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Morning Feature – We the Sheeple? (Ask Ms. Crissie)

April 8, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – We the Sheeple? (Ask Ms. Crissie)

“I feel wooly-headed,” Professor Plum announced with a yawn.

“He’s being ba-a-a-a-ad,” Ms. Scarlet said.

They both read the mail. (More)

“No more puns for ewe,” Professor Plum added as he and Ms. Scarlet left to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar library and drink think on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”). The Professor of Astrology Janitor returned his attention to the staff poker game, where his flock of chips was dwindling. Chef had called his opening bet on his Ace and Ten of Hearts, and his bet after the Ace of Diamonds and Queen and Six of Clubs came on the flop. He bet again when the Ten of Clubs on the turn gave him two pair, but Chef raised. With so few chips left, he decided to call and get it over with. When she turned over the Ace and Six of Spades, his spirits rose. Then came the Queen of Hearts, giving each of them Aces and Queens with a Ten kicker, and a split pot. The Professor of Astrology Janitor began his plaintive mewling, and Chef went to the kitchen to make a Sheephearder’s Breakfast, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….


Dear Ms. Crissie,

Many commentators have expressed outrage over the president criticizing Paul Ryan and demagoguing the Supreme Court. Personally, I can’t muster outrage. I think it’s just a sorry spectacle. Somewhere along the line, Obama decided that his best path to reelection was through bare-knuckled partisan brawling. The country needs a bad guy to blame for its problems, so day in and day out Obama is providing them with a smorgasbord of villains from which to choose: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, and so on. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man. This strategy might get him reelected, but for what greater purpose? Barack Obama intends to break the country into fragments by shamelessly playing one group off another, in the hope that by November his share of the pieces will be just a touch larger than the opposition’s. But how can he possibly put those pieces back together again, should he be victorious?

Jay in PA

Dear Jay,

We share your frustration with “bare-knuckled partisan brawling.” Indeed we wish Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh had not said “I hope he fails,” or that Rep. Joe Miller had not yelled “You lie!” during the president’s first speech to Congress, or that Sen. Jim DeMint had not announced that Republicans would make health care reform the president’s “Waterloo,” or that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had not announced that his top priority was to make President Obama “a one-term president.” Alas, Republicans made “bare-knuckled partisan brawling” their strategy throughout President Obama’s first term. In 2010 you argued that he was “a polarizing leader in a polarized age,” that there was no possible bridge between the two parties, and that President Obama should “own it” and admit that he believes the progressive vision will be vindicated in the end. Now he has. We suggest you and other Republicans should “own” the fight you picked, and accept that President Obama and Democrats will fight back.


Dear Ms. Crissie,

You missed his point. The apparent tension between President Obama’s unifying rhetoric and divisive tactics is resolved by what appears to be a timeless bit of Ruling Class wisdom: people are sheep. The entire Progressive Project is rooted in this assertion. #OccupyResoluteDesk is just the culmination of a century-long bladder load down the back, while claiming precipitation. The difference between the Left and Right is that the Left grasps the fundamentally emotional nature of the national discussion. I don’t think Barack Obama, the flock-head of the Left, is capable of evolving his weltanshauung to encompass the idea that the American people are rational. And so he’s going to ride the sheeply theory into his political grave.

Smitty in VA

Dear Smitty,

We wish the right would settle on a story. During the 2008 campaign, critics said Sen. Obama was “more head than heart, more intellectual than passionate, less a leader than a lecturer.” After his speech on the Gulf oil spill, another critic said the president should be “less professorial, less academic and more ordinary” and that he appeared “aloof and out of touch.” Back in January, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also criticized the president as being too much “like his colleagues in the faculty lounge.” Now you say President Obama’s worldview excludes the possibility that the American people are rational. Once critics decide whether the president is too intellectual or too emotional, we shall decide which criticism to disprove.


Dear Ms. Crissie,

I made it through that by shear determination, but now the sheep’s gonna hit the fan. Before I climb a lamb post, how do I make Chef’s Sheephearder’s Breakfast?

Punnily Hungry in Blogistan

Dear Punnily Hungry,

Fort-ewe-nately, this is a very easy recipe. Cook 1 pound of bacon and 1 chopped medium onion in a large skillet until the bacon is crisp. Next drain most of the bacon drippings, then add 2 pounds of thawed shredded has browns and mix well. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, and turn when the bottom is browned. Make 10 evenly-spaced wells in the hash browns and crack 1 egg into each, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and shredded cheddar cheese. Finally, coover and cook for 10 minutes, until the eggs are set. Bon appétit!



Jay in PA; I hope he fails; You lie; Waterloo; one-term president; a polarizing leader.

Smitty in VA; more head than heart; aloof and out of touch; like his colleagues in the faculty lounge.


Happy Easter!

  • winterbanyan

    The skewer is nicely sharpened this morning, Ms. Crissie. Shall we make Republican Kabobs?

    The shifting sands of the Republican positions on the President are ludicrous. They’ve made up their minds on everything else, why so hard to make the point on this? Maybe because even lunacy has it’s limits?

    They started the brawl. Too bad they have discovered that the person they’re brawling with is willing to dish it out as well as take it. Big misjudgment.

    • NCrissieB

      We agree that Republicans misjudged President Obama’s willingness to continue taking partisan blows without striking back. As for the shifting sands of criticism, the only consistency in their criticism is that whatever President Obama or Democrats do … it’s wrong.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • smitty

    Ms. Crissie,

    You say: Once critics decide whether the president is too intellectual or too emotional, we shall decide which criticism to disprove.

    Again, you must understand that BHO considers the people, as a whole, to be sheep. Thus, the idea that he would have it both ways, appearing too intellectual to some or too emotional to others is what is known as thespianism. Although the acting job appears a trifle phoned in of late. Maybe the nonsense is becoming too great even for a war-starting Nobel Peace Prize laureate?

    Great post, though. Love the format. I commend to you a dose of common sense. Join the conservative movement, so that we can preserve something of this country, and not drown in debt slavery.


    • NCrissieB

      Thank you for your reply, although we question the “common sense” of joining a movement that has swerved so far to the right. As for your warnings about debt slavery, we feel compelled to note that Presidents Reagan and G.W.H. Bush tripled the national debt, which President Clinton then reduced, which President George W. Bush then doubled again, leaving President Obama with both the Great Recession and two ongoing wars. President Obama ended the Iraq War, is winding down the conflict in Afghanistan, and resisted demands that we put troops on the ground in Libya. And the slow but steady economic recovery is already reducing the deficit below projections of two years ago.

      The conservative movement you claim as “common sense” proposes a return to precisely the policies that exploded our debt in the last decade: more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and a war with Iran. And just in case that wasn’t “common sense” enough, Republicans are trying to block and hope to repeal the Dodd-Frank Bill, leaving Wall Street speculators free to inflate and explode another bubble and crash the economy yet again.

      In short, President Obama and Democrats have worked to pull the nation out of the ditch that President Bush and Republicans drove into … and you say a dose of “common sense” would be to drive back into that ditch.

      Finally, we find no evidence to support your claim that President Obama “considers the people, as a whole, to be sheep,” and repeating the claim lends it no greater credence.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • smitty

        The “conservatives stole my lunch money, which justifies my auto theft career” argument hasn’t ever made much sense. The debt question was just reviewed by 10000pennies to good effect, by the way.

        Republicans are trying to block and hope to repeal the Dodd-Frank Bill, leaving Wall Street speculators free to inflate and explode another bubble and crash the economy yet again.
        Most sane observers don’t really buy that we’ve recovered from the previous crash in any meaningful way. But keep applying more legislative brakes to a stopped vehicle; all that matters is that one feels good about oneself, no?
        Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley &c are examples of clobbering capitalism, and then blaming capitalism for acting clobbered.
        If you’re interested in root cause analysis, note that the Federal Reserve today is engaged in one of the main activities that helped incite the French Revolution a couple hundred years back; that Fannie and Freddie are straight up 10th Amendment violations; that all the regulation in the world did precisely jack to stop Madoff and Corzine from wreaking havoc.
        Read your Hayek.

        repeating the claim lends it no greater credence
        Then again, throwing words at the claim does not count as a refutation. Sheep.

        Happy Easter/Passsover/Sunrise!

        • Jim W

          Interesting reference. It lead me to this.

          The answer to the question posed in the title of my post depends on the proper interpretation of passages in Hayek’s essay “The Campaign Against Keynesian Inflation” (in New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and the History of Ideas, London, 1978, pp. 191–232) and in “The Gold Problem” (published in 1937; see Hayek 1999: 169–185).

          The context of the first passage is clearly Hayek’s response to the charge that he advocated deflationary depression as a solution in the early 1930s:

          “… a ‘secondary depression’ caused by an induced deflation should of course be prevented by appropriate monetary counter-measures. Though I am sometimes accused of having represented the deflationary cause of the business cycles as part of the curative process, I do not think that was ever what I argued. What I did believe at one time was that a deflation might be necessary to break the developing downward rigidity of all particular wages which has of course become one of the main causes of inflation. I no longer think this is a politically possible method and we shall have to find other means to restore the flexibility of the wage structure than the present method of raising all wages except those which must fall relatively to all others. Nor did I ever doubt that in most situations employment could be temporarily increased by increasing money expenditure. There was one classical occasion when I even admitted that this might be politically necessary, whatever the long run economic harm it did.

          The question becomes what are the proper measures that Congress should support. Driving into the ditch (or deflating wages while rewarding investment) popularly known as Bush tax cuts, or following Hayek and raising aggregate wages while allowing some wages to fall relative to others.

          • smitty

            My opinion, FWIW, is that the 10th Amendment should be wielded rather vigorously to restrict the federal government from operating below the multi-state level.
            That is, I’d repeal Amendments 16 & 17, as well as remove the Federal Reserve’s capacity to inflate the currency in any way. ‘Zimbabwe’ Ben Bernanke loves his crack pipe, but it must needs be quantitatively pried from his grasp.
            Whatever the States want to fund out of their own tax revenues should be what we have. The touch of hard reality would go far to ensuring our social safety nets are more than a comforting, faith-based mirage.

        • NCrissieB

          We have read Hayek, and have little use for an economic theory propounded by someone who believed “facts, data, and history cannot and should not be used as a ‘test’ for theory, else the essential causal story is missed[.]” That sounds less like science than like religion, and faith-based economics have not worked out well in Realworldia….

          Good afternoon! ::hugggggs::

          • smitty

            Fascinating. If not ‘faith based’, then what do you call the Keynesian policies currently afoot? Nutty?
            How is chronic deficit spending, at Republican hands or otherwise, remotely ethical?

            • NCrissieB

              We think your question can be reworded as “What evidence-based economic model would best support a global human population of 9 billion by 2100, with everyone able to enjoy a standard of living equal to Western Europe today, while respecting the scientific limits of our environment?”

              That’s an incredibly complex question and we don’t have an exact answer. But we can infer some characteristics from the dimensions of the question and recent research in innovation, decision theory, and behavioral economics:

              (1) The question cannot be solved with existing technologies, so the economics and cultures of the 21st Century must encourage the “sidewalk ballet” that best fosters innovation. Widening income inequality inhibits that “sidewalk ballet,” as the wealthy are too insulated from the rest.

              (2) If currencies require an extrinsic base, the more rational base would be CO2-indexed kilowatt-hours of electricity. Electricity correlates strongly to the aggregate goods and services of 21st Century life. We suggest indexing KwH to CO2 emissions for two reasons. First, fossil fuels are non-renewable so the electricity we make with them today is not available in the future. They are the ‘energy debt crisis’ we pass on to our children. Second, the scientific consensus is that we must “innovate to zero” CO2 emissions by 2050 to slow global climate change enough that we can mitigate the human dislocation costs.

              (3) A 21st-Century economic model should incorporate the “predictable irrationality” of human thinking. Governments have a role to play there, by encouraging better decision architectures that nudge us away from and thereby reduce the economic waste of competitive consumption.

              Again, we think none of the 18th-20th century models precisely fits those heuristics. The solution will likely be some mixture of each, developed as humans usually develop new systems: by muddling along through trial-and-error, while recognizing that we are an ultrasocial species whose capacity for reason developed to foster bonding into very large groups. Thus we have a moral responsibility to buffer the consequences of our mistakes on the most vulnerable, who have the least influence on those decisions.

              We did not directly answer the question you asked, but we suggest this better approaches the problem beneath the question you asked.

              Good evening! ::hugggggs::

              • smitty

                Sweet, sweet Postmodernism! You re-wrote my question, and then proceeded to punt on the answer! And then you blew a couple hundred words talking around your non-answer to your mutilated re-write of my question!

                It’s all good, though. I do not think such blatant sophistries are ‘sustainable’, dare I float such a word. We’re fast approaching an inflection point when Ben Bernanke’s printing press runs out of ink, and the piper demands payment.

                we are an ultrasocial species whose capacity for reason developed to foster bonding into very large groups. Thus we have a moral responsibility to buffer the consequences of our mistakes on the most vulnerable, who have the least influence on those decisions.

                I could not agree less with this statement. One of my Life Observations is “People don’t scale”.

                I say that as a military veteran. The only way you can undertake large projects involving non-trivial numbers of people (more than a clan) is to become authoritarian and coercive. You’ve got to break down liberty and have a hint of punishment afoot to whip people into line.

                Now, I love my country, and willingly submitted to a UCMJ walk-back of my liberty, for a time. In support of liberty. Do you speak it? Not out of love for authoritarianism, though many do enjoy the military for the fact that you know everyone’s rank, and appearances are harmonized.

                If you want to talk about moral responsibility, fine. What is morality, and how are you daring to implement it? Are you one of these “rule of law as an instrument of human redemption” people?

                • NCrissieB

                  Your comment has been edited, as we don’t insult each other here at BPI. We offered characteristics for an economic model to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, based on peer-reviewed science. We “punted” on a definitive answer because we have not yet seen any economic model – in practice or in theory – that seems well-equipped to meet those challenges.

                  The “low hanging fruit” of innovation attainable by existing economic models has already been picked. We will need to evolve better scientific and economic methods to meet the far-more-difficult challenges ahead, a topic we’ll discuss later this week in Morning Feature. History suggests that will happen – if we manage it – not through bold ideological declarations but through humble trial-and-error.

                  Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • addisnana

    Okay. I love Sundays for the letters and the responses. I have come to view the Republicans as suffering from a massive case of projection. Whenever they accuse the President or Democrats of something one only has to lift up the curtain to see that they are in fact doing the very thing they go on about.

    • NCrissieB

      We agree that projection seems common among Republicans. That may be partly the common psychological defense mechanism, but some of it appears to be strategic. The Karl Rove playbook is to attack an opponent based on one’s own weakness, thereby seeding the narrative of “both sides say that” when one’s own weakness is raised.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::