Democrats & Liberals Archives

Elaboration: A Storyteller's Perspective on Strategy and Success

I’ve long been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, but more than anything else, the rich sort of material which lets you soak your attention into it like a sponge. Too many works take place in generic worlds that hardly allow such immersion. It takes a certain degree of skill and artistry to create a world that rings true in a new way, a certain kind of thinking. But what can such an approach teach us about politics and policy?

I know, I sound like a Wachovia commercial (What can a pair of rubber bands and a hockey stick teach us about investment?). Seriously, the important thing to realize here is that ours is a country that likes consensus but all too often generates groupthink instead, where people copy other people's behavior, and respond to innovations as a herd. It's a recurring theme in the intelligence and policy failures of this administration, and adminstrations past, both Democrats and Republicans.

In the movie industry, it's not unusual to see studios ride a genre into the ground with imitation, declare it dead, then revive it when some creative genius manages to pump new life into it.

Politics, too have had their ups and downs. Some like to look at it in terms of cycles, but I think of that as a fairly passive and disconnected way of looking at things. Truth is, people stop thinking about what they push, about what they write and argue. We allow the comforts and ease of coming to the popular conclusion within our group, of being a team player. We act as the cogs and let ourselves relax into giving out the standard arguments. Then, as we do that, the meaning and thereby the message become lost in the cognitive noise.

In both situation, the problem we encounter is the rote appreciation of meaning, which takes a rather deterministic approach to communication. I send message A, people get message and it elicit response B, which inspires people to give us Currency/Political Capital C. What gets in the way of this is the little fact that people learn and remember the meaningful information. People absorb the information, and begin to view the repetition of tropes and formula as a witholding of the meaning, which is essentially the product they are paying for amidst all the marketing, the packaging, and the aesthetically constructed media experience.

In terms of government communication, it becomes about something else than just a tired product. It becomes about sins of omission, points repeated and emphasized as a means of stalling further inquiry; nothing here to see folks, move along. Do that enough, and people will rightfully wonder what you have to hide, even if you have nothing to hide. Why? Because man evolved to continually guage and evaluate the environment, and this information age is very good at keeping people in a constant state of alertness. We know more than they think we know, and the claims the politicians make are one factcheck away from annihilation.

Moreover, people know the tricks. It's like the fan of a movie learning the lines of a movie they love to the point they know it by heart, reading the lines as they watch their favorite DVD for the millionth time. They know the standard responses, that dance of denials typical to every scandal. It's become something to allow for; this will always be their first response. The audience is a step ahead. That's not the best place to be if your aim is persuasion, management of the issue. People are already shaping the story for themselves.

Many lies work by cutting people short, by surprising folks, by jarring them with counterintuitive content into binding together a picture of things that while false, is compelling. There are many poorly conceived and illogically constructed works that manage in the quick and interesting flow of their events to keep people suspending their disbelief, and just as many other works that fall flat despite meticulous craftsmanship because the presentation of events doesn't have that real-time, experiential quality. It's not merely a thing of pace of the shots, as those who have watched the rather deliberate The Sixth Sense can attest. It's the development of the things going on. People are geared to both passively and actively bind together the story of what's going on around them as it happens. Accurate, or inaccurate, these internal narratives are what compel people's responses. Your message, your story, is part of that. Your job, as a communicator, is not to feed people what they should think, but rather, the reasons for thinking it. Your job is to guess what those reasons and their proper arrangement might be.

Obviously, when you look at all the works of fiction, its more than possible to construct such experiential bindings, these collections of meaningful narratives. People do it all the time. Not only that, people can make up stories of things that not only don't exist, but can't exist. This capacity to bind together narratives of the world that are not only improbable, but impossible, is the fundamental resource on which all lies depend: what we imagine in our heads has no need to represent an actual reality in front of us, or in fact anywhere in order to be compelling. Truth cannot be ascertained by the emotional power of the story alone.

Faced with this, the response from some is a state of existential funk. If we can't absolutely determine what's real or what's not, what hope is there for us? We constantly see dark predictions of the divorce of information from reality. If we look back to storytelling, though, there's something that might not only provide some means of relief from this problem, but the key to dealing with complex real world problems as well.

The truth is, human language has always been insufficient to absolutely define reality, in no small part because we are not afforded omniscience, nor an infinite capacity to remember. As we are evolved creatures, and language and thought are evolved capacities, they are not meant to deal with infinite subjects. To expect absolute results is absurd. It's like trying to extract blood from a stone; what there isn't to give, there isn't to get.

We instead have a combination of innate instincts, sensory conditioning, learned pattern recognition, and abstract education that builds on itself to provide us with the means to handle all the complex information we construct relative to the facts all around us. We build connections, rewire them, test them, rebuild them in entirely different configurations.

We make maps in our head of the world around us, and like all maps, their usefulness is in guiding us through a much more complex world. The meaning in any message is whatever information the message makes unnecessary for the person to seek out. What people look for and often find is the information that gives them the lay of the land. Once they find it, a person's response might vary from a slight change of opinion, to a monumental change of direction in a person's thought. The best way to create such monumental changes of direction, is to lie to people, to stand in the way of what's important to them. In short, to cast yourself as their antagonist.

Many people, corrupted by the tempations of the office, begin to think they can reshape the voter's reality in some absolute sense. The trouble is that nobody has such power, least of which mortals like us. One good function of Democracy is to constantly disabuse people of that notion. But the world out there often does a good job on its own, for one important reason: Reality, it seems, is much better at generating consistent patterns of facts than people are.

Reality itself is free, generating its convincing detail and its patterns of information essentially just by sitting there. That is its advantage. Lies and fictions are expensive and time consuming. You have to pays somebody to lie, and they have to sit there, think things through, set up and execute operations. By yourself, you have to keep all the balls in the air, even the ones you don't necessarily have any awareness of. You can save a lot of trouble with the media and your voters if they know what the score is with you, and that score is good. You can either juggle the two, or integrate them. If you integrate them, then you have the truth as an ally, and a valuable ally it is.

Lies by their very natures create mismatches. Read the Libby indictment, and you'll find much of what he said, though plausible on first reflection, become increasingly unlikely the more the other facts are brought to bear. What's more, a campaign of dishonesty can create a pattern that not only leads back to the liar, but also to their intentions.

People will figure it out in this day and age. They even figure out your mistakes before you do. The internet is gathering the resources of a diverse community of interests and specialties, where each group can supplement the knowledge of the next. More and more resources have gone online. Where once people might have had to search through row upon row of doorstop texts to find a bill, they can search out one online from home in seconds. Where once access to magazines and newspapers from across the land was limited, one can now type in addresses and find them instantly. Search engines help to concentrate people's awareness, but blogs play an even more active role. It's the difference between rifles and submachine guns, muskets and Maxims.

The liars will adapt, but what they have to adapt to, no human can adapt perfectly to. Even the best liar can be ignorant of an inconvenient truth, and the volume of information out there is staggering. What's more, there's a ton of parallel processing going on. Nobody has to figure it all out themselves. People can figure it out in pieces, and then combine their knowledge. Liars can succeed in this environment, but they have to bury things deep and hope people don't care enough about the matter to look into it.

My point to my fellow Democrats, for the most part, is this: if we want to function in this environment, we must be the soul of integrity. This not idealism, in this day and age, it's necessity. It's a defense, against both the dissatisfaction of the voters, and the criticism and attacks of the other side. It is a weapon in our hands, allowing us to take the worthy elements of our policy, of our politics, and apply them more strongly. It maintains our morale, it reduces the number of morale-sapping defeats and rearguard actions that come from having lied to our voters. Nobody wins a battle in the real world by sheer denial alone. More are lost that way.

Most importantly, the truth unites much easier. The truth of the matter is, most people want the best for this country, whether out of community spirit, or competitive. They want safety, they want opportunity, they want prosperity. these things are built poorly when they are built on delusions and misrepresenations. It's like trying to fit a jigsaw together with tape and a rubber mallet. Things fit together better when fit together as they are meant to be. Our actions shouldn't require dishonesty to seem moral and useful to the community. They should speak for themselves, because that saves us the effort of speaking for them. When things do go wrong, we need to be the first to admit it, and we need to do something about it immediately, the better to satisfy the voters that they don't need to intervene themselves.

Such reconciliation to the truth is not always easy, since people, their knowledge, and their actions are imperfect. However, what matters is the committment towards the truth, towards maintaining that mapping of what we say and believe to what is true and what we do. People know enough about real life to know its imperfections. They can forgive that imperfection much more easily than they can deception and incompetence.

When Liberals use government, people should not have to fear the worlds "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." Our everyday performance and operation should reflect a certain level of customer satisfaction, if you will. Let us do what it takes to keep the Katrinas, the Vioxxes, the Enrons, and the various other failures of the Republican brand of leadership from being harbingers of the results of our tenure, when it comes. The best way to convince people that government should help society is to have government actually do so. When that happens, we don't have to tell people the story so much. Instead, they'll be telling others for us.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 12:17 AM
Comment #188917


Vioxx was originally approved by the FDA in 1999.

The Enron debacle began in the mid ‘90’s. It fell apart in 2001.

And there’s enough blame on both sides of the aisle regarding Katrina

But I’ll give you 1 out of 3.

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2006 1:58 AM
Comment #188923

Thank you Keith, lets keep the facts straight.

Also, I was in the travel industry from 1990 to 2001. By March of 2000 we were already suffering. When the economy is rapidly slowing, people quit spending money for non-essentials first. We all knew, as was reported all over the media, that the economy was in a downturn.

George Bush took that economy + the 90’s generated wall street scandals + 911 + fighting a war with people who believe a woman should be not seen or and not heard + major national catastrophes and turned it around. Our deficit minus the war cost is one half what was predicted to be minus war cost.

And don’t give me the argument about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
There have been and always will be rich and poor.
Our poor are rated within the top 10 % of wealth in the world. The poor in India live on the equivelent of $1000 US dollars a year.
Even our poverty stricken live rather well based on current world standards, let alone the standards throughout history.
Any person in this country can get a lawn mower, start doing yards, make $15- $50 and hour and if they work hard enough within a year can have enough clients to hire and have a thriving business.

The same can be done in the house cleaning industry and the list could go on. There are opportunities every where.

Every one of us have made dozens of mistakes. On the job, in a relationship, in school, in business, if I listed each one of your mistakes in life and presented it to the world, you most likely wouldn’t look too good.

I challenge each one of you to write down just 10 mistakes you have made and decide whether you want to put it on your refridgerator.

The great things this country had done and will do in the future far outweighs its mistakes.

Posted by: springvillecofc at October 19, 2006 3:02 AM
Comment #188942


More information can be both a boon and a detriment, in that acquiring the source and verifying much of it is nigh impossible in this day and age. One need look no further than this site to find the inevitable arguments over the reliability of sources. Even with the vast quantities of information available, it seems that groupthink is more alive than ever.

Truth and reality may be fixed, immutable, but perception is anything but. Even our definitions can encumber objectivity, rendering its weight unbearable and forcing subjectivity to come to our rescue and lighten the load. Liars are branded as honest, honest men as liars; most are either suspect or believed without question, depending on one’s prior loyalties. If there is one thing that humans don’t like, it’s truths which make them uncomfortable (or threaten their livelihood).

Your idealism and pursuit of ethics is really quite commendable and I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of your writings on this site; if one looks at parties being formed from the ground up, then it is a beneficial situation that you sit where you do. However, with re-election rates as they are and with the mind-boggling financial resources required to get elected in the first place, it would seem that the two major parties are now comfortably ensconced in power and sustained from the top down. Given this situation, idealism has a tendency to clash with pragmatism and in the end careen headfirst into misplaced loyalty at best, naivety at worst. Options in a two party system, however, are limited to either supporting a winner (Democrats or Republicans) and feeling empowered, or constantly backing a loser (Third Party, Independent) and becoming disillusioned. I fault neither choice-as they are born of necessity-as long as a person remains true to themselves and denies ignorance as their final option.

There is a marked difference in the priorities of those who make up a party and those who lead it, between those who seek power and those who merely seek a comfortable existence far removed from its allure. Lions roar, wolves howl, politicians lie; turning your back on any of them will generally result in your hind end being ravaged.

The only real disagreement I would take with your article is your reference to Vioxx. Pharmaceuticals are the 4th leading cause of death in this country, with over 100,000 people meeting their fate at the bottom of a container with a frustrating lid every year and millions more are seriously, and oftentimes permanently, injured. Vioxx stands out in this debate not because of the numbers killed, or the lack of response to the crisis before it bloomed, but because of the attention it eventually received. Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are horribly maiming tens of thousands of people in this country every year, hundreds of thousands worldwide. DES (diethylstilbestrol) destroyed millions of lives between 1939 and the 1970’s. Neither party ever addressed the latter, nor is either addressing the former, and these are but two examples. The media is deathly silent; the people sickened and unaware; money changes hands and it all continues.

Power leads to corruption; cliche, yes, but true, and too often the lesson behind those words is ignored. I think the most prudent thing we as Americans can do is to hold that notion close to our hearts before casting our lot in those with those who seek one, and find themselves the victim of the other.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at October 19, 2006 8:59 AM
Comment #188966

Vioxx is part of a bigger picture, where the FDA essentially has a conflict of interest with the drug companies, on account of the drug companies paying to run the FDA’s testing. Guess who introduced that? Clinton and the Republican Congress, which, being the legislature, obviously has a greater role in shaping our laws.

Enron, too, is part of a bigger picture, with politicians on both sides of the aisle jumping on the deregulation bandwagon on energy trading, corporate finance, and accounting. It says something that the man Bush hired to be head of the SEC was a lobbyist who campaigned on behalf of the accounting deregulation.

As for Katrina, Bush took a FEMA that was admired for its disaster preparedness and its effectiveness and flushed it down the toilet. Many of the excuses for the failures of the government to both quickly respond to the problem and afterwards to deal with the Katrina survivors properly boil down to the typical GOP excuses: people shouldn’t expect big government to come to their rescue, state and local should take care of it, big government is naturally inefficient, etc, etc.

The GOP’s fingerprints are all over these controversies. The Democrats are regretfully not clean of this, but as you and others are so found of pointing out, we’re for greater regulation, not lesser. Republican policy was the source of the internet boom according to Republicans, right up until the point that the boom ended. Then it became Clinton’s fault. Never mind the crucial role deregulation, the Republican’s pet cause in the 90s, played in all these scandals.

Indeed, lets keep the facts straight. Clinton did not run the government by himself. Your neglect of the Republican role in shaping the economy is not unlike the efforts of an elephant to hide behind a tree. Republicans shaped the legislation that caused many of the problems. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley act, which allowed the kind of “broad” banking that lead to conflicts of interest where Enron’s creditors were selling people Enron stock as well, a problem that also marked a number of other scandals, including Worldcom’s.

On the subject of the deficits, when Clinton left office, we weren’t running any. So, any cheering about how we’re running lower deficits than before brings in the tyranny of low expectations. Republicans were supposed to be the more responsible party on fiscal matters. Whose fault is it that Bush can’t balance the budget? His own. He put a bunch of programs and expenses on credit, then gave everybody a tax cut, the first one in wartime under any president, Democrat or Republican. There was a reason nobody beat him to the punch- its simply irresponsible.

Don’t give me the argument that just because we’ll always have the poor and the rich that the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is an acceptable outcome. In case you haven’t noticed, the places that have this kind of distribution of income are not exactly the shining examples of economic success, and for a good reason: Economies where the wealth of the rich is reinforced on the backs of the lower classes tend to suffer from a kind of economic arteriosclerosis. Dollars in the economy are like blood in the body: they do their best when allowed to flow freely between the core systems and the periphery. The fact that people uniformly become rich, regardless of what folks try to do should indicate to you that more equitable distribution of wealth is not the burden you imply it is.

As for the poor in other countries? Well gee, aren’t I glad our poor are so rich. It still sucks to be poor, and it’s still a lousy idea to support policies and presidents which increase their numbers. We have better standards as to how we treat our workers than the rest of the world. We pay them better, so they pay others better. The money circulates, and does more good for people.

As for starting a lawn mower business, let me enlighten you about something. When I started college, I was able to save up quite a bit of money by doing lawn mowing jobs. Then Bush took office, and all of a sudden, there were these crews that started coming offering to do the jobs at fifteen dollars a piece. They went around in trailers, with all kinds of lawn equipment. Now you tell me, what implication do you gather from that? Yes, its possible to make money mowing lawns. Unfortunately, we’re getting undercut by low wage competition here.

The Republican idea of opportunity has more to do with paying foreigners less to do our job, while leaving qualified people to rot around, because we won’t take jobs at cut-rate.

So forgive me if I’m a little disappointed at the way the Bush economy has turned out. It happens to be one of those things that common sense and my own situation afford me little objectivity on.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 10:47 AM
Comment #188968


You should work for Howard Dean and the DNC, you can spin with the vest of them. I’ve lived in LA all my life and the influx of illegals is no better or worse now then it was 10 years ago. To say that your liitle lawn mowing business was taken over by people who would work for a lower wage, when George Bush took office is specious at best.

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2006 10:58 AM
Comment #188973

Liberal Demon-
My post is more warning than anything else. We cannot believe things will be business as usual when we get into office. Such smug hypocrisy will only get us booted faster than the Republicans were booted themselves. Believe me, the Republicans will be sure to make things difficult for us in that regards, so we better keep our noses clean.

The first step is to stop conflating pragmatism with covering stuff up. From one perspective, it might be the necessary thing to do, but from another, it’s entirely impractical. idealism and pragmatism do not have to be diametrically opposed, so long as you are willing to drop the -ism, and get down to brass tacks as far as what you think is right, and what it takes to get those things done without defeating the purpose.

Ultimately its the real world effects of what we do that matter the most. We should have goals, more than platforms, lists of things to get done more than talking points. By centering things on communications, on words and messages, we have founded our government on the most unstable of grounds Pick the best candidates and make them electable. Pick the best policies and make them work. If you pick a policy and it doesn’t work, don’t wrack your head about its failure, be willing to admit it, and work hard to prevent similar failures.

Ultimately, we must drop both our cynicism and our naivete, our passivity and our thirst for power. We will never have total power. We will share it with others, and they will have to be given good reason to accept it. I propose we work past barriers both self-imposed and otherwise to convince people of our party’s fitness to hold majority power.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 11:30 AM
Comment #188977

I don’t know precisely why I have to judge the situation by California’s situation, given that I’m living in East Texas, quite some distance from the border. You can come and stand on the street corner on certain days and watch them come on through.

Perhaps living where you’ve lived, you’ve become used to such things, but here in my neck of the woods, it’s rather new. I’m simply telling you what I see, and what’s happened to some of these opportunities springvillecofc suggested.

Let’s be honest here The middle class is getting squeezed from both sides. There are more than enough people in the menial jobs out there. America doesn’t need new clerks at Wal-Mart. It needs more scientists, engineers, teachers, and other educated positions within its borders. Unfortunately, cheapskates in business are trying to ship many of the jobs people were educated for in the last ten years overseas, and the Republicans have let them, giving them big old tax breaks to boot. What incentives to American have to lead, when all the business want to do is follow the next trend in screwing them out of more money? The rich have gotten rich enough. The time has come to spread the wealth.

Don’t worry. If we know anything about economies, the rich won’t lack for the ability to get more of it from the people who are getting better paid with better jobs. It’s time to stop making charity cases out of people with six figure incomes. There are people in this society who need help much more, and probably cheaper to aid than these billion dollar industries.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #188996


Don’t forget to thank the Dems. The reason they don’t want the border closed is they see all tehse potential Democratic voters.

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2006 1:25 PM
Comment #189007

Even if it wasn’t true that border security was considerably tighter, and prosecutions for use of illegal immigration were considerably greater under Clinton, your accusation carries with it the taint of a tu quoque argument.

The site on the link has this to say:

Tu Quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. This is a classic Red Herring since whether the accuser is guilty of the same, or a similar, wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the accuser is put on the defensive, and frequently feels compelled to defend against the accusation.

Bush’s actions are his own responsibility, and I’ve seen a lot more people crossing on his watch. If you wish to divert attention from that fact, fine by me, but it will be just one more case of the GOP telling everybody to ignore the elephant behind the curtain.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 2:24 PM
Comment #189077


Oh, like “The vast right wing conspiracy”

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #189093

“poor getting poorer is an acceptable outcome”

That is the part of your argument that makes your whole premise false.

Our poor arent getting poorer. The poor leve better and better as time goes on. If you dont beleive that, ask some older americans who were raised in the depression.

And as far as mowing lawns, sorry you have not had much luck. But for your one experience, I can give three. Three examples of people I know who worked hard and have started from scratch two landscape businesses and one housecleaning biz. all within the last three years.

Don’t be so pessimistic. If this economy were under a Dem president you would say the economy was flourishing. If Bill Clinton had nothing to do with the economic decline of the country in 2000 then you cannot blame Bush for the “bad economy” you say we have now.

Posted by: springvillecofc at October 19, 2006 7:57 PM
Comment #189095

For interesting fictional politics, try Guy Gavriel Kay. Tigana is a good start.

Posted by: Trent at October 19, 2006 8:03 PM
Comment #189097

First, the numbers: 10,000 to 18,000 workplace arrests of illegals a year, 1995-97, with about a thousand employers served with fines. That’s under Clinton.

Under Bush?
159 workplace arrests, three employers served.

You tell me, is there a difference in their enforcement? Is their any coincidence here that this is the same guy who basically suggests legalizing illegal immigrant labor in place as it is?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 8:10 PM
Comment #189102

If I were you, I’d be less inclined to tell me what I’d be doing. With Clinton, we had continual grow for much of his administration, the largest peacetime economic expansion in years. With Bush, he’s still trying to break even. More people are poor under Bush, more people struggling. Prices on all kinds of things have gone up and wages have stayed stagnant.

The past few years have been disproportionately good for the rich. There’s a bunch of reasons this “good” economy doesn’t feel good to most Americans.

As for a lawnmowing business, with all due respect I’ve got better plans for my life than that.

The truth of the matter is, you don’t have much in the way of real acheivements to point to. What you have is a top-heavy economy that circulates wealth poorly, which slows growth. Good growth requires all around investment and development of resources, not just stuff that benefits the lucky few who have the politician’s ears.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 8:43 PM
Comment #189126


I agree with you on the enforcement issue. But what makes you think it will get better under the Dems. They don’t want to lose potential voters.

Posted by: Keith at October 19, 2006 10:47 PM
Comment #189129


I see what you’re saying, and I would consider my post a warning as well. That when you speak of “We” doing this, and “We” doing that, you understand that there is no “We” in “They.” It will not be you or I making those decisions, instilling good policy and preventing corruption; it will be a group of politicians who are, for the most part, far removed from the day-to-day struggles of those who elect them.

It is this conflation-born in part through the two-party system-between the voters (Us) and the politicians (Them) that is fueling the partisan warfare and allowing these two parties to simply exchange power back and forth between them at the expense of the country and her people. It is not unlike what happens when an avid fan’s favorite baseball team wins the World Series; they jump up and down, yelling “We won, we won!” even though they, personally, did no such thing.

The clash between ideals and reality occurs here, when our principles meet the motives and self-interest of our elected officials.

Like you, I want to believe that the Democrats will ride in and save the day. Do I think that they will perform better than the current crop in power? Of course; it would be hard not to, given that even doing nothing is generally preferable to doing the wrong thing. It is doing the right thing which is so difficult.

Will the Democrats work to unravel the merging of corporate and government power and interests? Not as long as the money keeps flowing like red wine. Will they enact true reforms of the FDA and stop the atrocities that the drug companies are perpetrating against the American people? No, they will instead act to make these deadly products cheaper and more accessible to all. Will they say enough is enough and finally put to a stop to the financial and moral sinkholes that are the War on Terror and the War on Drugs? No, they will throw even more money and manpower at them in a token effort to seem like they’re tough and devoted to security; truth be damned when pandering to the lowest common denominator is so much easier.

And finally, do you think that they will work to undo the abuses of power that our government has been engaging in (both those enacted by this administration and those which have been around far longer)? Of course not, abuses are only such when the other side is engaged in them. They will keep these powers, convinced that they are the ones righteous enough to use them properly. Such is the nature of power.

Again, I agree with you, in principle and in many of the deeds I feel you wish to see done; the problem, however, lies within the broken system; the argument then arises of how to fix said system: either from within or without. My fear is the corrupting nature of the system, and I would hate to come to this site in the future and see you (and others in this column) spinning and protecting your side in much the same fashion that those on the other side are doing now.

Posted by: Liberal Demon at October 19, 2006 11:02 PM
Comment #189140

If Clinton represents us at our most solicitous, then one could safely bet that there is going to be at least that much more enforcement when we’re in charge. I don’t think we will lose all that many potential voters by putting together a fair, conscientiously enforced policy. We may have had catch and release, but at least we were not inflating our reputation with fish stories and virtual walls (did anybody tell you? Bush is not going to build a literal wall.)

I think stunts like that speak to what a ride folks like you have been taken on, and why this Congress is on the verge of losing its majority.

There are things I won’t tolerate from my government. The Beauty of being liberal is that you are not expected to be resigned to a malfunctioning government. With us, government is supposed to work for the people.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 19, 2006 11:31 PM
Comment #189149


“There are things I won’t tolerate from my government. The Beauty of being liberal is that you are not expected to be resigned to a malfunctioning government. With us, government is supposed to work for the people.”

That’s some funny stuff. I almost fell out of my chair.

Posted by: Keith at October 20, 2006 12:15 AM
Comment #189193

I believe that one of the reasons why Republicans are in such dire straits now is that they, like you, considered efficient government a joke. Doing things right isn’t always easy, and if you don’t have the will to improve, to reform, to change things, nothing will improve; things may in fact degrade.

This government is an old mansion. Some of its heirs are responsible, and whether they add or subtract, they keep the result running well, the halls clean and the lights working. Other heirs only see an old hulk which they see as a white elephant. So they fail to take care of it, let it run to decay.

The new heirs are here, and we’re going to take a crack at repairing the damage our predecessors did. You might be surprised at the thing we’ll get running better, but then, you never let yourselves have much imagination as to what could be done to improve things in government.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 20, 2006 8:57 AM
Comment #189373

I love reading your discussions.

I am far from being confident that we will take over either the Senate or House in next month’s election. What I fear you are overlooking in your analysis is that people will often accept inconsistent and illogical worlds, if that is what they want to believe, and it serves a purpose in their psyches. Otherwise, there would be significantly fewer folk deeply into formal religion in this day and age. Those systems are neither consistent with external reality, nor even self consistent.

I also hope that if the Democrats reverse the majorities in the Senate and House that some of the critical laws on campaign finance and social needs will come to pass, and that they (we) will adopt the standards of integrity you describe.

I wouldn’t hold my breath. But, scratch a cynic and you find a disillusioned romantic, so I will continue to hope.

Politics attracts Politicians, and while our side at least has concern for the less-than-affluent, the temptations of power and the Washington culture are significant.

I am also a Science Fiction reader (I even attend SF conventions), and have all the hope and ideals and respect for the power of imagination you are displaying. (Not to mention appreciation for your use of language.) If the elections do turn things around, we “ordinary” folk who lack the direct power, will have to keep up our yelling and screaming to try to see that our representatives will actually take on the big problems and hold themselves to higher standards of behavior.

I am unusually fortunate in that my representatives are Barbara Lee and Barbara Boxer (Dianne Feinstein is far less exciting), so I can be fairly sure they will keep up and escalate the good fight.

It will take an epic effort simply to find and reverse the seemingly vast quantity of damaging and retrogressive laws and practises Bush and kin have put into place.

I wish us all Luck and Fortitude.

Posted by: dana at October 20, 2006 8:14 PM
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