Bullying, Goldstein, and Politics

So let me lay out the issue I have with Jeff Goldstein – not just with Jeff, but with those who increasingly want to hammer down their political opponents.

My view of politics is essentially communitarian – i.e. that it takes place within a community of people bound together in a polity, who agree to be bound by political decisions and who – to some extent – yield their personal power over their public lives to the political community.

This model allows for a wide range of politics – it works as a construct that limits government power by the consent of the governed, and one that expands it (i.e. it’s not inherently opposed to or in favor of any specific exercise of government power). It says simply that we are fellow citizens and that we will, grudgingly sometimes, accept the decisions made by our political process even when they contradict our own desires.

We can’t and don’t grant that power to everyone in the world, it is inherently limited to our community (hence not cosmopolitan).

The American community, as I’ve written in the past, is a community of belief, not one of (as Heiddiger once famously said) blood and soil. So it is expansive, and flexible and inherently generous (which is to me the root of American Exceptionalism). The condition of that power, in the American ideal, is that we all get to possess our share of it. So when Jim Crow worked to keep blacks from their share, or when laws that forbade women the vote kept them from exercising their share – we worked to strike them down and ensure that everyone had some access to the shared political power.

The image of people being kept from exercising that power by force is inherently reprehensible to me; it defines (to me) the opposite of what our system of government and politics should be. It is most awful when the government blocks people from exercising power – when the political rights people should enjoy to participate in the political life of the community are taken away by the government for political reasons. But it’s awful when it is done privately as well.

I’ve been consistent in my writing, I believe, in saying that the worst sin is attempting to push people out of the argument (yes, there are probably views so extreme that they are rightfully pushed aside – but they’re rare in my view. In fact they’d better be…).

When I see Code Pink mobs shouting Karl Rove down at a booksigning, it’s disgusting.

So why, I’ll ask, is it any different when Jeff threatens those who arouse his pique with violence? That’s not an effort to police a conversation or set boundaries; I can’t see it as anything but an effort to bully people out of an argument. To win the game not with thought, skill, or fact, but by shifting the frame of the discussion from ideas to fear.

I don’t see it.

Look, the tone in a place like Ace or Cold Fury or Blackfive isn’t polite or refined, it’s aggressive, it’s profane and kinda rude (and usually funny as hell). They target people who – in real life – have done bad things – for abuse, outing, and where possible, legal action. They don’t (with one justified exception in Mike Hendrix’s case) target people who say things to them.

They don’t threaten to break people’s bones to shut them up or drive them from the conversation. The fact that Jeff hasn’t actually done it may give him some small relief, but in my view it’s pretty small. Intentions count, and as I said above, as vile as Deb Frisch was in her words, her actions really didn’t give a whole lot of factual basis for believing she was going to act against his kids (note that had her comments been directed against my kids, I would have acted just as Jeff did if not more strongly).

That’s my problem in a nutshell. Because I don’t see how you differentiate political style from political substance all that easily. The GOP is out of power because for all their talk of limited government, they tried to chain themselves to the platinum trough (see Steele’s recent spending problems as a good example of the cultural norm). John Edwards was a narcisstic asshole in person, and I find no reason to believe that his politics would have been any different. At an extreme level, the mindless violence that has characterized Palestinian governance since Arafat is a big reason why the only response the Palestinian polity can make to most challenges – is more mindless violence.

I do buy into the idea that our political system is wounded and that as a nation we’re being dragged down by courtiers in thousand dollar shoes. I’m all about kicking them out on their asses and replacing the government by the governing with a government by the governed. I think it’s critical that we do that – and do it soon – or we’re screwed. I’m to the left of Jeff on some political issues, but I’m right alongside him on this.

But – as I said when I challenged Charles Johnson way back when – it’s a problem to me to stand alongside people whose values – as opposed to beliefs – are so different than mine, and whose values I see as being so destructive to what we both profess to believe in.

It’s a problem for the ‘reform’ movement because if we’re busting our asses to replace one set of power-mad bullies with another – why bother?

I’ve got another, personal problem with Jeff, and that is simply that I believe that as a student of violence he has an obligation to raise the standards for his own behavior. I’m not some super-bad stone killer warrior…but I’ve known more than a couple of them in my life, and being the nosy bastard that I am I’ve spent a fair amount of time interrogating them on their values while picking their pockets for skills. And those values are, simply, don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a bully. Defuse conflict when you can, and end it quickly when you must. Use the confidence your skills offer to create the space to minimize the liklihood of violence – not to egg people on and create it.

Those are values I espouse and try really hard to live. They’re 180 degrees from what I see Jeff doing, and I’m sure that’s part of what makes me so reactive to it.

So that’s why I’m comfy with my decision to pull the link to Jeff, and why I’m (potentially) understanding of his teacher’s desire to pull his name from Jeff’s CV.

I wish it was different. I think Jeff is smart and talented and well-informed enough that he could do what he does without the threats and verbal bludgeons. Someday I hope he sees it that way.

OK, This Isn’t Annoying – It’s Infuriating.

Parents of a Marine killed in Iraq who sued the nutjob Westboro Baptist Church, which has made a habit of picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in action as a way of cheaply attracting attention (on the basis that even hostile attention is good attention, I guess) are being required to pay the legal costs of Westboro Baptist as a result of an appellate court decision.

Lawyers for the father of a Marine from Maryland who died in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters say a court has ordered him to pay the protesters’ appeal costs.

Lawyers for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., also say he is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court agreed earlier this month to consider whether the protesters’ message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.

On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered that Snyder pay costs associated with the Fred Phelps’ appeal. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006 in Westminster.

CLICK HERE to learn more about The Al Snyder Fund.

I’m floored by the workings of the legal system, and floored again that the newspaper actually published the link to the site where the family can take donations.

I just paypal’ed over my Starbucks budget for the week – $20 – and I implore you to do the same thing, and to pass this around to your friends and ask them to do so as well.

I can comfortably say – without feeling like I’m going Goldstein – that the folks who run Westboro Baptist are insane and vile; I’d love to see them get flattened by the legal system.

And a shoutout here to the Patriot Guards who in large part sprung up to protect military funerals from these clowns.

Bad Solutions To Tough Problems

LAUSD and its unions just made a deal to try and keep the foundering district afloat – by screwing the students.

Teachers, whose salaries are the largest part of the budget for the district, agreed to furlough days and a shortened school year in return for pay cuts – in other words, their wages remain the same, but they will work (and get paid) less.

Of course the students – who would benefit from smaller classes and longer school years – pay.

Fire them all, close the institution, paint the buildings, and start over. Note that when I say that I’m not being rhetorical. I’m not sure that LAUSD as an institution is viable if you make care for the students the core metric.

I think the year or turmoil that would come from a radical restructuring (break it up into 4-high school pods?, Reboot it as a larger organization?) would be painful – but the long term effect of destroying the lives of too many children hurts more.

The Abyss Looks Back

Instapundit links to Jeff Goldstein complaining that someone he studied under doesn’t want to be associated with him. Goldstein launches a self-righteous screed about how the wimpy liberals won’t tolerate the truthtelling he’s doing on his blog.

I delinked Goldstein a long time ago, because he’s sounding more and more – sadly – like Deb Frisch. I’m not sorry I defended him against her and sympathized with him … but I wouldn’t want my name on his blog today, either.

What’s the line about staring too long into the abyss?

Back To Work

So in the car up to LAX, Biggest Guy says let’s not make a big deal of this, you guys can just walk me to the ticket counter and we’ll all be off. It’s about him, so I say sure.

He wants something to drink, and we want to drag out the leavetaking, so we stop at Starbucks on Sepulveda, just north of the airport. The young woman at the register looks at him in his uniform and says – “My husband is in Iraq. It’s so weird…somehow I’ve seen all these people in uniform today. It’s like you’re telling me he’ll be home soon.”

The security line for United extends out onto the bridge to the parking lot, and as we walk by everyone waiting patiently or impatiently to get to their gate, an authoritative woman (tall, middle-aged, slender, black) in a United uniform stops us – and tells us to go to this specific counter to check him in. We do, and magically, there’s no line there.

At the counter, TG looks at me and asks if we should ask for gate passes; I say no, BG’s got a plan, and let’s work to his plan today.

Now he’s checked in to Dallas, and we’re directed back up the non-working escalator to the security line. I’m thinking about it, thinking about what to say, walking up and holding TG’s hand. We get to the top of the escalator and we hear a loud “Soldier!” turn and it’s the authoritative woman, who lifts the cord and gestures for him to jump the line.

That’s it. I get one brief hug, say “Do good” and suddenly my chest is full as TG grabs him and then lets him go and he vanishes into security.

We’ll see him again at the green ramp at Bragg in the fall.

Now he’s going back to work, and it’s back to work for all of us as well. Blogging will resume shortly.

Our “Populist” Democratic Party

In case you wonder why I worry that my Democratic leadership can’t manage to get in gear with the public…

But the FEC data suggest plenty of wealthy donors continued to support Democrats with their checkbooks, at least through December.

The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee together took in more than $37.3 million from donors who gave $10,000 or more during the year, the FEC data show. On the GOP side, donors at the same level gave less than $15.6 million to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee combined, the data show.

The overall money race is much closer, with Democratic committees raising $141 million and the GOP close behind at $137.6 million. The Democratic committees, in other words, got more than twice as much of their individual contributions from big donors as Republicans did.

The contrast was particularly sharp between the DNC, which received 60 percent of its money from donations of less than $200, and the RNC, which took in nearly 80 percent of its receipts from the smallest donors. The RNC still edged out the DNC by $4 million in total money raised from individuals.

Large donors, in my view, tend to be ‘investors’ in government more than simply fans…what will it take to grow a Democratic Party that is connected to the $200 donors??