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  • The depressing divide in US understanding of reality.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on September 14th, 2013 (All posts by )

    I read left wing blogs most days to see what the other side thinks. I used to comment but the comments were usually deleted, often without notice, so the nasty responses to my comments would be there the next day but the offending comments would not appear.

    The Huffington Post has become a very successful left wing site that advertises itself as moderate. I skim it most days and occasionally comment although my comments are all moderated and I can’t tell if they are deleted or not. I have a few followers so some must appear. Today I went there to see what the left thinks of the Syrian fiasco. The headline was not reassuring. That may change soon but it says “We Have a Deal !” The story follows with a rather naive heading.

    The story has over 14 thousand comments, double the number when I read the story earlier this morning. The story is bad enough.

    A diplomatic breakthrough Saturday on securing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile averted the threat of U.S. military action for the moment and could swing momentum toward ending a horrific civil war.

    Marathon negotiations between U.S. and Russian diplomats at a Geneva hotel produced a sweeping agreement that will require one of the most ambitious arms-control efforts in history.

    The deal involves making an inventory and seizing all components of Syria’s chemical weapons program and imposing penalties if President Bashar Assad’s government fails to comply will the terms.

    After days of intense day-and-night negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and their teams, the two powers announced they had a framework for ridding the world of Syria’s chemicals weapons.

    Apparently the Sec State resisted urges to go wind surfing (summer is over at Cape Cod) and the tone of the article is apparent from the short clip above. The comments are worse. Does anyone who reads this blog think there will be any solution to the Syrian situation accomplished by this “negotiation?” To its credit, The New Republic, a traditional Democratic publication does not. That article has a lead titled “Amateur Hour.” It says, “, This, apparently, is how diplomacy happens these days: Someone makes an off-hand remark at a press conference and triggers an international chain reaction that turns an already chaotic and complex situation completely on its head, and gives everyone a sense that, perhaps, this is the light at the end of the indecision tunnel.

    Speaking in London next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that perhaps the military strike around which the administration has been painfully circling for weeks could be avoided if Bashar al-Assad can “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.”

    The fact that Kerry immediately followed with, “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously,” didn’t seem to bother anyone. (Probably because they were focusing on his other slip-up: calling the promised strikes “unbelievably small.”)

    It concludes, Meanwhile, the president is supposed to address the nation tonight. He was supposed to make the case for military action, but his advisors spent Monday night frantically reworking the speech. What will he say? What can he say?

    The readers of the Huffington Post, at least those not on moderation, are enthusiastic about the president’s “breakthrough.”

    Sample comments:

    ” ItWasntMeReally 3 hours ago ( 1:13 PM)
    3730 Fans

    Next on the list: Not only work to peacefully and through the real “international community” remove Assad’s regime from power, but to ensure none of the rebels routinely massacring civilians gets any funding, any weapons, any help from the U.S. because those people are even worse and once they come to power they will turn that country into a base for their extremist jihadi activities that Salafis openly …”

    I think it was F Scott Fitzgerald who said, “Only an artist can keep two contradictory thoughts at the same time and still function.” At least they can write comments.

    The rest of the comments, with a few exceptions, are worse, if possible. The next one:

    “HUFFPOST SUPER USER
    pynecastle
    259 Fans

    27 seconds ago ( 3:50 PM)
    There is one thing that Obama knows to be an absolute, proven fact. The GOP has never and will never vote for anything that the president wants, no matter what the consequences. Did the president get what he wanted in this case? Yes. Did he play the GOP? You betcha! Are he and Putin using each other? Without a doubt. It’s the difference between checkers and chess.”

    After reading this post and others like it, I am convinced we are lost. That Obama is so obviously incompetent is bad enough but he has thousands of enthusiastic fans who are immune to logic, even from their own side. God help us ! Sorry Lex.

     

    33 Responses to “The depressing divide in US understanding of reality.”

    1. dearieme Says:

      Cheer up. Teddy Kennedy is still dead.

    2. MikeK Says:

      “Cheer up. Teddy Kennedy is still dead.”

      Yes, but a bit late. Too bad he got out of the car at Chappaquiddick.

    3. VXXC Says:

      How are we lost?

      The Country is not the Town of Washington. They are lost.

      Here’s the Country.

      Really everyone stop being in such a hurry to give up.

      http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html

    4. TMLutas Says:

      There is a continuum on these things. The advantage of the right for the past few decades is that we are forced regularly to confront the arguments of our opponents. The disadvantage of the left is that confronting the arguments of the right (not a caricature of said arguments) is viewed as socially unacceptable by a great many. So epistemic closure is an ongoing threat to them and their arguments. Inevitably that epistemic closure on either side leads to irrelevancy and growingly disconnected from reality policy prescriptions. The cure is to find a way to objectively describe reality and make it socially embarrassing to be so disconnected.

    5. MikeK Says:

      VXXC, When I first started in practice, many years ago, I attended a lecture on incorporation by a lawyer. He finished his explanation of all the things a corporation can do by adding, “The only thing a corporation cannot do is go to jail. The officers go to jail.” A wise conclusion.

      The city of Washington can be blown up but there are lots of us outside it that would prefer not to be blown up. Obama has trashed the economy but some of us are protected, at least in part. We worry about our kids and our grand kids but so far nobody has been blown up. That may not last. At least I live as far from Iran as possible.

      This will not end well and the ludicrous celebration on the left of this defeat is worrying. The comments to the post on HuffPo are now at 16,000 and the tone is delusional.

      Allan Drury was one of my favorite novelists. One of his last novels, maybe the last, was about how we would lose the Cold War. It’s dated but may be prophetic.

    6. Becky Says:

      It seems the left has a hard time with the concept of matching Obama’s actions and arguments simultaneously with time. It is a differential equation. The sequencing of events is important in cognitive reasoning. When you re-arrange events your worldview triumphs.

      Pam said Uncle Anthony is a pig. Pam, said Uncle Anthony, is a pig.

      What a difference two commas make. The left kind of does these type of word games.

    7. chuck Says:

      I know intelligent folks who think Obama is some sort of genius. I haven’t a clue how they can come back to reality, Obama worship is a cult.

      One thing I’ve noticed about lefty sites is the vote up/down button and removal of comments that don’t follow the party line. That serves to insulate folks and encourages groupthink. There is probably no path to sanity other than loss of access and dire, long lasting emergency.

    8. PenGun Says:

      I’ve been laughing my silly head off for weeks. This is by far the most entertaining series of events in a long time.

      Obama should probably stick to what he does well, whatever that might be. War is not his forte no matter how tough he talks. Kerry is just sublime. A natural force for stupidity.

      Putin is a bastard but he gets the prize for pouncing on Kerry in full bafflegab.

    9. Robin Goodfellow Says:

      Just think, less than a decade ago 59 million Americans voted for Kerry to become president. Imagine how well that would have gone.

    10. morgan Says:

      I’m shocked!! Pen Gun actually made a good post. Will miracles ever cease?

    11. Nancy Says:

      For once, Pen Gun did say something I could agree with. All except his first sentence, as it is not at all a laughing matter.

    12. tyouth Says:

      As little as one thinks of 0, Kerry exceeds him in bottomlessness.

    13. David Foster Says:

      There is a category of “progressives” who totally drank down ALL the Kool-Aid, and are beyond rational argument, but there are a lot of people…probably many more than the former group…whose opinions are more eclectic.

      For example, I know someone who I’m pretty sure voted for Obama…she thinks Republicans are mentally rigid and definitely un-hip, and is concerned that they will ban birth control if they can. But on the other hand, she is very hard-line against providing extended unemployment benefits, and deeply resented people who live off government assistance without working. She is also very against racial preferences.

      OTOH, I also know someone who despises Obama and is pretty hard-right on just about everything…BUT, he approvingly circulated a proposal that the US could just stop fighting foreign wars, spend the money on solar power, and no one would ever have to pay an electricity bill again.

      People are mostly a lot more mixed in their opinions than a simple Left-Right dichotomy, and marketing 101 would suggest that the focus needs to be on those who are persuadable. Unfortunately, most of the stuff I see from official Republican sources, and from various conservative and libertarian groups, suggests that their grasp of effective marketing is not very strong.

    14. Jonathan Says:

      Unfortunately, most of the stuff I see from official Republican sources, and from various conservative and libertarian groups, suggests that their grasp of effective marketing is not very strong.

      I think they are often more interested in fund raising than in persuading. Effective fund raising often uses polarization as a tactic, which is usually the opposite of what you want to do if your intent is to persuade.

    15. David Foster Says:

      “often more interested in fund raising than in persuading”…this is true, but even from the standpoint of fund-raising, much of this stuff is ludicrous. A typical piece of direct mail I get has something like this on the envelope:

      OUR SECRET CONFIDENTIAL PLAN TO REPEAL AN AWFUL LAW PASSED BY AWFUL LIBERALS
      Your Serial Number is 99-44-333-434-789
      POSTMASTER: Political Material, Delivery is Required
      IT IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE TO IMPEDE DELIVERY OF THIS DOCUMENT

      …inside are 9 loose-leaf pages containing a combined rant and fund appeal, together with various little cards of miscellaneous sizes.

      Now, I would think that most people who have substantial money to make political contributions tend to have at least *some* level of astuteness, and are unlikely to be impressed by this sort of thing.

    16. Richard Says:

      PenGun Says:

      I’ve been laughing my silly head off for weeks.
      Eureka! Now, Pen. you understand how we react to you comments!

      War is not his forte Good pun.

    17. PenGun Says:

      “For once, Pen Gun did say something I could agree with. All except his first sentence, as it is not at all a laughing matter.”

      Hey I calls em’ as I see em’.

      Actually with a fuller knowledge of the actual US involvement in the Syrian conflict it is very funny indeed. Hubris is always a hoot.

    18. S O Says:

      “There is a continuum on these things. The advantage of the right for the past few decades is that we are forced regularly to confront the arguments of our opponents. The disadvantage of the left is that confronting the arguments of the right (not a caricature of said arguments) is viewed as socially unacceptable by a great many. So epistemic closure is an ongoing threat to them and their arguments. Inevitably that epistemic closure on either side leads to irrelevancy and growingly disconnected from reality policy prescriptions.”

      You’re aware that the left wing says about the same about the right wing, right?

      The culture of political discussion has generally a lot of room for improvement.
      Actual disconnects between reality/problem diagnosis and between effect of intervention against a problem and desired effect are rampant on both political wings.

      The right wing’s economic policy theory depends almost entirely on ignoring economic research and textbooks, for example. The most prominent right wing economist Gregory Mankiw is either in conflict with right wing doctrine (such as about Pigou taxes) or argues for them with arguments which depend critically on omission of decisive factors, for example.

      The left wing tends to be overly receptive to concerns such as global warming and over-enthusiastic about some policies or countermeasures (such as the bio-energy racket).
      ___________________________

      I’d say the generally biggest problems of the U.S. right now (other than a slow and tricky recovery) are income inequality and a lack of macroeconomic sustainability (trade imbalance and public+private capital investment more than public budget deficits). Neither wing appears to be aware about the latter, but the left tends to address the former, while the right wing tends to reinforce the former.
      ___________________________

      By the way; related to your discussion, two topics which created a huge response in the left wing recently:
      http://driftglass.blogspot.de/2013/09/what-digby-said.html
      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/13/maher-mocks-republicans-are-they-really-against-attacking-syria-or-are-they-just-black-tracking/

    19. Richard Says:

      This week I watched an interview of Domenico Quirico, a reporter for La Stampa,who was held prisoner for 5 months in Syria and was released about a week ago. Querico’s experience is relevant to this post.

      He appeared on Ballerò, a center-left talk show on RAI 2 http://www.rai.tv/dl/RaiTV/programmi/media/ContentItem-029810ac-b02c-400c-bedd-a12ced4f6eff.html (He appears with his the Editor of La Stampa Mario Calabresi>, whose father, Luigi, was a police detective, murdered by the Red Brigade. His book on that event is a moving and worthy read: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/22858/pushing-past-the-night-by-mario-calabresi, as is a superb dramatic reading by Luca Zingaretti sold on DVD with the Italian edition.)

      His experience is frightening. One so “common” that it is blinked by our media and us. Kidnapped, he was transported through all parts of Syria in “a voyage of humiliation.”, and conveyed his hard learned understanding. [Please understand this is a horseback translation for this post, because I don't have the free time to do an precise interpretation. I believe it is accurate]

      His fundamental realization is that “There exists in the world a nation that is without any pity or compassion, the civil war has destroyed the bond persons have with life about them, goodwill is not possible. Goodwill does not exist there, as he lived behind a “closed door” in an indefinite detention in cramped, dark cells never knowing whether he would be freed or killed from day to day. His captors were youngsters that spent their absolutely empty days eating, drinking mate, playing video games on their phones, and watching sentimental Egyptian films from the 1950′s. They weren’t Islamists.

      He learned that Syria is in anarchy, and that the raision d’être is greed. There is not any neat separation between Regime and Rebels, the line is blurred by ubiquitous, pillaging bandits. It is this anarchic greed that he attributes his capture and rescue. After having been to Syria 5 times in 5 years, he learned that there is not any longer a revolution in Syria, and journalism is not possible in Syria, because none can guarantee one’s security.

      At the end, Querico admits frankly that he “believed” that the Syrian revolution could be radically transformative of the “rotting world of dictators”, now he declares he feels betrayed, and concedes he was mistaken – and that he erred. He observed that this revolution like almost all others has a second phase, in which the heroes, the idealists, myth-makers die, pass away, and the revolution becomes stuck in a quagmire of the profiteers, jackals and wolves that use the revolution to save their social position, for their political fanaticism, or their erstwhile religious ideals.” He humbly confesses error that he did not realize that ideal of revolution had been replaced by something else – and corrupted.

      Domenico Querico is like Obama’s devotees, he believed in the dream of the “Arab Spring”, indeed he authored an eponymous book, but unlike Obama’s believers he was brutally mugged by his ideals, and saw the devilish realization of “Revolution 2.0.” Yes, yes, “same as it ever was.” And so it shall be, the fissure of recent event will shatter the ideals of Obama and his minions. It’s going to ugly and painful for all of us, as he plunges us into the anarchic quagmire of post the “Arab Spring’s” deluge. Oui, certainement, après le déluge du printemps And, diurnally hence, the “One’s” blathering disciples will take their bread in a another bite of the Obama s_ _ t sandwich. They, like Domenico Querico, have been held captive in a dark cell ignorance guarded by the MSM protecting their pure Tyro.

    20. MikeK Says:

      SO, I really don’t want to debate economics with you. It’s just too frustrating. I doubt that we will ever have a solid working economy again unless the present idiots pull the temple down around them, and that includes you.

      The Republicans are only slightly better than the Democrats. What you call “the right” is not the Republican Party, which has lost its way since 1994. You could read Angelo Codevilla’s essay but you won’t.

    21. dearieme Says:

      “He observed that this revolution like almost all others has a second phase …”: yeah, yeah, read Burke about it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflections_on_the_Revolution_in_France

      The thing with Burke is that he predicted it before it happened.

    22. dearieme Says:

      By the way, cheer up. Larry Summers has retreated, with a bloodied nose.

    23. Elizabeth Says:

      Very interesting post. Thank you. As to those Huff readers that are encouraged by the presidents “breakthroughs,” I would like to ask them what breakthroughs? Are you referring to “no change,” more impoverished Americans, less money going to public school for the children of our future (guess he thinks they are not worth the investment), what breakthroughs? Making the United States look like a fools for fodder globally? Putin making a mockery out of him? What breakthroughs? Those Huff readers are huffing on stupid!

      Just a Chicago Grrrl living around the “Dirty Beltway” wondering about all his so-called marvelous “breakthroughs!” He needs to go back to Hyde Park and just hide there.

    24. newrouter Says:
    25. newrouter Says:

      i

    26. Gringo Says:

      Ditto on PenGun.

      What is ironic about Syria is that when Duybya was President, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi went to Syria to commiserate with Assad about what a bad person Dubya was and how evil those Neocons were. Another prominent American who made the pilgrimage to Damascus was David Duke. Good company, eh?

    27. grey eagle Says:

      i WATCHED THE 60 MINUTES show on Syria.

      1. 60 Minutes never asked where did Al-Assad get his chemical weapons. They never asked if these are SAadam Husseins “missing” weapons.

      2. 60 Minutes never asked if Al-Qaeda or Hezb’allah used the nerve gas that killed a 1000 Syrians

      3. 60 minutes proclaimed that All Obama wanted to do was limited bombing to punish Al-Assad. But 60 minutes never asked if Obama was goimg to bomb the nerve gas weapons or what would happen when the bombing released all that gas into the atmosphere. Its a secret what Obama wants to bomb – a secret bombing that eliminates nerve gas as a weapon.

      No wonder Americans are unimformed. The News media has failed totally. Why?

      The children of many network heads, newspaper publishers and reporters have special jobs in the federal government – making them hostages for good behavior by their parents. This is the hostage based control system pioneered at Versailes by Louis XIV.

    28. Bill Brandt Says:

      Whatever one really learns in ascertaining the TRUTH isn’t by reading the NYT or watching 60 Minutes.

      If you really want to connect the dots what is the possibility the missing WMD from Sadaam Hussein and the chemical weapons in Syria? Moved at the time – assumed temporary – while the UN was all over Iraq.

    29. S O Says:

      Hezbollah serves Assad, so it’s irrelevant if it used the gas. It would count as Assad’s use of the gas.

      The Syrian Sarin origins are well-known; Soviet Union / Russia. Can’t believe some true Neocon believers are still thinking Saddam had Sarin post-’96.
      Serious news people would never give airtime to a speculation without a basis in facts. There’s too much nonsense one can make up if facts are no constraint; it would plug the airwaves. Thus “no questions” about made-up ideas.

    30. No RNC Says:

      S O Says, don’t dare question our propaganda, if you do you are not serious. Petty tyrants or DoD cutouts, they sound alike. These are the Collectives that really, really want to do da most gude!

    31. MikeK Says:

      “Can’t believe some true Neocon believers are still thinking Saddam had Sarin post-’96.”

      I know you can’t. Why brag about your opinions ? They are no more based in fact than anyone elses. If you’d said you didn’t know, I would have agreed with you.

    32. TMLutas Says:

      S O – I don’t know who you are or where you’re from so I’ll start from the perspective that you’re that hypothetical martian coming down to Earth without context. In this country the left wing dominates the education system. It also dominates the media both in composition of its members as well as in demonstrated bias in reporting. Lichter Rothman have been publishing studies on the latter for decades. Confronting ideas or cocooning to isolate yourself is aided immeasurably by control of these two sectors (in fact, you can’t pull off a good intellectual cocoon without them) and the left has both of them and has had them for decades. Relatively recently, there have been some newcomers that crack that so it is mere dominance these days instead of virtual monopoly. The right has not been in a position to impose its views and create a cocoon for its own intellectual vulnerabilities since at least the 1950s and arguably since the 1920s.

      I actually agree with you that both wings, right and left are not very good at predicting what the effects of government action will be. It’s just that the right wing actually says that this is so as an article of faith and a core reason why to limit the number of times you turn to government to solve problems while the left actually denies that this is the case.

      I don’t know what you mean by the “right wing’s economic policy theory” as there are a couple of contenders. Unless I hear something more specific, I’ll leave that alone as too vague to discuss.

      I would suggest that there is absolutely nothing wrong with income inequality so long as it is paired with income dynamism. It is the corporate welfare rules and regulations which shore up those who are presently rich and hold back the hard working from becoming rich that is a real problem. If you decide that you want leisure over money and choose that lifestyle, your lower income is not actually a problem, much less one that the blunt tool of government intervention is appropriate to address. It is only when you desire to earn more while being willing to put in the requisite effort and cannot manage a reasonable increase that inequality becomes a problem and this inability today, in the US, is overwhelmingly caused by government barriers.

    33. grey eagle Says:

      SO: You conveniently forget Sadam Husein kicked the UN inspectors out of Iraq when Clinton was President. Sadam announced he had ABC weapons – Atomic, Biological and Chemical. He used gas in his war with Iran. He supported terrorists and promised $25,000 rewards to the families of terrorists if the terrorist died in action attacking America.

      Sadam celebrated the 9/11 attack on America and there was dancing in the streets of Bagdad. Bush got a UN Resolutiom to go after Sadam’s WMDs and Sadam hid them in Syria just a few miles across the border. They are still there today according to ABC News.

      The Democrat Party adopted the position that Sadam never had WMDs. They developed this false narative because it was Democrat stupidity that caused the 9/11 slaughter in NYC.