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October 07, 2005


Hilarious. Demand?

Weber left out ability to raise money, PR spinmeistering -- left out the obvious

a politician is an arse upon
which everyone has sat except a man
--e. e. cummings

Well, one can always hope for something better than Karl Rove, George Bush, Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff. If we don't, and if we are content to act like them, I think it will be a pretty long night ahead of us. I don't relish that prospect, but I'm old enough that I probably won't have to endure it for long. A faith that things move in cycles and overreaching brings about its opposite lets me keep going in spite of it all.

I work elections; my job is often to elect candidates. In contemporary elections, there is a complete disjunction between the requirements for a good candidate and the requirements for a good legislator or executive.

The best candidates are canny meglomaniacs, convinced that the world needs them and their vision (however nebulous). They are so committed to advancing themselves that they will work absurd amounts, abase themselves with powerful donors, bully anyone in their universe who they can, and never lose sight of the end goal, their election.

People who are actually any use in government need completely different skills and values; we could probably all make a long list. In addition to having policy substance and reality based vision, some useful qualities include an appreciation that they may be wrong, the ability to listen to and learn from others, the ability to compromise. All of those are weaknesses in candidates.

Democracy in this country is very broken.

I read Weber ages ago, and now you've added him to my ridiculous stack of stuff to take another look at. Sentence after sentence, yours, MimiKatz, and Weber's leapt out at me. But this one struck home:

[It] means really listening to what someone else is saying, not immediately jumping to conclusions and reacting to what we think they are saying. It means treating each situation freshly, reacting to the actual conditions that are presented, not reacting based on what happened in the past or what we assume to be the case.

That sounds like the opposite of the most heavily visited portions of Left wwwLand, where so much discussion arises out of immediately jumping to conclusions, leaning toward stereotypes, reacting to assumptions and prejudices.

Your essay not only warns us against that, but also is a great example of the thoughtfulness we ought to be cultivating more widely.

Janinsanfran--Weber didn't have a lot good to say about American politics. I agree with your estimation, and it really is broken. Partly I think it is the Right and the Left (or the New Agers) giving people permission to basically be selfish and just ask what's in it for me. We need to get back to a sense that we are all in it together and need to put a little more into the common enterprise. We have had that in the past, and there is no reason that the pendulum can't swing back, in enough people try to push it back.

Cynicism is what happens when people are afraid to hope or to be seen to care. One reason I wrote this is to encourage people to understand just how hard change is and be realistic, while at the same time finding the strength to hang in for the long haul.

Mimikatz -- though my comment was kind of bitter (as am I tonight), I really appreciated your trying to bring Weber to bear on our thinking. My PhD student partner who spent most of the summer studying him passed along that first quote you include about "inner concentration and calmness" as what she thought I sometimes bring to campaigns. Today I don't feel that way at all; but I know it is a prerequisite for healthy leadership in any context.

Anyway, I am currently reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone which is a serious attempt to figure out from available sociological data whether we really are more isolated and individualistic than US people in the first half of the last century, if so why, and whether there is anthing that can be done about it. It is a fascinating piece of work which I will have to think about a lot before I know to what extent I agree. Highly recommended though, as thinking rooted in voluminous actual observation of how we live and work.

Oh, Mimikatz, thanks so much for this. (And for the link to DHinMI’s piece, which predates slightly my discovery of Blogworld, and brought back vivid memories of my own arguments with Naderites). I’ve pushed Weber on people forever; for me, nobody’s ever explained better the practical necessity of getting out of yourself if you’d do good in the world. The passion that’s not just your own inner churning; the WILL to see clearly; the acknowledgment of your responsibility for the consequences of your actions; they’re all indispensable traits for those who really want to improve our political life, and to create a genuine sense of community.

The tricky part, beyond overcoming one’s own lesser impulses, is to possess "the knowledge of tragedy with which all action, but especially political action, is truly interwoven" and yet maintain the necessary "steadfastness of heart"...


Thanks for explicating some of the ideas in what is for me the most important work of political ethics I've ever read. Until you mentioned it, I had never really pondered how "Eastern" Weber's approach is--I guess I had thought of it more in terms of stoicism or the idealized ethos of the Prussian Junkers whom Weber had studied early in his career. But your correct, there is also some Eastern tinges in that speech, which makes sense when you remember that Weber also wrote highly acclaimed studies of the Brahmin Class, Confucianism, Charisma, and social and political change in India and China.

As I reread some of these passages and your observations, I was struck by the same issue raised by janinsanfran, that the demands for political leadership aren't the same--and in some ways are antithetical to--some of the demands of the popularly elected national leader in a mass democracy. You're right that Weber wasn't enamored with American democracy (even though he was utterly fascinated by the United States), but Weber did write positively about Abraham Lincoln. And had he been around another 20 or 25 years, I think he would have identified a responsible leader, a canny politician, and a true hero in Franklin Roosevelt.

A good piece for the Ten Days of Repentance.

It is easy to highlight the negative and may service a purpose in framing a discussion and not keeping a secret....

HOWEVER one notion in modern sales tactics is the notion of pain points... and linking these to values is very potent... ANYWAY-- my point is that no one BUYS solutions...benifits... they buy percieved fixes to their pain points... . .. .. THAT is the job of the left to link the value points in society in a way that fixes the pain points ... THIS MAY mean linking the various "right wing" values that the left shares ...

Would yo like it???

A white "Christian" army is set to do a crusade {administrations early language} in a Muslim nation...

starting a war by definition was and still is a civil war (i.e., attacking mostly Sunni areas) ...

... by bombing and destroying 70% of all buildings (homes) in Fullajuh for a 1,000 or so fighters {and never}...{?}... finding who they were looking for ... repeating this again on a 200,000 people town in the west...


Next Fallujah battle: hearts, minds

Marines converted a mosque into a food and medical distribution center for residents Monday.

hmmmm... a Christian army in a non-Christian land.... h-ear-ts and mIIIIInds...

It is given that one's actins in the world are often a reflection of one's internal state... this should draw questions...

finally ... even if Iraq was close to getting WMD's nothing ... I mean nothing would have changed if the decision was delayed (even a couple of years) to start a civil war in Iraq....

Where are the voices and pictures and stories of the war in Iraq... why do you think the soldiers in the world report over 30-40% suffer from PTSD... that's because their belief systems do not align w/ what they are doing!?!

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