Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Thomas Paine (featured in my recent post) was a major figure in developing American political thought. But of course he and his revolutionary brethren relied on centuries of political ideas developed in Europe. The great Florentine Machiavelli was a founder of modern, secular political thought. Less known today is his equally astute friend, fellow Florentine Francesco Guicciardini. Guicciardini actually achieved what eluded Machiavelli, substantial political power. He also achieved distinction as a gifted historian. A collection of his sayings, or ricordi, has survived and is available in a paperback English translation.

Here's one of my favorites:
If either necessity or contempt induces you to speak ill of another, at least be careful to say things that will offend only him. For instance, if you want to insult a particular person, do not speak ill of his country, his family, or his relatives. It is great folly to offend many if you only want to insult one man.

How can this help us in today's world? One mistake that earnest activists on the left and right make every day is to hurl insults at someone that violate Guicciardini's rule. A conservative will needlessly offend millions by pointing out that the object of her wrath is from New York. A liberal will denounce someone as a bible-thumping redneck. We need to make clear that our scorn is directed at one particular loathsome individual, and was triggered by a particular sort of action. By the same token, we should focus on the latest outrage, not rehash old grievances that might make our indignation appear to be merely sour grapes. Of course sometimes people merit contempt mostly because they are part of a larger, contemptible group. In this case it is fine to insult the whole group. I don't care if I offend all white-supremacists, although I wouldn't want to heap scorn on any particular state where they might be found.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Mr. President

Two different things

I have two things I'd like to do tonight here at the LeftSide. One is to repeat a popular joke. It should be even more popular, and I'd like to see it go (as the young hipsters say) "viral." The second is to provide a link to a letter that the wonderful Independent Senator from Vermont has written to President Obama. Senator Sanders has arranged things so that any U.S. citizen, who shares the concerns expressed in the letter, may become "citizen co-signers." I hope so many citizens sign this letter.  that President Obama will in fact see that Senator Sanders is truly representing the people's interest. Thanks in advance!

JOKE: Three guys are at a party. The hostess brings them a dozen cookies on a plate. The rich CEO takes 11, and says to the non-union guy: watch out for that union guy-- he's after your cookie!!

LINK TO SEN. Sanders' letter:  http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20110627/NEWS03/110627015/Sanders-Obama-Don-t-give-GOP-demands?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Senator Kerry of Massachusetts gets an earful!

Senator Kerry of Massachusetts wrote a letter to the Progressive Democrats of America, hoping to start a dialogue over the ten-year war in Afghanistan. The comments posted in response to his letter were outstanding. Here's one I liked by Chris Fallon:

End all of these wars. I have spent most of my adult life under
George W. Bush, waiting for an end to his policies and I thought that’s why
I elected Obama. I thought we would stop the absurd military spending and
once again invest in America. I spend all of my money paying loans, and have
no retirement savings. I’m looking for jobs in China after spending $120k on
a law degree. I’m already planning on retiring in a poorer country with
universal health care because I won’t have much savings and I can’t count on
President Obama or Congress to protect Medicare. This is our future and it’s
a disgrace and these policies along with the ridiculous free trade policies
are responsible. History will remember that the Baby Boomers sold the future
of America to multinational corporations and the military industrial
complex. The Boston Tea party was a revolt against the collusion of the
British government and the multinational East India Company, unfortunately
our modern Tea Party doesn’t understand this. We have allowed history to
repeat itself.

I hope Leftsiders are inspired by comments such as these-- to communicate their own ideas on the war in Afghanistan to their elected leaders in Washington, D.C.  Enjoy your weekend!

P.S.-- please note the new action link Freedom Square picture, just below the "Drinking Liberally" icon to the right of this post.

Friday, June 24, 2011

No man is an island, says Thomas Paine

Here's a comment made by one of the American Revolution's heroes, Thomas Paine, in an essay advocating the imposition of an estate tax in post-Revolutionary France-- to fund substantial benefits for those of modest means:

Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.
This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
It is a sign of how little progress we've really made that now, more than 200 years later, these words of one of our founding fathers still fall on deaf ears. 21st century politicians, who denounce taxes on the wealthy as "confiscatory," or, "punishing success," represent an ancient, greedy point of view. This outlook survived the American, French, and Russian revolutions. Yet the clear logic and good moral sense of Paine's position still retains its power as well.
We must continue to press the case, as Paul Krugman does so well, that trickle-down policies weaken our economy. But we also shouldn't be afraid to follow Paine-- in calling for restoring the principles of justice, gratitude, and civilization that are essential to any decent society. Helping the middle class and poor will not only stimulate demand, it will restore a sense of self-respect in all Americans.