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September 26, 2006

Comments

Imagine if Bush had run for president in 2004, on a platform that preventing terrorist attacks against the US should be the number one priority, and promised to devote immense resources to that goal - instead of running on a platform of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, Iraq, lies about Kerry, and tax cuts. That would have been interesting.

(Was that snide enough? I can be snider.)

Andrew, this moment in our country's history is not the most suitable time to be citing as 'a good point' the evasive, lying platitude that "decisions are made by the people."

I'm sure you had good intentions, and meant the quoted comment to be an opportunity for even-handed reflection. To me, it's contemptible bullsh*t.

Certainly no deception was involved in the runup to the vote to invade Iraq, eh? No coercion of any kind in forcing representatives to choose between having a Homeland Security Department and civil service/labor protections for its employees. No coercion in the virtual abandonment of rules that govern proceedings in the House -- holding votes open for three hours, closing conference committee meetings to members of the minority party, preventing agency professionals from giving an accurate assessment of the cost of a program to the members being asked to vote on it.

No, it's all the fault of the people. Structural flaws in our oh-so-representative democracy and highest-bidder elections? Heavens, no, just the inherent trade-offs that go back to Athens.

It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!

The current administration is certainly the fault of SOME of the voters. The upcoming election is an opportunity for the people who screwed up in 04 to try to make things right.
Good news: that quixotic Democrat in Wyoming who was campaining all by himself door to door has picked up enough steam to be in USA Today. He also has been endorsed by some Republicans who have, I guess, influence in Wyominng. Could be a surprise winner if good judgement is allowed to overcome name brand loyalty.
Also Tammy Duckworth smacked her opponent hard. He called her a "cut and run" Democrat. Sheesh. I hope she makes an ad out of it, featuring her artificial legs.
There are a LOT of high quality candidates out there so there really is no excuse for the people who rationalize that they have to vote for the Republican because the Democrats worse. That's just being mentally lazy. Morally lazy, too.

John M. Ford, one of my favorite writers, has passed away. _The Last Hot Time_ is one of the best urban fairy tales. _Growing Up Weightless_ is one of the best science fiction novels. _The Dragon Waiting_ is one of the best historical what-if novels. He wrote at least a few brilliant short stories and a great deal of witty poetry and verse. He also reportedly wrote two of the best Star Trek novels.

No doubt Gary will have a better tribute up; I will too, eventually.

I'm waiting for the Chancellor to lay down his emergency powers. I've got all day.

I am going back and re-reading the Making Light announcement - where John M. Ford was a frequent commenter and an occasional front-page poster. I never met him in RL, though I was in the audience at a sf convention where he was easily the most entertaining person on the panel. He wrote one of the best poems about September 11, 110 Stories.


Tricksy chancellor mans, nos attacks for fives years, Ugh wants his precious back.

rilkefan, I checked and Gary had nothing up yet. However I know there are complications to the relationship between Gary and the Making Light crowd, which is the entirety of what I know. I also presumed Gary knew about Ford before I did, so he could have posted a note immediately.

Accch. I just didn't want to put pressure on Gary to do something or not, or to explain himself.

There are Ford fans here!

That gladdens my heart. News of his death, which I saw yesterday morning (I check with ML early every day), punched a hole in it.

Everything that man wrote was magic. (He won awards, Nebula awards, for his Christmas cards!) I've reread his novels so many times I practically have them memorized - and you have to read them more than once, or miss out on so much.

He was working on another novel, Aspects. It sounds like (it would have been ) a corker. I'd like to see it published anyway, finished or not.

That he wasn't well known outside of sf circles is a damn shame.

That he's gone is damn heartbreaking. Teresa put it very well: he was an ornament of the universe.

Gary's not feeling so good this week, either, I think (partly evidenced by his not having been around for some recent threads here on topics to which he regularly gives attention).

I do consider Andrew's point very important.

It should in part be read as a defense of Clinton, from someone who hangs around people who are not Clinton fans;I suppose reaction will be measured by how much defending Clinton needs.

It might also be used as a defense of Bush. However I might dislike the man personally, I do tend to spread responsibility for the policies much further than the Oval Office and Pentagon.

In general, that is why people in power get the big bucks, statues, and books. They get the laurel wreaths and the daggers in the Senate. Such is politics.

Nell: actually, I think it's always a good time to make Andrew's point. We get the elected officials we deserve, which is why, as a card-carrying member of 'we', I always try to do my best to deserve good ones. The administration's deceit wasn't impenetrable. It wasn't impossible for people to see through it. I don't mean to excuse it in any way -- I think that politicians' deceiving the public is deeply undemocratic, and deeply wrong -- but there were a lot of people who let themselves be deceived.

We all have to do better, I think.

I think that politicians' deceiving the public is deeply undemocratic, and deeply wrong

has there ever, in the history of Man, been an elected politician who wasn't essentially deceptive ?

honestly, you can't buy a car or sell a house without layers and layers of deception.

Hmph...

On the evening of September 11th, 2001, President George W. Bush was presented with an opportunity via a horrible tragedy to live up to his campaign promise and unite the United States of America, and by extension the world, in a global campaign against the ideology behind the 19 men with boxcutters that rained death and destruction down on lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, and were only thwarted from wreaking further havoc by quick thinking airline passengers.

The world then stood behind the United States. The leading newspaper in France proclaimed, "we are all Americans now;" NATO invoked, for the first time in its history, Article 5 of its Charter that any attack on a member state will be considered an attack against the entire group of members; and vigils were held for the victims of September 11th in Tehran. Sure there were outliers, Palestinians celebrated in the streets, Saddam Hussein said the United States got what it deserved, but these were exceptions the feelings of abject horror as replays of the World Trade Center collapsing flitted across TV screens all over the globe.

At the time, it seemed almost a certainty that these attacks were planned and executed by al Qaeda, the organization blamed for the Khobar Towers bombing, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, two of the poorest countries on earth (and only four months before I visited both countries).

It thus became clear that the obvious choice for President Bush was to invade Afghanistan, absent an unlikely round-up of most or all of the al Qaeda senior leadership resident in that country by the Taliban. And so it came to pass, as it would have under any other President, lest he or she be thrown out of office by an shocked, enraged and vengeful American public. But after this first step, the next was up to the President and his advisors. How best to combat this new menace that had presented itself so horribly on September 11th?

The obvious next decision was what to do with Afghanistan, a country that had been ruined by decades of war, meddled with by its neighbors Pakistan and Iran, and used as a proxy battlefield by the two most power nations the world has ever known, and yet a country that was stable enough for my father to hitchhike across twice in the 1960s. The President could have chosen to put the full energy and ingenuity of the United States behind rebuilding that country, and hold it up as an example to the world, especially the Islamic world, of the generosity and kindness the people of the United States can show towards a nation whose residents had so recently attacked us.

With the support of Europe and most of the rest of the first world, he could have worked towards staunching the flow of currency to the despots in the middle east, who in turn use it to oppress their own people and fund the very terrorists that attacked us on September 11th. He could have asked the people of the United States to make the personal sacrifices necessary to make what the likely years long struggle successful. He could have had the United States lead by example and uphold our core national principles, values, and beliefs, even in the face of an attack on United States soil that was more harmful than any since Pearl Harbor.

But the President of the United States of America did none of these things. Afghanistan was quickly forgotten, like a new toy the week after Christmas. All eyes in the administration turned to Iraq, whose members included people who had been advocating war on that country for years and had now suddenly found a convenient pretext. The political apparatus quickly turned the newly branded War on Terror and the potential (and inevitable) invasion of Iraq into a tool to club the opposition party with. In early 2003, the invasion of Iraq was a fait accompli, despite the administration's dog and pony show at the United Nations. In the meantime, the administration claimed the power to hold U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial or charges, to do the same with people it labeled "enemy combatants" on with no evidence, to eavesdrop on citizens of the United States in contravention of duly enacted statutes, and to engage in torture in contravention of our most solemn treaty obligations, all the while claiming all of these measures were necessary lest the terrorists "hit us again." The people of the United States rewarded the administration's fear mongering by electing him to a second term in office, apparently validating Goering's thesis.

So here we stand, more than five years removed from that awful day, five years from when the world saw themselves as Americans, five years from when Bush declared "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," and the path he chose to take should have been clear. Look around the world, Mr. President, how many nations do you see standing with the United States? Where are the vigils for the victims of September 11th in the heart of the "Axis of Evil"? What does it say about your leadership, your diplomacy, and your foreign and domestic policy that so many people must have answered, in your eyes, the (false) choice presented in your query with: "we’re with the terrorists"?

May God have mercy on our souls.

"We get the elected officials we deserve"

Yes. But they also get the electorate they deserve.

"We all have to do better, I think."

I just read a long comment elsewhere that said the Internet was going to take irrationalism and personality/character out of politics. Nah. Fifty years from now, everybody will watching the "Lost" equivalent on wireless broadband.

Or with less levity, 1/3 will be watching Lost, 1/3 over at Fox, 1/3 over at Olbermann. There are a lot people misinformed, at great depth, about Bush's 9/11 plot or the killing of Vince Foster. They are not stupid or crazy. They are likely voters.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned this kind of Democracy. They feared a wide Democracy for reasons that are very pertinent to our present situation.

Liberals need to rethink their strategy, need to look at the empirical data, and get away from "failure of will" or conspiracy theories. They are not going to reason/educate/inform the public. Too many people, too much information. Too many pulls on time. I can't stay adequately informed, I don't know why I should expect others with less opportunities or more pressures to do so.

The Enlightenment/liberal project has failed.
Demogogue (gr people + leader) and Vanguardism and Straussian manipulation.

Republicans figured this out in the Nixon administration.

Nell, without trying to detract from your valuable and accurate comment, I think Andrew’s point should not be so summarily dismissed. An example in re crying foul on the administration’s domestic wiretapping:

How many surveillance cameras are in our towns? How many voyeuristic, sadistic programs (“Punish them!” we scream at Court TV and reality show contestants) prying into other’s lives do we watch on TV? How many anti-drug adds have we seen and agree with that say it is OK to secretly rifle through our kid’s sock drawer? How many of our daily consumer transactions are scanned and tracked so that Company X can “better serve our needs”? How many signs are at the end of our streets that read, “Neighborhood Watch. We Call the Police.”?

How damn nutty would I be if someone came over to my house after I had installed a security camera in every single room only to find me hiding behind the sofa whispering, “Don’t let Them see me!”?

We have met the enemy . . . I am reminded of the George Carlin bit on our political leaders: this is who we are, this is what we produce. Let’s stop. And start with individual conscious decisions not to be so damn scared anymore. What have we got to lose? All this? Let’s look in our closets and under our beds. Go ahead. No one is there. It’s just the shadows playing tricks on our eyes.

Endless Adagio ...another post from Tim Burke, arguing against my revolutionary impatience

"What can you do about that kind of desire and hope? No one who believes in a better world likes to be told not yet, not today, not for you. No one wants to be told that the only thing for it is to wait, and live, and love, to do our modest best, to fight small wars and seek little triumphs. Progressives don’t like to be told that about poverty and development in the Third World: that many who are alive today will not live to see an improvement in their lot, no matter what we do. They especially don’t want to hear that the harder we try to fix some things, the more likely we are to make things worse. People concerned about the threat of terrorism and fundamentalism don’t like to hear that in their lifetime, there is no magic cure, that it won’t help to fight harder, torture more, burn up the Bill of Rights on the pyre of necessity. Nor do they want to hear that this will only make it worse."

Burke's a pretty good writer.

The thing about what Bush has wrought which will keep me rattled long after he's gone is how easy it was for him to wreak the havoc he's done. How much support he had, and has.

And how conscious that support is. No one can plead ignorance. The corroding effect of letting fear be your guiding impulse... the danger of creeping authoritarianism... the pure evil of torture... these are all things we're aware of. As a nation, we opposed and fought those very things; our national mythology is a paean to fighting those very things.

The times we let ourselves be taken by those demons - the internment camps, the McCarthy era, Hoover's and Nixon's use of police power to surveil and harrass - are times we're ashamed of. Nothing in our education curriculum or our popular culture holds those eras up as exemplary, as something we should want to see happen again.

How in hell was it possible for so many people to deliberately, mindfully espouse and become what our entire history taught us to despise, what two world wars and a prolonged Cold War taught us to despise - and do so joyfully, jeering at the world and their fellow citizens while they did?

I can't believe it was one day of terrorist attacks.

And I can't believe it'll just go away once Bush & Co. are gone.

Demogogue (gr people + leader) and Vanguardism and Straussian manipulation

In case it wasn't clear, these are recommendations.

A Business Week Poll from 2000, in the peak of the tech bubble, remember. How would you describe your position on trade?

Fair Trader -- 51%
Protectionist -- 37%
Free Trader -- 10%

Having just spent hours trying to understand Ricardo, you are just not going to get the mass of people to understand comparative advantage. Or maybe the importance of habeas.

But anyway, I am offering a liberal Clinton example. How was NAFTA sold? Did Clinton really believe the re-training programs would get funded, or that massive equivalent jobs would get created? Go back and look. But NAFTA was good for the country.

CaseyL, you need to keep up. You may be ashamed of the McCarthy era or the internment camps, but if so you're out of touch with the modern view of things.

bob mcmanus,

I always enjoy reading your posts and 10:18 is no exception. I agree, but can I add something? I am not ready to give up on the “reason/educate/inform” tack, but, as you say, it does need to go somewhere beyond will and conspiracy theories.

The story about what has been going on with the US over the last generation or so is remarkably simple. The problem is that the left has no emotional solution for the folks; no over-arching, synthetic narrative; no feel-good, morally instructive mythology. The leadership on the right might scare the crap out of its followers, but at least it offers something other than doom-and-gloom self hatred (“We Americans are a conquering empire!” boogey, boogey, boogey, and all the self-flagellation that follows, etc. – to be fair, many on the left understand this and are grappling with a solution). Look at how simple the story is for many on the right: “If we can just kill all the evil foreign folks, safeguard the soul’s earthly vessel, dispense with relativism, ban the queers, etc. [i.e. get our moral house in order] everything will work out OK and we can reverse this downward spiral of social and economic degeneracy and regain the shining city on the hill.” Complete bunk, but it works on that same “gut,” emotional level that religion does. One can be swamped with “information” and still make sense of the world. And you’re right: the Reps figured this formula out a long time ago and sold it to a constituency that looked around at the war, economic decline, and the social upheaval of the late ‘60s and said, “Well, these liberal New Deal and Great Society programs sure were a bust.”

The problem I have when putting the story into a simple, easily digestible narrative is that doing so requires abandoning American exceptionalism, nationalism, and unregulated capitalism in favor of internationalism and sustainable economic programs. I don’t think we are ready to read that bedtime story yet. Perhaps we need to wait to hit that Kuhnian wall necessary for a paradigm shift? Blah, blah, blah.

All,
thoughts? Please poke holes.

CaseyL,

-"the internment camps, the McCarthy era, Hoover's and Nixon's use of police power to surveil and harrass - are times we're ashamed of."

Unless you're Ann Coulter. :)

-"How in hell was it possible . . . I can't believe it was one day of terrorist attacks."

I can't either. I think it started when we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki and went from "The Little Colony that Could" to global colossus within a generation or so (our nervous black humor in the late ‘40s is a clue; and look at the hoops we have jumped through to rationalize our use of the bomb since – why?). I suspect there is a reason that Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is required reading in so many schools. If you are interested, see the film “Atomic Café,” or the books “The Culture of the Cold War” by Stephen Whitfield, “Homeward Bound” by Elaine Tyler May, “The End of Victory Culture” by Tom Engelhardt, and maybe some of the collections of articles edited by Adam Parfrey for starts.

hilzoy: We get the elected officials we deserve.

I can't agree. This is victim-blaming on a grand scale. It's as if the largest corporations didn't exist, with their control of the media, massive PACs and lobbies, think tanks, PR machines, foundations, and on and on.

That doesn't mean every voter doesn't have the responsibility to be as informed and active as he or she can be, but it's just wrong to think that individuals are the engine of the system. It's a rigged game that's stacked hugely against the majority of the population.

I don't want to go as far as Bob. I have more confidence in the potential effects of a collection of structural reforms than he does. But the "government we deserve" formulation is just a bit too oblivious to relations of power.

there were a lot of people who let themselves be deceived.

Of course there were, and the crucial ones weren't "the people." They were Howell Raines and Bill Keller and Len Downie, and every single network and cable news producer, and Tom Daschle and John Kerry and Joe Biden. An astonishingly high percentage of "the people" not only weren't deceived, but got active to try to jolt the craven Dems and the collaborating media out of their willed suspension of disbelief.

CaseyL: You're onto something important. Those examples you mention -- those are just the examples we've agreed to remember as low moments. There are so many others, but we don't teach them in schools, or, in the case of most people, even know about them.

Nell: they only have the power to tell us things. We can choose whether or not to rest content with what they tell us. They have power only through our acquiescence, and through the votes we then cast.

hilzoy- I don't know how many watts of broadcasting power the major networks have, but I think the ability to transmit pictures and sound to boxes in our living rooms is not a nullity.

Yes. But they also get the electorate they deserve.

Alternatively, they get the electorate they create.

Hilzoy: We can choose whether or not to rest content with what they tell us.

True. But when you get a situation as the US seems to be in, where every major media news network is consistently reporting the same lies, unless you are the kind of person who thinks "I bet that can't be true, I will go look stuff up and check that out" you get a situation where many people believe without question: (a) Saddam Hussein had a connection with the attacks on September 11 (b) Social Security is going to go bankrupt in the foreseeable future (c) Bush won the 2000 election (d) Al Gore is a liar / George W. Bush is an honest man (e) Kerry's record of military service and honors won is questionable at best.

Even if you are the kind of person who looks stuff up, nobody checks every news story, only the ones they're specifically interested in or only when there's a disruption - when one news source is reporting one version, and another is reporting a different version. (At least, that's true of me.)

I got interested in the results of the 2000 election in the US because right-wing papers in the UK, November 2000, were saying Bush had definitely won: centrist or left-wing papers were saying the results were definitely questionable and giving very good reasons. Had (for example) both the Times and the Independent been reporting pretty much the same story, I'd likely never have been interested enough to go look up the online sources that showed the malfeasance behind the election, and to follow the story through.

Blogs (which I didn't get interested in until a couple of years later) can provide an alternative story to what the mainstream news is spreading, which can lead to further questions, but quite often (I noticed this phenomenon specifically in the two Eason Jordon blogmobbings) what political blogs report is not the facts but their spin on the facts, and the spin gets reported as fact from blog to blog. I notice this in right-wing blogs because (to my perception) the spin is frequently so far removed from reality as to be absurd: but I presume it may happen in any set of blogs which habitually link "good stories" to and fro. So you can, again, end up with all the sources you trust telling you the same story, which massively reduces the impulse to go check the facts and be sure the story they are telling represents the facts as publicly known.

> has there ever, in the history of Man,
> been an elected politician who wasn't essentially deceptive ?

I nominate Jim Leach, (R) Iowa,
as a completely honest politician.

Often the only R in the House to vote his conscience instead of his party.

I'm a Democrat. Leach has my respect.

Though I knew via CNN international vs CNN USA that there was a hugh difference between what the American media thought would "sell" at home and "sell" elsewhere in the world, I was suprised to see this.

Personally I feel that in the States (and more and more in my own country too) there is a lack of personal accountability. We just had two ministers and a mayor reseign because 11 detained people died in a fire whilst planning and procedures should have prevented that many deaths. After all the disasters the USA was involved in, from torturing prisoners to death till awfull planning after invading Iraq till coping with Kathrina, hardly anyone in command has lost their job or volunteered to give it up. No one accepts responsibility.

If you know your acts have consequences, you are (co-) responsible for those consequenced. If you vote for people *knowing* what they do (i.e. promote the use of torture) you cannot just dismiss your personal responsability because *you* are against that specific point. In a democracy you are responsible for what the people you voted for do, since your vote empowered them.

Anarch--that's actually what I was trying to get it. Playing to our worse instincts instead of the better angels of our nature, for decades, has consequences.

There are signals from the public that just don't seem to get through. There was more opposition to the Iraq war in the polls and on the streets of New York City than in Congress. There is more opposition to torture in the polls than in Congress. Politicians just default to assuming Americans are stupid, selfish, and easily led, and will want the wrong thing on an issue.

I mean, it's a lot easier for a given politician to influence the public's opinion than for a given citizen to influence the public. And they just. do. not. try.

Katherine, that's one of the reasons why (despite everything) I still have a soft spot for Tony Blair. Tony Blair said once his favorite book when he was a boy was Ivanhoe, and one astute commentator pointed out that Blair's speech and behavior indicates he sees himself as the Black Knight opposing the evil forces. I disagree with Blair, on many things - and I want him out as Prime Minister, because I believe his lies over Iraq were unconscionable.

But, reading his last speech to the Labour Party conference, and thinking back to the UK as it was in 1997 and the UK as it is today, Blair's main faults in domestic government come when he thinks he has to appeal to the British people's worse side (punish more criminals, penalize asylum seekers): but there is still a strong and basic idealism there, idealism backed up by action. (Unfortunately, this same idealism has never been applied to foreign policy, more's the pity.)

Actually, Jes, I'd argue that the whole reason Blair went along with the Iraq mission was his idealism. I think that Blair honestly believed and believes that the invasion of Iraq was conducted to give the Iraqis a shot at representative government. Idealism in practice isn't always a good thing.

Andrew: I think that Blair honestly believed and believes that the invasion of Iraq was conducted to give the Iraqis a shot at representative government.

You really think he was that stupid? Sorry: I don't. He's a smart guy, Blair: he's just pretty much convinced (as many British Prime Ministers have been before him) that the US is the UK's best ally.

Blair knew in 2002 that Bush was determined to invade Iraq, and back in 2002, Bush wasn't even pretending (that lie came months later) that the invasion was to establish Iraqi democracy. The only question for Blair was whether the US went in alone, or if the UK followed, pretending to comply with international law. (Or, of course, if WMD actually were discovered in Iraq: but the dossier presented to MPs for the vote on invasion was full of stretched facts and several outright lies.)

To prove my point: Blair's speech to the House of Commons, 25 February 2003. Plenty of lies in it about Iraq's WMD, but not a word about democracy.

Also, the Hansard record of the debate in the House of Commons, 18th March 2003. See anything there about establishing democracy in Iraq?

Well, I believed that was a reasonable option at the time, and I flatter myself I'm not stupid. Your opinion is probably different, but I try not to let that bother me.

To prove my point: Blair's speech to the House of Commons

Wait, you're saying that the content of a politician's speech is sufficient proof of his actual motives?

Andrew: Well, I believed that was a reasonable option at the time, and I flatter myself I'm not stupid.

I wouldn't say you were stupid either; but I think it's not unreasonable to assume that Tony Blair had far more information available to him than most people did in 2002, including (I guess) you.

If Blair believed that the invasion of Iraq would establish democracy in Iraq,
-(a) he kept very, very quiet about that - never a word until that became one of Bush's public memes - and
-(b) he was stupid. Because, either

--(i) he knew that the Bush administration had no plans for the occupation of Iraq, and still believed that the US occupation could establish democracy though they'd done no planning about how that was going to happen, or
-- (ii) he thought the Bush administration had made sensible plans for the occupation of Iraq, and was as surprised as everyone else to find out that they hadn't.

And, given who Blair is and how close he supposedly is to Bush, either (i) or (ii) means he must have been stupid.

And, you know, he really isn't.

we know the British knew the US had inadequate post-war planning.

that narrows things a bit

kenB: Wait, you're saying that the content of a politician's speech is sufficient proof of his actual motives?

Until we develop a mindreading device, we can only go by what a politician does and what a politician says to know what that politician is actually after. Can Andrew (can anyone?) come up with any evidence, prior to the invasion of Iraq, that Blair was committed to establishing democracy in Iraq and that was why he supported the invasion? My memory's not perfect, but I was following the debate on the invasion fairly closely at the time, and my recollection is that in the UK, it stuck pretty closely to "Are there WMD?" prior to the invasion. I've cited two public statements by Blair that stick to that point: Andrew hasn't cited anything but his own belief.

I don't care enough to do any research. I'll stipulate.

I have a topic: Predictions!

On the Wednesday following the second Tuesday following the second Monday of November, 2012 (see the US Constitution for an explanation of this awkward formulation):

Hilzoy will be married and expecting.

Gitmo will be closed.

After a nasty recession which started in 2007 led off by a collapse in the residential real estate market, the economy will be finally recovering.

Jes and Gary Farber will make up after the longest-running feud on this blog, which will still be going. (I will still be commenting, but have had my posting privileges revoked after that nasty affair in '10.)

North Korea and Iran will have tested nuclear weapons, within a week of each other. President ________ will have gone on the air and said that whichever country launches a first nuclear strike will be utterly destroyed. Also, if Israel is destroyed, then every major religious center in Islam will be destroyed. During the crisis, a DOD leak will reveal that President Bush ordered a first use of nuclear weapons in Iran in 2007, but the military refused to obey the order.

Sebastian will be happily joined. The term "joining", instead of marriage, will sweep the coasts but not find a foothold in the South.

After tremendous pressure from Turkey and Iran, the Kurds will not have declared an independent state. Iraq will be staggering on, looking much like Serbia.

Russia and China will be rapidly rising economic tigers.

Global warming will be a major problem, starting with Bangladeshis trying to flee their own country.

...?

I think this is a good point by Jes, marred by the really harsh tone. I think Andrew is thinking that Jes called him stupid, whereas Jes isn't calling Andrew stupid, just saying Andrew is well, I guess, stupid to believe Blair was that stupid. Or something like that. (and please, oh god, let's not get into a parsing contest about 'oh no I didn't say you were stupid', 'au contraire, I think you did' It's really not worth it)

It's unfortunate to have this go south, because I, like I think Yglesias and Drum, because we had vague misgivings about Bush, put a lot of faith in Blair, especially on the issue of WMDs. Anyway, that's the way I see this.

For the record, I do not think Jes called me stupid. And if she did, don't shatter my illusions. ;)

whereas Jes isn't calling Andrew stupid, just saying Andrew is well, I guess, stupid to believe Blair was that stupid. Or something like that.

I do not think Andrew is stupid. I do not think it was unreasonable of him to believe that the invasion of Iraq had idealistic motives behind it in 2003, given the information available to any of us at the time. I didn't believe it, but that's because I'm a pacifist, and believe that no good comes out of war, whereas I do Andrew the credit of assuming he wouldn't be a soldier if he didn't believe that good can come out of war.

But, in 2006, now we know that Bush lied the US into war, and Blair lied the House of Commons into supporting that war, and that the Bush administration did no planning for the occupation, the situation's different. We've seen the results of the lies Bush and Blair told, and the terrible results of the occupation, and any idealist who thought the Iraq war was justified based on the information available to him in 2003, must now either close his eyes in horrified denial, or acknowledge he was wrong, and we Cassandras were right.

And before Slarti asks who I mean by "any of us"*, I mean "any of us who weren't at a senior level in the US or the UK government in 2002/early 2003". Me. Andrew, I assume. Everyone who comments here regularly, come to that.

*Because it will take at least six comments to figure out what he's asking.

And, for the record, I feel pretty damn stupid for not asking tougher questions in 2002-03, so I wouldn't feel particularly insulted if someone did say I was stupid, at least in that case.

Hilzoy: they only have the power to tell us things. We can choose whether or not to rest content with what they tell us. They have power only through our acquiescence, and through the votes we then cast.

Your view is of an electorate of hilzoys. I recommend a big, big dose of door-to-door canvassing.

And it is safe to assume that I was not at a high level of government at that time, as I was actually working in the private sector during that period.

Nell,

I'm curious what you propose to address the issue, then, since I assume you wouldn't be in favor of moving towards a less democratic form of government. How do you propose solving the problems you see? (Not intended as snark; I'm genuinely curious.)

Nell: no, I think that when people don't inform themselves, they have some responsibility for the result. I have, in fact, done a lot of door-to-door canvassing, and my faith in democracy was put to an early test when I was employed by the people who did Jimmy Carter's polls, as a phone person, which meant: calling people all day, every day, around the country. I was pretty amazed at some of the responses I got; my personal favorite was someone who was planning to vote for Carter because she had had a dream in which Ford was elected and her entire collection of china elephants was destroyed by an earthquake. (I am not making this up.)

My view is not that these people don't exist, or only exist in small numbers. It's that they are responsible for their choices, including the choice not to live up to their civic obligations.

Andrew: And it is safe to assume that I was not at a high level of government at that time, as I was actually working in the private sector during that period.

That could just be your covert identity, of course. ;-)

And, for the record, I feel pretty damn stupid for not asking tougher questions in 2002-03

Why? And of whom?

when people don't inform themselves, they have some responsibility for the result

Absolutely, some responsibility. However, the actual correlation of forces creates a big gap between that and "we get the government we deserve", much less "the decisions are made by the people ."

Andrew, I'm glad you asked. However, I'm rushing here, and can't do nuance and explication or defense now, but I want to answer your question. I'd love to have a more thorough discussion in the not-too-distant future. Short, and incomplete, answers:

- Public campaign financing

- restore FCC's Fairness Doctrine

- break up media concentration (restore rules against ownership of multiple media in same market, etc.)

- completely rework organization of federal elections and separate them from those run by states' partisan-controlled election boards; national election commission (nonpartisan, not bipartisan) that sets procedures: weekend vote, paper ballot (with electronic alternatives for blind and other disabled voters), ex-felons not barred from voting, no-questions-asked absentee/early voting, and the like.

- restore labor rights and extend them to agricultural and other currently uncovered workers

That would level the playing field considerably. I believe these measures would lead to candidates and elected officials more responsive to the actual views and interests of the majority of the people they represent -- i.e., more representative.

It's a chicken-and-egg question of how we get these reforms given the current setup, but the first step is to start advocating them.

Well, since Andrew and Jes are all nicey-nice, I'm wondering if Andrew might want to discuss why he's willing to stipulate that Blair was interested in democracy building (if that was the stipulation) I'm also, to go meta, interested in the range of stipulations one could make on the right or the left that would be appropriate, as I think that is often a hidden thorn in these conversations.

Why? And of whom?

Because I think we were mistaken to go into Iraq, and I advocated that course of action at the time. As an advocate, I should have been asking the hard questions about what we were going to do once the initial fighting was complete. I should have done a better job of reviewing historical data about insurgencies. I should have asked more questions about the history of Iraq. While me changing my mind would not have prevented the invasion, I feel that when I advocate a policy, particularly one as important as choosing to go to war, it is incumbent on me to be as certain as possible I'm correct. I was not. Therefore, I carry that failure with me as a reminder of my duty to be more diligent in the future, and I have to live with the knowledge of my failure to ask better questions then.

As for the of whom, primarily myself, and secondarily of my representatives. I missed a great deal of information that I could have collected myself because I wasn't asking the right questions. And even had I still come down on the side of the invasion, I should have been pressuring my representatives to ensure they were doing their due diligence to pressure the administration to do the job right.

lj,

I'm stipulating Jes' assertion that Blair was not interested in democracy promotion in Iraq, because I'm willing to accept her more immediate knowledge of the facts on the ground. My own belief was based on impressions garnered from reading about Blair's support for the mission, but I have never looked into the matter deeply enough to have strongly formed opinions on the issue. Since I do not have data to dispute Jes' contention, I do not have the interest to try and gather any, and Jes is more apt to be accurate in an evaluation of the British Prime Minister than I am, it made sense to me not to contest the point.

Before they do (if they do): I've always suspected that part of the reason Blair went along was just that it's hard for people who are basically competent and responsible (where this isn't meant to be any high praise, just normal stuff) to really take seriously the possibility that someone, especially someone who is President of the US, could be completely irresponsible, and wholly unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.

-- A lot of us assume that people operate within certain normal parameters: we assume that someone who looks like a normal person won't pull out a machine gun over lunch for no reason, and don't worry about that possibility unless something suggests it, even though it would be pretty bad if it actually happened. Likewise, I assume that my friends won't go out of their way to seriously harm me just for fun, and all the rest of those basic, unnoticed assumptions that allow life to go on.

I think that Bush violates those assumptions. He is more or less completely irresponsible. You can see this tripping people up over and over. For instance, when Colin Powell gives Bush his 'hey, think really hard about Iraq; you break it, you own it' speech: that seems to have been, for Powell, a big deal to do, and for him, assuming responsibility for a whole country would be a big deal as well. I don't think Powell understood that he was dealing with someone to whom those words would mean nothing.

Likewise, one of the things that came through to me while reading the Downing Street memos was the sense that Blair and his people really seem to have thought that they'd have some influence with Bush, and could get him to do it right. With any normal person, a crucial ally would have influence, and saying things like 'you know, it's really, really important to make this work, and it will take a lot of planning', etc., would actually have some effect.

Not on Bush.

It can be really hard, though, to realize the full implications of the fact that you're dealing with someone who recognizes none of the normal limits. None.

A strange thing. I stumbled on this website worldcantwait.net
from a post on rpg.net of all places. I haven't heard a thing about it before. Given its blase acceptance of communist support, I'm guessing it's very fringe-- had anyone else heard about this before?

"It can be really hard, though, to realize the full implications of the fact that you're dealing with someone who recognizes none of the normal limits. None."

Nah. And I think you are unfairly misunderestimating Blair. Perhaps Blair not only hoped to guide Bush in positive directions; but Blair could have made a perceptive judgement of Bush's character and thought that even if there was only the slimmest possibility of preventing worldwide nuclear holocaust, it was worth a try.

And like the bombing of al Jazeera, what do we know? Blair might have prevented full nuclear exchange a half-dozen times.

"Did you hear what that Chirac said about me? Where's the suitcase, I want my button? I am the President dammit, and I want the button."

"It's that they are responsible for their choices, including the choice not to live up to their civic obligations."

Nah. There is certainly a limit to my paternalism and how much I would override autonomy, or interfere with it. I would not ban Big Macs.

But if the majority of Americans want to cut taxes and eliminate all programs for the poor; or if the majority support a horrible and unjustifiable war overseas, I would seriously consider removing their autonomy.

The important consideration being how much their decisions hurt other people who have a stake but no or little influence. A "lesson learned" over the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis or millions of Vietnamese is not adequate compensation for those deaths.

Thanks, Andrew, sorry I got that confused.

I've thought the same thing about Blair as Bob has, but I think after things went south, had he been more concerned about honesty, he could have done something public. I think this will give him a deserved stain on his historical reputation, so I hope he lives a long time to realize how badly he screwed up.

I guess my last two comments tie together, don't they?

If you seriously believe that Bush's irresponsibility has no limits "none", I suppose you must, on a cost benefit calculation, support removing Bush from office by any means necessary. The process could cost thousands of lives, but Bush can kill millions.

Yes, ScottM, I've heard of them, and they are pretty fringey. They paste posters up around downtown DC and have occasional rallies. My earlier mention of "Communist Bucket Bangers Against Chimpy" in one of these threads was inspired by them, particularly the rally the held during the State of the Union speech in which they more-or-less claimed that with enough people banging on pots and pans they could drive Bush from the White House.

Brief and inadequate post about Mike Ford here, actually.

Nell, I'm with the rest of your notions in your 1:42, save that I'm not convinced that "restore FCC's Fairness Doctrine" doesn't have problematic aspects; also, this is tough to determine: "national election commission (nonpartisan, not bipartisan)"; otherwise agree.

On voting issues, Andrew asked me here: " I fail to see why it is so horrifically burdensome to require people to show an ID when they vote. Doubtless this is due to my underlying desire to suppress minority voters, but could someone humor me with an explanation that doesn't presume an attempt to prevent people from voting?"

I'd be happy, delighted, to discuss this further with him, although probably, for various reasons, not just now, alas, but it's a topic well worth discussing, nonetheless, so I mention it before it disappears again.

"Doubtless this is due to my underlying desire to suppress minority voters, but could someone humor me with an explanation that doesn't presume an attempt to prevent people from voting?"

Since such an intent has been shown in litigation leading to a consent decree with respect to the Republican Party in New Jersey, and appears present elsewhere, if not acknowledged, why should such a thing be presumed?

Thanks for the link, Gary.

Andrew: the basic answer to the ID question is: given what we currently use for ID (the million and one different things a person might or might not have, rather than the tamperproof national ID I'm becoming convinced we need, for immigration enforcement more than anything else), many people don't have any given bit of ID, and some don't have any. I mean: things like utility bills, which seem kind of obvious, aren't available to (for instance) people in nursing homes, the homeless, people who live in apartments that come with utilities, etc. Not everyone drives. And so on, and so forth.

That being the case, there are people who are citizens, and who have a perfect right to vote, and are registered, who do not have any such IDs.

It seems to me that one needs to balance preventing fraud against infringing on people's voting rights. I take both quite seriously, but since the research I've seen suggests that we do not, in fact, have a big problem with voter fraud, I'm inclined to be on the 'don't require ID now, but for heavens' sakes, why not have a national ID that is issued to everyone, which would resolve all my issues with requiring ID?'

"Thanks for the link, Gary."

I'm not 100% sure which one you meant, but if it's about Mike, the main thoughts that later occur to me are to emphasize that I'm not at all someone inclined to be nice towards someone just because they've died, and that Mike was, both as a person, and an author, stunning beyond belief.

He was about one of the literal handful of people whom I've encountered on this earth who have made me feel that I was a widdle widdle kiddie, stupid and idiotic, and not because he wanted to, anything but, but simply through his example.

The guy knew stuff.

I've been around one hell of a lot of smart people; I've been around more than five, less than ten, Nobel Prize winners.

I'm sure I've never known anyone more talented, smarter, more awesome, than Mike ("Milo") Ford. Barely and tangentially that I knew him.

All I can say is that I don't say anything remotely, this sort of thing, anything like it, frequently, to put it mildly.

And, yeah, his work was great. Whether slight or deeper.

He worked dense.

Anyone who thinks sf doesn't, can look at him as a refutation of their utter, utter, utter, deep, deep, deep, sad ignorance.

He did light opera, alien culture, good sf, deep fantasy, whatever his effing mind turned to.

And I only barely knew him.

(Setting aside the web of personal connections of the past.)

Hilzoy: "...rather than the tamperproof national ID I'm becoming convinced we need...."

Look at the British example!

And the direness of a central database!

This stuff is endless underestimated, and I must write more about how completely totalitarian it is!

Re Hilzoy’s 2:26 post:

Why do we think that the president – especially this president (I mean Bush not Cheney :) ) – runs the show? Or, an important tangent: is it possible to get elected as pres. in the US if you don’t look good on TV? What does this mean?

Blair (and all of his aides de camp, etc.) was blinded by his faith in the goodness and competency of the US president?! (“Don’t worry Basil, old boy, he’s the president.”)

And “completely irresponsible” and “wholly unconcerned with the consequences of his actions”? Bush was and is very responsible and terribly concerned with the consequences of his actions for those who stand to benefit! Unless we can start trying to see this war from the vantage point of the rich and powerful, we are never going to be able to understand the damn thing. How would we think about this war if we held a boat load of stock in a reconstruction firm, had invested in oil futures, were the CEO of Raytheon, etc, etc. Do we think that this war has been a bust for KBR?

Re the Powell speech: Unless the plan all along was indeed to break it and own it. (Bush to himself during the Pottery Barn speech: “Hehe, yeah that’s the idea, Balloonfoot. It’s funny when the upper middle class technicians get all serious and ‘you’ve-got-a-grave-responsibility-Mr. President,’ and all that. Makes me chuckle inside – like that Carla Faye Tucker, she sure was funny.”)

We ain’t planning on leaving and never have planned on leaving Iraq. Was the neocon agenda to quickly get in and out, or to get in and stay? “Mission Accomplished” and occupation are two different things. Bush and the PNAC folks don’t give a damn about democracy or the lives of regular folks. Never have. These are their “normal limits.” Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

"(“Don’t worry Basil, old boy, he’s the president.”)"

Basil?

This is, um, not exactly revealing of someone in touch with Britain in the last 40 years.

"Unless we can start trying to see this war from the vantage point of the rich and powerful...."

This is, alas, the kind of stuff that comes off as someone who just entered freshman college. It's jejune beyond belief.

You may have some good points. Or not. But mentioning PNAC as evidence tends to suggest that you ran into this stuff when you were 12.

I'm open to some of your points, Otto.

But you've got to stop writing like a 15-year-old, please.

(And, y'know, there's nobody I hated worse, back then, than an ageist. I'd'a killed 'em and chomped 'em up, tha bastards. -- That is, if they attacked me for my age, and not my words.)

Basil? (What, are we in Fawlty Towers?)

PNAC?

This is, um, not exactly revealing of someone in touch with Britain in the last 40 years.

Absolutely. Everyone knows Britons prefer coriander now.

But mentioning PNAC as evidence tends to suggest that you ran into this stuff when you were 12.

Whoa, wait. What? Is this a broad-based claim or is there a specificity intended here that's been totally lost?

Absolutely. Everyone knows Britons prefer coriander now.

Rosemary, actually.

Or sage, if I'm making mushy peas.

This is, alas, the kind of stuff that comes off as someone who just entered freshman college. It's jejune beyond belief.

You may have some good points. Or not. But mentioning PNAC as evidence tends to suggest that you ran into this stuff when you were 12.

But you've got to stop writing like a 15-year-old, please.

(And, y'know, there's nobody I hated worse, back then, than an ageist. I'd'a killed 'em and chomped 'em up, tha bastards. -- That is, if they attacked me for my age, and not my words.)

Gary, I'm glad you are back, but insulting someone and then saying that you got the same insult back in the day is not what I like about your comments. And I take the Basil comment to be a nod to Fawlty Towers rather than an analysis of the UK class system.

OT Alert!!

I have some questions.

What are the different meanings of Christianity? That is to ask, what is meant by “Christian”, when it seems what is meant is “Western”? I mean, does “Christian” mean that ALL of those “Christian” nations are promoting the divinity of Jesus Christ?

I have been going through early American texts and journals. And one theme I notice is the instinctual distrust and/or hatred of Roman Catholicism (I suspect there are similar themes on the Roman Catholic side.)

It seems many Protestants, in early America were more tolerant of Deists than they were of Roman Catholics. It seems they were more comfortable with non-believers, as long as they were raised in Protestant households. If you subscribe to “original intent” I think the Founders of the United States would have had something to say about the “Papist/Romanists”.


This makes me wonder. Was the United States a “Protestant” nation that became pluralistic when large Roman Catholics started to immigrate? Did it become more “Christian”? And if the United States became more “Christian” what the hell were all those religious wars for? What were all those years of torture and bad blood for? What does that say about Original Intent? And what about the non-Christians, that is Jews and Muslims.

Just wondering.

Any thoughts?

Well, I'm sure Gary can give you a much more in-depth view, but one incident that stands out was the one where the construction of the Washington Monument was delayed because the pope donated marble for the completion and the blocks were stolen by anti-papists, who argued that the blocks were a signal to papist underground in the US to begin a revolution. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a short letter on the subject that was submitted by Moynihan in support of John Deutch. Certainly worthwhile thinking about in terms of the current crisis.

"Any thoughts?"

Sure. The Founders were all Freemasons,first and most fervent wave. I say, because the expressions "mostly" or "almost all" doesn't convey the importance.

Benjamin Franklin was Voltaire's Freemason sponsor.

Georg Washington dedicated the Capitol in his Freemason Apron, and laid oil, water, and corn on the keystone.

There can be no overestimating this. What they believed as Freemasons I will leave you to google or Wiki. It was compatible with slaveholding, but not very Christian. It may have been anti-Catholic.

Freemasonery peaked in America somewhere around 1830 I think, and was destroyed by its arch-enemy, zealous Christianity in one of the Great Awakenings. The 2nd? Came back in a different form after the civil war.

Gee, Gary, you really do know how to adhere to the spirit (if not the letter) of the posting rules (which unfortunately prevent me from saying what I really think about your unbelievably rude, unwarranted and unsolicited response to otto).

Can't we all get along?

Lot of pain & frustration floating around the puddle these days, up close & personal, some deep-seated disappointment, and we can try not to spray and splash and splatter.

I mean everybody, or everybody else ain't the bad guys.

Just me. It's all my fault.

LJ,

"And I take the Basil comment to be a nod to Fawlty Towers rather than an analysis of the UK class system."

Actually, it was neither. I was attempting a humorous poke at Blair’s supposed assumptions regarding Bush’s responsibility and used Basil because it is a classic British name. (see bob mcmanus’ “unfairly misunderestimating Blair” comment (2:51), he stated the point better)

And the personal insult thing is inconsequential. I think, “What’s more ‘je june,’ operating under the assumption that the war is going badly even from the perspective of those who promulgated it and stand to benefit as they remain responsible to their interests, or pointing these things out so that we can all (including myself) understand this circus a little better?” There’s a lot of talk about screwing the pooch lately, and I was just pushing for a different, empathetic perspective (think “The Dude” trying to explain the kidnapping of Bunny Lebowski: “Lotta ins. Lotta outs.” Except that tens of thousands of people have died over the last five years for this money and power-grubbing fiasco, and then it ain’t so damn funny.)

"Gee, Gary, you really do know how to adhere to the spirit (if not the letter) of the posting rules (which unfortunately prevent me from saying what I really think about your unbelievably rude, unwarranted and unsolicited response to otto)."

Oww.

I'm darned sure I always want to know how to respond to spirit, not letter.

This is bad? Not usually.

Otherwise, a lot of "uns."

Unusual.

Honestly, I prefer honest wrestling.

Usually, this is not unusual.

...it's hard for people ... to really take seriously the possibility that someone, especially someone who is President of the US, could be completely irresponsible, and wholly unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.

and...

Bush was and is very responsible and terribly concerned with the consequences of his actions for those who stand to benefit!

These views are not incompatible. My mental model of W is based on someone I got to know all too well, who also had a narcissistic personality disorder (clinically diagnosed, as it happens). The guy I know is way sharper, but the model has not yet failed. My take is that yes, W is deeply concerned with goals and consequences, but exclusively with his goal (self-aggrandizement) and the consequences to himself and his admirers.

The thing that hilzoy describes is something I saw happen time and again. It took me years to get over my own susceptibility to it. And more years to pay off the debts.

Rosemary, actually.

Hmph. Someone clearly didn't get the message that the national dish of England is now the curry.

Radish, thanks for your perspective.

Otto, I apologize.

(I'm tempted to use a modifier, but that always spoils it, so not.)

Also resisting giving reasons. Always better not to.

Someone clearly didn't get the message that the national dish of England is now the curry.

Sadly, no.

Gary,

No problem :) “As a result, I'm of a mood to blend puppies.” I understand.

Some of my comments recently have had a simplistic, narrow, ranty slant to them. No doubt a result of my trip to the OTM detention center and a stop off at a dying Kansas town for some other research (a residential area there south of the stockyards was as poor and desperate as any place I’ve seen since I worked in Freedmans Town in Houston ten years ago – someone had spray painted on a street sign, “To Hell” with an arrow pointing to the neighborhood). Also, reading Agamben’s “Homo Sacer,” Gross’ “Friendly Fascism,” and Quigley’s “The Ruses of War” over the last few days ain’t helped much either (I’ve got some Parenti book next to the toilet as well – you know, for back up). Thanks for your, and everyone else’s, patience and tolerance.

"No problem :) 'As a result, I'm of a mood to blend puppies.' I understand."

I conclude that you are, Otto, in fact, a person of rare depth and understanding, someone of extremely unusual perceptivity, rare insight, and great intelligence.

I'm terribly persuadable, it turns out.

(Music going from Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had A Rocket Launcher" to Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just The Way It Is.")

"When a place gets crowded enough to require IDs, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere."

    — Robert A. Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (in Time Enough for Love).

"Why not just brand all babies at birth?"

    — Ronald Reagan (sarcastically), responding to a national-ID proposal.

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