It's Alito

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I don't really know or care about Alito. I haven't followed it, don't care to follow it, and basically trust that if many many colleagues say he's highly qualified, then he's highly qualified.

Two things impress me about this. First, the Democrats aren't willing to give an inch. Only four Democrats were willing to vote affirmatively and maintain collegiality. The Democrats are increasingly shrill and partisan and that means they increasingly won't get my vote. They are like 2-year-olds who are having their toys taken away because it is bedtime. They wail and scream and gnash their teeth, but seem completely incapable of dealing with reality on their own hook. And we desperately need some grownups in charge these days.

Second, the very depth of their shrillness is starting to frighten me. A man who seems from a distance to be reasonable, if not in lock-step with my beliefs, is slammed as though he is the anti-Christ himself. Reckless charges that "our rights as Americans" will soon be completely removed, or that the "extreme right-wing" is imminently taking over are thrown about with wild abandon. There's no doubt that these people really have convinced themselves of such nonsense, similar to the way that a relatively innocuous data-mining program put in place by the NSA has been elevated to an all-out assault on civil liberties in "Ashkroft's Amerikkka", with George Bush himself peeking into everyone's bedroom. Good lord. This sort of hyperbole is simply insane, but as it continues to fester and grow it takes on a life of it's own, whatever tenuous connection to reality it held originally having been rendered entirely irrelevant. It cannot bode well for our future.


terrye said...


Years ago when I was still farming I went to a family farm National Congress in St. Louis. Tom Harkin and Dick Gephardt were speakers, among others.

And they seemed so reasonable. Dick is not around anymore but Harkin is and it is as if some alien body snatcher took him over. The man I see today is not the same man.

I have gone several degrees to the right since then, but it is more than that. And I see it with a lot of these guys. Harry Reid is another example. Once upon a time he seemed sane.

Yes, it is getting weird. Is their desperation just from losing?

If Democrats want to win again they need to act as if the country is their first priority, not some strange and increasingly bizaree vendetta against Bush.

Some of these old guys just need to give it up.

You know what else I think is scaring them? Cindy Sheehan and her ilk.

markg8 said...

we desperately need some grownups in charge these days.

Agreed. Preferably ones who do care enough to follow the actual debate about what they're talking about instead of letting many other colleagues do their thinking for them.

Fresh Air said...


The liberal-left embodies the fantastical side all of us. They believe in fairy tales, things that go bump in the night and the power of Superman to right all wrongs.

This is one of the reasons speech codes and conformity of thought among fellow left-liberals are so important; once inside the bubble, one cannot dare question any of this.

Until they wake up from their daydreams/nightmares, this insanity will continue. Sadly, for them, however, the law of unintended consequences will ultimately destroy them as a political force, just as it is already doing to the antique media.

RogerA said...

I do happen to think that Dick Gebhardt was a pretty classy democrat--not much posturing and pretense--I guess in retrospect he would come pretty close to being one of my more preferred candidates: national security hawk, social liberal--economic policies might have been a bit left of where I would have liked them to be; but fortunately, Alan Greenspan was at the monetary controls.

Rick Ballard said...


He looks better because of the time that has passed and in comparision to what's on offer today. He was actually a DFLer all the way. A very decent politician - much, much better than the average in the Democratic House caucus at the moment.

Just another moderate being squeezed out by demographics and the hard left silliness. With a little help from clever redistricting.

truepeers said...

What fresh air calls the fantastical side of liberalism is also diagnosed as Gnosticism, the best studies of which suggest that while the Gnostic can do much damage, he always ends up humiliated and defeated by the hard stubbornness of the reality he would control with his fanciful worship of symbols.

I am not so worried that the "BushCO are taking away our rights" rhetoric portends a dark future. No realistic path into Nazi-like totalitarianism is apparent to me, unless the terrorists succeed in fometing a nuclear war. (After all it is those who are most afraid of a return to Bushitler who are the most Nazi like in our times.) I tend to think the maximal confusion of the present wave of Gnosticism is upon us now and will soon subside.

Any rhetorical strategy that has once worked will get used to the point of ever diminishing returns. And the source of so much of this postmodern rhetoric that makes Republicans into Nazis is clear enough: the Jew-Nazi model of unquestionable victimization. It is the desire for the moral clarity of this model, for a victimary status beyond any question that the victim did anything to deserve it, that propels so much of the rhetoric.

And that strategy of assimilating all oppressive relations to the HOlocaust worked when the question was ending segregation in the American South, or in the old boys' clubs, or the postcolonial world.

But it's working less and less today, since the removal of all legal discriminations, and that is why those who have no other intellectual strategy are heating up the rhetoric to the point when the souffle will shortly collapse (and as soon as we better develop the alternative paradigm for civil society). It's not possible to take seriously the implied idea that the privileged, bourgeois Americans who do most of the crying are being treated like Jews by Bushitler because of one or another security policy. It's not possible for anyone who reflects on the nature of the American arsenal, its destructive potential, to think that, whatever human rights abuses may have occurred, that Bush is going to any extremes to destroy Islamic terrorists. So the future will see more Angela Merkels and fewer MarkG8s. hallelujah i can hardly wait.

terrye said...


Same here.

Rick Ballard said...


"as soon as we better develop the alternative paradigm for civil society"

The center of 'Project Truepeers', no?

An excellent comment and written in language that I can follow without torquing the noodle into a pretzel (Note to self: metamixer needs to go in for repair).

The phrase "An Alternate Paradigm for Civl Society" would make a great title for a series of posts. I keep thinking of the 'sacred center' bit in relationship to duty toward the least fortunate and less gifted but I can't articulate the thoughts as yet. At least not comprehensibly.

Rick Ballard said...


I really recommend going to see End of the Spear. It deals with what interests you in a rather unique manner.

truepeers said...

Rick, the alternative paradigm is being developed in so much of what we say and do in the blogs.

While this is often not made explicit by bloggers, I think the new paradigm is one in which we take the sacred seriously, whether we see the sacred as a gift from God, or as an anthropological fact, i.e. as a human creation that was original to our species and, as such, isn't going away with "secularization" (the secular is a process of deritualization and abstraction from the religious, but it is no less dependent on the sacred for that). For example, trying to understand our present situation with Islam, without taking seriously the human relationship to the sacred, is hopeless. Those who ignore this fact, like the "economystic" sellers of old- style modernization theories have decayed into nothing more than mindless "root cause" scapegoating. They need a "rational" root cause, like poverty, because they cannot take seriously the irrational human relationship to the sacred.

Taking the sacred seriously allows us to get around the left's false oppostions between the crazy Christian right and the rational left. Much of the left today is clearly irrational and this is because it has a self-denying and resentful relationship to the sacred center, or to those seen to occupy it.

The new paradigm, I think, will also see the pendulum sway back towards nationalism and republicanism as political (if not economic) ideals, and away from the imperial ecumene of the tranzi class. (Sooner or later the Danes, for example, will have to choose between being Danes, with rights to free speech and thought, or dumbned-down subjects of the cartoon-banning tranzi class. I doubt they'll pick the latter.) We need a global commercial class and communications, but it's not obvious we need much of a global political or journalistic class. Decentralization is the mantra.

I'll be writing about all this, one way or another.

As for how you relate to the less fortunate, may I ask whether it is a problem of how to love or genuinely help people given your limited means, or a question of pity and guilt? Guilt, aka compassion, can be as irrational as resentment (they are similar phenomena in terms of how we locate ourselves to the human scene). Love and good works require faith (e.g. not dreaming about saving the world) and wisdom - it is a form of doing or being that cannot be reduced to any methodology - something we're all struggling for.

Knucklehead said...


It seems pretty likely that Dem shrillness will increase before it starts to wane.

They turned their attack machine on the 50+% of American voters who didn't vote for them. A bunch of stupid, hick Christers.

They turned their attack machine on everyone who won an election they wanted to win.

They turne their attack machine on nominations. I just heard some Dem on the radio describing how Alito is a "polarizing figure". Well, no, he isn't. He's pretty darned milquetoast. The Dems used a qualified nominee to ratchet up polarization.

They seem on the verge of turning their attack machine inward. First they will try to browbeat those who even think about getting out of line, next they'll run real purges of the insufficiently shrill.

We see evidence that they may be ready to blame their troubles on the MSM. If they alienated their propaganda machinery they will only enhance their position as political losers and ratchet up their shrillness.

Will they turn their attack machine on the ABA next? They seem determined to alienate and demonize everyone.

Are these trends something to be worried or frightened about? A while back I wondered if there were any connection between how shrill the left is and violent crime. I'm not terribly concerned about the Dems continuing their meltdown and race to complete political impotence. I am, however, concerned about their willingness to ratchet up their angry rhetoric because, I suspect, we will see this constant expression of anger begin to manifest itself outside of the political spectrum.

Right now it is the Dems who are angry and shrill. At what point do their constituencies turn to increasing anger and, eventually, increasing willingness to violence?

truepeers said...

End of the SPear? I haven't heard much about it. Time to get out...(;

Peter UK said...

I agree,the Nazi analogy is utterly offensive,it comes from a complete ignorance of history,a childlike urge to use the strongest epithet to hand.There is no realisation by those who use this,that they would, under the Nazi regime simply have ceased to be,there would have been no NSA,no ACLU,no recourse to justice,no "Speakin Truth to Power", no appeal they would be gone.
Whereas nothing much in the way of sense can be expected of the neotenic activists,the Democratic leadership should hang its collective heads in shame at allowing the crass uninformed hot heads to dictate the narrative.
Utterly shameful.

Knucklehead said...


Eegads! Did you have to resurrect that blast from the past. I remember wondering what the heck her beef was... very good years in the small town, bery good years in the city, very good years in the limo... WTF was that malcontent whining about?

Rick Ballard said...


You won't see much about it in the media. Here is a comment thread with some good summary reviews. It ain't "preachy" at all - I heard about it word of mouth from someone who is fairly harshly critical of Christians and didn't even "get" the message - just loved the Indian and jungle bits -as well as the transformative aspect.


may I ask whether it is a problem of how to love or genuinely help people given your limited means, or a question of pity and guilt?"

Not the terms that I would choose - it needs to be stated on a societal rather than personal basis. That's the part where the left has tried to subsume the individual Christian duty to share a portion of material blessings with the helplessly poor to a societal duty to take by force an individuals surplus for redistribution as authority dictates (less an "administrative fee" to be sure). Static zero sum analysis, coupled with classical Hegelian slave/master leftist orthodoxy trying desperately to clothe itself in church vestments.

As I said, I am unable to articulate the center on this, primarily because of the difficulty that I have in seeing how the transfer of the individual duty to give can be achieved in a collective manner in a way so that the individual may perform the duty and retain the option of not performing the duty. If the duty is performed under duress then it looses significance.

Buddy Larsen said...

Knuck, better watch that mixing-up threads--yo umig htearaho le inth euniv erse!

terrye said...


It is nice to see someone make a movie about Christians without being patronizing or offensive.

truepeers said...

Rick, the right of exiting any collective (i.e. not state-enforced, but civil society) arrangement and choosing another is not enough to solve this dilemma?

Rick Ballard said...


I'm not sure that it is and that's the dilemma that I can't articulate. It has to do with the state's usurpation of voluntary duty and how it affects a persons understanding of that duty. I see it as having the effect of atomizing society and detroying societal integrity but I'm at a loss as to how to clarify the concept.

truepeers said...

Well Rick, the state of course sets rules by which a voluntary organizations may incorporate and administer themselves, putting into question the ultimate source of voluntary authority. This has been a question of social contract thoeries, e.g. a Hobbesian question of how the Leviathan first comes into being. But social contract theories don't actually make a lot of sense because they can't explain the ability of those living in the brutal state of nature to negotiate a contract prior to the first contract coming into existence. In other words, they presuppose what they pretend to explain.

The first "contract" or sacred sign must come into being as if a gift or mystery, and therein lies the anthropological questions of faith, etc., that I'm interested in. We can take this up off blog if you are interested.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


No, no, keep posting on the blog. I want to read it too, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Knucklehead said...


I'll second MHA. Please keep this on the blog. I find the "social contract" stuff interesting.

I'm not convinced re: the presupposes what it seeks to explain part but I'd be very interested in hearing more.

Buddy Larsen said...

i third the motion--

truepeers said...

MHA, Knuck, Buddy: a first, a second, and a third? Is that just a polite convention of parliamentary procedure, or do you/parliamentary procedure point to something more fundamental in the constitution of human culture? I think the latter.

How does the first sign - signs are different from hard-wired animal signals in their arbitrarily chosen, symbolic "nature" - come into being if not for someone going first, making the sign in a crisis, but not knowing fully what he does. His sign may be implying "i don't want a piece of this crisis, or the contested object (say meat) on which the crisis is centered". But of course one alone making a sign in a moment of crisis does not a shared public language make. For this event to be memorable in a way that structures a new form of community something else must happen.

There must be someone - or a process - who seconds the guy who first withdraws, someone who ratifies his sign; and then there must be a process to institutionalize this deferral of animal appetite and the creation of a new human desire (a desire that requires the deferral of appetitive satisfaction), in other words a process of going third, of making the sign repeatable, as in a ritual. In other words the first act of withdrawal, perhaps on the surface akin to an act of animal submission, must be agreed to by all in order for a new kind of human sign to emerge. Someone must go first, but others must follow: no one can dominate the situation.

Knuck, what I was trying to say about social contract theories is that they presuppose the human reason - the rational will to make contracts (to first, second and third a motion) - that they would explain. How can a bunch of animals make a contract? Higher primates live by pecking orders. The alpha animal does not have to contract with the group as a whole; he simply has to dominate any challengers, and so on down the line: the animal hierarchy is a series of one-on-one dominance/submission relationships. This is quite unlike the human contract where all agree to defer to a common public sacred sign/center, to take a place on a human periphery around a sacred, untouchable, center.

So how could we come up with the (ir)rationality by which we first designated something sacred before there was anything sacred or symbolically significant in the world? We could not have simply responded with human reason to the state of nature and written a contract to make us human. There is no prior human reason in the state of nature, or so it seems to me.

So we have to come up with some hypothesis by which an animal pecking order would break down under certain forces, creating a necessity - a degree of freedom - for something new to emerge. But when this first emerged, it could not have been consciously known what was happening; it could not have been a rational contract. There must have been an element of mystery and faith - in a context of fear and violence and chaotic disorder - in the event by which someone first offered a pacifying sign and others seconded and thirded the motion. And every time thereafter that a new sign emerges, something of that original effect of transcendent mystery and faith must be reproduced, if now in diminished intensity.

To get back to Rick's problem. I'm thinking that he is presently focussed mostly on the process of how our voluntary motions - going first and second - become institutionalized by/as the state in the process of thirdness. The process of going first and second also have their state equivalents today - roughly speaking, the authority of the President and the Congress in the American distibution of powers. For example, Pres. Bush attempts to bring in some new sign and transcendent order when he declares his project to democratize the middle east. COngress must ratify his motion. A new Iraqi constitution institutionalizes this motion, in the process of thirdness, though the constitution presumably sets out conditions for renewing itself by allowing a new Iraqi process of going first, second, and third.

But firstness is not simply the prerogative of the president. In civil society, all kinds of situations first emerge because someone has the faith to make something new happen and to do the work of having others second and third his motion. As soon as we get into that process of institutionalizing the motion, it will seem like the state is taking over. And it will require us to find the faith to again attempt firstness when the need and the consequent freedom appears.

I'll end it here for now, but of course this is just to open a huge can of worms...

truepeers said...

"In The Ecumenic Age, Voegelin remarks on the unbroken continuity from the "I am" who speaks out of le buisson ardent to Moses in Midian to the reiterated ego eimi of Christ in the Gospels.

The "I am" that speaks in Jesus . . . is the same "I am" that has formed the humanity of man in the past by evoking the response of faith. But the faith of Jesus does not have the compact mode of Abraham’s faith. In the epiphany of Christ, the formation of humanity in history has become transparent for its meaning as the process of transformation. In Jesus, the participation of this humanity in the divine word has reached the intensity of his absorption into the word.

Voegelin’s observation that humanity has been formed through the evocation of faith implied by the use of language ties his idea of history as humanity’s more or less witting participation in a world that the logos illuminates but does not create to Gans's discussion of the implied linguistics in Christian theology. Faith is a mode of self-conscious existence that rises above that pragmatic plane where a restricted operational knowledge is adequate to the task at hand. Faith waits in expectation without mixing expectation with demand, but faith never exactly specifies what it expects, as this might diverge too much from what actuality grants. We must not suppose that faith wants nothing. Faith is a desire like other desires, after all. Faith might well expect the worst, and it knows what that is--death. But faith has learned to defuse the tension of waiting for it-knows-not-what by passing the time in conversation with its fellows. Faith can always revise its short-term goals, shrugging its shoulders at disappointment. Faith, for both Voegelin and Gans, as for Kierkegaard, is simply openness to the world as a continuous revelation of truths that may be taken up in language. Faith is thus not institutional, for institutions exist by projecting extremely specific images of both near-term and far-term goals, in the non-realization of which they tend to wax irate and point the fingers of blame."
Tom Bertonneau