Monday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. A cricket race to discuss (for those coming “late to the party”, cricket race is my word for a poll).
  2. Corruption in high places, one approach and the last bit with St. Basil might serve as an object lesson (HT: Ocholophobist, the).
  3. Forgiveness and a not-completely-unrelated prayer.
  4. Money talk.
  5. On the senior handout.
  6. Ms Palin on healthcare (HT: Politico).
  7. More on healthcare here.
  8. The apostolic physician.
  9. “Because it has a perspective” … just like all the rest. Speaking of which
  10. The Maoist in the White House kerfuffle.
  11. Considering recessions and recoveries.
  12. Are these the “new rules?”
  13. Ms Clinton in Moscow.
  14. Working with a beatitude.

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41 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Are these the “new rules?”

    As I explained on my radio show, this spectacle is bigger than I am on several levels. There is a contempt in the news business, including the sportswriter community, for conservatives that reflects the blind hatred espoused by Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson.

    I’m not sure I understand. I thought according to Mark Rush Limbaugh was just an entertainer with no relationship to the conservative political movement or conservative philosophy.

  2. Boonton says:

    The Maoist in the White House kerfuffle.

    As usual, whenever you hear right wing hacks yabbering about something that sounds stunning, you have to find independent confirmation. Wikipedia provides us with the context:

    On June 5, 2009, Dunn delivered a speech to a group of high school students in which she stated “… two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa, not often coupled with each other, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point…you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths” or “let external definition define how good you are internally.” The Mao quote Dunn cited referred to a disagreement within the Community Party of China in 1947 as to the conduct of the war against the Nationalists during which Mao declared “You fight your war, and I’ll fight mine”. The Mother Theresa quote, “Go find your own Calcutta.” was in response to a offer to help her at her mission in Calcutta.[9] On October 15, 2009, The Fox News Channel aired a video clip of the speech as evidence of her having communist and pro-Mao sympathies.

    The linking of two ‘opposites’ is an interesting rhetorical move in the speech, which I don’t think she really pulls off to great effect. But more to the point, the accusation of ‘pro-Mao’ sympathy is clearly a lie whose plausibility depends on *not* listening to the speech and *not* even trying to read it in partial context. It is, in other words, a cheap shot.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I think the objection is not specifically the speech, but the part that identifies Mao as one of her “favorite political philosophers”. If she had said, “One of my favorite poltical quotes” is yada yada that would be more in line with rational/ethical political philosophy. It shouldn’t be acceptable in polite company to admit that your favorite political philosophers are in the Stalin/Lenin/Hitler/Mao/Pol Pot group of genocidal tyrants.

    Are you arguing she was just putting two quotes in conjunction and mis-spoke or what?

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    The linked piece expresses the opinion of Vox Day, not myself.

  5. Boonton says:

    I suggest again looking at what she said:

    but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point…you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths

    It’s pretty clear to me she is using two wildly different people to demonstrate this. This hardly seems like a political philosophy. Not following other people’s choices is not a political philosophy, nor is it a philosophy. It would seem the ‘favorite political philosophers’ was therefore presented as tongue in cheek. .

    As an illustration it doesn’t really resonate very well. Not a success as a rhetorical experiment, but not necessarily something that couldn’t work if it was rephrased and reworked a bit at the speech writer’s laptop.

    But we aren’t talking about American Idol for public speaking. Nor do I buy your revamped political correctness that arch-villians like Mao can’t be used to make rhetorical points. We are talking about a flat out lie. The only way to get ‘pro-Mao’ out of that is cut away the facts until you get to the soundbite “Mao….my favorite”. This, you may recall, is the very definition of bias. To purposefully distort and hide the truth.

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    It doesn’t take a stretch, she begins by identifying these two Mother Theresa and Mao as her “favourite political philosophers” that is not a stretch. If she meant it “ironically” as she is now claiming, why would you refer to Mother Theresa “ironically” in terms of her social/political activism?

    Googling a bit, I find, “It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge. ” a quote from Adolph Hitler and “The writer is the engineer of the human soul.” from Joseph Stalin. Now in a speech about writing and message one might introduce these quotes to point at reasons to write and to attempt inspire an audience to put their ideas and thoughts in the public square. However, if one did so by prefacing this with “two of my favourite political philosophers are Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler” one could (and should) take exception to that sentiment. Yet this seems by wiki article to indicate exactly what Ms Dunn did.

    I pointed out a short while back, why I thought Russians have difficulty distancing themselves clearly from Stalin, that is because he raised them from a poor agrarian nation to a world power. An American has no similar reasons as to why she might find Mao a figure to admire.

  7. Boonton says:

    “ironically” as she is now claiming, why would you refer to Mother Theresa “ironically” in terms of her social/political activism?

    Actually I think the irony would be in taking two people who not only have nothing to do with each other but would appear to be total opposites and asserting that they have a similiarity. I’m not sure irony is the best word, though. I think it’s more along the lines of an attention getter whose rhetorical purpose was to draw the audience’s attention by announcing the strange comparision. The audience was clearly intended to be shocked to attention so they could hear what made these two different people alike. This is why it fails imo, it doesn’t deliever on its promise hence runs flat.

    Now in a speech about writing and message one might introduce these quotes to point at reasons to write and to attempt inspire an audience to put their ideas and thoughts in the public square

    If you guys want to be honeset then announce she sinned agaisnt the gods of political correctness by failing to preface her citation with the usual “he was really evil” disclaimer. Nothing in the speech, though, indicates that she is a Maoist. As a matter of fact, it isn’t unusual for ‘arch-villians’ to get quoted positively in speeches on a range of subject. Hitler not so often but then I suspect Hitler is not quite as quotable as Mao or Stalin (your example excepted).

  8. Boonton says:

    Let’s examine this from a meta-analysis of the right wing media ecosystem.

    Turn back to our favorite quote from Keynes:

    Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.

    A while back I cited a Salon piece on Glen Beck’s ‘academic scribbler’. No not Hayek or Rand but the fruitcake Cleon Skousen (see http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/09/16/beck_skousen/index1.html).

    But note how the 2nd rate right wing ‘intelligent blogs’ operate here. Mark is correct, he doesn’t follow Beck or take his orders from him. Nonetheless, the meme starts with characters like Beck and Limbaugh, then get picked up by the ‘idea centered’ blogs who run with the crap and work mostly at putting a half-assed intellectual spin on it.

    Since you dismiss people like Beck and Limbaugh as ‘entertainers’ who care mostly about shouting and getting attentiona nd making money, do you find it ironic that so much of the ‘voices in the air’ you hear is not even defunct academics but instead these characters? Don’t you think the right would be more healthy if the flow of ideas moved in the other direction (from the intellectual to the popularizers) more often than it does?

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Look to thine own. Volokh notes that CNN might liable for libel on their reaction to Limbaugh re the NFL. How many “2nd rate” left wing blogs followed CNN’s lead on that story.

    And I’m not blogging on this, I have not written essays considering the implications or ethics of citing genocidal tyrants in an appreciative fashion like Che-chic. I’m linking it. You took exception which started the discussion. So it would be more correct to point out that you are taking orders from Mr Beck not me. I’m just pointing out that its a issue popping up to the table for discussion.

  10. Boonton says:

    Look to thine own. Volokh notes that CNN might liable for libel on their reaction to Limbaugh re the NFL.

    So what? CNN’s problem is that they ran with quotes that Rush apparantly never said. That’s their problem. But that doesn’t sink the beef the left has with Rush and race. Just imagine, though, if it turned out that the ‘Mao’ speech never happened. The story totally disappears and there’s nothing there.

    And I’m not blogging on this, I have not written essays considering the implications or ethics of citing genocidal tyrants in an appreciative fashion like Che-chic.

    There’s nothing wrong with examining Mao-chic although I don’t think there’s much of a case here. It’s clear the rhetorical strategy of the offending quote was an attempt to generate attention by the audience by providing ‘shock’ by putting Mother Teresa and Mao in the same boat.

    So it would be more correct to point out that you are taking orders from Mr Beck not me. I’m just pointing out that its a issue popping up to the table for discussion.

    It appears on your table because it goes from the sewer (Beck) to those who set the table you would eat at. My humble point is simply that maybe the food cycle should flow in the other direction, from the table to the toilet to the sewer….. I’m only in this mix because you guys are talking about it. If you guys didn’t listen to Beck, directly or indirectly, I would have never even been aware of his point.

    At this point I’m sure Beck has moved onto other things which is kind of the point. You guys have the clowns throw out the rhetorical bombs which are pure bias. Bias, remember, is not having a POV or taking a side but distorting the truth through either ommission or commission. Then the intellectuals on the B-level fight the rear guard battle of nitpicking those who point out the untruth.

  11. Boonton says:

    http://losangelespublicrelations.com/glenn-beck-needs-psychiatric-help/1080

    Provides a bit more (unfortunately not a whole transcript of the entire speech)

    Ms. Dunn, speaking at the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School graduation at the Washington National Cathedral, remarked that the two political philosophers she drew from the most were Chairman Mao and Mother Theresa. She went on to explain that both believed in their causes (without making a value judgment – this is very important) and that both dared to dream big and keep their minds open to big possibilities. IN WHAT UNIVERSE please is that a harmful message for high school graduates, or for that matter, their parents, one of whom did Beck’s show, but only with his face blacked out and his voice on fast forward.

    At no point did Ms. Dunn say that she supported communism. At no point did she say she thought Mao’s defeat of the nationalist Chinese was a good thing. Her only point was that both Mao and Mother Theresa dared to dream big against seemingly impossible odds. For instance, I am by no means a fan of George W. Bush, but I do think he is a case study in sticking to one’s principals. I don’t consider myself a traitor to the Democratic party for thinking so. The point being that it is possible to use a political leader as an example without pledging yourself to them in blood.

    Which adds even more context to the truth of the speech. Mao and Theresa work esp. good as a ‘pair of opposites’ if your theme is ‘one man/woman can change the world’

    And no let’s not get into the context fight. You are carrying water for Beck so whether you listen to him or not fight his fight or dismiss it. Beck’s position is that Dunn is a Maoist. Not that she improperly used Mao as an example without properly citing his status as a villian.

    Beck:

    It’s insanity. This is her hero’s work. She thinks of this man’s work all the time? It would be like me saying to you, ‘you know who my favorite political philosopher is? Adolf Hitler.’ Have you read Mein Kampf? (She wants to) fight your fight like Hitler did.”

    http://voices.kansascity.com/node/6237

    There’s no mistake here. The accusation is a distortion of the truth because it depends upon ignorance. It’s argument *depends* upon the listener only knowing “My favorite….Mao”. Beyond that the more the listener knows the less viable the case becomes which is the role that the ‘B-levels’ on the right have adopted for themselves. Time means that more and more of the true context of the original facts will be known which means that the story is a losing battle for the top rated right wing spokesmen like Beck. Hence he must move to something else (question, anyone hear Beck defending his old argument that Obama ‘hates white culture’? Nope?). The B-levels play defense by obscuring the lack of a true argument and trying to put forth novel ones (hence the new political-correctness ‘sin’ of citing Mao in a speech without the “he was evil” footnote) to obscure the fact that this is a lie long enough for some new meme to take over the center stage.

  12. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You are the one being dishonest here in at least two ways. I have not here at all claimed “Ms Dunn” is a Maoist. I have only said that her use of the phrase is infelicitous and her casual use of “favorite political philosopher” in conjunction with Mao might not mean she is a Maoist by but it certainly also might mean that when you think of Mao the first thing that comes to mind is not the tyranny but his political propaganda. Secondly, look at your quoting of Ms Dunn. You write, “My favorite….Mao” leading one to suspect that there are several sentences and the “Mao” word is then completely out of context. But it is not. The “…” just takes out “political philosophers are Mother Theresa and”. The elision is not important. The gist of the message is intact. This statement explicitly includes Mao as a favorite political philosopher of hers, it is not a misreading or quote mangling to infer that.

    The problem is in part a generational thing. Ms Dunn is in her 50s. In the 70s and 80s Mao and communism was not just chic but an integral part of/to the left. The campus politically active left in the 80s (of Obama and my generation) were either outright communists or necessarily very friendly with the same. No Jimmy Carter and Ms Dunn in the late 70s were not applauding Mao … but many democrats were and the Carters and Dunns were not separating themselves from that faction. They opposed the Cold war because not because they thought it was an ineffective strategy, but because they were rooting for the other side to win. What this means it that when she included Mao as one of her “favorite political philosophers”, its not unlikely given the history of the left that this is not untrue and if it is in fact untrue then it would be easy to demonstrate that it is not.

  13. Boonton says:

    True the quote is not directly mangled but its context clearly is making the ‘favorite political philosophers’ line about as relevant as Jonathan Swift’s ‘defense’ of cannibalism as an economic proposal for Ireland’s development.

    You are partially correct that some on the left did flirt with images of Mao in the 70’s and maybe 80’s. It is also relevant that Mao was a cultural image from around that time period (the Beatles song wouldn’t be the same if the line was “But when you go carrying pictures of Adolf Hitler…”). These facts, though, simply go to further undermine the argument. Because Mao is a shared part of our generation’s (and previous generation’s) shared language, his inclusion in the speech makes all the more sense as a tool to make a rhetorical point.

    If, on the other hand, she had cited an obscure figure like Cleon Skousen, who is unknown even to many rightists….it would be more reasonable to conclude she was telling us about her real ‘favorite philosophers’.

  14. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    These facts, though, simply go to further undermine the argument. Because Mao is a shared part of our generation’s (and previous generation’s) shared language, his inclusion in the speech makes all the more sense as a tool to make a rhetorical point.

    I see that only makes sense … if you stand on your head or wear a really fancy aluminium helmet. Or belong to the black is new white crowd.

    Mao was a popular and admired figure for her generation and her political tribe and therefore it is less likely that she really thinks he is popular and important. when she indicates she admires him but instead is just using that reference to make a point … when speaking to people who don’t have that particular history (that is modern kids). This is the argument you are making. It is clearly wrong.

  15. Boonton says:

    In other words don’t try to figure out what she thinks by paying attention to what she said, instead assume she is guilty of the ‘class crime’ of coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s and therefore a Mao supporter.

    Curiously, this is the same logic that lead Stalin to execute many loyal Soviet soldiers who had been captured by Nazi Germany and endured suffering as POW’s.

  16. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Huh? She said Mao was a favorite political philosopher. I am paying attention to what she said. You are not. And I realize she’s highlighting Mao as an (inspiring?) example of being “yourself” and not listening to the beat of the common drum in deciding what to do. It’s just “becoming a genocidal tyrant” isn’t exactly a good example .. but then again “genocidal tyrant” is likely not the description of Mao that she thinks of when she thinks of him … which is the point being made here.

    There are, you know, just a few examples to be had that don’t involve lauding the great 20th century villains.

    instead assume she is guilty of the ‘class crime’ of coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s and therefore a Mao supporter.

    No. I saw her laud Mao and realized her likely background, which unlike you leads me to suspect that when she says she admires Mao … she does.

    And as a member of the left (and the West) I wouldn’t be too glib about mentioning Stalin’s killing of repatriated Russians, as Solzhenitsyn notes that is one of the West’s unacknowledged crimes. It seems you too would blame only Stalin for those deaths and decades in camps … and not the US.

  17. Boonton says:

    So this is why, say, Lee Atwater is allowed to use Mao as an example to illustrate but a Democrat is not. Democrats as members of ‘the left’ carry with them the original sins of everything bad that happened in Russia, China and I suppose everywhere and everything else. Hencefore, their speeches must always be undertaken with an air of glum guilt. Perhaps she should wear a hair shirt and smear ash on her face to acknowledge her complicit guilt by generational association. This, I suppose, is the same logic that dictates that Germans must always treat Hitler and Nazism in a somber manner but Seinfield can have a ‘Soup Nazi’ episode and Mel Brooks can sing “Springtime for Hitler in Paris”.

    Republicans, on the other hand, are immune from this original sin? Why? I’m not really sure but if I had to guess its probably partly due to the fact that modern day Republicans don’t feel the need to be responsible for their own actions so why would they care about the sins of their ideological forefathers?

    I see when cornered you revert back to the original Beck stance of bias. You make your case by subtracting from the facts rather than working with them. After quoting a piece of the speech and a summary of the entire thing (unfortunately I haven’t looked for or found a full transcript), you’d still only look at the ‘my favorite philosopher’ line as if that one sentence was the only thing she said. Too bad you won’t even give poor Mother Theresa proper credit, tsk tsk if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re picking on the Roman Catholics!

    Sad, very sad.

  18. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Lee Atwater called Mao “One of my favorite political philosophers?” Link please? Look, you can even use those (and other) Stalin and Hitler quotes freely and “without (political) sin” so long as you don’t laud the fellows in doing so. I’m reading Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle right now, which in part is “about” Stalin. Yet there is no pretence that Solzhenitsyn would term him “a favorite” of his or by association, mine. Stalin is featured prominently in four consecutive chapters as a main character, in the first person no less.

    I’m not really sure but if I had to guess its probably partly due to the fact that modern day Republicans don’t feel the need to be responsible for their own actions so why would they care about the sins of their ideological forefathers?

    Huh? What are you talking about here?

    I see when cornered you revert back to the original Beck stance of bias.

    I am not cornered. You are the one doing the “omissions” and “elisions” not me. You are the one picking your way though the speech (or what little there is of it) not me.

  19. Boonton says:

    To date you have produced nothing to refute the contention that the ‘my favorite philosophers’ line was not intended as anything other than a non-serious, semi-satirical dramatic flourish rather than a serious intention to praise. You are the one that is refusing and ignoring both the words spoken before and after the phrase:

    “two of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa,”

    In fact, you don’t even bother to examine the actual sentence, the rest of which is:

    “…not often coupled with each other, but the two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point”

    In other words, the very sentence declares that these two are being pulled from the history books to deliever a single, simple point. Yet over and over again you pound away at “two of my favorite political philosophers” because only by ignoring everything else does it score the ‘gotcha’ point your side is seeking so hard.

    Look, you can even use those (and other) Stalin and Hitler quotes freely and “without (political) sin”

    How nice of you to set yourself up as the new Pope of right wing political correctness. Let me suggest, though, instead of imposing a regime of relatively easy rules why don’t you just propose a type of Baptism to wash away whatever ‘original sin’ you think I have as a leftist. I’d rather simply go about my commenting without having to worry about whatever sins people might have committed 50 years ago.

    …so long as you don’t laud the fellows in doing so.

    Actually from the speech it’s pretty clear she isn’t particuarly lauding either Mao or Theresa. In fact, the very sentence you ignore indicates that she feels these two are opposites when she says “not often coupled with each other”. The pairing of opposites is a classic way to illustrate the point that something is universal. In this case the ‘simple point’ of “you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths”. In other words, even people as far apart as Mao and Mother Theresa agree on this one point.

    In fact, this is the only reasonable way to read the speech….unless you want to say she is approaching the ‘pairing of opposites’ from the POV that Mother Theresa is the villian and Mao is the hero. The only valid criticism I see is that tossing in the term ‘political philosophers’ may serve as an attention grabber (as in How could someone find *both* Mao and Mother Theresa to be political philosophers?) but does confuse the substance of the speech since her ‘simple point’ is clearly nonpolitical.

    Huh? What are you talking about here?

    Why exactly do I have to atone for college kids in the 1960’s who passed out pictures of Chairman Mao but you are exempt not only from the ‘sins’ of the right in the 60’s but the sins of the right in, say, the last administration?

  20. Boonton says:

    some more illustrations of how the right works – from the sewer to the dinner table

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200910190052

    Beck took “two people that I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point” and cropped out ” to basically deliver a simple point” making it sound like Dunn had said Mao and Theresa were two people she turned to most.

    David Hume, the ‘serious’ right wing commentator, then ran with the cropped version.

    Not a transcript of the whole speech but here’s the section in context:

    In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over, Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army, they had the air force, they had everything on their side. And people said, “How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this against all of the odds against you?” And Mao Zedong said, you know, “You fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.” And think about that for a second.

    You know, you don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other people’s choices and paths, OK? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war. You lay out your own path. You figure out what’s right for you. You don’t let external definition define how good you are internally. You fight your war. You let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.

    And then Mother Teresa, who, upon receiving a letter from a fairly affluent young person who asked her whether she could come over and help with that orphanage in Calcutta, responded very simply: “Go find your own Calcutta.” OK? Go find your own Calcutta. Fight your own path. Go find the thing that is unique to you, the challenge that is actually yours, not somebody else’s challenge.

    Now here’s the right wing:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200910160001

    Goldwater’s #1 man praising Mao
    Cato calling for a “Leninist strategy” against social security
    Heritage doing the same thing
    Ralph Reed citing Mao approvingly
    Reed again citing the Viet Cong approvingly
    Rove recommending a biography of Mao (ok this one is weak I’ll grant you)

    So speaking of ‘original sins’….why is the right able to casually drop references to Stalin, Mao, the Viet Cong etc. yet Dunn gets jumped on? Clearly the way people like Beck and Mark think is that deep down all on the left are pseudo-Maoists or Marxists. Therefore we must all be assumed guilty. The right is free of all sin so they are free to be as casual as they please. The analogy of Seinfield’s ‘soup nazi’ versus expecting a German to be somber when referring to Nazis’s is pretty apt here. But you know, if a modern day German was laughing at the ‘soup Nazi’ and some earnest chap started chewing him out over it I’d find it perfectly acceptable if he told the guy to f-off. The left should do the same with crap like this. Neither Obama or Dunn bear anymore responsiblity for what Mao did in China than Ralph Reed or the Heritage Foundation.

    Second notice the pattern of debate. Beck and Mark mount their debate by subtraction. Crop the quote, cut context out, focus on less and less whenever possible. The defense mounts the counterattack by addition. More facts, the context, the transcript, the raw data. One side here is acting truthful and the other is acting deceitful.

  21. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    In light of my Abba Agatha quote, I will choose not to defend my usage of her quote. If you choose to color me as equivalent to Mr Beck’s usage of the quote … I will not argue.

    Yet, there is a point to be made here.

    So speaking of ‘original sins’….why is the right able to casually drop references to Stalin, Mao, the Viet Cong etc. yet Dunn gets jumped on?

    Why can the left talk of God or of race without “being jumped on” and the right cannot. Yet here Boonton, from the left, is decrying why the left cannot drop references to the prominent historical communists without being jumped on.

    But you know, if a modern day German was laughing at the ’soup Nazi’ and some earnest chap started chewing him out over it I’d find it perfectly acceptable if he told the guy to f-off.

    I don’t think you can joke about Nazi’s in polite company in Germany … I might be wrong but that is my impression.

    Btw, Cato is not “the right” it is a libertarian think tank … unless you would paint Libertarians on the right … which doesn’t bother me but I think they would not agree.

  22. Boonton says:

    So can we half-Germans chuckle quietly at the ‘soup nazi’ episode?

    For the record, if someone demands that your status as a right wing person prohibits you from speaking about race or God or religion in anything but strict and formal tones due to some supposed sins of other or previous right wing people I’d be happy to support you in telling them to f-off.

    I don’t think its worth debating whether Cato is a member of the right. What is clear is that there’s a huge sample of people who ‘casually’ reference historical ‘villians’ not for purposes of calling them out on their evil but using them as examples to illustrate various points (or sometimes just to provide a spicey quote). There’s nothing wrong with Dunn’s speech but something deeply wrong in the attempt to tar her as a ‘Maoist’ by the right as well as something very dishonest with the way the debate has been conducted by the right.

  23. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    When you asked about Germans I thought you meant those residing in Germany and not those of half (or quarter in my case) German ancestry.

    See the Althouse link today for more here. The problem isn’t just the part of the speech we’ve concentrated on, i.e., “my favorite political philosopher” part. But in using Mao as an example of independence and self-actualization as a genocidal tyrant is moral relativism at its worst.

    (added)
    The problem is that it is pretty clear that Ms Dunn does not primarily see Mao as a overwhelmingly negative figure. Now you might want to take a Jeffrey Dahmer as your hero … but don’t be surprised if that causes some strong dissent if you make that clear in a public setting.

  24. Boonton says:

    Actually I think it serves more as an illustration. Making your own decisions is important because they can end up very good, very bad or anywhere. The Mao illustration is likewise important because it ties into the ‘Great Man’ theory of history. That is the idea that history is moved by the decisions of individual men rather than broad, impersonal ‘social forces’. The Great Man theory would say that the Communist Revolution in China and the millions who perished in the famine in its forced industrialization happened because of Mao. Other theories would be more fatalistic and assert that China’s history would have been quite similiar if Mao never existed…the names would have changed but the roles remain the same.

    Which theory is actually true is not relevant since the purpose of the speech was rhetorical rather than an academic examination of history. In other words, history is made by individuals who made their own calls.

    But in using Mao as an example of independence and self-actualization as a genocidal tyrant is moral relativism at its worst.

    Heh, you amuse me. When confronted with right wingers who advise using Maoist or Lenninist tactics to achieve policy objectives you are silent! Absurd!

    The problem is that it is pretty clear that Ms Dunn does not primarily see Mao as a overwhelmingly negative figure.

    It’s pretty clear to you because you’re blinded by your partisanship assumptions. Those assumptions are (in order of importance)

    * For purposes of politics, truth is entirely relative. You’ll take any cheap argument you find walking the street late at night in a short skirt if you think it will get your job done. Interestingly, when it comes to philosophy, theology, and religion your standards are much higher and you’re more into arguments you wouldn’t be ashamed to show your mother!

    * You enjoy the implicit assumption that ‘leftists’, which is the set of mainstream American political opinion 1% to the left of the center, are secretly insane radicals. Hence politics is scrutinizing trivial items for hints of the ‘real truth’. This leaves one too exposed to be taken in by cranks and conspiracy mongers.

    Anyway, if this is clearly Ms Dunn’s position why the pairing of Mao with Mother Theresa? And why the admission in the very sentence that this is an odd combination? Clearly the speech assumes that Mao and Theresa are opposites who share a trait that proves a universal point. Since Ms. Dunn’s stance is that these two are opposites the only way your conclusion makes sense is to assert she believes something totally upside down to conventional opinion. That Mother Theresa is the bad person and Mao the good person. What support do you have for such a dramatic assertion?

  25. Boonton says:

    When you asked about Germans I thought you meant those residing in Germany and not those of half (or quarter in my case) German ancestry.

    I do in fact feel that Germans living in Germany are permitted to laugh at the ‘soup nazi’ Seinfield episode.

  26. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Note the following, you can’t sell a t-shirt with a Nazi symbol with a line though it … by law. I’m not sure whether the colloquial expression “soup nazi” or Nazi humor in general will translate well to today’s Germany.

  27. Boonton says:

    True, Germany, like a few other European countries, has anti-free speech laws on the books when it comes to Nazis that would never make it in the US or UK. Nonetheless, Germans may enjoy Seinfield and Mel Brooks without being tarred as Nazi supporters.

    Only Republicans, it seems, are eager these days to drain the spice out of our cultural discourse. Once upon a time it was you guys who got off on being the edgy politically incorrect rebels.

  28. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    In China, it is alleged that Mao Zedong’s policies and political purges, such as the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and Zhen Fan, Shu Fan movement, brought about the deaths of some 40 to 70 million people.[55][56]

    In 1960, drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of the cultivated land in China, while in the north an estimated 60% of agricultural land received no rain at all.[57] The Encyclopædia Britannica yearbooks from 1958 to 1962 also reported abnormal weather, followed by droughts and floods. Close planting, the idea of Ukrainian pseudo-scientist Trofim Lysenko.[58] had been implemented. The density of seedlings was at first tripled and then doubled again, according to the theory, plants of the same species would not compete with each other. In practice they did, which stunted growth and resulted in lower yields. Lysenko’s colleague’s theory encouraged peasants across China to plow deeply into the soil (up to 1 or 2 meters). They believed the most fertile soil was deep in the earth, allowing extra strong root growth. However, useless rocks, soil, and sand were driven up instead, burying the topsoil. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, had reorganized the workforce; millions of agricultural worker had joined the iron and steel production workforce.

    As a result of these factors, year over year grain production in China dropped by 15% in 1959. By 1960, it was at 70% of its 1958 level. There was no recovery until 1962, after the Great Leap Forward ended.[59]

    According to government statistics, there were 15 million excess deaths in this period. Unofficial estimates vary, but are often considerably higher. Yang Jisheng, a former Xinhua News Agency reporter who spent over ten years gathering information available to no other scholars, estimates a toll of 36 million.[60]

    Professors and scholars of the famine, who do not use the word ‘genocide’ to describe it, but rather more neutral terms, such as “abnormal deaths”, have estimated that they number between 17 million to 50 million. Some western analysts such as Patricia Buckley Ebrey estimate that about 20–40 million people had died of starvation caused by bad government policy and natural disasters. J. Banister estimates this number is about 23 million. Li Chengrui, a former minister of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, estimated 22 million (1998). His estimation was based on Ansley J. Coale and Jiang Zhenghua’s estimation of 17 million. Cao Shuji estimated 32.5 million.

    and

    “In Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday estimate that perhaps 27 million people died in prisons and labor camps during Mao Tse-tung’s rule.”

    You describe this as “perished in a famine in its forced industrialization” … which leads to an interesting point. One problem here is you and I (not just Ms Dunn) have a very different impression of Mao’s regime. You yourself are softening his stance, for you it was errors in industrialization. Not ” policies and political purges“. What apologetic do you offer for the Laogai? From a commenter in Ms Althouse’s thread from today,

    When I was in high school, I was friends with a girl who attended a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. We happened to be talking about Mao Tse-tung (because that’s how we spelled it back then), who had been dead for only a year or so. She told me about how her professors praised Mao for his massive achievement of bringing China into the modern world. She shared their admiration for him.

    I wasn’t too knowledgeable about Chinese history, but I had been an avid reader of The Guinness Book of World Records, and I told my friend that Mao was in the Guinness Book as perhaps the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. She just stared at me in disbelief. Her profs had never mentioned anything in class about him killing anybody. All she’d ever heard was that Mao was a great leader and philosopher.

    I get the feeling that Anita Dunn was similarly educated. Of course, she’s tried to backpedal since this video emerged, saying that her reference to Mao was ironic, but her comments on the video don’t look particularly ironic.

    Are you similarly educated alongside Ms Dunn? You seem to soften Mao’s crimes as well.

    You ask why I am not objecting to references to Stalin/Mao/Lenin from the right. Hmm, let’s see. Barry Goldwater’s “right hand man” uttered some references what almost 50 years ago … but I’m supposed to bring that up … exactly when? And I think references to “political cells” or patience before acting might be better use the Filipino Marcos resistance better or to quote Clauswitz or Sun Tzu not Lenin on tactics.

    Anyway, if this is clearly Ms Dunn’s position why the pairing of Mao with Mother Theresa? And why the admission in the very sentence that this is an odd combination?

    The pairing of Mother Theresa with any political figure would be odd. Pair her with your benighted Mr Obama and it would odd just the same. As for Ralph Reed, heck I had to google to find out who the heck he was … why do you expect me to remark on that? Ms Dunn was in fact in the news. I linked it … without comment.

    You enjoy the implicit assumption that ‘leftists’, which is the set of mainstream American political opinion 1% to the left of the center, are secretly insane radicals. Hence politics is scrutinizing trivial items for hints of the ‘real truth’. This leaves one too exposed to be taken in by cranks and conspiracy mongers.

    Again this is from personal history. Yes I realize that most present day leftists aren’t the same set as the politically active campus left wing during the 70s and 80s … but guess what … the political active people from the 80s likely remained politically active and went into, wait for it … politics. Even if they weren’t the campus Marxists, a good deal of whom were aligned with or comfortable with communists and communism if not actively supporting the same are those guys just coming to power in Washington now. Since the fall of the wall lots of them have donned camouflage and some have likely really changed their POV … but my generation isn’t going to lose its distrust of them easily. You grew up post-cold war I think and the collegiate Marxist factions were far weaker if not practically invisible. That makes for a different outlook.

  29. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Don’t fret, being conservative in academic circle is still politically (and likely socially) incorrect). 😀

  30. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I might add that Japan industrialized very rapidly in the early 20th century too. I don’t recall mass famine or labor camps … but perhaps that’s just a whitewash too. The point is Stalin and Mao are an exception not the rule, forced fast industrialization does not require famine. The famines were due to their Marxist interpretations on the political value of human life and dignity against value of a cause or idea.

  31. Boonton says:

    Don’t worry, we’re going to relax that since you guys are going to need to go somewhere since you’re not winning any elections any time soon.

  32. Boonton says:

    I have to say I hate these embedded threads, it’s too easy to loose track of the conversation and see that some post you made a long time ago was already replied too.

    ‘Forced industrialization’ / Mao’s crimes –

    I’m a bit surprised you’d accuse me of ‘softening’ Mao’s crimes. You in fact seemed to give him more of a positive spin than I would have. Just reading your post one would think China was a victim of a simple draught combined with a sincere belief in Trofim Lysenko’s biological theories that turned out to be false.

    The take I have on communist societies centers on a misreading Marx had of the industrial revolution. Namely he felt that industry paid for its capital by screwing the farmers. This lead many developing countries to essentially ‘screw the farmers’. Surprisingly many non-communist countries did this. For example, America. The farmers were screwed with high tariffs. Industrial workers in the cities got cheap food and the protectionism allowed domestic industries to grow to sell the farmers consumer and capital goods. After WWII many developing countries adopted a policy called ‘Import substitution’. Basically that was keeping out industrial imports in order to stimuluate domestic industrialization. In the pre-WWI ‘golden’ era of free trade, countries that were rich in labor and land but poor in capital tended to specialize in agriculture and use the industry of the US, UK and Europe for their consumer goods.

    Where this all is going is that when Stalin came to power, he figured the USSR needed to industrialize quickly. Problem – the economy was almost all peasant. His solution, force the peasents to feed the urban workers as they made capital goods. How? Well basically by killing anyone who didn’t want to give away all the food they grew on their farms for next to nothing. Like China, famines and millions dead was the result. You’re right, it wasn’t necessary. The industrial workers could have made consumer goods and the farmers would have been willing and able to sell their food in exchange. This is more or less how non-communist nations industrialized without the bloodshed.

    I’m a bit surprised you give Stalin a pass since many Russians, you think, cut him some slack for getting the country industrialized. Did it not occur to you that many Chinese feel a similar way about Mao? One of the most interesting conversations I ever had was with a well educated, financially savvy, Chinese co-worker who one day asked me what I felt about the Dali Lama and the protests against the Chinese Olympics. I was taken aback after giving my answer to discover this mild mannered fellow viewed him as maybe a notch better than Osama bin Laden. when I said “Mao killed millions”….well you can probably guess the reaction.

    Most of the non-communist countries were not so brutal. Some developing countries did create ‘agriculture boards’….esentially a gov’t buyer of food. Farmers were forced to take the low price thereby providing industrial workers with cheap food, inducing people to leave farming and join the industrial workforce and supplying low cost labor for industry. For the most part, though, farmers left farming through market dynamics which were less brutal. Additionally, the market industries produced consumer goods which could be sold to farmers in exchange for food rather than taking it from them at gunpoint.

    Why we are going into this, though, I have no idea. Dunn’s speech did not use Mao’s agricultural policies….(and since Mao was basically following Stalin’s playbook almost to the letter, incl. even adopting the theories of his favorite quack scientist…it’s hardly a good example of his individual independence) as her example but his decision to take on the national gov’t when by all objective accounts the odds were against him.

    The pairing of Mother Theresa with any political figure would be odd. Pair her with your benighted Mr Obama and it would odd just the same.

    Yes you get the oddity but you refuse to understand the speech. Why would someone pair Obama with Mother Theresa in a speech? Two reasons come to mind: One is to assert they are similar. Another is to assert they are different. How would you know which one is the case? Why you’d have to listen to the speech! If Ms. Dunn has given a speech where she said Obama and Theresa are both great people then please produce it and we can look at it. What she did say is that Mao and Theresa are an ‘odd pair’.

    Why would someone want to use a pair of opposites in a speech? Well one reason would be criticism. I could imagine a right winger giving a speech whose point was, essentially, Theresa was a good person and Obama is bad….hence the ‘odd pairing’ is used to contrast. Another reason to use a pair of opposites is comparing rather than contrasting. For example, vegetarians and non-vegetarians are opposites. If both get brain tumors at the same rates that tells us brain tumors are universal. Dunn’s speech clearly asserts that Mao and Theresa are opposites who both illustrate the importance of making your own calls. Hence the universal value is demonstrated.

    For someone steeped in theological texts, this is hardly news to you. Such texts regularly utilize this type of pairing of opposites to illustrate a universal. For example, both rich and poor, powerful and powerless are mortal hence mortality is a universal part of the human condition. When one says this they are NOT trying to assert there’s no difference between a rich man and a beggar or a prince and a slave. In fact just the opposite. In order for the point to work, it must be an opposite. If we said a rich man and a slightly less rich man or a King and a prince we wouldn’t have a good illustration of a universal point.

  33. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Well, I’ll turn of the threading. It was an experiment anyhow.

  34. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Soft on Mao? Wtf? I quote that 27 million die in prison and labor camps and that’s being soft on him. I am not.

    And I while I don’t know many Chinese ex-pats well enough to talk politics with them … it is useful to remember that the Chinese regime has not yet collapsed or softened. Right now, I’m reading a “uncensored” recent translation of Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle (the of Hell is left of the reader to add … which is about the Sharaska’s in the Gulag system, i.e., prisons in which the state tried to extract engineering and scientific results from the zeks in an environment much better than the Kolyma camp or those like the ones featured in A Day in the Life of Iven D.). A point made is that the only place in where opinion other than the official sanctioned opinion on any subject was present was within the camps. Outside there was no dissent … for to dissent meant internment in the system. This included foreign visitors … who would still not lose their sense of being spied upon.

    I don’t give Stalin a pass. I said I thought I understood why some, mostly elderly, Russians have conflicted opinions about him. My viewpoint is pretty firm.

    So, if she had used Gacy or Bundy as an example … would that have had the same effect? Why wouldn’t she use these people.

    Actually oddly enough, in High School I came to the opposite conclusion on a just slightly related argument. I noted that both Hitler and MLK Jr. were both demagogues … and that the conclusion to draw (which opposes Dunn’s point) is that demagoguery is to be shunned even though sometimes it has good effects. My conclusion from Ms Dunn’s point, if it is the point you think she is seeking, is that this would imply that striking your own course is a bad idea.

    Tell me, aside from your assertion that the rhetorical point Ms Dunn is making is that these two are opposites .. .what negative aspect of Mao does she note? A pairing of a political figure and a theological one makes enough of a polar opposite without the force for good/evil comparison. Do you have any evidence from what she said that Mao is a force for evil?

  35. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    One other aspect of your defense of Mao is a little odd. You note that he was “copying” Stalin. Yet Stalin had done this decades earlier and Holodomor occurred, killing many millions of Ukrainians. Yet he figured that price was no problem to pay. It clearly worked. Phooey.

  36. Boonton says:

    So, if she had used Gacy or Bundy as an example … would that have had the same effect? Why wouldn’t she use these people.

    Possibly, however they haven’t done much to change the world. I’m not sure they’d register on that level very well. What if she used Ceasar? How many times is he trotted out to illustrate points like that. Ever notice that what he actually did was destroy a Republic, institute a military dictatorship and put the cause of representative democracy off for nearly two thousand years. Yet no one bats an eye if you see a book called “lessons on Business from Julias Ceasar”. One wonders if 500 years from now you’d see books like that with Stalin and Mao in the title? (Hitler’s successes lasted barely 10 years and his regime ended in massive diaster….not a model for b-level self help type books). You do have a point that history is unfair. Time does not cause our collective minds to forget both victims and villians at equal rates.

    Actually oddly enough, in High School I came to the opposite conclusion on a just slightly related argument. I noted that both Hitler and MLK Jr. were both demagogues … and that the conclusion to draw (which opposes Dunn’s point) is that demagoguery is to be shunned even though sometimes it has good effects.

    Interesting, but I think you’d need more justification for that conclusion. It’s hard to see the bad effects of MLK Jr.’s demagoguery. In fact, it seems to me a positive substitute for other alternatives that would have been based more on violence and more on racial animosity (see the pre-Mecca Malcome X).

    My conclusion from Ms Dunn’s point, if it is the point you think she is seeking, is that this would imply that striking your own course is a bad idea.

    This requires you to blind yourself to Mother Theresa’s role in her example (I noticed a lot of her critics from the lunatic faction of the right like Beck and their intellectual water carriers like you tend to ignore her in Dunn’s pairing). The lesson I take is that the world, for better or worse, is made by those who strike their own course rather than follow others. Dunn is basically giving a speech about leadership and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of, say, military academies, who study leadership by taking an agnostic view of the moral qualities of history’s great leaders in order to focus on the dynamics of leadership.

    One other aspect of your defense of Mao is a little odd. You note that he was “copying” Stalin. Yet Stalin had done this decades earlier and Holodomor occurred, killing many millions of Ukrainians.

    Why is that odd? If Mao was copying Stalin then clearly Stalin would have had to done something similar first. Mao was copying Stalin in screwing the farmers. Stalin was copying Lenin (and actually Lenin modified himself slightly with the New Economic Policy which allowed farmers to sell their goods in more of a market like strucutre which did work for everyone but was quickly ditched since the communists viewed it as a step backwards) and Lenin was copying what he *thought* capitalism did in the industrial revolution (*thought*, again, because Marx got the dynamics of how England industrialized wrong).

  37. Boonton says:

    And speaking of forgetting, I’m not quite sure Stalin nostaglia is chiefly found among the elderly Russians. My impression is that it is at work among younger ones, esp. since it is useful as a narrative for Putin’s regime (the ‘strong man’ who will bend the rules if its necessary for ‘greater russia’).

    Here is the problem with history. As much as we want history to tell us what really happened in the past, we also want history to provide us with narratives and stories that we can apply to the future. This drive is an incentive to drop elements that distract from fulfilling that narrative role. Hence Stalin is repainted as a strongman or as a symbol of Russian pride and nationalism

  38. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Hmm, my reply was lost from last night.

    On Gacy et al., your missing my point(s). First M. Theresa did not, unlike Mao have any large political impact (like the serial killers). And second (and more importantly) you are insisting that the dichotomy or point of contrast between Mao and Theresa is moral. I don’t think that is necessary or even follows from her speech, as in the fragments given there is no mention of moral evil stemming from Mao.

    When I mention Obama, it was not to cast Dunn as a right wing speaker who might see the contrast between Theresa and Obama as one of good and evil but I was thinking that this would be a possible contrast made by Dunn. Between the political and the secular for example.

    The example of MLK is not to point out that he did anything bad. I’m unclear on why you think that is necessary. My point was that demagogues inspire us in a manner which reaches past the rational and that even though sometimes (rarely) this ability can be used for good, mostly it is not. Therefore if a man (or women) demonstrates ability as a demagogue … I was arguing that people should not support them for that very reason alone.

    My recollection in reading about support for Stalin is that it is chiefly among the elderly. Stalin did not “bend the rules.”

  39. Boonton says:

    On Gacy et al., your missing my point(s). First M. Theresa did not, unlike Mao have any large political impact (like the serial killers). And second (and more importantly) you are insisting that the dichotomy or point of contrast between Mao and Theresa is moral.

    I said ‘change the world’, not ‘large political impact’. While there’s overlap between the two they aren’t exactly the same. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as well as a slew of other awards, commodations and world wide accolades. She became a symbol of charity and sacrifice. I don’t know if the changes that she inspired directly and indirectly can be matched up against Maos on a one for one basis (Mao’s are easy to measure since he was a head of state so we can attribute all major policies of the Chinese gov’t to him, there’s no easy way to measure the impact she had on people who might have altered their behavior due to her but never did anything to formally align themselves with her), it hardly seems improper to sight her as an example.

    I don’t think that is necessary or even follows from her speech, as in the fragments given there is no mention of moral evil stemming from Mao.

    And why is it necessary? The ‘pairing of opposites’ demonstrates that Dunn was not citing two people as examples but citing two examples of the principle she was talking about. The diverse array of right wingers who have not only used Mao to illustrate examples but actually advocate using Mao’s ‘political tactics’ without any reference to moral evil illustrate the double standard you would hold Democrats too for no justifiable reason (Dunn’s example, keep in mind, was not a moral evil. Mao’s decision to fight a civil war was the least of his morally questionable calls. Advocating pushing political policies using ‘Mao’s tactics’, though, is something else entirely. The right wingers are only saved by the fact that they are obviously deeply ignorant of what Mao’s actual political tactics were)

    The example of MLK is not to point out that he did anything bad. I’m unclear on why you think that is necessary. My point was that demagogues inspire us in a manner which reaches past the rational and that even though sometimes (rarely) this ability can be used for good, mostly it is not. Therefore if a man (or women) demonstrates ability as a demagogue … I was arguing that people should not support them for that very reason alone.

    For someone who is so keen on being a conservative you’re not very well read on conservatism. I suggest you consult Burke’s Reflections regarding rationality. Not all human knowledge stems from our ability to think rationally and our ability to apply rational reasoning is highly unreliable. Long story short humans cannot function soley on ‘the rational’ and if they try they will only end up fooling themselves. King was able to bridge the rhetorical gap between purely rational arguments and ones that linked to tradition and emotion. I think you’re equating him with demagoguery is based on ignorance of his actual speeches and writing.

  40. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Dunn’s example, keep in mind, was not a moral evil.

    So … if John Wayne Gacy was especially good at keeping his teeth clean, dentists should use him as a positive example by that logic.

    I suggest you consult Burke’s Reflections regarding rationality

    I do plan on reading Burke and know that is missing from the works I’ve read.

    But that aside, demagoguery doesn’t just “appeal” to our non-rational nous … it works to short circuit our reason. And no, I didn’t have a long critical evaluation of King’s speeches … but was reacting to an impression of one of his filmed addresses … and what struck me was its similarity, especially by the reaction of the crowd and the use of cadence and phrasing, with Hitler’s speeches. I will certainly argue as strongly as the next guy that humans cannot function “soley by the rational” … and I’m not sure why you’re thinking I was arguing that. I think he short circuits and shuts off the rational … which is what I’m against.

    You can argue that careful analysis of his speeches highlights important differences. But therein lies the problem. Those listening to his speeches are not doing careful analysis but instead are being overwhelmed purely by his rhetorical artistry.

  41. Boonton says:

    So … if John Wayne Gacy was especially good at keeping his teeth clean, dentists should use him as a positive example by that logic.

    What was it, Full Metal Jacket, where Lee Harvey Oswald was cited as an example of superior marksmanship?

    It seems odd you’d cite King as short circuiting reason by evaluating the crowd’s reaction. Do you have any examples of King short circuiting reason in his actual speech?