Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Friday, March 16, 2007

Political Compass

A long time ago I blogged about the "Political Compass" and in February of last year I dug a little deeper into the topic.
Before I go on about this, if you haven't taken the Political Compass test, by all means please take the test before you read on. Find out where you place on the compass dial before you become tainted by anything I might have to say here. Thank you!
I was reading the end of a novel this morning, Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver and at the same time listening to a call-in program on WERU radio from East Orland, Maine when this topic popped back into my head with a potential answer to some of my earlier questions. To refresh, the Political Compass broadens the perspective on the very limited one-dimensional political spectrum of left, center, and right by plotting a two-dimensional x/y axis where left is left, right or "conservative" is right, authoritarian is up, and libertarian is down.
Horizontal - the axis of humanity
When Marx proposed that the bourgeoisie class be eliminated he was expressing an ideology that I think expresses the main idea of what the political compass plots to the left. By that I mean what left represents on the political compass is a society without a class structure. By that measure, the right on that compass represents the belief in class structure in society. In other words, the further you are to the right, the more you believe that class structure should be fostered, preserved, and protected. I have often wondered what possible connection there is between the right and the term "conservative." Just what is it that the right wants to conserve? If right represents class structure in society, conservatives want to conserve class boundaries.
The opposite of wanting to preserve class structures is wanting to form society in such a way that there are no class boundaries. All men are created equal.
Vertical - the axis of power
It's only when the vertical axis is integrated into the perspective that we can begin to make sense of politics, though. On the Political Compass, the libertarian notion that all people have individual liberties that should not be put under the control of government authority is plotted as down on the compass dial. The opposite of that is that government should have authority over individuals. Authoritarian political belief is plotted as up on the Political Compass.
So the political compass dial is divided into four distinct quadrants.
Upper Right - authoritarianism conservatism
Upper Left - authoritarian socialism
Lower Left - libertarian socialism
Lower Right - libertarian conservatism
Upper Right
Maybe all men are created equal but even if they are, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that we don't spend our lives living that way.
In the upper right quadrant the prevailing political philosophy is that government power should be used to foster, preserve, and protect class structure. Government power should focus on promoting the class notion that the rich should become richer at the expense of the labor of the poor. In most "democracies" most of the already-seated politicians fall into this quadrant. Voters respond to political spending and that money for the most part comes from the wealthy class of society who believe that government power should protect their interests.
Upper Left
Whether or not all men are created equal, government exists to ensure that all men live as equals.
The upper left quadrant of the compass represents those who believe that government power should be used to limit or even eliminate class structure. Governments should actively and forcefully spread the wealth around. Workers should reap the wealth generated by their labors but that can't happen unless government authority is used to overcome the power of the wealthy upper class. Communism started out from this political quadrant but its downfall came in part because there was no way to ensure that government authorities didn't abuse their power to enrich themselves. Communism drifted to the right as can so clearly be seen now in China's embrace of wealth and class structure.
Lower Left
All men are equal despite the government.
Any form of libertarian politics faces a serious problem, government power and authority. Libertarian philosophies stand opposed to government authority. Libertarian socialism suggests that it is the power of government that allows the wealthy to hold onto wealth. Without that authority, people would on their own work to form societies in which the worth of each individual is recognized as equal with that of every other individual in society.
Lower Right
Every man should be free to rise above the mundane.
This is not an easy quadrant to describe because in actual political practice it is rarely represented. The best representation is probably the "libertarian" philosophy but in practice, libertarians tend to elevate themselves above the x-axis. They want government authority to maintain and protect their liberty. Possibly the best representatives of this quadrant are the classic 19th Century "liberals" or "free trade" advocates, the industrialists who could see that conservative government authority was being used to limit the growth of this new form of industrial wealth and influence. Classic liberals were industrialists and investors who wanted government to get off their backs so these new entrepreneurs could maximize their wealth.
In my February 2006 post I concluded with these questions. "So why is it that authoritarianism is oriented on the positive Y-axis on the political compass? And why is it that both on that axis and in our own heads, libertarian is negative?"
Perhaps what is really going on with the political compass is that the axes represent absolute deviation from two ideals. The horizontal axis measures deviation from the concept that everyone is equal. Increasing belief in class structure is measured as increasing deviation to the right. The vertical axis represents deviation from the concept that everybody is free. Increasing belief in the authority to limit freedom is represented as upward deviation.
Looking at the spectrum from this perspective shows the x/y crossover point not as a zero point with positive and negative deviation but rather as a somewhat random consensus point, a central or moderate political consensus point. The real measure of the compass is how far we deviate from the two ideals that one, we are all created equal and two, we should remain free to stay that way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deep Conspiracy

Everybody loves a good conspiracy now and then. If you don't you're either lying or you aren't human. It's as simple as that.
But there's talk now that this US Attorney firing scandal is beginning to look like a conspiracy involving top officials of the US Department of Justice and the White House. Could it also involve the Republican Congress?
From TPMMuckraker.com coverage of today's Schumer/Feinstein press conference, Senator Feinstein made this comment:
"We now know that it is very likely that the amendment to the Patriot Act, which was made in March of 2006, might well have been done to facilitate a wholesale replacement of all or part of U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation."
Somehow that comment seems to have slipped through the cracks in terms of the mainstream media. But then again, the mainstream media generally isn't into conspiracy theories about the Republican Party. But that comment answered questions I was beginning to have, namely was there any connection between the appearance of this "loophole" in the March 2006 Patriot Act bill and the actual use of this loophole by Justice Department and White House goons?
I'm guessing this might soon show up on some radar screens. After all, if Democrats voted for this loophole too doesn't that show some complicity? One would think someone might want to set the record straight about this little issue.
Update: TPMMuckraker had some very pertinent information on this issue back on February 6. Follow the links there for some very informative and entertaining reading. It would appear that Senator Arlen Specter got a bit worked up at the idea that this little known loophole was slipped in to the Patriot Reauthorization bill by him. As it turns out, it was slipped in without his knowing about it by his chief counsel Michael O'Neill. Award-winning fiction authors take note of this sudden development!
Update March 15: Talking Points Memo today has a further update on this issue that brings up a couple of important points. First, why did the White House argue the importance of this new power to bypass Senate approval of new US Attorneys if the initial impetus for it came from such a low level and second, why was it decided that this power should be extended to the Justice Department in the first place? Who really was behind this decision since no elected Senator or Representative has admitted asking for it? Where is the credibility of anything that has come from the White House and the Justice Department on this issue?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dubai Again

Dubai is in the news again. Remember the Dubai Ports scandal last year? Remember the concerns over national security? Remember how that deal did go through but Dubai Ports contracted with Halliburton to run the US ports untill a sale could be arranged?
Halliburton is the giant Houston oil and energy firm, no not Enron, whose CEO from 1995 to 2000 was none other than our now Vice President Dick Cheney. It's also the parent company of multibillion dollar US defense contractor KBR, Kellogg Brown and Root. This is the company that has been providing so much of the logistics support for the American troops in Iraq, a source of considerable controversy and concern in terms of no-bid contracts and billions of dollars in questionable spending.
Well now Halliburton and Dubai are in the news again. Would this come under the term "outsourcing" do you suppose? Or might some other word be more appropriate here? Suggestions anyone?