Comments: All State Propaganda Boiled Down Into Five Words

To be contrarian...
If you believe, as I do, that the majority of the US population at least tacitly supports American imperialism, often through willful ignorance, than Cheney's charge is actually quite fair.

P.S. Even though I'm being "contrarian," Hitchens is still a douchebag.

Posted by Rojo at May 22, 2009 07:29 PM

oh yeah, the right never says we bring things on ourselves, in fact if i remember correctly, dick cheney has never once accused other americans of emboldening national enemies, even though that's a common rhetorical strategy among lesser men.

hey, "emboldening america's enemies," that has a pretty good ring to it, should i copyright it, or did i pick it up somewhere?

Posted by hapa at May 22, 2009 09:06 PM

Rojo, I don't buy the idea that "the majority of the US population at least tacitly supports American imperialism"

I think most don't realize that the mainstream media simply doesn't report most crimes committed by the US government. The mantra the public is fed is that the media are "liberal" and that "they would" report dirty dealings of the US government. I can see how many could be mislead with all the game playing going on.

And I think Jonathan's point is good, Cheney, what do you mean "we?" If you look, these bastards always want to make it like there is no distinction between THEM and "America" itself.

Posted by Tom at May 22, 2009 09:52 PM

Since Cheney's screwed up nearly every operation he's meddled in, it's truly a blessing that he's now taken the leading role in exculpating Bush/Cheney administration principals from legal liability for their murderous crimes against the peace.

Keep talking Mr. Former President of Vice, you're a Special Prosecutor's dream come true.

Posted by Pvt. Keepout at May 22, 2009 11:29 PM

I think most don't realize that the mainstream media simply doesn't report most crimes committed by the US government. The mantra the public is fed is that the media are "liberal" and that "they would" report dirty dealings of the US government. I can see how many could be mislead with all the game playing going on.

yeah, I don't really buy that excuse. As rojo says, it's willful ignorance. Or even worse: racism and the vicarious thrill Americans get from being "number one", from watching their country dominate the world and "kick foreign ass". This is where I differ from someone like Chomsky who seems to think if only Americans were informed about the crimes of aggression the American state regularly engages in by the media, they would suddenly turn into peace-loving, social democrats. I don't think so. And this is not something only exclusive to Americans, although as Ronald Wright says in this excellent interview about his book What is America?, there is something uniquely deranged and dangerous about America (at least, compared to the rest of the modern West) because of its genocidal, colonial, expansionist and religiously fundamentalist roots, which have all shaped the culture and the ideology of the American state, and which the Republicans and the American right represent today.

But even putting aside America's uniquely dangerous notion of its God-given messianic purpose, i.e., American Exceptionalism, it's human nature that I would argue is the problem here. Nationalism is not unique to Americans. Even if people are confronted with the truth about the kind of barbarity, mass-murder, and imperial aggression their country has a history of engaging in, and continues to engage in, they will rationalize it, i.e., it's out of "noble intentions" to spread freedom and democracy; or they, usually darkies, deserved it! And so on and on.

People don't want to hear the truth. They would rather willfully wallow in nationalistic propaganda and turn a blind eye to the death and destruction their state causes externally against assorted brown people all over the world. As long as they don't have to pay a price for that aggression, they don't care.

Remember, for example, that many of these pictures and information about the Abu Ghraib scandal came out before the November 2004 presidential election, with very credible information that torture had been authorized by people at the very centre of the Bush administration, such as Bush himself, Cheney and Rumsfeld. And let's not even go into how the whole flimsy rationale for the Iraq war of aggression fell apart way before the Novermber 2004 election, and there was plenty of information out there for Americans to realize that the Bush administration had started a war of aggression based on lies. But a certain segment of Americans were simply not interested in the truth. They rationalized and justified the actions of the Bush administration and Americans voted for Bush again in November 2004 despite everything, and many of them voted for Bush enthusiastically as a big FUCK YOU to the rest of the world to send a message they fully supported everything the Bush administration did, from the Iraq war to the Abu Ghraib torture program.

Posted by hv at May 23, 2009 02:51 AM

Most of the people I know are good-hearted, kindly folks who nevertheless, are shocked and amazed to hear a critical word about their government. I'm not sure how they reconcile their decent instincts with shrugging off the slaughter of other humans, but it seems to be easy for most. Why is that this "conscious unknowing" is so difficult for the handful of us who protest?

Posted by Rosemary Molloy at May 23, 2009 06:08 AM

HV, i think the most you could say about americans in general is that they are indifferent. look at the number of people who vote, even in such transformational hopey-changey times as the recent national election, or look at the recent california referendum: most people could not take the time. why is that? b/c we are lazy? not if the recent OECD report discussed here has any validity. overworked, undernourished, uneducated, and anesthetized by the cultural stupidity around them. and if the propaganda is unnecessary, b/c of american or human nature, why does American society swim in it? if we are so innately violent, why is truth-telling such a thought-crime?

the simple fact, i think, is that about 1% of americans could engage in a meaningful dialogue w/a site like ATR. it'd be nice if we could even test the hypothesis that americans would be less inclined to support state crimes if they knew of those crimes. in any case, the propaganda would have to be refreshingly different, no more post 9/11 "they attacked us b/c of our freedom" bullshit.

Posted by anonymous at May 23, 2009 08:14 AM

Yup, Dick just can't fathom why anyone would hate us for what we do.

This from a member of the "Party of Responsibility".

Pretty much explains our current dilemma.

Posted by Svensker at May 23, 2009 08:20 AM

Suppose all Americans did correctly perceive all of the crimes of our nation (and I think more people perceive more of them than you think). What would they do about it? March on Washington? Vote for different candidates?

I think most Americans have figured out that it's a rigged game, that it really doesn't matter what they know, so it's not really going to help anyone if they spend their time delving into the details of the empire's latest crimes.

Sure, we've done some really bad shit in the past, we're doing some really bad shit now, and my knowing this means...what?

Mind you, I do spend an enormous amount of time keeping up with our empire's criminal activities, time that could be more productively spent elsewhere.

But if I approach others, saying, "Come, learn all the things I know, and you can be just as miserable as I am, with no right to expect that your knowledge will benefit you or others," should I really be surprised if people don't take me up on my offer?

Posted by SteveB at May 23, 2009 09:40 AM

As comedian Wanda Sykes said recently at the Washington correspondent's dinner –

He scares me to death. I tell my kids, I say, "Look, if two cars pull up and one has a stranger and the other car has Dick Cheney, you get in the car with the stranger."

Posted by Tony C. at May 23, 2009 10:58 AM

Well, I find his logic pretty amusing as well.

Critics claim torturing the enemy is a recruitment tool for th enemy.
This is similar to the left's, brought it on ourselves refrain.
The brought it on ourselves refrain is wrong.
Therefore torturing prisoners is not a recruitment tool.

Posted by justin at May 23, 2009 11:17 AM

Most americans wanted the people who attacked the country punished and didn't care if there was a trial, or evidence or any process at all. This emotional response of vengeance is what Cheney plays to.

Now that time has passed and it's clear that Cheney has tortured innocent people and committed war crimes, he still tries to make an emotional appeal, but he has sick emotions. He is a sadist. Remember, this is a guy who invited someone on a hunting trip, shot him in the face and got an apology from the victim. Of course, we did bring this on ourselves. We watched the Court appoint him and then re-elected him.

Posted by drip at May 23, 2009 11:33 AM

Wanday Sykes ROCKS!!!!!

I know a lot of "good-hearted" and "kindly" people who sometimes, even often, support things that are really vicious, things that you might think would make them feel bad. People have been noticing that for a long time. Depressing.

SteveB is right--opposition has to be FUN. Otherwise,people will go roller-blading or play Guitar Hero. That's why I always loved Abbie Hoffman's idea of levitating the Pentagon. That was way more fun than burning yourself to death outside McNamara's window.

I think Steve B is also right that nobody really wants to know the really, really ugly stuff, the stuff that takes depressing to a whole other level, except for me and two other guys, and those guys are twisted!

Kudos to the productive, especially if they're doing meals on wheels, dressing up like clowns for sick kids, and circulating limericks about the desrving, such as Dick Cheney. Here's my impromptu entry, though i know i deserve to be penalized for insufficient obscenity:

There once was a Dick with a scowl
who wanted to make muslims howl.
'Just give us your oil
or we'll make your blood boil
and give you a drink through this towel!"

i know, you can do much better. Go for it!

Posted by Not Exactly at May 23, 2009 11:35 AM

But if I approach others, saying, "Come, learn all the things I know, and you can be just as miserable as I am, with no right to expect that your knowledge will benefit you or others," should I really be surprised if people don't take me up on my offer?

this, in a nutshell, is the major problem as to why there is not a substantial movement for change in this country...people dont know of anything else that is viable, or if they do, like say having the US be more social democratic like say Europe or even Canada-which most people want(see any number of public opinion polls on this),they dont know how to get to this point, or don't want to make the effort...which is a possibility I don't like to admit too but I think it is reality none the less...

Most people I know hate working for corporate america, but there is no alternative that people know of so of course they accept their position....This has been a problem all throughout history for those that imagine a better more just world...slaves didnt think there was an alternative to slavery....it was just life. I imagine people living in the old Soviet Union could not imagine that it would one day be dust, but it happened...I would guess that people living in Bolivia could not even begin to think that they could make the changes they have...same for Venezuela and so on down the list..If they can do it there is no reason we cant in this country.

I know some will see this as just naive optimism , but if you are not an optimist i dont know how one can make it through life given what most of us know here at ATR and other left blogs...if in fact the problems are too big for us to overcome by well know and time proven methods, then yes we should just accept life as it is and do the best we can and so on....that is one of the goals of ruling class propaganda...just accept that There Is No Alternative(TINA)...I dont believe that.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 23, 2009 11:53 AM

"We watched the Court appoint him and "then re-elected him."


Why the cynicism in half measures? If you think the Supreme Court appointed W the first time, why not think the second election was flat out stolen too? I mean, what do you have to lose? The only explanations offered for why the 2004 Presidential exit polling was supposedly so phenomenally wrong were so lame that they weren't even really explanations. A professor with no career sense even wrote a book about it: http://www.amazon.com/Was-2004-Presidential-Election-Stolen/dp/1583226877.

I haven't read the book, but i did read freeman's articles written before he wrote the book, and he was lucid. but i never spent the time to figure out the whole thing. i'm content to believe the election was flat out stolen based on my bias, which i think is actually more reasonable and better for the future of the "Republic" than everyone else disbelieving it based on nothing more than theirs.

i know, irresponsible. the village would be appalled.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 23, 2009 11:59 AM

Tony:

SteveB didn't say optimism is bad! But hey, optimism is. . . what's the word. . . optimistic! So chances are if that's what you're pitching, it will feel that way to people. Not that it's easy to keep optimism genuine. For example, I can't do it.

There are always alternatives, just not always easy ones or good ones and it's always a long, hard slog, as your man Chomsky would stress. I believe Chomsky's usual reminder is that change happens slowly with much sacrifice. Carry on.

My own reminder to myself is to be thankful that i'll probably never have to deal with anything as hard as, say, Janusz Korczak. I mention him because there are always points of light. i'm not an optimist and can't fake it successfully, so i just sometimes remind myself that it's possible to do what's right even if it won't get you anywhere, and that some people do so even when it's really, really hard.

My view is a real downer with no mass appeal. But i can always find someone to remind me that homo sapiens sapiens has potential, even if it is still unrealized.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 23, 2009 12:40 PM

SteveB is right--opposition has to be FUN. Otherwise,people will go roller-blading or play Guitar Hero.

Thanks, but I think you've misunderstood me. Most of all what people want from an "opposition" is that it be effective. In every country that has ever had a revolution, millions of people show themselves capable of doing many things that are not "fun" - including marching on armed police - because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that those actions will accomplish something. What American marches on Washington today with any expectation that it will accomplish anything? We march out of a sense of moral obligation, out of habit, because our friends are going to, but never because we expect a result.


One book that's had a profound effect on my thinking on this question is Colin Barker's Revolutionary Rehearsals, a chronicle of several "failed" revolutions. Barker describes how, in a revolution, millions of people who never bothered to pick up a newspaper before, working class folks without much education, suddenly become interested in learning how the world works and finding the answers to the big questions about how society is organized and should be run.

What was missing for those people before the revolution was the sense that it mattered what they thought, and that is was therefore worthwhile for them to educate themselves.

In short, what's needed now is not to hector peeople about "Why don't you learn more about the crimes of our government?" but to give them some rational basis for thinking that learning more is going to somehow make a difference.

Posted by SteveB at May 23, 2009 01:33 PM

SteveB: Thanks, very informative, and Barker's book sounds good. I'll have to get a copy and read it. There is obviously a huge amount of untapped potential energy in the public, and i think you're right that a fatalistic sense that it's a waste of time to try to do anytning is a big reason it so rarely gets used. it just sits out there, dissipating or being misdirected.

but i still think at present that there has to be some appeal beyond effectiveness in getting people in the US to do something. We have a very permissive society for lots of people (note: i'm not so sure that's not just hype as to the poor, who are our fastest growing demographic). Because our society is so permissive, the state maybe doesn't stand on a person's chest as much as it does in many places. Here, lots of people really aren't going to stand in front of a police line and risk getting shot because they aren't prevented from doing a lot of things they would like to do (yet), such as play video games or whatever.

I would think this will play out differently in the future as the public gets poorer and poorer, and state repression becomes more direct and more brutal, as it probably will, to keep a lid on the increasing demands for sharing that are likely to be made. The intensity of direct repression might be the biggest factor in motivating direct resistance. I mean, if people are really being treated brutally in a direct way, it shouldn't be hard to make them understand why they need to do something to change the situation.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 23, 2009 02:21 PM

Yup, Dick just can't fathom why anyone would hate us for what we do.

Actually, I wonder if he is correct, in a sense. There must be a saturation level somewhere; at some point you reach - it and then you don't have to worry any more - now you are hated with the maximum intensity of hatred possible, and whatever you do after that - it can't get any higher. End of story.

Perhaps Dick believes that we're already beyond this point.

Posted by abb1 at May 23, 2009 03:01 PM

NE,

SteveB didn't say optimism is bad!

I agree and i didnt mean to imply otherwise....I think what Steve said was basically correct..I just wanted to add what i did...I have faith and hope that things can be made better...it is not going to be easy and it wont happen over night...Michael Albert at Z has a saying regarding change that goes "you lose, you lose, you lose and then you win." Its a matter of always trying to make it so...Like I said, some of the changes taking place in South America are truly extraordinary...if they can do it so can we...

If can recommend one book on all of the organizing,education and activism and such that went on in the 50 or so years before the Spanish Revolution-which to my view is the greatest example of socialism in action before being crushed by both East and West-it would be "The Spanish Anarchist: The Heroic Years 1868-1936" by Murray Bookchin. The Revolution did not just happen...the time was right and the population was ready to do what they did..all outside of state control...its a great book....If the US had a strong vibrant and radical labor movement that would be a great place to help bring about change...we dont. Its hard work..no way around it.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 23, 2009 03:59 PM

Empty Belly=Revolution

Posted by Mike Meyer at May 23, 2009 04:50 PM

Tony,

I've not heard of Bookchin, butI just read the Preface to his 1993 edition of the book you recommend, and based on the preface, it wouldn't surprise me if the book were to live up to your high praise. Bookchin's observations about history and social change, as well as about revolution, strike me as quite wise. He also hasn't lost his sense of the tragedy of how the Spanish Revolution was crushed by Franco, as you note with plenty of help from everyone. So when i get a chance to read more about anarchism, i'll definitely turn to him. I thought this was especially shrewd of Bookchin:

"Capitalism is not the same social system today that it was fifty or sixy years ago, nor are the social agents for revolutionary changes the same as they were in the first half of this century--if authentic agents they were in the first place. I say this with regret and with a deep sense of loss for a simpler, more clear-cut era than the one young people face today and in the foreseeable future."

I think that's really smart.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 23, 2009 05:16 PM

it is a very good book on the background leading up to the revolution...and a primer, I think, on what needs to be done here also. A revolution is needed in my opinion..not reforms...Reforms are good...I am all for them...they will improve the lives of people but anyone who studies history knows that the reforms will be attacked and carved away...see Social Security as one example under attack, or the limited form of health care in this country and so on...No the structure of the political economy has to go...Capitalism-or what is called capitalism-has to go...there is no way around that, I think.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 24, 2009 08:40 AM

The Wanda Sykes line about the stranger in the car is much funnier than the "jokes" that got all the comment afterward. Thanks, Tony C.

Posted by Nell at May 24, 2009 09:32 AM

Empty Belly=Revolution

While we're recommending books, I'll throw in Lawrence Goodwyn's "The Populist Moment", which I'm reading right now. Goodwyn makes the argument that people will endure staggering levels of poverty and oppression without rebelling unless they have two things: an analysis of the sources of their poverty and oppression, and a program for alleviating their poverty and oppression.

The small farmers that Goodwyn writes about lived at starvation levels of poverty for decades, and simply shrugged it off as "times are hard", blamed themselves for their failures, and/or went west, hoping "things would be better" there (they weren't.)

It wasn't until the populist movement offered an an analysis (the rural depression was the result of an overly tight monetary policy caused by adherence to the gold standard), a program for direct action (cooperatives that allowed farmers to buy and sell in bulk) and a political program (the sub-treasury plan, which would allow the government to increase the money supply by printing paper currency not backed by gold, and loaning it to farmers with their crops as security) that farmers organized, in the millions, and began to fight back.

I'm not sure exactly how all this translates to our present situation, but I think it's clear that if we want a revolution we're going to need much more than a return to "hard times."

Posted by SteveB at May 24, 2009 10:35 AM

In the last few weeks, I have posted some two dozen items on the tangled mess of issues related to Guantanamo, waterboarding, etc. So I decided to sweep the whole thing into one pile, and see if the big picture makes any sense.

Here are the facts that we have in fact been able to establish.

Waterboarding is illegal, it causes more problems than it solves, it actually makes the intelligence-gathering effort harder rather than easier, and is a dumbass idea.

Cheney is a bottomless fountain of lies, fallacies, and fearmonger tactics; in particular, the notion that the Bush crime family made us more safe and Obama makes us less safe is demonstrable nonsense, and the notion that closing Guantanamo puts us in danger is also poppycock. And virtually all his bullcrap can be shot down using Republican sources.

The GOP jihad against Pelosi is also loaded with proveable lies and fallacies.

Now, the details.

TORTURE

Waterboarding is torture, and illegal. For that we rely on Title 18 of the U.S. Code, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention, and some other rules you don’t get to break. A rightwing radio host who had insisted that waterboarding isn’t torture agreed to be waterboarded – and changed his mind in exactly six seconds. McCain also refuted Cheney’s screeching on the waterboarding issue. Bob Barr, the arch-conservative who led the effort to impeach Clinton, says torture is illegal. Even Reagan jailed cops who waterboarded prisoners.

The danger of using torture and other such nonsense in a system with virtually no adult supervision is made vivid by the fact that a hundred of our detainees have already died in custody, and a third of them are already confirmed or suspected homicides; meanwhile one interrogator who hated the notion of torturing people committed suicide; details of the incident were covered up by the Pentagon. Meanwhile the Senate Armed Services Committee shot down Cheney’s claim that the abuse at Abu Ghuraib was the work of rogue guards not sanctioned by any higher authority.

**UPDATE** -- Here is a professional interrogator, neatly destroying theGOP arguments about torture. He makes clear the danger of sending untrained interrogators to torture people with no actual rules of engagement; one of the interrogators killed herself rather than torture prisoners. He notes that torture can actually interfere with effective interrogation techniques -- once you start using both methods, it's impossible to separate the good intelligence from the bad, which compromises all the intel, good and bad.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/5/23/734355/-Torture:-This-shouldnt-need-to-be-said


CHENEY

Cheney has been spouting rather a lot of lies and logical fallacies, in addition to the big ones on waterboarding, Guantanamo etc. Bush’s own Pentagon people shot down Cheney’s claim that Saddam was linked to Al-Qa’ida and other terrorists; the one big-name terrorist who managed to get to Baghdad…was killed by Saddam. Cheney claimed that the Bush gang moved decisively against al-Qa'ida and the Taleban, ignoring the fact that the leaders of both groups are thriving because the Bush administration was too obsessive about Iraq. Cheney implied that Obama was at fault for blocking the release of key documents...It was actually an executive order by Bush. A number of Republicans have said they want Cheney to shut up.

WE ARE SAFER!

Cheney falsely claimed that the Director of National Intelligence backed him up in claiming that torture yielded valuable intelligence we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. A CIA investigation showed no evidence that the torture yielded anything valuable. Bush’s FBI Director also rejected the idea that we got valuable intelligence. The claim that torture yielded information which prevented an attack in LA – also a lie, already debunked. Torture actually hurts the intelligence effort: two detainees admitted that they gave inaccurate intelligence just to avoid being tortured – the false intelligence pertained to the mythical Iraq-terror link which Bush and Cheney wanted so badly to establish.

Also, Cheney stressed the importance of getting good intelligence while omitting the fact the Bush gang regularly ignored or fudged the intelligence they did get.

Stopping the torture program doesn’t make us less safe. If it did, the Bush gang wouldn’t have stopped it five years ago, would they? Their own actions belie their words. Likewise Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, refuted Cheney’s claim that Obama made us less safe, and Bush’s Director of National Intelligence shot down Cheney’s claim that releasing torture-related memos made us less safe. Bush’s generals refuted the notion that stopping the torture, or even talking about the torture issue, means we’re not supporting our troops – the generals said the torture itself is fostering terrorism and endangering our troops. And lying about it and concealing it isn’t helping our tattered credibility either.

GUANTANAMO

The Guantanamo detainees are not, as Cheney claims, the worst of the worst. The Bush gang stupidly offered a cash reward in the streets of Afghanistan for terrorists, no proof needed, so any local Afghan with a gun could run out and grab anybody even remotely Arab-looking, kidnap him, and collect the money. An overwhelming majority of the guys we grabbed are innocent of anything, and even the CIA admitted it way back in 2002. The New York Times reported that the released detainees were rejoining the jihad, but it was an invalid report and they had to backtrack.

If there were evidence against these guys, Bush would have taken them to court. Instead Bush was caught hiding evidence that proved the innocence of some detainees. A court spanked the Bush gang for that – it’s illegal. Privately, the Bush administration admitted to the Germans that some of the detainees were innocent – but resisted saying the same thing to the American people.

The claim that Obama is endangering us by closing Guantanamo is ridiculous. Even assuming these guys are real terrorists, which in most cases they’re not – you know how many people we have in American prisons who are genuinely dangerous? Proven to be dangerous with actual evidence?

Cheney has selective amnesia on this issue. He slammed Obama for the effort to ship detainees to other countries...a process begun by Bush and Cheney. Bush and Robert Gates, both Republicans, refuted Cheney on Guantanamo; Bush, Rice and Gates were working to shut down Guantanamo before Obama ever got to the White House.

[**UPDATE** from AFP: Gates said in an interview that opponents of Obama's decision to close the "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo were engaging in "fear-mongering," a reference to Cheney's stance on the issue. ]

PELOSI

Two things which have been established firmly, are that the CIA has lied repeatedly to Congress, and that Pelosi did not know about the waterboarding as early as the Republicans claim. Kerry, Obey, Graham, Rockefeller, Specter, Fox News, House Republican leader Boehner, leading Republican Hoekstra pointed out the CIA’s lies to Congress. In fact the CIA is being investigated now, for lying to Congress. It has been established that the CIA lied about the briefings on the interrogations, and four of the above Congress members already have specifically refuted the claim that Pelosi was briefed about the waterboarding. Both the current CIA boss and Bush’s former CIA boss Porter Goss were pressed to back up the GOP accusations against Pelosi; even Goss, a rabid arch-conservative who hates everything Pelosi stands for and would love to see her destroyed, backpedaled rather than accuse her on this point. One GOP investigator not only admitted that Pelosi didn’t know about the torture, but also faulted her for not asking more questions – can’t have it both ways, guys! A logical fallacy.

Another logical fallacy by the GOP: Bush's crimes are not extenuated by anybody he claims he told about it. Telling somebody you’re committing a crime doesn’t make it legal: it makes it a criminal conspiracy.
Another fallacy: that Pelosi should have stopped the torture. Setting aside the fact that she didn’t know it was going on, she wasn’t even Speaker when all this happened – in fact she was in the minority party, during a time in which the minority party was barely allowed to eat in the cafeteria and use the toilets in the House chamber, let alone demand an investigation or legislation. Furthermore the Bush gang made clear time after time that they intended to ignore any Congressional input with respect to any issue which, in their view, infringed upon the national security prerogatives of the executive.
Another fallacy: how can the Republicans simultaneously insist that there is no scandal, and that Pelosi is implicated in…the non-existent scandal? “Pelosi should have stopped us even though we did nothing wrong!”?

Newt screeched a stream of insults at Pelosi and demanded she resign. Other Republicans demanded she apologize, or be impeached, etc etc. A new GOP ad shows Pelosi being shot. Classy bunch.

POLITICS

So here’s the part I don’t understand yet.

The facts are easy to establish on these issues: the GOP knows that if they push this, it will turn into a year-long probe into Bush’s crimes and follies, a total disaster for the GOP, and in the meantime they can’t gain any traction on the issues they could actually win on, like spending. An even bigger hazard: a number of former Bush administration officials have admitted that the aim of the torture was to force detainees to falsely accuse Saddam of links to terrorism in time for the 2002 elections – a full exploration of that issue could actually kill the party dead, dead, dead. So why are they doing this?

Perhaps they know their other issues are weak, as evinced by the way the attack on Obama’s spending devolved into the pathetic tea-party fiasco which had no effect whatsoever on the popularity of Obama or his policies.

Perhaps they’re worried about the coming health care battle, and want to use a side issue like this to soften him up first.

Perhaps the Pelosi thing is driven by the fact that this bunch of reactionary dead white males like beating up on girls, particularly Democrats: not long ago a Bush administration official admitted that they handled Katrina the way they did because their main aim was to make Kathleen Blanco look bad and beat her up a little. That, not managing the crisis response, was their main focus. But directing their fire at Pelosi now is silly: she and Obama are the two Democrats who are completely secure in their positions (contrary to the precarious position of Reid), and attacking Pelosi gets them nothing – not even a chance to alter the balance in the power in the House

**UPDATE** -- The fact that the GOP is targeting Pelosi because of her gender, was driven home forcefully when they ran the ad allegedly attacking her leadership skills -- and portraying her as James Bond babe Pussy Galore. And then shooting her.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/22894.html


Perhaps they just want to fire up the GOP base, to show that at least the Gestapo wing of the party, with all their sledgehammer political tactics, is still alive and kicking. The only things which can be relied upon to spin up the base are fear and hate, so going that route may just be force of habit for the gauleiters of today’s GOP. But that also alienates the all-important moderates and independents, two groups which the Republicans have inexplicably showed no interest in wooing this spring.

Perhaps they interpreted Obama’s expressed intent to avoid a partisan fight on these issues as a sign of weakness: “If he says he won’t fight on this, let’s just keep punching him in the teeth until he changes his mind. Bloody him up a little.” That strategy would be pretty ludicrous because if the repeated Republican harassment impelled Obama to pursue these issues he could destroy the Republicans, but as long as he continues the arm’s-length stance, they can keep taking pokes at him, and at Pelosi.

Perhaps they have no coherent party strategy at all, reflective of the continuing civil war within the GOP – some Republicans want Cheney to fight on, others want him to shut up, some want an investigation into all this, others dread it. Steele wants a probe into all these issues, but he’s an idiot: Boehner was out there insisting that Pelosi apologize, but when he was asked whether he wanted an investigation, he backpedaled. Some Republicans threatened Eric Holder (perhaps they think blacks are weak like women…?); they told him that if there is an investigation, they will fight tooth and nail to smear any Democrat they can, the way they’re doing to Pelosi. How they would make such nonsense work is debateable: perhaps they would go to the old standby – blame Clinton for everything.


So the Republicans are gambling on a laughably fallacious campaign to try to exploit an issue which could very easily blow back and kill their party, and no one can figure out why. As Herman Wouk would say, giggling idiots juggling dynamite.

It is a puzzlement.


Actually, we do know one reason why Cheney went insane and screeched a bunch of desperate nonsense in that speech, even though a lot of Republicans want him to shut up and go away. As his daughter admitted to Fox, Cheney did it because he fears prosecutions are coming.

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/05/22/cheney-prosecution-fear/

Posted by Hello Dolly Llama at May 24, 2009 11:42 AM

Hello Dolly Llama:

Cheney thinks the best defense is a good offense. And he knows he can get away with any bald assertion he makes about national security, no matter how little it has to do with reality.

As for the effectiveness of this crap, he has already got Obama to back off his positions on torture, he is getting the military and intel people in his corner, and he is driving a wedge between Obama and his support on the left and making Obama look vacillating and weak. Cheney may look crazy, but at least he doesn't look weak.

I don't believe the GOP seriously wants Cheney to shut up. They just want to be able to say this is his baby. Some of them even get to position themselves as moderates just by not agreeing with Atilla the Hun.

Pelosi was pushing for a Truth Commission about Iraq and she has now taken a brutal beating in public approval even though you're right that she didn't do anything wrong. Of course the CIA lied to protect itself. They don't care about the truth, for God's sake, even if they do have enough of a sense of humor to say it will set you free in their foyer.

and of course the attacks on pelosi had as much success as they did because of sexism. at least i can't think of another reason, beyond the media not explaining the issues worth a damn.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 24, 2009 02:35 PM

[Cheney] has already got Obama to back off his positions on torture...

How has Obama "backed off" his position on torture? Obama's position, as far as I can tell, has consistently been that US military and CIA staff should not be practicing certain forms of torture, and that most torture should be outsourced to private contractors and foreign nationals, a policy that seems to be proceeding, full steam ahead.

Posted by SteveB at May 24, 2009 03:34 PM

I really do appreciate the analysis of what's needed for profound change, and why it might be that attempting to guilt or obligate people into pointless gestures of self-righteous masturbation isn't the most productive strategy.

Because without that, it's all just a half-step away from use of the word "sheeple".

Posted by grendelkhan at May 24, 2009 03:46 PM

Grendlekhan:

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

-Sun Tzu

I don't know sun tzu's position on masturbation.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 24, 2009 04:29 PM

SteveB:

I was actually thinking about Obama's change of position on releasing the torture pics, and somewhat his position about Guantanamo. My point was that Cheney has put Obama on the defensive, and to an extent that might be considered surprising considering about 75% of people hate Cheney's guts.

i also don't like the fact that we can just have the libyans or the egyptians or the turks or the saudis or the pakistanis etc etc. torture people instead of doing it ourselves. or that we can use private contractors to do it. I agree obama hasn't dramatically changed the morality of our actual conduct. i get less frustrated with obama about that, and don't dislike him as I sense you do, because i don't think presidents have all that much latitude to actually change for the better the way our national security state works. they can make it worse, and periodically do, but it seems like making it better is pretty tough.

i also really don't know how hard obama is trying or how hard he will try. he is not fighting enough for my taste, but i don't think i have terribly good political instincts

Posted by Not Exactly at May 24, 2009 04:42 PM

My point was that Cheney has put Obama on the defensive, and to an extent that might be considered surprising considering about 75% of people hate Cheney's guts.

So Obama wanted to do something else, but was forced to do what he did, because Dick Cheney, a man loathed by 75% of the American people, put Barack Obama, a man admired by 70% of the American people, "on the defensive."

Yes, I agree that this "might be considered surprising." Might it also be considered improbable?

Here's another possibility: Obama wants to do what he's doing. Sounds crazy, I know, but it's a possibility worth considering, don't you think?

Posted by SteveB at May 24, 2009 09:57 PM
the simple fact, i think, is that about 1% of americans could engage in a meaningful dialogue w/a site like ATR. it'd be nice if we could even test the hypothesis that americans would be less inclined to support state crimes if they knew of those crimes. in any case, the propaganda would have to be refreshingly different, no more post 9/11 "they attacked us b/c of our freedom" bullshit.

Speaking for the other 99% I'd say that as a productive member of America Inc, I believe in a strong division of labor. As long as I have a job, and time to get to the lake on weekends, I'm happy to put my brain on autopilot when it comes to Henry the K, or Cheney, or Holbroke making decisions about what's in the "best interests" of the corporation. There's only 24 hrs in a day and the internet reception at the lake is shitty.

I know I'm productive, because the "news" stories tell me that Americans are the most productive in the world. Can't be commenting on the blurgs AND productive at the same time.

One book that's had a profound effect on my thinking on this question is Colin Barker's Revolutionary Rehearsals, a chronicle of several "failed" revolutions. Barker describes how, in a revolution, millions of people who never bothered to pick up a newspaper before, working class folks without much education, suddenly become interested in learning how the world works and finding the answers to the big questions about how society is organized and should be run.

What was missing for those people before the revolution was the sense that it mattered what they thought, and that is was therefore worthwhile for them to educate themselves.

This is interesting. I haven't read that book, but I wonder if it has to do with the general definitions of revolutions - instability and so on. I find that the crowd I'm with and the news choices I choose to wash over me has something to do with an ability to grasp other views to the extent that I'd actually want to learn more or at least learn more so that I could logically rationalize my course of action.

...how the world works and finding the answers to the big questions about how society is organized and should be run.

And yet as soon as they are told the revolution is over they go back to their willful stupidity and consider this as some arcane knowledge lost to the ages.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 24, 2009 11:17 PM

SteveB: That's just not my read of him and I don't know why he would "want to" do it except in the truistic sense that everybody wants to do whatever they do. It isn't that i haven't considered the possibility--it just doesn't make much sense to me that what he really wants is to have cheneyesque powers but is hiding his power-hunry nature. of course, i'm not claiming to be in his inner circle.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 24, 2009 11:20 PM

I don't know why he would "want to" do it except in the truistic sense that everybody wants to do whatever they do.

But doesn't he give reasons for the things he does? Like how he needs to hold some people in prison forever, because if he lets them out, they might kill Americans? Even if you don't agree with his stated reasons, you can't deny that they are reasons.

Posted by SteveB at May 24, 2009 11:28 PM

And yet as soon as they are told the revolution is over they go back to their willful stupidity and consider this as some arcane knowledge lost to the ages.

Actually, in the examples cited in the book, the revolutions end with the leadership and many of the rank and file either in jail or dead, so that may be the cause of some "willful stupidity" on the part of the survivors. "Revolution? Never heard of it...maybe the guy down the street can help you out with that..."

Posted by SteveB at May 24, 2009 11:33 PM

"Even if you don't agree with his stated reasons, you can't deny that they are reasons."

that observation is fair enough. but obviously, he can't say "i really think this is a bad idea, and it totally goes against my principles, but there's more at stake here than this issue and it's going to cost me too much to fight about it so i'm going to cave." ever hear that from an elected official?

he seems like a conciliator/compromiser to me who wants to get everyone as close to united behind him as possible. that strikes me as his method, and if it blows up in his face, my own hunch would be that it will be because compromise can become capitulation if you're not careful, especially in his situation. he might retain high approval ratings by being a dud in terms of actually fixing anything.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 25, 2009 12:38 AM

...obviously, he can't say "i really think this is a bad idea, and it totally goes against my principles, but there's more at stake here than this issue and it's going to cost me too much to fight about it so i'm going to cave."

Maybe he's not saying that because he doesn't really think this is a bad idea, and it doesn't totally go against his principles. You're willing to admit this is a possibility, aren't you?

he seems like a conciliator/compromiser to me who wants to get everyone as close to united behind him as possible.

I disagree about the "everyone" part. Clearly, when he's putting together his health care plan, "everyone" doesn't include advocates for single-payer, or for the 50 million uninsured. Rather, "everyone" means "everyone with lots of economic or political power." Those are the people he's going to conciliate/compromise with.

Big deal, right? Isn't that how politics has always been practiced in this country? Get the big players together, find out what they want, and then give it to them.

There's nothing new about any of this, because there's nothing new about Barack Obama (other than the color of his skin). He's not a transformative figure and we're not living at the dawning of a new age. Corporations rule us, and Barack Obama isn't going to lift a hand to oppose them.

Posted by SteveB at May 25, 2009 09:16 AM

SteveB: "There's nothing new about any of this, because there's nothing new about Barack Obama (other than the color of his skin). He's not a transformative figure and we're not living at the dawning of a new age. Corporations rule us, and Barack Obama isn't going to lift a hand to oppose them.'

Of course Obama is not a transformative figure in any way beyond that a black guy has now been President (I don't think that's entirely meaningless, even if it is VERY misleading). And of course we're not living at the dawning of a new age and of course corporations rule us. And, of course, we should have single payer health care, but it's not on the table because our system is entirely money-driven. I agree with all that.

So we seem to agree about the big picture. i just don't get why that translates into obama necessarily believing all the stuff he says or wanting a lot of what he ends up supporting. a lot of it seems inconsistent with his general beliefs about what heaven on earth would be like, so i assume it isn't what he most prefers. that's all i'm saying. basically, I don't think he has to be a total asswipe or a virtual clone of Cheney to be President in a rotten, corrupt system that gives him lots of rotten choices and makes it really hard to really change anything beyond glittering superficial appearances. i even agree that in many ways, maybe including whether he gets to go to heavem, it doesn't matter. i just think it matters in terms of understanding how the rotten, corrupt system works and how Presidents are "constrained."

Posted by Not Exactly at May 25, 2009 10:41 AM

So we seem to agree about the big picture. i just don't get why that translates into obama necessarily believing all the stuff he says...

Just to be absolutely clear, my default position is that everyone believes what they say. I call this a "default" position, because, to move away from it, I need some actual evidence that the person does not believe what they are saying.

Did George Bush really believe he was doing the Iraqi people a favor when he invaded their country? Sure, I think so, or at least I've never seen any evidence to the contrary.

But overall, this discussion leaves me much more hopeful, because I believe this sort of systemic analysis (corporations control our society, a president is mostly a figurehead who enacts policies pre-approved by our corporate overlords) is exactly the type of analysis that needs to win widespread acceptance if we're ever going to successfully challenge those corporate overlords.

It seems like you're already there, and have been for some time, but I suspect that a lot of Obama voters, especially back on Jan. 20, were still stuck in "Let's elect a president to fix things for us!" mode. If millions of them are now moving to a larger understanding of why we can't have "Change you can believe in" - even if its only out of a necessity to preserve their own good opinion of Barack Obama - then Barack Obama will have done us all a useful service.

Posted by SteveB at May 25, 2009 01:45 PM
Actually, in the examples cited in the book, the revolutions end with the leadership and many of the rank and file either in jail or dead, so that may be the cause of some "willful stupidity" on the part of the survivors. "Revolution? Never heard of it...maybe the guy down the street can help you out with that..."

SteveB, that may well be. My larger point is that people people take the trouble to learn the working details of the machinery when the social structure breaks down and they need to think about who fixes the roads, and how they do it, etc. Once society gets back to relatively smooth running (post-revolution) they go back to their jobs like good cogs and let the machinery grease itself, however the machinery may choose to grease itself.

And mind you, I agree that the fact that revolutions fail (jailed or dead) tends to erase much of their collective truths. Being incarcerated, tortured or dead tends to put a bad taste in the mouths of earnest truth seekers.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 25, 2009 04:13 PM

"my default position is that everyone believes what they say" absent "actual evidence"


ok, that's the same "default position" that i and everybody else uses, more or less. i just think there is "actual evidence" that obama doesn't really want the same things cheney wants, or even close. it's sort of my view of his whole life and career in politics though, not a particular thing

"Did George Bush really believe he was doing the Iraqi people a favor when he invaded their country? Sure, I think so, or at least I've never seen any evidence to the contrary."

Please, you can't be serious. Let's skip arguing about that. i could really beat pith to death on that topic.


"But overall, this discussion leaves me much more hopeful, because I believe this sort of systemic analysis (corporations control our society, a president is mostly a figurehead who enacts policies pre-approved by our corporate overlords) is exactly the type of analysis that needs to win widespread acceptance if we're ever going to successfully challenge those corporate overlords."

well, i wouldn't get too darn hopeful--the "corporate overlords" always get really nasty when a "threat of widespread acceptance" starts picking up too much steam. and though people put it out of their mind time after time, there is more than a little cheating going on whenever it counts. we have deep corruption and phenomenally good mechanisms of social control, many of which strangely seem to me to be built on permissiveness. That was a brilliant American innovation.

"It seems like you're already there, and have been for some time, but I suspect that a lot of Obama voters, especially back on Jan. 20, were still stuck in "Let's elect a president to fix things for us!" mode."

to say the least, i don't think there is a widespread belief that systemic change is necessary or possible right now. and i myself don't think it is possible right now. i also don't think people, including me, have a good grip on what is possible in the longer term once we get beyond generalities. people, including me, just want to incrementally make things better however it can be done until they see some realistic possibility for something more


"If millions of them are now moving to a larger understanding of why we can't have "Change you can believe in" - even if its only out of a necessity to preserve their own good opinion of Barack Obama - then Barack Obama will have done us all a useful service."

i sense that your contempt for obama is because you think he's the happy face of a sham--a con that prevents real change. i think that's what chomsky and i.f. stone and undoubtedly others could never stand about jfk and other liberals who did a lot of talking about big ideals too. Those who work for meaningful social change don't like phony talk by those who make lots of accomodations with power.

sure obama is partly the happy face of change without that much substance, and i certainly doubt he's unaware of that. after all, he's really smart. but the big change you and i both want comes slowly with great sacrifice, and i don't think barack obama will have a controlling effect on the ultimate success of social progress. Enough people will work for it and demand it or they won't. Maybe both, with the same two steps forward one step back approach that history show. Or maybe we'll more to walking backward for a while. I hope not but of course can't say.

on the other hand, there are often moments in Presidencies when a great deal hangs in the balance, moreso now with our technological power, and at those moments the really dedicated representatives of the "corporate overlords" in the corporate national security bureaucracy and the military sometimes very forcefully press for President to take some nasty, bloodthirsty, cruel, or even genocidal action. it might be an attack on Iran. or an attack on another country like venezuela. or destroying social security. we'll see what it is, but obama will likely face something. And let's hope he doesn't disappoint me, and that he surprises you, because at those critical moments a President really does briefly have the power of decision and can affect millions of lives.

of course, if obama does something right at those times, you may never even find out about it, because those "corporate overlords" we agree about (even though i wouldn't call them that) really don't like those kind of sterling examples of independence being set by Presidents. More people even today probably think JFk was a hawk than realize that he took great risks to end the Cold War, and almost everyone thinks he had no more character than bill clinton. And that's i think undoubtedly because his memory is not dangerous as a hawk, or as a sex fiend. Our 'corporate overlords' have the last word on history too.

as a parting note, i wouldn't even be so sure that cynicism about obama isn't anticipated and manipulated. not that you need to change any of your views for that reason--it's just something that should be kept in mind. ours is a time of deception.

but i applaud pressure on obama to do the right thing whenever possible. that will increase the odds he'll do it. just be mindful that there is opposing pressure on him too, and he can be made to pay a price for doing the right thing, irritating as that is.

you can respond or not if you want, and i really don't expect you to agree with me. these are just my thoughts on these questions that i find difficult. I share the regret of Tony's favorite author, Mr. Bookchin, that we don't live in a time of greater clarity. And it's also too bad Neo isn't going to fix it for us!

Posted by Not Exactly at May 25, 2009 04:20 PM
...that we don't live in a time of greater clarity.

WTF is that? Simplicity?

The most useful thing we can hope for is transparency. Making things incrementally better is useless because "better" is subjective. Making things incrementally more transparent -- now I could get behind that because that allows me to understand WTF is going on regardless of my IQ. It should be transparent enough to be clear to those less than youse all.

BTW, can you make an effort to quote so that we can tell when you're responding? That's less than symbol blockquote greaterthan symbol. And later place a forwardslash before the greterthan symbol to terminate the quote.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 25, 2009 04:48 PM

Angryman:

That was just my response to what SteveB said; those block quotes were all his.

Transparency is great, and vital, and that would be part of what i meant by "a time of greater clarity." But that wasn't really what i was thinking about. You actually reenforced my thinking with your statement that "better is subjective." That's quite a modern view.

I was referring with my reference to "a time of greater clarity" to a thought that I have had on my mind since Tony pointed me yesterday to a book by Murray Bookchin called The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936. I read the preface to the 1993 edition to that online yesterday, and Bookchin lamented that politics now are less clear than they were in the period he wrote about in that book, and so very difficult for young people to navigate. Maybe that's not profound, since the left built on trade unionism and labor has largely collapsed in the "developed world" and what has emerged to replace it is largely a mishmash of disparate groups involving environmentalism and pacificm and humanism and animal rights and niceism etc. I think Professor Chazelle made that same point in a better way, and i suppose many people have, but there isn't a great deal of agreement on what's MOST wrong with this people-crushing neoliberal world of ours. Or how to fix it.

Even just as to "transparency," which i don't think will fix everything by itself, we aren't going to get that without a big check on the intel agencies and our/their "corporate overlords" to use SteveB's term again. "National security" cloaks so much that it's just impossible to get agreement on what the hell is going on until years or decades later, when it's too late, especially if you start recognizing the dreaded "IQ" issue. I mean, lots of people listen to Michael Savage and Hannity and Rush. ("Savage" is my favorite, and i list him first, because his name is really Weiner and he used to write books about herbs but gave it up for the big bucks in his hate bullshit.)

anyway, i wasn't really harkening back to "simplicity," though those were i suppose in some ways simpler times too.

i'll try to attribute quotes for you, per your request.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 25, 2009 07:45 PM
I read the preface to the 1993 edition to that online yesterday, and Bookchin lamented that politics now are less clear than they were in the period he wrote about in that book, and so very difficult for young people to navigate... but there isn't a great deal of agreement on what's MOST wrong with this people-crushing neoliberal world of ours. Or how to fix it.

I will venture to say that clarity then and lack of clarity now are the results of progressive egalitarianism. Back in the day there were clearer distinctions between the educated and the rabble willing to follow a charismatic speaker (and the ability to congregate and communicate like opinions was more limited), but these days, on the internet nobody knows you're a dog.

All us internet dogs have a useless bark, and the temerity to think that our bark matters.

Makes for eternal cacophony, doan it?

..."better is subjective." That's quite a modern view.

Well a view is subjective. Always has been -- the diff is that the views of some were imposed on the others and there wasn't much opportunity to discuss the merits of if something's better for the king, is it also better for the serf.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 25, 2009 09:26 PM

Please, you can't be serious. Let's skip arguing about that. i could really beat pith to death on that topic.

To hell with pith. If you have evidence that George W. Bush didn't sincerely believe that he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, and they they would (and should) be grateful for it, I'd like to know what it is.

Posted by SteveB at May 25, 2009 09:29 PM


SteveB, I've known you in the commentariat a pretty long time. Are you seriously considering that GWB had this foremost on his mind?

We don't attack jack to bring freedom and democracy. We attack in order to create puppet governments that are amenable to our foreign policy goals. If by chance the citizenry get freedom and democracy out of it it's mostly through chance and our neglect.

1. We attacked Iraq because GWB wanted to depose the guy that supposedly wanted to knock off his daddy,
2. Because Israel and AIPAC double-dog dared us to do it,
3. Because beating the shit out of Afghanistan wasn't prime-time enough,
4. Because the Saudis were antsy about us being in Saudi Arabia and we needed a new base of operations in the vicinity and,
5. Because they happen to have oil.

There's probably lots more petty reasons but I doubt that freedom and democracy were anywhere near the actual ones.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 25, 2009 09:44 PM

Angryman:
You misunderstand me. If I say, "George W. Bush sincerely believed that he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, and they they would (and should) be grateful for it," I'm not saying that "bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people" was the primary motivation for invading Iraq.

I agree with all the reasons you have listed, and would only add Naomi Klein's "establish a model neoliberal state in the Middle East." But that doesn't negate the possibility that Bush sincerely thought he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people in addition to the goals you describe.

By the way, here's what Bush's partner-in-crime, Tony Blair, believed he was doing when he decided to invade Iraq.

Posted by SteveB at May 25, 2009 10:46 PM

"Well a view is subjective. Always has been -- the diff is that the views of some were imposed on the others and there wasn't much opportunity to discuss the merits of if something's better for the king, is it also better for the serf."

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 25, 2009 09:26 PM

Angryman, yes, a view has always been subjective! (I shouldn't make fun, I know. Sorry!) What was modern in your phrase is the notion that we can't really identify what is "better" because that is subjective. I think that wouldn't have been the first thought of most people in many other times, and certainly not a century ago.

i wasn't--and Bookchin wasn't--talking about the days of kings and serfs. The battle in the early twentieth century up until world war two, and continuing thereafter although the forces of reaction (led by the US) started extensively using anticommunism as a guise, was mostly between people and capital. The unifying quality the overwhelming majority of "people" had was that they were workers of some kind, not owners. That is, they were labor, whether agricultural or industrial. Politics was to a much larger extent than now a struggle between democratic movements, which supported labor, and antidemocratic movements, which supported authoritarianism of some kind, typically backed by capital. (Stalinism was authoritarian too--there are of course wrinkles.)

There was plenty of opportunity to discuss politics in those days, perhaps more than now. I wouldn't say the citizenry is more political now than then. So i can't say i would agree with your statement that there wasn't much chance to discuss whether if something was better for the king, it was also better for the serf. Au contraire, though the question was whether policies were better for the Trusts and Banks and Aristocracy or better for the people. And from that framing of the issues emerged the clarity that i feel nostalgia for, even though i wasn't alive then. In that time, i think it was a little easier to choose allegiances.

Not that it can't be done now. But people's movements now are not so unified or cohesive, in my opinion.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 25, 2009 11:47 PM

SteveB: You wrote: "To hell with pith. If you have evidence that George W. Bush didn't sincerely believe that he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, and they they would (and should) be grateful for it, I'd like to know what it is."

Posted by SteveB at May 25, 2009 09:29 PM

Ok, that's two parts. As for the second part first, the gratitude, yes W wanted the Iraqis to be grateful and expects it. He is by birth and rearing an aristocrat, a fabulously wealthy man's great grandson, a United States SEnator's Grandson, a President's son, and a President. The very best of educations was squandered on him, as he believes was his due. The Iraqis better damn well be grateful, and probably us to in his opinion. Of course W expected gratitude! We're lucky we don't have to walk out of the room backwards.

As for the first part, the part where you want evidence that W did not "sincerely believe that he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people," you are really confusing me. Was it you or someone pretending to be you (angryman might suggest a dog) writing about our "corporate overlords." I mean, I can only assume that you recognize that the Bush family are the very embodiment of our "corporate overlords," to use your phrase. Now, i hope that i do not have to produce too much evidence that our corporate overlords are not concerned about "freedom and democracy" for the Iraqi people. Or for that matter for us. In fact, your response to angryman says you know that. Do you think W does not actually know what side he is on? If so, he is the greatest con man in history, because he has convinced someone who thinks we have corporate overlords that he, the leader of their favorite political party, really believes in freedom and democracy for the iraqi people. that is a hell of a con in my opinion.

W is really strikingly stupid in many ways, which can lead one to underestimate him in others. Or misunderestimate him, as the case may be. But he is not Peter Sellers in Being There. He knows who he is working for, or as he thinks of it, who is working for him, and it isn't the Iraqi people. It may be some of the Iraqi people, the ones we/he put in power, who might even become as fun to hang out with at barbecues as "Bandar Bush," but as for the iraqi people as a whole, i'm sure he thinks as little of their feedom as he does of the saudi people. George W Bush is no more of a believer in democracy or freedom than aristocrats ever have been--he just knows the language of U.S. politics. If you would like to read a fine recent book on the Bushes, notably Poppy and W, read Russ Baker's Family of Secrets. The differences between Poppy and W trumpeted in public are overblown; that is a cunning, connected family, very experienced and skillful in some types of deception practiced in intelligence circles, and lately in politics. Or read Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty, though i like Bakers' book better.

i think you really do need to bang your head on the wall until you quit wondering whether George Bush really believes in freedom and democracy for the iraqi people. Things that are said by politicians in public are mostly, for lack of a better term, bullshit. even perhaps when barack obama says them. Those politicians who mean well and those who don't are both playing a GAME. That's certainly what they really think, which they'd admit if you got them drunk or high enough. But, of course, W is devoutly religious now and would never get drunk or high, so we're just going to have to do without that confession.
.

Anyway, i can't give you the confession, but i see that i have slaughtered pith at your invitation. i ceratinly hope you come to your senses.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 26, 2009 12:48 AM

i think you really do need to bang your head on the wall until you quit wondering whether George Bush really believes in freedom and democracy for the iraqi people.

But I'm not "wondering." I'm assuming Bush is sincere, until I see evidence to the contrary, and you haven't provided any. What do I mean by evidence? Well, a leaked confidential document, or an account by an insider about how, over beers in the West Wing, Bush had a good laugh about all that bullshit about "freedom and democracy" that he's putting over on the American people.

Now, when I say "Bush is sincere", I'm not saying "Bush is good", or "Bush is noble," or anything like that. Just that he's a true believer and has internalized the beliefs of the American Religion of Force, which is that America brings Freedom and Democracy to people all over the world through Force.

Since we seem to be turning into Oprah's Leftist Book Club here, I'll recomment Susan George's Book, Faith and Credit, an analysis of the belief system of the World Bank. George, who is a fierce critic of the institution, came to the conclusion that the staff and leadership of the Bank do sincerely believe they're helping people in developing countries, even though all the evidence is to the contrary. She calls this the "Religion of Development," and its adherents are just as sincere as the most fervent Christian fundamentalist (or the most fervent believer in the American Religion of Force.)

Posted by SteveB at May 26, 2009 08:35 AM
But that doesn't negate the possibility that Bush sincerely thought he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people in addition to the goals you describe.

I don't want to be disagreeable, but when I decide to do something I usually have a primary reason, and buttress it with a litany of supporting benefits to convince myself of the wisdom. I imagine other people do that as well. I'm not sure why it's germane what the 17th reason was. When I stop lying to myself I know that the decision for the course of action was based on my primary motivation.

MY opinion is that GWB did not recognize or steward freedom and democracy in the US so his ideas of what it would/should look like in Iraq was based on abstract ideas, executed by ill prepared underlings. If I have a real interest in something, I try to ensure its success through attention, not through incurious neglect.

What was modern in your phrase is the notion that we can't really identify what is "better" because that is subjective. I think that wouldn't have been the first thought of most people in many other times, and certainly not a century ago.

I contend that even today it's not the first thought of many people. The notion that "better" is subjective is used to identify those with a poor moral compass and infirm intellect.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at May 26, 2009 09:11 AM

SteveB:

I most certainly did refer you to evidence, and not just one document, but a book (two actually) based on thousands of documents. You apparently just don't want to read a book or two because you put more trust in a one-page admission or leak by an insider. That's a huge mistake.

I think your method leads you to be easily conned, and you most certainly have been. You want me to provide you with "a leaked confidential document, or an account by an insider." But in the first place, you are quite mistaken to presume that such evidence is more reliable. In fact, it is easily and often planted. Were you to read the Baker book rather than ignore it, you would read an extended discussion of the Bush method of planting evidence in the press, a method that W is particularly fond of. In fact, according to the insiders you haven't read, W apparently favors planting evidence well enough so that a journalist will have to work a little to discover it, which makes the journalist feel some pride in the discovery and push it more aggressively with their editors or producers. The Bushes (and others) not only do this, they have refined the practice into an art. As I said, it's in the book. The Bush clan apparently gets a kick out of how easy it is to use journalists, and fool the public. (especially the gullible religious constituency)

Second, you are discounting a vast array of more reliable evidence just because you don't trust things that you believe you have been allowed to see (though as I said you mistakenly presume you weren't allowed to see other evidence that was probably planted). In fact, a broad pattern of consistent evidence is the hardest thing to fake, though of course your brain has to be up the challenge of understanding it. I'm sure yours is, if you give it a go. In fact, strange as i find it, you seem to have done that, concluded our society is controlled by corporate overlords, but nonetheless decided to believe whatever somebody tells a journalist or writes down in a document that is then leaked.

Both Poppy Bush and W are far more cunning than you are with regard to the media, and they're well trained too. Media manipulation is the biggest job of intel, and that's where Poppy cut his teeth. This is not just my conjecture by the way, and as I said, i most certainly did refer you to LOTS of evidence. You just discounted it without reading it, in keeping with a modern practice that greatly contributes to making the public so easily manipulated. But if you do want to see how your preference for types of evidence can be turned on you, once again the Baker book is named Family of Secrets.

by the way, i do not for a second believe that Tony Blair went along with the invasion of iraq because Christianity is a big part of his life. I consider Blair's longtime friend and "political agent" of 24 years about as credible with regard to Tony Blair's morality as his mother. Of course Tony Blair and his people want you to think the invasion of Iraq in his mind was about the triumph of good over evil. But why in the world would you take his or his party's or his friends' or his family's word for it?

Posted by Not Exactly at May 26, 2009 12:44 PM
I'm not sure why it's germane what the 17th reason was.

Well, I'm not sure either. It's just a pet peeve of mine when people claim that those in power can't possibly believe the shit they're saying.

To take the most malevolent example I can think of: Did Hitler sincerely believe he was performing a great service to the German people by restoring them to their proper place in history and establishing for them a 1000-year Reich? Sure he did. Were there Nazis who thought the whole thing was a scam? Sure there were. But, as you go higher and higher up in any organization, you find that the proportion of true believers increases, and the guy at the very top is the one who's most likely of all to be a true believer.

Were you to read the Baker book rather than ignore it, you would read an extended discussion of the Bush method of planting evidence in the press, a method that W is particularly fond of.

Again, you're not understanding me. I'm NOT saying "George W. Bush never lies." I'm saying exactly what I wrote: "George W. Bush sincerely believed that he was bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, and they they would (and should) be grateful for it."

I most certainly did refer you to evidence, and not just one document, but a book (two actually) based on thousands of documents.

If either of the books has any evidence that the specific belief I stated above was not sincerely held, the what is the evidence?

Posted by SteveB at May 26, 2009 01:08 PM

SteveB:

I already told you plenty of what's in the book, but it appears to me that you didn't pause very long to consider it. If you want to know more, read the book. There is, of course, no secret memo found in W's dresser drawer stating "As you know, I do not believe in freedom and democracy." Nor is there a touching statement to a boyhood friend, leaked to the press, that W was deeply moved by the plight of the Iraqi people and just had to do something about it. So i have nothing to add about W and will bite my tongue henceforth, hoping to resuscitate pith.

I don't know how much you know about the nazis or hitler, but what you wrote certainly could have been written by someone who does not know much about that sordid subject, and i don't think anyone with much knowledge of hitler or the nazis would have written what you did. No one i can think of anyway.

As for the broad assertion that the person at the top of any organization is most likely to be a true believer, i don't know when you concluded that, or on what basis, but one of the last things hitler confided to albert speer, if the nazis are to be our guide, is that hitler felt he had made a mistake writing Mein Kampf, because in his (hitler's) opinion all that matters is power and it is better not to be pinned down. So supposedly said Hitler to Speer, according to Speer. Anyway, that might make you wonder whether Hitler was indeed the "true believer" you presume him to have been, not that there weren't plenty of other clues littering his life history to suggest that you have deeply and profoundly misunderstood his character. (not that hitler's hatefulness and racism weren't authentic enough, in their own malignant way).

Since you are impressed by Hitler lore, there is also a famous quote by Hitler that you should remember, because it has direct bearing on the approach you have taken to assessing what leaders actually believe, as opposed to what they say they believe:

"How fortunate for those in power that people do not think."

--Adolf Hitler

Posted by Not Exactly at May 26, 2009 02:13 PM

Not Exactly:
One of the reasons that I think this question matters is that I think your point of view (that those in power don't really believe their own propaganda) leads us to seriously underestimate the powers that they have at their disposal.

They have more than just have money and guns, they aren't limited to bribing people or coercing people to do their bidding, because they also have as a source of power a positive vision for the future, with which they can inspire people to act on their behalf.

"Join the World Bank and help lift poor people out of poverty!" "Join the Army and help liberate people from tyranny!" I hope we can agree that millions of people do hold these beliefs, the question is why these beliefs should no longer be held once you get above a certain level in the organization. If the lowliest Buck Private can believe he's liberating Iraqis, why can't the Commander in Chief believe so, too?

Most of the evil in the wold is done by people who sincerely believe they're doing good. It severely weakens our understanding of evil to believe that evil must recognize itself as evil.

Posted by SteveB at May 26, 2009 02:40 PM

SteveB:

You wrote: "Most of the evil in the world is done by people who sincerely believe they're doing good."

Pithy Response: BULLSHIT!

Pontificating response: People with power don't think like that, or about that. You're probably right that they do probably assume that they're doing good, sort of, at least compared to those other assholes. But everybody rationalizes, not just powerful people. That doesn't make their beliefs sincere, or mean they are trying to do good, even if they would very much like you to look at them that way. Their beliefs are just ordinary opportunistic rationalizing combined with salesmanship. Remember, politicians do waht salesman do, but about politics.

You wrote: "It severely weakens our understanding of evil to believe that evil must recognize itself as evil."

Pithy response: BULLSHIT.

Boring response: There is a lot of ground between sincerely believing you're doing good and recognizing yourself as evil. Of course nobody walks around saying "damn i'm evil!," except maybe some psycho criminal in the movies, and i'm not sure even heath ledger could have pulled off that role. Of course George Bush doesn't walk around smirking and saying "this freedom and democracy business sure is a load of crap heh heh heh." Just as he doesn't say to himself "i can't wait to pull the wool over the eyes of some gullible evangelicals today." he's not a cartoon villain.

understanding evil doesn't have to be all that complicated. Is it banal? What would hannah Arendt say? Are evil people all like Eichmann? that can be a really big and long discussion, full of footnotes, and there might even have to be a conference with free danishes before everyone could really make any headway.

i'm just saying don't take things at face value and don't assume powerful people believe their own spin. if they do, it's probably because they haven't really thought about it.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 26, 2009 03:53 PM

What a coincidence, russ baker has a post about his book on talking points memo today:

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/05/26/family_of_secrets/?ref=fpd

Posted by Not Exactly at May 26, 2009 04:50 PM

You're probably right that they do probably assume that they're doing good, sort of, at least compared to those other assholes.

Well, that's all I was saying.

But everybody rationalizes, not just powerful people. That doesn't make their beliefs sincere, or mean they are trying to do good, even if they would very much like you to look at them that way.

When I use the term "sincere", I mean this is something that George W. Bush tells himself as well as us. That is, he says to himself, "I'm liberating Iraqis!" and believes it. I'm not understanding the distinction you seem to be making between "rationalization" and "sincere belief." Are rationalizations insincere? If that's all we disagree about, then we're just arguing semantics.

Their beliefs are just ordinary opportunistic rationalizing combined with salesmanship.

I never claimed it was anything more than that.

Posted by SteveB at May 26, 2009 05:22 PM