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Ear to the Ground

Post Fires at the Left

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Posted on Jun 19, 2009
Froomkin
discourse.net

Dan Froomkin, shown here on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” has been fired by The Washington Post.

Being popular and Internet-savvy, writer Dan Froomkin surely holds a place in today’s struggling newspaper business that’s secure. At least that’s what you’d think. Instead, The Washington Post has fired him. The move removes one of the only mainstream commentators to criticize Barack Obama from the left.

Salon.com:

One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama—i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as “the Left” rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim.  It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post—at least according to Politico’s Patrick Gavin—just fired WashingtonPost.com columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obama watchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.

What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Gavin notes, Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists.  At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 3 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns.  In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline:  “The Post’s Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin).”  Isn’t that an odd person to choose to get rid of?

Following the bottomless path of self-pity of the standard right-wing male—as epitomized by Pete Hoekstra’s comparison of House Republicans to Iranian protesters and yet another column by Pat Buchanan decrying the systematic victimization of the white male in America—Charles Krauthammer last night said that Obama critics on Fox News are “a lot like [Hugo Chavez’] Caracas where all the media, except one, are state run.”  But right-wing polemicists like Krauthammer are all over the media. 

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By ardee, June 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment

Stephen Smoliar, June 26 at 10:50 am #

As I understand the usurpation of the Articles by
the Constitution was the struggle between a confederacy and a federalist govt. It was found that having to go back to the states for every decision handicapped the Continental Congress far too much. Washington himself was a strong supporter of federalism due to his experience in maintaining the army:

“George Washington had been one of the very first proponents of a strong federal government. The army had nearly disbanded on several occasions during the winters of the war because of the weaknesses of the Continental Congress. ... The delegates could not draft soldiers and had to send requests for regular troops and militia to the states. Congress had the right to order the production and purchase of provisions for the soldiers, but could not force anyone to actually supply them, and the army nearly starved in several winters of war.” Wiki of course

The sales job, as represented by the Federalist Papers ( the most well thumbed book [compilation actually] I own) is a vivid look into the thoughts and ideals of our Founders.

I appreciate the insight and the logical way you frame your thoughts and wish I could emulate them better, but I see our current difficulties resulting , not from a bad form of governance, but from the distortion of the intent of the way that government is supposed to work.

As to Usenet, I knew Arpanet better, but recall that a couple of Duke guys invented that medium…..Our internet of today is certainly a raucous place, messy as heck even. But there are certainly bright spots, one being my ability to dialogue with you in fact. Perhaps our problems are more a need to evolve on our species part…...
.................................

Anarcissie, June 26 at 10:21 am #

History refutes you.  In any case, a government that represents the will of the people is an oxymoron.  If the people actually will something, then obviously they don’t need to coerce themselves to carry it out.
..................................

But , as we both know, history is written by the victors and they support subverted governments. I refuse to abandon my desire to live under a government not subverted!

I am a great fan of science fiction, read it constantly in fact. Your line about the “will of the people” seems a bit like that to me. The will has to be expressed ( voting ) and carried out ( the mechanism of that is government)......Do you suggest a spontaneous thought universally communicated? The plot of a good story I think.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 26, 2009 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

adree, if you REALLY (rather than rhetorically) want to know what I think, I would say that the Articles of Confederation were far more egalitarian than the subsequent Constitution.  I would push this a bit further and suggest that the Constitutional Convention was convened because of major problems of “resource management” (including “human resources” as well as money).  I suppose that, philosophically, this would put me in the same camp as Anthony Giddens, who saw the exercise of power as being directed primarily at managing how resources are allocated.

I have had one experience with anarchy.  It was called Usenet, and it was a foreshadowing of the Internet.  I suspect that the lack of governance could be attributed to the fact that Usenet was a pretty elite community.  While it fashioned its own rules of “netiquette” (and coined the term), it sustained itself through considerable like-mindedness and good will.  Those Enlightenment philosophers who sought a “Republic of Letters” would have loved Usenet.

Unfortunately, the “launch” of Internet was like opening all the floodgates at once.  Usenet’s “Republic of Letters” could not scale up to accommodate a larger community that really did not want it in the first place.  To some extent this was a matter of Anarcissie’s bandwidth problem, but I do not think that was the whole story.  Whether or not you accept every last letter of Le Bon, the mechanisms of MOTIVATION differ in a crowd setting from how they act on an individual in isolation.  Not only did the Internet “crowd” lack any motivation for a “Republic of Letters;”  but also they snuffed it out.  They may not have been as extreme as the Reign of Terror snuffing out Enlightenment philosophers;  but they exercised similar motives in similar ways, flooding forums set up for intense discussions on a wide variety of topics with waves of trivializing idle chatter.

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By Anarcissie, June 26, 2009 at 7:21 am Link to this comment

ardee:
Anarcissie, June 25 at 8:46 pm #

ardee—The problem with the social safety net provided by the state is that its price is war.
........................................

I fail to find any solidity to this throwaway line. If we have a govt that represents the will of the people war is not inevitable, certainly not an outgrowth of medicare, food stamps and early education. ...

History refutes you.  In any case, a government that represents the will of the people is an oxymoron.  If the people actually will something, then obviously they don’t need to coerce themselves to carry it out.

War is not an outgrowth of welfare programs; it’s usually the other way around.  A warlike regime promotes welfare at home in order to pump up the repute of the state and quiesce dissidence.  Bismarck and Hitler are fairly good examples of the procedure.  Notice as well that as long as the U.S. ruling class thought it had to fight foreign enemies, social programs were increased; as soon as the last of these enemies appeared to be failing, they began to be reduced.  I don’t know how you can avoid seeing the connection.

As for libertarians, you can’t argue effectively with them or about them unless you know what their theories are.

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By ardee, June 26, 2009 at 3:01 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 25 at 8:46 pm #

ardee—The problem with the social safety net provided by the state is that its price is war.
........................................

I fail to find any solidity to this throwaway line. If we have a govt that represents the will of the people war is not inevitable, certainly not an outgrowth of medicare, food stamps and early education.

As to Libertarianism, I have in fact exposed myself to its tenets and found them rather wanting. Complete deregulation of industry, isolationism and the rest.

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By Anarcissie, June 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

ardee—The problem with the social safety net provided by the state is that its price is war.  If we could confine war to, say, hacking one another to bits with swords and axes, then maybe one would balance the other, but advancing technology and industrial power have made war a real threat to human existence—indeed, probably to the existence of most of the more complex animals.

I think you would feel better about libertarians if you understood more about their political philosophy.  I recommend Reason magazine.  I suppose antiwar.com is also a libertarian site, although Justin Raimondo designates himself a “paleoconservative”.  I don’t agree with libertarians because I think liberal concepts of property necessitate a state, as I think Nozick showed in Anarchy, State and Utopia, but I appreciate the hostility to war, repression and political fraud evidenced by many of those I have run into.

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By ardee, June 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment

Stephen Smoliar, June 25 at 10:36 am #

ardee, note that the Preamble to the Constitution says nothing about AUTHORITY (either positively or negatively), which is the usual basis through which one rules another.


....True, and Hamilton thought it an unnecessary addition as well. It was Jefferson who pushed him to write it, which he supposedly did in ten minutes or so.

But I thought it important because it shows plainly the purpose for our government, and a rather egalitarian model it seems to portray, dontcha think?

Anarcissie

Sorry for the mislabeling of your political philosophy. I believe calling libertarians ‘liberals’ an insult to liberals and a misjudgement of the harm libertarian ideals would bring to liberal causes.

I honestly do not know any anarchists, but fear their ideals could flourish only in a utopia. Whether libertarian or anarchist I fear my placing such importance on the social safety nets a government must provide those citizens in need would negate my boarding either train.

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By Anarcissie, June 25, 2009 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

The primary bases through which one willful being rules another is through force, the threat of force (terror), and deception.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 25, 2009 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

ardee, note that the Preamble to the Constitution says nothing about AUTHORITY (either positively or negatively), which is the usual basis through which one rules another.  Indeed, most of the Articles of the Constitution explicitly address questions of authority in terms of extent and limits.  Indeed, the primary way in which the Constitution improved upon the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation was by giving more attention to the need for centralized authority!

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By Anarcissie, June 25, 2009 at 5:16 am Link to this comment

ardee, June 25 at 6:26 am #

Anarcissie:
‘Ardee—the fundamental idea of the state is that some should rule others
..........................................

I firmly and politely reject this libertarian analysis as false. The state was an evolutionary outgrowth of people banding together to increase survivability. That it has been subverted to such use as you note is true, that it was the reason for its invention is an incorrect assumption. ... ‘

My analysis is anarchist, not libertarian.  Libertarians are liberals—people who believe the state can be denatured and rendered harmless yet still useful (at least to its ruling or dominant classes) if one draws up the rules for it cleverly enough.  I think history, especially the transformations of the United States, shows otherwise. 

In the theory you advance, the state is the development of a voluntary organization.  But the state makes totalitarian claims on the lives and property of all who inhabit whatever territory it commands, a practice which goes back to the days of the Pharaohs and before.  Therefore, it cannot be considered voluntary; it is an institution which evolved from military power and slavery.  The repression and imperialism which we observe today simply follow this essential logic.

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By ardee, June 25, 2009 at 3:26 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 24 at 11:40 am #

Ardee—the fundamental idea of the state is that some should rule others
..........................................

I firmly and politely reject this libertarian analysis as false. The state was an evolutionary outgrowth of people banding together to increase survivability. That it has been subverted to such use as you note is true, that it was the reason for its invention is an incorrect assumption.

In case you have forgotten:

The Preamble to the United States Constitution is a brief introductory statement of the fundamental purposes and guiding principles which the Constitution is meant to serve. In general terms, it expresses the intentions of its authors. On occasion, courts have referred to it as reliable evidence of what the Founding Fathers thought the Constitution meant and what they hoped it would achieve (especially as compared with the Articles of Confederation).

“    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.    ”

Wiki of course…..

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By Anarcissie, June 24, 2009 at 8:40 am Link to this comment

Ardee—the fundamental idea of the state is that some should rule others: the idea of class, which in turn stems from the idea of permanent war.  As a result of its class system, the leaders and rulers of the state have somewhat different interests and desires than those they rule.  Primarily, they will have a strong interest in preserving and increasing their power, privileges and wealth, whereas those outside and unattached to the ruling class often have a strong interest in their not doing so. This is what you observe when you say that special interests subvert the will of the people.  It is an inevitable consequence of the power relations in a state.  That is its function.

This is a somewhat different problem than the bandwidth or information-processing problem, which will be observed in any sufficiently large corporate body, including non-coercive ones, but which may have partial solutions.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 24, 2009 at 7:39 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, “wrong morally” is usually code for “I don’t like what he says.”  I appreciate that many folks do not like what Le Bon says, but he still offers up an interesting plate of evidence and argument.  We can’t like everything we read!

I am not sure what you mean by “wrong realistically.”  If you mean “inconsistent with the way things really are,” then I would have to disagree with you.  Le Bon’s conclusions definitely stand up to argumentation, and supporting evidence for his case keeps accumulating on a daily basis.

That leaves “wrong politically;”  and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out that one.  Would you please explain what you meant by that?  From that I may be able to figure out why you came to that conclusion, but a bit of substantiation on your part might help!

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By ardee, June 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, June 21 at 11:30 pm #

 
I am pessimistic about large-scale democratic governance because of the bandwidth problems I mentioned.  However, there are many alternatives.  One could reduce the power of the state, for example. 
..........................................

Steering into an iceberg makes for a bad journey.

Why consider the size of govt when the real issue is the influence upon that government? Whether a nation contains three hundred or three hundred million decision making is a technical art. The question is really how do we rid our government of the special interests that subvert a process to the will of those interests rather than to the will of the people.

Currently all decisions are made with one eye to the campaign contribution and another to the career as lobbyist that will make for a lucrative retirement. Get corporations out of our governance, they are not people they are businesses run by people with too much influence.

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By Folktruther, June 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

It’s true, Anarcissie, I don’t know how to think about the democracy problam as the size of a people increases.  But surely it is not beyond the mind of man to solve it.

Smoliar, Le Bon’s anti-people Elitism and racism is not only wrong morally, but realistically and politically as well.

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By Anarcissie, June 23, 2009 at 9:25 am Link to this comment

But we can’t escape from the madness of crowds through hierarchy and leaders.  These are just another variety of that madness.  If you believe that they are not madness, take another look at the 20th century.

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By Anarcissie, June 23, 2009 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

There is still going to be the bandwidth issue.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 23, 2009 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, I think you are homing in on the key fallacy behind “wisdom of crowds” reasoning.  The examples given to support that reasoning NEVER involve questions concerned with the management of power (nor, for that matter, do they ever take into account the normative social practices within which the decision is being made).  When power is at stake, the “wisdom” of the crowd quickly devolves into madness;  and now we are on the turf of Gustave Le Bon’s study of crowd psychology.

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By Folktruther, June 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm Link to this comment

How people can control their governence, Anarcissie, is an even worse problem now because there is no alterative to a world governence of some kind.  Assuming implementing one takes a least a half century, China will be the leading world power then, as it has been for much of history. Since it is unlikely the US power system will last a half century- it is already politically and economically obsolete- what will replace it depends on how we conceive world power.

Checks and balances opreataively, as opposed to its proclaimed value, operartively prevent an organization from functioning not only effectively, but at all.  If governance is going to be controlled by the people, people must be enlightened by a study of power theory and how power has oppressed throughout history.  as long ss a people are free to to tell the simple truth about people and power, they can apply it to the current problems.

We are not free now to do so.  Political science is largely power bullsit that justifies, rationalizes and humanizes the current power system.  the simple truth about people and power is not politically scientific.  But there is no reason why it can’t be developed to be honest and useful.  And if so, in the heads of the population, it can be used to restrict the oppressiveness of power.

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By Anarcissie, June 22, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

It seems Hegen and Weber, etc., are assuming that there has to be a government, and a large, powerful government at that.

One can also reason that if government is always going to be bad (and here I’m taking nondemocratic and repressive as bad) that one should eliminate it (anarchism) or minimize it (classical liberalism).  If we assume some kind of government has to be instituted to prevent a worse one from arising, we minimize.  Minimizing it would properly entail minimizing government-supported, i.e. state institutions: thus, no established church, no monopolies, no corporations in the modern sense, no legal support for cabals.  Another strategy would be to divide the government vertically and horizontally into competing branches and levels which could oppose and hinder one another.  Sounds like the Articles of Confederation or the U.S. Constitution, although we have to observe in that case that neither was able to preserve itself, or we would not be having this conversation—because the issue of the governmental effect of representative media versus direct media would probably not arise.  It would be inconsequential.

Before someone else mentions it I am aware that the above reasoning is favored by the more radical “libertarians” who are often curiously assigned to the Right.  I am less enthusiastic than they about the possibility of setting up any form of state which will not turn inexorably into a machine of oppression.  But this is not a bandwidth issue.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 22, 2009 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, I was thinking less of Weber’s critique of socialism and more of a comment that comes up in his “Science as a Vocation” lecture.  He remarks there that “the ultimately possible attitudes toward life are irreconcilable.”  On the one hand this means that we should not rely on the authority of science to settle those differences.  However, it is also consistent with the idea that such irreconcilability is handled better by the wisdom of a “philosopher-king” than by any democratic process.  That is also the Heglian position:  Monarchy is preferable to democracy if the monarch is a philosopher-king.  (Hegel deftly avoids the question of how you get yourself a monarch who IS a philosopher-king!)  This all takes us to Leo Strauss’ reading of Plato, Allan Bloom’s reading of Strauss, and the rise of neoconservatism!

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By Anarcissie, June 22, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Stephen Smoliar:
’... Anarcissie, you are in good historic company that includes the likes of both Hegel and Max Weber!’

I don’t know if I think that’s good company.  Hegel I find totally unreadable, and I’m rather impressed that as cool a cat as Derrida could get at least some humor out of his works.  Weber’s critique of socialism (from which I guess we get Hayek’s and Mises’s) is a bandwidth or information-processing critique, but it naively assumes a sort of centralized state-controlled socialism, and centralized state control is not the point of everybody’s socialism, although certain people like Lenin were fond of it.  I don’t know if either of them had any ideas about the media, whereas contemporary democratic-state ideology relies, implicitly or explicitly, on media and may (as I propose) posit an unlikely or impossible role for it.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 22, 2009 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

ardee, you might consider Voltaire’s meliorism, whose fundamental precept was that, however bad things may be, we can work to make them better.

Folktruther, I had not realized that Engles followed up on this, too.  Those hyperlinks on “Demoractic Press Conference” include scholarly sources, as well as my own commentary.  Consider, also, Edmund Morgan’s claim that any successful government is grounded in fiction:

http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-is-being-represented-in-health-care.html

Anarcissie, you are in good historic company that includes the likes of both Hegel and Max Weber!

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By Anarcissie, June 21, 2009 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

ardee:
‘Folktruther, June 21 at 2:35 pm #
Ardee, newspapers have always been part of governance, and, consequently,  true democracy has never existed.
...........................
Hmmm, I would love to dispute this, but it will require a compilation of searches and much thought, also a house with far fewer grandkids running around in it.

Stephen Smoliar, June 21 at 3:16 pm #

I seem to be surrounded by pessimists, no insult intended, heck you folks may even be correct. But I find it difficult to swallow a world in which greed and corruption are the natural order. ...’

I am pessimistic about large-scale democratic governance because of the bandwidth problems I mentioned.  However, there are many alternatives.  One could reduce the power of the state, for example.  Of course part of the actual function of democratic ideology is to increase the power of the state, to make possible a larger, more comprehensive, more intrusive state without sparking rebellion and resistance.  There is no doubt this has been an effective tactic.

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By Folktruther, June 21, 2009 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

Smoliar= in Athens, Engels states that only one out of 18 Athenians could actually vote, women, slaves, and foreign workers being excluded.

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By ardee, June 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, June 21 at 2:35 pm #
Ardee, newspapers have always been part of governance, and, consequently,  true democracy has never existed.
...........................
Hmmm, I would love to dispute this, but it will require a compilation of searches and much thought, also a house with far fewer grandkids running around in it.

Stephen Smoliar, June 21 at 3:16 pm #

I seem to be surrounded by pessimists, no insult intended, heck you folks may even be correct. But I find it difficult to swallow a world in which greed and corruption are the natural order.

One great reason for such difficulty is that where then does one find the impetus to work for change? Why bother if the Limbaughs, the Gramms, the Bushs, the Monsantos, the General Dynamics, the Halliburtons, and the Obama’s are the natural order of things?

Perhaps, (he said donning his rose colored glasses), it is we the people who have become too accepting of these ills that beset our government. I may never see a resolution to these problems we face, but I will never believe them unsolvable.

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By Ed Harges, June 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

re: By Stephen Smoliar, June 21 at 3:16 pm:

The fact remains, Smoliar, that it is bizarrely selective of you to focus on this one particular issue as somehow sufficient to justify the fact that Froomkin, of all those who wrote for the Post, was fired.

Should the Post (a) fire only those columnists whose views on how best to structure government are “dangerously warped” and lacking in “argumentative substance”, while (b) retaining writers such as Krauthammer and Krystol who have completely crazy things to say on other, equally important issues?

Why is “governance” the only issue on which it is impermissible for a Post columnist to express “dangerously warped” views?

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 21, 2009 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment

ardee, one of the (too many?) points at the other end of my “Democratic Press Conference” hyperlink concerns the premise than even the Ancient Greeks realized that their model of democracy had a “scale-up” problem.  This was addressed by both the limitations of the “deme” itself and further limitations on who actually could voice an opinion.  These points are substantiated and elaborated through the hyperlinks on my own blog post.  I doubt than any Ancient Greek could have conceived of a population of 300 million, but that issue is probably academic.  More important are the questions raised by Socrates (and documented by Plato) on whether or not “honest government” (as you put it) can ever be anything more than an ideal to which we aspire.  To invoke thermodynamics as a metaphor, corruption is entropic.  It’s “natural course” is to increase;  and any effort to reverse that course (or, for that matter, “hold the line”) involves a considerable expenditure of energy.  It used to be that the media were a key driver of that entropy;  and, from that point of view, the Internet is the latest medium to “join the club.”

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By Folktruther, June 21, 2009 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

I like your distinction between ‘goverment’ and ‘governace’, Anarcissie, and plan to steal it.  I’m perfectly willing to give you credit, but difficult under the circumstances.

I hate people who nitpick but it was Leibning not Menchen who stated….

Ardee, newspapers have always been part of governence, and, consequently,  true democracy has never existed.

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By ardee, June 21, 2009 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, Folktruther and Ardee sitting in a tree….

rambling incoherency alert:

I enjoy this sort of repartee and especially the thought provoking comments in Anarcissie’s last effort. As to the veracity of the idea that big govt is necessarily bad govt methinks that stems from her individual belief system, though ample “proofs” of her position are certainly available.

We have seen a corruption of our govt for a very long time now, and an increasing trend towards ‘we the corporation’ rather than ‘we the people’. Whether this is a function of some line crossing with respect to size of country or size of population or even size of government is a thought provoking question.

But I think, it is more relevant to speak to the way the will of the people has been purposely manufactured or made unnecessary to the actions of the governing. The press should never, ever be seen as a tool of or function of government, and such a situation is a sympton of grave illness.

Surely a city state model as seen in ancient Greece was an easier and maintenance free way of using the democratic process. The will of the people was unavoidable when decisions were made with every voting citizen present in the agora and voicing opinion.

But, whether a population of 300 million separated into states and classes can be governed by a similar democratic mechanism is not debatable to me. The real question is not one of size but one of intent. When honest government, free of all taint of favoritism to anything but the majority rule exists at each level of government I believe size becomes a nonissue.

Please excuse the rant above, it is Sunday morning, I am recovering from a fishing trip Saturday in which two of us boated and released 70 American Shad and Im awaiting the visit of several children and grandchildren honoring their partriarch ( me?!?).

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By Anarcissie, June 21, 2009 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

Folktruther:
‘I think that the medis IS part of the government of the people.  Indeed, a conception can be defined, that of a ‘powerstate,’ that includes all the organs that a power structure uses in ruling a people, whether governmental, corporate, or non-profit organs, such as churches or schools.  Such a preconception is necessry to develop a holistic view of power from a world historical perspective.

However, such a conception of ‘powerstate’ is an ideologially dirty one, since it subverts the Western capitalist distinction between government and Private Enterprise.  It therefore subverts the Western worldview that has legiitmated capitalist Democracies the past few centuries.’

ardee:
‘When the media is part of the government democracy dies. Our democracy is in the process of dying, from neglect as well as from the death of the free press. ...’

Control requires knowledge.  If a community is to democratically control its governance (or anything else), then it must be informed and knowledgeable.  If the community is too large and too complex for its members to acquire the necessary knowledge for themselves, then the need for “representative media” arises.  While the media might not be literally part of the government, they would certainly be part of its governance.  The problem is similar to those which necessitate representative government: as the government grows larger and more complex, natural constraints on the passage of information (bandwidth) become critical impediments.  It is this to which Stephen alludes when he remarks that the quality of a meeting tends to be inversely proportional to the number of its participants, and complains about the conflicts and vandalism in Wikipedia.

This raises the obvious question of to what extent large-scale government can be democratic.  We can observe town meetings of a few hundred people which seem to function semi-democratically, although they do tend to be dominated by those of high status, the wealthy, the aggressive, and the most opinionated.  Large meetings (and many smaller ones) are almost always completely dominated by the authorities—in other words, they are not democratic.  Entire countries require mass media to put on democratic performances, and these have the same characteristics.  (Froomkin’s article noticed this about one of Obama’s Internet meetings: the subjects which were allowed to arise were filtered and directed by his agents, just as if they were newspaper editors or television programmers.)

Prior to the appearance of the Internet, freedom of the press, which then constituted the mass media required for governance which was democratic or at least had the appearance of democracy, was confined to those who had the money to own one, as H. L. Mencken observed.  This gave media a class basis, which was institutionalized in the wealth of the rich people who owned the press directly or through corporations—in other words, the state, as Folktruther describes it above.  In short, the press was not free, and democracy hardly existed.  It was under this, the old dispensation, the Froomkin was fired.

What next?

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By ardee, June 21, 2009 at 6:34 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, June 20 at 10:23 pm #

I think that the media IS part of the government of the people.  Indeed, a conception can be defined, that of a ‘powerstate,’ that includes all the organs that a power structure uses in ruling a people, whether governmental, corporate, or non-profit organs, such as churches or schools.  Such a preconception is necessry to develop a holistic view of power from a world historical perspective.
..................................

When the media is part of the government democracy dies. Our democracy is in the process of dying, from neglect as well as from the death of the free press.

“America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.” Oscar Wilde
Irrelevant sure, but funny and true…..

“Men are so slow witted and give themselves so easily to the desires of the moment that he who will deceive will always find a willing victim.” Niccolo Machiavelli,
( The Prince II 1513)

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By Purple Girl, June 21, 2009 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

And gave the Pavlov War dog Wolfie a place to spew his rabid doctrine?
Don’t get me wrong I think there are self absorbed, self rigteous assholes on both ends of the political continum. But to grant Wolfie a platform, which does not include a noose but a megaphone, is an outrage!
Worse yet is to allow this warmonger a voice on anything concerning foreign policy. Of course Wolfie and his pack) want to kick up the rheotic regarding the Iranian election - he and his fellow MIC Godfathers are drooling over the prospect of a civil war. Any excuse to get their greedy, oily profiteering paws inside that cash cow.
You have to be aschizophrenic off your meds to be a Repug- Fro the last 8 yrs All iranians have been portrayed as Terrorist recruiters and trainer. The yvillified the entire nation without so much as a disclaimer that there were aspects of the iranian society which were moderate or even liberal. Now they expect US to beleive they are concerned (Empathtic, compassionate) about the Woes of the protesters- are the they Crazy or do they think we all are.What these Repugs are ginning up with their BS is just another excuse to start a Blood for Oil War…‘We will be greeted as Liberators’..Of their Oil,too.
The MIC, and all it’s subsequent Godfathers and minions have been comitting Crimes against Humanity for Decades, and this crisis in Iran has them salivating and foaming at the mouth again.
The only Post Wolfie should be afforded is one with a Rope.

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By Anarcissie, June 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment

If we’re talking about why Froomkin was fired, I think it’s because the Washington Post is becoming more right-wing, something I have heard about elsewhere, and he’s not suitable for the team.  If we’re talking about whether his ideas about media and government are good or bad, I think that’s a different subject, and I don’t think it has much of anything to do with the firing, although I suppose stranger things have happened.  I confess that the idea of the editors of a major, widely-respected, big-deal newspaper sitting around analyzing the validity of the political philosophy of one of their columnists seems seems to me a bit outré.

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By Folktruther, June 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

I think that the medis IS part of the government of the people.  Indeed, a conception can be defined, that of a ‘powerstate,’ that includes all the organs that a power structure uses in ruling a people, whether governmental, corporate, or non-profit organs, such as churches or schools.  Such a preconception is necessry to develop a holistic view of power from a world historical perspective.

However, such a conception of ‘powerstate’ is an ideologially dirty one, since it subverts the Western capitalist distinction between government and Private Enterprise.  It therefore subverts the Western worldview that has legiitmated capitalist Democracies the past few centuries.

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By Ed Harges, June 20, 2009 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

Smoliar, perhaps if you won’t accept it from me, you’ll accept Anarcissie’s pithier way of saying it:

Anarcissie notes that you wrote that “there was no argumentative substance” to [Froomkin’s] claims….”

And Anarcissie retorts, “This cannot be the operative principle given that the Post still employs the likes of Charles Krauthammer.”

This is a more economical way of saying what I was saying, Smoliar. Now do you get it?

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 20, 2009 at 11:21 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, any “conflation of representative media with representative government” can be attributed to an error on the part of either the writer or the reader.  As the writer I am willing to accept responsibility for the error and try to repair it!  The question concerns not whether or not the POST serves as “representative media” but why they may have made the decision they did.  Your hypothesis can definitely stand up to argument, and your use of Krauthammer as a warrant is a good one.

The conflation (“confusion” is probably a better choice of words) that concerned me involved Froomkin’s advocacy of “Internet-based government” as an enhancement of representative government;  the hyperlink I provided offers some data that this is, indeed, a confusion and most likely a serious one.  Nevertheless, your point is a good one.  Folks like Krauthammer spend far more time on emotional involvement in the implications of hypotheses than they do on substantiating those hypotheses.  They accept the hypothesis without substantiation and then play the “scare cards” over the implications.  The usual way to refute this excuse for argumentation is with that old joke:  “If my grandmother had balls, she’d be my grandfather!”

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By Anarcissie, June 20, 2009 at 8:38 am Link to this comment

Stephen Smoliar:
‘Ed, you make some fascinating leaps from what I said to what you think I meant!  I suggested that the POST might have acted the way they did because “there was no argumentative substance” to [Froomkin’s] claims. ...’

This cannot be the operative principle given that the Post still employs the likes of Charles Krauthammer.  I suspect Froomkin was fired because the Post is simply become more rightist, a development which has been noticed elsewhere, and Froomkin is not on the team.

In any case I don’t follow your conflation of representative media with representative government.  Maybe I missed something.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 20, 2009 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

Ed, there are two things you can do when faced with a hypothesis.  One is that you can apply argumentation skills to substantiate or refute it.  The other is that you can get all emotional about it, positively or negatively.  The question mark at the end of my first comment should have made it clear that I was posing a hypothesis about why the POST acted as it did.  However, try as I might to keep you focused on this question of argumentative substance, you just keep choosing the emotional path, which is exactly what Froomkin has done with his Internet advocacy.  None of this advances the argument over whether or not the hypothesis I posed has merit.

Let us now consider a different argumentative path.  ASSUME (for the sake of argument, as they say) that my hypothesis that Froomkin was fired for “argumentative recklessness” is valid.  Assume, further, that Froomkin’s points about the Middle East are still valid.  Is the public good served by someone who makes those points without being able to substantiate them?  That seems to be the point you are trying to make, so I just want to know your position on it.  (By way of comparison, you might want to check out what MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL says about doing the right thing for the wrong reason!)

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By Ed Harges, June 20, 2009 at 1:21 am Link to this comment

re:By Stephen Smoliar, June 19 at 5:23 pm:

OK, let me walk you through this. I’m not sticking to your self-imposed restriction of our subject to the wisdom of Froomkin’s advocacy of internet governance.

Why? Because the subject of this article is the fact that he was fired, and your contention that we’re well rid of him, because his views on internet governance were “dangerously warped” (your phrase) is only respectable if it reflects a more general premise: namely, that the Post ought rightly to fire any columnist whose views on an important subject are dangerously warped.

And I’m saying that (a) the Post has made itself and continues to make itself a very friendly venue for commentators whose views on the Middle East are dangerously warped, in a Likud-oriented direction; that (b) that given recent history, people with dangerously warped views such as these are much more dangerous then advocates of excessive Wikification, and are much more commonly heard from throughout the major media; and finally, that (c) Froomkin’s contrastingly sane views on the Middle East were a valuable corrective to these dangerously warped and ubiquitous Likudniks.

Given all this, I contend that it was patently unfair and harmful to the public good that the Post fired him while retaining these much more dangerously warped commentators.

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By hippie4ever, June 20, 2009 at 12:20 am Link to this comment

Froomkin is way to intelligent to associate with the dingbats and whores at the Post. What a pathetic rag that once great newspaper’s become. When I need to read a paper I read Le Monde or if I can find it, La Liberation. Nothing Anglo comes to mind, although there’s more paper to train puppies and line birdcages.

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By Chris Herz, June 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read the Post the way people used to read Pravda—to check the party line.  When they kicked out Nick von Hoffmann and Mary McCrory that was it for me.

And to have to pay for corporate crap?  What kind of a fool do they think I am?

But to be fair, were the Post to do again what it did to Nixon, you know where the next batch of anthrax would be sent!

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Ed, you make some fascinating leaps from what I said to what you think I meant!  I suggested that the POST might have acted the way they did because “there was no argumentative substance” to his claims.  I believe that any writer is entitled to express whatever claims he wishes.  However, if he cannot cast those claims in the form of a plausible (if not totally sound) argument, then any editor or publisher can decide that, having cut him some slack for a while and warned him about the problem, it is time to let that writer go.  Like Foucault I like the idea that “author” shares the root of “authority.”  However, authority must always be substantiated when questioned;  and Froomkin’s several riffs of “Internet governance” (the Wiki Whitehouse being only one instance) just do not hold up to serious editorial review.

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By Ed Harges, June 19, 2009 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Re: By Stephen Smoliar, June 19 at 3:08 pm:

But surely, Stephen, you are not suggesting that only columnists who have “dangerously warped” views on “governance” deserve to be fired? If we’re going to applaud the firing of someone on grounds of a “dangerously warped” view of governance, then we should logically applaud the firing (or deplore the retention) of any columnist with a “dangerously warped” view of any important subject.

And so it is in fact perfectly fair and relevant for me to ask: why the hell do all these Likud-friendly pundits with dangerously warped views on the Middle East, from which Froomkin was such a blessed relief, still have their major media perches?

And based on recent history, which poses the more clear and present danger to the well-being of every American, indeed of every human on the planet — Froomkin’s quixotic proposal for a “Wiki White House”, or Charles Krauthammer’s campaign to get us all into a war with Iran for the glory of Greater Israel?

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By wagonjak, June 19, 2009 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have already removed WaPo from my bookmarks bar, and I will not be going there again, even to read Ezra Klein or Greg Sargeant…

I also heard that Slate and Foreign Policy are both owned by WaPo, so I’m cutting them too.

This is the most hair-brained move WaPo has ever made, and it’s made plenty of them!

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By ardee, June 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

Comment # 1.

Liberal media my fat white ass.

comment # 2.

It is a great pleasure to read a post by Mr. Smoliar here at TD, however nuanced and incomprehensible to some he may be. I may not always agree with his assessments but they are always well thought out and thought provoking, two rare commodities indeed.

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment

Ed, my accusation was directed at Froomkin’s “knowledge” of governance, not his perspective on the Middle East.  These are apples and oranges.  The advocacy of a “Wiki Whitehouse” is dangerous because (if you read that piece to the end) it threatens to undermine the principle of a representative government with a plebicitary one.  The Founding Fathers took that threat seriously, and I do too.  It is one thing to aspire to let voices be heard and quite another to have them all engage in a shouting match in an enormous arena.  My greatest concern is that Froomkin either could not or would not recognize the distinction between these options.

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By Ed Harges, June 19, 2009 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

Below (excerpt and link) is an example of the kind of thing the Post is purging from itself with the firing of Froomkin. Tell me, Smoliar, where is the “dangerously warped” part? And if you do agree with me that such articles as this one brought a much-needed perspective to the pages of the Post, tell me, who is left at the Post who represents this point of view?

Obama Getting ‘Honest’ With Israel

President Obama’s call for a “new dialogue” in the Middle East—one in which the U.S. would be “honest” about what Israel has to do to achieve security—is the clearest indication yet that the new administration is taking a dramatically different and much more assertive approach with its long-time ally.

Obama’s comments indicate that he believes Israel has been indulged—even deluded—by previous administrations, to its own detriment. By contrast, this president’s view seems to be that what Israel really needs is to be pushed into making the difficult concessions that are in its own long-term interests.

And Obama has been clear that the first concession Israel needs to make is to freeze the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that both literally and figuratively set the occupation of Palestinian territories in concrete.

Stopping the growth of settlements—not to mention dismantling them—is a hugely sensitive political issue for Israelis, and Israel’s current right-wing leadership is already talking about defying Obama’s request.

But on the eve of an overseas trip that will include a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday, Obama is showing no signs of, as he would put it, “equivocation.”

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/white-house-watch/middle-east/obama-getting-honest-with-isra.html

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By Folktruther, June 19, 2009 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Why is that surprising?  The Washtington Post has the political morals of a shithouse rat.  It’s truthers like Dioone and Robinson that define the Post credo. Educated and Informed vacuity that obfuscates the sucking up to oppressive power.

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By Ed Harges, June 19, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

Re: By Stephen Smoliar, June 19 at 1:38 pm:

Any firing of Froomkin on grounds of nuttiness begs the question of why various neocon crazies and their enablers retain their perches at the Post and the NYT. Why is Froomkin’s advocacy of a “Wiki Whitehouse” so especially dangerous or odd, given the ideas of some of the people who get to go on pontificating to us in the MSM?

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By Stephen Smoliar, June 19, 2009 at 10:38 am Link to this comment

Froomkin’s particular brand of populism may have earned him a large fan club.  However, I would argue that his understanding of governance runs the gamut from naive to dangerously warped:

http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2009/03/democratic-press-conference.html

He may talk a good game, but could it be that the POST finally realized that there was no argumentative substance behind the talk?

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By skulz fontaine, June 19, 2009 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

Why anyone would associate with the ‘Great Whore of Babylon’ is a mystery. Froomkin should consider himself lucky to get out alive.

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