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Mark A.R. Kleiman on Czars and "Fellow-Travelling" with "Wingnuts":

Mark A.R. Kleiman responds to my most recent post on "czars" with a substantive point, and with claims that I am somehow "fellow-travelling" with ridiculous "wingnuts." The substantive point is that "Somin's claim that assigning White House staffers such cross-cutting authority risks giving inappropriate people great power by 'circumventing the normal appointment and confirmation process' doesn't really pass the giggle test. The White House Chief of Staff isn't a Senate-confirmed position, and wields far more power than any nominal 'czar.' Van Jones's 'czardom' consisted of a brief from the President to cajole other executive branch officials about "green jobs."

I think that this greatly understates the power of the various czars. Their authority includes power over the massive auto industry bailout (the "car czar"), the War on Drugs (the "drug czar"), and a czar who oversees the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among others. It's true that Van Jones' position was relatively minor. But the czars as a group have authority over many important issues. As for the White House Chief of Staff, I think there is less need for Senate confirmation of an official whose main job is, after all, to oversee the president's own staff. He has very little independent authority over policy. However, in an administration where the chief of staff's position does extend to policy in a more significant way, it is indeed possible that the chief of staff selection should be subject to greater scrutiny than it currently gets. Whether or not that is so, I think my original point stands. The czar system does circumvent the regular appointment and confirmation process [update: with a few exceptions, including the drug czar], and that fact does pose dangers.

Kleiman's second claim is that I (and perhaps other VC bloggers), have been dangerously associating ourselves with "wingnuts":

The comments to Somin's post reflect the danger that sane people run when they think that they can safely fellow- travel with insane people. The objectively insane belief that Barack Obama is a Marxist is offered in (apparently) perfect seriousness. Jones's (former) self-identification as a "communist" made him too hot to handle politically. But Glenn Beck's next target is Cass Sunstein, with his views on animal rights and the Second Amendment as the pretext. Having tasted blood, the wolfpack is coming back for more. Sunstein, as a commenter points out, has been a guest poster on the Volokh Conspiracy. But that won't protect him from the full Jones/Sotomayor treatment, though his white skin might. From a libertarian perspective, Sunstein is a far more attractive choice for OIRA than anyone likely to replace him. But will the Volokh Conspirators rise to defend their former colleague when their current allies turn on him?

That famous poem by Pastor Niemoller on the risk of not speaking out starts "First they came for the Communists." Any serious libertarian or conservative who tries to use the Beck/O'Reilly/Limbaugh/Palin faction rather than denouncing it is playing with fire. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

To the extent that Kleiman's accusation is based on silly things that some people said in comments to our posts, I think it hardly needs to be said that I don't endorse, agree with, or "fellow-travel" with everything said by commenters. After all, there are many comments to my posts that attack me or my views in all sorts of ways. If I deleted all comments I disagreed with, there wouldn't be many comments left, and the whole point of having comments would be undermined. I have previously written that Obama is not a socialist. The fact that some commenter to one of my posts says otherwise does not mean that I have changed my mind or endorse the sentiment in any way.

Kleiman is also wrong to suggest that we haven't defended Cass Sunstein's nomination to head OIRA. Indeed, my co-bloggers have written an entire series of posts defending Sunstein's nomination. I myself agree that Sunstein is well-qualified for the job and is better from a libertarian perspective than most others whom the administration could have appointed.

Finally, Kleiman implies that it is wrong for us to ever ally on any issue with various conservatives who hold ridiculous views on other matters. In my judgment, the issue is more complicated than that. If Kleiman's overwrought analogy between these conservatives and the Nazis referenced by Niemoller was accurate, it would indeed be dangerous and wrong to ally with them on anything. But I think it's pretty obvious that Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, despite their excesses, are a far cry from Hitler and Goebbels. Opposing Sunstein's nomination - even for silly reasons - is not the same thing as wanting to send people to concentration camps. As co-blogger Jonathan Adler points out, various left-wing groups have also attacked Sunstein's nomination, often for reasons that aren't much better than Beck's. Does that mean that "serious" liberals must forego all cooperation with these groups?

Beck, Limbaugh, and some other conservative talk show hosts and pundits do indeed say ridiculous things, and I have sometimes denounced such people (and would do so more often, if I paid more attention to them). Whether political cooperation with these individuals is warranted will vary from case to case. You don't have to agree with all of a political ally's views, or even, to use Kleiman's terms, think that they are all "sane." Sometimes, association with "insane" allies is self-defeating because it tends to discredit the cause in the eyes of the public or because it indirectly serves to promote their more dangerous ideas. Other times, the insane have enough clout that an important battle can't be won without them. Consider, for instance, the Anglo-American alliance with Stalin during World War II. Only rarely will the circumstances justify allying with an evil as great as Stalin's. However, it takes a much less dire situation (like, say, a massive expansion of government) to justify some libertarian political cooperation with Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh - who are not exactly in Stalin's league as evildoers go.

UPDATE: I have edited this post to make a few grammatical and stylistic corrections.

CJColucci:
Only rarely will the circumstances justify allying with an evil as great as Stalin's. However, it takes a much less dire situation to justify some political cooperation with Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh - who are not exactly in Stalin's league as evildoers go.

Now, that's a standard for you.
9.8.2009 12:01pm
yankev (mail):

But that won't protect him from the full Jones/Sotomayor treatment, though his white skin might.
Nice to see we're in a post racial era.
9.8.2009 12:12pm
Houston Lawyer:
It seems that the fellow travelling with wingnuts argument has been completely rejected by the Left if those wingnuts happen to travel with Obama.

Also, it is damn annoying when the wingnuts happen to be right. You wish at that point that they would go away so that you cannot be smeared by association.
9.8.2009 12:15pm
therut (mail):
Race baiting is so old. When used anything else said is ignored by me.
9.8.2009 12:19pm
sputnik (mail):
good article by Kleiman
9.8.2009 12:21pm
CDU (mail) (www):
Wasn't "associating with wingnuts" one of the charges leveled against Van Jones?
9.8.2009 12:26pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
<blockquote>
<i>Having tasted blood, the wolfpack is coming back for more ... But [his white skin might] protect him...</i>
</blockquote>
Ilya, I'd just note that these overwrought sentiments suggest Kleiman has a touch of wingnuttiness himself.

Personally, it seems like people who use terms like that are often evidence that "it takes one to know one." I'm sure Kleiman would dispute that characterization, though. Wingnuts are always OTHER people.

- Alaska Jack
9.8.2009 12:27pm
martinned (mail) (www):
I can't remember which, but I distinctly recall that several Conspirators argued that the President should normally get his nominees confirmed, at least for executive branch positions. By that logic, wouldn't these czars be better still?
9.8.2009 12:30pm
Joshua Macy:
Isn't "the danger that sane people run when they think that they can safely fellow- travel with insane people." exactly why Van Jones' behavior is a problem?
9.8.2009 12:30pm
Calderon:
It's like rain on your wedding day. The first comment to Kleiman's post reads as follows:


"Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas."
I wish this were all there were to it. I fear, however, that a much better analogy is Hindenburg. The implication is that this nuttiness, along with its accompanying hatred and intolerance, is simply an inconvenient political distraction. Perhaps so. Or, perhaps, next time we get the Cheney equivalent as the President, not the VP; along with a much more aggressive confidence in how far (s)he can go in terms of lying, breaking the law, playing the press, basically destroying current America.

http://www.alternet.org/ politics/141819/is_the_u.s. _on_the_brink_of_fascism/


Maybe Kleiman should first remove the moonbats from his own eye, and then he will see clearly to remove the wingnuts from his brother's eye.
9.8.2009 12:35pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Jones's (former) self-identification as a "communist" made him too hot to handle politically.
So it appears that Kleiman has no personal problem with Jones being a communist -- it just doesn't fly politically. And we're supposed to trust such a person when he tells us it's insane to call someone else a Marxist?
9.8.2009 12:37pm
MarkField (mail):
Just to follow up on Joshua Macy's comment, it's unclear to me now just why Prof. Somin thinks Jones should not have been appointed (or, alternatively, should have resigned). If the President is not responsible for Jones' opinions -- which is the message I take from this post -- then the only question is whether Jones was doing his job properly.

Now, the issue whether Congress should vet more appointees than it does (Art. II, Sec. 2) is a legitimate one, but in the absence of that the appointment of nutjobs to Executive office didn't begin with Obama and certainly won't end with him. There have been far more offensive views held by Executive Branch appointees over the years.
9.8.2009 12:38pm
fishbane (mail):
LTEC: So it appears that Kleiman has no personal problem with Jones being a communist -- it just doesn't fly politically. And we're supposed to trust such a person when he tells us it's insane to call someone else a Marxist?

Jones has long since repudiated his self-identification with communism. If youthful communism were enough to brand a body forever beyond the pale, we wouldn't have had to listen to the Kristols, for instance, and David Horowitz would have been rejected by his fellow shriekers.
9.8.2009 1:02pm
Mark Kleiman (mail) (www):
Several points in response to the post:

1. I'm glad that the Conspirators will speak up for Sunstein. I hope that they will reflect on the wisdom of collaborating with the people attacking Sunstein, for example when those people try to whip up an artificial fuss about "czardom."

2. The "drug czar" (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy) is a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee, who heads an office created by statute with authority to oversee drug abuse control activities throughout the government. Maybe that post shouldn't exist, but it's hardly an example of the problem whose existence Ilya is trying to establish. None of the other people being loosely referred to as "czars" has any such authority.

3. Ilya writes that the "car czar" has "power over the massive auto industry bailout." What power, exactly? No more than the President cares to delegate. Every dollar and every regulation is issued by an agency whose head is confirmed by the Senate.

It makes sense for the President to designate individuals on his own staff as the "point people" for various issues; the fact that someone in the press decides to call such a person a "czar" has no legal or operational significance. So I'm utterly unable to figure our what the issue is supposed to be. But I am aware that no one who is making a fuss about it now objected to the proliferation of "czars" under GWB. This seems to me an entirely artificial controversy, without substance.

4. My use of the Niemoller poem - which is about the unwisdom of ignoring the maltreatment of others because they are unlike oneself - did not imply a comparison between conservatives and Nazis; it seems to me that it is Ilya, and not I, who is "overwrought."

At to LTEC's comment, of course being a communist ought to disqualify someone from service in the White House. It's far less obvious that having been a communist and then having thought better of it ought to be such a disqualification. The assertion that Barack Obama is a Marxist remains utterly without foundation.

As to "post-racial": anytime the wingnuts want to stop playing the race card, I'll be happy to stop calling them on it.
9.8.2009 1:06pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):

So it appears that Kleiman has no personal problem with Jones being a communist -- it just doesn't fly politically.

I really don't understand this mindset at all. Communism remains a dangerous, anti-American ideology and anyone cloaking themselves in its mantle deserves severe opprobrium from his peers. It's strange that we can reserve that level of opprobrium for KKK, Nazi sympathizers and not for an ideology that is responsible for far more suffering, both past and present. I tend to think that people drew the wrong lesson from the McCarthy hearings, in that it was more his abuse of the "legislative powers" of the Senate for political gain that should trouble, as opposed to a straightforward indictment of vigilance against the real anti-American interests that certainly were trying to infiltrate the government at that time.
9.8.2009 1:08pm
Calderon:
Mark Kleiman said:


At to LTEC's comment, of course being a communist ought to disqualify someone from service in the White House. It's far less obvious that having been a communist and then having thought better of it ought to be such a disqualification.


Let's try a thought experiment. Mike Huckabee is elected president in 2012, and appoints a hypothetical person named Tom Jones to be an environmental czar. Tom Jones had joined the Ku Klux Klan, but later thought better of it and left the Klan, and he is no longer a Klan member. Should his prior membership in the Klan disqualify him from being environmental czar?
9.8.2009 1:16pm
MarkField (mail):

Communism remains a dangerous, anti-American ideology and anyone cloaking themselves in its mantle deserves severe opprobrium from his peers.


"Communism", like religion, means many things to many people. What's unAmerican is to obssess about ideas instead of the people who hold them. The number of Communists these days is so small -- indeed, it never was very large -- that claims of "danger" are hyperbolic at best.
9.8.2009 1:17pm
Virginian:

As to "post-racial": anytime the wingnuts want to stop playing the race card, I'll be happy to stop calling them on it.


It seems like you view any criticism of a "person of color" to be playing the race card (as long as it is done by a "wingnut").

Do you really think that Van Jones' particular flavor of nuttiness would have gone unnoticed if he were white?
9.8.2009 1:21pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh: Our friends because they're not as bad as Stalin!
9.8.2009 1:23pm
Cato The Elder (mail) (www):
Oh, and one more thing: If you want to seem more erudite, be sure to end each and every left-wing rant with a reference to O'Reilly, Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck. They don't even have to be tangentially connected to the topic, just seek to impugn them at every turn, because this earns you status points with those who matter. Don't forget to top it off with an obligatory use of "wingnut".

[Look, who exactly on the erudite Right draws from those named sources consistently? Maybe I'm cloistered, but I'm not seeing it apparent on the blogs I read. In contrast, we know very well the editors of the Left's Pravda: they often referred to by the moniker "The Juicebox Mafia", and they include such accomplished luminaries as Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Jonathan Chait. The difference between these two different sets of "wingnuts" is that the latter are constantly invoked by leftists in plenty of debates.]
9.8.2009 1:24pm
tarheel79:
I'd also be willing to hazard that anyone who reached adulthood after, say, 1989 and described himself/herself as a communist after that should probably not be considered as a candidate for service in anybody's White House.
9.8.2009 1:28pm
wfjag:
@Calderon

Let's try a thought experiment. Mike Huckabee Hillary is elected president in 2012, and appoints a hypothetical person named Tom Jones Robert Byrd to be an environmental czar. Tom Jones Robert Byrd had joined the Ku Klux Klan, but later thought better of it and left the Klan, and he is no longer a Klan member. Should his prior membership in the Klan disqualify him from being environmental czar?

In light of all the pork delivered to his home state, and all the pork he helped others deliver to their home states, and given his political party, the answer would be "No."

But, your hypo assumes that the President and appointee are Republicans.
9.8.2009 1:31pm
Melancton Smith:
Ok, so here we go again with the race thing.


But that won't protect him from the full Jones/Sotomayor treatment, though his white skin might.


Then we have this:


That famous poem by Pastor Niemoller on the risk of not speaking out starts "First they came for the Communists."


As if the left didn't go after Sarah Palin for her religious views.
9.8.2009 1:41pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Cato the Elder: And how is this different to the right's constant complaining about the mythical "MSM"?
9.8.2009 1:41pm
ArthurKirkland:
I believe Van Jones' departure from the Obama administration has been a positive development.

I similarly believe Mr. McDonnell should withdraw his candidacy in Virginia. Those who excoriate Jones while giving McDonnell a pass strike me as reflexive partisans whose arguments should be ignored.

Those who excoriate Jones while supporting McDonnell have largely excused themselves from constructive debate; their ideas should be not ignored, but instead affirmatively trashed.
9.8.2009 1:42pm
neurodoc:
some libertarian political cooperation with Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh
What "cooperation" exactly? Who among the VC ever communicated with Beck or Limbaugh for the purpose of coordinating efforts, if for any purpose at all? Have they gone beyond expressing their own views here on matters that Beck and Lewis have taken up? It seems that in Kleiman's eyes agreeing with any of the public positions either of those people take is tantamount to endorsing or going along with Nazis (though Kleiman now backpedals away from that clear implication).

Interesting to see how much more reasonable Kleiman gets when he comes here to answer Ilya. Back in the comfort zone of his own blog, where he serves up the Leftie version of red meat to the faithful, it's outrageous crap like, "But that won't protect him from the full Jones/Sotomayor treatment, though his white skin might."

Will Kleiman say who exactly he thinks were motivated by "skin color" when opposing the Sotomayor nomination? And can it be about "skin color" when one wouldn't know Sotomayor's background on the basis of appearance. Is "Hispanic" officially "brown" no matter actual skin hue?
9.8.2009 1:46pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
After reading Mark Kleiman comparing Glen Beck and others who objected to Van Jones' appointment to Hitler, I'm not sure Kleiman is the person that I would rely on to tell me who are and are not the "insane people."
9.8.2009 1:50pm
luagha:

And if one of these 'czars' should do something illegal with the 'power' that has been delegated to him (order up FBI files or something) who gets blamed and what are the consequences? Who can be punished?

No one? He steps down and disappears? What's the Justice Department going to do about it?
9.8.2009 1:51pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Let's try a thought experiment. Mike Huckabee is elected president in 2012, and appoints a hypothetical person named Tom Jones to be an environmental czar. Tom Jones had joined the Ku Klux Klan, but later thought better of it and left the Klan, and he is no longer a Klan member. Should his prior membership in the Klan disqualify him from being environmental czar?

Can I give a wishy-washy answer here?

It seems to me that the real answer is that all this sort of stuff is relevant but not dispositive.

I don't think anyone would argue that the Democrats (and indeed, Republicans as well) should ask a lot of questions of this hypothetical nominee in order to get the person on record that he is not bigoted, does not believe in discrimination, views his prior KKK membership as a mistake, explains why he joined, etc. I'd also want to see a political record that doesn't smack of continued racism.

But if that were all established, sure, the person might be confirmable. Not only Robert Byrd but Hugo Black as well were members of the KKK.

What conservatives really miss on the issue of racism is that what Byrd did when he was young is terrible but he has spent the last 40 years supporting civil rights laws and opposing discrimination against minorities. Similarly, Black became a staunch supporter of the constitutionality of civil rights laws once he was on the Court.

In contrast, a lot of the conservatives with bad records on race, like Jesse Helms, only grudgingly admitted they were wrong and maintained very anti-civil rights positions throughout their careers.
9.8.2009 1:52pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Jones was forced out because he was a 9/11 "Truther", not because he is or was a communist or called GOPers a-holes. Doe Kleiman think a "Truther" is fit for office?

As for the Axis of Evil (Beck et al), what does Kleiman think of the nuts on his side?

From Rasmussen Reports:


Friday, May 04, 2007

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.
9.8.2009 1:54pm
tarheel79:
Bob from Ohio,

That's not much of question to flush out Truthers.

There's a difference between believing Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance and that his administration was involved in an elaborate conspiracy to orchestrate them.

The latter is what Truthers believe.
9.8.2009 1:58pm
ChrisTS (mail):
And we're supposed to trust such a person when he tells us it's insane to call someone else a Marxist?

It depends who is being called a Marxist. Calling Obama a Marxist IS crazy.
9.8.2009 1:59pm
LTR:
Too sum it up, Kleinman wins the argument on the importance and power of so-called czars, but then goes on a whiny liberal tirade about racist wingnuts prosecuting politically reasonable guy like Van Jones just because he's black.
9.8.2009 2:00pm
neurodoc:
MarkField: What's unAmerican is to obssess about ideas instead of the people who hold them. The number of Communists these days is so small -- indeed, it never was very large...
Really, you want to stand on that???

unAmerican (whatever that means, if indeed it has any meaning at all) to obsess about ideas instead of the people who hold them? So we should pay little attention to the ideologies (Nazism, Communism, radical Islam) that animate people, sometimes to very evil ends (like those particular ideologies have most certainly have done), giving all our attention to individual believers in them?! And the number of Communists "never was very large"?!?!
9.8.2009 2:02pm
Ben P:

To the extent that Kleiman's accusation is based on silly things that some people said in comments to our posts, I think it hardly needs to be said that I don't endorse, agree with, or "fellow-travel" with everything said by commenters.


But you have to admit, some of the recent posts on this blog have drawn some pretty crazy commenters out of the woodwork. Yours was only minor in that regard, I'd put Kopel's post about Chester Arthur on the top of that particular list.
9.8.2009 2:07pm
Blar (mail) (www):
Ilya, could you give an argument for what the problem is without using the word "czar?" I feel like that word is a distraction that's causing a lot of confusion, especially since it doesn't seem to have a very precise definition. Wikipedia, for instance, defines a czar as an executive branch appointee who has been referred to as "czar" by the media.

If the problem is something like "people without Senate confirmation having too much power," then the "drug czar" and Cass Sunstein shouldn't even be in the conversation, since they both require Senate confirmation. If your main concern is with Senate confirmation, then you could explain in more detail why you think that's so important. If your main concern is about accountability, then you could say a little more about why you think there would be more accountability if things were structured differently.
9.8.2009 2:09pm
Matt P (mail):
For what its worth, notice the tone of Ilya's response vs. Kleiman's... Then ask yourself who the wingnut is? His accusations of racism, which we are apparently to take based only on his word, represent the most disgusting form of ad hominem attack -- not only are they unanswerable because of their vagueness, they reflexively reinforce the very racism they seem to attack by giving non-minorities the feeling that there can truly be no factual dialogue with those of other races without being called a bigot.

He uses the same line of attack in regards to the "Beck/O'Reilly/Limbaugh/Palin" types as if the mere mention of them is enough to discredit views and opinions. The appropriate response would be to say that anyone agreeing with Kleinman is playing with fire -- it has just as much validity to say that as he give for his views.

Oh and Kleinman, the poem is talking about people being taken away and killed -- not removed from office. The fact that you cannot see that objecting to someone being in an office is different from what the poem is referring to only affirms that you lack the perspective to make any statements at all about who is a wingnut.

Ilya is far too kind when he calls your response to him 'substantive' -- childish and pernicious seem to fit better to me.
9.8.2009 2:11pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The assertion that Barack Obama is a Marxist remains utterly without foundation."

Is Obama a Marxist or a socialist? That all depends on what one means by such terms. We had a similar problem with labeling I.F. Stone a "Stalinist." Stone's defenders tend to define Stalinist in such narrow terms that Stalin himself doesn't qualify as a Stalinist. We have the same problem with "Marxist." As I pointed out before, Lenin does not qualify as a Marxist, or Stalin, Mao, Tito, or many others who people commonly think of as Marxists. The question of exactly what is Marxism vexed many Soviet era philosophers. Karl Korsch wrote an essay in 1935 offering a new definition with the following major elements:

1. All tenets of Marxism are particular, not general.

2. Marxism is critical, not positive.

3. Marxism pertains to Capitalism in its state of decline.

4. The purpose of Marxim is not to contemplate the world but change it, and theory gets subordinated to revolutionary change.

We need Korsch to understand how the the self-identified Marxists from the Frankfurt Critical School such as Marcuse could possibly be regarded as Marxists when the working class seems to play no part in their revolutionary agenda.

So what does all this have to do with Obama? Can we call him a Marxist? Strictly speaking no, but strictly speaking no one is a Marxist with the possible exception of Marx himself, and of course Groucho. We have the further problem that Obama is a man of mystery with no paper trail whatsoever except for two vanity books. We can't even get access to his senior thesis (or term paper) at Columbia. We have only his speeches which offer little in the way of specifics. While at this point no one can prove him a Marxist, his intention to "spread the wealth," the company he keeps, and his penchant for high taxes, and proliferating bureaucracy certinly opens him up to that accusation. Pretty much all his appointments are drawn from academia, the legal world, and finance. As far as I can tell none of his advisers was ever involved in production or managing any kind of enterprise. This gives us some clue as to how he really thinks and its seems more in line Korsch than Adam Smith.

Kleinman:

I think you are being shallow and flip in describing Obama critics as "wingnuts." If you want to get into name calling I can give as well as take, but that does not promote rational discussion.
9.8.2009 2:13pm
Matt P (mail):
A. Zarkov

What I think we can say that O'bama is at least Marx-ish. Not based on him sharing goals or political theory with Marx, but based on Marx's view of understanding the world in terms of dialectical materialism.

If you read Marx's sociological theory, as opposed to his political work, there is a clearly a resonance with O'bama. This is not at all surprising given that most intellectuals of his ilk seem to accept Marx's world view with out even knowing it. It's just so pervasive, its almost the air they breath.

I attended a seminary where almost all of the talk about social issues was couched in Marx's view/vocabulary and I doubt that more than a handful even knew it -- they just took it for granted that every struggle was an economic struggle.
9.8.2009 2:42pm
James Gibson (mail):

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend"

That old adage fits this thread very well. But another adage,

"keep your friends close and your enemies closer,"

doesn't work when your friends turn into enemies or major liabilities. As a result we now have had the first sitting Obama appointee to leave the White House. He was not vetted in the same way as the "more important" advisers, but he was in charge of a 30 billion dollar budget (8 billion more then Soros's whole Hedge fund). And his leaving is called the result of a racist witch hunt, even though he spouted enough racially tinged sentences to make him a full member of the new Black Panther Movement.

To me the importance of this is, Van Jones is the first person connected to the Center of American Progress to have to leave. This relatively new organization has a very big presence in the Obama Administration, of which Van Jones was a senior member.

And we will see more as we approach Nov 2010 as the political needs require. And that need is the re-election of President Barrack Obama and the continued control of the Senate and House by the Democratic party.
9.8.2009 2:43pm
Blue:
I don't think it is "objectively insane" to consider Obama a communist when so much of his rhetoric stems from the communist/communist-inspired left.

He may not even realize it, is the pity.
9.8.2009 2:43pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Mark Kleiman's entire ouvre -- not just this post, but virtually everything the guy writes -- can be distilled down to an assumption of bad faith and of guilt by association.

And what makes it so hilarious is that it's largely projection. For anybody as bunged-up about skin color as Kleiman to be complaining about "wingnuts" playing the race card is comical.
9.8.2009 2:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Here is a link to the 1934 (not 1935) essay by Korsch. I bring up Korsch because he was influential on the Frankfurt School which begat Marcuse. Marcuse got adopted as the philosopher for the "New Left" which emerged in the 1960s. Race hustling community activists such as Van Jones trace back to the New Left days.

I think Korsch helps us through the clutter of what it means to be a Marxist.
9.8.2009 2:56pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Mark KleimanDangerMouse's entire ouvre -- not just this post, but virtually everything the guy writes -- can be distilled down to an assumption of bad faith and of guilt by association.

FIFY

(It didn't have to be DangerMouse, it could have been any of a number of other regular commenters on VC. But he's been pretty bad lately, hence the honor.)
9.8.2009 2:58pm
neurodoc:
Not only Robert Byrd but Hugo Black as well were members of the KKK.
Yes, both Bryd and Black were members of the KKK at one time, but Black's membership might be viewed as more "nominal," while Bryd was clearly a believer in the racist cause, recruiting others to the Klan. Black put considerable difference between himself and the Klan, expressing regret that he had ever been associated with the Klan, while Bryd never so clearly renounced the Klan, and as recently as a few years ago was talking about "white niggers." Also, Bryd has been less than candid (approaching lying) in his autobiography about his history with the Klan.
9.8.2009 3:00pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Matt P:

I agree. Many Marxists don't know they are Marxists because they have been exposed to no other modes of thought. The "class struggle" concept seems to natural and correct they can't even convince of anything else. This is one reason they don't understand Islam. It's possible Obama doesn't even realize he's a Marxist because he doesn't know any other way to think.
9.8.2009 3:02pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Many Marxists don't know they are Marxists

Yes, those are the worst kind. Maybe we should make everyone sit an exam to make sure they aren't Marxists. If only they knew they were Marxists, we could simply go and ask them. But because of all that brainwashing, a more drastic method seems to be necessary...

[/Sarcastro]
9.8.2009 3:05pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
martinned:

"Maybe we should make everyone sit an exam to make sure they aren't Marxists."

Do you know anyone who is not a Marxist?
9.8.2009 3:09pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Yes, both Bryd and Black were members of the KKK at one time, but Black's membership might be viewed as more "nominal," while Bryd was clearly a believer in the racist cause, recruiting others to the Klan. Black put considerable difference between himself and the Klan, expressing regret that he had ever been associated with the Klan, while Bryd never so clearly renounced the Klan, and as recently as a few years ago was talking about "white niggers." Also, Bryd has been less than candid (approaching lying) in his autobiography about his history with the Klan.

You aren't really right about Byrd. He's spent the last 40 years supporting civil rights, and he has certainly apologized for being in the Klan.

The "white n***ers" comment was politically stupid, but it actually was not an expression of anti-black bigotry at all.

And here's the point. Conservatives like to use Byrd to get themselves off the hook. In other words, if there is one former racist in the Democrats' midst, that excuses all of the conservative race-baiting, everything Jesse Helms ever did, etc. Well no, it doesn't.
9.8.2009 3:12pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Conservatives like to use Byrd to get themselves off the hook."

What fraction of the people who identify as conservative are racist in any rational sense of the word?
9.8.2009 3:20pm
MarkField (mail):

Really, you want to stand on that???


Yes. In my view, government shouldn't be in the business of proscribing people for their political opinions. Now, this does NOT mean that we shouldn't consider those opinions when they're relevant to job qualifications. For example, I wouldn't put Jones or Timothy McVeigh or lots of other people in charge of Homeland Security. But, to pick an equally easy example, I wouldn't care at all if McVeigh were delivering my mail.

As for the size of the CPUSA, I doubt it ever had more than about 60,000 members in a population of 80-100 million. That's trivial -- a couple orders of magnitude fewer than the Klan, for example. By the late 40's, I doubt the CUPUSA had 15,000 members (I'm going off memory here) and it diminshed rapidly thereafter. At no time did it pose any electoral threat on a national scale, and even locally only a few were ever elected.
9.8.2009 3:23pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Do you know anyone who is not a Marxist?

Probably not by your definition of a Marxist. Then again, by your definition Friedrich Hayek would probably be a Marxist. (Also one of those pesky Marxists who don't realise they're Marxists.)
9.8.2009 3:23pm
rarango (mail):
The most overworked word in the current lexicon is "racist."

We need a corollary to Godwin's law about racism. Anyone who uses this word is automatically suspect and has abandoned any ability to argue a point.

Dilan: your defense of Byrd is pathetic--the man remains a racict redneck out of the mold of vardamon, bilbo and the rest their ilk. Bilbo was at least honest: his platform was keep the price of cotton up and the niggers down.
9.8.2009 3:30pm
neurodoc:
Dilan Esper, thank you for the assurance that the "white niggers" (it is an obscenity, but not an unprintable one for these purposes, I think) was not "an expression of anti-black bigotry at all," just a "politically stupid" comment. But for your assurance, we might have thought it was Bryd revealing himself, a "latency" thing.

40 years supporting civil rights, not 50 right? Byrd has been in the Senate for more than 50 years, but we can't credit him with championing civil rights for all, no matter their skin color, that long ago, because in 1964 he filibustered for more than 14 hours straight against the greatest piece of civil rights legislation in American history, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Goldwater voted against it too, but I am not count myself a "conservative" so feel no need to defend him, nor Jesse Helms, or anyone else, and it is Robert C. Byrd we are talking about here.) So, when it was no longer practical to continue as an arch segregationist, Byrd, like Strom Thurmond, changed directions and supported civil rights. (Thurmond switched to the Republicans, while Byrd remained a Democrat, but that doesn't matter for these purposes.)

If you look for it, you will find the fisking that the Washington Post did a few years ago of Byrd's autobiography. They called him out for airbrushing out, if not frankly lying about, details of his racist "past."
9.8.2009 3:34pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
What fraction of the people who identify as conservative are racist in any rational sense of the word?

Well, some conservatives surely are racists.

But beyond that, a lot of conservatives aren't really racists but have no problem with the way that courting racist voters forms a part of their political strategy. And that second group loves to use Robert Byrd's KKK tenure just like the first group does.

The key is a lack of desire to actually condemn racism against minority groups, because there are Southern white voters who don't want to hear such condemnations. And "look, over there, it's Robert Byrd" works fine in furthering that strategy.
9.8.2009 3:37pm
JohnK (mail):
"As to "post-racial": anytime the wingnuts want to stop playing the race card, I'll be happy to stop calling them on it."

How did the oppostion to Jones ever play the race card? Is Kleinman so stupid as to believe that the right would be just A-ok with a someone who is a former communist and signed a truther petition as long as they are white? I guess that is why the right just loves Michael Moore because they will forgive anything if it involves a white guy.

It is striking how angry and over the top Kleinman is. I am sorry but serious people do not refer to those who disagree with them as "wingnuts" or "insane". The left seems to have lost the ability to engage and argue with the otherside.
9.8.2009 3:40pm
rarango (mail):
Robert Byrd as victim--how pathetic
9.8.2009 3:40pm
JohnK (mail):
"But beyond that, a lot of conservatives aren't really racists but have no problem with the way that courting racist voters forms a part of their political strategy."

Politicians do what it takes to win. Democrats have no problem associating with and tolerating groups like the New Black Panthers and La Raza, which are avowedly racist groups. Further, Democrats think nothing of claiming that minority groups are innately inferior to whites and thus need affirmative action policies to have any hope of succeeding.
9.8.2009 3:42pm
Matt P (mail):
Martinned

Let the testing begin..... we're overdue for a really good political which hunt! Not really but winter is coming and when its cold nothing warms one up like a burning witch!

Seriously though I'm willing to call people whatever they want to be called (as long as they are not including themselves falsely into a group that already exists). I think the point, however, is that regardless of what a person may wish to be called in practice, if they walks like a duck and quack like a duck then they are probably not a turkey.

The fact that someone may not know that what they believe is the same as a larger group of pre-existing theorists (and is based on the same assumptions and principles) does not abhorate the similarities. Marxist is just political shorthand for people believe that way, even if they didn't learn it from Marx himself. Further, why should they shy away from the title if they really believe what they say they do? They have every right to believe what they want.

For example, I believed in many libertarian principles long before I considered myself one or even really knew anything about the libertarian movement.

Like I said, I'll call them anything they want to be called, Susan has a nice ring to it, but that doesn't change the fact that there are many who haven't heard or thought of Marx the person who agree with what he said and wrote.
9.8.2009 3:48pm
BGates:
The key is a lack of desire to actually condemn racism against minority groups

As exemplified by the campaign to remove Van Jones, or to prevent Mumia from getting another trial.
9.8.2009 3:50pm
JohnK (mail):
"By the late 40's, I doubt the CUPUSA had 15,000 members (I'm going off memory here) and it diminshed rapidly thereafter. At no time did it pose any electoral threat on a national scale, and even locally only a few were ever elected."

It was of course wildly successful attracting fellow travelers. And was a wonderful recruiting ground for Soviet Intelligence. Thanks to Americans sympathetic to communism, the Soviets were able to place agents everywhere from the Manhattan Project to the State Department. Yes, Virginia there really were communists in the 1940s.
9.8.2009 3:50pm
neurodoc:
MarkField: As for the size of the CPUSA, I doubt it ever had more than about 60,000 members in a population of 80-100 million. That's trivial -- a couple orders of magnitude fewer than the Klan, for example. By the late 40's, I doubt the CPUSA had 15,000 members (I'm going off memory here) and it diminshed rapidly thereafter. At no time did it pose any electoral threat on a national scale, and even locally only a few were ever elected.
First, you did not qualify your never "very large" contention, limiting it to card-carrying (if they actually had cards) members of the CPUSA.

Second, and more importantly, you now offer the rather meaningless qualification "at no time did it (the party) pose any electoral threat on a national scale, and even locally only a few were ever elected." Few Communists or anti-Communists, at least the sane ones, ever contemplated that Communism would gain control here through electing its adherents to office, if anywhere. The concern was the its adherents, not all of whom were ever members of the CPUSA, would subvert our government through various non-electoral means, e.g., infiltrating and gaining control of unions, espionage (you do know there were some Communist spies, don't you), etc. Poo-poo that as nothing but mass hysteria, if you will, but there was genuine reason for the concern.

Perhaps if Jones were hired as an air traffic controller or a mailman, his political views would be an irrelevancy. But he wasn't and it isn't an irrelevancy.
9.8.2009 3:53pm
JK:

But I think it's pretty obvious that Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, despite their excesses, are a far cry from Hitler and Goebbels. Opposing Sunstein's nomination - even for silly reasons - is not the same thing as wanting to send people to concentration camps.

Michelle Malkin advocated rounding up Arabs and Muslims and putting them concentration camps similar the the Japanese internment camps of WW2, so can we at least agree that she's too dangerous of a person for any political alliance?
9.8.2009 3:56pm
Railroad Gin:
Let's try a thought experiment. Mike Huckabee is elected president in 2012, and appoints a hypothetical person named Tom Jones to be an environmental czar. Tom Jones had joined the Ku Klux Klan, but later thought better of it and left the Klan, and he is no longer a Klan member. Should his prior membership in the Klan disqualify him from being environmental czar?

Yes.

Back to the original point of the post. I am somewhat confused as to what, exactly, the "car czar," "green jobs czar," etc. are supposed to do. To the extent they can actually enact regulations and allocate money, it would seem they should have to be approved by Congress. The White House Chief of Staff doesn't seem to be an apt analogy. The Chief of Staff is very powerful within the execuive branch, but not outside of it. If he wants to coerce a person or business into doing something he has to go through the legislative/regulatory process.

If Rahm Emanuel decides he wants to raise fuel emission standards that matters to GM, but no more than if any other politician wants to do this. If the "car czar" wants to do this then he has dictatorial power to make it so. That seems to be the point of these various czars. If not, what is the point of having them? Are they just another boondoggle? A way for Obama to give cushy jobs to his cronies?

At best they are a waste of money. At worst they are another step towards abolishing representaive government. Or am I missing something?
9.8.2009 3:57pm
luagha:
As to the 'does Obama know that he is a Marxist' question:

In Obama's first autobiography, he specifically states that in college he hung out with the Marxist professors and attended socialist conferences and debated 'Eurocentrism and Edward Said'. (you can google the quotes from 'Dreams from My Father')

Now, if you believe that Obama wrote his own autobiography, then he must know that he is a Marxist. If you believe that Bill Ayers wrote Obama's autobiography (and literary analysis shows that he is at least a heavy editor/secondary author) then maybe only Bill Ayers knows that Obama is Marxist.

Realistically, all these beliefs are a closely knit, semi-overlapping continuum where socialism, Marxism, neo-Marxism, communism, statism, fascist socialism, etc etc are all tightly clustered. And Obama's stated beliefs are clearly inside that continuum. If you're playing stupid definition games you can define him out of any one of those beliefs by defining it tighter and tighter until he's just barely out, but it doesn't change the continuum itself nor his placement.
9.8.2009 4:02pm
BGates:
"Communism", like religion, means many things to many people.

What is the most positive of these many meanings of Communism?
9.8.2009 4:04pm
BGates:
Michelle Malkin advocated rounding up Arabs and Muslims and putting them concentration camps similar the the Japanese internment camps of WW2, so can we at least agree that she's too dangerous of a person for any political alliance?

We can agree that she's as dangerous as FDR and Warren Burger.
9.8.2009 4:07pm
FWB (mail):
Could someone point out where the authority is granted in the Constitution for the President to appoint anyone without Senate approval? Other than the section on minor level appointees that Congress may vest in the President alone.

"and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other Public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law; but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments."

This is the sum total of the Presidential appointee power. There are no implied powers regardless of what has been done in the past or how long it has been done. Using the "that's how it's done logic" would indict those who argue against slavery.

Semantics aside, if the president appoints 25 a-holes to positions, the senate must still advise and consent. There is not option for appointees, other than low level with Congress' approval, that are not "checked" out by the Senate.

Tiocfaidh ar la!
9.8.2009 4:08pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Politicians do what it takes to win. Democrats have no problem associating with and tolerating groups like the New Black Panthers and La Raza, which are avowedly racist groups. Further, Democrats think nothing of claiming that minority groups are innately inferior to whites and thus need affirmative action policies to have any hope of succeeding.

1. Democrats don't "associate" with the New Black Panthers.

2. La Raza is a standard advocacy group which some xenophobic anti-immigrant conservatives seem to love to lie about.

3. I don't like affirmative action programs very much, but they are not based on an assumption that minorities are "innately inferior". (Indeed, I suspect you know what the actual asserted justifications for these programs are and are just lying for rhetorical effect.)

4. Even if all this were true, it wouldn't in any way justify conservative efforts to court racist voters, which is the actual subject that keeps on being changed.
9.8.2009 4:09pm
MarkField (mail):

Perhaps if Jones were hired as an air traffic controller or a mailman, his political views would be an irrelevancy. But he wasn't and it isn't an irrelevancy.


From what I understand his job to have been, I'd consider it irrelevant.

Look, I think lots of people have lots of crazy ideas. But I don't like the idea of government thought police enforcing some sort of political correctness absent a very direct relationship to the job.


First, you did not qualify your never "very large" contention, limiting it to card-carrying (if they actually had cards) members of the CPUSA.


I didn't, but I think that's a reasonable proxy for how many people actually were Communists. In fact, I suspect it overstates the number, just as we see with other political parties.


you now offer the rather meaningless qualification "at no time did it (the party) pose any electoral threat on a national scale, and even locally only a few were ever elected."


I fail to see how this is "meaningless" in context. What I said was that the number of communists was never very large. This is true, but you challenged me on it. It seems to me that you're now changing the issue.

Regardless, I agree that some of that small number of communists did damage our country. What's important to me is that the number who did damage, and the amount of damage they did was less by many orders of magnitude than that done by our homegrown right wingers such as the KKK.
9.8.2009 4:10pm
BGates:
As for the size of the CPUSA, I doubt it ever had more than about 60,000 members in a population of 80-100 million

So in proportional terms, it was only ever about nine times more important than the Federalist Society, an organization which manages to provoke quite a lot of shrieking on the left despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it doesn't advocate a violent overthrow of the government.
9.8.2009 4:10pm
JohnK (mail):
1. Democrats don't "associate" with the New Black Panthers.

Really? They seem to have a lot of friends in the Justice Department. If Dems don't associate with them, why is a Democratic justice department refusing to prosecute their crimes?

"2. La Raza is a standard advocacy group which some xenophobic anti-immigrant conservatives seem to love to lie about."

No, La Raza is a facist race based organization that Democrats like to lie about.

"3. I don't like affirmative action programs very much, but they are not based on an assumption that minorities are "innately inferior". (Indeed, I suspect you know what the actual asserted justifications for these programs are and are just lying for rhetorical effect.)"

So we agree. Yes, i am fully aware of the phony reasons offered in support of Affirmative Action. I just don't buy them.

"4. Even if all this were true, it wouldn't in any way justify conservative efforts to court racist voters, which is the actual subject that keeps on being changed."

Whatever lie gets you through the night is your business. All you are really saying there is anyone who disagrees with you is a racist. I don't see how opposing affirmative action and at least paying lipservice to small government is "courting racist" voters.
9.8.2009 4:15pm
Matt P (mail):
"Communism", like "ham sandwiches", mean many things to many people.

I get the point, really I do, but any argument that can be used for anything winds up meaning nothing.

If you have a particular definition that is supportable and leaves the person in question out of the definition then offer it and you've added something to the discussion. Saying that definitions are hard to pin down seems like a bit of a dodge to me.
9.8.2009 4:19pm
JK:

Michelle Malkin advocated rounding up Arabs and Muslims and putting them concentration camps similar the the Japanese internment camps of WW2, so can we at least agree that she's too dangerous of a person for any political alliance?

We can agree that she's as dangerous as FDR and Warren Burger.

So someone who advocates slavery in 2009 is only as "dangerous " as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington? If FDR was alive today and advocated internment, I would say that's too dangerous a political idea to allow office holding, same with Washington and slavery, but I don't think you can judge modern position by historical standards (or vice versa).
9.8.2009 4:22pm
Al (mail):
1. Democrats don't "associate" with the New Black Panthers.

One of the guys threatening voters in PA in 2008 was a certified Democrat poll watcher.
9.8.2009 4:25pm
CJColucci:
What I think we can say that O'bama is at least Marx-ish. Not based on him sharing goals or political theory with Marx, but based on Marx's view of understanding the world in terms of dialectical materialism.

That description would fit many conservatives of both paleo- and neo- varieties. Hardly a week goes by when the Wall Street Journal doesn't feature an editorial or op-ed that screams vulgar Marxism in its analysis, but takes the opposite view from Marx on the question of who the good guys and bad guys are. Look over some randomly-selected issues of Commentary for the same thing.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
9.8.2009 4:29pm
yankev (mail):
Didn't Sly and the Family Stone have a song along the lines of


Don't call me Wingnut -- Moonbat!
Don't call me Moonbat -- Wingnut!
9.8.2009 4:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Whatever lie gets you through the night is your business. All you are really saying there is anyone who disagrees with you is a racist.

No. Lots of people disagree with me, are conservatives, and are not racist.

But anyone who thinks the National Council of La Raza, which does nothing more than advocate for the rights of Hispanics, is "fascist" is, in fact, a bigot.

One of the guys threatening voters in PA in 2008 was a certified Democrat poll watcher.

And if "poll watcher" were a high and esteemed position in the party, you might have a point.
9.8.2009 4:35pm
Strict:

As far as I can tell none of his advisers was ever involved in production or managing any kind of enterprise.


Your criticisms of Obama are becoming more hysterical and more unbelievable.

How do you explain Sam Nunn? Or Susan Rice? Or Larry Summers (does the World Bank count as a "kind of enterprise"?)? Or Valerie Jarrett? Heck, even David Axelrod has made millions working in private business.

What is a "Marxist," anyway? When I read Marx's passage about how the mechanization of production in 19th Century Germany drove down workers' wages because the machines enabled weaker people (i.e. women and children who otherwise wouldn't be able to do certain heavy factory labor) to work, thereby increasing the labor pool and driving down wages, it seemed to make sense. If one agrees with a simple observation made by Marx, does that make one a Marxist?

Unless you precisely define "Marxist", you cannot accuse someone of being it.

"The company one keeps" is not a workable criterion, sorry.
9.8.2009 4:39pm
Ilya Somin:

In brief response to some of Mark A.R. Kleiman's points:


3. Ilya writes that the "car czar" has "power over the massive auto industry bailout." What power, exactly? No more than the President cares to delegate. Every dollar and every regulation is issued by an agency whose head is confirmed by the Senate.

It's true of course that the various czars have no more power than the president delgeates to them. However, that power can still be immense, and still be wielded without normal senate confirmation or other scrutiny.

It makes sense for the President to designate individuals on his own staff as the "point people" for various issues; the fact that someone in the press decides to call such a person a "czar" has no legal or operational significance. So I'm utterly unable to figure our what the issue is supposed to be. But I am aware that no one who is making a fuss about it now objected to the proliferation of "czars" under GWB. This seems to me an entirely artificial controversy, without substance.

Being a "point person" in the sense of facilitating communication and the like is very different from having substantive authority over an issue - which is what many of the czars have. And, as I noted in the post, this was a bad practice under previous presidents, including Republican ones (I suppose I should note in passing that I was highly critical of GWB's approach to executive power).

4. My use of the Niemoller poem - which is about the unwisdom of ignoring the maltreatment of others because they are unlike oneself - did not imply a comparison between conservatives and Nazis; it seems to me that it is Ilya, and not I, who is "overwrought."

Referencing Niemoller's poem at least implies that the "maltreatment" in question is of comparable magnitude to that which happened under the Nazis. If the maltreatment in question is actually on a much smaller scale, it might make perfect sense to ignore it and focus on other, more important issues - of which there are plenty. Kleiman's new comment also implies that I or others have ignored the "maltreatment" of people like Van Jones because they are "unlike" us. In reality, I have ignored it because 1) I think he deserved much of the criticism he got, and 2) the part he didn't deserve was a fairly minor injustice compared to numerous other matters that were far more worthy of attention.
9.8.2009 4:41pm
JK:

Matt P (mail):
"Communism", like "ham sandwiches", mean many things to many people.

I get the point, really I do, but any argument that can be used for anything winds up meaning nothing.

If you have a particular definition that is supportable and leaves the person in question out of the definition then offer it and you've added something to the discussion. Saying that definitions are hard to pin down seems like a bit of a dodge to me.

The problem isn't so much that people are using an expansive definition of Marxism to apply it to Obama, but rather that they appear to be using two definitions of Marxism: one to catagorize anyone who believes in economic class struggle as a Marxist, and anther, far more extreme definition, to demonize those people by associating them with the extreme ideas of communism.

In this situation "Marxism" is just a word thrown in to obfuscate the nonsensical argument that, "because you believe in economic class struggle, you believe the means of production should be controlled by the state." That's a ridiculous statement, but somehow people thing that by saying "Maxism" a lot it somehow makes sense.
9.8.2009 4:45pm
Strict:

As for the size of the CPUSA, I doubt it ever had more than about 60,000 members in a population of 80-100 million

So in proportional terms, it was only ever about nine times more important than the Federalist Society, an organization which manages to provoke quite a lot of shrieking on the left despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it doesn't advocate a violent overthrow of the government.


BGates,

First, you can't compare the left's "shrieking" (??) about the Federalist Society to the full on anti-communist rage and paranoia of the McCarthy era.

Is the Senate investigating people for possible ties to the Federalist Society? Are the NSA, FBI, CIA, and local police agencies monitoring the activities of thousands of people suspected of participating in Federalist Society activities?

Your analogy is bad.

Second, you can't have it both ways.
You can't claim that the government is in the grips of radical leftists, and then claim that leftists criticize the Federalist Society because it doesn't advocate a violent overthrow of the leftist-dominated government. That doesn't make any sense.
9.8.2009 4:47pm
FC:
Nudge this, Sunstein!
9.8.2009 4:55pm
BGates:
full on anti-communist rage

What level of distaste can you manage for a political system that murdered a hundred million people?

My point was that an organization can be quite influential despite having a membership in the thousands, not that the Federalist Society is in any way a threat like CPUSA.

Is the Senate investigating people for possible ties to the Federalist Society? Are the NSA, FBI, CIA, and local police agencies monitoring the activities of thousands of people suspected of participating in Federalist Society activities?

No. Do you think they should? Do you think CPUSA should have been ignored by the government in the 40s and 50s?

Second, you can't have it both ways.

Fair enough.
"...the Federalist Society, an organization which manages to provoke quite a lot of shrieking on the left despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it doesn't advocate a violent overthrow of the government, whether radical leftists are in charge or not."
9.8.2009 5:02pm
Al (mail):
One of the guys threatening voters in PA in 2008 was a certified Democrat poll watcher.

And if "poll watcher" were a high and esteemed position in the party, you might have a point.


YOU claimed that Democrats did not associate with the NBPP. Not only do they, in fact, associate with the NBPP, but one of the two NBPP members threatening voters in 2008 WAS a Democrat poll watcher and a member of a local Democrat leadership committee.

So you ignore your prior claim and fall back on the argument that it's not relevant unless NBPP members have "high and esteemed position[s]" within the Democrat party. Talk about moving the goalposts. Sheesh.
9.8.2009 5:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So you ignore your prior claim and fall back on the argument that it's not relevant unless NBPP members have "high and esteemed position[s]" within the Democrat party. Talk about moving the goalposts. Sheesh.

First of all, it's the Democratic Party. Anyone who thinks that calling it the "Democrat Party" is clever or persuasive obviously is puerile.

Beyond that, though, there's a big difference between courting racist voters and having a kook somewhere in your operation.

Again, conservatives seem to think the latter gives them immunity for the former. It doesn't.
9.8.2009 5:06pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
A. Zarkov,

While at this point no one can prove him a Marxist, his intention to "spread the wealth," the company he keeps, and his penchant for high taxes, and proliferating bureaucracy certinly opens him up to that accusation.

Is Warren Buffet opened up to accusations of being a Marxist?

Pretty much all his appointments are drawn from academia, the legal world, and finance.

Yes, Wall Street, that hotbed of Marxism.
9.8.2009 5:06pm
Melancton Smith:
They aren't "czars" the are "officers".


He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
9.8.2009 5:08pm
Matt P (mail):
JK,

I hear what you're saying,calling someone a Marxist (or anything else) shouldn't be an excuse to write them off. Personally someone being a Marxist doesn't necessarily make them bad or not worth listening to in my opinion. It merely makes me believe they are wrong -- but there are a lot of good people I think are wrong.

That said I do think it is important to see where ideas come from so that we can see where they are going. Marx, whatever his faults, was an extremely good sociologist in terms of descriptive and even proscriptive analysis and those who agree with him in terms of analysis will likely follow him in politics.

CJColucci,

I'd go so far to say that if one accepted Marx's analysis in good faith that to follow his political ideation is one of the only two fully consistent paths for a person to take. The other would be as you describe, is to accept class struggle, but to fight it to win as one of the rich. I know if I bought into dialectical materialism I would, on my better days at least, be a Marxist and on my more selfish day's I'd be an objectivist.
9.8.2009 5:10pm
JohnK (mail):
"Yes, Wall Street, that hotbed of Marxism."

Actually a lot of people on Wall Street believe a lot of stupid things. Lots of people believe in Marxism or some nitwit varient thereof and are perfectly willing to sell out and work on Wall Street for the money. Just because someone is from Wall Street does not make them an ideological capitalist.
9.8.2009 5:10pm
Matt P (mail):
Sorry, "proscriptive" should be "predictive". My Bad.
9.8.2009 5:14pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Didn't Sly and the Family Stone have a song along the lines of

Don't call me Wingnut -- Moonbat!
Don't call me Moonbat -- Wingnut!


Yankev wins one of the worst threads in recent memory here at the VC.
9.8.2009 5:17pm
JK:

Matt P (mail):
That said I do think it is important to see where ideas come from so that we can see where they are going. Marx, whatever his faults, was an extremely good sociologist in terms of descriptive and even proscriptive analysis and those who agree with him in terms of analysis will likely follow him in politics.

It still seems like you're falling into a "have it both ways" trap: You want to say that the actual inspiration or source of one's ideas is irrelevant because "marxim" is purely descriptive, and doesn't imply lineage in any way, but then you want to tie them to the actual proscriptive arguments made by Marx (or some more "capital M" Marxism).

I really don't think it's vaguely fair to tie someone with no actual connection to "capital M" Marxism to the proscriptive ideas of Marxism purely because they agree with some of the descriptive portions. That's only fair if Marx's proscriptive plans necessarily follow from, even vague and general, agreement with his descriptions of society.

Basically I think you're left with the statement: Marxists believe in class struggle, and Obama (and many mainstream Dems) believe in class struggle, and therefore.... Nothing. There is no conclusion, as says about as much as the fact that both Obama and Ayn Rand believe in private property.
9.8.2009 5:28pm
methodact:
Whom do you claim uses the imperial sign script and uses the purple ink? Who uses the imperial writs which supersede all executive, legislative and judicial authorities?

Where does one aquire the skill-sets to be a perfect authority, absolute, complete, final; without any
condition or encumbrance, without dependence on other persons or things and not relying on any instrument?

Aren't such mad skill-sets adscititious, derived from without? People in this government cannot even prosecute major war-criminals right out in the open and right amongst them. So where are they going to get such powerful chops from a mere pretention to title? How can those that pretend that something absolute really means limited, show a pay-grade equal to the topic, that even hints they understand what they're talking about? Why do you suppose the king on a chessboard can only move one space at a time?

If sanity is the measure of one's sense of perspective and proportionality, than "wingnut" cannotes an adherent to political party or wing, and already, such adherents simply parrot other people's ideas, or group-think. The "nut" qualifier on that suggests such a hack that can't even get the parroting right.

Why do you suppose in James Michener's Shogun, that the shogun's identity is hidden?
9.8.2009 5:30pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
JohnK,

Just because someone is from Wall Street does not make them an ideological capitalist.

Just because someone eats Big Macs doesn't make him an ideological carnivore. But it defies reason to suggest he's a crypto-vegen. And it's patently ridiculous to claim that someone who hires him opens himself up to accusations that he's also a crypto-vegen.
9.8.2009 5:46pm
Matt P (mail):
JK, I don't believe used the term class struggle to define and I think the connection has to be more than just that. If anything the belief in dialectical materialism is a much more telling belief -- that is the idea that material struggle defines existence and that wealth is a zero sum game. Specifically descriptive element that I mean to reference is the Marxist idea that community will eventually replace the family, just as state replaced the city. (Forgive this oversimplification)

Further, my point is that the belief doesn't necessarily have to come from a linage of teachers, but rather a communality of thought. I don't think its at all unfair to say that those who view the world the same way will often work for the same ends. If one believes in the future primary group being a community, than one will often work towards the functional arm of community (i.e. the government) assuming more power.

Agreeing with Marx descriptively is not to say that one will necessarily agree with him prescriptively, but that said I find that people tend to be consistent and Marx's beliefs about politics were also consistent with his description of the world. People don't have to follow Marx from description to prescription, but I find they often do.

All of that to say that I think we are talking about two distinct, but related Marxisms: Sociological Marxism and Political Marxism.

Take O'bama for example -- he seems to me to be in line sociologically with Marx (not a horrible thing, like I said I think Marx is a really good sociologist [wrong, in my opinion, but very good at sociology]) and at the same time he seems to view the role of the community as being very similar to the role of the traditional family and is actively working to put the government into that role. In my opinion O'bama is internally consistent in this and it makes alot of sense.

Could I be wrong, sure, but I don't think its unfair to ask how Marx"ish" he really is and to look at were such thinking usually winds up (usually, not always to be sure).
9.8.2009 6:00pm
MarkField (mail):

So in proportional terms, it was only ever about nine times more important than the Federalist Society, an organization which manages to provoke quite a lot of shrieking on the left despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it doesn't advocate a violent overthrow of the government.


In addition to what Strict already said, you're welcome to find a post of mine anywhere in which I criticized the Federalist Society.
9.8.2009 6:02pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Wow. This thread has really gone off the rails (no relfection on you, Mark, as the last poster).
9.8.2009 6:09pm
Angus:
Some observations on this thread to date.

1. Belief in class struggle is found in many more ideologies than Marxism, and is not a "Marxist" belief. Hell, the struggle in Rome between Patricians and Plebeians pre-dated Marx by some 2,500 years.

2. Critics of Obama tend to hurl terms like Communist, Socialist, Marxist, Fascist, etc., without knowing precisely what they mean. Interesting though that Obama is claimed to be both a communist and a fascist at the same time.

3. Quite a few of the czars are confirmed by the Senate, so why are they included with the others?

4. Who the hell is the "czar who oversees the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan"? There's no such thing. Richard Holbrooke is a special diplomatic envoy, but has no role in the military aspect of those conflicts beyond simple coordination with diplomatic efforts. He's no more a "czar" than John Jay was when George Washington asked him to travel to England as a special envoy to negotiate a trade treaty in 1794.
9.8.2009 6:18pm
neurodoc:
JK: Michelle Malkin advocated rounding up Arabs and Muslims and putting them concentration camps similar the the Japanese internment camps of WW2, so can we at least agree that she's too dangerous of a person for any political alliance?
Can you cite to where she elaborated that proposal, so we can see for ourselves the details? You know the details often make a great deal of difference.
BG: We can agree that she's as dangerous as FDR and Warren Burger.
Warren Burger? I think you have confused the chief justice whose first name was Warren (Burger) with a prior chief justice whose last name was Warren (Earl).
9.8.2009 6:29pm
neurodoc:
FWB: if the president appoints 25 a-holes...
Van Jones would tell you that could never happen, since according to him all the "a-holes" are Republicans.
9.8.2009 6:33pm
neurodoc:
MarkField: I don't like the idea of government thought police enforcing some sort of political correctness absent a very direct relationship to the job.
Where do you see the hand of "government thought police" at work? Van Jones wasn't sleuthed out and hounded out by any government thought police. You should make your case, whatever it may be, employing the facts of this matter.
9.8.2009 6:39pm
neurodoc:
A. Zarkov: While at this point no one can prove him a Marxist, his intention to "spread the wealth," the company he keeps, and his penchant for high taxes, and proliferating bureaucracy certinly opens him up to that accusation.
Leo Marvin: Is Warren Buffet opened up to accusations of being a Marxist?
How is Warren Buffet open to accusations of being a Marxist? Who among the company he choses to keep (as opposed to encounters with political leaders who might be viewed as Marxist) are suspicious? His approach to "spread(ing) the wealth" is through philanthropy, isn't it, and that isn't the Marxist way. Buffet has a "penchant for high taxes* and proliferating bureaucracy"? (I believe he opposes abolition of estate taxes, but I don't know him to favor higher taxes as a general wealth-redistributing device.)

I realize you intend sarcasm, but I miss the point where Buffet is concerned.
9.8.2009 6:48pm
neurodoc:
Joseph Slater: Yankev wins one of the worst threads in recent memory here at the VC.
Yes, good contribution by Yankev. But "one of the worst threads in recent memory here at the VC"? First, good/bad thread is a pretty subjective thing, IMO. And second, even if I agreed that it was "one of the worst," I still come away with a new word to me ("adscititious") embedded within whatever it is that methodact said, so I personally have gotten some value here.
9.8.2009 7:03pm
neurodoc:
Gee, am I morphing into jukeboxograd with these serial posts? Well, until others have finished dinner or whatever else they may be doing at the moment, may I repeat my questions from earlier this afternoon:
neurodoc: Will Kleiman say who exactly he thinks were motivated by "skin color" when opposing the Sotomayor nomination? And can it be about "skin color" when one wouldn't know Sotomayor's background on the basis of appearance. Is "Hispanic" officially "brown" no matter actual skin hue?
I'd especially like to know if it is now the case the "Hispanic" officially equates with "brown skinned" or "person of color" no matter the person's actual skin color or appearance. If someone did not know who she is, would they be likely to identify her as "Hispanic" rather than being of any number of other ethnic backgrounds? We have reached the point where skin color no longer matters, though not in the way that MLK Jr ever imagined, and a Mark Kleiman would have to patiently explain to him?
9.8.2009 7:12pm
neurodoc:
Hey, people are talking here about Karl, not Groucho, Chico or Harpo, right?

Leo Marvin, you intended "crypto-vegan," not "crypto-vegen," right? (I did appreciate the humor of your riposte, just as I appreciate that of Mark Russell and the Capitol Steps, while finding Bill Mahr too distasteful to respond with more than an occasional pained smile.)
9.8.2009 7:19pm
Perseus (mail):
The number of Communists these days is so small -- indeed, it never was very large -- that claims of "danger" are hyperbolic at best.

You didn't need a large number of communists to wreak major damage (e.g., Rosenbergs et al.), but denigrating the threat of communism has been par for the course for the left, which remains rather fond of the Marxist theory that inspired communism and which has and continues to produce plenty of apologetics for various communist regimes.

The objectively insane belief that Barack Obama is a Marxist is offered in (apparently) perfect seriousness.

Obama's "What's the Matter with Kansas" version of class struggle analysis is quite Marxist or perhaps Gramscian Marxist (with those rascally bourgeois Republicans exploiting cultural issues to block progressive economic policies). But I guess I would be "objectively insane" to point that out.
9.8.2009 7:21pm
methodact:
neurodoc:

Ha, my remarks were actually linear. I was taking issue with those that think they know what a czar is and that ascribe to that station, some narrow limiting function, (albeit autonomous). That is an oxymoron. Just as a constitutional convention is understood to risk being a runaway convention, so too is a real czar, as empery admits no boundaries.

The attribution of "czar" to mere government functionaries is however, quite emblematic of the pervasive level of deceit as practiced by both modern government and media.
9.8.2009 7:26pm
MarkField (mail):

Where do you see the hand of "government thought police" at work? Van Jones wasn't sleuthed out and hounded out by any government thought police. You should make your case, whatever it may be, employing the facts of this matter.


The discussion obviously broadened far beyond the particulars of the Jones case to encompass the merits of extremists in government at all. You disagreed with me on that broader point. I was carrying on that discussion.


You didn't need a large number of communists to wreak major damage (e.g., Rosenbergs et al


Agreed.


denigrating the threat of communism has been par for the course for the left


If you mean that some of us prefer historical facts and sober judgment to the hysterical fears of the right, also agreed.


Wow. This thread has really gone off the rails (no relfection on you, Mark, as the last poster).


None taken. Sadly, the last two threads on the same topic were even worse.
9.8.2009 7:31pm
MarkField (mail):
While I really should abandon this thread as I did the last two, I'll just add a bit of explanation to my response to neurodoc.

I don't see that it matters much who first raises the issue of extremist views. It's the government only which can enforce the proscription by firing the employee. That's an incentive we certainly don't need for accusations of "wrong thoughts".
9.8.2009 7:36pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Strict:

"Your criticisms of Obama are becoming more hysterical and more unbelievable."

"How do you explain Sam Nunn? Or Susan Rice? Or Larry Summers (does the World Bank count as a "kind of enterprise"?)? Or Valerie Jarrett? Heck, even David Axelrod has made millions working in private business."

Hysterical?

Sam is a lawyer-politician. When did he ever run a productive enterprise? The World Bank is a financial institution and I included that. David Axelrod has never run a productive enterprise. He had a political consulting company. That's not a productive enterprise. Valerie Jarrett comes a little closer in having managed a real estate company. Susan Rice-- no experience in a productive enterprise.

A productive enterprise makes something. It creates a value-added exportable product. Productive enterprises were the core of American capitalism and the primary driver behind the American high standard of living.

Obama's appointments-- in the main-- come from the legal, political, academic and financial sectors. Virtually none of his people have ever managed anything productive like an automobile company, or a steel factory or even a software company. Yet he appoints guys like Steven Rattner as head of Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry. Rattner knows nothing about making cars-- he came from finance.

I see no engineers, factory managers, and businessman who ran companies involved in real production and not consulting or running campaigns. If these criticisms are "hysterical" then so be it.
9.8.2009 7:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Leo Marvin:

"Is Warren Buffet opened up to accusations of being a Marxist?"

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates spread the wealth by giving away their own money. They don't want to satisfy their charitable impulses with my money. When Van Jones and Obama talk about "spreading the wealth," they mean other people's wealth not theirs.
9.8.2009 7:44pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
neurodoc and Zarkov,

Buffet favor higher taxes on the wealthy. He has more than once pointed to what he considers the unfairness of being taxed at a lower rate than his secretary. And the company he keeps includes Barack Obama. If Obama is infected with Marxism by the company he keeps, doesn't that make him a carrier?

And yes, vegan.
9.8.2009 8:02pm
Strict:

As far as I can tell none of his advisers was ever involved in production or managing any kind of enterprise.



A productive enterprise makes something. It creates a value-added exportable product.


So, you refused to explain how all those Obama advisers I listed (and many that I didn't list) did not manage "any kind of enterprise," and instead asserted a new claim that none have managed a company whose primary business is manufacturing products.

Cute.
9.8.2009 8:35pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Leo Marvin:

"Buffet favor higher taxes on the wealthy."

He does, and he does not favor taxes so high as to be detrimental to business. Not only that, Obama has largely sidelined both Buffet and Volker, and they are becoming increasing more critical of his policies. Besides Marxism is more than just high taxes.

I think they got seduced and now have buyer's regret.
9.8.2009 9:01pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Strict:

You are right. I should have been more clear about the meaning of "enterprise." The Obama appointees share the common culture found in academia, law firms, political consulting houses, media etc. What people commonly refer to as the "elites."
9.8.2009 9:08pm
neurodoc:
Leo Marvin: Buffet favor higher taxes on the wealthy. He has more than once pointed to what he considers the unfairness of being taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.
Not to be disputatious, but isn't so simple. In one of those stories, they were talking about "carried interest," which affects a very select few and which has been widely decried as an aberration, allowing what is in truth ordinary income to be treated as capital gains, reducing the rate on it from the 35% that hedge fund managers should pay to 15%. Were it not for the likes of Schumer and Dodd, who are supported so generously by the Wall Street beneficiaries of this unfairness, the tax code might be changed.

Also, no distinction is made between marginal tax rates and effective ones, or the effect of blending different rates. How many people realize huge capital gains year after year, while getting less ordinary income than the $60K annually they pay their secretaries? Does Buffet pay nothing at the top marginal rate? Has he ever made public his returns do we can see?

Does Buffet argue that our income tax structure should be made considerably steeper than it currently is, or is he saying that egregious loopholes like the "carried interest" one should be closed and dividends should not be taxed less than they have been? I believe that few economists think it would make good economic sense to tax long-term capital gains at the same rates as ordinary income, but maybe you can prove me wrong.

I do think it over the top to call Obama a Marxist on the basis of any evidence that has been brought forward, but I think it very much more over the top to say that if he might be one, then Buffet must be one too.
9.8.2009 9:55pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Beck, Limbaugh, and some other conservative talk show hosts and pundits do indeed say ridiculous things

Everyone I know says ridiculous things. The literary device known as hyperbole is, in fact, a fancy way to say that someone is saying ridiculous things on purpose, for effect. I've noticed that hyperbole as a way to emphasize one's point often leads to people to embrace the hyperbole as the point.

Another variation is the slippery slope. Any slippery slopes sound quite ridiculous. Yet I have it on good authority that slippery slopes are not logical fallacies, but in fact a perfectly good heuristic in some circumstances.

Passion often sounds ridiculous. Have you ever considered how utterly goofy most passionate poetry and love songs are? Passionless politicians attempting to unseat incumbents have a hard row to hoe. So do ridiculous politicians attempting to unseat incumbents.

I'm rather glad we have ridiculous statements, even though I often ridicule particular ones.

Yours,
Wince
9.8.2009 10:17pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
neuro,

I'm not suggesting it's anything short of ridiculous to call Warren Buffet a Marxist. On the contrary, my point was it's utterly ridiculous to call either Buffet or Obama a Marxist. But if degrees of ridiculousness matter, then sure, I agree it's somewhat less utterly ridiculous to call Obama one.

As for Buffet's position on taxes, the common thread running through his comments over the years is that wealthy people should pay more.
9.8.2009 10:57pm
Melancton Smith:
Angus wrote:

2. Critics of Obama tend to hurl terms like Communist, Socialist, Marxist, Fascist, etc., without knowing precisely what they mean. Interesting though that Obama is claimed to be both a communist and a fascist at the same time.


There is little difference between a communist and a fascist. Both elevate the state over the individual. Both require slave labor to function.
9.9.2009 12:38am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
There is little difference between a communist and a fascist. Both elevate the state over the individual. Both require slave labor to function.

While it is possible to make this argument on a functional level, ideologically, the paradigms are different enough that fascists cannot be communists and vice-versa.

It's like putting Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich in the same category because they are both anti-war.

And the point is, people who call Obama both fascist and communist just don't care what the words mean. They are just using them as synonyms for "bad".
9.9.2009 1:52am
Brett Bellmore:

Yet I have it on good authority that slippery slopes are not logical fallacies, but in fact a perfectly good heuristic in some circumstances.


Strictly speaking, it's perfectly possible (Even common!) for something to be a logical fallacy, AND a perfectly good heuristic. A heuristic just has to be right more often than random chance, a form of logical argument has to be right categorically all the time in order to escape being a fallacy. If you can produce even one case where the heuristic fails, it's a fallacy, but it may still be very useful.

Logic: It's a subset of reasoning, not the whole thing.
9.9.2009 7:08am
neurodoc:
Leo Marvin, we agree that it is over the top to argue that Obama is a Marxist. I do, however, think it a legitimate and not entirely settled question how far to the Left Obama would go given the chance.

Re Buffet, I was only aware of his stance against outright abolition of estate taxes, which the Republicans were pushing for not long ago, calling them "death taxes." (My gripe with them on that issue was like mine with them on Social Security, that is that by making these all or none propositions, their ideologic extremes or no needed reform, we get no reform, no matter how much needed.) If he favors generally higher taxes for the wealthy (definition of wealthy?), one might wonder how much of his own nut he would gladly have given the government while he was busy assembling his extraordinary fortune and to what lengths he has gone to avoid (not evade) taxes. I would be surprised if any deal Buffet has ever done was done without regard to the tax consequences, with things structured so as to pay the least in taxes. And the same for arranging his own possible affairs. He plans to direct most of his wealth to charity after his death, preferring that to seeing 45% of it go to the government however much he may believe the wealthy should be taxed more. And I would be surprised if he has not some very sophisticated estate planning to minimize taxes on the balance of it.

All pretty far from the topic of this post, "czars," it is where we are at the tail end of a thread that has been going on a good while. (That's sort of a whispered apology for the OT.) I do appreciate the chance for intelligent discourse.
9.9.2009 9:02am
Joseph Slater (mail):
neurodoc:

Yes, "one of the worst threads in recent memory here at the VC" is a "pretty subjective thing." But serious claims that our president is a Marxist come pretty close to objectively ignorant.

But I'm with you on learning the word "adscititious" from this thread, so I agree it hasn't been a total loss.
9.9.2009 9:07am
alittlesense:
I object strongly to using the term "wingnut" to decribe a political crazy. As a frequent user of hardware, I find wingnuts to be useful items, easy to loosen and tighten, and not offensive to anyone.

I may have to start a wingnut anti-defamation league.
9.9.2009 12:53pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
neurodoc,

Buffet has said, I think in his interview with Tom Brokaw, that he makes no effort to reduce his tax liability. He does no individual tax planning and owns no tax shelters. I take for granted that doesn't apply to Berkshire Hathaway, which obviously has a duty to its shareholders to minimize its tax liability. But if I recall correctly, Buffet has never favored higher corporate taxes, only that that wealthy individuals bear a greater share of the individual tax burden.

As for estate planning, again this is from memory, but I believe he committed to giving away around 90% of his wealth inter vivos, mostly to the Gates Foundation, and speculated that he'll probably give away most of the rest if he lives long enough.
9.9.2009 3:43pm
neurodoc:
Leo Marvin, I take your points. But how about this by way of rebuttal...

Berkshire Hathaway is in effect Warren Buffet's alter ego. Is much of his wealth and the income stream he receives separate and distinct from BH's? If it isn't, and BH strives for every tax advantage it can get, doing so in the interest of its shareholders collectively, might it be that Buffet has not so indirectly benefit from that tax planning and tax sheltering, and hence doesn't require individual tax planning and so-called tax shelters?

It is highly admirable that Buffet at age 85 is giving away 90% of his wealth (was at $52B, now $27B?) to charity inter vivos rather than trying to propagate dynastic wealth a la Rockefellers, DuPonts, Fords, etc. But Buffet has held on to that wealth as long as he could in order to put together as much wealth as he could, and he has done a superlative job of that. He has put off the tax man for a long time, and will still be directing most of his money according to his own preferences rather than giving it over to the government to reduce the deficit. So, he is availing himself to the fullest of the tax deduction for charitable contributions. (And those contributions are more like to do good than the roughly $500M T. Boone Pickens has given to Oklahoma State, half or more of it to OSU's athletic program, so they can field championship teams.)

Obama may change our tax system, decreasing the value of charitable deductions considerably, which would mean the wealthy would pay more in taxes (and/or charities will get less). Does Buffet favor such a change to tax the wealthy more heavily, or does Buffet want to see charitable giving, like his own, encouraged by the government, though to do so may mean decreasing tax revenues?
9.9.2009 5:51pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Doc, there is a not so subtle difference between saying that all republicans are a-holes and saying that all a-holes are republicans. After all, some libertarians are not republicans.
9.9.2009 11:35pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
neuro,

I'm not sure I understand the criticism. My understanding is virtually all his BH stock has been or will be committed to philanthropy. Yes, he held onto it, tax free, for a long time, but he's also been on record for a long time as intending to give it to charity. So if the Gates Foundation is the ultimate beneficiary of BH's (presumed) tax avoidance, and Warren Buffet paid the full freight on the small fraction he cashed out, lived on and will pass to his children, how is he contradicting himself?

I have no idea what his views are on any particular tax proposals other than abolishing the estate tax. I'd guess he favors higher marginal rates, but would oppose cutting into the charitable deduction.
9.10.2009 5:02am

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