Tuesday, August 13, 2002


Notice anything missing here at slacktivist? No blogspot banner ad! Now slacktivist is commercial-free, just like NPR. Be sure to tune in next week for our August fund-drive.

Much thanks to James Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review for buying out the ad. (And please note he did so before being lauded as slacktivist's "Weekly Link o' the Day.")

Blogging will be a bit sporadic for the next few days as slacktivist heads north (can't blog and drive). In the meantime, check out what Josh Marshall has to say about the president's economic summit. (I haven't had a chance to read much about the summit yet, but I'm sure the president looked into the economy's soul and saw that it's heart is fundamentally sound.)

Hasta Thursday.

posted by Fred Clark 5:07 PM


Slow posting day to to time away from The Cube for a meeting in which we learned about The Company's new "Human Capital Management Initiative."

I was worried at first, since I couldn't figure out what "human capital management" means, but then I realized that no one else in The Company is sure what it means either, so it was unlikely I would be exposed on this point.

Still, didn't Adam Smith talk about three basic categories of capital, resources and labor? I always thought that last one was supposed to be the "human" element. But now we also have "human resources" and "human capital."

"Human resources" was already creepy enough. Resources, after all, are those things used or used up in the making of goods and services. But "human capital" may be even creepier. Isn't capital, by definition, spent? Does this mean we humans are now expendable?

I think I could understand my place in this scheme if I were simply "labor." Labor means work. I supply work for The Company. But what do I do as "human capital"? Capital means, more or less, wealth -- so now I'm currency to be invested? Doesn't that violate Kant's little lesson about people being ends and not means?

The scary thing is I think all this corp-speak is meant to be encouraging.

Must ... find ... new job ... must ...

posted by Fred Clark 4:51 PM


I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
-- Revelation 3:15-16

Thoughtful moderates may very well find themselves carving out a middle path between wingnuts to either side. The moderates may then be assailed by extremists from both sides, and the rough balance between the volleying and thundering of the “cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them” could be seen as an indication that they’re roughly on the right track.

Politicians, media outlets, religious leaders, bloggers and college students in late-night bull sessions all like to appeal to this reasoning. Heck, I’ve done it myself in more than one of those capacities. It can be reassuring.

“The hate mail balances out, so we must be on the right track” the editor says, pointing to equal stacks of Democratic and Republican letters, or pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian letters.

“The ACLU is mad at me, and the religious right is mad at me,” the politician says. “I must be doing something right.”

“The fundamentalists think I’m a liberal and the liberals think I’m a fundamentalist,” the minister says. “They’d probably say the same thing about Jesus.”

All of these people could be in the right, of course, but it’s just as possible they’re wrong. The newspaper’s Middle East coverage may be so ill-informed that both Israeli and Palestinian sympathizers find it laughable. The politician’s stance may offend both the principled liberalism of the ACLU and the unarticulated principles of the religious right’s “family values.” And the moderate minister may just be the lukewarm Laodicean warned in the verses above.

The cannon to the right and left may just mean that, like the Light Brigade, you’re headed for disaster.


The middle-path-between-extremes-must-be-right rationale is enormously appealing. But it’s helpful to state it more plainly as a logical argument:

1. Everyone thinks I’m wrong.
2. I am right.

It’s possible, of course, that statements 1 and 2 are both true, but the “therefore” does not follow. Let’s try a more charitable form of the argument:

1. People who are wrong think I’m wrong,
2. I am right.

Again, it could be true, but it doesn’t necessarily follow (and you haven’t, in fact, proven that the others are wrong). That magical “therefore” can be a convenient way of justifying your position without any sort of principled rationale.

Staking out a coherent, principled position is a lot of hard work. So is trying to understand and respond to the principles and arguments of your opponents. So why bother with all that?

Instead, just find someone seated to your right and label them “thesis.” Then turn to someone seated to your left and label them “antithesis.” Bingo! That makes you “synthesis” – the inevitable and uncontestable culmination of all right-thinking on the subject. Anyone who disagrees with you now is swept into the dustbin of history as a misguided extremist. All done simply without all that belabored appeal to argument, principle or fact.

I call this maneuver “Hegel’s bluff.”

Dick Morris calls it “triangulation.” Morris is a shrewd campaign tactician, but also an unprincipled amoral pragmatist. Despite all the bloviating over blowjobs, the most damning aspect of President Clinton’s record was the influence allowed to Morris’ calculations.

Morris is a windsock masquerading as a moderate. He is an immoderate moderate, offering no moral compass, no compelling vision, no dream worth getting excited about. He chooses the middle path because it is in the middle – he doesn’t care at all where that path may lead.


Once upon a time, Andrew Sullivan was fun to read. Not because he used to be more progressive, but because he used to be more Catholic. Catholic social teaching is a rich tradition that doesn’t fit neatly into American notions of left and right. It’s a different path, not just a middle path, and one that is deeply concerned with its ultimate destination.

Part of the problem with triangulation and Hegel’s bluff is that you lose this concern for where you’re headed. In this sense, the extremists, the paleos and the wingnuts have a healthier perspective. Ideologues, by definition, have an ideology, a compass, a roadmap. They may be headed for the wrong destination, but at least they know where they’re going.

Bluffers, on the other hand, are like the pilot in the old joke – “We're hopelessly lost, but we’re making excellent time.”

Afraid that they may be perceived (or labeled) as having chosen a particular path, bluffers will alternate between sudden convulsive gestures of right and left. It’s a kind of hokey-pokey – you throw your left hand in, so no one can say you’re a conservative; then you throw your right hand in, so no one can say you’re a liberal. (Ever wonder why Salon gave David Horowitz a regular column? You throw your far-right hand in, and you shake it all about ...)

All of which is a long way around to say that if Mickey Kaus felt it was time to Sista Souljah somebody, I wish it had been somebody other than Bread for the World.

posted by Fred Clark 2:51 PM

Monday, August 12, 2002


I can think of no site more deserving of the inaugural Link o' the Day than:

The Rittenhouse Review.

Mr. C's blog is professional and amateur in the best sense of both words. The review is avocational -- done for love, not for money -- yet still displays a first-rate "professionalism."

The Rittenhouse Review was also among the first to provide a link here, and has been gracious to this site -- so is this an example of "[b]logrolling in our time" (as the dear-departed Spy called it)? Maybe. But to demonstrate that this isn't a wholly biased exercise, let me take issue with a recent statement on the review:

Mr. Capozzola recently described Wa-wa as being "like 7-11." This is true in the sense that one might accurately describe a McDonald's hamburger as "like steak." The chain's slogan -- "We do it just a little bit better at Wawa" -- is overly modest. Fine coffee, hoagies with fresh Amoroso's rolls, no-fee ATMs, lower prices, clean stores ... Wawa is the best convenience store in the world.

Anyway, aside from that regrettable lapse (7-11 wishes it was like Wawa), the Rittenhouse Review has been a bastion of clear thinking and civility, with the best links list you've ever seen.

Slacktivist provides the Weekly Link o' the Day to make up for his laziness thus far in learning enough HTML to set up a permanent list of links.

posted by Fred Clark 9:59 AM


The deeper you go the higher you fly
The higher you fly the deeper you go ...
Take it easy take it easy
Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey.
-- John Lennon

Bloggers can be divided into dozens of ideological categories and sub-categories, but the clearest division among our ranks may be between those who are proficient with HTML, and those who aren't. Count me among the latter. (I've tended to use Blogger as a glorified typewriter. Interactivity has not been slacktivist's strong suit.)

But thanks to webmonkey, the hypertext neophyte's best friend, I've added a "mail to" link! (See below.) After a bit more time with the monkey, I'm hopeful I'll even get a list o' links up and running.

In the meantime, I'll be instituting the Link o' the Day. Stay tuned.



Portents and omens, signs and wonders, fire in the sky ... the perseid meteor shower is peaking. Get yourself outside tonight and have a look at the annual light-show. (Unless, of course, you live downtown in a light-polluted urban area ...)

posted by Fred Clark 8:29 AM

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