June 13, 2012

The Aristocrats!

Lots of people like Atrios and Dean Baker are complaining about yesterday's column by David Brooks headlined "The Follower Problem." And it first glance it does seem pretty gross:

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power...our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect [makes it hard] to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves…

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem … people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else...

But what's going on here is that David Brooks—as widely celebrated as Richard Cohen for being an extremely funny man—is telling his own version of the classic joke:

DAVID BROOKS: Okay, so our act starts with us inflating a giant internet bubble. Then that collapses, taking the country's economy with it, just as we massively cut taxes on millionaires because, we say, if we don't the government will have too much money. Right after that we blow off warnings about terrorism and let 3,000 Americans get slaughtered. We use that as a chance to lie the U.S. into invading a country that had nothing to do with the attack, killing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions into refugees. In the middle of all that we borrow torture techniques from the Inquisition and use them on people in secret sites around the planet. Then we make billions off another financial bubble, the biggest in human history, and do nothing as it collapses, plunging the world into the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression. To fix that we open up the national bank vault and shovel out money as fast as possible to all the criminals who made it happen in the first place. Then—as the amazing finale—we refuse to prosecute anyone for that, for the war, or for torture, and we start killing U.S. citizens with flying death robots.


AGENT: ...That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?

DAVID BROOKS: The Aristocrats!

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:35 AM | Comments (42)

June 12, 2012

Let's get back to reality

By: John Caruso

Last year I uncharitably suggested that one of the liberal threats to Obama in 2012 boiled down to: "We'll think about running a primary challenge against you! Not that we will, of course, but don't you imagine for a second we won't think about it."  And here's what the editors of the SF Bay Guardian said in their endorsements for the June 5th primary:

Last fall, when a few of the most progressive Democrats began talking about the need to challenge Obama in a primary, we had the same quick emotional reaction as many San Franciscans: Time to hold the guy accountable. Some prominent left types have vowed not to give money to the Obama campaign.

But let's get back to reality. [...] We're mad at Obama, too — but we're realists enough to know that there is a difference between moderate and terrible, and that's the choice we're facing today.

Here's another threat I suggested: "We'll vote for you again—but with slightly less enthusiasm!"  And here's Daily Kos himself:

"I’ll tell you what. If [Obama] shows that he’s going to fight for the things that I care about, I will fight twice as hard for him." And if he doesn’t? "Then I’ll vote for him," says Moulitsas.

As much as I'd like to say this proves I'm more prescient than Nostradamus, it's hard to make that claim when I was joined in these far-seeing predictions by the entire Democratic Party establishment.

FORGIVE OUR THOUGHTCRIME: But my favorite part of that Guardian endorsement:

No, this one's easy. Obama has no opposition in the Democratic Primary, but for all our concerns about his policies, we have to start supporting his re-election now.

Got that?  Even in this entirely meaningless exercise in which Barack Obama was literally the only candidate on the Democratic primary ballot, and despite the fact that he would have won a crushing victory in California even if he had faced token principled opposition, the Guardian editors felt that asserting the tiny measure of dissent of withholding their primary vote from him would have been going too far.  After all, if someone had looked at the vote total in San Francisco and noticed it was even one lower than expected, who knows what might have happened?

I imagine Obama's written down the Guardian's "concerns about his policies" on a roll of toilet paper, so he can give them all the attention they require.

— John Caruso

Posted at 01:12 PM | Comments (9)

June 11, 2012


Here's the title of a recent Eschaton post about the latest bank bailout, this time in Spain, and the massive government spending cuts that will be imposed to pay for it: "Purified By The Promise Of Suffering For Other People."

This is an old, old emotion for our overlords. John Kenneth Galbraith covered it in his 1977 book The Age of Uncertainty:

The effects of the Great Depression spread, and they spread around the world. The richer the country, the more advanced its industry, the worse, in general, the slump. …

The first solution that occurred to statesmen was to propose tightening of belts, acceptance of hardship, resort to patience. Few can believe that suffering, especially by others, is in vain. Anything that is disagreeable must surely have beneficial economic effects.

And here's something else Galbraith wrote in the same book:

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich.

The Age of Uncertainty actually originated as a show for the BBC. You might not be surprised to learn that Margaret Thatcher did everything she could to stop them from broadcasting it, but the BBC didn't give in, which is pretty impressive. God knows PBS would have buckled in three seconds, in the extremely unlikely event they ever produced something like it in the first place.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:49 AM | Comments (25)

June 09, 2012



— Jon Schwarz
Posted at 11:04 AM | Comments (7)

June 03, 2012

Surely a Little More Bombing Would Get Me the Love That's Rightfully Mine

So Gallup has discovered that majorities or pluralities in every Arab country they polled (Algeria, Comoros, Palestine, Mauritania, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia and Morocco) opposed the NATO intervention in Libya.

It's not groundbreaking to discover that Arabs don't love it when Arabs are bombed. But here's the funny part: according to a long article by Michael Hastings, a big point in favor of attacking the Gaddafi government for the Obama administration was that it would make the Arab world finally like them:

During the internal debate over Libya, [Hillary] Clinton started off questioning the wisdom of intervention. … But [ ] she was rattled when a coalition of Egyptian youth groups refused to meet with her. According to several State Department officials, the snub left her thinking, "We didn't get off to such a great start with Egypt – let's reverse that with Libya."

The president apparently shared the impulse to use Libya to make up for the administration's slow-footed response to the Arab Spring.

It would be one thing if Clinton's reaction had been: "Well, of course young Egyptians don't want to meet with me. I proudly said their dictator, whose intelligence service raped children as a matter of policy, was a close family friend of mine. Then there's the fact my husband strangled Iraq via sanctions for eight years, probably killing about half a million people. Then I endorsed the invasion, which killed at least as many more. And now that Benzion Netanyahu's dead, I've moved up from the world's 2nd-most fervent supporter of all of Israel's wars to number one. But who cares, that's the price you pay to run the biggest empire in history."

But no. Instead, she was not only "rattled" to find out that the sky is blue, it hurt her feelings.

It goes to show the U.S. political class is, psychologically, an even more dangerous version of Wall Street. Like Wall Street, they jaunt around the world obliterating millions of people's lives, and then they're shocked, wounded and infuriated when those people fail to be properly grateful for everything they've done for them. At that point, like Wall Street, they decide: We've got to make everyone love us again! By doing more of what's made them hate us!

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 09:42 AM | Comments (13)

June 01, 2012

Glenn Greenwald and Osama bin Laden: Is There a Difference?

Glenn Greenwald, 2012:

How come there are so many Terrorists in the world who supposedly want to attack the US but not Finland or Peru or South Africa or Japan?

Osama bin Laden, 2004:

Security is an important foundation of human life and free people do not squander their security, contrary to Bush's claims that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not attack Sweden for example.

Two peas in a Hating-America pod.

Ha ha but srsly this is the difference.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 08:36 AM | Comments (11)