You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

October 28, 2007

Stop Calling Them Crazy

I wish op-ed types would stop calling political leaders crazy. They almost never are. Saddam Hussein, for instance, wasn't--he just seemed that way if you didn't understand his motivation had nothing to do with the well-being of Iraq, and only to do with his own power.

Meanwhile, Rosa Brooks of the Los Angeles Times says this:

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment. Because they've clearly gone mad...On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."

Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.

Lunacy? This. Is. SPARTA!

Really, there's nothing crazy about the Bush/Cheney concern about Iran. Obviously Iran isn't a threat to Israel, or Europe, or the US. But it is a serious threat to Bush, Cheney, Bandar, Olmert et al running the mideast for their own benefit. They have to claim they're worried about the first in order to get us to die for the second.

But there's nothing crazy about it, just as there's nothing crazy about Saddam saying he invaded Kuwait to keep them from turning Iraqi women into "ten dinar prostitutes." The only crazy people in this scenario is us, if we fall for it.

Posted at October 28, 2007 11:17 PM | TrackBack

"Lunacy? This. Is. SPARTA!"

Now that is funny.

Posted by: jm at October 29, 2007 12:08 AM

There's crazy and there's crazy. I think that people who are psychopaths make the best fascist leaders because the corporatists behind the fascist leader want someone who can lie without remorse, who can steal on their behalf without remorse, etc.

I think that Bush is disturbed. If we were related and his wasn't the President I'd try to get him to a psychiatrist. Someone over at Huffington caught up with Bush's disturbing history of killing animals and torturing Yale pledges. But if you are disturbed and kill, say, your neighbor's dog or child or wife, then you go to jail. But if you publicly lie about the reason to invade a country and kill (or create the situation which kills) hundreds of thousands of people so that oil companies can control the oil in the ground and so the the oil companies can charge five times what they used to charge for the stuff, well then you are a STATESMAN.

Are Bush and Cheney crazy? Not as to place and time.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at October 29, 2007 12:12 AM

Can you guys please stop making fun of one of my favorite movies? It's getting old already.

On a heavier note, crazy is a relative concept. There's only two types of rulers: those who realize that they'd be able to reap handsomely by making their people happy (just NOT TOO HAPPY), and those who believe they'd reap more by making their people fearful. By rulers' standards, the latter are the crazy.

But Bush may have a point here. Iran is not a threat to the US, but $100 a barrel of oil is.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at October 29, 2007 12:22 AM

right, nothing would threaten Dear Leader and Shooter's primary backers in the oil bidness more than $100 oil.

some little people may suffer, but that's not their base, and they couldn't give a good goddamn.

Posted by: ran at October 29, 2007 12:49 AM

How exactly is Iran a threat to Bush/Cheney running the Middle East for their own benefit? What is the goal that Bush/Cheney have in the Middle East that is being threatened by Iran?

If it is oil, then what exactly about the oil and what exactly about Iran's behavior is threatening that goal? If it is something about oil, why didn't Iran, in its secret 2003 diplomatic offer, mention oil? Iran was trying to avoid the same fate as Iraq, but even they didn't seem to believe U.S. enmity was being caused by oil. What gives?

Posted by: Benjamin at October 29, 2007 01:03 AM

ran: The little people may not be the financial base, but they're the ones that own the guns and do the fighting and the dying and the driving and the consuming and all of that is propping up the US economy and hegemony. The rich guys in oil do none of that.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at October 29, 2007 02:04 AM

Like BobInPacifica, I tend to think GWB is, literally speaking, mentally ill. If anyone remembers the anecdote of Melinda Hennenberger's (where upon being corrected by Karen Hughes after addressing her by the wrong name, insisted with "apparent conviction" that "I wasn't calling her Alison, I was calling YOU Alison."), it's eerily reminiscent of the kind of logical disconnect shown by people with physical brain damage (e.g. severed hemisphere patients) -- the conscious mind trying to justify after the fact the results of its own malfunctioning parts.

But, in the context Jon writes in, I have to agree: "they", as a group, are not crazy -- just lying. The real question isn't why they say these things, but why do they WORK even when the lie is so plain. I wonder sometimes if there isn't a kind of Second Law of Verbaldynamics which requires the intellectual entropy ("badness") of circulating beliefs to always increase, hence ensuring it takes more work to get even a small number of people to accept a proposition beneficial to the whole than to get a vast number of people to accept something that will ultimately ruin them.

Posted by: Hatterman at October 29, 2007 02:18 AM

Great post. Even funnier is how so many people call Bush stupid -- as if (if true) it were relevant -- they'd never call Cheney stupid and know full well that he's (to say the least) on the same page...

The deeper question is if people engaging in such falsehoods are themselves are being stupid ... or crazy ... or enablers... or some twisted combination ...

Re: prostitution: "Amnesty International also reported during the summer that its representatives were told on a visit to Syria that young Iraqi girls were being pressured by families to engage in prostitution. The group said it was worried that Iraqi child trafficking could grow."

Posted by: sam at October 29, 2007 08:29 AM

Torturing Yale pledges isn't all bad.

Posted by: donescobar at October 29, 2007 08:32 AM

en ming: so what? the more desperate the economy is due to rising fuel costs the less option grunts or potential grunts will have so recruiting and retention will be that much easier. hell, they may even offer gas subsidies or extra gas rations to the troops as another enticement to keep these people in the fold. it's win win for the war criminals running this country.

Posted by: ran at October 29, 2007 08:37 AM

Being criminals, they are "crazy" but not in the current psychiatric scheme of things. If we were Buddhists we would isolate them and expel them from the community because they are harming it. THey are not redeemable, since they have traveled down this road too long...

Posted by: Carol at October 29, 2007 09:23 AM

Benajmin's post raises an excellent point: before anyone can claim that Iran is a threat to US/Israeli control of the Mideast, they should have to define what they mean by "control". Do they mean control of oil? If so, how does the US "control" Mideast oil now, and how would Iran threaten that?

As for the crazy vs. not-crazy debate, I'd say "irrational" is a better term than "crazy". Specifically, leaders like Bush have an irrational reaction to other leaders who refuse to behave submissively.

Dogs often react this way. Dogs, as social animals, have rituals of submission that pack members use to show the alpha male that he's not being challenged, and if one dog in the pack refuses to engage in the submission ritual, the alpha male sees the non-submissive dog as a "threat" and attacks.

Honestly, it's the only way I can find to explain the U.S. (and not just Bush) government's irrational response to Castro, or Allende, or Chavez.

Posted by: SteveB at October 29, 2007 09:30 AM

I agree!! bush/cheney should definitly be treated as criminals who deserved to be punished!!!

Posted by: Terrible at October 29, 2007 10:22 AM

SteveB - that seems a perfectly adequate theory of behavior. I don't think that Bush or Cheney's behavior need be rational in order to be sane.

Posted by: saurabh at October 29, 2007 10:36 AM

ran: I am an optimist unless the many are really that complacent as opposed to the lunacy of the few. But remember, most people aren't saints, but most people LIKE LIVING. That's why you can't fool all the people all the time. Sooner or later even the worst of us are going to realize that they need someone to leech off. And you can't leech off people if they keep dying. Recently revealed history reports that even Nixon's Generals figured out a way to refuse to launch the missiles if he ordered them. You think there aren't any rats preparing to desert or even detonate Bush's sinking ship right now?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at October 29, 2007 11:43 AM

You mean some high-ranking officers would refuse to carry out orders for firing missiles or dropping bombs on Iran? What evidence prompts you to assume that?

Posted by: donescobar at October 29, 2007 11:50 AM

Nothing crazy about IMPEACHMENT. 1-202-225-0100

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 29, 2007 12:00 PM

I am about a third of the way through THE SHOCK DOCTRINE by Naomi Klein. She cleverly lays out why they are doing what they are doing - and how it has been going on for decades.

I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Posted by: Susan at October 29, 2007 12:01 PM

Yeah, there is a favorite sensible liberal line on Iraq that goes something like, "this is an insane war fought for no good reason."

Posted by: Justin at October 29, 2007 04:17 PM

Most world leaders most certainly ARE crazy. The misunderstanding is the incorrect belief that madness has no method. The BTK killer was most certainly insane. He also knew exactly what he was doing.

Posted by: shargash at October 30, 2007 11:18 AM

Obviously Iran isn't a threat to Israel,

Obvious to whom.

Posted by: Jack at November 2, 2007 04:46 PM