12 Coke 65 (as to its verity, 18 Eng.Hist.Rev. 664-675); 1 Campbell, Lives of the Chief Justices (1849), 272.
George Bush has arrogated to himself exactly the powers Youngtown precludes. Jackson’s 1952 analysis that such Executive power grabs breach the Founders’ objection to monarchical powers is spot on. George Bush is claiming the power of a King. Indeed, the premier neoconservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, has published a Harvey Mansfield piece extolling Bush’s warrantless surveillance in violation of FISA, and claiming we Americans should embrace a "prince" who operates outside of the law. Well, this libertarian doesn’t want that. She favors the rule of law, and an Executive bound by it.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Remember lesbian Hillary who had an affair with Vince Foster, whom she had murdered, while she and Bill were running a drug cartel?
Fine, Mona. Name the GOP members of Congress that got up and talked about these issues. To the best of my memory, there were none. They didn’t even want to touch the Juanita Broadrick rape stuff.

Now, let me name the Democratic members of Congress who spout conspiracy nonsense: Cynthia McKinney, Barbara Boxer, John Conyers, Shelia Jackson Lee. And here’s Nancy Pelosi just this week, talking to schoolchildren, for goodness sake:
“Do you think the 2004 election was rigged?”

“It could have been, but we must make sure that that never happens again if that did happen.”
Just a reminder here - Nancy Pelosi is the minority leader of the House of Representatives.

Mona, if you seriously put forth the idea that the ravings of the right-wing Mena crowd is equivalent to the ravings of actual members of Congress, I have to seriously discount your ability to look at this issue objectively. The "both sides do it" position is false equivlence and lazy reasoning.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Billy Hollis writes:
Mona, if you seriously put forth the idea that the ravings of the right-wing Mena crowd is equivalent to the ravings of actual members of Congress, I have to seriously discount your ability to look at this issue objectively. The "both sides do it" position is false equivlence and lazy reasoning.
Pffft. Nancy Pelosi is a moron, but that comment you site while stupid is trivial, and hardly outrageous, much less vicious. We are talking about vicious, here.

And I doubly assure you, I can find scads of horrible comments from GOP Congresspeople. Let’s just take the example of Sen. John Cornyn, who in the wake of: the FL probate judge in the Schiavo case, George Greer, who was receiving death threats and living under armed guard; the murder of federal judge’s family members in Il, and; in Atlanta, a man fatally shooting four people, including the judge presiding over his rape trial, Sen. Cornyn said this, by way of sympathetic "understanding":

"I don’t know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. . . . And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence. Certainly without any justification, but a concern that I have."
The only thing called for when judges in the United States of America are living under death threats, and they and their families are being murdered — especially by a United States Senator — is unqualified condemnation. What Cornyn said is obscene. I have more, if that isn’t enough for you.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
I take this just a tad more seriously than Nancy Pelosi’s tepid musings about rigged elections; says Sandra Day O’Connor (my emphasis):
In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University, reported by National Public Radio and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ms O’Connor took aim at Republican leaders whose repeated denunciations of the courts for alleged liberal bias could, she said, be contributing to a climate of violence against judges.

...In her address to an audience of corporate lawyers on Thursday, Ms O’Connor singled out a warning to the judiciary issued last year by Tom DeLay, the former Republican leader in the House of Representatives, over a court ruling in a controversial "right to die" case.

After the decision last March that ordered a brain-dead woman in Florida, Terri Schiavo, removed from life support, Mr DeLay said: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behaviour."

Mr DeLay later called for the impeachment of judges involved in the Schiavo case, and called for more scrutiny of "an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president".

Such threats, Ms O’Connor said, "pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedom", and she told the lawyers in her audience: "I want you to tune your ears to these attacks ... You have an obligation to speak up.

... She noted death threats against judges were on the rise and added that the situation was not helped by a senior senator’s [she means Cornyn, here] suggestion that there might be a connection between the violence against judges and the decisions they make.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Mona, it looks to me like you’re trying to change the subject. What Cornyn said was indeed stupid, but I don’t see any conspiracy nonsense in it.

I’m sure you can find any number of politicians saying stupid things, but that does not address my rebuttal of your assertion - that Democratic politicians are fine with wacky conspiracy theories and GOP politicians are not. You were the one who brought up Mena, etc. and insisted that the right is just as bad as the left about such nonsense. But I repeat - some right-wing whackjobs are not equivalent to members of Congress when both are spouting conspiracy theories.

And I’d certainly agree that Nancy Pelosi is a moron, but if the first thing out of her mouth when asked about a rigged 2004 election is to cozy right up to the suggestion, then that’s beyond trivial - it’s outrageous.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Fine, Mona. Name the GOP members of Congress that got up and talked about these issues.
Rep. Dan Burton was pretty wild in his accusations/implications.

Rush was as vitriolic as Randi Rhodes is.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Ok Billy, off the top of my head I can’t think of any GOP congressman who recently have endorsed conspiracy theories (tho I’ll bet I could if I spent some time googling it). If that is your sole metric for what constitues unacceptable commentary from a congressperson, and if you also think vicious commentary from respectable GOP outlets is evidence of nothing, then clearly little can convince you that the left/Democrats are not uniquely awful in the beliefs and statements of some in their midst.

Myself, I find much that the current crop of the GOP in office have to say to be outrageous, dangerous and vile. But you are right, encouraging a murderous climate for judges isn’t a "conspiracy theory." "Cozying up" to notions of a rigged election is far, far worse.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
That’s just it Mona, you have to dig for it in the GOPs case... Yet the Democrats keep spouting their theories. Sure, it’s easy to find some fire-brand who’s job is to spout their opinion on the tv, radio, print or on the internet. But that’s still not the same as a member of Congress, or a Presidential candidate.

Pelosi is their leader in the House, whom you call a "moron." So, what does that tell you about those that voted her into that position.

But you know what, you’ve managed to drag this discussion away from the actual topic at hand, just like you did over at Rogers place.

People can have principled positions diametrically opposed to one another and still get along. There can be reasoned discourse, and healthy debate. Sometime we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

But the venom and disrespect being shown at all levels, from the halls of Congress, to Main Street (and the internets equivelant) MUST STOP. And it starts stopping by each of us doing our best to start from a position of respecting the person, even if we hate their ideas. Love the sinner, hate the sin, in other words.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Keith writes:
That’s just it Mona, you have to dig for it in the GOPs case ...Pelosi is their leader in the House, whom you call a "moron." So, what does that tell you about those that voted her into that position.

But you know what, you’ve managed to drag this discussion away from the actual topic at hand, just like you did over at Rogers place.
First, I didn’t "drag the conversation " anywhere. I made a number of observations within the context of the subject at hand as to why I have grown very critical of Bush, and others chose to challenge me about my specific reasons for objecting to Bush. It’s called thread drift, and it happens all the time.

Tom Delay is as much a moron as is Nancy Pelosi. I think we all know to what position he was elected by his colleagues. And I can quite assure you I don’t have to dig for the myriad inanities he issues, or the attacks on the judiciary from such as he and Cornyn. And those comments are much, much more serious than ditzy Nancy Pelosi’s allowing that an election may have been rigged. Or maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m the only libertarian on the planet who thinks murdering judges, their relatives, and threatening them is something that GOP congressmen should not be creating a climate for, and expressing understanding of, rather than vehemently denouncing.

The reality is, many right-leaning libertarians tend to be more forgiving of, even deaf to, the excesses of the GOP. (Which, btw, is why you think such comments need to be dug for — they are well known outside of right blogistan. But I don’t limit my reading to that sector.) That’s a double standard I do not share, even tho I tilt right myself.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Mona, you miss my point - perhaps it was the snarky opening.

Let me preface this by saying my focus is not on the following arguments, rather possible consequences of how the following arguments are made.

Your founding premise - the belief that Bush has disobeyed enacted law - may be valid; I realize that there are many legal authorities who believe he has. And yet, there are many others who disagree. But at this juncture, no court has ruled whether or not the warrantless NSA easdropping program is in conflict with established law. I am therefore unconvinced that the core of your argument is valid. At some point I may be convinced.

Evocative terms like "monarchical" (or "warrantless domestic spying" which you did not use) can be valid tools of debate. They are, however, double edged swords. Used too much, they give the impression that the presenter is relying on emotion rather than logic. Employed in excess strongly suggests intellectual dishonesty.

I was using your "... I object to Bush’s outrageous and monarchical theories of Executive power..." statement as an example of a rhetorical flourish that can backfire. I could have just as easily used "Bush lied to get us into an imperialistic war to benefit his oil buddies and Jews, and whose mismanagement has lead to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths." (made up)

Taking the made up statement, I’d agree with the mismanagement part, yet by throwing in so many outrageous claims I am more likely to summarily dismiss ANY point the presenter is trying to make. Similarly, by using the evocative adjective monarchical, you may be less likely to convince another irrespective of the merits of your argument. Were I to engage in this hypothetical debate, it is possible that we wouldn’t even be arguing the same thing - you contending that Bush has usurped congressional authority, me contending that Bush is not a Monarch.

Now to bring it back to generalizations, or more correctly, inaccurate generalizations, while I reject specifically that Bush lied, that it was an imperialistic war, that it was for the benefit of the Jews or Bush’s cronies, and that hundreds of thousands have died needlessly I am likely perceived as defending Bush’s actions. Rejecting dishonest debate, I am castigated, or inaccurately generalized, as a Bush defender.

 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Bains writes:
Evocative terms like "monarchical" (or "warrantless domestic spying" which you did not use) can be valid tools of debate. They are, however, double edged swords. Used too much, they give the impression that the presenter is relying on emotion rather than logic. Employed in excess strongly suggests intellectual dishonesty.
I understand your point, but the monarchy/King terminology comes up surpassingly often from lawyers and well-educated pundits vis-a-vis Bush’s theories of Executive power, including as applied to the warrantless surveillance program. It flows from an understanding of the Founders’ writings and why they chose the separation of powers model they did, which Bush’s legal theories toss in the trash can.

Arch-conservative Con Law scholar Bruce Fein, writing in The Washington Times, declared:

The Founding Fathers confined presidential war powers to avoid the oppressions of kings. Despite championing a muscular and energetic chief executive, Hamilton in Federalist 69 accepted that the president must generally bow to congressional directions even in times of war: "The president is to be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. In this respect, his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces; while that of the British king extends to declaring war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies — all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature."
(Then Fein goes on to recommend impeachment if Bush does not agree to obey the law.)

And just so you really understand how right-wing Fein is, he also has written this:
President George W. Bush should pack the United States Supreme Court with philosophical clones of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and defeated nominee Robert H. Bork.
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
I understand your point, but the monarchy/King terminology comes up surpassingly often from lawyers and well-educated pundits...


Actually Mona, I don’t think you do. I explicitly stated that your position vis a vis executive powers may very well be warranted. Yet you come back with experts that validate your usage of specific terms within your argument. The deal breaker is not the core argument; it is a fealty to one and only one allowable definition within the argument. I understand how you would use monarchical, yet you seemingly refuse to acknowledge an equally valid but much more inflammatory connotation. Your demand to use it only bolsters the impression that you knowingly employ hyperbole as a debate tool.

Again, I’m not trying to debate the actual issue nor accuse you of intellectual dishonesty - you want to make a point... yet

Let me try using another subject to make the underlying point. I’m a limited pro-abortion fella - no restrictions first trimester, perhaps with parental/spousal notification ala what Alito was outvoted upon in the Ohio case. Yet when I get into arguments with some (my mother in particular), the idea that a zygote in a woman’s uterus is anything other than human, or even proto-human, is anathema. For goodness sake, I agree with a good part of the pro-choice position, yet my refusal to embrace their definitions casts me in their eyes as "anti-choice." We can’t communicate because they refuse to recognize how limiting their definitions are.

How we set forth our arguments matters. Acknowledging that language is dynamic and flexible is important. Recognizing that your choice of words may not serve the purpose you intend is crucial.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Bains, I’m honestly not intending hyperbole. Perhaps it is an affliction of my professional background, but I tend to adopt the tropes in the court decisions and writings of other lawyers. In the Hamdi case, recently decided by the SCOTUS, Antonin Scalia wrote the strongest opinion against the Executive power Bush was claiming, and he went on and on about the history of the British monarchy and what our Founders intended to avoid in that regard. Scalia stated:
As Hamilton explained, the President’s military authority would be “much inferior” to that of the British King:

“It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy: while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.” The Federalist No. 69, p. 357.

A view of the Constitution that gives the Executive authority to use military force rather than the force of law against citizens on American soil flies in the face of the mistrust that engendered these provisions.
Really, in light of American history, and in actual fact, Bush is claiming power that our Founders specifically meant to preclude, so that the Executive would not function as monarch. If I’m hyperbolic, well, so is Scalia. (Maybe not the best example since he sometimes, entertainingly, is.)
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
Aargh....

Dammit Mona, I’m just a country engineer...

Get over my objection to the validity of your usage of monarchical - recognize how it can be construed by other... particularly those without your legal training.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://

 
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