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June 08, 2008

Comments

Francis D --

1: McCain is not my political opposition nor is he Jes's. We are both Brits rather than Americans (but interested observers)

I was overlooking that fact, but, if you're going to take sides in a US political drama, you have to be aware of the consequences.

Understand your point #2.

Re: #3, time in the wilderness is sometimes overrated.

Re: #4, and not putting Jes in this category, my view is that radicals are 9 times out of ten more trouble than they are worth.

Re: #5, your point is well made and well taken.

Re #6, I don't know Jes save from her blog posting and thus cannot comment.

Bruce --

I agree that President Bush has been a disaster on several fronts, and that many in the Republican party did nothing to stop it. As for the rest, I disagree.

TLTIA --

I wish I had seen your earlier post because I'd simply direct the readership to it. But note Francis D's necessary clarification: "What doesn't work is uncontrolled anger" (emphasis added).

(Tho' I'm a classic liberal, not conservative.)

Turbulence --

The blood of a million dead people does tend to obscure the vision. Fortunately, many fine fellows such as yourself can't see that blood, so your vision remains unobstructed.

No, I see the blood. What you aren't seeing is that your argument contains implicit assumptions that are not shared by a large majority of American voters.

Moreover, you are going to have to come to grip with the points made by me, TLTIA, and Francis D regarding anger in politics.

Exactly how many Iraqi civilian deaths would Bush, McCain and the Republican party have to be responsible for annihilating before we can consider them enemies? 6 million? 3? 1? In all seriousness, please tell me the death toll that these people have to bring about before I have your permission to think of them as enemies.

Turb,

OK, here we go again.

The opposition are members of the same polity, with whom we struggle against while abiding by the rules which frame and define that polity. Enemies are outside that circle.

Bush, McCain et al are opposition rather than enemies because they were (in Bush's case) or might be (in McCain's case) put into power by virtue of a process for selecting our leadership and legitimizing our government which you and I (and any other person who is not actively attempting to otherthrow the US Govt) have consented to, which makes us all as Americans in some small way morally responsible for their actions.

I know that sounds revolting, but that is the cold hard truth.

If you truly see them as enemies in the apocalyptic manner that you outlined, then it is your moral obligation to attempt to overthrow the US Govt as it is presently constituted (whether by violent or non-violent means, that is a different question) and replace it with something else morally acceptable to you. That was John Brown's choice.

If you haven't reached that fork in the road yet, then this is your govt. too, like it or not. Which means that definitionally you have accepted that they are members of the same polity, and that makes them the opposition.

IMHO, YMMV, etc. and maybe we should both bookmark one of these discussions since we seem to go round and round on this topic without any sign of closure that I can discern.

TLTIA: I realize this is a reductio, and I genuinely don't intend this as a "gotcha" but: would you have considered the NSDAP as "opposition" rather than "enemy"? And would you mind elaborating on why? For that matter, suppose the government had been taken over by the Mafia -- legitimately elected, mind -- who proceeded to use the government to further their own criminal ends. Opposition or enemy?

Once again, this isn't intended as a gotcha, I'm genuinely trying to understand what I perceive to be deficiencies in your dichotomy.

No, I see the blood.

You do? OK, then please answer the question I raised above: how many dead before I have your permission to call McCain an enemy? 6 million? 3? 1? What? Pick a number and tell me please.

What you aren't seeing is that your argument contains implicit assumptions that are not shared by a large majority of American voters.

Maybe I do and maybe I don't. Since you don't say what these secret assumptions are, I can't tell whether or not you're telling the truth. Please reveal to me the great secret assumptions that only you know so that we can discuss them.

Moreover, you are going to have to come to grip with the points made by me, TLTIA, and Francis D regarding anger in politics.

von, I don't recall claiming to be angry. I think that McCain is an enemy, but most enemies don't make me angry, and he's enough of a joke that I'm more inclined to laugh. Still, were he to retire from politics, I would be very happy, simply because I could stop worrying about how many more innocent people I might kill for sport or madness.

As for TLTIA, please see my first response to him in that thread, and the second one which I shall post soon. Given that he's made a fairly in-depth argument that depends on particular historical causation without actually demonstrating that causation happened, I am skeptical.

If you truly see them as enemies in the apocalyptic manner that you outlined, then it is your moral obligation to attempt to overthrow the US Govt as it is presently constituted (whether by violent or non-violent means, that is a different question) and replace it with something else morally acceptable to you. That was John Brown's choice.

WTF are you talking about? Apocalyptic? Who has said anything apocalyptic?

I write the word enemies in the moral sense. That does not mean I wish to overthrow the government or assassinate anyone.

Also, von, I'm still waiting for a real argument to substantiate your earlier statement that anger doesn't work in politics.

Anarch --

I think you mean to, or at least should, qualify that statement quite a bit more than you have. There is no question whatsoever that Clinton got savaged because she was a woman -- it's the identity of the savagers that's in question here. See, e.g., the... what is it now, 140+ part series at Shakesville.

(Emphasis mine.)

This is what I'm trying to get at. Clinton got savaged, and certainly more so than Obama. Some of the savaging was in a misogynist or sexist way. But I am having difficult seeing that she was savaged "because she was a woman." Indeed, as I said before, I just don't see it. For instance, the claim that Obama is a Muslim is clearly because of some aspect of Obama outside of Obama's control: some combination of his race and family background/travels. I'm struggling to find an example that works for Clinton. Father Pfleger's rant is close, but it wasn't really because she was a woman. It was because she did something unusual in US politics (nearly cry at a loss), which some had taken be have been a calculated move.

That's BS. It can work just fine -- see the civil rights movement, or really anything in the politics of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Look at Francis D's point #5 (above): I should have written "uncontrolled anger" doesn't work in politics.

Also, von, I'm still waiting for a real argument to substantiate your earlier statement that anger doesn't work in politics.

[Puts right arm out, palm perpendicular to the floor. Swings arm across his chest.]

That's the sound of one hand clapping (at least in one urban legend).

Turbulence, you are missing perspective. So, here is how I would respond to your question:

OK, then please answer the question I raised above: how many dead before I have your permission to call McCain an enemy? 6 million? 3? 1? What? Pick a number and tell me please.

My friend has lost his perspective. He believes that wars are games, with some point total to watch for, where the goal is to beat the Republicans in November. We know that wars are not games. They are terrible. Many Iraqis have died. Many US soldiers have died. We dishonor the dead by leaving the job unfinished.

My friend asks how many Iraqis must dies before he can call McCain his enemy. He asks exactly the wrong question. The correct question is how many more Iraqis will die if we choose the wrong course for the future. Because we can only lament the dead. But those Iraqis still living -- those we can save.

[That took me about a minute to compose, and, certainly, has some holes. But I hope you're beginning to see that your anger is blinding you to some obvious retorts.]

But I am having difficult seeing that she was savaged "because she was a woman."

I'm in the same boat as von in this case. As near as I can tell, the press has had a bizarre fixation on hammering the Clintons ever since the 90s. They hate the Clintons, both of them. I suspect that hatred has motivated a lot of the more nutty media attacks against her. Those attacks might have taken rather sexist form, but their origin may have less to do with sexism than anti-Clinton hatred.

To put it another way: did the media treat Hillary Clinton during the primary any worse than they threated Bill Clinton during his Presidency? He is not a woman, so to the extent that they were both treated poorly, sexism can't explain why.


TLTIA: I realize this is a reductio, and I genuinely don't intend this as a "gotcha" but: would you have considered the NSDAP as "opposition" rather than "enemy"? And would you mind elaborating on why? For that matter, suppose the government had been taken over by the Mafia -- legitimately elected, mind -- who proceeded to use the government to further their own criminal ends. Opposition or enemy?

Once again, this isn't intended as a gotcha, I'm genuinely trying to understand what I perceive to be deficiencies in your dichotomy.

It is a fair question. Extreme cases are fine to discuss as long as everyone understands that they are not typical and may distort the argument to the point of absurdity.

My answer is that the line which seperates "our polity" from "not our polity" in my definition is a fuzzy zone and not a bright line. There are different degrees of allegiance to a particular constitutional order, and also different degrees of threat to that constitutional order.

The NSDAP in the 1920s and early 30s is a uniquely egregious example of a party determined to destroy the constitutional order of the current state while working within the norms of that state for tactical purposes only. This was not exactly a secret either - it was well known to informed people in Germany, many of whom chose to ignore that problem because it suited their own agendas.

I would say this this is an exception - the NSDAP were enemies to be fought by fair means or foul in whatever manner was most effective. Of course I'm going to say that, who today is going to admit that on principle they would lay down before the NSDAP and let the consequences happen.

Where this analogy breaks down when compared with the USA is that while some elements of the GOP (Dick Cheney, et al) are committed to a partial revocation of our constitutional order (at least as understood by those of us opposed to him), that order is far stronger and more deeply grounded in US history and culture, than was the weak Weimar democracy which was under siege from both the left and the right.

For me, it really is a question of: do you trust that our creaky and sometimes slow and ineffective system is going to hold up. I look back at a lot of very bad history that we've managed to get through and say yes.

I know that when contemplating the human cost of letting malevolent or foolish people hold power, there is a tremendous urge to do something, now, to make it stop. My take from lengthy reading and thinking about this problem is that a democratic system is the best means yet devised to solve this problem, and counterfactual histories which imagine a radicalized politics as a solution tend towards benefit analysis, without reckoning the true costs. A radicalized political system usually ends in one of two ways: (1) the Right wins, or (2) the Left has to resort to extreme violence and coercion to win and loses its moral compass in the process. Both of these are bad outcomes, IMHO.

In that sense, I too am a classical liberal like von (sorry von about the misclassification), which is why I am agreeing with him on this.

I'm in the same boat as von in this case.

I amend my comment that you're missing perspective, Turbulence. Anytime you agree with me, your perspective is absolutely perfect. ;-)

But I am having difficult seeing that she was savaged "because she was a woman."

No, I get that. What I'm not getting is why. Are you seriously suggesting that all the references to her being "castrating", of her "reminding men of their nagging wives", of her sounding like she's telling men to take out the garbage, about her cleavage and her makeup, that these would all have happened were she a man? That Tucker Carlson would've said "I'm really going to miss that cackle", that Mathews would've called the male politicians who support her "castratos in the eunuch chorus"?

And on. And on. And on. Links available on request, but you really shouldn't need them by now.

[Mind, I don't dispute that the media (and the GOP) have had a bizarre hard-on for the Clintons for some time... but what that overlooks is that, for many of them, the obsession with Hillary is a sexist one, if not a misogynistic one. Remember the lesbian accusations? How unwomanly it was that she used "Rodham"? That she had a career? And so forth. It may be historical, but that doesn't mean it's not sexist.]

I should have written "uncontrolled anger" doesn't work in politics.

That's well and good -- and a massive change from your original, btw -- but irrelevant and still not correct. Completely uncontrolled anger, or wild anger, that I could agree with; but I haven't seen that and, unless riots break out, I don't expect to. "Anger which might be more precisely targeted", OTOH, has moved mountains, and will do so again, though whether it will now is of course open to question.

WTF are you talking about? Apocalyptic? Who has said anything apocalyptic?

Sorry, I should have quoted:


Exactly how many Iraqi civilian deaths would Bush, McCain and the Republican party have to be responsible for annihilating before we can consider them enemies? 6 million? 3? 1?

To put it into perspective, 6 million is more than 20 percent of the pre-war population of Iraq, which would be on par with the Thirty Years War or the worst parts of WW2 in Eastern Europe and Russia.

That sounds pretty apocalyptic to me. Not that I am in any way discounting the tragedy of smaller numbers of victims.

sorry von about the misclassification

No worries. I tend to come across on this blog as conservative, even though I tend toward the social-liberal/economic conservative Cato-at-Liberty crowd.

My answer is that the line which seperates "our polity" from "not our polity" in my definition is a fuzzy zone and not a bright line.

Incidentally, natural law folks have long discussed the natural human right of revolution against tyranny. Some see it in the Declaration of Independence, and regard it as an animating force for the Second Amendment (among other things).

Hilzoy, Bruce and Left Turn,

I truly appreciate your kind and sympathetic words.

I agree, Left Turn, the intensity of the pain in which one experiences over the death of a loved one does reflect on the intensity of that person's capacity to love. But why does it have to hurt so damn much?

Grieving may be healthy but there's plenty of side effects that are questionable: the sleeping pills, the drinking, punching a wall or two (the fucking wall always, and, I mean, always wins).

But the human heart is amazing.

As you grieve -- be it for a person or beloved pet -- you still love. Your wife. Your son. Your Bowser. Your Hammels.

Then you go back to work, and even that helps. Your mind is still on your loss, but you still manage to go on and do the job you do.

You start to look at things a little differently -- like when you look out your bedroom window and see a young squirrel hiding under the barbecue grill, almost as if he were playing hide-and-seek with his friend or sibling nearby, who was too busy stealing birdseed to play along.

You notice how sweet birds sound in the morning, in the evening, all day long. You wonder if God ever made anything any better or more simple than a bird: He sings. He flys. He darts and dives. Millions and millions of dollars and great minds were required to get airplanes to do what birds have been doing forever; yes, they are perfect.

Stress hurts and makes you tired and makes you write "much like Al Gore in 1980" -- yikes!

1980?

I had just graduated high school. A tired mind -- unlike a tired heart -- is the organ that plays such tricks.

My heart is big.

Right now, it is not whole.

But when it is again, I will continue to bicker and banter, agree and disagree, with fell ObWi bloggers.

And while I was truly moved by Sen. Clinton's speech -- and her call for her supporters to embrace Sen. Obama -- I am amazed by her goodwill.

I mean, he will get my vote.

Just not as enthusiastically as she would have.

Losing hurts, especially when the stakes were as high as they were in the Democratic Primary. And so it was that I was amazed by Hillary Clinton's class, composure and strength.

No, I get that. What I'm not getting is why.

OK, let's take these in turn:

Are you seriously suggesting that all the references to her being "castrating", of her "reminding men of their nagging wives", of her sounding like she's telling men to take out the garbage, about her cleavage and her makeup, that these would all have happened were she a man?

Granted, I've kept an insane schedule of late. But I am a bit of a political junkie, and the only examples that I recall getting any MSM play was the stupidity about the cleavage and the makeup.

That Tucker Carlson would've said "I'm really going to miss that cackle",

I actually agree with Tucker: If calling that practiced, stupid, fake laugh a "cackle" makes me sexist, sign me up. Clinton made herself ridiculuous with her attempt to force the appearance of a sense of humor.

Or: sometimes a cackle is just a cackle.

that Mathews would've called the male politicians who support her "castratos in the eunuch chorus"?

On the other hand, everything Chris Matthews does or says is motivated by sexism. Why should Clinton be any different?

Remember the lesbian accusations? How unwomanly it was that she used "Rodham"? That she had a career? And so forth. It may be historical, but that doesn't mean it's not sexist.

Well, OK: if your point is based on the past, I agree with it. My perspective is based on the recent campaign.

"Anger doesn't work in politics" ???

We don't have to go back to the civil rights struggle for a counterexample. How did George W. Bush get to be President again? Have we forgotten the "Brooks Brothers riot"? Newt Gingrich's "liberals and Americans"? Right wing talk radio?

I would argue that although the impeachment of Bill Clinton failed in itself, the Republicans won a longer-term victory, only now turning sour.

I'm sorry, von, I have to disagree, even with the added proviso, "uncontrolled anger". I happen to prefer reasoned discourse to appeals to emotion, but I am a small voice. Turning it up a notch, is violence ever justified?

Anarch's reducto leads to a question I have asked myself more than once -- under what circumstances would I be willing to lay down my life? It's not a choice I've had to face. I doubt I'll ever man the barricades, but I hesitate to judge someone else's decision -- I have to acknowledge that somewhere there is a line, even if I disagree about its location.

bedtimeforbozo: Please accept my sympathies for both of your loses. Do not feel guilty for grieving over your lost dog. My bet is that somehow your grief for each has morphed together.

Now, let me offer you this bit of "woo-woo." I lost a most beloved pet a few years ago. During her illness, I was introduced to an animal communicator, and after she died, I pursued this avenue for awhile. It had proven remarkably helpful in dealing with all that was involved in my dog's illness and dying, and I found it intriguing. One of the workshops I took was on Death and Dying, and during it, I had a 'connection' with my dog. I had asked if she had anything that she wished to tell me. Her response has proven very comforting to me over the years since she left, and it was this: "The love that we shared has been released into the Universe and is ongoing." Trust me when I say that this is not something that I would be likely to dream up. But I have found a wonderful thought the idea that this intense love we shared may be out there offering healing in some fashion.....

And one final comment. Society expects us to grieve for our family members, but expects us to just 'get over' the loss of a pet in a few days at most. For those of us who truly do love our pets, they leave a giant hole in our lives and a few days is no where near enough. Your pain will lessen over time, but you will not forget your dog. And that is good.

TLTIA: It is a fair question. Extreme cases are fine to discuss as long as everyone understands that they are not typical and may distort the argument to the point of absurdity.

Of course. Like I said, this isn't a gotcha, it's a way of illuminating what I perceive to be a deficiency in your definition.

Where this analogy breaks down when compared with the USA is that while some elements of the GOP (Dick Cheney, et al) are committed to a partial revocation of our constitutional order (at least as understood by those of us opposed to him)...

But that, it seems to me, misses the point. Just because they won't succeed -- at least fully -- doesn't mean they're benign; it just means they're either incompetent or have taken on a task too monumental. Much like Al Qaeda's plot to "destroy the United States", come to that. Are you arguing that Al Qaeda isn't our enemy because they can't succeed at that goal? Of course not; so why should we give Cheney et al. a pass because they can't completely dismantle the Constitution as they'd like?

But if the NSDAP is too extreme, and fair enough, let me reiterate the mafioso comparison. Suppose that the Godfather were elected President of the United States under the auspices of the Mafia Party and proceed to use the US Armed Forces as his personal hit squad while systematically ravaging the government. Would such a man, or such a party, be an "opponent" under such circumstances?

This, to me, strikes at the crux of the hole in your definition: you're presuming in this dichotomy that the people who were legitimately elected within the system have the legitimate interests of the system at heart. That no-one can be elected via legitimate means who genuinely does not care what damage they inflict while pursuing their own ends. "Enemies" might be an overstrong word for such people, but I refuse to call them "opposition" because they aren't. To be "opposition" you must, at some level, be truly invested in the legitimacy of the system; and, after eight years, I think the weight of the evidence shows that the Bush Administration, Cheney in particular, is not. If you have another word to describe such criminality I'm all ears, but until then I'm afraid "enemies" is the more accurate descriptor.

To be clear here, I completely agree that your categories exist, are distinct, and are important, and I largely agree with your distinctions. What you said about the NSDAP applies here, though, and it warrants bolding: the Bush Administration is extremal, and extremist. They are the exceptional case in this country, and we need to treat them accordingly -- both politically and, here, semantically.

[This is the same reason, btw, that I say the Bush Administration "lied" us into war. I don't think that's actually true -- I think they (very skillfully) deployed what Frankfurt calls "bullshit" -- but parsing this distinction always ends up palliating their crimes in a way I find unacceptable. Until "bullshit" is regarded as egregious a sin as "lying", "lying" it is.]

Regarding the following (and your discussion of talk radio, etc.):

I'm sorry, von, I have to disagree, even with the added proviso, "uncontrolled anger". I happen to prefer reasoned discourse to appeals to emotion, but I am a small voice. Turning it up a notch, is violence ever justified?

We are not talking about inspiring or using anger in others. We are talking about crafting a message that is based on uncontrolled anger.

I would argue that although the impeachment of Bill Clinton failed in itself, the Republicans won a longer-term victory, only now turning sour.

I can see the argument -- the impeachment was unsucessful but weakened Gore to the extent that it allowed a GWB victory. As for your other examples, I don't think they prove your point. The closest that I've seen to anger working in politics was the '94 Republican Revolution and, to a limited (and, telling, losing) extent, Ross Perot. But the '94 RR was actually sold on a positive, not angry, agenda (Contract with America). And Ross, well, lost.

von: I raised the historical issue because of Turbulence's remarks. As to the rest... the simplest advice I can give is to hunt down the Daily Show from Thursday, I think it was, the segment with Kristen Schaal -- Mel from Flight of the Conchords, if you're interested -- in which something like 15 of these are played in about two minutes. It may or may not have gotten "play", depending on your definition, but it was out there in abundance.

[In a sense, actually, it was even worse than getting "play", in that most of the sexism was only done in passing, as if it was de rigueur and unworthy of comment: sexism so deep they probably didn't even notice it. Or care.]

Jwo,

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

But the '94 RR was actually sold on a positive, not angry, agenda (Contract with America).

Sure it was. There was positivity involved, true -- if you regard the Contract as inherently positive, which I will arguendo -- but a hell of a lot of the emotional drive came from carefully fostered anger towards the Clintons and all that they stood for.

von, what do you think is the purpose of a crafting and broadcasting a message of uncontrolled anger? It has been a deliberate strategy and alas, an effective one.

I agree that this has to be opposed, but denying its power is a mistake.

Incidentally, natural law folks have long discussed the natural human right of revolution against tyranny.

Absolutely. I would have grave doubts about the political judgement of anyone who did not recognize that right. The key question is: what is "tyranny"?

And more to the point, how do we recognize that we are on a road which leads to it while there is still time to depart from that course?

Arguments I've heard from radicals (both right and left) at various times since the late 1960s is that we are on the path to fascism/communism/name-your-tyranny, argued as an extrapolation of current events that are alarming, postulating an extension of the same trend into the future.

Now sometimes this does happen (see the NSDAP example raised by Turb above). But often it doesn't happen, that countervailing political forces come into play as a reaction to overreach and power grabs within the govt., and we step back from the brink. This has happened often enough in American history that I have some confidence in the resiliency of our constitutional system and the culture which underlies it.

I often hear it said that power once obtained is never given up. That is simply not true in our history.

The Aliens and Sedition Act was rolled back. Lincoln's abridgement of civil liberties was temporary. The anti-German measures of the Wilson administration during WW1 and the Red scare which followed were temporary. FDR's war time powers and the abuses which flowed from them were an artifact of that era. McCarthyism passed over us. Nixon's Imperial Presidency (to return to the theme of the top level post) proceeded from hubris to nemesis.

Given the repetitive nature of this history, I have confidence that the latest power grabs made by Bush, et. al. under the guise of the GWOT will in time be relegated to the same sad list of times when the US has not lived up to the spirit and the law of our foundational documents and our constitutional system.

This too shall pass. Not by osmosis, but because we today are doing the same thing our ancestors have done - to actively push back when it has gone too far. We are seeing it unfold in the very election that we spend so much time discussing on this blog.

Certainly we must be on constant guard against this history repeating itself, but that is an altogether different proposition from taking our latest outbreak and extrapolating it forward as evidence of new horrors lurking ahead of us in the future, and then using these hypotheticals as justification for radicalized action today.

I agree with TLTIABQ about enemies, but also with others about he magnitude of the threat posed by the Bush administration and its allies.

I did not think this about Reagan, and surely not about Bush 1 or Ford. Heck, I don't think Nixon was as much of a threat to our system of government. His violations of explicit laws were very small by comparison.

I think that crafting messages (or doing most things) while in the grip of uncontrolled anger is likely to be counterproductive. I think that messages of serious anger have worked well for the GOP, but (a) we're not them, and (b) with any luck, they might be wearing thin round about now.

Fwiw: what I agree with, about the magnitude of the threat etc., is not that it justifies invoking the right to revolution (which I don't at all think), but that it is very, very serious.

Any President who asserts, and also repeatedly uses, a "right" to disregard statutes and treaties, let alone the right to treat our country as "the field of battle" within which he has the right to act according to the laws of war, claims a dictatorial power, and throws away the separation of powers. Threats don't get more fundamental than that.

Yes, hilzoy, I too hope that now that we have exhausted all the other possibilities we will at last do the right thing.

In darker moments my fear is, that list of "other possibilities" isn't really exhausted.

How long do you grieve for the loss of a dog?
As long as it takes for the pain of losing a dear part of your life to fade. I am sorry to hear of your loss, bedtimeforbonzo.

To put it into perspective, 6 million is more than 20 percent of the pre-war population of Iraq, which would be on par with the Thirty Years War or the worst parts of WW2 in Eastern Europe and Russia.

That sounds pretty apocalyptic to me. Not that I am in any way discounting the tragedy of smaller numbers of victims.

TLTIA, I did not mention those specific numbers because I thought they were plausible or likely. I raised them because I think it is generally agreed that the Nazi regime's killing of six million Jews might legitimately earn them the title of "enemy" for many people the world over, regardless of whether or not their government was legitimate. I mean, assume for a moment that the regime was completely legitimate: would you have the audacity to tell a surviving German Jew that it was inappropriate to consider Hitler his enemy? I would not.

So, six million seems like a good number for many people. No doubt there are many factors that go into moral assessments inherent in labeling who or what is an "enemy", but I think absolute numbers matter. Of course, the Nazis sought the deaths of their victims whereas Republicans didn't, and I'm sure such issues are very important in most courts, but, alas, they don't make Iraqi victims any less dead.

I asked about those specific numbers because they strike me as useful benchmarks, nothing more.

To be "opposition" you must, at some level, be truly invested in the legitimacy of the system; and, after eight years, I think the weight of the evidence shows that the Bush Administration, Cheney in particular, is not.

I'm sorry but I don't see much evidence to suggest that they are currently as bad or worse than the prior eruptions of authoritarianism which we've "enjoyed" in our past (or perhaps I've failed to notice that you and I are having this conversation from the comfort of our detention cells, of the sort which past radical critics of the govt have enjoyed). As for the hazards of extrapolation see my 10:53 comment.

Not to minimize what the current administration is doing, but rather to point out that past episodes have been pretty bad and I think we tend to lose sight of that.

What would be the contemporary equivalent of the Ludlow massacre, to name just one example?

I am not a pacificist, but I do believe that the least force necessary to do the job effectively is pretty much always desirable. Thus, when I see a political party rewarding people who confess to election tampering with more opportunities to do the same, who seem not to care about the miserable lives and wretched deaths of anyone outside their circle, who enrich themselves and their cronies while neglecting the most basic elements of infrastructure and administration, and so on, I think, "I've seen this before" and can take steps accordingly.

Thus, I think, we can take the NASDAP, Peron's party, the Bolsheviks, and their like as warnings and lessons. We can fight them with legitimate means within the confines of civil order, before they get a chance to destroy that order again.

It is, in its way, like the defense of one's property. First you put up markers of your boundaries, then warnings about trespassings, then you warn off trespassers, then you get the cops involved, and then, maybe, if necessary, you use more force on your own. The hooligans have done a lot to destroy civil enforcement mechanisms in the US, and to make elections unverifiable and susceptible to tampering, but haven't yet gotten to the point of just tossing out results altogether. So campaigning remains a worthwhile means of attempting to restore normal politics.

TLTIA,

Would it be fair to say that if the Bush administration launched a nuclear strike against Iran and killed 15 million people, they would still not merit the term enemy provided they conducted fair elections in November?

Thank you, Prodigal.

TLTIA: I didn't say that Cheney et al. were fascist -- though I do believe that they are proto-fascist, on which your mileage may definitely vary -- but rather that they do not believe, at a fundamental level, in the legitimacy of the system which they are charged to protect; and that they have instead used that system to further their own ends at the expense of the country. That furtherance does not (yet) involve violence against fellow citizens -- although see Florida 2000 -- but IMO that speaks more to their desires than their proclivities.

[OTOH, if you regard malign neglect as authoritarian violence, I'll offer Katrina as an example. Though that's closer to the Great Flood of 1927 than Ludlow, on which more below.]

To address your examples above, which are well taken, I'll say only this before I head off to bed: in all those cases there were, for lack of a better term, explicating circumstances. Actual wars against actual polities with the actual survival of nations in the balance.* No such emergency applies today, the Administration's hysteria notwithstanding. Instead, we've had an open subversion of the democratic norms of this country such that -- if they were taken to their logical conclusion, as the Bush Administration periodically claims they will -- they would mitigate entirely the protections of the Constitution.

* Slight exception for Alien and Sedition but then again, back then the Constitution still had that new-Constitution smell.

What would be the contemporary equivalent of the Ludlow massacre, to name just one example?

What would be the contemporary equivalent of the Ludlow strike? I don't think you can have one without the other, and the demoralization of labor pretty much precludes that.

[Not to say that we don't have strikes -- heck, I myself went on strike a few years back -- but striking in the heavy industries? Doesn't happen nowadays.]

Publius, I'm wondering how you feel now about your last stated conclusions here. There's no update, so should we assume you stand by them? Or not?

Perhaps you might speak to this when you find a moment?

Also, btw, I hope you don't still have the weird delusion that I feel "hostile" to you in some fashion, since that's, well, completely disconnected from reality. Though obviously you don't have to take my word for it, if you don't see reason to. But there's just no reason I'd feel any "hostility" towards you. I like you fine. I'm precise with, and have high expectations of, everyone. Everyone whom one should have high expectations of, at least, anyway.

Wow. Well Jesurgislac, I will say this: I normally find myself nodding in agreement to whatever you have to say on this board. I comment infrequently but I am a frequent lurker and I normally find your commentary incisive. But I have to say that you are really "off the rails" on this one. To focus on one point in particular, it beggars belief that you are really trying to "hang your hat" on the Zimbabwe remarks.

In my mind, Clinton wanted to raise doubts about her opponent's eventual victory and to do so, she invoked a foreign election scenario that involved egregious violations of the basic principles of democracy. Your arguments that that is not what she was doing are pretty unpersuasive to me but hey, opinions are like butts right? Everyone's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks.

For me, the issue that I have with your argument is that you seem convinced that the argument over what Clinton's intent was with this remark ought to be "off the table." You believe, somehow, that her intent was completely innocent of what it implies from my point of view. I have a hard time seeing your point of view but what strikes me as even more hard to grasp is your notion that I have something to apologize for because I disagree with you on this.

I believe that I know exactly what she meant when she said this. I find it objectionable and I have said so. You disagree. Fair enough. The idea that this should end with my apologizing for some horrible transgression is truly bizarre and mystifying.

LeftTurn: The abandonment of New Orleans comes immediately to mind. The Superdome victims were on TV for days, after all.

Pat Tillman.

The hundreds of reporter and photographer deaths and disappearances in Iraq and Afghanistan that the government won't officially investigate and won't let anyone else investigate.

And that's if I confine myself to lethal violence, as opposed to more systematic manipulation of eligibility rules and such to simply disenfranchise undesirables.

(Clarification: I don't think the Office of the VP put out a hit order on Tillman, or anything like that. I believe that the central figures in the administration allow, encourage, and are amused by abuse of "traitors" up to and including fragging, both individually and collectively, as with the incidents of organized religious discrimination and harassment documented in previous posts here and elsewhere. They allow useful violence to flourish without attempting to control it all directly. This is another thing that reminds me of Peron and Mussolini.)

Would it be fair to say that if the Bush administration launched a nuclear strike against Iran and killed 15 million people, they would still not merit the term enemy provided they conducted fair elections in November?

If that actually happened, then I would agree with you, except I wouldn't call the people involved "enemies", I would call them "madmen", and "criminals".

IMHO that's a strawman hypothetical slightly less unlikely than the ticking time bomb torture scenario.

The President doesn't just push a button to incinerate millions of people. We have a chain of command between him and the missiles and bombs, which is not in the hair trigger state it was maintained in during the Cold War when we anticipated the possibility of a Soviet attack with no prior warning.

There has already been significant public pushback against aggression vs. Iran coming out of the DOD and the intelligence community via the last NIE.

Given that context I am reasonably certain that any such order for a strike with nukes coming from the WH without a Congressional authorization for war, and absent a dire national emergency, would be treated exactly the way that I would expect: as a sign that the POTUS was mentally ill and needed to be temporarily removed from the chain of command pending a mental evaluation and possibly subject to emergency impeachment proceedings.

If the WH starts making noises about a nuclear strike on Iran, I will be writing to my reps and to the leaders in Congress asking that they have impeachment articles pre-drafted and ready for emergency use, such that the entire process would take less than 72 hours.

I don't expect to come anywhere close to such an extreme scenario, but if you are going to postulate a constitutional crisis, that is my answer. We have the tools already in hand to deal with this kind of situation, we will need to summon the will to use them.

I should also say that this is a very good post, and I completely agree with you. Well-put.

OT: Oh frabjous day! I have got wifi back in my house!

The importance of this, to me, is that my cable modem is on the third floor, in my office, and the AC there is also screwed up. So: no internet in any place where it isn't miserably hot. Until now.

This has been true for several days, which is why no posts. I'd get up there and just want to leave again asap.

But now I can get the internet and not be over 100 degrees! Hallelujah!

And to add to that, a tree limb fell down near my house and took out phone service for a couple of days. The repair guy, who came yesterday, was named Dorian Gray. Really. (He was very nice, too.)

Did he show you a picture ID?

Tuning in late, just to offer condolences to bedtimeforbonzo. I am so very sorry for your loss, and not at all dismissive because "it's just a dog."

There is no "just" about it: the animals we share our lives with are family, no less than the human members thereof, and the sense of grief and loss is just as deep and tearing for one as for the other.

Grieve as long as you need to.

Doesn't the fact that Bush was appointed by the Supreme Court kind of undermine von's comments about "legitimate authority"? The Bushies played chicken right off the bat, holding the entire system of government hostage, with fake rioters and election fraud, and the American people blinked, because Al Gore and the Democrats and the American people weren't willing to bet on what length these people would go to to seize power.

Partly because at the time, most people figured the Bush administration would be mediocre and uninspiring, like his previous career, not the complete and utter disaster and dismantling of the country it's been.

To come back to the post... :)

Having re-read Clinton's endorsement speech, I think that the best answer to the question "What should Clinton do next?" is "More like this, please!" I'm really impressed by both candidates and their staffs today - whoever made all this happen behind the scenes did a fantastic job with it. I am glad to have reasons to smile in many directions and cheer so many folks on. Looking forward to more of it.

The challenges are serious. But serious times and tasks call for happiness as well as anger and sorrow.

I don't have time to comment on the many thoughtful comments on this thread, but I need to say that I also agree completely with Nell, here:

Hilzoy at least grasps why and acknowledges that this post might give offense to Clinton supporters.

It also irritates those of us who have been waiting for the backbiting to be over, who really are interested in the reconciliation happening as quickly as possible, and mutual trust re-developing between the camps in the interest of maximum success in November.

Indeed.

"But now I can get the internet and not be over 100 degrees! Hallelujah!"

It's down to 82 in this room, as of a minute ago when it finally dropped from 83, at 2:04 a.m.

God i need some sleep.

"But this is one of the biggest political upsets in american history. a former first lady lost after being 'inevitable,' for very unique reasons (historically speaking). it's a big complex interesting question why that happened. so, i am going to be talking about it -- more to the point, i think it's a very interesting discussion, particularly for political junkies."

Suggestion: you could write your post, save it, and wait two weeks, or even more, to post it, you know.

Not in line with the immediate gratification typical of blogging, to be sure.

But it's an available choice to consider, while also considering the consequences of what you want to accomplish by posting, and how various readers will react, and how useful or not you're being, in the end, to the Obama campaign, with your choices.

"Electing a qualified woman president seemed a truly history-changing event. At 22, my grandma voted in the first election I was sad my feminist mother died 4 years ago and didn't get a chance to vote for Hillary. I would imagine African Americans felt similarly about Obama."

Grand to see you back, Redstocking! Welcome!

"Electing a qualified woman president seemed a truly history-changing event."

So is electing a qualified African-American candidate, so obviously that can't be it, alone.

I suggest that you may have the answer in your next two sentences: "At 22, my grandma voted in the first election I was sad my feminist mother died 4 years ago and didn't get a chance to vote for Hillary. I would imagine African Americans felt similarly about Obama."

What you are saying -- and I see this in many women, and some men -- is that Senator Clinton's campaign was, and her nomination would have been, a history-changing event that you identify personally with.

There's nothing whatever wrong with that! We are all the sum of the different parts of our identity! It is fine to identify with ourselves if it is within reason. And preferring a qualified woman to a qualified man is an utterly valid thing to do when you identify more with the historic nature of the first woman to come within a hair's breath of the nomination than you do with the first African-American to edge past that hair's breath.

Just as it's fine for African-Americans, and many other Americans, women and men alike, to identify as much or more with the first dark-skinned Democratic nominee for President.

Just as it was fine for Catholics to identify with John F. Kennedy, and for some Jews to identify with -- eeuw, yes, I know -- Joe Lieberman (that was then, this is now; hey, Al Gore picked him, not me).

And so on.

We are who we are, and that's a valid choice.

So maybe that's not if, but if it is, that's fine, I suggest.

What do you think?

"and I note 335,000 hits on Obama and Rezko. But, I get 524,000 hits when I google on Hillary Clinton and Zimbabwe."

I get this:

Results 1 - 10 of about 720,000 for obama rezko.
I made sure to sign out as a Google user, and it made no difference.

For "'hillary clinton' zimbabwe" I get this:

Results 1 - 10 of about 570,000 for "hillary clinton" zimbabwe.
I suggest people try Googling these words themselves, and or clicking my actual link, to check these results. I encourage Jes to provide an actual link to her results. Someone might ask her to do that, if she'd like to.

"Of course Clinton asked to have the Florida and Michigan delegates seated! Why not? If Obama had won in either state, so would he!"

Is this mind-reading, or do you have a cite?

Brent: You believe, somehow, that her intent was completely innocent of what it implies from my point of view.

Yes, I do. I think it beggars belief the amount of really horrific ill-will and presumption of malice that can be directed at Hillary Clinton - it's an extraordinary proof of how the media's hate campaign against her within the US since 1992 had paid off.

Bruce: Having re-read Clinton's endorsement speech, I think that the best answer to the question "What should Clinton do next?" is "More like this, please!" I'm really impressed by both candidates and their staffs today - whoever made all this happen behind the scenes did a fantastic job with it. I am glad to have reasons to smile in many directions and cheer so many folks on. Looking forward to more of it.

Bruce, you don't know how glad I am to make my last comment on this thread end with this: I completely agree.

"Do you think our society will only stop fearing and hating truly powerful women when men and women share equally in childrearing?"

This is a kind of totum pro parte. Only individuals can fear and hate. Society has no consciousness, no thoughts, no will, no self-awareness, no ability to decide.

"Society" cannot engage in any of these things, including the actions you attribute to it.

This is a truly common category error, a truly common logical error. It typically leads to confused conclusions, and in this case, the notion that it makes sense to rail against "society," which cannot reply, and if we don't apply an objective metric to judge how "society," as a collective, does something -- anything -- it leads to railing against a concept that isn't measurable, can't respond, and can't be usefully discussed.

That which can't be usefully discussed can't be usefully discussed, I suggest, and so I question the use of this sort of thinking or approach to any topic.

Be concrete, I suggest: it's the only way useful discussions can take place, rather than with generalities which can't be usefully measured or discussed.

"Hillary supporters perceived that too many progressive blogs became almost as hurtful as the mass media,"

Blogs can't be hurtful; only people can be hurt. Only specific people can be hurt. Confusing cause and effect is also a category error, and also always leads to confused conclusions, I suggest.

If you'd like to discuss which specific people were hurt by which specific blogs, with cites, cool.

But claims that blogs were, passive voice, "hurtful," without specifying who was hurt and why and by whom can't lead, again, to any kind of useful discussion: it's an assertion that cannot be tested, and an assertion that isn't falsifiable isn't useful.

All blogs are, after all, "hurtful" to someone. It's who they're hurtful to, and when and where and why, and how much -- the specifics -- that matter.

Can you put your ideas into falsifiable terms, perhaps, please? If so, thanks!

"Anger in politicals doesn't work."

What's a "political"? It's an adjective, not a noun. To what are you referring?

If we're talking about specifics, do Clinton supporters who complain about the sexism of Obama's campaign have examples of Obama campaign advisers (not blog writers or media commentators) saying things which are as offensively sexist as James Carville's comments on Obama's masculinity? Samantha Power's comments about Clinton were offensive, but not specifically gendered.

Yes, I do. I think it beggars belief the amount of really horrific ill-will and presumption of malice that can be directed at Hillary Clinton - it's an extraordinary proof of how the media's hate campaign against her within the US since 1992 had paid off.

But I did not and do not align myself with the "media's hate campaign" against Clinton. I am perfectly able to recognize and criticize many of the frames and narratives that have been used to define her. I still think her comments about Zimbabwe were ill formed.

I don't think that there is any point in arguing which of is right but to suggest that my interpretation of her remarks proceeds from an inherent ill will towards Clinton is a bad misjudgment on your part - one you are apparently incapable of perceiving. I happen to like Hillary Clinton. Your conclusion inexorably linking the fact that some have disagreed with some of her rhetoric to some generalized animus towards her is just purely bad logic.

There is something truly remarkable about how wrong you are on this one. The "extraordinary proof" you are talking about is actually not any kind of proof of anything at all.

I would probably, I think, if I had been in a position to vote which of course I'm not, have voted for Obama. Unless I'd got particularly p*ssed off by some extraordinary piece of crap from an Obama supporter about how dreadful Clinton is . . .


[The protestors at the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee were] bad thing and plays into McCain/the Republican Party's goals, yes. But blaming Hillary Clinton for it is as much nonsense as blaming her exclusively for the Iraq war on the basis of one vote.

So, punishing Obama for the actions of his supporters=reasonable. Blaming Hillary for the actions of her supporters=nonsense. QED, I guess.

Read Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post this morning. He shows that Bush Lied, People Died' is a canard. Over and over again, Rockefeller's report says that what the administration claimed was 'generally substantiated by intelligence information'.

What price Val Plame, Joe Wilson, and Larry Johnson?

You think this issue is going away. Well it might if we were stuck in a quagmire, but we are winning and the Iraqis are happy about it and the Iranians, upset.

Are you glad?
========================================

He shows that Bush Lied, People Died' is a canard.

hmmm. a war-cheerleader cites a report written by another war cheerleader as evidence that war-cheerleaders were correct.

well, i'm convinced!

Yes, it appears Rockefeller was a war cheerleader. Read the editorial.
=================

James Carville's comments on Obama's masculinity

Is there any hope that Clinton's loss might mean we see less of the odious Carville? Probably not. The DSCC and DCCC were both using him to send out e-mail requests for contributions even at the height of the Obama-Clinton contest. Needless to say, those weren't successful in reaching me.

And Coke has an ad featuring Carville with Bill Frist. Which one of those slimeballs is supposed to make me want to drink the product?

It seems, in fact, that the problem is that Bush didn't do enough cheerleading. The crowd was roaring behind him, in full throat, bipartisan, precautionary principle.
==========================

Oh wait, Obama wasn't roaring. He was busy schmoozing with Rezko, absorbing Wright's sermons with his family, and breaking into divorce court records. Much too busy to be involved in the most important event of his time.
=======================

DNFTT, people. It would be one thing if Kim's comments were even vaguely related to the thread, but this is just derailment, verging on an attempt to "disrupt or destroy meaningful conversation for its own sake" (to quote the posting rules).

Read the editorial.

5 out of 5 war cheerleaders agree: war cheerleaders are blameless !

"Anger in politicals doesn't work."

What's a "political"? It's an adjective, not a noun. To what are you referring?

That was a typo, Gary.

ok. KC's right.

it's off to the pie factory for kim.

It's a bit tangential, but I've already mentioned Larry Johnson, big fan of Hillary.

I'll be happy to respond in a new thread. This is important stuff, pertinent to the campaign. Ignore it at your peril.
====================

What should Hillary do? She should support the war effort, and validate her vote years ago. Hiatt's editorial is a powerful indictment of the disloyalty of the opposition.
=================

You know, when the Iraq campaign is practically a victory, and the war on terror well engaged, it is going to occur to some Democratic politician that opposing the effort looks ludicrous.

Across the Muslim world, even jihadists are denouncing bin Laden. C'mon, people, rejoice.
================

More important than whether or not blogs are 'hurtful'.
=======================

von: In re your earlier post, I'd forgotten the the Hillary Nutcracker. [Warning: Link to Great Orange Satan.] Whether or not you find it amusing, it's undeniably sexist and of a piece with what I was talking about above.

Gary - I think you go a little far in ascribing category error. If the person making the argument is actually positing that an object has an ability that it can't have, then sure, it's category error. But language is rife with metonymy precisely because it's useful in discussions.

I'd even argue that, beyond the valuable shorthand they provide, metonymic expressions can make useful discussion easier by allowing the discussion to proceed from "loose" to "tight". A statement like, "society needs to realize..." has a rich set of entailments, and a discussion can explore them rather than walking a more strictly delineated path. Compare the following two discussions:

X: Society needs to realize blah blah blah
Y: That's a category error.
X: **Imputes something more specific**
Y: **Refutes something more specific with devastating ninja logic powers**
[end]

X: Society needs to realize blah blah blah
Y: Would you require that actual laws be passed to admit that society has realized blah blah blah?
Z: If blah blah blah were presented more positively by Hollywood, then yak yak yak
Q: I believe that society is evolving such that blah blah blah is likely to become a common belief due to blibbidy blibbidy.
[etc., etc.]

Some discussions, I'd argue, are better when the participants wander around metonymically for a while, get the lay of the land, set up some discursive lawn chairs, pop a few Rogue Dialectic Pale Ales, and save the brass tacks for later.

Thank you, CaseyL, for the kind words (12:49 am today).

Thank you.

Hye, bedtimeforbonzo. I share your pain. About six weeks ago, my wife and I lost our eight-year-old German shepherd to liver disease. We knew it was coming, but it happened quickly and dramatically. We're still hurting, but it does get better with time. How much? I can't say. My wife is still deeper in grief than I am, so it varies.

You may have seen it already, but if not, the Rainbow Bridge helped up both deal with our loss.

Blessings to you,
John

"Given the repetitive nature of this history, I have confidence that the latest power grabs made by Bush, et. al. under the guise of the GWOT will in time be relegated to the same sad list of times when the US has not lived up to the spirit and the law of our foundational documents and our constitutional system."

Historically, this is the stance I have taken.

However, this administration has caused me to reconsider how I've consistently underestimated its dangerous nature.

So while I'm still inclined to agree with you, I'd stress the caution that this relegation will not take place unless everyone works hard to make sure it takes place, and that we all educate each other on our history, and the value and meaning and an understanding of our constitutional values, and our civil liberties, and most of all, not assume that a pendulum must always swing backwards, just because historically has, or that things could not, with sufficient pushing on one side, and inaction on the other, tip to a new form of malevolence in our governmental system never before seen, that could become so institutionalized as to be effectively unrepealable until we are, indeed, in a situation sufficiently not distant from one like the NSDAP achieving roots throughout our government.

It can happen there, it can happen anywhere, and vigilance must be maintained, and nothing taken for granted.

These have been scary times, and the forces that have gotten us here aren't going away even if they lose a mere election or two or three or four. Power is power, and thems that got it tend to not give it up easily, no matter the surface of our electoral system.

"That was a typo, Gary."

Ah. Was it "anger in politics doesn't work," then?

If so, what do you mean by "work"? Anger by who, directed at whom, in what context?

I see anger "working" in all sorts of ways, across our contemporary politics, and historically. Could you perhaps clarify what you mean by this extremely vague statement? I really have just about no idea of what you mean by it.

I have, let me be clear, now read the entire thread up to now, and your subsequent comments, and I don't see anything you wrote that clarifies in the slightest. I may certainly have overlooked the key comment; if so, could you perhaps point it out to me?

I read "Moreover, you are going to have to come to grip with the points made by me, TLTIA, and Francis D regarding anger in politics," and I can't figure out what point it is that you believe you have made, I'm afraid: what is it?

Specifically, at June 08, 2008 at 08:30 PM you wrote "anger in [politics] doesn't work." At une 08, 2008 at 09:38 PM you wrote: "Moreover, you are going to have to come to grip with the points made by me, TLTIA, and Francis D regarding anger in politics."

Did I miss a comment by you in between those two in which you made a point about anger in politics? If so, could you give the time of the comment, or link to it, perhaps?

Subsequent to that, you did comment a few more times, but I still can't figure out what it is you believe or are trying to say. I suspect we may have very different assumptions relevant to whatever that is. I'm afraid I also couldn't make much sense out of your June 08, 2008 at 10:11 PM. But maybe that's just me, and it made sense to everyone else. And ditto that your points about anger in politics, whatever they are, make sense to most everyone but me.

As a check by use of a third-party commentary, I assume you're familiar with Hofstader's classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics? If not, you can read it there. Could you perhaps give a couple or so sentences on what you think of its thesis?

Thanks for any and all help here.

"Yes, it appears Rockefeller was a war cheerleader. Read the editorial."

How about linking to it?

I'd also suggest trying to write in actual sentences.

Bedtimeforbonzo, awfully sorry about your canine companion's death; it's horrible, I know; my sympathies.

Sorry, Gary, I only want you to read the editorial if you have to look for it. It's in the WaPo, you can find it.

I don't really aim to persuade. Maybe I mean to direct you to an enhanced learning experience.

Those two sentences are actual sentences.

Style critics. Bah.
============


Historically, this is the stance I have taken.

However, this administration has caused me to reconsider how I've consistently underestimated its dangerous nature.

Gary,

Agreed, and I suspect that we are fairly close in our views regarding how potentially dangerous the authoritarianism and constitutional subversiveness of the current administration is, my caveat being that much of this threat is potential rather than actual.

Unlike past episodes where brute force has been exercised outside the law (e.g. the murderous anti-labor violence of the anarchist and red-scare era), this administration has been much more forthright and open about working within the channels of a newly peverted system of law. They have done the work of creating a framework for an openly authoritarian legal system, rather than engaging in an illegal and extra-legal clandestine power grab such as was the case under Nixon.

That is the bad news.

What makes me more optimistic is that the Bush administration's moment of political popularity has passed, irrevocably IMHO, so their sinister new legal system will have to wait for another authoritarian executive before it can be applied on a large scale.

This means that for now we have an opportunity to defuse these legal landmines. We must sieze that opportunity, and having a Presidential nominee who is a constitutional scholar gives me great hope that we will not lack for a dialog on these issues and have at least a passing chance for getting a new President who is well equipped intellectually and temprementally for the task of undoing what Yoo and Addington have done.

or that things could not, with sufficient pushing on one side, and inaction on the other, tip to a new form of malevolence in our governmental system never before seen, that could become so institutionalized as to be effectively unrepealable until we are, indeed, in a situation sufficiently not distant from one like the NSDAP achieving roots throughout our government.

One thing that I think would help is if we (and by we I don't mean you personally - I mean critics of the current administration broadly and collectively) could stop using the historically inaccurate term fascism to describe the threat of authoritarianism in the US, even in proto- form.

We need a new vocabulary to help people to understand that the threat will almost certainly not manifest itself in the form of jack-booted thugs murdering the opposition and dragging people off to internment camps. If that is how we visualize the threat, then our impoverished imaginations will not be adequate to recognizing the real threat and how close we are to reaching its terminal point.

Fascism in early 20th Cen Europe was a culturally and historically conditioned form of authoritarianism which IMHO was much more crudely and explicitly violent than anything I ever expect to see here in the USA (with the exception of organized lynchings during Jim Crow).

The USA is the country where the art of non-violent and non-coercive persuasion (aka advertising) was perfected. I expect that in the future our native form of authoritarianism will draw on that legacy to manifest itself in a much smoother and more indirect manner than the brutally violent far-right and far-left authoritarianisms of Europe.

In this country we don't need to murder dissidents when we can silence them by delegitimizing them, and we have no need to use mass terror to cow our population into obedience when they can be bribed and persuaded to obey, with massive economy of effort compared with the NSDAP or the Bolsheviks or the Falange, etc.

I expect an authoritarian nightmare in the USA to look much less like 1930s Germany, and much more like 2003 USA, only with Fox News clones filling all the airwaves and alternative news channels subordinated or silenced softly and quietly, or marginalized by ridicule. If liberty in the USA is threatened, it will be due to a lack of oxygen, not by more dramatic means, and I think use of the term fascism ill prepares us to monitor that threat.

IMHO as always, and also I greatly appreciate your very scholarly approach to this and other subjects, so criticism and correction are always appreciated.

LeftTurn, I think you may be underestimating the depth and breadth of violence in American society past and present. Start off with the prison population. According to Human Rights Watch, whom I trust very much on this kind of thing, 11% of black men ages 30-34 were behind bars in the middle of 2007 (and blacks are 12 times as likely to go to prison for a given drug offense as whites). This is staggeringly disruptive. It would be so even if we had prisons which weren't routinely high on the global list of havens for abuse of all kinds. As it is, a large fraction of an entire ethnic group's men can expect to be raped, assaulted, and otherwise seriously worked over for things that white people are much less likely to pay any penalty for. That's institutionalized racism as thorough in its way as Jim Crow.

Overall, more than 1% of our population is in prison. This is mind-boggling. We have twice as many prisoners as China, despite their vastly larger population. We have half again as many prisoners per capita as Cuba, three times the per capita rate of former Soviet republics on our State Department's list of oppressive regimes. And let's not forget that many of the instructors and instigators of torture and other abuse in the military prisons come from our domestic prison-industrial complex. It's bad in there, for a staggering number of Americans, and the threat of it is a constant blight on the lives of whole sectors of our population.

That's almost certainly the single biggest locus for state violence against its citizen, but far from the only one, alas.

LeftTurn, I think you may be underestimating the depth and breadth of violence in American society past and present. Start off with the prison population. According to Human Rights Watch, whom I trust very much on this kind of thing, 11% of black men ages 30-34 were behind bars in the middle of 2007 (and blacks are 12 times as likely to go to prison for a given drug offense as whites). This is staggeringly disruptive. It would be so even if we had prisons which weren't routinely high on the global list of havens for abuse of all kinds. As it is, a large fraction of an entire ethnic group's men can expect to be raped, assaulted, and otherwise seriously worked over for things that white people are much less likely to pay any penalty for. That's institutionalized racism as thorough in its way as Jim Crow.

Overall, more than 1% of our population is in prison. This is mind-boggling. We have twice as many prisoners as China, despite their vastly larger population. We have half again as many prisoners per capita as Cuba, three times the per capita rate of former Soviet republics on our State Department's list of oppressive regimes. And let's not forget that many of the instructors and instigators of torture and other abuse in the military prisons come from our domestic prison-industrial complex. It's bad in there, for a staggering number of Americans, and the threat of it is a constant blight on the lives of whole sectors of our population.

That's almost certainly the single biggest locus for state violence against its citizen, but far from the only one, alas.

Thanks for any and all help here.

Gary, I appreciate that you're confused. Others were not.

Thank you, Gary.

Thank you, John -- sorry for your family's loss of your German Shepherd. I have never had one but I understand they are loyal-to-the-cows-come-home companions.

I just logged on before hopping in the shower for my 1-9 shift. But when I have time, John -- probably on my much-needed day off tomorrow -- I will check out the Rainbow Bridge link you provided. Thanks again and take care.

Kim -- I feel your pain. About style critics, I mean:)

One thing that I think would help is if we (and by we I don't mean you personally - I mean critics of the current administration broadly and collectively) could stop using the historically inaccurate term fascism to describe the threat of authoritarianism in the US, even in proto- form.

I completely disagree; I think "fascism", or rather "proto-fascism", is a perfectly accurate descriptor of what we're seeing here. As I said previously, the fact that it might not have achieved its fullest flower* doesn't mitigate against its obvious predilections; not Nazism by any stretch, but the more "subdued" fascism of Franco or Mussolini. Ideologically, see, for example, Eco's 'Eternal Fascism', which I'm sure you're familiar with.

Politically, the case is more tenuous, I agree. Your point about the lack of overt political violence is well-taken, of course, but I think you're underestimating the degree to which "lack of oxygen" v. "outright violence" is a distinction without difference in terms of preserving political liberty, much like that of "lying" v. "bullshit". [It's also why I prefer the term "proto-fascist" to describe the movement.] Likewise, as Bruce mentioned above, I think you're underestimating the level of violence already present; not just in terms of the prison population, but in terms of the threats made to liberals (cf Misha giving maps to someone's home or Malkin giving out home phone numbers), the violence against gays, etc. There is a very real, and very dangerous, proclivity towards such action out there -- not quite "action for action's sake" but something passably close -- and it should not be underestimated.

Has it actually reached a state that can be termed "fascism"? Probably not, depending on how essential one regards the legalization of the fascist state and the necessity of violence in pursuing it. There won't be internment camps for political dissidents -- unless you count prison for minorities which, well, there's something to that -- nor will there be an actual Fuhrerprinzip/Enabling Act or Fascist Grand Council. Heck, I don't think there would have been a call for a third term for Bush even if Iraq had gone well, though there was no question that the political elimination of their rivals -- not defeat, elimination, and that's a crucial distinction -- was on the table. Again, though, I regard this as a difference in degree not kind, modulo the more generally violent milieu of the 1930s**... and I regard the leaders of this movement as fascists-in-training.

Though obviously, YMMV.

* Depending on what you think the fullest flower of the Bush Administration and its ideological kin would actually be.

** To be a bit more explicit about this, since I think similar things have cropped up a few times in our conversations: I think that if political violence were more acceptable, say to the degree of the 1930s, the GOP (or at least the more extremist elements of it) would have deployed it against their opponents in 2002-2004. That they didn't speaks to me of the changed social mores and not their "innate impulses" (if such makes sense). Now, one can argue that fascism is definitionally such a transgressive ideology that any movement which allows itself to be morally restricted in its use of violence cannot be fascist, and I'd somewhat agree; but this, to me, is precisely the distinction between "fascist" and "proto-fascist", especially if the restrictions are accompanied by wistful ruminations of a world without such petty restrictions. And, revealing my black-hearted cynicism, I don't doubt for a moment that if right-wing extremists had started outright, overt violence against anti-war protesters during those three years, there would have been a significant number of Republican faithful cheering them on.

but the more "subdued" fascism of Franco or Mussolini

Anarch,

This is very complicated topic and obviously we are in an area of subjective judgments where reasonable people disagree. Bruce's point about the grotesquely large US prison population is well taken, IMHO, but otherwise it seems to me that there are both qualitative and quantitative differences between authoritarianism in the US and even the “milder” (caveat – you have to judge the effects of say Franco in Spain in proportion to total population) European versions from the early 20th Cen., and that these differences are not an accident but are an expression of the different historical and cultural contexts. (note: sprinkle numerous IMHO on every paragraph below)

Authoritarianism is both a means to and end, and an end unto itself. In neither case do I see our native version as simply an offshoot of European Fascism.

With regard to means, I made the point in my earlier comment that far more subtle and sophisticated ways exist for an economic and political elite to dominate our country and maintain sufficient control over policy to suit their purposes, than those used by Franco, Mussolini, et.al. When better means are available, extreme violence is inefficient and costly, and is risky and potentially counterproductive. Why use it if you don’t have to?

Do you disagree?

With regard to ends, I submit that the various forms of European Fascism drew their strength from filling a psychological void created by the secularization (simultaneous with the shocks created by rapid industrialization and urbanization in the 19th and early 20th Cen.’s) of societies which had a very long and deep cultural history of having religion at the center of their public life. Not pluralistic religion such as practiced here in the US, but what in most countries was a monolithic state sanctioned and established religion.

In that sense, Fascism and the other forms of virulent authoritarian mass politics in Europe (which really began during the French Revolution, mutated under the two Bonaparte Emperors, and came to full flower across Europe in the wake of WW1) were false religions, substituting for the older and more authentic faiths which withdrew or were pushed from the center of public life and ceased to be the axis around which those societies were organized.

It was crucial to Fascism's appeal that it provided a fetish object for public worship - the nation, or the biological race, to fill this void. And violence was not just a means to achieve political ends, it was a form of sacrifice to and liturgical sanctification of that fetish object. Violence was the raison d'État. Fascism wasn’t just a more violent form of repressive state practice, it was a new constitutional form based on a radically different concept of how to legitimize the state in the new era of mass politics which began in 1789, in which the people and the state were bonded together as one through the sacramental destruction of enemies. Violence was what legitimized the Fascist state.

I don't see American authoritarianism taking that direction, because we already have a fetish object around which our public life is organized - Constitutionalism and its folk expression in the form of American Exceptionalism, and because traditional religion is still very strong in the US and despite the "War on Christmas" propaganda coming from Bill O’ and others it is not in danger of being displaced from the position it has held in our culture for several hundred years. That is a benefit derived from our more pluralistic approach to faith in this country - because no one faith was enshrined as the official sect, creeping secularism is less traumatic for us than it was for Europeans.

That is my long view of the problem. YMMV, and while great minds may “think alike”, greater ones find ways to dissent.

ThatLeftTurninABQ: I submit that the various forms of European Fascism drew their strength from filling a psychological void created by the secularization (simultaneous with the shocks created by rapid industrialization and urbanization in the 19th and early 20th Cen.’s) of societies which had a very long and deep cultural history of having religion at the center of their public life.

It's a nice theory, but it's completely wrong. Spain, Italy, Germany, and indeed France, are one and all very religious countries. For your theory to be worth considering, you'd have to show that the countries that "went fascist" were more secular, less religious, than the countries that didn't: and you really can't.

Indeed, Franco's government (the last remaining national fascist government in Europe) was strongly supported by the Catholic church - which support is (I'm told by Spanish acquaintances) the main reason for the populist opposition to the Catholic Church in Spain - too many Catholic bishops, archbishops, and Cardinals with too long and too public a record of supporting Franco.

It's a nice theory, but it's completely wrong.

I read it as 'religious countries' that felt threatened by secularization, which accounts for the severe backlash. I don't think that a countries religious history as determining their embrace of fascism and while we view someone like Moseley as a clown now, but in 1933, he wasn't.


It's a nice theory, but it's completely wrong. Spain, Italy, Germany, and indeed France, are one and all very religious countries. For your theory to be worth considering, you'd have to show that the countries that "went fascist" were more secular, less religious, than the countries that didn't: and you really can't.

Indeed, Franco's government (the last remaining national fascist government in Europe) was strongly supported by the Catholic church - which support is (I'm told by Spanish acquaintances) the main reason for the populist opposition to the Catholic Church in Spain - too many Catholic bishops, archbishops, and Cardinals with too long and too public a record of supporting Franco.

Jess,

The works of historical analysis which I'm glossing this theory (the 20th Cen. totalitarian political movements as a quasi-religion) from don't work at that level of granularity at all. A country is not a monolithic entity, and there are plenty of countries which appear in total to be "very religous" but which had extensive subcultures of secularism, especially amongst the economic and political elites. You have to look at the psychology of individuals and subcultures within each country to understand the roots of Fascism, not at something as crude as national culture.

To take the example of Francoist Spain, the Nationalist movement led by Franco was a badly fractured coalition of elements, some of them deeply religous in a more traditional way (like the Carlists, who were most powerful in the NE) and others very hostile to traditional religion and the institutional power of the Catholic church (much of the Falange was this way). Franco steered this seething volcano of semi-murderous rivalries to victory over the Republic in part because the Republican side was riven by even deeper and more intractable cleavages.

A very special note to John of the Dead:

Thank you so much for the link to the Rainbow Bridge!

I just had the chance to view it.

Wonderful, heart-breaking, heart-warming, just terrific.

As I guess you know, this short video can't be viewed just once. So, I immediately replayed it -- and it was better the second time: more heart-warming, more heart-breaking, sad and wonderful at the same time.

I began to weep, and not so quietly, upon the second viewing, and the late CoCo's big brother, Bowser -- a good-hearted, goofy Border Collie mix -- who had been laying nearby, perked right up as I turned around to look at him. He seemed to wonder, and worry, why Dad was making these strange crying sounds. As my eyes met his, Bowsie walked over gingerly and gave me a couple of licks -- not the couple dozen his sister was famous for -- but a couple of licks to the face, just the same, as if to say, "It's OK, Dad, it's OK."

My wife likes to joke that Bowser isn't very smart and does some pretty dumb things. Maybe. To be sure, as Border Collies go, I don't think my BC mix has their famed intelligence. But I never thought Bowser was dumb and -- unlike CoCo's young puppy-like eyes -- his are very penetrating and soulful. And tonight -- I mean, this morning -- I found out Bowser is indeed a very good soul, a true friend.

And pretty damn smart in his own right.

Thank you again, John. You gave me something very special, I won't forget it.

God bless you and your family and your German Shepherd.

Good night, CoCo. Good night, Bonzo. Good night, Bodie. Good night, Lillie. Good night, Lucky. Good night, Tom. Good night, Sue-Sue. And good night, Kitty Boy, my very special member of this 45-year-old All Dog Club. See you all on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Authoritarianism is both a means to and end, and an end unto itself. In neither case do I see our native version as simply an offshoot of European Fascism.

I tend to agree -- in fact, I'd go further and argue that these phenomena (pace Dave Neiwert's work at Orcinus) are uniquely American -- but does it have to be an offshoot of European Fascism to be called "fascism"? I'd argue not. Italian Fascism, Nazism and Francoism -- to name the big three European Fascisms -- aren't offshoots of one another, or even offshoots of a common source; and if that requirement isn't imposed in Europe, I don't see that it needs to be imposed here.

When better means are available, extreme violence is inefficient and costly, and is risky and potentially counterproductive. Why use it if you don’t have to? Do you disagree?

Not in the slightest; in fact, I think I may have made that point above. Or maybe you did. Whoever said it was right though :)

Violence was what legitimized the Fascist state.

On this, though, I think we disagree. Violence, in this paradigm, wasn't a legitimation, it was at most a sacrament given to the select few. IIRC, the vast majority of fascists -- by which I mean, members of a fascist party -- never raised a finger against anyone else during their reign; the violence was instead confined to special units like the SA or SS. What was paramount was not violence, but the idea of violence: violent action in pursuit of the fascist goals, sacred unto itself. The legitimation of the state, in these ideologies, came not from violence per se but from their Will and their willingness to deploy that violence as an exercise of that Will.

[Even this is a massive oversimplification, as the ostensible underlying rationale varied from fascism to fascism. I've singled out "the Will" since that is, to me, the defining commonality, but that's not a great fit.]

This is the point on which I think "proto-fascist" is most apt. The glorification of violence is a hallmark of modern movement conservatism, from the jingoistic marches to war to the exaltation of the military as the only True Americans. It's not truly fascist because the majority of the movement wasn't advocating violence against internal political enemies -- with notable individual exceptions -- but that impetus was (and maybe still is?) certainly there.

I don't see American authoritarianism taking that direction, because we already have a fetish object around which our public life is organized - Constitutionalism and its folk expression in the form of American Exceptionalism...

This, to me, misses the point completely: American Exceptionalism is the core of American proto-fascism. It is precisely this myth that enables all the others. The belief that we are inherently, by sole virtue of being American, stronger, wiser, smarter, better than all the others is exactly the exaltation of the State required for fascism. It's not traditionalist in quite the same way that Franco's monarchism was; it's not mythopoeic like Mussolini's Roman fixation; it's not (usually) racial as Nazism is -- though there have been some unpleasant quasi-racial overtones about the Muslim world -- but it serves the same function in the fascist mindset.

This isn't to say that American Exceptionalism is proto-fascist, btw. Rather, as fascism is itself a warped outgrowth of democracy, so American proto-fascism is a warped outgrowth of American Exceptionalism.

...and because traditional religion is still very strong in the US

That might be an argument against European Fascism taking over the US, I guess -- though I'm not particularly convinced, since "traditional religion" was very strong in Germany, Italy and Spain, and indeed all three dictators made appropriate genuflections in that direction. [See, e.g., the Lateran Treaties.] It doesn't at all argue against the phenomenon being fascist, though, since there's nothing inherently irreligious about fascism. In fact, I'd argue that fascism requires a country strong in traditional religion and steeped mythic archetypes, as those are the soil in which fascist tropes take root.

[BTW, I completely agree that fascism is a form of secular religion, as is much of Communism. I'm just disagreeing over the extent to which it has to replace religion, as opposed to merely co-opting it.]

Hazarding a guess at a hypothetical future, American Fascism would indeed wear the cross and be draped in the flag. Lip-service would be made to God, with religious doctrine being warped by false prophets to serve the secular agenda -- as indeed happens now in some of the crazier evangelical churches. [See, e.g., Ted Haggard.] I would tend to doubt that it would be a true theocracy, though, as the totalitarian instruments wouldn't be explicitly religious in nature; that is, assuming something like Francoist Fascism, everyone would be expected to make appropriate genuflections towards religion -- possibly mandatory for public office -- but you wouldn't have the Ten Commandments being enforced by stoning or what have you.

That is a benefit derived from our more pluralistic approach to faith in this country - because no one faith was enshrined as the official sect, creeping secularism is less traumatic for us than it was for Europeans.

Maybe, but -- as any European will tell you -- we're a lot crazier about religion here in the US than over there, at least since the preconditions for fascism have held. There aren't really any analogues for the Great Awakenings, nor the impetus to put the Ten Commandments on every flat surface, nor the attempt to overturn the Enlightenment, that are hallmarks of the modern fundagelical movement. [Fear and hatred of gays, alas, remains pretty much constant.] I think you're massively underestimating the extent to which religion is considered fundamental to the American identity by a wide swathe of people -- incorrectly, in my view, but that's beside the point -- not just in overt religiosity and self-described Christianity, but in terms of our ritual genuflections: "In God We Trust", "one nation, under God", hand on the Bible, etc. In fact, I'd say that the enforced separation of Church and State has made the creeping secularism even more traumatic, because it's denied them the milksop of official recognition.

By way of illustration: when I was growing up in the UK system, I thought nothing about compulsory singing of hymns in primary school. It was... non-religious is the only word that I can use to describe it, because religion in the UK is often itself more about the ritual than the religiosity. [And I mean that in the best of ways.] Were the same to have happened in the US, I would have been outraged; it wouldn't have been about the ritual, it would have been about the propaganda, precisely because it would have been regarded as daringly transgressive (or bracingly moralistic) by the staff. That difference comes, as near as I can tell, from the fact that Anglicanism is the official religion of the increasingly-secular UK; the ritual and the religion have become separable for the heathens among us.

And since this is now officially Too Long, I'll stop.

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