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Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Blinking Bush 

Nothing brings a choice into focus like a side-by-side comparison.

The right wing propagandists are already busy trying to downplay Kerry's victory. They can kiss my Liberal ass.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Testosterone Junkies Beware 

I'll be back as soon as I get a little time away from my work. I have a bone to pick with you.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Blogs are read, and Violet is Blue 

Because it's time to say adieu.

Time for me to go folks. I said everything I needed to say, and I'm not in the habit of repeating myself. The blog will remain online as long as the host allows. If I happen to discover that I still have more to say, I'll be back. I will continue to be available via email. For now, I'll leave you with a recommendation, and with an essay that I wrote about a year ago for another website.

First, I recommend the following editorial by William Rivers Pitt. It's one of the most lucid indictments of American foreign policy that I've read since 9/11/01. Here's a short excerpt:

"Bin Laden asked Fahd to help him resurrect the army that fought with him against the Soviets so that he could fight Saddam Hussein. Here again is an irony of the times: As in the 1980s, Osama bin Laden was spoiling for a fight against an enemy of the United States - for his own purposes, to be sure, but it is difficult to avoid a shake of the head when considering all of the recent rhetoric about a Saddam/Osama alliance."

When the Rabbits Get a Gun
By William Rivers Pitt

As for my essay - consider it a layperson's attempt to make sense of politics. Bye for now...

A Balanced Political Spectrum

While examining the political spectrum concept, I gathered some information and a few provocative ideas that I hope you'll be interested in. Let's begin by looking at the classic political spectrum, along with two competing modern models.

The classic political spectrum, derived from the French Assembly of 1789:

Radical---------------------Conservative

• Left (radical, commoners) - change the established order.
• Right (conservative, aristocracy) - preserve the established order.

The orientation of the spectrum and our usage of "left" and "right" as political terms come from the seating arrangements used in the various legislative bodies throughout France after the French Revolution. Since it only measures attitude toward change, this model is obviously inadequate to serve as a political spectrum. Nevertheless, it's a measure that can be useful in certain circumstances. The modern progressive/conservative scale that I'll mention later is loosely based on this model.

The traditional political spectrum -- based on distribution of power and measuring social equality:

Communism----------<----------Fascism

• Left (communism) - social equality.
• Right (fascism) - social inequality.

Although this model is the one generally accepted in Western countries, it has serious flaws that make it impractical, inaccurate, and unfair. The reason being that it favors theories over reality -- as evidenced by the placement and definition of communism. Using this spectrum becomes cumbersome when trying to reconcile the reality of communism with its aspirations. This model misleadingly equates communism with the concept of equality, and by doing so, wrongly implies that "left" is the preferable direction. Inevitably, competing models were devised to counter this implication.

The American Federalist Journal's version of the political spectrum -- based on degree of political control and measuring freedom:

Totalitarianism---------->----------Anarchy

• Left (totalitarianism) - total government and no freedom.
• Right (anarchy) - no government and total freedom.

In addition to effectively inverting the traditional definition of "left" and "right", the "right-wing" in this model is anchored to a concept that by definition is the absence of any cohesive principle. As the antithesis of political theory, it shouldn't be part of a political spectrum, although removing it from this model would upset the misleading relationship between freedom and size of government that it tries to establish.

In addition, anarchy doesn't really represent total freedom. First, because there's no such thing as total freedom, and second, because real freedom relies on the security that only an organized people can provide for themselves. The relationship between freedom and security is inescapable.

The major problem with these two models is that they suggest that the ideal favors one side over the other. Perhaps a more accurate, practical, and fair model suggests balance as the ideal.

A practical "balance" political spectrum -- based on the distribution of power and measuring freedom:

Collectivism----------Liberal Democracy----------Autocracy

• Left (collectivism) - compromises freedom in favor of society.
• Right (autocracy) - compromises freedom in favor of the individual.
• Balance (liberal democracy) - maximum freedom.

This model parallels the natural dichotomy that exists between the individual and society, where the ideal is to negotiate a sturdy and equitable balance between the rights and responsibilities of the individual, and those of society.

Society----------Balance----------Individual

By establishing that the extremes compromise freedom in different if not equal ways, this model favors moderation above all else. It suggests that tyranny is the probable outcome at either extreme -- a tyranny of one versus a tyranny of many. It rightfully deprives extremists of their vanguardist claims and empowers the center by refocusing the ideal.

To be fair, deprivation of freedom exists in the center as well, but it shouldn't be unjust or even noticeable. In a liberal democracy, we will always be constrained by the laws we agree to live by.

By calling the model "practical", I mean to encourage people to take into account the differences between theory and reality. For example, the autocratic nature of the "communist" movements of the twentieth century outweighs their collectivist aspirations, thus placing them to the far right. In reality, there's not much more than misguided theory that can be placed to the left of socialism. The failures of socialism warn us about the dangers of collectivism.

Perhaps a narrow balance is best, considering that it's less complicated to balance elements that aren't radically different.

As for the issue about size of government -- the government in a liberal democracy should be as big and powerful as the people need it to be, so that it can successfully fulfill the duties that are required of it. Freedom is only affected when there is insufficiency or excess. Each liberal democracy struggles with this balance as well despite the shortcomings of human nature and despite the uncertainties of a rapidly evolving global society.

A scale favoring balance is needed to measure a liberal democracy against its own potential for efficiency:

Insufficiency----------Efficiency----------Excess

For all practical purposes, left and right are interchangeable, and the definitions of "insufficiency", "efficiency", and "excess" are debatable. Note that while efficiency can also directly affect freedom, the primary intention of this scale is to measure the efficiency of a given government relative to the challenges it faces. It can serve as a measure of how well a government solves problems.

In addition to the "balance" spectrum and the efficiency scale, a scale that measures attitude toward change can be useful:

Progressive---------------------Conservative

• Left (progressive) - embraces change.
• Right (conservative) - wary of change.

This scale isn't a "balance" scale, or unidirectional. Left and right are interchangeable. The meanings of "conservative" and "progressive" are relative, so they don't necessarily equate with a value judgement. This scale can be used to measure ideas, issues, individuals, political parties, and governments.

Of course there are other models that I haven't mentioned. If you're interested in researching the topic further, the following page provides a good overview of the political spectrum concept, including information on alternative spectra.

Political Spectrum

Monday, September 13, 2004

Reader Viewpoint 

Occasionally, I get an especially insightful letter from a reader. This one is from "hightor":

I really enjoyed reading the two latest essays on your page and the linked articles. Liked this quote from Churchill: "Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production." Wow. I think the reaction against liberalism goes back further than '64 -- as you say, it could almost be a part of human nature, the two poles of innovation and self-interest. The Great Regression has been, perhaps, given its ideological direction and political vocabulary by the Neo-Cons, but certainly the right had long been actively opposed to the manifestations of the New Deal. The Soviets provided the ideal foil, with their rhetoric based on humanism and their actions grounded firmly in despotism. If the Commies said "Up with workers", that was all the reason we needed to shout "Down with Unions". The famous Marxian social contract, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was effectively co-opted by a byzantine notion of "entitlement" -- the poor were relegated to demonstrating their "ability" by being forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops, and it was business whose "needs" were satisfied, as meager cash payouts were quickly spent on food and cigarettes. A truly "liberal" approach to poverty would involve education, access to job training and actual "jobs" -- even of the "make work" variety. Instead, a managed underclass begins to form, nourished by the incessant display of goodies on TV and billboards which substitute disneyfied cultural images for personal dreams of a truly fulfilling life.

Oh Violet, nature lover that I am, I do hate to see the regressive inclination disparagingly referred to as "animal". To me, it is as profoundly human as altruism. When our ancestors were ranging over the savanna, life was a short, questionable enterprise, where a broken arm or a bad case of indigestion could leave one helpless and at the mercy of competing bands of apes. As "strongmen" emerged, and the beginnings of political leadership began to develop, these characters tapped into various evolutionary mechanisms to enhance their power and control. One of these mechanisms was "tradition", an aspect of caution, through which new generations were taught the collected knowledge of which roots and berries to eat and which to avoid. It wasn't difficult for the strongmen to transform this sense from the physical realm to the cultural, and to paint the competing mechanism of "curiosity" as a danger to the tribe. I think that our bifurcated minds, developed to face the danger of imminent extinction, now slop lazily around in a sea of relative security, and are easily molded by tastemakers and demagogues. The innovators now work in areas far removed from typical experience, curiosity's evolutionary function displaced by the institutionalization of research as product development.

Should Bush win -- and that is quite likely -- I will be very interested in seeing how long it will take for a countering force to develop and what shape it will take. Somehow, I don't feel that marching in the streets is going to do it this time around.

The regressive inclination is as profoundly human as our animal nature. The progressive inclination is what makes us different from other animals. As we developed the qualities that are uniquely human, the balance of control between the two inclinations shifted to the progressive side. Eventually, the progressive inclination will establish permanent control; when that happens, humanity will unleash its potential.

Somehow, I have a feeling that we're living through a pivotal epoch in our evolution: the battle between inclinations on a global scale. It's obvious that we still have a long way to go.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Republican Propaganda Mill 

One of the best things about Democratic Underground is the volume and quality of information that it makes available. A few days ago, a member named "realFedUp" posted a link to an article that is featured in the current issue of Harper's Magazine. The article is essential reading, so I'm adding a permanent link as well. Here's a short excerpt:

"As long ago as 1964 even William F. Buckley understood that the thunder on the conservative right amounted to little else except the sound and fury of middle-aged infants banging silver spoons, demanding to know why they didn't have more—more toys, more time, more soup; when Buckley was asked that year what the country could expect if it so happened that Goldwater was elected president, he said, "That might be a serious problem." So it has proved, if not under the baton of the senator from Arizona then under the direction of his ideologically correct heirs and assigns. An opinion poll taken in 1964 showed 62 percent of the respondents trusting the government to do the right thing; by 1994 the number had dwindled to 19 percent. The measure can be taken as a tribute to the success of the Republican propaganda mill that for the last forty years has been grinding out the news that all government is bad, and that the word "public," in all its uses and declensions (public service, citizenship, public health, community, public park, commonwealth, public school, etc.), connotes inefficiency and waste."

Tentacles of Rage
By Lewis H. Lapham

Visions and Murals 

"For a bit over 200 years, the vision held by the majority of Americans and our elected officials was one of egalitarian democracy in a constitutional republic; government of, by, and for the people; and the belief that democracy was a contagious idea. In that, we've been proven right - the UN notes that in 1800 there were only 3 democracies in the world (none in 1775) and today there are 81 "full" democracies with nearly 100 other nations moving rapidly in democratic directions."

The Choice This Year Is Between Empire and Democracy
By Thom Hartmann

Thom's essay was written a few months ago, but it's worth reading as many times as it takes to internalize. If you haven't noticed, Thom is the only writer who has a permanent link on my blog. All of his essays are worth reading. He's the only political writer I know of who consistently - and masterfully - paints the big picture. For me, the best part is the factual detail that he imbues his expression with. Reading his work feels like putting glasses on my perception; he shows me the detail that I'm not able to discern unaided.

If you're familiar with my writing, you probably noticed that my perception is tuned for distance. Thom paints a big and beautifully detailed picture of democracy, but it's not big enough to satisfy my curiosity. It leaves me with the desire to look beyond the edges - to see what the larger context is. If you haven't read his essay yet, please do so before continuing.

From a distance, it becomes evident that Thom's picture is a detail of a larger picture - one encompassing the expanse of human experience, and showcasing the struggle for human progress.

The struggle is driven by the interplay between two opposing forces: one is human in nature, the other is animal; one is attuned to nurturing humanity, the other is attuned to resist it; one accepts the value of humanity, the other demands proof of its value. Since progress favors the human over the animal, I'll call the human force the "progressive force"; I'll refer to the other one as the "regressive force." The struggle between these forces is rooted in the human mind. The resulting gestalt is the building block of the same forces on a social level - ultimately contributing to a "gestalt of gestalts."

For most of our history, the regressive force was dominant. The progressive force developed slowly and painfully - one human sacrifice at a time. Over time, the human evidence coalesced and became a formidable counter-force. It developed into a social philosophy called "Liberalism" and found an ideal home in the New World. From there, it gradually spread to other parts of the world. Now, for the first time in our history, the progressive force is dominant. The evidence is in the trend favoring democracy that Thom describes - and in the unprecedented power wielded on behalf of progress.

Thom is correct that "the choice this year is between empire and democracy." He also notes: "empire and democracy are mutually exclusive - ultimately a nation must choose one or the other." In the context of the larger picture, the irony of this choice is more apparent - and its gravity is more evident. How did the progressive force get into such a regressive bind?

A look at the larger picture shows that the regressive force is attacking the progressive force at its roots - from outside, and from within. As a result of this attack, the progressive force is starting to wither. Thom describes this in some detail:

"Stable democracies are recoiling, distancing themselves from us as fast as they can. Evolving democracies are abandoning many of Jefferson's visions of democracy and becoming more repressive and less democratic, following our Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib lead. And dictatorships like China point to our shift toward authoritarianism and the conquest of a non-threatening but oil-rich foreign land as justification both for internal crackdowns, renewed threats against their neighbors (particularly Taiwan), and a huge military buildup in anticipation of the day when the Chinese Empire may well confront the American Empire for the world's last oil supplies."

If the regressive force manages to subvert the progressive force, the progressive force will reassert itself again at a later date. This cycle will be repeated as many times as necessary. Of course, it would be better to solve the problem here and now, and for all time. I'm not sure if the progressive force is up for the challenge though. Perhaps if people knew that the choice is between putting humanity on a grueling treadmill - and letting it finish learning how to run free...

The progressive force hasn't lived up to its potential for many reasons, but it's not too late to begin to correct that. Liberalism is fallible and incomplete, but it represents humanity's best hope for progress - and lasting peace. Progressives must revisit the history of Liberalism in order to develop a better vision for the future. Something along the lines of Thom's vision of democracy would be nice: "helping create a humane, multilateral, cooperative world while working for greater social justice at home."

Liberalism isn't dead. Conservatives haven't drowned it in the bathtub yet; militant Muslims haven't incinerated it yet; and "God" hasn't condemned it. Libertarians didn't give it a home (only to shoot it with a magic bullet and bury it in the back yard); Socialists didn't strip it of its identity; and "Neo-Liberals" - whoever they are - didn't buy the rights to the banner.

Liberalism needs to be revitalized, refined, and defended. And I'm afraid that this is exactly the problem that needs to be confronted. The history of liberalism is the history of humanity's progressive force. Without a meaningful connection to its history, the progressive force will flounder.

I would love to hear John Kerry say something like, "Yeah, I'm Liberal, and if you believe in the principles that this great country was founded on, then so are you." If he's doomed to fighting a defensive campaign, at least he'll have something meaningful to defend - and it'll be on his turf. It'll bring out the best in him, and he'll elevate the debate to a level where Republicans can't compete, (not to mention the opportunities he'll get to explain why Republicans hate government.)

But it probably won't happen because John Kerry may not have the vision (or courage) to throw a liberal lightning bolt at the regressive force.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Canary Violet 

Yesterday I realized that some people are like "canaries in the mine": they serve as early warning beacons to warn others of unseen dangers. I also recognized the canary in myself. The analogy feels somewhat apropos, but the implied result makes me a little uncomfortable.

That's what I was thinking about yesterday evening when I experienced a striking coincidence that gave the analogy an unexpected poignancy: a small bird crashed into the car I was riding in, presumably expiring in the process. As unusual as that was, the way it happened made it extraordinary.

The car was moving approximately 25 M.P.H.; the bird was standing by the side of the road. As we approached, the bird launched itself in my direction - smashing its little body against the front of the car. I couldn't bear to look at the result, so I have to trust my brother's description that "it wasn't moving."

So there you have it: the bird's tragedy stamped the analogy into my psyche. Though I always maintain a healthy level of skepticism, I confess to occasionally entertaining the anti-intellectual. This is one of those times. Perhaps the bird was just objecting to the analogy...

Before I started blogging and writing essays for Democratic Underground, I participated for more than a year in the New York Times' now defunct Abuzz "knowledge sharing" community. To give you an idea of what Abuzz was like, read the entry titled "A Culture War Battleground." I mention Abuzz because it was there that my beacon began to glow. It didn't go unnoticed. My experience there helped me test and focus my perception, and gave me the encouragement I needed to take my writing to the next level.

It didn't take me long to realize that others were tuning in to my observations. I also realized that the nature of my expression - including the Violet Lake persona - makes me somewhat inaccessible. Allow me to elaborate.

To begin with, I operate anonymously using an alias; you don't know who I am. That's to my advantage, and I confess to enjoying the sense of mystery that I've been able to cultivate. Anonymity also poses an interesting challenge: without the authority that identity can add, ideas are forced to stand on their own. The approach that I'm developing is to create condensed packets of elemental reasoning that flower on impact.

Once in a while, I get a reply thanking me, or expressing agreement with something or other. I've also received a few nastygrams. In general though I operate anonymously and invisibly. I can see that my packets are flowering all over the place, yet I feel like the invisible gardener. I'm forced to conclude that people don't know what to make of Violet Lake or her writing. I also suspect that there's an element of fear involved. My guess is that there's something unsettling about me and you can't put your finger on it.

In the entry titled "The Walls of Perception," I mentioned that I have a special ability. Now I'll tell you what it is.

I have a special ability to bring the best - or the worst - out in people by probing their essence. In person, this ability makes some folks uncomfortable. It's in my eyes; I see them for what they are, and some people don't like to be closely scrutinized. I've always been a perceptive person, but I didn't develop this ability until my sex drive became dormant. When that happened, people started to become transparent. I'm not complaining though. My sex drive is dormant - not dead. It responds beautifully to tender seduction. Besides, I wouldn't trade my x-ray vision for anything.

It's more complicated than just a dormant sex drive though. I also know men and women inside and out. There's only one way to arrive at that sort of knowledge, and it's more difficult and painful than most people can imagine. It's something that a few people accidentally discover at great expense - not something to strive for.

My dual nature first manifested itself when I was a young child. By the time I reached puberty, I had two distinct "minds": one male and the other female. By the time I graduated from high school, the female was dominant. By the time I graduated from college, I was living my life as a woman. I'm one of the fortunate transsexuals who live their lives undetected.

Before I married my husband, I was able to add a little something to my special ability. It was nerve-racking on a few occasions, but it was deeply fulfilling. "Would you like some of this, baby?" Hehe... Men are so easy. "When should I tell him?" It didn't really make a difference. Being up-front made one guy change his mind - and he changed it back after a stiff drink. Men are easy indeed.

Why am I telling you this? So you'll know what I mean when I write things like:

The focus that conservatives put on vulgar masculinity is an impotent reaction to the feminization of Western culture. Have you noticed that the Bush administration has a problem with intelligence? It's no coincidence. Since they don't do nuance well, they'll never learn to get their way without having to bash skulls; that won't go over much longer. And they'll never be able to defend against an enemy with feminine wiles. I've broken enough brutes in my day to know how that works.

I'm telling you so you'll know where some of my fire comes from. And I'm telling you so you'll know where to put your finger. ;)

Most importantly though, I'm telling you so you'll know that if you work long and hard enough for a principled cause, you will eventually succeed. Love is the key. Corny but true...

Now that you know, I can let you in on a funny little secret: I'm a magnet for conservatives. I kid you not. I also had a hot dream a few nights ago that Ann Coulter made passionate love to me. Now I'm kidding.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Deprogramming America 

Are you worried by the incongruity between the "close race" portrayed by the "objective" news media and mounting evidence to the contrary that you encounter on a daily basis? If so, here are some thoughts to bear in mind.

It is beyond question that the media has the power to influence the outcome of an election. It happens all the time. But the media is rarely in the position of being able to decide a presidential election, as is the case this time. Due to the nature of the circumstances, the weight of responsibility that goes with this power is staggering. Try to imagine what would happen at this point in time if the media devoted itself to reporting the truth about our domestic situation.

How would the rest of the world act upon learning that our nation is nearly crippled due to the criminally cancerous cult of "conservatism?"

What would be the reaction of the 40-50 million cultists scattered throughout the country?

How would the rest of the nation react to such news?

The media is forced to walk a tightrope between the chaos it is capable of unleashing, and appearing to endorse a malignant power structure that threatens its industry as much as it threatens practically everything it comes in contact with.

The truth will come out because civilization demands it - but not at the expense of stability. It's becoming apparent that Bush will lose the election by a decisive margin, but he won't go down in flames. And neither will the Republican Party.

George W. Bush won't go down in flames because he's attached to too many things that the nation can't afford to burn. Take comfort in the knowledge that history will give him no such immunity.

His cult won't go down in flames because it controls more than enough assets to stay in the game. You may have noticed that it's currently undergoing a calculated metamorphosis formulated to appeal to future voters. But the truth will come out little by little, and that doesn't bode well for the Republican Party - or for the people it managed to buy.

As she liberates herself from the cult's influence, America will gradually regain her sanity.

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