Michael Lind on New New Left/Center/Right

A little bit of Back to the Future.   Brilliant piece in the Financial Times.

He discusses the historical trends since the 1930s in the US primarily but in the Western world more generally, that have lead to the current political change he sees underfoot.

Lind writes:

Whether a Democrat or a Republican is inaugurated in January 2009, the centre of political gravity in the US is well to the left of where it was a decade ago. President George W. Bush’s own contribution to the shift has been negligible. It is the result of long-term, tectonic shifts in political and economic ideology that are affecting all developed countries.

In fact given that a Democrat won the popular vote in 2000 (along with one house of Congress), the 2004 election may be historically considered the outlier depending on the ’08 result.

The shift is as follows.

From the 1930s, the farther left was identified with statism or communism.  The right was weakened (libertarianism, economic laissez faire). The center was held by the New Deal welfare state, calling itself the “Third Way” as a bulwark against further left state control.  The right then, was really more the moderate Right:  Rockefeller Republicans, Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, even Richard Nixon.  They tried to chip away at certain elements of the welfare model but not the model itself.


Between 1968 and 2004, the political spectrum shifted to the right with respect to economic (but not social) issues. Long before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, socialism was discredited as a viable economic alter­native. Parties of the left in the western world abandoned programmes of nationalising the economy for welfare-state liberalism. The disappearance of radical socialist or populist alternatives turned the former “third way” or “centre”, welfare-state liberalism into “the left”.

Neo-liberalism, which as Lind smartly points out, was basically the moderate economic conservatives, in the form of Clintonian and Blair “Third Way” politics, allowed a revival of the Left (now moderate right as Democrat) in the 1990s.  Clinton and George HW Bush are basically equivalent in terms of their outlooks.

Now Lind argues, the libertarian Reaganite revival is dying out, which is opening back up a further leftward shift, itself then re-defining who is right and center (relative to the new left):

What formerly was the left – welfare-state liberalism – is once again the ­centre. To its left (in economic, not social, terms) is protectionist ­populism; to its right, neoliberalism.

This comes as a disorienting shock to Clinton-Blair third-way neoliberals. Having positioned themselves as the reasonable mean between the welfare-state left and the economic libertarian right, they have awakened to find that they are now the extreme right. The clever ones are inching their way, ever more carefully, towards today’s new centre.

You can hear the change in what prominent would-be centrists are saying. In the 1990s, when neoliberalism was the centre, the line was: we must slash middle-class entitlements in order to be more competitive in the global free market. Now the line is: in order to save free-market globalism from populists preying on middle-class economic anxieties, we must expand the middle-class welfare state.

The winners – at least for now – are welfare state liberals such as old-fashioned New Dealers in the US and their equivalents in other countries. The position of the original “third way” of 1932-68 always made sense. Middle-class social insurance programmes, by guaranteeing economic security, reduce the appeal of populism, socialism and other kinds of ­radical statism, and make possible broad political support for open and competitive national and global markets. You will hear much more of this line as politicians rush to occupy the new centre in the years ahead.

As someone generally (on economic issues) of the moderate conservative/neo-liberal view, this now puts me in the weird position (if Lind is correct) of being right.  Just not (now) farther right.  The libertarian argument arose in response to “stagflation” of the 1970s.  It succeeded in destroying that, but in a Hegelian-like dialectic, could not deal with the economic prosperity it helped create.  It didn’t answer social questions.  It has been discredited as a governing philosophy (though perhaps not as economic policy) in light of the failures of the Republican Legislature from 1996-2006 and the Bush II Presidency.

Hence the birth of a neo-protectionist mentality.  And in that sense, I would agree with Lind, I would like to see (though little as possible) some dealing on a governmental level with issues like health care and job training because I’m more afraid of the protectionist left.  Particularly when it comes in the form of “movement liberalism” a la Daily Kos.

Published in: on November 28, 2007 at 9:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Mark Edwards on the Problems of AQAL as TOE

What should be seen/experienced/cognized more as an Interpretive (1p) model of reality becomes a structural (3p) one.

clipped from www.integralworld.net

When the AQAL model is only ever presented in terms of a TOE application it becomes very easy for it to be reified into a type of spatial-temporal map of reality. To borrow a distinction pointed out by Clifford Geertz (1993), the AQAL model is too often seen as a structural model of reality, rather than as an interpretive model for reality. As a structural model of reality it is then assumed by many to be a space-time reference map of the Kosmos rather than an interpretive tool for rendering more coherent the great complexities of the Kosmos.

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Published in: on November 26, 2007 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Michael Barone on US Prez Race

Bang on…

clipped from www.realclearpolitics.com

What we have not seen yet is a debate between the two parties on ideas. The Democratic candidates have been busy pounding George W. Bush, who will not be on the ballot. The Republican candidates have been busy pounding Hillary Clinton, who may or may not be on the ballot. And candidates in each of the parties have gotten started pounding each other. These arguments are mostly about the past. We haven’t heard much yet about the future.

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Published in: on November 25, 2007 at 10:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Zakaria on Sarkozy

clipped from www.newsweek.com

If he succeeds, it could be the beginning of the biggest turnaround in Europe since Margaret Thatcher revived Britain in the 1980s.

Contrary to caricature, the French economy does not need a complete overhaul. It has many highly competitive aspects. Labor productivity is as high as in the United States, the health-care system is excellent and cost-effective and French infrastructure—from high-speed rail to broadband—is unparalleled. But the cancer eating away at the economy is a set of laws coddling French workers, which makes hiring and firing arduous, and pensions and benefits hugely expensive. (This is why France has a chronically high unemployment rate, currently 8.7 percent, which is 50 percent higher than the average for the industrialized nations.) If France fixed its problems with labor flexibility, it could be catapulted forward by higher growth and lower unemployment, which would make the whole system much more sustainable.

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Published in: on November 25, 2007 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Most Viewed Pages on Conservapedia

Wow.  Hat tip to the Newshoggers for this one:

  1. Main Page‎ [1,940,369]
  2. Homosexuality‎ [1,630,831]
  3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [518,244]
  4. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [443,979]
  5. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [422,358]
  6. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [403,051]
  7. Homosexual Couples and Domestic Violence‎ [374,274]
  8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [332,176]
  9. Homosexuality and Anal Cancer‎ [294,621]
  10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [294,018]

As the saying goes, some people are so far in the closet they’re in Narnia.

Here’s the conservapedia page.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome Australia’s New Prime Minister


From Time:

Australian Labor leader Kevin Rudd celebrates his victory in the federal elections with supporters in his hometown of Brisbane on November 24.

Australia under Labor will remain a “rock solid” friend of the U.S., Rudd has said, but reserve the right to act “independently.” Rudd, who spent eight years as a diplomat in Beijing, has criticized China’s human-rights record but appears more sympathetic to the People’s Republic than Howard. Rudd rejected the Howard government support of a potential alliance between the U.S., Australia, Japan and India, saying China would feel encircled.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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AFC over NFC

Although my Bengals have nothing to cheer about this year. This helps somewhat. This year the NFC may win the head to head overalll conference matchup. (24-22 NFC right now).We’ll see if that would translate to a Super Bowl win for NFC.  Although the New England player quote at the bottom here is rough.

clipped from sports.espn.go.com

“I don’t know if it’s just because [the AFC] has been so good for as long as I’ve been in the league or whatever, but there is kind of this sense that it’s the better conference,” Bailey said. “Even when I was with the Redskins, you felt that way. It just seems that AFC teams carry themselves a little different. There’s a different air to them or something. It looks like AFC teams are more confident, especially when they are playing NFC teams. It’s as if there is this superiority complex.”

Bailey is hardly the only player in the league who feels that way. In fact, several New England veterans, none of whom wanted to be identified because of obvious consequences, noted that the Patriots’ coaching staff prepares for games against NFC opponents harboring what one player termed “something bordering on disdain.”

Said one New England player: “It’s not a lack of respect. It’s more like, ‘Hey, [the NFC] just isn’t as good as us.’

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Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Canada’s Soft Power

Stronger than the US’ weak-kneed response to Saudi dictatorship?:

The North American media have widely publicized the case of the Saudi Arabian woman sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison. Her “crime” was being gang-raped by seven Saudi men, and then having the gall to go to the press. This is clearly one of the most blatant violations of human rights imaginable by a government against one of its own citizens.

The Canadian government says it will lodge a formal protest with the Saudis, and Josee Verner, the Canadian minister responsible for the status of women, has rightly denounced the Saudi court ruling as “barbaric.”

The United States, on the other hand, has thus far offered a shamefully tepid response, not wanting to offend our authoritarian ally in the “war on terror” and hoping to entice the Saudis to attend the Annapolis Arab-Israeli peace summit. Sounding more like an apologist for the Saudis than a spokesman for the United States, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack observed, “This is a part of a judicial procedure overseas in the court of a sovereign country.” He then gave the mildest possible rebuke to the Saudis: “That said, most would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens.”

The author’s (Pierre Atlas) analysis:

Canada has long been held in high esteem internationally. While many people around the world have a love-hate relationship with the United States, Canada tends to inspire only positive feelings. This is in part because Canada never had the burden of superpower responsibilities during the Cold War and, thanks to the American nuclear umbrella, it was able to “free ride” on security and devote much of its resources and attention to “non-strategic” global issues like international humanitarian law, peacekeeping, and development in the Third World. Rather than focusing inward, Canada long ago made the deliberate choice to pursue its values internationally, under both Tory and Liberal governments.

The widening gap, under President Bush’s tenure, between America’s own laudable values and its actions has undermined our international standing. This in turn handicaps any efforts to win hearts and minds in the “war on terror.” Perhaps it is time that the United States takes a few pages from Canada’s playbook. America, and the world, would be the better for it.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
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Muslim Brotherhood

From the Hudson’s Insitute’s Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World, a talk by Gilles Kepel, one of the world authorities on Islamism, regarding the Muslim Brotherhood (along with Hillel Fradkin). Link to page here. Then click the link for 9:15-11:15 talk, it’s a transcript in pdf form of the discussion.

The two discuss the MB as the first truly Islamist organization (wiki on MB here, flagged for possible neutrality issues). Founded by Hassan al Banna, a schoolteacher, in 1920s Egypt, they are massively different than the rise of al-Qaeda. al-Qaeda’s main theorist, Ayman al Zawahiri, was an Egyptian who formed Islamic Jihad (later merged with bin Laden’s AQ) as a result of thinking the MB had sold out. The Brotherhood split around the detente with Anwar Sadat after the horrors perpetrated on the MB by Gen. Nasser (including killing Sayid Qutb, the godfather of international jihad).

The MB is what Ali Eteraz helpfully calls the “Islamic right”.

Interestingly, Salafism, as Fradkin writes, began with the forerunners of the “Islamic left” (modernizing Islamic reformers): Muhammad Abduh and his disciples al-Afghani and Rashid Rida. As Eteraz has shown, this line was the dominant one until the US started supporting the Islamic Right (big time the MB, also the jihad in Afghanistan, Saudi oil money, Israel supporting Hamas against PLO) as a bulwark against Soviet communism.

But Salafism in this sense means the critiquing of the medieval clerical phase of Islam (ulema). A “Protestant” move of individuals and small groups returning to the text and idealizing the earliest phase of the religion, while simultaneously being anti-Western imperialism. Abduh, a hero of liberal Islam, was still very anti-Western colonial occupation. He wanted to reform Islam so that it could kick out the European colonizers. (more…)

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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4 Years Too Late

When did “F–k You” become the slogan of the US police and justice department?

From Reason Magazine:

In October of this year, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed a pardon for Richard Paey, a paraplegic with multiple sclerosis who had served nearly four years of a 25-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. Paey, who requires high-dose opioid therapy to treat pain brought on by his MS, a car accident, and a botched back surgery, was convicted of trafficking despite concessions from prosecutors that there was no evidence the painkillers in his possession were for anything other than his own use. When police came to arrest the wheel-chair bound Paey, they came with a full-on SWAT team, battering down the door and rushing into the home of the wheelchair-bound Paey, his optometrist wife, and their two schoolage children.

Prosecutors offered Paey a plea bargain, but he refused, insisting that he’d done nothing wrong, and that he shouldn’t have to plead guilty to a felony for treating his own pain. Paey was tried, convicted, and given a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. While in prison, the state of Florida paid for a morphine pump that administered painkillers to Paey at rates higher than what the state convicted him of for possessing in the first place.

Reason (libertarian mag.) is running a series on what it calls “paramilitary” techniques used by domestic US law enforcement.  I think that’s the right word. A SWAT Team for a dude in a wheelchair?

Also, the use of the taser, which allows for police to inflict serious damage but not think they are likely to kill someone, has become a major problem.   In Canada as well, as my own city’s controversial death by the RCMP of a Polish man at the YVR Airport. (The gruesome video of his death is on YouTube).

People are much more likely to use a taser in a situation when they would never shoot someone with a handgun.

Paey is interviewed by Reason and talks about being verbally abused by the guards, fearing them (guards) more than the inmates.

This part struck me as the saddest:

I didn’t do very well in prison. Fortunately, one of the prison doctors was very kind to me. He said he saw in me what he called “the consciousness of innocence.” It’s very dangerous. He said if you bring it into prison with you, you will have the most horrifying experience that a human being can possibly have. You won’t survive. You have to acclimate and accept your situation and not resist. You can’t keep holding on to your innocence. You have to let go of it and start acclimating.But I wasn’t doing that. Apparently, he’d see this “consciousness of innocence” every now and then in a prison patient—people who clung to the idea that they were innocent, and might eventually get out. He said it will do more damage to you than any disease.

When I was a Jesuit, I spent 6 months as a jail chaplain.  Jail being a holding facility not a state pen.  Men and women awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing, try to get work release or a plea bargain.  They all lived in mortal fear of the pen.  Grown huge, scary looking men would break down and cry like babies in front of me as soon as they discussed the possibility of being sent to the pen.  I never went to the pen, but that’s all I really needed to know about it.

The thing I remember the most was the fear of the guards.  How sorry I felt for them.  They seemed to me so trapped in this God-awful system.  The tendency is to kick the dog, kick one layer down in human life.  Hence all the verbal abuse.

Vengeance is mine says the Lord.  Not ours.  To what end does this system serve?  If water-boarding is acceptable in foreign detainees, why not in US ones as well?  Torture out some information on gangs operating within the penitentiary.

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment