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October 16, 2010

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

By: John Caruso

Given that even someone as hip to Democratic chicanery as Jon was bamboozled by Obama's charms, I thought I should re-post this advice from February of 2008. Please, I beg you: read it, share it, live it.

If a Democrat wins the presidency, no matter who it is, I'll consider them guilty until proven innocent.  I'll give them zero benefit of the doubt.  I won't feel one shred of hope or optimism about their impending time in power, and in fact I'll expect the worst.  I'll take every positive thing they say as a lie and every negative thing they say as an understatement.

After they assume office, there's only one thing that will make me consider changing my mind on this: concrete actions on major issues that indisputably contradict it.  And even then I'll assume that each good action is sui generis—improbable to have happened in the first place and unlikely to be repeated.

This isn't a prediction (though in light of American history, especially over the past few decades, it may as well be).  It's also neither pessimism nor hopelessness.  It's a recognition that lofty rhetoric not only has the power to blind us to what really matters, but that practically without exception in mainstream politics, that's exactly what it's intended to do.  It's an acknowledgment that those who seek power almost universally do so at the expense of their integrity and to the detriment of their humanity, and that to allow ourselves to lose sight of that is to participate in our own deception.

True hope comes from below—not from above.

— John Caruso

Posted at October 16, 2010 05:02 PM

I don't understand why people trust a Democrat more than they would a used-car salesman.

Posted by: gfod at October 16, 2010 05:41 PM

Sage advice at the time, and sage advice for the future. What politicians say counts for nothing in comparison with what they do. In the same manner that it is wise to remember that the true audience for the commercial media is their advertisers, and only peripherally their auditors/viewers/readers, it is wise to remember that the true audience for politicians is the body of institutional forces who underwrite their careers, and only peripherally the citizens (commonly known nowadays as "consumers", a term that makes abundantly clear the role that we occupy in the worldview of the powers-that-be).

It takes a lot of alert and assertive citizens to counteract the influence of those powers. I am frankly not optimistic that that sort of demonstration of informed resolve is to be expected today.

When Benjamin Franklin emerged at the conclusion of the constitutional convention, a lady queried him as to what form of government the delegates had given the citizenry. He was reported to have replied, " A Republic...if you can keep it."

Things ain't lookin' too good, Ben.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at October 16, 2010 08:25 PM

"You can't cheat an honest man." -- W. C. Fields

Posted by: Freddy el Desfibradddor at October 17, 2010 08:52 AM

John, that's wasn't really going out on a limb, was it now?

I saw a recent teevee report om msnbc video (...and I paraphrase) - poverty rates today are in the same proportion as they were when LBJ gave his war on poverty speeches. The analyst concluded that implemented social programs just don't work - the thing that works are jobs.

My immediate impression is that social programs are unwound routinely by both republicans (as a matter of stated policy) and by democrats (as a matter of pandering to "moderates"). It's not that they don't work - it's that for every step forward toward social democracy, an accompanying step back towards fascism follows. One digs, the other fills in.

  1. Where would we be if the policies hadn't been unwound routinely by fascists of both ilk,
  2. Where would we be now - during this mini-depression if those programs weren't in place and hadn't elevated a generation? At the outset of LBJ's war on poverty we were 30 years out of the depression and we're comparing the numbers against the current, in-progress train wreck.

I for one am glad that the republicans are looking strong to come back. This country hasn't suffered enough yet to recognize a way out, if and when it sees it.

Freddy, nice quote but what is "honesty"? A concept used to manipulate the masses - "You should strive to be honest (so that i can chump you all the better)."

Does our culture value and appraise success in terms of morality, or outcome?

Posted by: angryman@24:20 at October 17, 2010 10:36 AM

Yes indeed, "lofty rhetoric . . . has the power to blind us." The irony of that remark catches my eye.

We have been and are reliving the theater of the 90s, with the Tea Party masquerading as something new instead of a regurgitation of the Perot movement, which was neither new nor independent either. The right-wing attacks on Obama that worked so well, especially out in the white heartland, look an awful lot like the attacks on Clinton that worked so well and led him to yield to his opportunistic streak and move right in 95. And now we'll probably end up with another cuckoo, corrupt Congress to replace the craven, corrupt Congress that replaced it a few years ago. And faced with that, Obama will have to decide whether he wants a legacy like Clinton's or one that's worse. A better one will probably look fanciful under those circumstances.

Do we have to just moralize about this and wax eloquent instead of coming to understand what's wrong with the SYSTEM, educating people about that, and trying to fix it? Maybe that's futile and we should enjoy feeling morally superior, but that does nothing for me. The problem isn't moral, it's structural, and the choices aren't just moral either. Sure they are partly moral, but morality alone is a poor guide to navigate in the shark-infested waters of politics.

Here's my tip that everyone can ignore and get pissed about: People better suppress their desire to vomit and keep the whackjobs on the Right from retaking Congress, which means accepting the dreaded evil of Lesserevilism, because if people can't do that, we're going to get another decade just like the last one. Or worse. Other than presenting another opportunity for more righteous outrage by Caruso and others and some great penetrating blog posts by Jon and others, that will really suck. And of course a real consequence will likely be that a lot more people will die, violently and otherwise, if the US turns back farther Right again.

Of course, the Democrats need to be driven left, and that will only happen if something powerful and enduring to the left of them is created. That needs to happen, but I don't think it's necessary to sacrifice the short term to save the long term. I might be wrong about that, but I don't think so, perhaps because nobody has cogently explained why to me. I think that's because people's dominant motivation is emotional, and if that's so, what they want to happen won't happen. Not thinking things through rarely works out, for individuals or groups of individuals.

Posted by: N E at October 17, 2010 12:09 PM

I don't think it's necessary to sacrifice the short term to save the long term. I might be wrong about that, but I don't think so, perhaps because nobody has cogently explained why to me.

Uh ... I would guess someone probably has at some point.

With regard to electoral politics, anyway, there is obviously an exclusion: either one "throw-away" votes for a third party in an effort to build a movement, thus sacrificing the short term, or one votes Democratic, thus sacrificing the long term -- because the typical liberal will refuse to vote third party until a sizeable fraction of people already did it the previoius cycle.

Posted by: Cloud at October 17, 2010 12:35 PM

N E: ... because if people can't do that [i.e., defeat the Republicans this November], we're going to get another decade just like the last one.

Except that we just been through two more years that were just like the past decade, courtesy of Obama and the Democrats: a rotten economy, soaring corporate profits while more and more people are out of work, more assaults on civil liberties domestically and more murderous aggression overseas. And since, as Ian Welsh pointed out, it will be easier to fight the Republicans on Social Security than to fight Democrats (because libs and progs can't bring themselves to fight Obama, because the Republicans are worse!!!!!!), we might do better with Republicans in power, if you want to play Realpolitik. On the other hand, Obama might also do better with the Republicans in power, because then he can continue to blame his worthlessness on them and on the weak-willed left who betrayed him because they insist on seeing the glass as 90% empty instead of 10% full.

As for Clinton moving right in 95, he was always on the Right; he pushed NAFTA (and, I believe, DADT) through before the 94 midterms, which had a lot to do with the Republicans' gains then. But no, it's never the Democrats' fault, is it?

Posted by: Duncan at October 17, 2010 12:46 PM

But no, it's never the Democrats' fault, is it?

Who said it's never the Democrats fault?

You're wishing things that aren't. We are not the people that can ever be a social democracy.

To be those people we need to be different people.

Posted by: angryman@24:20 at October 17, 2010 01:20 PM

angryman: John, that's wasn't really going out on a limb, was it now?

It shouldn't have been, and yet millions of people who should have known better (like our fine host) were snowed—despite the fact that the majority of Obama's empty words had already been soundly contradicted by reality by the time of his election, and even more so by his inauguration.

Duncan: because libs and progs can't bring themselves to fight Obama, because the Republicans are worse!!!!

Yep, and that's exactly why what I said here is important. If only liberals would apply this blindingly obvious advice ("actions speak louder than words" isn't exactly a radical notion...) and follow Chris Floyd's WIBDI rule when Democrats are in power, we'd be a lot better off, but they won't or can't. Even two years of hard, cold reality hasn't been enough to get many people to open their eyes. After all, Obama's a Democrat, so you're supposed to excuse and rationalize his behavior—not judge it by the same standard you'd use for a Republican.

Posted by: John Caruso at October 17, 2010 04:44 PM


I don't like Clinton much either, or believe he ever had much fight in him for ordinary people, and NAFTA was a bad idea that he did indeed support, and that did set the stage for Bush/Cheney, but Clinton did start out trying to be a little better than he ended up right, and now we're in a replay of what made Clinton worse than he had to be, what led more directly to Bush/Cheney, and what led us to the mess that has persisted into the last two years (and will persist much, much longer than that). If the GOP retakes Congress, the consequences will be very bad, and probably into the long term.

It may be that you agree with Caruso that people who don't agree with you guys don't have their eyes open, and I suppose I shouldn't fault you anyone that since I think the same thing about you guys, and frankly some people I really admire very much, like Andy Worthington, seem to me to have your perspective more than mine. So be it--my views are admittedly iconoclastic. But the political dynamic is pretty clear to me, and if it can't be stopped, we'll have to all suffer through being screwed big time once again, much like the Lakota nation of a century ago. And really, not just the US but homo sapiens and good old planet earth can't take much more of this. But what the hell--hoka hey!

Posted by: N E at October 17, 2010 07:10 PM

N E: It may be that you agree with Caruso that people who don't agree with you guys don't have their eyes open, and I suppose I shouldn't fault you anyone that since I think the same thing about you guys, and frankly some people I really admire very much, like Andy Worthington, seem to me to have your perspective more than mine. So be it--my views are admittedly iconoclastic.

Um, no, it's you who believe that people who don't agree with you don't have their eyes open. John and I are trying to make an argument; people are free to disagree, but they have to make arguments of their own in reply to be taken seriously. Simply repeating your previous claim ("If the GOP retakes Congress, the consequences will be very bad, and probably into the long term.") is not an argument.

Posted by: Duncan at October 17, 2010 10:17 PM

I don't want to scare anybody or anything, but maybe, just maybe, it doesn't matter. You're all arguing that the spiral downward can be averted somehow. Show me evidence that it can be. I don't know if you noticed or not, but we as a people are really, really screwed. Even if progressive took over the whole government tomorrow, things are in a such a hell of a shape thatit would take at least 2 decades to recover. And guess what? The progressive aren't going to take over the government anytime soon. So kiss your kids goodnight, make love to your wife, and prepare yourself for a long,long bumpy ride.

Posted by: Paul Avery at October 17, 2010 11:29 PM

Paul Avery: AGREED.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 17, 2010 11:41 PM

Paul Avery wrote You're all arguing that the spiral downward can be averted somehow. Show me evidence that it can be.

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. The prayer has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.

The best-known form is:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

The extended version:

God, grant us the...
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 18, 2010 07:38 AM

I don't want to scare anybody or anything, but maybe, just maybe, it doesn't matter. You're all arguing that the spiral downward can be averted somehow. Show me evidence that it can be.

Agreed, but this is where I feel compelled to bust out the Joss Whedon existentialism: 'If nothing we do means anything, then the only thing that means anything is what we do.' Truth conceived in fiction.

I agree that making sure to love those around you is more important than anything one can do politically now. But beyond that, the more people are at least made aware of things as they are, the more likely become good choices.

Posted by: Cloud at October 18, 2010 10:00 AM

Thanks mistah charley for teaching me that Niebuhr had written the original serenity prayer, which I like much better in his longer form though I like the bumper sticker version okay too. That's new information to me.

Paul Avery: Can the downward spiral be averted? Of course not--to us existentialist types who have genetic Kierkegaardian mood disorders, the inevitability of The Downward Spiral is obvious. We creatures of the flesh live moment by moment in a sea of eternity, and in the blink of an eye we're done, back to wherever we came from. I can accept that much. What's depressing to me is how small-minded even good people are in the midst of it. I remember being struck a long time ago, seemingly in another life, by how at odds the human righters works of the Catholic Archdiocese in an easy-to-guess small Central American country were with the secular human rights workers fighting their common enemy with them. The two groups of noble, brave souls were all on the same side, but they didn't get along too well. Naive as I was, I expected that a common enemy engaging in the widespread practice of killing and torturing people to terrorize the population and crush its spirit would unite people of good intentions, but au contraire, petty bickering apparently persists even in those circumstances. They really were all fine, inspiring people, but incapable of working well together. Or that's my recollection anyway--the chances are probably pretty high that I've exaggerated it, beacuse I was a fleeting, peripheral observer.

Duncan: I am not often accused of being unable to make an argument, but maybe I swung and missed there. My problem with Caruso's rhetoric and his and your views is that you guys don't appear to me to have much of a roadmap to get us all where you want us to go.

Posted by: N E at October 18, 2010 07:39 PM

"From the mouths of babes." NO ROADMAP??? Ah 'tiz YOU Dear NE who has pointed "the way".
"One nation, indispensible, with weapons and ammunition for all."---NE.
And THAT'S progress for the future.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 19, 2010 02:06 AM

...[Gurdjieff] had no purpose comprehensible to the average, relatively satisfied human being. A prerequisite to any understanding of his aims and an even relative acceptance of his means was dissatisfaction with the status quo in a personal sense, and dissatisfaction with, or distrust of, the state of civilization as we know it.

His avowed aim, as stated in his book All and Everything is to "destroy" all contemporary habits, opinions, preconceptions, etc., concerning human existence; such destruction being a necessary condition for the reception and acquisition of totally new concepts about the potentialities of human existence.

In one of the few "political" statements he ever made in my presence he said that unless the "wisdom" of the East and the "energy" of the West could be harnessed and used harmoniously, the world would be destroyed.

--- Fritz Peters, My Journey with a Mystic

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 19, 2010 11:12 AM

"I don't think it's necessary to sacrifice the short term to save the long term. I might be wrong about that"

You might well be. The reason that most people give (which I am sure you want someone to mention) is the game theory idea that punishing Democrats for being so far right is necessary when they defect or else they will continue to drift to the right.

However this argument is flawed because it relies on the assumption that Democrats want to win elections and are punished by losing them. Individually that's probably true but as an institution their purpose is to make the Republicans look better and together with the Republicans divide the electorate neatly into two equal camps so that it looks like the US has a democracy. Since Democrats are the "good cop" they have to try hard to make the Republicans look better (typically by acting incompetent, weak or lazy) and therefore might be happy to have fewer people voting for them.

However you're not going to get people trying long term solutions until they realise that the two parties are basically the same. Applying game theory tactics for most is a sort of minimal midway step (even though it buys into the greater masquerade) because it at least recognises that Democrats are not to be 100% trusted.

You can certainly argue that two more years of Democrats in power (passing horrible right wing legislation and pissing on their base without any excuse of having to pander to impotent Republicans) would be best for disconcerting Obamabots, and you can argue that people ought to be able to realise there's just one corporate part without going through the intermediate stage of merely distrusting Democrats (but still believing the Democrats are not the Republicans).

But you might be wrong about that.

Posted by: DavidByron at October 19, 2010 11:55 AM


I thank you for teaching me once upon a time about the Overton Window (I believe that was you), because that's a very valuable idea, but the term Obamabot is just an insult. And in my opinion it's one of those boomerang insults that only injures those who hurl it.

The Democrats are Republicans aren't the same even if they are just different shades of the color of crap, and saying that the Democrats are "in power" reflects a lack of understanding of our political system. In our system, the Democrats are NEVER "in power" in the way they might be able to be "in power" in a parliamentary system. If you were to replace the Democrats with the Socialist Party or the Green Party or the People's Party or the Best Party Ever, in our system whatever substitute you picked wouldn't be "in power" either. The forces that always remain "in power" are the military and Wall Street, broadly defined. The GOP is their most faithful servant, so when the GOP controls Congress and the Presidency, it can inflict a much higher magnitude of harm on everyone, because the forces that are "in power" aren't held back by much when the GOP has control of the government.

And don't think I'm the only one who might be wrong. I haven't heard a hint of a plan to avoid catastrophe from you, and rhetoric will not avoid doom, if it even is avoidable, so you might want to get working on a plan or go enjoy life until the other shoe drops per Paul Avery's suggestion.

Posted by: N E at October 19, 2010 01:51 PM

Nice Freudian typo.

But voting Democratic is hardly a plan to avoid catastrophe, either.

It is strange that you who so often invokes the permanent government of Wall Street and the military/CIA -- with which I agree -- also are so concerned with Obama not losing. He is fully their man, in actions and policy, though maybe not personally or culturally or what-have-you.

Posted by: Cloud at October 19, 2010 08:25 PM


Cloud wrote, addressing N E

It is strange that you who so often invokes the permanent government of Wall Street and the military/CIA -- with which I agree -- also are so concerned with Obama not losing. He is fully their man, in actions and policy

I agree with Cloud here, more in sorrow than in anger. N E is intelligent, humane, highly educated - like Obama, except more so. However, compared to N E, Obama is more skilled at manipulating people and more interested in acquiring status (power? I'm not sure).

Speaking strictly for myself, I also consider myself i., h., h.e. - although I fully acknowledge that I am not without flaws - for example, sometimes I am too modest. I find it easy to identify with Obama in a way I did not with G. W. Bush. I've read Obama's autobiography and seemed to find a kindred spirit. There was never a chance that Bush would agree with me on what the President of the U.S. should do. I was - and maybe I still am - willing to believe that there is a chance that Obama could arrive at the same conclusions I reach about what he ideally should do. Of course, what he CAN do depends on the configuration of forces in the MICFiC, so he's probably not going to do what I think he should. But - and this is the hope that MANY cling to - isn't there still a chance that it would be closer to what I think is desirable than if Palin, or Romney, or Bloomberg, or Petraeus, holds the office?

I have sadly concluded - no, not in a practical sense - there is no important way in which Obama being President makes a difference.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 20, 2010 10:34 AM

mistah charley

Thank you for those complements, but I'm certainly NOT more intelligent or disciplined than Obama. Whatever else Obama is, he is very smart and very disciplined.

I personally suspect Obama is plenty humane too, on a personal level, but I admit that is not that much more relevant than whether Hitler really did like dogs. Obama obviously is still the titular head of the world's biggest military empire ever. Per your man (one of your men) Vonnegut, all that matters is what people DO, though I forget which Vonnegut book had that express theme (I read them all decades ago pretty much in one sitting--I loved Vonnegut.)

As for what Obama DOES compared to what GOP Presidents do nowadays, the weakness I find in your analysis is that it neglects the actual historic setting in which each President sits and the actual choices available to each as President. All that stuff matters. Obama's choices have been greatly affected not just by the mess Bush/Cheney made of the economy and their vast expansion of our military commitments, but the whole War on Terror. Those things can't be ignored. Otherwise someone might conclucd that Richard Nixon was actually a progressive, which is kind of funny. Obama is following Bush/Cheney and 9/11, and his real choices are governed by the political, economic, military and social realities that were created before he became President. He can't just pretend the world is what it was before Bush/Cheney made the mess he has on his hands, or ignore that the mess exists. It hardly surprises me that he hasn't been able to thrive politically--he was probably pretty much screwed from the get go. I wish he had made different political choices and tried to build a left-leaning, popular movement, because that is necessary, but had he given any real sign of doing that he would never have become President to begin with, and I think if he had really tried it probably also wouldn't have been successful. A likelihood of failure is a pretty hard thing for a President to ignore, even if he isn't selfish, because failure does have real consequences for everyone.

The big problem we have is that our system is too dominated by money, and a big share of the Democratic Party will defect from any populist legislation as soon as their funders so instruct them. My own boyhood home state of South Dakota, formerly a populistic (though Indian-hating) farming state, is now politically controlled by credit card companies for all intents and purposes, and Democratic Senator Tim Johnson has never voted against their wishes to my knowledge. There are a lot of those Senators out there around the country, and plenty of Congressman who are also in the bag for various interests who fund them. That's a reality Obama faces, part of the MICFiC, and those like Cloud and pretty much everyone else around here who say the GOP and the Dems are effectively the same are right to that extent. Both parties are all controlled to a large extent by Wall Street and the military lobby. That's just not the whole story.

Here's the rub. It makes a big difference whether the GOP retakes Congress, because if they do that will push Obama further right, just as that happening in 94 pushed Clinton farther right. And then the Obama who governs for the remainder of his Presidency, whether one or two terms, will actually get even worse, in his own mind of necessity, and maybe he'd even be right about that. It shouldn't be hard for him to convince himself of that. According to political rhythms that seems as real as the tides, if Congress goes farther right and pushes Obama farther right, the next President will likely be a Republican and will also have an agenda much more favored by a combination of the Kochs and their nasty Tea Party funders and our military imperialists than anyone else. And we'll lurch even farther right again, and the President in charge of that lurch to the Right, whether Petraeus or someone else electable, will do new aggressive things to create new and bigger problems for the world that some other comparatively moderate Democrat who succeeds him will have to deal with. And whoever the next Democratic President is won't be able to undo all the damage of his predecessor(s) either, because he will be constrained by his own political and economic circumstances, and this dire situation will just keep getting worse and worse.

Wouldn't it be nice to avoid that? Personally, I don't like that many acts in a tragedy. I'd like this vicious cycle to end. Maybe that won't happen anyway, per Paul Avery, and we're now all American Indians (as well as Palestinians). I certainly can't discount that possibility, which strikes my gloomy instincts as probable, but it seems obvious to me that someone who starts a fire that kills a hundred people is not morally equivalent to someone who lets it burn because he cannot put it out without endangering a hundred more. Blaming Obama for the mess he has had to deal with is only possible if one takes the view that the world turns on a dime and nothing preceding a news cycle matters, which is not true. If I may add another metaphor to the mix, Obama is not lying in a bed he made, and judging him as though he is doing so is both a bad moral judgment and bad analysis.

That's not to say Obama is great, or that he's making the right decisions, or even to dispute that he's part of the MICFiC, because clearly you were right taht he is, but he isn't Dick Cheney, and it does make a huge difference whether someone like Obama is President and someone like Dick Cheney is President (or surrogate President) again. They are NOT the same. In the same way, it makes a difference whether Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Hastert or Newt Gingrich is Speaker of the House. That much is clear to me, and not even debatable, even if the political landscape looks equally flat everywhere to those looking down on it from the heights of lofty idealism.

Again, that doesn't mean Obama is admirable, and I wish he would have taken a different course and hope that he still does, though it doesn't seem probably, but whether or not he does, if Congress goes to the GOP, that will be very bad, and if Obama is replaced by a GOP President supported by the Crazy Billionaires, things can and will get worse. We should avoid worse, because we're running out of room for it.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2010 12:45 PM

Q. How's Obama doing as spokesmodel?
R: Compared to what?

N E - as I often do, I find that others have already expressed what I might have said, but more better.

With regard to "practicalities," you state A likelihood of failure is a pretty hard thing for a President to ignore, even if he isn't selfish, because failure does have real consequences for everyone. Paul Krugman, at his blog, says “The administration has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And soon there will be no more opportunities to miss.”

With regard to moral judgment, Chris Floyd says, in the penultimate paragraph of his most recent post, which should be read in full:

For a system sunk so deeply in evil, there is no "lesser" evil to choose. The militarist kleptocracy itself is evil, and every political faction that does not denounce it and seek to dismantle it is complicit in this evil. The choice is to stand outside such factions; the choice is non-cooperation with evil, as advocated by Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, King. I'm not going to spend my brief time here on earth standing with blood-soaked killers, no matter what factional name they give themselves, or what loyalties they might claim on our myth-clouded memories of the past. I'm not going to teach my children that all we can do is to grovel before one child-murdering maniac or another, to keep quiet, to never speak the truth, to sell their votes, their dignity and their souls to murderers who would pervert every good instinct -- and every bad instinct -- every worthy hope and every nasty fear, to keep themselves in power.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 20, 2010 03:09 PM

I would rather see the MICFIC aimed in a different direction than so much as "broken down or dismantled".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 20, 2010 05:46 PM

mistah charley

I really like Krugman, and I agree with him that the Administration has lacked nerve and populist instincts, and I think that's as lamentable as he does, but that's also easy for he and I to agree about. What Krugman has recommended entails more risk, political and economic, than he identifies, because he is an advocate for his own ideas, which I basically share. Although I agree with those ideas, I don't think that everything would necessarily have worked out swimmingly for Obama if he had just listened to Paul Krugman. Life was pretty tough for FDR when he tried to steer such a course, and he tried it under social, political, and historical circumstances that were much more favorable to that sort of populist agenda. Wall Street and military interests (National Security State, MICFiC) aren't just powerful now--they are dominant. Back then they were realing from the fiasco of WWI and the whole econony wasn't dominated by finance.

As for Chris Floyd, you shouldn't feel that you are less eloquent than he is. I actually much prefer your thought and writing, because it is graceful and humane and doesn't club a person over the head. Floyd typically leaves me unmoved, and what you quoted from Floyd does nothing for me at all; I think I would have been able to identify the source without attribution.

As for Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King, who were all great men in differing ways, I like them very much, but let's not get starry eyed. As his pal Emerson pointed out, Thoreau spent one night in jail; Tolstoy himself said that he had done about everything evil possible earlier in his life; Gandhi supported political pragmatism much more than people think; and MLK was certainly no dreamy idealist.

More importantly, only those without responsibility can really say that everything is so evil that there are no lesser evils. The difference between one million murdered people and two million murdered people is a million murdered people even though both are abominations. There always were and always will be greater and lesser evils. Choices matter even when all the options are rotten. The extra dead people would be able to attest to that if they were alive.

It may be that fundamental change is so necessary that it's time to throw out the baby and the bathwater and just start over (even though that will likely not result without a horrible sacrifice of some kind) and if somebody has a plan to do that, I could certainly understand taking a chance, even a big one, to make things better in the long run. I'm in the Jefferson camp on that. I often feel disgusted with the sorry state of our society and politics, but if there is no plan but only impassioned rhetoric, then that rhetoric is really nothing but a way of spreading disenchantment and ambivalence, and I seriously doubt it will be beneficial. Disenchantment and ambivalence born of disappointed idealism don't differ from disenchantment and ambivalence born of selfishness in their effects. They are weakening forces in both cases, and weakening the existing political order is only good if what supplants it will be an improvement. I don't see any big force on the left gaining momentum just now, so convincing people that Obama is terrible doesn't seem like much of a public service to me.

Though it's un-American to think this way, it's worth remembering that impassioned rhetoric by sincere and worthy people can be used for purposes that differ markedly from goals those people support. Whether Chris Floyd lives up to his rhetoric I don't know, but even if he does, there is a long tradition of well-motivated people being sponsored and supported by those who aren't well-motivated at all. The Morgan interest supporting liberal causes back around WWI to weaken the left wasn't the first or last time that such chicanery happened. That sort of deception has been going on forever, even if Americans are taught over and over that nobody could ever fool them. I don't see how Floyd's rhetoric will make anything any better, because it isn't helping build any movement that I see; it's just weakening whatever opposition exists to the movement that is building again on the Right. Great.

Disenchantment with the Democrats is fostered by a system that makes it almost impossible for them not to disappoint, and then the disappointment is used to make things even worse. Around and around we go. So to me, rhetoric that in its effects will just help strengthen the very worst forces in our society seems poorly thought out, undisciplined, and self-indulgent. Sure it would be great if eveyone would take it to heart and we would all collectively abandon violence, but that is NOT going to happen. There is a 0.00000 percent chance of that (or less), and everyone knows it. All that will happen is that those on the left with the highest ideals will turn away from the Democrats, which unless there is a viable alternative on the left, though it may well be deserved will work to the advantage of the very forces that make it so hard for the Democrats to ever get anything done that makes things a little better.

Those are my thoughts.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2010 06:16 PM

mistah charley, i see from an email i got from consortium news that robert parry is maybe more cogent on this topic than I am, though apparently he made lots of people mad. Unlike me, of course.

Posted by: N E at October 20, 2010 07:52 PM

N E: That needs to happen, but I don't think it's necessary to sacrifice the short term to save the long term.

Yeah, I want to lose weight by eating ice cream, too. You stupid fuck.

The best part about blawgging on teh intarwebs, the part I abso-tootly-ootly luuuuv, is when some smarmy lesser-evil-sucking apple-polishing demotard moral cretin like N E takes time out of his busy day licking the ass of his democrat master's dog and condescends to grace us with his political wisdom.

Sacrifice. Really? What the fuck do you know about "sacrifice", Obot? Opening up your sphincter and shitting all over anyone to the left of fucking Joe McCarthy, is that you're idea of "sacrifice?" Should we be grateful when a slimy whimpering cowardly shit like you comes along and whines about how there's no movement to the left of your oh-so-precious democrat party WHEN YOUR FUCKING PARTY ACTIVELY SUPPRESSES THE VERY MOVEMENTS YOU WHINE ABOUT NO EXISTING.


Oh, are you offended now? Did that hurt your coral pink little ears, Obot? Do you really think that kind of reeking shit deserves a civil response? When the best you can do is piss and moan that NOBODY HAS DONE THE JOB FOR YOU? And then you shit out smelly little turds about "sacrifice." What are you expecting? Fucking applause?

What a pathetic loser hack you are, N E. What a fucking waste of space. Gutless, cringing, oily, useless pundit-wannabes like you should be dragged out your basements into the streets and beaten with fucking crowbars for the mere fact of your misbegotten existence. I'd call you a 'cancer' if you were anything other than the inert mass of tissue you so clearly are.

Crawling toadies like you, spewing driblets of crap about Chris Floyd somehow being responsible for your fucking party fucking killing toddlers in fucking Pakistan make me want to vomit all over my keyboard. Truly, you are spineless, profitless and possess ugly in greater variety than Brittney Spears has STDs. Even your cretinous sneering at people who are clearly your superior in every way imaginable has lost what little schadenfreude value it ever had.

Since you've been so kind telling everyone what they "need" to do (ie: become just as much a yellow-ass coward as you so clearly are) now I'll tell you what you "need" to do.

Get the fuck off the intarwebs, Obot.

Posted by: AlanSmithee at October 21, 2010 05:38 PM

Alan Smithee: Say, if YOU don't mind me asking, did YOU ever call Nan @1-202-225-0100 for ANYTHING?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 21, 2010 09:10 PM


Now that's what I expect from a Chris Floyd fan!

I wish I could get away with being a coward, but alas, those days are gone--that's a luxury i can only envy.

Fortunately, I'm so old and out of shape that no one really tries to kick my ass any more, but I warn you, I'm a big guy and once upon a time I could take a hell of a beating, so if you do find me and stop by sometime to show off your youthful manliness by knocking me around you might wear yourself out before I get so scared that I follow the fine example of Monte Python and run away.

Not that I'd fight--I'm a lover not a hater these days. Violence is too ugly for my taste, even when it's full of those fine passions you've showed off so nicely.


Posted by: N E at October 21, 2010 10:06 PM

N E: The Democrats are no FDRs or even LBJs anymore, though. I think the argument that less people will suffer is far from obvious. I doubt it's beyond Obama to go to war with Iran in an attempt to get a patriotism-boost for 2012.

I'm not so sure that D administrations are even marginally better anymore, on balance. Because there's the "only Nixon could go to China" principle at work as well. Any congressional opposition to Catfood Commissions and corporatism in general and murder overseas is more neutered.

Additionally, since you want to be very utilitarian and anti-Kantian about it -- allowing the stipulation that the moral odiousness of voting for murderers is not a factor in this argument, in other words -- it seems to me that the following is still the case: Fascism breeds the fastest under "liberal" leaders who are not in fact liberal.

I suspect that the total discredit to "liberalism" that ordinary people will be and are coming away with from this administration is as dangerous as the marginal relative evilness of the Republicans.

Posted by: Cloud at October 22, 2010 12:21 AM


A. Terror War Strategery
B. A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement

A)Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don't even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don't know, and there are no appeals against the robot.

Now imagine it doesn't end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named "Predators", or "Reapers" – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won't stop. What do you do? If there was a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen? This sounds like a sketch for the next James Cameron movie – but it is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama's CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone – 14 times the number killed in the 7/7 attacks in London. The floods were seen as an opportunity to increase the attacks, and last month saw the largest number of robot-plane bombings ever: 22.

Johann Hari: Obama's robot wars endanger us all, The Independent (UK), Friday, 15 October 2010 The drones have killed some jihadis. But the evidence suggests they create far more jihadis than they kill - and make an attack on me or you more likely with each bomb

A quibble on word order: in an earlier post in this thread, N E, addressing me, referred to "your man Vonnegut." Indeed, I esteem Kurt very highly - but it would be more accurate to say that I am Vonnegut's man, rather than the reverse. Similarly, I suggest a correction to Hari's prose here - instead of "Barack Obama's CIA", one should say "The CIA's Barack Obama." -- mc

B)Joan Baez engages the White House audience in a singalong of "We Shall Overcome". "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement" aired on PBS stations nationwide on Thursday, February 11, 2010.

At 1:40 of the clip, Baez says, while continuing to strum her guitar, "One day Dr. King realized the nonviolent fight went far beyond the shores of this great country, went far across the sea to a war that was being fought by God's children, on both sides of that great fight. And he knew that he had to speak out against that, and he was afraid. He was very afraid. So we all raised our voices just a little bit louder. 'We are not afraid today.'" And the audience sings along on that verse. At the end of the song Obama and Biden are shown smiling as they clap.

A personal note - each time I see this clip, I see Obama and Biden's facial expressions at the end as shark-like grins. -- mc

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 22, 2010 09:08 AM

mistah charley

Wow, Joan Baez is still older than I am. For some weird reason I thought I had passed her, but I guess not.

MLK obviously had good reason to be afraid once he came out against the Vietnam war, and the singing along didn't save him, and of course he knew it wouldn't. But maybe he thought it was nice of everyone anyway. Joan Baez could really sing back then.

I didn't see Obama and Biden smiling like sharks, but I'd love to have been able to read Obama's mind as he listened to Baez. Then again, he's probably just as used to being vacuous as Biden at this point and doesn't think about remarks like that.

Obama is indeed "the CIA's Barack Obama." If they hadn't backed him, the crazier billionaires and their allies the crazier hawks (sometimes called neocons)would still be running things. And the crazier hawks wouldn't have pulled out of Afghanistan either, despite the "Obama's war" talk you may hear. But the crazier hawks might have redeployed some troops from Afghanistan to to Iran, and we probably count that as peace now.

Posted by: N E at October 22, 2010 03:30 PM


a)Joan Baez turned 69 in January of this year. She still can really sing, I'd say, but it's true that the Merciless Heropass (as Gurdjieff called Time) has had its effect in depriving her of the spectacular voice she once had.

b)I didn't see Obama and Biden smiling like sharks - Look again, I suggest. You can click on my name below to get back to the video clip. There are a variety of interesting audience reaction shots during the entire performance.

c)I'm glad we agree on the terminology "the CIA's Barack Obama."

d)With regard to my earlier question, "Compared to what?", it seems fair to conclude that you contrast our current regime with "the crazier hawks." You are clearly aligned with the "lesser weevil" [see movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World] school of moral philosophy, sometimes called consequentialist or teleological.

I consider myself a non-absolutist deontologist, and it was in an attempt to meet you on your own ground that I included Point A, "Terror War Strategery", as part of my post In Obama's White House. To be quite explicit, even if we grant for the sake of argument that state-sponsored mass murder is "the way things are", Johann Hari makes a case, in rather less scolding language than Chris Floyd and his ilk, that the way these particular mass murders are being conducted will have consequences not necessarily to our advantage. I am disappointed that you do not acknowledge giving any consideration to this point.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 22, 2010 05:59 PM

Looked like the same old "Frozen Smile" of a politician to me.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 22, 2010 06:39 PM

Don't like the wars? STOP PAYING 4 THEM.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 22, 2010 07:38 PM

mistah charley

I'm just busy and tired right now, so I reached for the low hanging fruit. I didn't mean to offend.

I most certainly agree that this whole situation--and in particular the fact that we have become a psychotically violent war-mongering nation that charges itself with punishing everyone in the world we don't like--has had, is having, and will have a lot of consequences we don't want. That conclusion gets no quarrel from me. It's deplorable, and certainly the Dems have figured out how to make the whole mess work for them too, but not the same way Cheney did. I haven't been signing the praises of the Dems or Obama, notwithstanding some interpretations of my views that seem almost intentionally obtuse, but sorry, I still don't see much shark in him. Then again, I could well be missing that, because impressions like that are very, very subjective.

What I disagree with is the notion that the Dems are comparable to the GOP--the Chomskian point of view--and that it doesn't make a difference if the GOP retakes Congress. Even if the difference between the GOP and the Dems isn't really that big, because of the political dynamics of the overall situation, it still will makes a big difference whether the GOP retakes Congress. If that happens, we'll be following the exact script for the 90s again. It frustrates me that this can be done, and it galls me that it's so easy for our Rulers. Our whole political system strikes me as resembling a Ponzi scheme based on all participants manipulating several times more people than manipulated them.

I also must confess that whether teleologically or consequentially speaking, I'm not that crazy about most philosophy. I'm really not smart enough to understand questions so big, and I get the feeling that almost nobody else is either. Not that you aren't impressively smart, mistah charley, and humane and witty and all that, but non-absolutist de-ontologist? If that's your teaser, no wonder I remembered that I had to get up early instead of inviting you in.

Posted by: N E at October 23, 2010 01:46 AM

What I disagree with is the notion that the Dems are comparable to the GOP--the Chomskian point of view--and that it doesn't make a difference if the GOP retakes Congress.

Here's what IOZ - a self-proclaimed homosexual and anarchist - had to say recently at his blog, a post in which he recanted his anarchist attitude (who knows, maybe he's even on the road to reconsidering his sexual lifestyle choice):

Well, I've spent all morning availing myself of the many mechanisms of the modern state in order to constrain and delimit the power of the modern state, and I've got to say, I am really excited about the possibilities of it possibly working to make measurable improvements in my own life. I completely recant, and I urge you to support primary challenges and to swallow your purist, ideological objections and vote Democrat this November, because even though Obama hasn't lived up to all his promises and the Democratic party has largely failed to deliver a better and more human society, we cannot risk putting people in power who would start wars in Pakistan and Yemen, extend federal drug laws, and allow massive institutions of corporate finance to enrich themselves via endemic programs of ubiquitous theft.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at October 23, 2010 10:18 AM