Friday, March 6, 2009

The Founding of

By Matthew Rozsa and Brian Davis

Note: The following conversation was held between myself and my good friend on February 25, 2009. As I was lucky enough to have this dialogue via a medium that lends itself to preservation (i.e., Instant Messenger), I saved the transcript and deemed it appropriate to open my blog with its contents. This is the conversation that planted the seeds from which has sprung. Everything you see here is exactly as it was, unedited and unabridged, although I have divided it up into chapters so as to make browsing a bit easier.

Chapter One: Obama’s “State of the Union Address”
ZweihanderSword (3:46:23 PM): greetings, comrade
Benecras (3:46:36 PM): Salutations, ally.
ZweihanderSword (3:47:09 PM): any interesting new political news?
Benecras (3:48:00 PM): Did you watch Obama's de facto State of the Union Address, as well as the response delivered by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (the man who I've been saying for years is seeking the Republican presidential nomination)?
ZweihanderSword (3:48:23 PM): nope
Benecras (3:48:28 PM): You should have done so.
Benecras (3:48:33 PM): Both speeches are available on YouTube.
Benecras (3:48:48 PM): Obama's was the best he's given since he became president.
Benecras (3:48:55 PM): It was precisely what this nation needed.
Benecras (3:49:08 PM): How familiar are you with Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats?
ZweihanderSword (3:49:17 PM): not very
Benecras (3:50:14 PM): Although FDR is best remembered for his soaring rhetoric ("We have nothing to fear but fear itself...", "One third of a nation ill-fed, ill-clad...", "A day which will live in infamy..."), his greatest contributions to presidential oratory came from his "fireside chats".
ZweihanderSword (3:50:37 PM): live radio broadcasts
Benecras (3:50:44 PM): Exactly.
Benecras (3:51:23 PM): He understood that Americans were concerned about events both at home (during the Great Depression) and abroad (during World War Two), and saw that a large part of his job as president was in educating them about the state of affairs at home and/or overseas, as well as explaining to them what his policies were, how they would be implemented, why he believed they would work, and what they could expect occurring from them.
Benecras (3:51:49 PM): Those speeches were not meant to be poetic or memorable. They served instead a very different but equally crucial function - of providing people with a nuts-and-bolts idea of what the president had in mind.
Benecras (3:51:58 PM): Never before had an American president attempted anything like this.
ZweihanderSword (3:52:05 PM): i think obama should do a weekly podcast
Benecras (3:52:14 PM): Granted, prior to the 1920s, the technology didn't exist which would have made this even possible.
Benecras (3:52:41 PM): Nevertheless, Roosevelt used his eloquence, intelligence, and almost grandfatherly presence to both comfort people and provide them with faith in the soundness of his policies.
Benecras (3:52:48 PM): That, in a nutshell, is what Obama did with his speech last night.
Benecras (3:52:53 PM): It was perfect.
Benecras (3:53:44 PM): He covered a panoply of subjects in unprecedented depth and detail - our economic crisis, health care reform, energy independence, and education - outlined what he felt needed to be done to solve them, what we could expect to occur as a result of his policy proposals, and so on.
Benecras (3:54:09 PM): He managed to do this for just under an hour without ever once dragging on or becoming pedantic.
Benecras (3:55:36 PM): He convincingly explained each of his policy ideas and why he felt they would work, rebutted the various charges being made against his programs by Republicans, and tied everything together under a single theme - namely, that America had problems which posed a grave threat, but which with the right policies it could emerge from stronger and more prosperous than ever before.
Benecras (3:55:59 PM): The only set of issues he didn't discuss were those pertaining to foreign policy (Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and so on), although I suspect that that was the wisest course of action.
Benecras (3:56:16 PM): He had an hour's worth of material about domestic and economic issues, and probably deemed it wisest to leave foreign policy for an entirely separate address.
ZweihanderSword (3:56:46 PM): so what did bobby jindal say?
Benecras (3:57:04 PM): Jindal's speech, and I say this as an unbiased critic of rhetoric and not as a partisan liberal, was horrible.
Benecras (3:57:08 PM): He made three crucial mistakes:
ZweihanderSword (3:58:46 PM): which were?
Benecras (3:58:49 PM): 1) He over-inflected. This goes back to one of the basic tenets of oratory and one of the greatest challenges presented in speechmaking - how do you sound both lofty and conversational (a paradox in its own right) without making your tone seem artifical and/or forced? Obama has long been a master at doing precisely that (as are Bill Clinton and, loathe though we may be to admit it, Ronald Reagan and Mike Huckabee). Jindal failed miserably. His tone emoted so excessively that it became mockable.
Benecras (4:00:33 PM): 2) He didn't have a coherent theme. Another challenge in presenting any lengthy speech is in connecting your various arguments, anecdotes, rhetorical flourishes, and other verbiage into a single speech with an overarching theme. That is crucial to the success of any lengthy address; if you fail, then it winds up coming off as a hodgepodge of random thoughts and ideas, which makes it hard to follow and even harder to remember (except in the most negative terms). Once again, Obama (who had to discuss a much larger array of subjects than Jindal and needed more than quadruple the time to do it) succeeded wonderfully in this. Jindal failed, and his speech had virtually no unifying thematic elements.
Benecras (4:02:11 PM): 3) Jindal missed a grand opportunity to deflate Obama. One of the advantages of delivering a response to a State of the Union address is that you speak IMMEDIATELY AFTER the president, which means that before people can react positively to the president's speech (assuming that he did a good job), you have the opportunity to analyze everything he said point-by-point and undermine it. If you do this effectively (as Edmund Muskie did to Richard Nixon in 1970 or Jim Webb did to George W. Bush in 2007), you can do a great deal of damage to the president, both by preventing his agenda from ever taking off (since you shoot it down before it can really settle into people's minds) and by making him look bad independent of his own words.
Benecras (4:03:11 PM): Jindal failed miserably in that regard as well. His speech barely touched on anything Obama said, making it extremely clear that he either didn't watch the speech or wasn't paying attention. The words he spoke were obviously written well before Obama delivered his address, and as a result, didn't really touch upon any of the points he made except in the most general terms. It missed a great strategic opportunity.

Chapter Two: The Republicans, Who Are In Trouble Now
Benecras (4:05:10 PM): The Republicans are in trouble now.
Benecras (4:05:37 PM): Polls show that most Americans support President Obama, are mildly supportive of the Democrats in congress, and are outright opposed to the way Republicans have been handling things.
Benecras (4:06:04 PM): They are clearly adopting an obstructionist strategy - i.e., whatever the president says or does, they will oppose it merely because he is the president from an opposing party.
Benecras (4:07:09 PM): The problem with that approach is that Obama is an extremely popular president right now, and by aligning themselves against him, they are not only working against public sentiment, but giving the strong impression that they are more interested in partisan politics than helping the country.
Benecras (4:07:17 PM): It is a strategic blunder of massive proportions.
Benecras (4:07:31 PM): What they should be doing is what the Republicans in Congress did when Franklin Roosevelt was elected.
Benecras (4:07:49 PM): They recognized that he was popular, and that his policies might work, so most Republicans embraced FDR hook, line, and sinker.
Benecras (4:07:51 PM): Why?
Benecras (4:08:42 PM): Because that way if he failed, they could still oppose him (on the grounds that they were the oppositional party), and if he succeeded, they could then claim partial credit for his achievements, thereby denying him the full benefits of his success and protecting themselves from charges of having been, well, obstructionist.
Benecras (4:08:50 PM): That's the smarter approach in times like this for two reasons:
Benecras (4:11:09 PM): 1) When the nation is mired in crisis, people are looking for results. While normally people are made uneasy by the idea of both parties working in cahoots (it suggests a one-party government), in times of catastrophe people want to know that their government is putting its differences aside and working to solve problems. Because the president is the leader in times like this, people thus expect both parties in Congress to more or less approve of anything the president suggests. That is why Democrats supported most of George W. Bush's suggestions for the first year or so after September 11th, and why most Republicans did the same for Lyndon Johnson after John Kennedy's assassination and for Franklin Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor. To do otherwise gives the impression that you care less about your country than you do about your own petty hatreds and your personal career.
ZweihanderSword (4:11:43 PM): brb
Benecras (4:11:46 PM): 2) As I just explained, it can never hurt. If the president's policies fail, you can distance yourself from them by opposing them later, and thus still reap the benefits of kicking him when he's down; if they succeed, then you flew on his coattails.
Benecras (4:11:48 PM): OK
ZweihanderSword (4:16:19 PM): bacl
Benecras (4:16:29 PM): Did you read my thoughts?
Benecras (4:16:33 PM): I know that I was quite verbose.
ZweihanderSword (4:16:39 PM): yeah, i just finished
Benecras (4:16:45 PM): And?
ZweihanderSword (4:17:03 PM): it sounds like good news for the democrats
ZweihanderSword (4:18:11 PM): unfortunately it would seem, judging by what you sent me yesterday, that there are many among us who support, if not outright prefer, partisan squabbling over real action
Benecras (4:18:22 PM): Absolutely.
Benecras (4:18:44 PM): But every poll that has been taken shows that most Americans favor President Obama (I love writing those two words next to each other) and congressional Democrats over the Republicans.
Benecras (4:19:16 PM): The polls also show that an overwhelming majority of Americans feel that President Obama is making a solid effort to work with Republicans in Congress, and blame Republicans for all of the difficulties that have occurred so far.
ZweihanderSword (4:19:27 PM): that's good
ZweihanderSword (4:19:29 PM): i know i do

Chapter Three: Republicans Haven’t Changed That Much Since The Days of Coolidge
Benecras (4:19:35 PM): "Vote the straight Republican ticket, regardless of the qualifications of the candidate even though you know a man to be incompetent... even though you know him to be immoral, vote for him because he represents the Republican ticket."
- Benjamin Willoughby, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court (1925)
ZweihanderSword (4:19:36 PM): although i am disappointed in obama
ZweihanderSword (4:19:46 PM): simply because he conceded so early
Benecras (4:19:47 PM): The Republican philosophy hasn't changed that much since the days of Calvin Coolidge.
Benecras (4:20:05 PM): Either in political strategy or economic philosophy.
Benecras (4:20:51 PM): At one point in his speech, Obama addressed those who complained about the fact that he is going to raise taxes to pay for health care reform, energy independence, education reform, economic stimulus, and deficit reduction with the following quote:
ZweihanderSword (4:23:02 PM): ?
Benecras (4:23:10 PM): I'm trying to find it.
Benecras (4:23:12 PM): Give me a second.
Benecras (4:23:57 PM): In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you'll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut - that's right, a tax cut - for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.
Benecras (4:25:46 PM): When he said "if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime", every Democrat got up and delivered a standing ovation. The Republicans remained in their seats (and the camera zoomed in one old man whose eyes were literally bulging out of his head and his neck veins literally bulging out), and then after about ten seconds, they sort of looked at each and half-heartedly got out of their seats (probably because they realized that people could see them and they didn't want to look bad).
Benecras (4:26:47 PM): One thing I noticed from his speech is that Obama is proposing policies that are much more aggressively liberal than anything contained in his first economic stimulus package.
Benecras (4:26:56 PM): What that suggests to me is that he learned from his mistake and is determined to not repeat it.
Benecras (4:27:24 PM): He was under the mistaken impression that Republicans in Congress have legitimate differences of opinion with Democrats that they will put aside when the welfare of the country is at stake.
Benecras (4:27:52 PM): He has now learned, the hard way, that this is simply not so, and I think he is modifying his approach in dealing with them accordingly.
Benecras (4:28:15 PM): To me, their mentality is proven in the look on that old man's face when Obama mentioned that he would not raise taxes for those who make less than a quarter-million dollars by one dime.
Benecras (4:28:34 PM): When they hear that, they're not hearing about the 98% of Americans who will see a massive improvement in their standard of living.
ZweihanderSword (4:28:48 PM): they're only thinking about the rich folks
Benecras (4:28:49 PM): Who will suddenly have opportunities open up to them that are closed because the malfeasance of the wealthy few.
Benecras (4:28:55 PM): Exactly.
Benecras (4:28:59 PM): That's why they didn't stand up and cheer.
Benecras (4:29:17 PM): Because what Obama said means that taxes WILL be raised on the upper 2%, the people who make a quarter-million dollars a year or more.
ZweihanderSword (4:29:54 PM): good
ZweihanderSword (4:30:10 PM): let them pay their fair share
Benecras (4:30:28 PM): I wish everyone in America had watched that speech, and more specifically noticed the reaction of Republicans when Obama announced that he was planning on having the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.
Benecras (4:30:36 PM): It would make it mighty hard for any of them to be re-elected.
Benecras (4:30:42 PM): The problem, of course, is that people DON'T watch.
Benecras (4:31:03 PM): As a result, these Republicans will go back to their districts and speak proudly of their populism without anyone seeing through their lies.
ZweihanderSword (4:32:21 PM): we should set up a secret organization that replaces every ounce of chocalate and pillow mints at every country club and 5 star hotel with laxatives
Benecras (4:32:40 PM): lol
Benecras (4:32:51 PM): Wall Street tumbled after Obama's speech, which Republicans are jumping all over.
Benecras (4:32:55 PM): This ignores the reason why it tumbled, though.
Benecras (4:33:29 PM): In his speech, Obama alluded to the possibility that the government might temporarily take over (or at least crack down on) banks that aren't solvent enough to effectively serve the public.
Benecras (4:33:37 PM): Wall Street hates any news that involves regulation.
ZweihanderSword (4:33:54 PM): rich people, fearing the repeal of the bush tax cuts, started selling?
Benecras (4:34:23 PM): No, Wall Street reacts to the confidence of the wealthy in their markets. They fear government regulation and react accordingly.
Benecras (4:34:41 PM): Oh, by the way, Governor Jindal (who I am on printed record predicting would be the Republican presidential nominee as early as August 2008) has announced that he will not accept the economic stimulus money Obama is giving governors for his State of Louisiana.
Benecras (4:34:55 PM): Then when he realized how bad it would look, he announced that he would "only" accept 99% of the money.
Benecras (4:35:01 PM): Guess what 1% he is rejecting?
Benecras (4:35:06 PM): I'll give you a hint:
Benecras (4:35:14 PM): It's not the tax cuts for the wealthy.
ZweihanderSword (4:35:15 PM): tax breakes for low income families
Benecras (4:35:21 PM): Nope.
Benecras (4:35:28 PM): He is rejecting all unemployment benefits.
Benecras (4:35:30 PM): That's right.
Benecras (4:35:46 PM): Even as unemployment continues to escalate in his state, he is refusing any government funds that will help the unemployed makes ends meet.
Benecras (4:36:31 PM): Congressman Barney Frank (a great liberal from Massachusetts, and a man who makes me proud to be a Jew) was on Keith Olbermann, and he had a great line. It was something to the effect of, "Jindal has created a new definition of bravery - my ability to endure the suffering I impose on others".
ZweihanderSword (4:37:13 PM): jindal is indian
ZweihanderSword (4:37:23 PM): i sincerely doubt that his ancestry is from a lower caste
Benecras (4:38:07 PM): I have no idea whether he's a Brahmin or an untouchable.
Benecras (4:38:19 PM): in a way, I don't care.
Benecras (4:38:33 PM): His ideas are the problem, not his parents' socioeconomic status.
Benecras (4:39:36 PM): In other news, Northern Trust (a Chicago-based bank) was found to have layed off hundreds of workers and continued to refuse opening up credit AFTER they'd received government bailout money... but they did throw parties with that money, complete with rock-and-roll bands and the best catering money can buy.
Benecras (4:39:47 PM): And note that I used the plural, "parties", not the singular, "party".
Benecras (4:39:51 PM): There were four.
Benecras (4:39:55 PM): They costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Benecras (4:40:04 PM): * - cost
Benecras (4:40:07 PM): I hate typos.

Chapter Four: Where Do I Come Off Making Grandiloquent Statements About The Sweep of Human History?
ZweihanderSword (4:40:27 PM): how can these people live with themselves?
Benecras (4:41:01 PM): Their logic is pretty simple, actually.
Benecras (4:41:35 PM): Ever since the beginning of human history, in every civilization known to man, there has always been a small class of people on top and a large class of people on the bottom.
Benecras (4:41:43 PM): In their eyes, that's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will always be.
Benecras (4:41:53 PM): Therefore there is no "right" and "wrong" when matters of socioeconomics are concerned.
Benecras (4:41:57 PM): Things just "are".
Benecras (4:42:06 PM): And they're just grateful to be at the top instead of the bottom.
Benecras (4:42:31 PM): They consider right and wrong to be measured by how you treat your family and friends, and maybe a couple of pet causes that you champion vis-a-vis charities and other philanthropic work.
Benecras (4:42:34 PM): All of that is well and good.
Benecras (4:42:47 PM): But at the end of the day, there will always be a small group at the top and a large group at the bottom.
Benecras (4:43:05 PM): To argue that this is wrong is to be a silly idealist, almost juvenile in your naivete.
Benecras (4:43:19 PM): Of course, on some level, they do know that it is wrong.
ZweihanderSword (4:43:24 PM): until the large group becomes so large and so downtrodden that they rise up and destroy the small group
Benecras (4:43:26 PM): The argument I just told you is what they tell themselves.
Benecras (4:43:35 PM): It is NOT what they actually believe.
Benecras (4:43:57 PM): Deep down, they know that they are in the wrong, and that the people they oppress may and probably will someday make things right.
Benecras (4:44:01 PM): How can we prove this?
Benecras (4:44:07 PM): With two simple observations:
Benecras (4:45:02 PM): 1) If they were so confident that this is just the natural order of things, why would they be worried that liberal economic legislation would upset that ordre? Hypothetically, if this is the way things will always be, then no amount of legislation could possibly impair their status, and they'd have nothing to worry about. Indeed, they'd be better off ALLOWING this legislation to pass, as sops to the poor and middle-class to shut them up and thus even more securely preserve the status of the wealthy.
Benecras (4:46:18 PM): 2) History is full of examples of revolutions taking place due to situations very similar to this one. Look at France during the late-1700s, or Germany during the mid-1800s, or Russia during the early-1900s.
Benecras (4:46:46 PM): But those aren't the best examples.
Benecras (4:46:51 PM): The best examples are the revolutions that WORKED.
Benecras (4:47:03 PM): Look at America under the New Deal, or the countless successful socioeconomic programs of reform in Western Europe.
Benecras (4:47:19 PM): The situation of the average man has shown a steady rate of improvement over the centuries that only a simpleton could overlook.
Benecras (4:47:34 PM): It means much less to be wealthy, well-connected, and powerful today than it has ever meant at any previous point in human history.
Benecras (4:47:43 PM): That is what frightens them.
Benecras (4:47:48 PM): The current of history is against them.
ZweihanderSword (4:48:11 PM): vampires
Benecras (4:48:17 PM): That is why they champion Ronald Reagans and George W. Bushes and anyone else who they believe can roll back the progress that was made under Jefferson, Jackson, the two Roosevelts, Wilson, and Johnson.
Benecras (4:48:35 PM): It is ultimately a holding action against the inevitable.
Benecras (4:48:44 PM): This, by the way, is why I am an optimist.
Benecras (4:48:53 PM): In the grander sweep of history, we're winning and their losing.
Benecras (4:48:58 PM): * they're
Benecras (4:49:02 PM): That typo was my own fault.
Benecras (4:49:32 PM): The point is that they are trying to delay the inevitable, and their sheer stark terror comes from the fact that all of the signs point to the reality that socioeconomic egalitarianism is inevitable.
ZweihanderSword (4:49:37 PM): sooner or later the vampires are going to run out of blood to suck
Benecras (4:50:08 PM): The dream of the modern conservative movement is to bring us back to the Gilded Ages.
Benecras (4:50:24 PM): That period in America's political and economic history that began with the end of the Civil War and continued up until Theodore Roosevelt became president.
Benecras (4:50:28 PM): 1865 to 1901
ZweihanderSword (4:50:43 PM): with southern aristocrats and their slave-worked plantations
Benecras (4:50:54 PM): No, that was before the Civil War.
Benecras (4:51:01 PM): You're thinking Antebellum - 1789 to 1861.
Benecras (4:51:08 PM): I'm talking about the Gilded Age, 1865-1901.
Benecras (4:51:20 PM): That was the height of laissez-faire capitalism, when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and the middle-class strove to be the former while teetering toward being the latter.
Benecras (4:51:50 PM): When every congressman and senator from both parties agreed on every ideological issue of import, and only feigned disagreement on issues that were long dead (such as the sectionalism of the Civil War) in order to keep the public distracted from the real problems they faced.
Benecras (4:52:16 PM): They were all bought by major corporations, and controlled by big business.
Benecras (4:52:21 PM): Government was a lame joke.
Benecras (4:52:30 PM): Large corporations were king, and ruled the nation.
Benecras (4:52:41 PM): That is what they want to go back to.
Benecras (4:53:43 PM): it began to change when Leon Czolgosz assassinated William McKinley on September 6, 1901 (although President McKinley didn't die until one week later).
Benecras (4:53:53 PM): That's when Theodore Roosevelt became president and began his progressive policies.
Benecras (4:54:30 PM): It continued through the presidencies of all the twentieth century liberals - Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, to a lesser extent Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and to a lesser extent Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.
ZweihanderSword (4:54:48 PM): it's utterly disgusting that republicans to this day invoke teddy roosevelt as a champion of their party
Benecras (4:54:56 PM): Oh yes.
Benecras (4:55:37 PM): Since 1901, the Republican Party has been engaged in a nonstop and fierce effort to undo everything that was done first by Theodore Roosevelt, and then later by Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, et al.
Benecras (4:56:15 PM): They have produced several presidents who helped them in that capacity, including William Taft (who did some trustbusting but only as a sop to liberals), Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Hebert Hoover, Ronald Reagan, and the two George Bushes.
Benecras (4:56:41 PM): They preferred Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon over their liberal alternatives, but never really liked how much both fo them "sold out" to liberals in their policies.
Benecras (4:57:41 PM): Harding and Coolidge actually succeeded in ending the age of progressivism that had been perpetuated by Roosevelt and Wilson, and by the time Hoover soundly defeated Alfred E. Smith in the election of 1928 (a landslide accentuated by Smith's Catholicism), it looked like the two decades of economic liberalism were a fluke and that laissez-faire capitalism was here to stay.
Benecras (4:57:47 PM): Then the Great Depression happened.
Benecras (4:58:01 PM): The policies of Hoover and his two Republican predecessors were discredited.
Benecras (4:58:31 PM): And yet another Roosevelt brought an end to the era that they had began in 1920 (when Warren Harding defeated James Cox), and which they had been certain had kept progressivism dead and buried.
Benecras (4:58:51 PM): The liberal era begun by Franklin Roosevelt continued for forty-eight years.
Benecras (4:59:34 PM): It was brought to a close when the failures of Jimmy Carter's presidency resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 (and as much as I respect Carter, his presidency did contain many mistakes, albeit nowhere near the magnitude of what Hoover had done forty-eight years earlier).
Benecras (5:00:07 PM): The political era that began then has now lasted for twenty-eight years..
Benecras (5:00:23 PM): Our only hope for getting out of it rests on the character of Barack Obama.
Benecras (5:00:51 PM): If he fails, the Republicans will come back with Bobby Jindal or Mitt Romney in 2012, and we will go right back to where we were - temporary prosperity to keep us quiet, and then years later, another crash.
Benecras (5:01:10 PM): Don't worry, I'm done pontificating (although I would like to put this conversation on Facebook, with your permission).
ZweihanderSword (5:01:38 PM): lol
ZweihanderSword (5:01:40 PM): of course
ZweihanderSword (5:01:50 PM): but it's more of a reactionary essay than a conversation
Benecras (5:02:19 PM): LOL
Benecras (5:02:42 PM): Although the term "reactionary" is often used as a synonym for "right-wing", so I'd prefer that you call it something else.
ZweihanderSword (5:03:11 PM): well it's up to you
ZweihanderSword (5:03:15 PM): you're the one posting it
Benecras (5:03:35 PM): Just to make this more of a "conversation", what do you think of the various ideas I presented?
ZweihanderSword (5:04:14 PM): well, to be honest, there's not nearly as much "idea" here as there is "fact
ZweihanderSword (5:04:48 PM): you're more or less just eloquently stating the obvious
Benecras (5:05:09 PM): I take that as a great compliment.
Benecras (5:05:22 PM): The real job of any pundit is to eloquently state the obvious, even if others don't see it.
ZweihanderSword (5:05:27 PM): at least, what's obvious to intelligent people who care about more than themselves and their bank accounts

Chapter Five: Brian Makes The Suggestion…
ZweihanderSword (5:05:56 PM): you should really do a blog
Benecras (5:06:02 PM): I hate blogs.
ZweihanderSword (5:06:06 PM): nonetheless
ZweihanderSword (5:06:28 PM): i think you'd make a phenomenal pundit in the medium of the written word
Benecras (5:06:46 PM): I appreciate the compliment, but despise the medium of cyberliterature as a rule of thumb.
ZweihanderSword (5:07:05 PM): perhaps you should reconsider that opinion
ZweihanderSword (5:07:15 PM): granted, any asshat can put anything he wants on the internet
Benecras (5:07:26 PM): Precisely why I loathe the idea of doing it myself.
Benecras (5:07:50 PM): There is quality writing in cyberspace, no doubt.
ZweihanderSword (5:07:59 PM): posting your thoughts on the internet does not an asshat make
Benecras (5:08:04 PM): True.
Benecras (5:08:10 PM): But it forces you into the company of asshats.
ZweihanderSword (5:08:41 PM): hmmm...
ZweihanderSword (5:09:05 PM): i'd think that your writing would be over the head of most asshats
ZweihanderSword (5:09:27 PM): and were any asshat to respond to you, they'd succeed only in outing themselves as an asshat
Benecras (5:09:42 PM): Fair enough.
ZweihanderSword (5:09:43 PM): isn't that a great word?
ZweihanderSword (5:09:45 PM): asshat?
Benecras (5:09:50 PM): Oh yes, it is.
Benecras (5:09:56 PM): Here's my qualm:
Benecras (5:10:03 PM): I don't ever want to refer to myself by the title of "blogger".
ZweihanderSword (5:10:08 PM): lol
ZweihanderSword (5:10:14 PM): i can understand that sentiment
ZweihanderSword (5:10:31 PM): you don't want to be compared to asshats like Perez Hilton
Benecras (5:10:33 PM): I view it as being another way of saying, "I embody the truism that being able to write does not mean that you can write anything worth reading".
ZweihanderSword (5:10:59 PM): here's my take on this matter
ZweihanderSword (5:11:04 PM): you know your shit
Benecras (5:11:11 PM): Facebook is nice because it means the only people who will read my writing are people whose opinions I actually value.
ZweihanderSword (5:11:45 PM): the problem is those are not the opinions you need to change
Benecras (5:11:54 PM): When I post this on Facebook, should I change your screenname?
ZweihanderSword (5:12:00 PM): i don't care
ZweihanderSword (5:12:13 PM): but i digress
ZweihanderSword (5:12:18 PM): you know your shit
ZweihanderSword (5:12:38 PM): you are eloquent
Benecras (5:12:42 PM): The people whose opinions need to be changed are people who are, in the deepest psychological sense, averse to changing them.
ZweihanderSword (5:12:52 PM): you can reach a vast amount of people
Benecras (5:13:06 PM): If they weren't of a mindset that prevented them from changing their minds, then they wouldn't hold their reprehensible opinions in the first place.
ZweihanderSword (5:13:10 PM): you should suck up your pride and try to reach them
Benecras (5:13:25 PM): 99% of the human population consists of individuals who will never admit that they are wrong.
Benecras (5:13:52 PM): Most people consider admitting error in opinion or idea to be a sign of weakness.
Benecras (5:14:09 PM): They would rather lose a limb than acknowledge their own intellectual fallibility.
Benecras (5:14:19 PM): That is why dialogue is often so pointless.
Benecras (5:14:37 PM): That is why a moron can often "hold his own" in a debate against his intellectual better (see Gore-Bush debates, 2000).
Benecras (5:14:46 PM): People would rather be dead than be wrong.
Benecras (5:15:02 PM): The art of persuasion is thus one of the most difficult that any human being can endeavor upon.
ZweihanderSword (5:15:26 PM): and i think you'd be better at it than any human being i know
Benecras (5:15:29 PM): People who actually force you to challenge your dearest assumptions - who force you to take a hard look, closely, at who you are and what you believe - wind up being force-fed hemlock.
ZweihanderSword (5:15:33 PM): or don't know, for that matter
Benecras (5:16:00 PM): I will try to find my own venue, in a matter of time.
Benecras (5:16:03 PM): But not the blogosphere.
Benecras (5:16:14 PM): I'd prefer a place where I can avoid the company of asshats, at least as much as is possible.
ZweihanderSword (5:16:56 PM): well then you should probably kill yourself, because there are asshats everywhere in this existence.
ZweihanderSword (5:17:06 PM): you can't avoid their company
Benecras (5:17:18 PM): No, but I can minimize my exposure to and association with it.
ZweihanderSword (5:17:22 PM): you can only remain solid in your resolve
ZweihanderSword (5:17:47 PM): i'
ZweihanderSword (5:18:05 PM): I'm well known in internet martial arts circles as a defender of Aikido
ZweihanderSword (5:18:24 PM): in case you don't know, Aikido doesn't get much respect in the greater martial arts community
ZweihanderSword (5:19:00 PM): every time some asshat gets up on their soapbox and toots their horn about how Aikido is worthless and impractical, i'm there to defend my art
ZweihanderSword (5:19:06 PM): does that make me an asshat?
Benecras (5:19:12 PM): No.
Benecras (5:19:18 PM): It makes you a man with a stronger stomach than I possess.
Benecras (5:19:25 PM): I'm weary of dealing with asshats.
ZweihanderSword (5:19:47 PM): why?
ZweihanderSword (5:19:50 PM): they're asshats!
Benecras (5:20:03 PM): Because there's no hope of ever winning with them.
Benecras (5:20:12 PM): It's like punching a brick wall.
Benecras (5:20:28 PM): You could be the strongest man in the world - you could be Hercules cum Samson - and all you'll do is bloody your knuckles.
Benecras (5:20:45 PM): Does it matter whether you are strong as Thor or as weak as a wet noodle?
Benecras (5:20:59 PM): The result of punching a brick wall will be the same regardless of your strength.
Benecras (5:21:02 PM): Bloodied knuckles.
Benecras (5:21:31 PM): I do have ambitious life goals, though.
ZweihanderSword (5:22:05 PM): i think you'd make a great political analyst

PS: Credit also goes to Erin Vickers for pushing me toward the conclusion that becoming a blogger (shudder) was a good idea. Along with Brian’s argument, she pointed out how someone in my rather trying financial circumstances could benefit from the advertising revenue that can result from particularly successful blogging efforts. Necessity thus combined with narcissism in just the right way to push me over the threshold and into cyberspace.

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