The Widdershins

Meanwhile, Robert Caro was interviewing a hedgehog…

Posted on: June 15, 2012

First, I want to thank Madamab, all the writers and posters for being so welcoming.  It is greatly appreciated.

It’s been a confusing week.  In the classically immortal words of Dolly Parton, “I don’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt.“  In any event, a bunch of random thoughts are beating their little bat wings around the cranial belfry like so many meth addicts at a djembe festival.

The first random thought was spawned by something Robert Caro said in an interview about his latest book on Lyndon Johnson.  In 36 years, this is Caro’s fourth book about the big-eared Texan and he plans others.  Caro sees his multi-volume opus not as a study of LBJ, but more as a study of power in the mid-20th Century.  He is such a prolific researcher there doesn’t seem to be any shred of paper evidencing a nano-second of Johnson’s life he has not read or had tested for DNA residue.  In the interview, Caro said, “There is no one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts.”

A fox and a hedgehog walk into a bar…

Another squadron of bats has been beating out a snippet of an Archilochus poem that became the modern parable of The Fox and the Hedgehog — “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  While the fox is sly with many tricks, the hedgehog knows only one big thing — to ball itself up and be protected by its coarse spiny quills.  It seems no creature has yet developed an appetite for pin cushions, but I’m sure some molecular gastronomist has given it a shot at $300 a plate.

Now to the sane mind, tying these seemingly disparate thoughts together seems about as likely as having Marcus Bachman narrate a John Wayne Film Festival or having Charles Krauthammer keynote a Positive Psychology seminar, but stick with me here.

It has always bothered me that conservatives are so much better at “messaging” than liberals.  It is in no small measure because of Dr. Frank Luntz — the ultimate spinmeister who could sell bubble gum in a lockjaw ward.  I’ve often thought when Frank Luntz burps the entire Republican caucus becomes flatulent.

Courtesy of Luntz, conservatives linguistically fly at 30,000 feet in a rarefied air free of turbulence, engine clogging Canadian geese, and facts.  They have learned the rather elementary lesson that things don’t get dicey and messy until you fly closer to the ground where the real life consequences of that high-flying rhetoric are felt and can be seen.

You see, the conservatives are hedgehogs, they know one big thing — how to ball themselves up in polysyllogisms and survive even though most Americans don’t like the taste of what they are selling.  The liberals on the other hand are like the fox — they know many things, but at the end of the day, all the sly stuff is lost in its own minutiae and the liberal fox is left raiding the hen house to suck a few eggs.

I know I have a point...

I know I have a point…

Suffice it to say, conservatives have refined the glittering generality to a fine pristine sheen that would make the Hubble telescope’s mirrors look like the dull reflectivity of an old Campbell’s soup can.  Liberals flounder around in a world of footnotes, caveats, endnotes, and indices that isn’t food for thought for anyone other than those with Cheeto-stained fingers and the visual acuity of eyeless Mammoth Cave fish.

All people of whatever philosophy who care about public policy have to get better at dulling the oh so attractive glittering generalities of what has become par for political discourse.

This is where Robert Caro’s words come in — there is no one truth, but there are an awful lot of objective facts.  To ultimately do battle with intellectually flaccid generalities, people who care about doing what’s right have to learn to use objective facts in such a way as to bring the Luntzites (isn’t it amazing how close Luntzites is to Luddites) out of the rarefied air and closer to the real world consequences.

Here’s a start:

  • In 2009-2010, the top 1% reaped 93% of all the income growth.  Wham
  • In 2006, the top six banks had $6.8 trillion in assets — today, increasing 39%, those top 6 banks have $9.5 trillion in assets — a farcical remedy for “too big to fail.”  Bam
  • In the last 10 years, the Bush tax cuts have cost $2.5 trillion and in the entire 8 years of the Bush terms, only 3 million jobs were created.  Thank
  • Unemployment in the European Union averages a record 11% with some member nations that have opted for full blown austerity having unemployment as high as 24% — tell me again why Paul Ryan’s austerity budget will do the opposite in America?  You
  • In the last two years, corporate profits have hit historic records and American corporations are sitting on almost $2.0 trillion in cash — and I thought government regulations were killing American business?  Madamab

Five sentences — five facts — five big thoughts said simply enough to bring the high flying generalities of the Luntzites to tree top level.

To paraphrase Elmer Fudd while he was doing an impersonation of Joe Lieberman, “Those wascally hedgehogs have to sleep sometime.”  Progressives have to get in touch with their own “inner hedgehog,” stop playing the fox, stop talking from footnotes, and get down to simple, plain understandable facts.

This is an “all skate” open thread.


67 Responses to "Meanwhile, Robert Caro was interviewing a hedgehog…"

If you have ever attended a school board meeting you might very well make the comparison to the current Democratic approach: a lot of ideas without a single focus. People milling around with the best intentions but without a clue in how to attain them.

The GOP on the other hand are singularly focused. Matters not how they get there as long as they do.

We sit here grinding our teeth and yellling at the t.v. whenever one of these simpletons hauls out the latest lie and defends it even in the face of the facts.

The Dems prefer the “befuddled look” as if they have never before encountered such blatant misrepresentation and are at a loss in how to strike back. Meanwhile the impression begins to form that the GOP is “on to something” no matter how far fetched.

For those of us who see the through the facade it does nothing but elicit the frustration. Where are the Dems?

Mittens lies are covered as if he were saying something worthwhile. It is amazing.

A superb description of the Luntz effect.

Prolix is indeed laugh out loud funny!

Woot woot! Wonderful post, Prolix. It is I who thank you for taking on this Friday posting and sharing your fascinating and funny thoughts with us in blog form.

I share your frustration. Democrats almost lost in 2008 when Obama became the nominee. Only the “fat finger” crash in September gave him the edge. Obama was great at messaging, but the only message he knows how to deliver is “Look at me, I’m awesome.” That gets old really quick.

Sadly, Obama has done jack sh*t on the economy and everyone is aware of it. Even worse, he has bought the austerity crapola and is secretly, or not so secretly, its champion. Even Bill Clinton said something about keeping the Bush tax cuts, which Obama has pretended he will veto. (He won’t.) There has been zero focus on jobs, just balancing the budget. I fail to see how we can balance the budget without tax revenues from employed Americans coming in – not to mention without proper enforcement of our current corporate tax rates – but hey, I’m just a dumb opera singer. WhaddoIknow?

Pat, as you say, it is so frustrating to watch these Dems who seem to have been called in from the bullpen where they were sound asleep without so much as a hint of a warm-up. Their performance, more likely than not, can be summed up with, “Huh?”

Chat, Luntz for the life of me reminds me of a worn carnival teddy bear in which the heart of Chunky beats.

MB — exactly — I think Obama has an overwhelming desire to be liked by everyone and he demonstrates it by saying, “Look at me — don’t you love me as much I do.” It doesn’t take much of that to get old. No one dare “out speak” the speechifier in chief. Case in point, with the economy next to the belly of a snake in a wagon rut, there have been so many economic spokespeople that the revolving door has spun off its hinges.

Indeed so. That said, the economic spokespeople of the Den flavor don’t seem to have the ddownright snakecharming effect that the Repubs do. Those poor folks will seemingly believe anything said repetatively and in authoritarian tones.

Every election year it’s as though the Democrats have never talked to a person outside of Washington, New York, Boston or California. The entire rest of the country is a total mystery to them.

The fact is, the economy sucks and that’s what people are going to be looking at. Who can make my life better? Who can end my long struggle with unemployment? Who can bring jobs back to America?

Sadly, Romney is exploiting the fact that Obama has dropped the ball in a huge way on the jobs front. Hillary would never, ever have made that mistake. Jobs FIRST, then health care.

Wonderful post Prolix. Another thing about the Repubs: They follow orders. Remember when Gingrich gave out his list of key words to use when repubs were describing themselves or their campaign and opposite words to describe the Dems?

I forget who it was, on what show, but the host or a commenter mentioned how Romney kept talking about the “largest deficit in history” and the debt but conveniently did not mention how much of that debt was caused by Dubya with the Bush tax cuts. 🙄

Woohoo! Pretty tired after a day of sign holding and finger waving, but we were successful in convincing the Board of Health in Virginia to set aside the onerous requirement on existing abortion clinics that would involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to renovate to meet hospital level design standards. New ones will have to meet the standards and there are other provisions of TRAP that were approved, but this is still a pretty big victory!

Forgot to mention, loved the pics.

janicen: Congrats! Woot!

Prolix, well done! Great to see you on the front page.
Janicen – echoeing Fredster – Woot! Congratulations. Too bad that we are once again back at the baby steps position, but every victory is just that – a victory.

Well, recork your champaign Widdershins, I’m getting updates that are saying that the Board of Health is considering a revote on the grandfather clause under threat from the Attorney General’s office. What a freakin’ state this is.

Janicen — congratulations — these days, every victory is one to savor.

Fredster, thanks for your help, I’m a lost ball in high weeds when it comes to technology.

HT, thanks as always for your kind words.

Whew! Another update. The BoH voted not to reconsider the original ruling on the grandfathering of existing clinics despite the pressure from the Attorney General. I’m going to have a nice cold Corona with lime! Yay!

Janicen – you are simply awesome! Congratulations to you and the other women and men who stood up for women’s rights in Virginia! WOOOOHOOOOO!

janicen: Again (in caps and bold) WOOT!!

Prolix: Ya did fine!!!

🙂 It feels pretty good. I’m so glad to have gone out there with my daughter. Other than the Rally to Restore Sanity and the gay rights march I attended when I was pregnant with her, this is the first real protest for her and it worked and we exacted change! I hope she gets addicted to it like they say about gambling, if your first experience is a big win you’re hooked for life!

Take a bow, Janicen – you are your daughter deserve it!

It seems pretty clear that everywhere women take to the streets, the religiously insane back down. I do take a lot of comfort in seeing so much of this starting to happen. Women are realizing that if they want to be recognized as equals who have complete control of their bodies, they will need to make it happen themselves. Just voting for Democrats doesn’t work any more.

As my buddy Uppity likes to say: “Nothing 50,000 women marching with pitchforks can’t take care of”. I know I’m paraphrasing her but you get the point. 🙂

Dear janicen,
You rock!

Way to go, janicen and daughter!!

Oops! dwp you got caught in moderation prolly cuz it’s your first tiime over here. Sorry ’bout dat!

Janicen – see – a victory is a victory! Hooray for you and all your co-conspirators especially your offspring. You done good girl – a blow for a righteous cause, plus you’ve taught your daughter that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Well done!!!
Reminds me of the old days back in the 60’s (okay, so I’m old). It was difficult, we lost hope many times, but were determined to stay in the fight regardless of the weather, regardless of the bad press, regardless of our parent’s disapproval (and in those days, most parents disapproved), yet we stuck at it. The first victory was bittersweet, but heady. From there it was full steam ahead and damn the torpedos. Sadly it appears we are right back there fighting the very same fights – Sigh. But we need the young to be involved, to keep the fires burning, so kudos to you Janicen for including your daughter and educating her on the importance of the fight for her future.

In the last two years, corporate profits have hit historic records and American corporations are sitting on almost $2.0 trillion in cash

Gotta hand it to those Job Creators TM –subtle.

I guess superscript is not a tag supported by WP comments. Harumph.

or these:

&#8482 or &#153 &trade trademark

You need the usual semicolon behind these.


Many times it’s been said
Obama is a doofus ™

Sophie, you can use ampersandtrade and semicolon behind it.

I did use the <sup> tag. Maybe I made a typo.

Fine. Entity it is.

Job Creators™

I didn’t see the sup tag in your first post so I edited and added it.
Who knows with WP? Sometiimes I have notices that new comments were made and other times, not so much.

Uppity…I keep missing you, girl. Sorry about that. I know you stopped by last week and were hanging out for a while. Everything’s bettter with Uppity!™

Oh by the way, the Lounge may not be officially open, but the bar is. I’m sipping on ice-cold Grey Goose with a coffee bean in it. 😀

Muh scotch! Where’s muh scotch!

I picked some mint the other day and we mixed a pitcher of mojitos. I don’t remember the rest of this story.

We hava very nice Glenlivet 15-year tonight, Ms. Uppity! Let me reach behind the bar and get you a glass.

Yes of course you have Glenlivet. It’s what keeps me coming back.

Did someone say Scotch? 🙂

LOL re the mojitos…we had some at a party we threw once. I had to stop drinking them because I stopped being able to feel my lips.

@42 – As you can see I brought enough to share. 😉

Hahaha on the lips. Hey I wasn’t going to waste my fresh mint! Problem is, it grows wild on my land so I anticpate a lot of lost mojito moments.

Did you notice mojitos improve your Spanish?

Sophie is welcome to the Glenlivet. I won’t even mark the bottle like I usually do.

LOL Uppity!

Anything would improve my Spanish. I don’t speak a word!

Very generous of you, UW and of you Madama

Madamab, the thing is, after a couple of mojitos you will forget you can’t speak Spanish and you will be fluent.

Yes, but only to myself, Uppity! No one else will understand a thing.

My French really does get better when I drink, although once I get to the numb lips stage, it sounds more like Russian.

Of course, Sophie. Only the best for my friends at TW!

Anything for you, Soph.

Hahah I would kill to drink with you, M. The thing is, if whomever you are with are having the mojitos with you, they WILL understand your Spanish.

@53 – Wow, the two of us partying together would be epic, Uppity. We’d probably end up in Vegas – speaking Spanish!

54 – ….or in jail.

Or married to each other! Hahahahahaha!

Hahahaha. I’d definitely have some ‘splainin to do when I got home!

Would make a GREAT blog post though!

No kidding! My hubby would not be amused. 😀

@58 – OMG Uppity, it sure would. Or a screenplay!

59 – Mine probably would. Living with me has always been a trip.

Mine would be peeved that someone else was getting the attention meant for him. 😆

Yeah! Screenplay! Or Dinner Theater!

Eh mine’s used to that. Says when he dies, he wants to come back and one of my pets.

@64 – I don’t have any pets. He is used to being the only loved one in my house! 😆

Speaking of which, he is due to walk in any minute. Thanks for stopping by – always a pleasure to hang out with you!

Good to play with you! Don’t get pregnant!

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