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July 25, 2008


Hilzy (Can I call you that? it's only one letter different right?),

You're one of the few people who can break Godwin's law and still have my respect.

I too am annoyed when people, out of blind partisanship, refuse to condemn craven violations of our values and then have the gall to try to romanticize their own cowardice.

Though I must say he reminds me much more of Radovan Karadžić than Himmler. Maybe we can convince him to retire and take up a job as a practicioner of alternative medicine!

I'd frankly be a lot more comfortable if George W. Bush fought terrorism as an eccentric millionaire--using only his wiles and his butler.

To put this another way, it'd be a different sort of comic altogether if Batman merely sat in the Gotham Mayor's office and turned the entire city government into his goon squad.

Hilzoy, would you care to write another posting? One which actually attempts to address what Klavan said, instead of one which riffs off on the usual tired crap without even vaguely touching upon Klavan's observations while purporting to be a rebuttal?

No, you won't. Because that would require intellectual integrity. And heft. Neither of which you have ever (to my knowledge) demonstrated.

Last Years Man: You're one of the few people who can break Godwin's law and still have my respect.

Actually, by definition, when the originator of a thread is discussing things the Nazis have done, the originator is not breaking Godwin's Law by any possible distortion of the meaning. Godwin himself asserts he formulated his Law intending "to build a counter-meme designed to make discussion participants see how they are acting as vectors to a particularly silly and offensive meme" and to curtail glib Nazi comparisons.

When a government is kidnapping people, imprisoning them without legal jurisdiction, and torturing them, Nazi comparisons are not glib.

And even more to the point it is less about what the Nazis have done but about how they viewed themselves doing it. The idea of "staying clean" while committing atrocities and punishing those that "break the code of honor", thus "tainting" the "noble" purpose of the atrocities. "We killed him but we did not steal his watch!"*

*there is actually a Norse story of a Viking that stole something from a sleeping stranger, got a bad conscience and went back to kill the original owner (while awake), so the valuables would be his by honorable means.

As one of Chotiner's commenters noted, Bush is not Batman; Bush is Palpatine.

Neither of which you have ever (to my knowledge) demonstrated.

Since there's little to indicate that "a" actually read the post, as opposed to cutting and pasting the tired boilerplate crap that doesn't even vaguely touching upon Hilzoy's observations while purporting to be a rebuttal, this last statement might actually be true.

Let's reduce to actual substance:

Hilzoy, would you care to write another posting?
I don't like what you said; write something I like.
One which actually attempts to address what Klavan said,
Write something I find comforting.
instead of one which riffs off on the usual tired crap without even vaguely touching upon Klavan's observations while purporting to be a rebuttal?
Instead of something I don't like. By the way, I have nothing myself to say, and no idea what you should say, or I'd say it, but write something different anyway, to please me, because this doesn't please me.
No, you won't. Because that would require intellectual integrity. And heft. Neither of which you have ever (to my knowledge) demonstrated.
I will now insult you.
Actual substantive content: 0.

Shorter Klavan: right-wing morality isn't relativistic, except to justify immoral acts by right-wingers.

Even shorter Klavan: The ends justify the means.

And I loved this bit: Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

Um, because we're taight those values since birth? Anyway, the process of experience and empathy isn't mysterious at all, unless of course you're a sociopath.

Because that would require intellectual integrity. And heft. Neither of which you have ever (to my knowledge) demonstrated.

Andrew? Is that you, Andrew?

What's the evidence that in a dark, scary, dangerous world people--lots of people?--aren't willing to lie, steal, cheat, kill, torture for lots of bad reasons, and even no reason at all? So being willing to do those things, historically, hasn't been seen as the "hard" choice of "leaders" its been seen as the weak, easy, tempting choice of losers, followers, and criminals. There's a reason for that. Because it *is* actually easy to lie, steal, cheat, and torture. They didn't hang jesus on the cross because he was willing to do any of those things but because he wasn't. If he'd been leading an actual jewish rebellion, and been willing to do all that stuff, he wouldn't have been arrested so easily.

As for Bush, its pretty clear that he always took the easy way out of every moral and political dilemma. Its true that he didn't care about "being popular" with the actual, you know, populace. And he damn sure didn't care about the iraqi innocents, the children and non combatants that he bombed, but being a sociopath isn't the same as being courageous or noble. Since such a person isn't motivated by courage or noble impulses but simply unimpeded by them we can't evaluate their acts in terms of those words. We have to look, instead, at the effects of their actions and these have been disasterous, even in their own self aggrandizing terms.


Congratulating yourself on your willingness to put aside ordinary scruples in order to do something decent people would never attempt; convincing yourself that your willingness to become inhumane is a strength, a sign of how much you are willing to sacrifice for some greater good; telling yourself that it is an act of kindness to take on the burden of doing terrible things so that others can flit innocently about, secure in their own virtue: this is an old, old story that people tell themselves to disguise the fact that they have chosen to do evil.

This is exactly right. I can see Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Haynes, etc., sitting back in their office congratulating themselves on the "tough choices" they had to make and patting each other on the back for being "bold" and "courageous," when in fact they are cowards.

On another point, the ceaseless fellating that right has given George W. Bush over the past 7 years continues to amaze me. Especially since he seems to have completely abandoned some of the things they professed to believe in, such as federalism, balanced budgets, the scary words are "I'm from the gov't and I'm here to help", cutting "waste, fraud, and abuse" etc.

So, stepping back, and assuming they really do love the gag reflex and watering eyes, I asked myself what the right really believes in based upon what Bush has delivered these past four years. I think I've come up with some main themes (not in any particular order):

1. Tax cuts for the top earners and corporations: this is Bush's one true success story (for certain definitions of success). He has delivered massive tax cuts for the top earners in the U.S., both individual and corporate. Tax policy has been one give away to corporate america after another.

2. A pro-business supreme court: the Roberts court has the potential to be the most pro-business supreme court since the switch in time. While they won't uniformly rule in favor of big business, they're certainly going to rule that way most of the time. As a side note, this court is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade, although they will certainly continue to undermine it to point that, should, e.g., Roberts' daughter need/want to terminate a pregnancy a safe, legal abortion will be available to her. The poor high school kid who lives in northeast DC? Not so much.

3. Using the federal government to enrich certain favored industries: In addition to the corporate giveaways on tax policy noted above, Bush has used the federal government to enrich certain, favored, industries, and allowed them to, literally, get away with murder. This includes not only the obvious suspects like Halliburton, the oil & gas companies, Wall Street and the major commercial banks, but it seems to include just about any business owned by someone happens to know someone involved in contracting with the federal gov't. And when things start to go bad, in comes the federal reserve to bail them out. This also includes having political appointees intervene in the regulatory process to protect these industries.

4. Executive power: The view that the American President holds the same powers that King George III claimed and caused the founding fathers to revolt is perhaps driven by Dick Cheney and his merry mob of monarchists more than anyone else, but once revealed the right has signed up for the program whole-heartedly.

5. The Projection and use of American military might: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bush has continued and amplified the general view, which is not necessarily unique to the right, that America has the right to intervene militarily wherever and whenever it wishes, with or without international cooperation, if it feels its national interests are threatened (and even if it doesn't).

I guess 1-3 are can be grouped together. So, in sum, the delivery of America's riches to the wealthy, a king, and an empire.

I'm voting for McCain in 2008 because I want to see how this ends.

"I'm voting for McCain in 2008 because I want to see how this ends."

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Many popular U.S. presidents were truly hated by a minority of the American public (FDR and Ronald Reagan are good examples). But am I right in thinking that George W. Bush is unique among widely reviled presidents in the enthusiasm of the minority that continues to support him? Did anyone in early 1861 think that James Buchanan was the second coming of George Washington?

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Dang, I was hoping for at least a cocktail party with free drinks.

Ben Alpers: As nearly as I can tell, Bush isn't unprecedented in the intensity of the support his remaining loyalists give them. The new things in the mix are #1, the extent to which his remaining base still holds great political, economic, and social power, stemming largely from #2, the increasing cowardice and self-doubt on the part of the nominal victors. Usually when a president is this loathed, housecleaning as followed, but the Founding Fathers just didn't expect so many people in a working majority faction to lose their nerve so much.

Bruce Baugh:

Now that I think of it, maybe Woodrow Wilson (otherwise a quite different president from Bush) is the best previous example of a widely disliked president with intense supporters to the bitter end.

I do disagree on the cowardice-of-the-victors point. I think the failure to clean house on the part of the victors (at this point most notably the Democratic Congress) is less a result of "caving" out of political fear and more a consequence of the Democrats' sharing with the Bush administration (and our bipartisan foreign policy elite) many beliefs about the national security state and the military-industrial-surveillance complex. Large number of Democrats supported, e.g., the war on Iraq, FISA "reform" and the Military Commissions Act because they actually believe in waging wars of choice, expanding corporate and executive branch authority over the lives of Americans, and allowing representatives of our government to torture with impunity.

Glib comparisons like what Klavan is doing gloss over the core message embodied in the Batman story. Batman's story is a constant battle on the edge of Nietzsche - "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." At times (I don't know about the current movie, as I haven't seen it yet) Wayne and his associates have realized that he has gone too far and he has to go through some soul searching to find his way out of that abyss.

Bush and Cheney (and friends) have not had one of those moments. The only times they have stopped to question anything was in order to find a new way to dodge around (or cut right through) the Constitution and other laws. This lack of introspection, this willingness to just become monsters and curse those who call them such is the difference between the bat and the prez and is why the former is a(n anti-)hero and the other (should be) a war criminal.

As one of Chotiner's commenters noted, Bush is not Batman; Bush is Palpatine.

He's not even that. He's the weasel son-in-law in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. If you recall, he invades the island with a mercenary team to capture all the dinosaurs and bring them back to the mainland, all so he can raise his company's stock price, and out-do his father-in-law, John Hammond. His actions, of course, result in disaster and several deaths, and when his company's ship slams into the San Diego docks with all crew dead and lets a rampaging T. Rex loose, Ian Malcolm turns to him and says, "Now you're John Hammond."

Mr. Bush, I never said thank you.

"a" to Hilzoy: No, you won't. Because that would require intellectual integrity. And heft. Neither of which you have ever (to my knowledge) demonstrated.

It's really the last line, with its parenthetical caveat, that pushes this beyond idiocy into pathetic near-parody. I lawled.

The sad, pathetic part is that the statement is true. To a's knowledge, Hilzoy has never demonstrated intellectual integrity or heft.

It's just a pity that a's knowledge is so clearly unsullied by any actual exposure to Hilzoy's writings.

Ugh: I'm voting for McCain in 2008 because I want to see how this ends.

Can't you wait till it comes out on DVD?

Unlike certain people who write at The Plank, I'm appropriately ashamed of my dorkishness, but here's my take anyway.

The Dark Knight is basically a 1:1 mixture (talking tone, theme, and characterization here, not plot) of Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" and Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns."

Moore's a lefty who posits that Batman basically creates supervillains--if he left crimefighting to the police, Gotham's criminal underworld would be petty thieves and such, but Batman's psychopathy is so potent that outsized evil continually finds its way into his orbit.

Miller's a right-wing kook who probably thinks Jack Bauer's a wuss. TDKR reads like anti-fascist satire, but no, it turns out Miller really meant it at face value (Once you've read the guy in his own words his stuff turns pretty sour, Sin City especially. He's a brilliant writer and artist, but the "ticking time bomb" scenario is, for him, the apex of moral conundra).

Moore implicates Batman in the Joker's very existence; Miller thinks anyone who's not a hero (very few of us) or a coward (the vast majority) IS the Joker.

Anyway, I don't think Nolan's film succeeded in reconciling its conflicting influences (this is assuming Nolan even tried, which he probably didn't, and good for him), but I don't fault it for that, since it's a frigging Batman movie, and therefore not the sort of thing I would go around citing as proof of my side's righteousness on the important issues of the day.

Someone needs to hip Klavan to the fact that Batman is a COMIC BOOK CHARACTER.

What's next? Dick Cheney is really just like Thor? Dick Cheney is the Silver Surfer, come to live among us?

And why does Jesus always have to dragged into these stupid debates? What did he ever do to deserve this? Where in the gospels does it say "Love your neighbor, unless he has actionable intelligence, in which case crush his nuts until he sings like a bird"?

In a loving way, of course.

I must have missed class that day back in bible school.

I usually stop reading stuff as soon as I see the words "moral equivalence", but I'm glad I didn't miss Klavan's whiplash-inducing 180 degree turn from moral absolutism to "we had to destroy the village in order to save it".

Two paragraphs. It must be a new record.

Klavan's piece reads like one of those debating club exercises where you have to argue for some stupid, outlandish point of view, just to hone your chops. You know, "argue that the moon really is made of cheese", or "prove that 2 plus 2 is nine".

"Demonstrate why George W Bush is really Batman".


It's hard to even get upset about this stuff anymore, it's so lame and predictable. It just makes me depressed.

Somebody please wake me up when the kids are done playing "let's dress up and play government" and the adults have come back.

Thanks -

Can't you wait till it comes out on DVD?

No no no! That's what I'm doing w.r.t. Battlestar Galactica Season 4. And. Its. Killing. Me. (despite some helpful suggestions from cleek).

Also, what russell said at 11:10am.

Where in the gospels does it say "Love your neighbor, unless he has actionable intelligence, in which case crush his nuts until he sings like a bird"?

Well, not quite, but there is that whole "It is morally laudable to smash the skulls of Iraqi babies" bit. (Psalms cxxxvii 8-9).

...So if Bush is Batman... who's the Joker?

Does that make Obama Harvey Dent? Really idealistic? I'm going to take this stupid metaphor as far as I can, damn it!

I always thought Bush was Beaker from The Muppet Show.

The problem with casting Obama as Harvey Dent is that you get into some very uncomfortable territory depicting him in a half-black, half-white suit.

Another point about the movie which goes against his point (which is kind of a spoiler, but I'll try to be vague about it) is that the Commissioner Gordon quote is referring to when Batman decides that he has to be "officially" viewed as a villain so that the ideals can survive. Which would roughly be comparable to the White House deciding that they wanted to be impeached, for the sake of the country.

Additionally, I would like to point out that the font that Barack Obama has used quite visibly in his "change" posters and whatnot (although McCain has dabbled with it from time to time) is called Gotham.

Stealing from a friend:

Bush thinks he's Reed Richards. He's actually just Willie Lumpkin with the power cosmic.

I think Orwell makes more sense on this topic than Himmler.

...the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority.... because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others....

'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly. 'You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore-'

He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O'Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

'That was stupid, Winston, stupid!' he said. 'You should know better than to say a thing like that.'

He pulled the lever back and continued:

'Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.... We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were- cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?'

Certainly, the arguments of Jon Yoo and David Addington fit very well into this framework. The Bush Administration tortures people, in part, to show they can.

Southpaw: Thank for you for the image of GWB personally fighting crime... from the Batranch... using his brush-clearing gear and his codpiece. Now there's an ex-presidential career that even Carter could envy.

"Bush thinks he's Reed Richards. He's actually just Willie Lumpkin with the power cosmic."

Bush thinks he's Steve Rogers' Captain America. He's actually just the 1950s Captain America.

By the way, I haven't seen TDKR. Does it really end with a fifth of the population of Gotham City as refugees, the Wayne Foundation bankrupt, the Penguin cooking up a nuclear weapon, and the Riddler as the warlord closing in on a provincial capital in a nuclear armed state?


Dang, I was hoping for at least a cocktail party with free drinks.

Well I've heard that the Resturant at the End of the American Empire makes a mean mohito.

I don't remember that Batman ever took an oath to uphold the laws of Gotham. Someone's been reading too much Schmitt again.

I think a better analogue for Bush would be Capt. Dudley from L.A. Confidential, getting all thug-like at the Victory Hotel in the name of law and order.

Rolo Tomassi.

I find the Bush/Batman comparison difficult to reconcile with Laura Bush's uncanny resemblance to the Joker.

Hi hilzoy. When I started reading this I thought, why is she dignifying such a clownish post with a response? But on second thought, yes it's good that you did. In the coming years all kinds of rationalizations will be offered for the evildoing of the last 7+ years, and we need to knock them down starting now lest any of them take hold.

Ugh wrote: "I'm voting for McCain in 2008 because I want to see how this ends."

Can't you just settle for writing fanfic?

"I'm voting for McCain in 2008 because I want to see how this ends."

Can't you just settle for writing fanfic?

Already been done -- a graphic novel called Shooting War.

“Holy W, Batman, you’re like Bush?”

I read the Wall Street Journal's piece comparing the trials and tribulations of Batman to those of President Bush. Wow! Was that a bat signal in the sky, or the letter “W?” I found the comparison interesting but have my own opinions about heroes and battles against evil.

On the rope of life, heroes climb above their weakest point, putting themselves at risk for the benefit of others. Love, compassion, duty and honor call them forth and they respond. Still, even heroes on a worthwhile quest against evil must search their own hearts for smoldering embers of hate or vengeance that could influence their actions and bring dishonor and disaster. We are only human. Heroes or not, we often fight our deadliest battles against ourselves and the best way to tame our dark, snarling inner desires is to flood those beasts with light.

We live in the real world, one with presidents and CEO’s but no superheroes. Public awareness and debate about all sides of political and social issues must comprise the beams of light in our darkened skies. And we should all vote according to the signals in which we believe. That “W” stands for “We, the people,” if we let it.

Laurel Anne Hill
Author of “Heroes Arise,” a parable about the necessity and complexity of breaking the cycle of vengeance. (KOMENAR Publishing, October 2007)

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