Sunday, May 25, 2014

Government Competence and Faith in Illusion

originally posted at oldschooltwentysix

reality1Jeff Jacoby is a critic of Barack Obama. To some, that ends the matter. To foster some notion of "tolerance" means whatever he may say is simply not worthy of utterance or consideration. Same for Daniel Greenfield, who is cited below. Actually, this type of dismissive attitude seems to foster ignorance.

Not much more to add other than to recommend Jacoby's latest column, Obama fails to show his vaunted ‘competence.' It is a critique that encapsulates in stark terms the obvious disconnect between the image and the reality, the type of disconnect that many Obama supporters, fueled with rage for Republicans, largely ignore.

Perhaps because they believe more in the image, what it presents, and what it says about themselves? As Greenfield said in a recent piece, Obama, Hillary and Kim Kardashian, also recommended:
[W]anting to do something is what makes you a good person. It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing does any good. It doesn’t matter if you succeed. ... [It is] less concerned with changing the world than with being good people by wanting to change the world. That’s what Obama received his premature Nobel Peace Prize for, not for what he did, but for what he talked about doing.
In the matter of competence, the disconnect seems apparent to many, but not to progressives that tout science as the final word yet engage in a long held messianic faith (see here and here). The ability to make the government work for people is what people need from an administration, not illusion that it is doing so, reinforced by appearances on Ellen and hashtag diplomacy, or staged events in front of pre-screened supporters that now qualify as transparency in government.

As John Stuart Mill famously said:
He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
Rather than predictable preemptive rejection of the likes of Jacoby or Greenfield, their ideas should be duly considered, even if then refuted. Overemphasis on a mentality forged in an echo chamber may lead not only to a narrow intolerance, but false perceptions where theory runs afoul of result.


  1. I'll read it when I get home. But as for Greenfield, I'd suggest that he is hardly one to cite when it comes to putting forward the point, which I agree with, that we need to consider the perspectives of others. I do read Greenfield, myself, and most of the time I can't help but come to the conclusion that he is nothing more than a right-wing Bizarro Greenwald, who makes his own bed by being so viciously partisan to begin with. I'm sure you agree that predictable preemptive rejection goes both ways, of course...

    1. I debated in my mind whether or not to say that one need not agree with everything a person says in order to consider what may be an otherwise valid point that contributes to discourse.

      Even vicious partisans should not be shut out, as some wish, because they may offer a point of view necessary to actually understand the situation involved. I am not afraid of them or their message, but more afraid when only one approved idea is permitted.

      I did not use Greenfield to make a point about tolerance, but to illustrate the gap between illusion and reality that some people adopt when they approach the divide.

    2. Fair enough, I figured that. Just wanted to put the point out there.

      By that same token, many leftists automatically reject someone like Sam Harris, as well, even though he is someone who is clearly coming at these issues from a reasoned, fact-based (if sometimes hyperbolical) liberal perspective himself.

    3. Same went for the late Christopher Hitchens (historically no particular fan of Israel, it should be noted), as well. Once he broke from his fellows at The Nation, and even had the gall to put forth the notion that perhaps George W. Bush was not actually 100% pure evil, he was as good as dead to large portions of the Left, even though he's still a better liberal dead than most of his critics are alive...

    4. Conservatives do it, too. It's just that, for the moment, Obama runs the show.

      And it does not apply to all Democrats, as there are growing numbers that see through the facade and how they were taken in by the Obamania, which began before he was ever elected.

      With Obama, it's show biz and style over substance, and the , 24/7 campaign that is built on stoking the intolerance against criticism we now see so well on campus, and to which so many have started to see.

      Problem is, even if Republicans are given the opportunity, they will find the way to their own ineptitude. They will not, however, adopt the Wizard of Oz tactics that have been so effective for Obama, particularly with the millenials who will increasingly come to see him as less than what he portrayed.

    5. Read "Moynihan's Moment" by Gil Troy. An excellent book.

      Apostacy is the greatest sin.

    6. Daniel Greenfield is among the most creative and interesting political writers in the English language today.

      First and foremost, he is a conservative polemicist and an absolutely terrific stylist. He is also an original thinker who has a way of transcending his subject matters. That is, his take on the subject - whatever that subject might be - is often considerably more abstract and sociological in its perspective than you would find with most analysts.

      He is not producing normal journalism, nor obviously anything that resembles academic scholarship, but, nonetheless, he has a way of rattling the marbles a little bit, which is often a very good thing. Which is to say, he provides alternatives in thought and that is often helpful.

      I disagree with the guy on almost everything, by the way. I can be quite strident, I suppose, but Greenfield is off the charts when it comes to strident. He is also a deeply religious Jew who is very explicitly in opposition to the left. See, I am not in opposition to the left, I just want the left to live up to its own alleged values, which is why I constantly bang that drum.

    7. The Republicans don't have to go far to find their way to ineptitude, they've already been there for decades. Of course, so have the Democrats.

      Re: "growing numbers of Democrats," I would argue we have always been there to begin with. I was never taken with Obama, though I voted for him twice in generals, and once (2008) in the primary. Who else would a liberal vote for?

      John McCain? Mitt Romney?

      Our electoral system sucks, so admittedly we sometimes have to cast sucky votes, mainly in order to prevent victory for even suckier candidates.

      I do look forward to one day being able to vote for somebody I like. To this day, I'm pretty sure that the only person I've ever voted, who I actually liked, and actually won, was Amanda Fritz, in a Portland City Council race many years ago. She got tired of politics halfway through her term, and declined to run for another. Can't say I blame her.

      Thanks for the book rec, School. Sounds very interesting. Will definitely check it out...

    8. Huh, well whadd'ya know? Looks like Fritz changed her mind, and successfully ran for another term. She's still on City Council there. That's a good thing for that place.

      I left there, and came back home to Philadelphia (for good!), a few years ago now, but still.

      Good to know!

      Anyway, o/t digression over...

    9. Democrats have not always been there, though some have been. Look at how they line up for Clinton, almost without a second thought.

      How long might it be before she starts with her own criticism of the gap?

    10. As for Greenfield, he does get the ire of progressives. But who does not?

      As Mill said, the best refutation comes not from the opinions of one's own teachers, but persons who actually believe in what they say, who know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

    11. True. I clumsily worded that sentence of my reply. Never meant to say "all of us" have been, but a large number of us? Definitely.

      But here's a thought experiment - what if it's Clinton vs. Cruz or Paul in 2016? At this point, we can't only blame the Democrats for putting up only slightly-semi-palatable candidates against far-right radicals.

      When does the point come where conservatives stop blaming their electoral ills on some left-wing conspiracy, and start to consider that maybe their path to electoral victory might come when they perhaps stop nominating unforgiving extremists?

    12. Do you believe that Romney was an unforgiving extremist? That sounds to me like the typical Democratic narrative we hear all the time about ALL Republicans, who have their job cut out to change the perception now driven home by the creative class.

    13. No, I don't. And you know this.

      So why would you ask such an odd question?

      Do you believe President Obama is a secret Muslim who is selling out the Western world to the Ummah?

      I guess that's about as fair as what you just asked me.

      Now can we move beyond the ridiculous hyperbole, and have an actual discussion on actual issues?

      You don't like Obama and Clinton. Neither do I, to be honest. But what else is out there? The Republicans aren't going to resurrect Cliff Case and Nelson Rockefeller, and put them on the 2016 ticket.

      Our two party system sucks. It isn't going to get any better by partisan-ising yet more issues.

    14. You said: "maybe their path to electoral victory might come when they perhaps stop nominating unforgiving extremists"

      I therefore asked if that was how you felt about Romney, since that was who they in fact did nominate and he lost. What that has to do with Obama being a secret Muslim is beyond me. I do not believe that is a fair comparison to what I asked.

      I was never against Clinton like Obama, but now I question just what qualifies her. Since it is 2 years away and so much can happen, I need not decide, but will follow with interest what each side has to say. Not like I make any difference anyway.

      I think, as I have been saying for awhile, that a sea change may be upon us, here and elsewhere. Democrats may be in for a shock if the Boko Harams of this world keep playing their tunes and if the colleges continue down the road of illustrating the intolerance of progressives and injection of identity politics seen by Americans outside their circles.

    15. You said: "That sounds to me like the typical Democratic narrative we hear all the time about ALL Republicans", and then asked me a question about Romney, not in response to a comment I made not about Romney, but rather about one I made regarding the realistic possibility of Republicans nominating Cruz or Paul in 2016.

      I'm glad to report that I was as dumbfounded as to your question as you were to mine, then.

      Now can we get back to discussing actual issues?

      Shit, I don't think anybody on the national stage right now is qualified for anything more than perhaps managing a shoe store.

      We have a looming climate crisis which is threatening to, within most of our lifetimes, drastically change our maps to the point where up to 15% of where our current population lives will be under water in two generations; we have an energy crisis which isn't going to be solved by any manner of creative accounting intended to keep the WalMart economy going; and neither one of our 'parties' are going to keep that party going, no matter what they may think.

      We do indeed have drastic sea changes coming, but they're more literal than most think...

      You do bring up an interesting point, though. The Philadelphia Democratic Machine is not reliant upon university 'liberals,' but is rather instead based on people like me. Working class, ethnic white, inner city old school liberals. It is also thoroughly corrupt, and makes me want to puke more often than not. Yet then again, what is our competition? Suburban right-wingers who view women as property, continue to practice segregation through housing covenants, refuse to recognize the rights of same-sex couples in Saudian ways, etc etc...

      Our politics moves in cycles, and if anything's going to bring the current Left down, it isn't going to be Boko Haram, because our Left doesn't support Boko Haram.

      A large portion of our Right does support the Cliven Bundys amongst us, though. So there's that...

    16. Boko Haram exposes the image Democrats try to create that their policies makes things safer and Americans more liked. For example, did Democrats choose not to call them a terror group, or claim they were not motivated by Islam, but by poverty?

      What happens on campuses exposes the image that progressives are about tolerance, diversity and freedom of expression, when instead we see the opposite and then attempts to extend the ideological war across society with matters like privilege and political correctness.

      Because of the way that the image distorts reality, as shown above, or over the health care debate, or the administration of government, or the other diversionary issues the parties like to play, I can only wonder if the same is occurring when we talk of politics surrounding what is happening with the environment.

      I don't think that suburbanites are as you depict them, which seems an overstatement with so many exceptions that swallow the rule.

      The sea change will happen as more events occur that create the disconnect that many have seen and discussed. We are not there yet, but it's a matter of time before the repudiation of illiberals will be complete and then perhaps we can reestablish the values that made us successful. Perhaps it will be a Democrat that takes us there.


    17. Yet here's a Democrat telling you your perceptions of us are completely false.

      Insofar as that Boko Haram allegedly 'exposes us' in some way.

      I don't know from which end of the Democratic Party you come from, School, but I can pretty comfortably state that my end does not, and never has, support(ed) Boko Haram.

      Unless you can enlighten me by providing shocking evidence, from thousands of miles away, that leading Philadelphia Democrats right here in my ward support Jihad, I think I'm going to have to continue to call you out on this complete nonsense.

    18. I did not say Democrats supported Boko Haram. What I said was that the avoidance of calling them just what they are is an example of illusion over substance, the kind that precipitates and encourages the sea change.

      Boko Haram tends to support what Republicans have been saying about reality much more than Democrats.

      It shows that, like many other issues where Democrats must support their leader, and to protect against evil, they generally accept the fiction created by the OFA machine when most eyes tell us otherwise. The cumulative effect of all this style over substance will be repudiation.

      I am talking about the trend of where things are going. Though the news cycle has evolved to the point that attention is easily diverted, the VA matter may be Obama's Katrina with the American public, to crystallize that what we are experiencing is a schtick.

      I am talking about what Jocoby said:

      Obama came to the White House with a carefully cultivated image for almost preternatural competence — an image no one esteemed more highly than he did. “I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” he had told his campaign staff. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that . . . I’m a better political director than my political director.”

      He may still believe it, but most Americans no longer do. When respondents in a CNN/ORC poll this spring were asked once again about the president’s ability to “manage the government effectively,” a solid majority — 57 percent — said that description does not apply to Obama. Other surveys get similar results. In four Quinnipiac University polls taken since November 2013, respondents have been asked: “Do you think that in general the Obama administration has been competent in running the government?” Each time, a majority has said no. Asked whether the president is “paying attention to what his administration is doing,” only 45 percent say he is. None of those polls reflects recent coverage of the VA; presumably the numbers would be even harsher if they did.

      When it comes to Israel and Jews, it may not be a bad thing. There is overlap and it exposes the lies and intentions of its opponents.

  2. The basic problem is that when a nation elects a leader for reasons which are apart from competence, goals, intended success so that they feel some relief from their own guilt then that's more or less what they get.

    That's not in and of itself a bad thing. When times are good or at least average, maybe a titular leader that makes us feel good about ourselves isn't all that destructive. Reagan was in part an affect of that in his first term. South Africa elected Mandela with the same thoughts in mind. The ex Soviets put Yeltsin in charge. And so on.

    When times are bad then it's time for that figurehead to step aside or at least shut up and sit down. Today, Poland's last Communist leader died at age 90 or 91. No one's heard his name in 25 years and that's the way it should be,