Sermon Christ the King (Audio Content)


Click the link above to listen to a sermon I delivered today at Canadian Memorial Church on the Feast of Christ the King.  [The wiki on the Feast here.]

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 8:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Exactly: John Cole on Obama

Nail head and hammer:

I swear to God the only people on the planet who have figured out that Obama is a rather mainstream moderate, center-left on some issues, center-right on others, but definitely not a wildly transformative character, are me and Daniel Larison. I seriously am beginning to think, reading some of the lefty blogs lately, that the only people who thought Obama was a radical liberal were the National Journal, a few talk radio hosts, and the progressive wing of the party. Obama has never once showed any inclination to up-end the establishment, he has consistently worked through the establishment. Harvard Law Review, anyone? Con. Law prof at the University of Chicago? This is not Ward Churchill we are talking about, folks…

Say what you want about the way his election was run, because that truly was transformative. Elections will never be the same after the campaign Team Obama ran. But if you really think Obama is a screeching liberal, you haven’t been paying attention and are going to be really upset. They guy is a technocratic pragmatist, he is cool and calculating and calm, and he shrewdly picks his battles. Folks like Larison, and, most definitely Bacevich, worry he is entirely too establishment. I think he is the best we have, so we go with him

I think there were a very others who figured it out (Andrew Sullivan, myself, Scott) but the point stands nonetheless–and Larison has been on the ball with that one for some time.

The lefter wing of the Democratic Party made the same basic mistake that David Freddoso in his book–to confuse Obama’s years as a very liberal Illinois State Senator (in a very liberal district) with how he will govern when he becomes president.  But that was because Obama works within the system he gets, and he represented a very liberal district, hence his views and policies were shaded in that direction.  But he is long since out of that world.  Since I don’t go totally for the Spenglerian Buchananite paleoconservativism, I also agree with Cole that I think BHO is the best we’ve got, so we go with it.   Though really far from perfect, but I actually have a sense of calm and trust in the fact that he looks serious about actually governing, that he will play the game. Remembering that the presidency is only one among a multitude of political players (no imperial presidency or cult for me thank you very much).

Update ICoates smelled the coffee too.

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 8:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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Liberals Not Progressives

The always interesting Michael Lind has a piece out in Slate saying that the left should stop using the word progressive and return to calling themselves liberals (I agree).

He gives seven reasons for the switch (or rather return), a few of which really are key (my numbers don’t line up with his numbers).

1. Progressives has come to mean either:

A) The DLC centrist pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party (neoliberals)
B) The radical left of the pre WWII era (more pro-Communist in other words)
C) The early progressives of the 20th century who for all their good in some areas were also deeply social conservative, authoritarian in places, technocratic, and often racist.

None of A,B, or C is really a good tradition going forward for a healthy left in the US.


Hubert Humphrey, liberal, championed integration and federal enforcement of civil rights. Woodrow Wilson, Progressive, resegregated Washington, D.C. The Warren Court liberalized abortion and censorship laws. The early 20th century Progressives campaigned to outlaw alcohol and outlaw abortion and many of them favored eugenic sterilization of the “feeble-minded.” New Deal liberals celebrated Americans of immigrant stock. Progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were horrified by “hyphenated Americans.” Roosevelt and Truman inherited a disturbing progressive fondness for executive prerogative but by the 1960s and 1970s civil libertarianism and a renewed interest in checks on the imperial presidency became part of the liberal tradition.

2. Progressive is too Prussian Germanic (and therefore militarized and worried about centralization of power as well as purity issues) growing out of an original vision that was Bismarckian not Lockean (i.e. classical liberalism) in nature.

3. Lastly the following:

Like “conservative,” “progressive” is a term associated with a particular view of history. The conservative wants to stand still or go back; the progressive wants to move forward. Progressivism implies a view of history as perpetual progress; conservatism, a view of history as decline from a better world in the past. Needless to say, nobody who actually thinks this way could function. In the real world, self-described progressives aren’t mindlessly in favor of everything new, just as self-described conservatives aren’t indiscriminately in favor of everything that’s old.

Unlike progressivism and conservatism, liberalism is not a name that implies a view that things are either getting better or getting worse. Liberalism is a theory of a social order based on individual civil liberties, private property, popular sovereignty and democratic republican government. Liberals believe that liberal society is the best kind, but they are not committed to believing in universal progress toward liberalism, much less universal progress in general. Many liberals have been skeptical about the idea of unlimited progress and have believed that a liberal society is difficult to establish and easily changed into a nonliberal society.

The upshot of which as Lind correctly points out is that liberals can be or have progressive ideas (contextually) as well as conservative ones.  Lind is making the argument (contra Jonah Goldberg) that the mid-century New Deal Liberals were just that liberals (not progressives primarily–though of course they did have some progressive goals, aims, and policies).

It would hopefully also allow liberals to not continue to act like they have to out hawk the neocons in order to look tough on foreign policy.

Update I:  For those interested, in integral politics according to Ken Wilber’s scheme this is the breakdown of the three meanings of liberal.
Liberal as:

I. Rights (which is the upper left quadrant)
II. Transformation from one worldview to the next (i.e. progressive)
III. Liberal as External (right-hand Quadrants) oriented. i.e. New Deal Social Liberals.

typealyzer for this blog

Scott highlights The Typealyzer which categorizes blogs according to types (a la Meyers-Briggs).  Here’s the result for Indistinct Union:

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

That seems about right.  Scott has some questions about his read out (i.e. results may vary).

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Skypecast: Integral Politics (Audio Content)


Click the link above for a discussion of integral politics between Scott and I–the first in what we are hoping will be a series.  We had a technical glitch or two (per our usual) but is I believe worth the listen [I’m of course biased on this subject :)]

A whole mess ‘o links for those interested:

Ken Wilber:  (Basic Summary of his Model).  Video Introduction to Politics through his Philosophical Lens.
Ha Joon Chang (The Economic Developmental Piece):  Here and here.
Thomas Barnett (The Brief):  Here, here, here, and here.  Barnett’s map here:

Spiral Dynamics:  Here and Pt. 1 of an 8 part series of shorts that show each level of development (all 8 are on youtube).

The Goracle’s New Sermon

Via TNR:

In a New York Times op-ed published on the first Sunday after Barack Obama’s presidential election, Nobel prize winner Al Gore shifted from his longstanding focus on regulating carbon pollution to advocating direct government investments in clean energy as the best way to deal with climate change. Gore is the country’s most prominent spokesperson on climate change and a shift in his thinking in reaction to new economic and political circumstances is highly significant.

Of Gore’s five recommendations to President-elect Obama, the first four are for investment–in solar thermal plants, energy efficiency, a new electrical grid, and in electric cars–and only the final is for regulation, establishing a price for carbon. But even on this last point, Gore was far from aggressive, suggesting merely that the United Nations meeting to replace to Kyoto treaty in Copenhagen next year should result in countries agreeing to “invest together in efficient ways.”

Kyoto is dead and good riddance.  The developing countries of the world will be doing just that–developing–and will not put said issues on hold for environmentalism. 

The reasons for why this are are pretty complicated, but in simple terms countries only take on environmental policy after they have achieved a sufficient degree of wealth that they can simultaneously afford to deal with the environmental consequences that result from mass industrialization/wealth creation AND not threaten overall wealth.  The latter half of that equation is not yet the case in places like China and India, hence they will not go in for a carbon cap scheme that would reduce wealth creation. 

So, the issue is to get them technologies for the industrialization that are non-polluting (as much as possible). 

Shellenberger and Nordhaus, the authors of the article and the important book Breakthrough, are right I think that cap systems without first infrastructure build up are cart before horses.  But the investment schemes alone (whether you are more right-wing and want them privatized or center-left like the authors and want big gov’t infrastructure deficit spending) are still only horses and need I think to be carting something and rather soon. 

Something like Capitalism 3.0 could then be sequenced/merged with Breakthrough-like policies for a more effective double punch. 

Integral Politics Review from Last Night

Thanks to all who were able to attend the presentation I led last night on integral politics.  We had a good discussion and hopefully will lead our local salon to think of some ways to participate in the polis here locally.  The sound recording didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, I might play with it and see if I can post pieces.  Though no promises on that front.

The next few days are pretty busy, but I’m hoping perhaps to do a series of posts digesting and working through some of the main issues I worked on last night.  What comes through more and more for me is the necessity for the recreation of civil society.  More so than party building although that is a piece of the issue.  Habermas and Taylor’s recent work on civic (and civil) reason I think is crucially important in this regard (I’m more Taylorian than Habermasian in some respects).

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Integral Politics Presentation Monday Night


I’m leading a presentation on integral politics Monday night here in Vancouver, for any readers of the blog in the area. I hope to record the audio and post my Power Point slides sometime next week, depending on the quality of the recording.

For now, here is the information on the evening:

Integral Politics.

Politics according to Aristotle is the art of the polis.  Polis-things in other words.  The art of the possible, the art of compromise within the life of the polis (the city-state).  We will explore in depth the current transformation of humanity brought about by the mass migration of human beings from rural to urban life, the rise of technology, and politics in the global polis.  Integral thought provides a lens whereby to make increasing sense of and bring clarity to the complexity of our world.

We will explore the intersection of integral thought in the political events of our day.  Come prepared with questions on any topics you would like discussed–there will be a good amount of time for questions—for example the Canadian elections, US elections, War in Afghanistan, Economic Crisis, Terrorism, and/or more local concerns.

If people are interested, Integral Life has put out a short but helpful video introduction to politics through Ken Wilber’s AQAL system on their website.  I recommend it, but it is not required–fear not there will be no quiz!!!!

The link to the video is here.




  • Dialogue
  • Learning
  • Networking

An Exploration of Integral Framework & How It Can Change Your Life

Doors Open at 7:15, Event Begins at 7:30

Suite 100, Main Floor, 2245 West Broadway, Vancouver (between Vine & Yew)

[Image Courtesy Steve Self via Flickr, CC License].

Election Post-Mortem (+ Ayers Interview)

Our media is so poor, so dumb, so ignorant, so insanely out of it, that they make Bill Ayers look like the sane guy in the room. Jebus.

Now if you watch this thing it’s clear that Ayers is still a radical, a Boomer radical, i.e. a tenured professor radical who isn’t really getting his hands dirty or is that hardcore nowadays. He’s pretty pathetic in my mind.  He only sees the evil of the Vietnam War but not of the Weathermen.  That’s straight up crazy and disgusting in my view, but he’s up front about it, so you can’t fault the guy for lying or hiding something.

But there’s nothing else to it.  Those are his views and we learn yet again (for anyone who had a brain) that there was no secret relationship between Ayers and Obama. And this is the really bizarre part of this whole thing, I’ve never grasped.  If you listen to the discussion (particularly the first couple minutes) a couple of things are clear:

Then State Senator Alice Palmer asked Ayers to host a coffee in his host which he did as he later says WITHOUT HAVING MET Obama.  i.e. What is clear is that this is local machine party politics and he knew the State Senator, was a support of the Democrats in the area, never met the guy, and held a little thing for him.  Obviously Obama is a young guy and is just following along the machine.

The key line is “I knew about as well as thousands of other Chicagoans. (my emphasis).”

The notion about Ayers describing himself as a “family friend” which the interviewer (Chris Cuomo) not being able to read English I suppose can’t understand (after having it explained to him)  refers to a word used in Ayers’ new afterword to his book (don’t think Billy isn’t cashing in on this).  Ayers clearly explains “family friend” is how OTHER people (“the blogosphere” in his words) characterized the relationship.  i.e. NOT HIS OWN CHARACTERIZATION.  Not how he Ayers would define the connection (nor of course Obama).  Ayers says the relationship was Professional and Public.

i.e. Professional meaning not about Ayers’ views–since Obama was there to work on a board with him and a whole mess of other people and Obama has shown no inkling to being drawn to the radical-militancy of an Ayers.  And PUBLIC meaning not about secret meetings (i.e. they were public).  Not friends.  Not mentor.  Not influence.  Nada.

Which is exactly what Obama said all along.  Wow.  No, it can’t be.  There must be some hidden secret agenda.  Somebody tell Sarah Palin.

This again goes back to the strange decision the right had to go the David Freddoso line of attack or the Jerome Corsi conspiracy mongering line.  What you could criticize in this whole thing if you were a Republican/conservative is that it clearly shows that Obama was a Chicago-Democratic machine city pol.  That is the Freddoso line of attack.  But it was clear by this past summer, certainly after Clinton failed to make any hay on Ayers and/or Rezko in the Dem primary that such a line wasn’t going to be enough.  So out came the Corsi conspiracy stuff.  The dark suspicions and all the rest.  Obama couldn’t say anymore because there wasn’t anymore to say, and if he made something up to as it were Come Clean, then he would have been retroactively accused of lying.  And since there wasn’t actually anything else to say, then it was perfectly fertile ground for fetid projections from the wingnuts.

I’m sure glad all that time was spent on this oh so important issue.  I mean anybody who follows politics knows how this works.  An eager beaver like Obama is not going to spend capital in his early days of climbing the ladder on some wacko like Ayers who has been accepted back into the left-wing Dem circles of Chicago.  The issue for the purity patrol types is that he didn’t stand up and refuse contact with him, so that he (Obama) wouldn’t get contaminated on the patriotic front.  But here I think Ayers’ point about the desipcable nature of actions during the Vietnam War has a partial validity.  Namely God knows any Republican candidate has associations in the past (particularly in the Military Industrial Complex, hello McCain) that have violence in their past.  Welcome to America people.  The real issue is not the violence per se, it’s the radical side to Ayers.  It’s that he criticized the government that sends some folks into a lather.  If it was violence that was the issue (or generaly wingnuttery, hello conservative movement) there’s enough of that to go around.

What the McCain Campaign and assorted elements on the right in the campaign did that I could never understand was not grasp that Obama wasn’t that kinda liberal.  He moved through those circles, he had to play the game.  He had to move up the ranks through that world.  No doubt about that fact.  But the guy is like a super-America lover.  It’s a love based in a certain vision of what America represents.

That is to quote Obama:

“It was a Creed written into the Founding Documents, Yes We Can.”

That’s definitely one view of the Founding Documents or the reason to love America.  There are others.  Some that could help balance out the blindspots in Obama’s vision of America.  e.g. Maybe the Founding Documents were written because “NO WE CAN’T.”

NO WE CAN’T as a people be trusted except under the rule of law (see Bush and Torture).  NO WE CAN’T rely on democratic procedures alone to protect civil rights (see California and Prop 8’s failure).

But that aside this guy wasn’t Dukakkis or Gore or Kerry.  Much less Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.  The GOP embraced that argument at the cost of some serious long term peril for the party.  [I think they were bound to lose anyway, but they could have lost without appearing so F’in Insane].

The Sarah Palin-ites of the right wing had been sold those lines for years as a sorta cynical ploy by the elite in the GOP, except they believe it and have called the upper crusts on it and have in many ways relativized them.  [Goodbye Northeast to GOP].  Palin and likeminded individuals didn’t get the memo that it was a kinda wink-wink nudge nudge line of attack.  They want their pound of political flesh for those who are politically impure, presidential or otherwise.  And so the GOP sinks further into bat shit insanity.  Leaving us with the pathetic Democratic Party and the even worse whiny/bitchy sides of the progressive blogosphere (bleh and double bleh).

Fortunately yours truly has always been impressed that Obama has a history of dealing with and at times playing the left (see above), so I take some comfort in the fact that I voted for the guy principally because I trusted his instincts, not because he was going to heal the planet or whatever crap he had to say to get elected and get a bunch of looney self-impressed folk to sing songs or cry or think the universe is heading up in light because of his ASCENSION no less to power.  [Hint: By linking to the Ascension of Jesus I’m mocking all this; I don’t secretly think Obama is the Second Coming or for his Jewish devotees I suppose The First Coming]. Since he know has to deal with the nutty left, his background has served him well in that regard.

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 6:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Sark Attack

(H/t Alex Massie through h/t Andrew Sullivan) Comes word of some serious wheeling and dealing by Sarkozy against the Russian Bear Putin:

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia, Mr Levitte said.

“I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin replied.

Mr Sarkozy responded: “Hang him?”

“Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein,” said Mr Putin.

Mr Sarkozy replied, using the familiar “tu”: “Yes but do you want to end up like (President) Bush?”

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah, you have scored a point there.

Looks like Sarkozy has a habit now of talking smooth but tough to the Russians.  More evidence here (h/t T Barnett).  Or when he showed some real guts recognizing that Jerusalem is going to have to be shared.

It’s a rare thing on this blog to hear my praise the French government especially on foreign policy (intelligence is another matter where they are excellent).  So here it is.  Yeah he likes to showboat around quite a bit and has a sorta weird man-crush on Obama, but the guy’s instincts are pretty sound seems to me and his touch is quite deft.  Brown as Barnett says is the more the brains on the global finance regulatory side, but Sarkozy might be the better salesmen.

[Full story of the Sarkozy-Putin encounter here.]

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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