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December 20, 2007

Bang, Bang, We're Alive?

Mike of Angle

In this recent comment thread about Barack Obama, reader Ted wrote:

"What's the chance that the "winner" of the current lefty, lefty, lefty crop of candidates gets offed? It's been a long time since the days of Lynnette Fromme...Plausible? Nil? I mean, have you seen some of the comments around O'Reilly snippets on youtube? I've got to go with plausible -- what with the current war mania, patriotism and all."

Which made me think of the good ol' Conspiratorial Octopus splayed out across a map, a sack of money in one tentacle, gun in another, maybe a typewriter labelled "The Media" in a third. People like Ted exasperate the hell out of him:

"Ted, Ted, Ted (chomps on cigar) patriots don't assassinate people! LONE NUTS assassinate people. That way, nothing could've been done to prevent it (so everybody gets to keep their jobs); and nothing will be done to prevent it in the future (so that it can happen again as needed). The whole point is that it's completely 'random' in cause, yet inevitably reactionary in effect. Honestly, it's like you're not even paying attention. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother."

Obama in particular pushes at least three hot buttons (he's black, Muslim, and liberalish). So if he gets elected, the question should be asked: is it wise or even possible to augment his personal security? Could this be done without creating a dangerous precedent? Anyone? I'm open to ideas. At what point do we, as the side that always has the funerals, get serious about this issue? I don't wanna wake up one morning and find all the nervous joking a lot less funny; at a certain point humor becomes an admission of impotence, and I'm not there yet. Are you?

Assassination is the opposite of democracy, and if we're serious about the latter, we have to be serious about the former. The Founding Fathers might suggest looking at Rome--not for the Pretorian Guard (which would be a fast track to tyranny), but for structures like the Tribune of the Plebeians, that sacrosanct defender of the have-nots. Of course this guarantee of personal safety was only as strong as Roman political ethics; but at least the structure recognized that government functioning under the threat of physical harm is a sham. So perhaps one of the ways we can prevent future political violence is by acting aggressively antipartisan--enshrining democracy as not just a process to be defended by those with a material interest in the outcome, but something akin to a civic religion. Fetishize clean elections. People want something to believe in, so have 'em believe in that--it's better than the FSM. Maybe it's possible over the long-term to create an environment where political murder is less likely to thrive.

The bad news is that, in polite company, talking about assassination is tantamount to ripping off a juicy one. The good news is that protection procedures work. It doesn't matter who killed JFK; if the Secret Service had followed standard operating procedure, Jack would've lived to schtup another day. If the appropriate parties know we're paying attention--and that we'll insist on personal accountability should somebody "forget" to close a window or line a parade route or vet the rent-a-cop standing there with a gun--they might think twice. (Wonder if these Secret Service agents would've acted differently? How about their boss, Emory Roberts--the guy who told them to leave JFK's car?) Currently, there is no penalty for conspiring. The last official verdicts on both the JFK and MLK cases found for conspiracy (the HSCA investigation and the King family's civil suit respectively), and yet the only people who paid a price were those suddenly-not-so-lone nuts.

I had ominous thoughts along these lines from the moment I shook Obama's enormous paw back in 2005; this dark ruminating reemerges periodically, whenever it can fight through the meds. In a New Agey, clutching-at-straws kinda way, I believe in tamping down negative ideation, especially when it has the possibility of becoming a mass phenomenon. (It also keeps my "mental weather" tolerable.) So please don't encourage me, folks; but I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts. Sorry about the melodramatic narration to the Love Field video; I couldn't find the silent clip, but the "WTF" moment is fascinating. Compare, if you like, how Caligula's assassination went down--many attempts, but only successful when the Praetorians themselves were involved. Who's protecting the leader? And who are they loyal to?

But there's an unexplored alternative to the top-down remedy of protection, and that's the bottom-up approach of making leaders less essential. I've just finished a book on John Lennon and The Beatles, and one point that I try to make is that assassination only works if a movement evaporates after the leader dies. It's a question of attitude; if a movement is built the right way, for the right reasons, removing the leader should release a great deal of righteous energy. Suddenly leaderless, every person becomes a leader. That may be baldly idealistic, but the reality is assassinations only work if we allow them to; they only work with our consent.

In the original comment thread, the redoubtable Don Escobar brought up psychiatry, suggesting that it has sapped people's appetite for confrontation, reducing effective political action. Maybe so. But I would argue that self-actualization, political awareness, and compassion all feed on each other. Of course there are times (like elections) where the mechanism requires us to be subsumed into an individual. If we can insist on competent protection at those moments, and reject the cult of personality the rest of the time, perhaps new levers will present themselves.

Mike of Angle

Posted at December 20, 2007 11:43 PM

Of course, Obama isn't Muslim. At all. He belongs to the Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th St. on the South Side of Chicago. From the "church" and "Christ" in that name, I'm guessing it's a Jesus kind of place.

I figure you're probably just referring to the rumors that he's Muslim, which have traction because he's black and his father and step father were Muslims. I understand that the rumors can be powerful, but that doesn't mean they should be repeated as if they're true.

Posted by: huh at December 21, 2007 02:19 AM

Well Mike, "ripping off one in polite company", all I was asking for is some odds -- an office pool if you'd like. Why? Because we tend to be cloistered and think that many in the world think as we do, if only they were normal.

I didn't use the word, instead choosing "offed" because TIA having chomped through the telcos traffic would find this exchange juicy enough to draw attention.

My point was I thought relatively simple:

1. It looks pretty obvious that some democrat will win the next election. If some democrat doesn't it will really highlight the questions of 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

2. Our crop of democrats are leftyish by American standards. Not really of course, but checking out FreeRepublic or Fox, they might as well be the devil incarnate since they support universal healthcare in some variation or another. And our country, being founded on white Christian principles, would never be the same once some Muslim got elected and Muslimfied it -- burqas on 5th Avenue and all. You say, he's not a Muslim? Then why does he have a Muslim name, and Bob Kerrey keeps referring to him as if he was? It's all highly suspicious if you ask me.

3. Lone nuts is about right. You think that Fox, or FreeRepublic is going to take credit for the prodding afterwards? We're a country of self-starters. Well, we're self-starters that live in trailer homes in very large numbers anyway. We never self-started ourselves out of the trailer park and mobile homes, but present us with some black guy to be tied to the back of a pickup truck, or a gay person that needs whipping on some winter night, and that self-starting initiative borne of white Christian morality perks right up. We don't need to have vast rightwing conspiracy when you have millions of O'Reilly viewers waiting to be famous in the wings, nursing their grudges and PTSDs.

4. After the 2004 election, The Daily Mirror ran the headline: "How can 59 million people be so dumb?" So I'm asking, "Out of those 59M, you're not willing to give me office pool odds?"

5. I usually try to avoid the keywords used in driftnet collections, but JS brought the phrase forward, attributing it to the "media". My thoughts? Really, the media? Will the media do all the democrats in? Because really, whatever democrat wins will still be painted by the brush of lefty socialism that's responsible for the coming recession and the loss of Vietnam/Iraq (that was going so well until they sold us out).

Sheesh Mike, I don't mind being hoisted from the comments, but I get the impression it was to point out the poor quality of my farts.

No, seriously, pull my finger....

Posted by: Ted at December 21, 2007 08:17 AM

Mike references yesterday's comments by "the redoubtable" donescobar. I pick as an example:

Cioran nailed it: "It took 2000 years to build the West and 100 years of psychology to destroy it." So, boys and girls, live up to your potential and Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy.

As regular readers of this blog may possibly vaguely recall, especially with the help of Google, there was an extensive exchange of views between Mike and donescobar on the relationship between the Corporate Media arm of the MICFiC and the common people's appetitie for the truth (if any) back on March 30, 2006


Vast majority of MSM readers don't want "uncomfortable" news or opinion. They want "facts" that will help them improve their jobs/careers, relationships, diet, and financial situation. One nation under self-help.

The whole thing is interesting, but I want to pick up one particular point. Like our comrade in struggle donescobar, I too love humanity, but often can't stand people. I decry the lack of citizens, and the plethora of consumers, conformists, and cowards.

And yet, having read a lot of books by the half-Scottish "storyteller" - in his daughter's characterization - and self-alleged Sufi master Idries Shah

Posted by: at December 21, 2007 08:39 AM

but at least the structure recognized that government functioning under the threat of physical harm is a sham.

The power of the Right is ALWAYS the implicit threat of violence.

Imho: The Kennedy assassination was the first overt move of the Murkin fascisti agenda to reduce the USer republican democracy to the borderline authoritarian state we see today, and the wholesale totalitarian state they plan for. Fascism is often called the 'revolt of the Elite.' Kennedy's assassination was their first shots.

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 21, 2007 09:05 AM

I had to pawn my "redoubtable" to buy a replica of the nativity scene ("Jesus Slept Here")for my front lawn to annoy my ACLU neighbors.
(Lie. I have no front lawn.)
Yes, an appetite for and delight in confrontation--verbal, ideological, social-has been sapped by blanketing of any "dialogue" through TV, the corporate mindset in all areas of our lives, the indiscriminate puffing up of the human potential movement to replace achievement with entitlement, and on and on.
A big generalization, but I think it applies. Recall, if you can, an old neighborhood tavern, where you could hear people vent, worry, argue about personal and national stuff, economic and social gripes, political frustration. Today, our neighborhood tavern is Appleby's, where we sit and consume and "Enjoy," as ordered by our waitperson.
After a visit to the old tavern, you might be eager to march on City Hall. After Appleby's, you twaddle out to the car and home to TV land.
We had pieces of "popular culture" once, now our culture is mostly mass culture, from suburb to slum. And there's no public square for democratic exchange, argument and engagement there.
Who benefits? We know the answer to that.
What to do about it? That I'd like to hear.
Cheers. Anyway.

Posted by: donescobar at December 21, 2007 09:06 AM

Here's something I recall from one of Idries Shah's books (from memory, so phrasing is approximate):

The disciple asks the spiritual master, "Why is it so hard to find a brother in Baghdad?"

The teacher replies, "If by 'brother', you mean someone to help you carry your burden, it may indeed be hard to find one in Baghdad. But if you mean 'someone whose burden I can help carry', then brothers may not be so scarce."

I bring this up to bolster my point that is unfair to blame the last century or so of psychology, whether you mean Gustav Fechner, William James, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Joyce Brothers, and/or Dr. Phil, for a populace interested in "bread and circuses", as in ancient Rome, or who "whitewash the tombs of the prophets their ancestors killed", as Jesus allegedly said of the residents of Jerusalem.

As Erich Fromm said, (and again this is from memory - Wikiquote has a lot of good stuff from him, but not this) - The purpose of all the true religions is to help man overcome his narcissism. Speaking ex cathedra as Pope Devananda of the Sentient Beings Unitarian Universalist Association, I assure you - he's right. In your heart, you know he's right.

Happy Holidays, y'all. Seriously.

By the way, from time to time (more often than I would want to) I go to the airport and wait for my wife, missus charley, m.d., to return from a business trip. Generally speaking, I don't like the long drive, paying $4 an hour or fraction thereof for parking, the delayed flight arrivals, and so on. But there is one thing about the wait that gives me pleasure - watching people be happy about being reunited with family and friends.

Give the word a chance to say
That the word is just the way
It's the word I'm thinking of
And the only word is _ _ _ _

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 21, 2007 09:14 AM

Ted said

"1. It looks pretty obvious that some democrat will win the next election. If some democrat doesn't it will really highlight the questions of 2000 and Ohio in 2004."

Those questions are already highlighted in some minds. But as far as 2008 - if the choice presented to the people ends up being

a)the aging harridan with a notoriously dysfunctional marriage, who's already been co-president for eight years with a man who was impeached - vs.

b)the hero and former prisoner of war whose appeal is so broad that his Senate colleagues from across the aisle are already endorsing him

then I could believe that the American people (who elected Nixon twice, remember) would actually prefer (b).

May the Creative Forces of the Universe send us all dreams of sugarplums this holiday season.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 21, 2007 09:35 AM

Of course electing Nixon twice taught us something. To elect Reagan twice and George W. Bush twice too.
By the way, it' not what's in the psychology, it's the way it's been slathered in huge gobs on everything so we won't look at much of reality underneath.
My X-mas slogan, as in Obama, Oshmama and Hillary, Pillary:
It's not ideas that convince people, it's people who convince people.
Enjoy the stuffing.

Posted by: donescobar at December 21, 2007 10:12 AM

During the Warren Commission hearings Commission member Allen Dulles, whose CIA under him were responsible for so many coups and assassinations around the world, said that all assassinations in the U.S. are done by lone nuts. And why should we question such an expert?

So now when we talk about Lincoln's assassination we talk about that lone nut John Wilkes Booth, never mind about all of his accomplices being hanged. It's lone nut, all the time. Sondheim's musical is all about lone nuts. Great minds like Noam Chomsky see no conspiracies in killing leaders. At least in America.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at December 21, 2007 10:14 AM

I think it's laughable to suggest that sufficient numbers of white people in the United States would use their SECRET ballot to vote for a black man or woman as President,no matter how polite they express their support to CNN.
However,if he wins the nomination and were the unimaginable to happen,I would sure hope there's not a Lieberman clone as VP,because you've got to believe there's at least one person in this great country of ours who won't be thrilled with a black guy as their chief executive.

Posted by: AnonE.Mouse at December 21, 2007 10:14 AM

Donescobar is not wrong, per se. Foucault in the 70s and 80s claimed that the whole purpose of 'the human sciences'--psychology and psychiatry included, along with sociology, anthropology, ethnology, and even 'history,'--was to create the conditions of possibility and the technologies for universal surveillance.

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 21, 2007 10:19 AM

donescobar IS wrong, per se, and Foucault claiming something is not a reason to believe it is so.

In my opinion.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 21, 2007 11:15 AM

I'm not wrong, per se; I'm wrong, per se.
OK, I'll per se vere and bite: what, exactly, about?
It's o confusing posting on a site full of innerleckshuals and Ph.Ds.

Posted by: donescobar at December 21, 2007 11:41 AM

That foucault said it is in and of itself not warrant to believe it, without the evidence of your own experience. the relevance of the observation stems from its (uncomfortable, to some) truth-to-life.
No matter the claiim of the advocates to the contrary, the purpose of 'science,' for milennia, has been 'prediction' for purposes of 'control.' Foucault, of course, translated this into 'surveillance in the service of power'.

'Human' science disappeared into 'social engineering' without a ripple. The wholesale surveillance state has been a "Liberal" dream since Bentham. Its genius being that since, in the perfect Panopticon, one might be at ANY time under observation, one NEVER knows when one is under observation, and so constrains one's behavior to conform to the expectations of the watchers whether they be watching or not.

Agreement with the main point is not necessary, since experience indicates that that is indeed the direction in which society and culture are 'developing' (it can scarcely be called 'progress').

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 21, 2007 12:27 PM

Beyond Pavlov's Dog, psychology ends up as an approval stamp of THAT day's propaganda. (Example Dr. Phil) ABSOLUTELY no-one has any real idea of what goes on in the next person's mind, no-one. All WE really know is certain COMMON reactions to specific situations, usually artificial (tied up starved dog and a bell) and narrow in circumstance. YET it sells and sales are good and growing.
I, for one, being more of an existentialist in nature, prefering the empirical ( I'm a 'show me' kinda guy), feel that only one thing can be proved, through public record, about Mr. Obama---whether he pays TAXES or not. ANYTHING beyond that may be TRUTH or a lie and his receiving MY vote has just as much chance as any other candidate receiving it, party be damned.
As things stand now, and if there is an election (looking kinda iffy sometimes) and I am alive and able to vote, I'm voting for Michael T. Meyer.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 21, 2007 12:57 PM

Mike Meyer -

1)This is sort of jokey -

since you don't know what's going on in my mind - how do you KNOW that I don't know what's going on in your mind? Hmmm?

but seriously, an interesting article that bears on the question of intersubjectivity, in an interspecies context, is found at

"Can an ape tell a joke? Learning from a Las Vegas orangutan act" by Vicki Hearne, Harper's Magazine, November 1993

2)This is an accurate report of a real life incident -

I called the number you give for Nancy Pelosi's office, and told the person who answered the phone I wanted to express an opinion - I was immediately put onto a tape line, with a recorded greeting from Speaker Pelosi. At the beep, I said I thought that Bush and Cheney should be impeached and removed from office, for the good of the country.

[end of report]

It occurs to me that there's no way I would ever know if anyone even listened to the recording - assuming a recording actually was made.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 21, 2007 01:57 PM
The wholesale surveillance state has been a "Liberal" dream since Bentham. Its genius being that since, in the perfect Panopticon, one might be at ANY time under observation, one NEVER knows when one is under observation, and so constrains one's behavior to conform to the expectations of the watchers whether they be watching or not.

1) "He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows when you've been bad or good
So be good, for Goodness' sake"

Well, not just for goodness' sake - for the sake of eternal life in Paradise, or unending torment.

2) And speaking of the Panopticon - the county sent me a nice color photo of my car going 36 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour one. It cost me $40.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 21, 2007 02:12 PM

I'm too old and too lazy to make myself into an intellectual. It just isn't going to happen for me. So, the following comment gets the following lazy, uninformed, but entirely appropriate response from me.

The wholesale surveillance state has been a "Liberal" dream since Bentham.

Fuck the fuck off. And no, I don't know who Bentham is, nor do I care.

Also, the original post contains an error.

it's better than the FSM.

There is nothing better than the FSM. Please correct this, or rather, allow his noodly appendage to work through you in issuing a correction. Thank you.

Posted by: albany layman at December 21, 2007 02:24 PM

Lively, folks--thank you. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

Ted: not at ALL criticizing your comment, or indeed the piquancy and/or volume of your farts. What I was trying to express was the reactions that I get when I bring up the issue--to, say, my Democratic Chicagoan Obama-funding father. One would think that Dad, having lived through the assassinations, and the civil rights struggle, would respond, "Holy fuck--black guy + Presidency = we gotta do something extra to make sure he's safe." But that's never the response; it's always a wince and a hope that the fickle finger of fate does not smudge our country again. But anybody who looks into any of the assassinations soon finds that the F.F. of F. had little to do with it. (It was busy breaking up The Beatles.)

Yes, I know Obama isn't a Muslim--at least when my brain isn't cramping out of eagerness to show off what I learned in junior high Latin. But y'know, the reality of Obama isn't at issue; it's the perceptions of him that are being created.

It reminds me of Chomsky, who believes that it's pointless to investigate the JFK assassination because he believes JFK was a right-winger's wet dream. (See also Scruggs above.) Yet in the case of MLK, Chomsky sings a different tune. Which leads me to believe that ol' Norm is completely unreliable on this topic; to me it should call him into question in a general sense. Political critiques must stem from objective realities; and ignoring the preponderance of physical evidence in a murder case because what it suggests doesn't fit inside your mental map of how the world works suggests at the very least rigidity, and at most a fundamental lack of rigor.

Dig me, Mr. "Obama is a Muslim" questioning Norm Chomsky's intellectual rigor! What the hell, it's Xmas and I'm a little giddy.

What you or I (or Norm) thinks about somebody doesn't really matter; the question is, where do they fit in the worldview of some crazy-ass right-winger with lots of dough and QJ/WIN's phone number? (QJ/WIN being the codename of a CIA contract killer active in the 60s and 70s.) That's awkwardly expressed, but I think you see my point.

...and yes, I know his name is "Noam." (Not sure if he's Muslim or not.)

Posted by: Mike of Angle at December 21, 2007 03:35 PM

i can think of wingnut reasons to murder the b*tch, too, and her sore/loser treehugger fellow traveler -- all hail the myth of liberal treason

Posted by: hapa at December 21, 2007 04:47 PM

ps. treehugger who won a peace prize for similarly-kingly unpatriotism

pps. hope, if not safety, in depth and breadth

Posted by: hapa at December 21, 2007 04:55 PM

Fuck the fuck off. And no, I don't know who Bentham is, nor do I care.

Ecce homo: Mid-dull Murka Speeks

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 21, 2007 05:02 PM

i had another thing, what was it ... ahm ... oh yeah. hate crimes are up. ordinary people also need protecting.

Posted by: hapa at December 21, 2007 05:21 PM

I don't think it's pointless to investigate JFK's assassination. Let a thousand adders be driven into the light! I do think the adulation he receives is creepy in a very low rent PoMo way. It places more emphasis on the power of myths than is justifiable. Dating the start of the Bad Times from his assassination is comic book tipping point, Great Man Theory of history stuff. He was mediagenic, he was the scion of a rich family (Oh, Camelot!), he was murdered on television and he was a less remarkable man than his veep. Liberal royalism is no more worthwhile than wingnut royalism.

Posted by: Scruggs at December 21, 2007 05:53 PM
we gotta do something extra to make sure he's safe

I see the focus in the wrong place; I don't want to authorize more praetorians, even to protect archetypes. Like bad guests (and bad commentariat), the praetorians never go away once you fund them. It just grows until it consumes everything.

Nationalism drives our worst instincts; rid us of nationalism, and the creeping menace of the trailer parks clear up. IMO.

Posted by: Ted at December 21, 2007 06:26 PM

"The reasons I dislike Hillary and Bill aren't very logical. It's plain spite, which is a self-destructive, but (for me) a personally gratifying force in itself."

lol, and you deign to counsel others?

You've got style, I'll give that much to ya.

Posted by: at December 21, 2007 07:23 PM

"The reasons I dislike Hillary and Bill aren't very logical. It's plain spite, which is a self-destructive, but (for me) a personally gratifying force in itself."

lol, and you deign to counsel others?

You've got style, Ted, I'll give that much to ya.

Posted by: ww at December 21, 2007 07:23 PM

mistah charley ph.d. Congratulations on your calling, you are NOW working for YOUR own political well being. When you call and you desire to have a HUMAN receive your message, say it IMMEDIATELY after your greeting before you are placed into voicemail. MAKE YOUR DEMANDS within the first few words and the PERSON on the line will relay that message. If your message runs on too long, you get the machine. (I personally believe it is recorded but I some what doubt it is heard) Just as an example--I use " Mike Meyer, Sheridan Wyoming and I demand impeachment of the president and vice president. Have a nice day" and the PERSON says they will tell the Speaker, and we hang up. (although these days the phone person usually says my statement before I do, once I say my name) Call often and I'm ABSOLUTELY SURE you will devise your own quick statement to avoid that damn machine.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 21, 2007 08:11 PM

Mike of Ange, Johnathan:

Where is the Donescobar reference you made? Could you provide a link as I am not familiar with that conversation.

Also why would any one shoot Obama. I am actually quite mistified why anyone on the left feels that he will be a revolutionary. If anything Edwards has the militant rhetoric. Being nakedly anti-corporate power.

Obama seems to feel there is some "big tent" in which the republican power brokers can be drawn into to make a deal. Sounds like a recipe for deception of the left to me. Cooperation of the minority party is not necessary to run the country as 2000-2006 showed. And this year we learned the will of the majority of the country was not enough to effect the running of the country. Less we think this is something new FDR did the same, it just that we in the middle and lower classes benefited from it. Actual without FDR there would have been no middle class.

Given this who is there to negotiate with for Obama. What can his rhetoric be other than deception. Especially when the guy went along with the Military Commissions Act and is now inviting Arnold into his cabinet. Arnold!

Kennedy was killed because he stood up to the power structure. Of the dems running Obama appears to be the least likely to do so.

Convince me otherwise please. I loved his 2004 DNC speech. I wanted to believe he was that guy. But I see no evidence what-so-ever. Which means to me there is no danger of him taking one for the team at all.

Posted by: patience at December 22, 2007 01:04 AM

Scruggs, as the JV-level historian I am, I'd vote for the middle way: history's the story of extraordinary individuals acting upon, and being acted on by larger trends/conditions. Of course Kennedy-worship has been 'way overdone, but there's no denying that it has pushed American politics in very real ways; the '64 Civil Rights bill wasn't just about LBJ's consummate legislative skills, it was also about using the memory of JFK as a cudgel. Call it cheesy, inaccurate, even absurd--yet "Camelot" is real because people believe in it. History-as-process lends a comforting inevitability, but a case can be made that without an Octavian there's no Roman Empire, and without an FDR, there's no New Deal. Heck, just compare Jesse Jackson to MLK and it's impossible not to see the relative catalytic power of one individual versus another.

Ted, I'm with you regarding Praetorians. Yet I would like to see an effective check on the implicit threat of violence. Surely there must be other solutions besides a standing mini-army?

Patience, Obama doesn't have to draw down in Iraq or decide to scatter the CIA to the winds to be messed with--if I had to wager, I'd go with Jon's "neutralization by media" angle. Less risky, just as effective.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at December 22, 2007 03:44 AM

I don't get the octopus metaphor (it is a metaphor, right?). If Presidents are murdered through some conspiracy of the elites, isn't it Bush who is most in danger of earning all-expenses-paid trip to Dealy Plaza?

Bush has certainly outlived his usefulness to our ruling class, so if they're concerned about securing his "legacy" of tax cuts and out-of-control defense spending, they could do worse than the two-tickets-to-Ford's-theater treatment. With W looking down on us from heaven, it would be practically our sacred duty to "finish the job" in Iraq, as he would have wanted it finished, and to repeal the estate tax, for good measure.

Obama's no threat, as others have noted, and he's actually quite useful in renewing the myth of our "two-party" democracy.

Lone racist nut, sure. But if Obama does meet his Charles J. Guiteau in a Washington train station (Too obscure? Sorry.) I don't think the octopus will have a tentacle in it.

Posted by: SteveB at December 22, 2007 09:39 AM

While we're talking about the "Great Man Who's Just a Pawn in THEIR Game" interacting-with-larger-trends-and-conditions Middle Way theory of history, and Barak the Great Conciliator in particular, let's not forget Paul Krugman's critique of Obama's role in reviving the "social security is on the verge of bankruptcy" myth.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 22, 2007 11:55 AM

SteveB, the octopus was a jokey stand-in for all the malefactors possible. As to the reality, my opinion is this: Think about all the jockeying that goes on in the business world--aboveboard and hidden, legal and illegal, big-time and small-time, temporary and permanent. Now increase the stakes, and you have politics.

I don't try to ascertain the reasons why x person would be a threat to y group/person. All I know is that people get shot, but that we can (and do) prevent it from happening--in fact, much more often than it succeeds. The "lone nut" meme is a transparent lie, and you need look no further than your boy Guiteau. When the President starts walking around Washington by himself again, I'll start believing that lone nuts can pull off modern assassinations. My sense is that lone nuts wound (think Bremer, Sarah Moore, Squeaky Fromme), while killers with backing kill (Booth, Oswald?, Ray, Sirhan).

It's not IMPOSSIBLE that lone nuts can and will murder important people, simply through strokes of malign fate. (See Archduke Francis Ferdinand.) But in this time and place, it's highly unlikely, and given the connivance engendered at the nexus of immense money, fame, and power, I think the sensible course is to assume conspiracy until the evidence insists otherwise. In the case of JFK, RFK, MLK et al., the evidence inevitably takes you into very strange places that underscore the opacity of people and their motives, and their almost limitless ability to convince themselves that their desired ends justify horrific means. Conspiracy is simply human nature, and the richer and more important a country is, the bigger the temptation. Wise countries throughout history have recognized this, and have taken steps to lessen its impact. We should too--'sall I'm saying.

Posted by: Mike of Angle at December 22, 2007 11:14 PM

Yeah but I hope nobody is suggesting that there could be a gov't conspiracy to get Obama. He's as establishment as they come. Don't flatter him with the label of assassination-worthy, in the elite view.

Posted by: Druff at December 24, 2007 12:23 AM