Comments: The Habit Of Skepticism

I'm waiting to see if he pulls any of it off. He's a LAWYER. SOME lawyers lie.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 8, 2009 07:34 PM

Chomsky has a new expanded response to Obama's Cairo speech, which I haven't seen posted at the usual sites.

http://chomsky.info/articles/20090607.htm

Posted by Don Fernando at June 8, 2009 08:36 PM

Nice work, Caruso. Too bad most Obamaniacs who might come across the article will have fallen onto the floor in a masturbatory reverie before they get to the punchline.

Posted by Marcus at June 8, 2009 09:02 PM

Oh, man. You had me going there, Mr Caruso.

This wouldn't work on Obama-philes, however, because they'd recognize it isn't his speech.

Posted by Cloud at June 8, 2009 09:12 PM

Brilliant denouement, sir.

Posted by Oarwell at June 8, 2009 10:38 PM

Can't fool me. I didn't get the feeling of floating above the world when reading the words of a ... sort of god.

Posted by Happy Jack at June 8, 2009 10:42 PM

This kind of post is why the internet was invented.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at June 8, 2009 11:35 PM

The Chomsky link above is worth reading.

I've also found that some anti-imperialist conservatives are pretty smart on these issues. Daniel Larison has a couple of posts up about Obama. (I'll just link to the second--the link to the first is at the beginning of his second post).

Link

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 12:01 AM

The Chomsky link above is worth reading.

I've also found that some anti-imperialist conservatives are pretty smart on these issues. Daniel Larison has a couple of posts up about Obama. (I'll just link to the second--the link to the first is at the beginning of his second post).

Link

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 12:01 AM

Here's a passage from the Larison post that I thought really clever. At first you might think he's approving of Obama's methods, but actually, he's just describing what Obama is up to--making rhetorical concessions of no real importance in order to maintain the status quo and there's an appropriately cynical flavor to his description at the end.

"The approach that conservatives find infuriating when directed at them is the same one he was using on Thursday in Cairo: define the limits of the debate, establish one’s own views as the balanced, reasonable center of the debate, invite people from either side to join the ostensibly reasonable center, and thereby marginalize those who continue to ignore or oppose you. What critics such as Frum keep missing, much as many others missed it during Obama’s time at the Trinidad Summit of the Americas, is that Obama is making it much more difficult for other nations to oppose the United States without marginalizing themselves internationally. With respect to the Cairo speech, it does not legitimize or empower fanatics to acknowledge concerns that they have traditionally exploited to their advantage. On the contrary, acknowledging these concerns deprives the fanatics of their monopoly on paying attention and defining the appropriate responses to these concerns. Better still, acknowledging a past event, such as the U.S. role in ousting Mossadegh, steals the power from those who have made use of a real grievance for their own ends. More than this, though, simple acknowledgment of past error allows for a delay and deferral of any substantive change in present-day policy. Ironically, the more unequal the comparison between U.S. actions and those with which Obama compared them, the less substantive change in present policy there will be. Mild displays of humility make real concessions less urgent, and it makes it more likely that they can be avoided entirely. Those who are generally satisfied with establishment policies and the current status quo as usual have the least to fear from Obama, and so it is fitting that they are the ones making the loudest complaints."

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 12:06 AM

I meant to mention it in my first post, but I second Jonathan's sentiments: this was a truly great post. Well done, John.

Posted by Don Fernando at June 9, 2009 12:14 AM

That's an extremely effective post, and the concluding paagraph is especially good to remember for those of us who really like fine words. (Sorry, i still think obama's speech was good.)

i think the chomsky article someone linked is very good too, and i noticed that chomsky has been reading alfred mccoy's forthcoming book about how our own colonial/occupation policies got going in the phillipines. mccoy has a very good article on torture over at tomdispatch too. (fyi, mccoy is the foremost academic authority on the development of modern torture by the CIA)

i only have one quibble: Skepticism that becomes cynical isn't always illuminating. Just as its a mistake to presume rhetoric is honest and important because obama said it, i think its a mistake to presume its just bullshit because Bush said the same thing.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 01:00 AM

Yeah. More and more often I find myself much more in agreement with at least some of the paleocons (like this Larison guy) than any of the liberals. What does it mean, I wonder.

Getting older, I guess.

Posted by abb1 at June 9, 2009 05:15 AM

Very well said John.

It will put a rueful grin on Dennis Perrin's dial.

If Bush was a sheep in wolf's clothing, what's Obama? I was having trouble deciding whether he's a wolf in sheep's clothing or a sheep in sheep's clothing, but no-one owns a wolf, do they?

Posted by Glenn Condell at June 9, 2009 05:27 AM

Abb1:

Liberals and paleocons have a common enemy: imperialism, and the rapacious wars it engenders. Unless we're war pigs profiting at the trough of "endless war," we're helots servicing the imperial State. Instead of a government "of the people, for the people," it's government as enforcer of the diktats of a narrow financial elite, who profit from endless war while the people suffer.

Both spouses work just to make ends meet? Crumbling infrastructure? No health care? Schools masquerading as government indoctrination camps? Massive disaffection, depression, alienation? High percent of population in the penal system? Women forced to abort their children, because they can't afford to welcome them into this gray world? Lack of available employment forcing your kids to join the legions? Welcome to the imperial warfare State. Both liberals and paleocons have ample reason to detest it.

Politics should be about people, not profit, and not about venal suckwad politicos enriching themselves while self-righteously pretending to be our "servants."

The federal government has, quite clearly, become the enemy of the American people, just as the anti-Federalists predicted.

Which John Caruso's post magnificently illustrates: meet Janus, the two-faced god, both mouths, one smiling, one sneering, uttering the same lies.

Posted by Oarwell at June 9, 2009 09:26 AM

Skepticism that becomes cynical isn't always illuminating.

GB Shaw on cynicism: "The power of careful observation is often regarded as cynicism by those who haven't got it."

I knew John wasn't quoting "thePrez" when he neglected to mention the quote from the speech accepting (equivocal) "responsibility" for the Mossadeq coup, effectively blaming the 'cold war' for the deed. Shall we offer th Soviets the same excuse for their suppression of Hungary in '56 or Prague in '68?" Not bluidy loiklee!

Posted by Woody at June 9, 2009 09:39 AM

The problem is that I don't see liberals detesting an imperial warfare state. Unlike paleocons, liberals want to operate worldwide; thus imperial warfare state is something they can use. They don't mind it.

Posted by abb1 at June 9, 2009 10:53 AM

I could not find in the transcript the reference to Resolution 242, did we read the same one?

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/

Posted by mdi at June 9, 2009 11:07 AM

Woody: There aren't many better men to quote than Shaw, but i wouldn't be too sure you're the only careful observer around.

John Caruso's post was very, very effective (i could easily add another "very" if you like; it's a great post) because for someone like me who cuts obama some slack, and maybe even too much slack, it's extremely challenging and thought-provoking. that's useful and important, not really so much the conclusory bit at the end about stagecraft and salesmanship. i get the feeling everybody recognizes there's oh so much of that in politics.

but when i read comments that say basically "yeah, those obamamaniacs are idiots" after a post urging skepticism of thought, i'm reminded of Life of Brian when Brian is looking out at the crowd after opening his shutters and the crowd keeps repeating everything he says, and he tries to get them to stop by reminding them that they are all individuals, and they all repeat in unison: "We are all individuals!" i love that scene. i'm reminded of it, to spell out what may be obvious, because when something urging skepticism of thought is interpreted in a ratifying and even self-congratulatory way by the audience, it doesn't strike me that the reaction to the post always showed all that much skepticism of thought.

as for your history, since i love that, i certainly don't judge the soviets too harshly for either hungary or prague, given that the most powerful sectors of our country, the military and big parts of wall street, were chomping at the bit to literally annihilate them and given their experience with such very real attempts in WWII. And i am most definitely of the opinion that the u.s. primarily started the cold war (eisenberg, drawing the line; kofsky, harry truman and the war scare of 1948; stoller, allies and adversaries--to name just 3 illumiating books). And, of course, Moddadeq's fate was typical rather than unique; you don't have to join Osama bin ladin in the william blum book club to realize that. (will those freaking videotapes never stop?) hell, since i mentioned the mysterious video-man osama, i might as well add that i think the bulk of our recent political history, the war on terror, is quite literally a giant fraud. So i hold very marginalized, dissenting political views and am not some mushy thinker afraid of ugly, unpatriotic conclusions that make rednecks crazy. And all that being said, i still think obama's speech was a good speech and generally moved policy in the right direction. you know, you really don't have to be an idiot or uninformed to think that.

I think it would be unfortunate and ironic if people took the lesson from John Caruso's excellent and effective post urging skeptical thought that they already have everything figured out. For me, the valuable point of the post was in pointing out just how easy it is to be fooled by rhetoric, in part, but much more than that, how easy it is to be fooled by what you want to believe. The latter is a universal lesson, a lesson that applies also to those who see very little good in obama.

(my view on this doesn't mean john caruso or anyone else who distrusts obama isn't right and i have nothing new to say about that --time will tell)

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 11:19 AM

Oarwell:

All those dire problems, and then you seem to say the government is the enemy, so presumably it can't solve these problems, or at least deal with them. So who will? personally, i don't think "the government" needs to be thrown out with the empire and 80 percent of the military.

i hope liberals today and what you call paleocons, if that's different than libertarian types, can forge an anti-imperial alliance. there seems to be some common ground among the ron paul crowd and anti-war liberals. but there are enormous differences on other issues. i worry that the ron paul crowd would just let everyone without money die. i think they are supremely naive and simplistic to think a free market economy is going to make everybody happier and more prosperous. (So what is?)

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 12:08 PM

Glenn Condell: If Bush was a sheep in wolf's clothing, what's Obama?

He is hungry like the wolf.

Not Exactly: I wrote this with people like you in mind (and that's why I included "his words aren't matched by his actions" and "fine words alone").

mdi: You can find it in this transcript of the speech.

Jon: Thanks much, but everyone knows the internet was invented to deliver porn at incredibly high speeds.

Posted by John Caruso at June 9, 2009 12:43 PM


You provided a link to Al Giordano's silly post on Obama's Cairo speech.

I was a long time reader of his Narconews. Used to like the guy. Then suddenly Obama materialized on the scene. And Giordano the skeptical journalist of the Powers that be metamorphosed into Giordano the ever credulous and progressively deranged Obama worshipper.

It was so shocking. Just try to find out some of the stuff he wrote about Biden when Obama selected him for running mate. It is unbelievable.

If Obama gang pays some money to him for making himself a fool like that , I have no problem. Every one has got to make ends meet. And you can't survive just by handouts from readers. The problem is he may not have been paid anything and he probably believes everything he writes about O-blah blah blah.

Posted by Ajit at June 9, 2009 01:05 PM

John Caruso: In your other post to which you referred me, you wrote: "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."

Oh please. I'm going to spare everyone what i think about that.

But your last post, the one you said you wrote with the objective of being persuasive to folks like me, was extremely good. So if you don't succumb to the deception of your own lofty rhetoric, you can do it.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 02:11 PM

Giordano can be a pain in the ass but unlike 98% of the blogosphere he's well grounded in organizational politics. I also skipped over Cairo until Al convinced me to take a second look.

It didn't have to be Obama. It could have been Wes Clark or - god help us - John Edwards, my first pick. But the job now is to undo all the damage, and you do that with a broom and shovel, not more of the politics of oppositionalism and icepicks.

Obama will move the ball forward and in 2016 we can elect a real progressive. But until then we've got a country where 20% of the electorate is bitter ending to an extent that puts the settlers to shame. Republicans were still on the high side of 25% when Obama took office and he's decimated their ranks twice over since then.

Governance is not the same as campaign politics. Consider this as a problem of physics. We were going 100 mph in the wrong direction and Obama's already turned us around. No, he's not going very fast, but it's the turning us around part that's impressive especially given the corporate-controlled Congress he's saddled with.

Anyone care to guess how President Clinton would be doing about now had she won?

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 9, 2009 02:15 PM

NE: I said "federal government," not just "government. I wouldn't know a minarchist from a minaret, but use that as shorthand for "Mordor on the Potomac," land of lobbyist-orcs hired by the Merchants of Death, who, as Gore Vidal has ably chronicled (read his circa-1974 National Security essays from 'United States,' incredibly prescient, even for him), over and over again crush the human aspirations of the American people. Is this even arguable? Didn't you recommend 'JFK and the Unspeakable?' Didn't JFK's metanoia directly involve his awakening to the horror of the MIC? Didn't he made overtures to Kruschev and Castro and Sukarno because he wanted to end the warfare state? Did I miss something there?

There are plenty of good folk in local government trying to make water clean, schools better, etc. The higher you guy up the feeding chain, the more chance to be suborned, to reap ill-gotten gains from selling out your constituency. By the time you get to the Senate, or the WH, you've sold your soul, more or less. There might be a short list of exceptions (Paul Wellstone), but I don't find it useful to pretend it's just a "few bad apples." The orchard is rotten, and needs to be ploughed up, replanted. I don't believe in earthly utopias, far from it, but I think manifestations of tyranny should be called out.

Ron Paul frightened the PTB. He never called for a Pol Pot style mass-starvation: that's absurd. He DID say he would pull all troops home immediately, and go from there. He still frightens the Federal Reserve, and strives mightily to bring their operations into the light of day. As Glenn Greenwald, who I guess would be called a liberal, asks, who in their right mind opposes this?

Abb1, sorry, I thought you were saying you were a liberal. I use liberal in the classical sense of being a supporter of actual human freedom, as opposed to "pretend" freedom (which always boils down to the freedom to obey the State). I lump neo-liberals with neo-cons, shills for Hell.

Posted by Oarwell at June 9, 2009 02:34 PM

does "Not Exactly" have any wisdom to share?

or just a bunch of unctuous repetition of "give the man a chance, it's only been _____ days!"

I struggle every time I read a post by "Not Exactly." What I struggle with is not comprehension, but rather, the question of whether "Not Exactly" is serious --and therefore a fine example of naivete bordering on idiocy-- or plumbing the depths of ironical sarcasm. I'm always looking for proof of the latter, but finding overwhelming suggestion on the former.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 9, 2009 03:02 PM

Juan Seis-Olla: Huh? I wouldn't be so sure that you don't struggle with comprehension!

Every so often, based on originality, i get the feeling that some commenters use more than one name.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 03:18 PM

Yeah, of course I support actual human freedom, who doesn't.

Posted by abb1 at June 9, 2009 03:21 PM

Bra-fucking-vo, John Caruso. All of that needed saying and could bear repetition across the intarwebs. Unfortunately, it's already bounced off the soft skulls of do-nothing slack-cutting lesser-evil pwogwessive personality cultists such as those above. Delusional republicrats are fairly immune to reason, preferring to couch political thought entirely in dipshit sports metaphors that let them stay at a comfortable remove from harsh, inconvenient reality. Still, a noble effort, sir!

Posted by AlanSmithee at June 9, 2009 03:22 PM

Ajit: Yeah, I used to respect Giordano also, and I'm as shocked as you are by his cult-like transformation. You'd think someone who has such a solid grounding in U.S. criminality would be immune to Obama's reality distortion field, but apparently not.

That's why I feel Obama is such a danger: Bush catalyzed dissent, but Obama euthanizes it.

Not Exactly: Thanks for clarifying your beliefs 1) that "power corrupts" is a ridiculous notion and 2) that hope is something handed down to us by our leaders. Not surprising, but good to hear explicitly. Though I do find it funny that you can change without skipping a beat from warning about cynicism to reacting allergically to "lofty rhetoric" (which is apparently only acceptable if it's coming from someone like Obama...but I suppose that's consistent with number 2).

I've always found that people who style themselves as "realists" or "pragmatists"—and who therefore are the most condescendingly dismissive of anything they perceive as "idealism"—are in fact those who are the most thoroughly gulled. They mistake their investment in the existing system for some kind of sophistication, when it's really just effective indoctrination.

Posted by John Caruso at June 9, 2009 03:30 PM

"Anyone care to guess how President Clinton would be doing about now had she won?"

Probably about the same. She is his Secretary of State, and they're both squarely in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. He's probably a better orator.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 03:31 PM

Oarwell: Calm down there! That was a serious question, not an argumentative question. i don't disagree with you about how bad the national security state is. I'm just unsure what is best to do to deal with it. i dont' think that's obvious. It's not like nobody has ever grappled with these questions before, and people have reached different conclusions. and i don't think it's getting easier.

I just read the other day an interview with an old time participant in SDS who had read some things i liked in the past, a guy named Carl Oglesby who joined SDS in 1964 over vietnam. http://www.reason.com/news/show/124941.html
(Note: i'm not praising everybody who used to be in SDS. Todd Gitlin was active in it once upon a time.) The thing i found interesting was that Oglesby was basically a libertarian, but he was friends with several of the Weathermen. They had long debates about what would work in place of what we have. Obviously, they disagreed. Of course, the Weatherman pretty much all later admitted they had been barking up the wrong tree in terms of tactics, even apart from moral questions. Oglesby apparently has recently written a book in which he quotes Emma Goldman: "When you pick up the saber, you hand it to your enemies." Every pissed-off radical would be wise to remember that.

i really think some parts of the federal government, parts which don't involve empire and the military, need to be expanded. You know, i just don't see a menace to our freedom in single payer health care. i do see a menace in having the government and economy built around war. so i'd like to keep a federal government, subject to checks and balances, to promote the general welfare. and i don't want anti-government rhetoric to make that impossible. i think it's unecessary to treat medicare and the cia as the same thing just because they are both the federal government.

sounds like you liked the douglas book too. glad to hear it. he's a rarity--an impassioned analytical writer.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 03:39 PM

Consider this as a problem of physics.

No, let's not.

Posted by SteveB at June 9, 2009 03:41 PM

NE, please go read some Chomsky or else just off yourself because the truth is Obama's just another cunt. I am proud to say right now that I support Palestine resistence and am angered that Obama still favored Israel in his speech. We need a one state solution. NOW

Posted by Jenny at June 9, 2009 03:45 PM

Donald Johnson:

I get the distinct feeling that like me, you're part of the 98% of the blosphere that Mr. Gisleson remarked isn't steeped in organizational politics. So i'm no expert at the art of politics, but I'm pretty skeptical that Hillary Clinton would be in the same position Obama is, even if they are both in the mainstream of the Democratic party. FDR and Harry Truman were both well within the mainstream of the Democratic party at their time too, but it did make quite a difference which one of them was President.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 03:49 PM

Hmm Paleocons still seem pretty nationalist and tradtional on social issues. Then again, It does seem that a few here oppose abortion(Such as Bernard's article back in November)

Posted by Jenny at June 9, 2009 04:00 PM

Ron Paul on Obama:

"Congressman Ron Paul: I think he is purely political. I think he has backed down on what he said. He was elected for change and it is the same old stuff and he is as much of a neo-con now as Bush was with this issue and other issues. The war has been expanded. He continues with not closing down Guantanamo. There is probably, for as most [sic] as we can tell, there is still secret rendition going on. We just moved some of this process overseas. We are not going to be aware of it in detail.

Kathleen Wells: You feel President Obama is a neo-con like Bush? You don't see a distinction between the two administrations?

Congressman Ron Paul: The tone is different, but the policies don't change. We are spreading the war. The war is expanding. We are not prosecuting those that committed torture. Guantanamo is not going to be closed down. So, no, I don't see [a distinction between Bush and Obama].

He [Obama] increased the DOD [Department of Defense] budget. We surely could spend some of that money at home where people are really hurting. But we increased the DOD budget, I think, by 10-percent. I can't see any significant change in foreign policy. The pretense in leaving Iraq was a mild pretense and I'm predicting that's not going to happen. There are going to be troops in Iraq throughout this administration, I'm convinced."

Rest of interview (on HuffPo, oddly enough):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-wells/congressman-ron-paul-talk_b_212520.html

What a loon. Would use defense money to help Americans.

There's your answer, NE. Bring all U.S. troops home and close all overseas military bases. No "theoretical discussions." Just do it.


Posted by Oarwell at June 9, 2009 04:04 PM

" I'm pretty skeptical that Hillary Clinton would be in the same position Obama"

There don't appear to be any fundamental ideological differences between Obama and Clinton. So far he looks to be the better politician--i.e., the better manipulator of people's emotions.

The Larison article(s) I mention above are really good at pointing out what Obama is up to with his speeches. As Larison says, he gives the impression he's showing respect to his opponents, but the idea is to make them seem to be the fringe nutcases by making rhetorical concessions without much actual policy substance. The idea is to make Obama's critics look like small-minded people who won't meet him halfway. Obama is probably better at this than Hilary.

On the I/P issue, in Dec2000/ Jan 2001 Bill Clinton came pretty close to reaching the two state solution that Obama might be going for now (though it's also possible Obama will try and make the Palestinians settle for less).
I

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 04:28 PM

This post actually had me going too (although, to be fair, I didn't bother to actually read the quotations, since reading Obama makes me dizzy).
Al Giordano has a post up comparing Obama to Gandhi, which I thought an adorably innovative way of verbally fellating his highness after the Cairo Sermon--I came here from the comments section.

Posted by max at June 9, 2009 05:47 PM

@ "Not Exactly" --

What part of the "it's not a comprehension problem" statement did you not understand?

What about my name suggests that I have a comprehension problem?

What about my name suggests I am a ghost for another poster?

I know. These distractions of yours, they aim to keep the focus on the petty personal foibles you imagine your critics to harbor. It's a pity your pretentious style doesn't have the gravitas of good masonry to support the styrofoam "architectural tiling" fascia of your points, which are ethereal when they appear at all.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 9, 2009 07:13 PM

John Caruso:

Of course "power corrupts" isn't a ridiculous notion. I didn't say that. It also wasn't what you said in the post that made me remark "oh please." All your rhetoric about the inability of any people with power to have any integrity is very unpersuasive to me, and i think probably to anyone who doesn't already agree with it. i also think it's pretty fundamentally misleading and wrong-headed. And i'm a great fan of Lord Acton.

As for hope, of course it isn't something handed down by leaders, and i never said that either. (I guess "oh please" is pretty ambiguous.) If we were going to talk about hope, i'd probably say it comes from within, often over great obstacles, but in terms of politics i'd say it comes from several sources, including leadership. You obviously have a little pride of authorship in that rhetoric in your earlier post you referred me to, but i don't think much of that one, and not because i lack cynicism about power, or skepticism about leaders. I just didn't want to argue about it because that wasn't where this thread started--you just referred me to it for some reason when i said the other post is great but cautioned not to make presumptions about rhetoric either way.

As for your view that i style myself a realist or pragmatist, i don't think i said that either. And though it may seem weird, i haven't give that a lot of thought. i suppose i was "dismissive" of the "idealism' in that earlier post you gave me a link to, but not because it was idealistic. that wasn't my problem with it--i just basically think it's all wrong. and i suppose it was condescending not to spell out my reasons for disliking it, but it's not that i dismiss it without consideration. and it's not that i dislike idealism as a whole.

Whether i'm gulled or not remains to be seen, but i think you can't help but reach wrong and even disastrous conclusions about Presidents and politics if you use the approach you describe in your earlier post. There are more ways to be "gulled" than by placing your confidence in a candidate who then disappoints you. Maybe that's your greatest fear, but that isn't the only way things can go wrong. And it isn't my greatest fear.

Your telling me i'm "indoctrinated" just tells me you got a little testy. Maybe that's unusual, maybe not. It certainly never helps persuasiveness to start with all that. As i said, the post that this threat comes from was a great post, and i think very effective. I don't agree at all with the other one.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 07:13 PM

I enjoy "Not Exactly" pretending that his critics are angry and unhinged, and his Church Lady-styled admonitions to "calm down" and "relax," as if to suggest that by "Not Exactly" tossing that accusation, the record is sealed and intact with "Not Exactly's" report being doctrine.

It's interesting to me -- "Not Exactly" pretends to know whether his critics are agitated, angry, irritated, et cetera. This is classic e-forum sophistry at work, using Goebbels-esque accusatory argument, to water down the fact that it is more likely (though still uncertain in an e-medium) that "Not Exactly" is the angry one.

Maybe not surprisingly, "Not Exactly's" style is very much like the oratory of Bibi Netanyahu. I'm sure that type of writing is impressive to many who lack the insight or skepticism sufficient to see through the calm exterior of a person whose gauzy connection to reality is growing weaker by the moment, as Mr Obama continues to prove that with every opportunity to make a change from Bush/Cheney, he decides not just to stay the course, but to raise the spinnaker and seek planing speed.

Hmmm. I'd love to know what completes the phrase "Not Exactly."

Not exactly what?

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 9, 2009 07:21 PM

I don't think power corrupts so much as it attracts the readily corruptible. I don't remember the exact quote but Frank Herbert-- of all people-- pointed this out long before, and said it much better than I can.

Posted by grimmy at June 9, 2009 07:21 PM

Juan Seis-Olla:

you are too funny. now work on manners.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 07:29 PM

Under 'Unsourced' from Herbert's wikiquote page:

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.

Posted by Cloud at June 9, 2009 07:52 PM

We were going 100 mph in the wrong direction and Obama's already turned us around.

No way, man. Escalating "Af-Pak", and leaving the number of soldiers in Iraq in the six-figure magnitude is not "turning around"; it is not even decelerating.

And as this very blog post was at pains to point out, not even his rhetoric is much of a turn-around.

Posted by Cloud at June 9, 2009 07:59 PM

Donald Johnson:

I tend to think Obama is a much more skillful politician than Hillary, and i trust him more. that doesn't mean i think he's gandhi (gandhi probably wasn't either), but i tend to think hillary would have lost control of the agenda, ended up on the run from her political enemies, and sold out her base to placate her enemies. i.e., she would have kept up the triangulating that advanced Bill at the expense of progressive causes. i also doubt she'd be doing anything close to as well as obama in terms of approval.

i don't have a great feel for what obama really can and can't do about a number of legislative and foreign policy issues. that post by mark gisleson seemed pretty good to me, and obama certainly is dealing with a bought-off congress AND the national security state. so i can't say whether he's doing everything he could, but i do think with hillary or others things would be worse.

i don't claim to have any political expertise-- that's just my take. but at least i haven't decided in advance that obama will suck until he accomplishes world peace, and maybe justice too.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 08:01 PM

Not Exactly: I didn't say that.

No, you categorically rejected two statements: 1) that power corrupts (an accurate paraphrase of what I wrote), and 2) that true hope comes from below, not from above. And you've repeated that categorical rejection. The conclusions I mentioned follow directly.

It appears that what you're reacting to exists solely in your head, though—like your straw man of my "rhetoric about the inability of any people with power to have any integrity" or your fanciful speculation about my emotional states. Basically you seem to have misunderstood the other posting (and my comments here), and badly. Which is fine; I didn't expect you'd get much out of it even if you'd understood it the way it was intended.

Posted by John Caruso at June 9, 2009 08:10 PM

You know it's fun coming to a place where an ex-labor radical can feel like a moderate. There's the talk, and then there's the walk. The world's economy has not crashed. Given the massive fraud that is latter day capitalism that alone is a fucking miracle.

As a life long debtor whose brother farms in Iowa I can't say I'm particularly afraid of a global economic meltdown, but that doesn't mean it would be a good thing. I'd like to see us out of Iraq too but what's going to hold that clusterfuck together after we leave?

And I'd really love to see us defund Israel but first we have to take their dick out of our mouth and I think Obama's just done that. I'm not saying he didn't swallow but a name a president that hasn't been dick-wagged by that dog.

Change comes slow and I could never be as patient as Obama. Hell I would have extraordinarily rendered half the media by now if I were him.

Like him or hate him he's the only one we've got on our side who can actually effect change. And forgive Al Giordano for being gobsmacked but after living through Clinton and Carter as our only post-Great Society Democratic presidents, I'm tickled pink too.

However fucked Obama is, he beats all the other alternatives. If you got a cause you love, figure out how to work it into Obama's agenda because it ain't happening without him.

And yes, this speech sucked a lot more when it was delivered to me by anti-Kennedy people in 1979 but at least I had a Kennedy to lean on. Who you got?

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 9, 2009 08:53 PM

Too many metaphors for me, Mark. Physics metaphors, sexual metaphors, etc...

How about this? Obama makes a speech and we say we agree with some parts of it (if we do) and disagree with others. He establishes policies and we agree with some of them and disagree with others. Why do we have to buy into the Great Man theory of politics? I can agree not to take a kneejerk negative approach to him, but Al Giordano's columns just make me nauseous. No politician deserves that sort of reverence.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 9, 2009 09:31 PM

Mark: we have Ron Paul! ;) But seriously, I'd say Matt Gonzalez would be the best we could hope for should he run.

Posted by Jenny at June 9, 2009 09:35 PM

John Caruso:

Ok, i'll replace my "oh please" comment with an analysis, just so anyone who wants to read it can see what we're talking about here. And i'll paraphrase you less so your words speak for themselves. You didn't just say what i quoted above about how no one with power can have any integrity or humanity (your view of what "power corrupts" means), you concluded the following from that:

"My vow (and one I hope you'll consider as well): if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2008, 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."

That took my breath away, and not in a good way, so when i got to the next part, I wasn't where you wanted me to be as the reader. The reason why you apparently adopted this remarkable standard of judging political behavior is that, according to you, "lofty rhetoric" is intended to blind us, and those who use that lofty rhetoric have attained power "almost universally . . . at the expense of their integrity and to the detriment of their humanity," and unless we all believe that with you, "we participate in our own deception." (if my characterization of your view of the powerful as not having integrity is a "straw man," i respond that even now you pretty much seem to me to have said that).

You concluded: "True hope comes from below—not from above."

Where to begin? I think the standard for evaluating political conduct that you endorsed is unattainable. I think it's completely impractical from the point of view of organizational politics, not much good for motivational politics either, and generally encourages those who hold it to have an undeserved sense of moral superiority too. (and one that strangely isn't even accompanied by civility in all cases).

As for your statements about power depriving people of, or diminishing, their integrity and humanity, sometimes that's certainly true, but sometimes not. Lord Acton was talking about why it was ridiculous to presume, as was mandatory in the 18th century, that church and crown could do no wrong. (So there has in fact been some progress.) But plenty of US Presidents have had some humanity and integrity at the end of their lives or tenures in office, which are often coextensive. I could certainly identify several specific instances where US Presidents did something that required courage and integrity and didn't enhance their power. (Not that they're saints.) But i think the confidence of your assertion stems more from the approach you take, which rests on an almost irrebuttable presumption that people with power, at least if they're Dems, are pretty much all no good. You already have announced that in your first paragraph of that post that they will have to make the lion lie down with the lamb to convince you otherwise.

If you subscribe to the "buck stops here" view of judging Presidential morality, everything the united states does anywhere in the world is the responsibility of a President regardless of facts and circumstances, including whether it even happened with his knowledge, so you don't need to know anything to convict him. I don't find that a very useful or reasonable outlook, and i think the presumption that all powerful people are equally no good leads to an ability to see political reality with any clarity and precision, which is useful for identifying the real source of problems, as well as moral self-congratulation that is singularly unattractive to non-believers.

Which is to say, it may have use as a sermon in church, but not to get people in the door.

As for where hope comes from, i already spoke to that, without any qualifications at all, so i'll leave that be.

take from this what you will, or just snark at me if you want. The post that you wrote intending to be persuasive in fact was in my view very, very effective, an excellent post. i don't think i can tell you any more clearly why i don't think the other one was at all persuasive, or for that matter even correct. So now i have not been "condescendingly dismissive."

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 10:07 PM

NE, here's a scan of your last post to Donald Johnson:

I tend
and i trust
i think
i tend to think
i also doubt
i don't have
to me
so i can't say
but i do think
i don't claim
just my take
i haven't decided

Sorry, but that's what eye sees.


Posted by Oarwell at June 9, 2009 10:20 PM

Oarwell:

ok, i'm a shitty writer--what's your point?

(it does make kind of a funny poem the way you assembled it, but i tend to think you get credit for that, not me)

Posted by Not Exactly at June 9, 2009 10:42 PM

Not Exactly: I think the standard for evaluating political conduct that you endorsed is unattainable.

That's because you're still arguing against one of the many straw men you've constructed, in which "concrete actions on major issues" equates to "making the lion lie down with the lamb" (or "accomplishing world peace, and maybe justice too").  And that would be the condescending dismissiveness I was talking about, by the way.

I don't think you're misrepresenting me intentionally; it's just that our world views are too divergent for you to get what I mean. I could try to correct your cartoonish caricature of my views, but the misunderstanding is just too deep and your attempts at withering sarcasm make it pretty clear that it'd be wasted effort anyway. So I'll leave you to it.

Posted by John Caruso at June 9, 2009 11:46 PM

I really wanted to say ALL LAWYERS LIE, but that negates the existance of the possibility of an HONEST LAWYER. Much like stories of Big Foot, there MAY be a speck of truth to the legend. Who knows, Obama may be that honest lawyer.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 9, 2009 11:55 PM

And I now see that this was a direct response to Giordano's extended, slobbering blow-job. Whoops.

So I'll offer this: what's revolting about this particular public ministration to the leader's needs is that Giordano sees himself as a radical, a bottom-up socialist-of-sorts, thus conflating or at the very least blurring boundaries between socialism and liberalism that should be sharply demarcated.

I think this is profoundly enervating, not empowering, because it gets people looking up for change, not inside.

As for Giordano, yea, he's rooted in organizational politics, and mouths platitudes about "never moving ahead of your constituency," Saul Alinsky, Obama's formation in the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement (what the fuck?), etc. etc., with an admixture of down-home bonhomie and cliched writing (amazing; he does this shit for a living?). He's like a degenerate Todd Gitlin:
"The good and the bad of the United States of America grew up together, coiled around each other like DNA helixes, simultaneously making the country both an engine for human progress but also for unprecedented harm all at once. The debate is not, and correctly should never be, a question of “is America good or evil,” but, rather, which side of its schizophrenic split personality wins the upper hand in each moment.

The best side of America appeared today in Cairo. And it feels like it has been so long since it has materialized that one’s windpipes must share the gasp of shock with the exhale of great relief. Is that really us? Oh my, it is. Or it still can be."

Physically impossible, but who cares?
Giordano censors dissenting comments, by the way.

Posted by max at June 9, 2009 11:55 PM

I think this is profoundly enervating, not empowering, because it gets people looking up for change, not inside.

Agreed. That would be one of the main points of the posting Not Exactly finds so deeply misguided (whose bizarre, radical message I'd summarize as "actions speak louder than words").

Giordano censors dissenting comments, by the way.

Yeah, I thought as much when I looked at the comment thread and saw nothing but hosannas (and then read the warning at the bottom, which I took to mean "agree with me or I won't post your comment").

Posted by John Caruso at June 10, 2009 12:27 AM

John Caruso:

well, your first post was great, but our disagreement about the other post isn't the result of our divergent world views. I really just disagree with it.

the pity is that any persuasiveness of your first post for me is now hard to remember, and once someone tells me my world view is too different to understand them, i'm not inclined to think i should spend much more effort on their opinions. i'm not alone in that either, by the way.

This sure makes it easy for me to understand why peace isn't breaking out everywhere. i mean, this was just a stupid blog disagreement, and look how hard it was to manage amicably. Imagine running a country.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 12:36 AM

i liked the thought in the guarniad.co.uk: "we wanted a world leader, we got an american president"

Posted by hapa at June 10, 2009 01:24 AM

Looks like you mean this, which I'd agree is worth reading for observations like this one:

There is a difference between believing that ultimately the interests of the inhabitants of the planet are genuinely interconnected and believing that the interests of the world can be made to seem compatible with America's.

It's good to see so many people arriving at this same understanding.

Posted by John Caruso at June 10, 2009 03:48 AM

"making the lion lie down with the lamb"

"The Peaceable Kingdom" toured with the circus as one of the sideshow exhibits, and many found it inspiring. A local reporter was interviewing the proprietor, and asked if there was ever any trouble between the two principals. "Not really," was the answer. "Once in a while there's a minor disagreement, but new lambs aren't expensive."

Posted by Freddy el Desfibradddor at June 10, 2009 03:57 AM

Did we really expect him to be an ambassador? Thinking about all this some more, I'll say it: despite minor slip ups, it was a pretty good speech.

Posted by Jenny at June 10, 2009 04:15 AM

max: "The best side of America appeared today in Cairo." Noam Chomsky appeared in Cairo today? Wow, what a coincidence. Seriously, there any number of Americans, many of them not famous, who I think represent the best of America; Obama isn't even in the running.

Jenny: "Did we really expect him to be an ambassador?" This is an interesting rhetorical move, often seen in discourse. Did we really expect him to X -- be an ambassador, be perfect, bring world peace in 100 days, be Jesus H. Christ (the H. there stands for Hussein!) incarnate, be Gandhi resurrected, walk on water, etc.? Two questions: who are "we" (with the corollary, "Whaddaya mean 'we', paleface?"), and what does Obama's being an ambassador have to do with anything in this thread? I don't expect Obama to be an ambassador in any but a figurative sense, I expect him to be a President. Expecting him to be a good one was never on the table.

On the "power corrupts" thing, I'm not even so sure about the notion that political power always attracts the corruptible. (We die in corruption, we are raised in incorruption!) John has written about this before, pointing out that there are heads of state in the world who exhibit a certain amount of integrity. He got trashed for that, too. I think Obama showed his corruptibility long before he got to the White House, perhaps even before he got to the Senate.

Posted by Duncan at June 10, 2009 05:16 AM

Hmmm... this could be misunderstood coming from a infrequent poster like me but I'll try to eke this out as clear as I can.

John Caruso, there is something that I sensed from Not Exactly's post that you have not. An undertone that's can not be comprehended with an untrained eye. It's an understanding which few share. An enigma that even the sharpest minds fail to fully realize.

But in the spirit of your post I felt it time to explore it seriously.

Unrestrained ambition is indeed a primary force behind presidential candidates. But some Presidents realize they made mistakes John and it seems you forget the heroes who have died to try and redeem them. President John F. Kennedy was one of them.

Of all the horrendous things Presidents have done in office he did the only thing that threatened his power. Confront the military-industrial complex from whence it came.

Of course, on his watch, the notoriously clandestine Special Operations were expanded, the Vietnam conflict escalated and the U.S. nuclear aresenal menacingly positioned toward Soviet urban centers.

But something changed.. He denied the Joint Chiefs the aircover that Bay of Pigs invasion needed, contradicted them himself when they were demanding the destruction of Cuba and astonishingly, in a show of authority, dismissed the General who designed the treasonous black-flag op "Operation Northwoods".

When the MIC had evidence that Kennedy was acting on his accredited World Peace speech at American University exactly 46 years from today, June 10, 1963. There was no doubt. He had to die. A month after he issued National Security Action Memorandum #263 ordering 1000 troops withdrawn, he was murdered by the monsters he was supposed to represent.

Here is where I am with Mr. Caruso (I think). People can do heroic things outside the Presidency as Jimmy Carter does and survive to do it again. The truth, however, remains; when you assume the Imperial Presidency, challenging the former will cost you EVEN MORE than the latter.

Sadly, Johnson's National Security Action Memorandum #273 abolished the planned withdrawal.

The rest is fatefully, history.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 10, 2009 06:53 AM

Okay, we're back to saintly Democratic Presidents who either can't give us significant change or when they try, they get assassinated.

Isn't it odd that the one person in D.C. with this kind of moral grandeur is the person at the very top? I mean, what are the odds?

So Obama, like JFK, is really a saintly figure and when he does anything praiseworthy, it's because he's another JFK and when he doesn't, it's because of all that pressure from The Man. I mean all the others, because the President is not The Man, he's trying to stick it to all those other Mans.

Or alternatively, Presidents are ordinary people (or less) on the moral grandeur metric. As Chomsky says (paraphrasing) when he can be induced to talk about something as trivial as the moral lives of politicians, people who aren't outright sociopaths are superb rationalizers (like all of us) and if they want to obtain power, they internalize the beliefs of those who have power. Obama made it very clear (speaking to a bunch of antiwar types) in his anti-Iraq war speech that he wasn't anti-war in general, just against what he called "dumb wars". I have to give him some credit--he doesn't seem to lie more than the average politician. It's his leftist acolytes who seem eager to project their own beliefs onto him, but if you judge him on his own words he's a normal Democratic imperialist, smarter and more nuanced than the openly arrogant Bush league morons of the previous 8 years. And as Chomsky would probably add, small differences can be important. I think Obama is dangerous because he seems able to fool people who desperately want to believe in him, but I think a smart nuanced imperialist who wouldn't have invaded Iraq is probably less dangerous than a stupid one who did. Which is to say, he's the lesser of two evils.

On Al Giordano--I've posted there a few times uncensored arguing against him , though politely, and Nell was over there recently arguing with him, but he does cut out some posts. He says so. I don't know what has been cut out. The close-to-100 percent agreement over there might be just normal self-selection at work. The place is pretty hard to take if you don't have the stomach for Obama-worship. If you want normal center-liberal viewpoints with some mix of Obama praise and Obama criticism there are plenty of better blogs.

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 10, 2009 07:35 AM

Al does censor comments and he responds to criticism on other blogs obliquely without a link (personal experience on both and not just for cussing).

But I don't have a problem with that. Al's not an ideologue, he's an organizer. You organize to win, not to hold a debate. Frankly I grew tired of him during his NarcoNews days, and only warmed up to him again when he started his field hand routine.

I have been a socialist all my adult life. Someday I hope to get to vote for one. Meanwhile you push and push and hope to move the ball forward.

The forward progress may not be visible to you, but Obama is still reorganizing our government and getting his people in place. Will they do what you want? No, but they will move the ball forward.

Shit, I think I just used another metaphor. In any event these are not my beliefs but rather my observations. At the infamous end of the day (or the beginning of the next) I want to see some progress. And I am not afraid to take heart in the fact that while Obama is not my man, he seems to be owned by fewer than most. And while his goals are not necessarily my goals, his goals do not stand in opposition to mine.

For now, this early on, I am satisfied that he's not yanking our chains, that he is working towards solutions, and that those solutions will not set us further back. I wish I could say I was half as confidant about Al Franken, my likely next senator.

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 10, 2009 08:30 AM

All I know is, I'm ashamed to realize that the whole reason Obama hasn't followed through on his promises to bring troops home is because he realized it would strain this fragile economy.

I guess he didn't realize the economy was bad when he made those promises.

Posted by Upside Down Flag at June 10, 2009 09:07 AM

And while his goals are not necessarily my goals, his goals do not stand in opposition to mine.

So you're for escalating the war in Afghanistan? You're for expanded claims of executive privilege and immunity from lawsuits?

Posted by SteveB at June 10, 2009 09:20 AM

On the topic of corruption, a different Herbert once wrote:

The brags of life are but a nine-days wonder:
And after death the fumes that spring
From private bodies, make as big a thunder
As those which rise from a huge king.

Posted by Oarwell at June 10, 2009 10:09 AM

SteveB, I am not for anything I was not for before. But I am not in a position to second guess Obama as I do not know how deeply Cheney's people are burrowed within our system, or how precarious the situation is in Afghanistan. We need to get out but if our leaving leads to bloody chaos then our failing will be as big as Bush's.

I am on thin ground here, but if I wanted to end executive privilege and immunity, what better way than to assert that privilege in the face of Bush-appointed judges. Any reversal of policy caused by O's pen can be as easily reversed by a future president. But what the courts strike down, well, if I divine Holder's purpose correctly, stays struck down. And all without the right having yet another conniption.

At the end of a year look to see what has changed. At the end of two years look to see if Congress moves left in the elections and then expect much from O's second two years. If his game plan is to get things done, then his actions are congruent with that.

And if he's a poseur, all will be revealed soon enough.

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 10, 2009 10:29 AM

Duncan:

i have been accused of knocking down straw men, despite my dislike for that argumentative tactic, so when i read in your post "which indicates that the real problem here is many people consider any criticism at all of Obama intolerable," I am a little dumbstruck. I have never read anyone on this site, including me, say anything like that. Or say that Obama is a great man (as opposed to a smart and skillful politician) or a great moral figure. Or say that Obama never makes mistakes. Or even that he's uncorruptible. No one has said he can't be criticized. I bet that if you look for quotes you won't come up with much obama adoration around "here," let alone be able to make a fact-based case that that's the "real problem here."

It looks to me like what causes more of an uproar "here" is anything that is NOT blanket criticism of Obama or his administration's policies. I mean, some people get as foul-mouthed as teenagers (maybe they are for all i know) and suggest that you go "off yourself," which of course is what guys like that putz Howard Kurtz used to really like to point to whenever they wanted to condemn the blogosphere (fortunately, this seems to have been a losing battle for them because they lost their advertisers). I suspect there are much better places than "here" to hang out if you want to adore Obama, though i've actually never looked for one. That's not my thing.

Specifically, the heresy "here" seems to me to be asserting that Obama shouldn't be dismissed across the board as a fraud and a hypocrite, even if the disagreement with that position rests on nothing more than the view that its incorrect, that it's too soon to say that, that its bad politics, or that its not smart. Heaven forbid anyone say Obama shouldn't be condemned because it's counterproductive or unwise, or that he should be given a fair chance before being dismissed, or that it's possible that he actually has a difficult job. That all is appaently considered a reflection of the wrong "world view," which must be something like the old Stalinists used to call "false consciousness."

I think my divergent world view is really nothing more than the world view of someone who disagrees with Mr. Caruso, the Director of Approved Skepticism. (Sarcasm can get plenty more withering than this.) It's a lot easier to just dismiss everyone as having the wrong world view or being unwilling to accept any criticism of obama than it is to defend a position with facts and evidence and argument. The only easier thing is accusing people of sarcasm or condescencion or dismissiveness or whatever first comes to mind. It's a tactic used to avoid substantive debate. I'm kind of sick of it, especially when i'm ducking boulders instead of stones (not you throwing them Duncan, that i can remember).

You also wrote: "I think Obama showed his corruptibility long before he got to the White House, perhaps even before he got to the Senate."
My own view is everyone is corruptible, including you and certainly me. Actual corruption is a different matter. You seem to have something in mind from his career in Illinois politics, and if so i'll certainly read it. Considering some of the ridiculous shit the right wing felt it needed to make up about Obama, i'm a little skeptical that everyone has overlooked much good evidence of corruption, but i'm certainly willing to look at it.

But if you are using the word "corruptibility" to mean he makes political deals and compromises you don't like, that's something else. I can't think of any politician wouldn't have to plead guilty to that sometimes. And politicians do tend to say one thing and do another, for various reasons. All that can be a big problem. Clinton's famous triangulation is the best recent example of that being a fiasco that i can think of. If you can point me to anything that shows obama having sold out his beliefs to cut a deal that advanced him personally at the expense of others, i'd definitely read it. i look for that stuff, so i'm always glad to have it pointed out to me for consideration. I think John Caruso was absolutely right about the need to be skeptical about politicians, as well as in general, and it's good to keep your eyes open, because politicians can change in office in either direction.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 10:40 AM

Marc G:

I'm not sure i understand you: Do you think Holder is anticipating that he'll lose on the executive privilege claims because the judges who have the cases were appointed by Bush? That isn't intuitive to me, because i suspect the Bush-appointed judges are unitary executive (=fascist) types and would have a hard time not sustaining executive power of any kind unless they saw a significant political opportunity, which of course does trump all principles of any kind.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 10:59 AM

Duncan, re: "Noam Chomsky appeared in Cairo today? Wow, what a coincidence. Seriously, there any number of Americans, many of them not famous, who I think represent the best of America; Obama isn't even in the running."

That was a quotation from Giordano. The point was that it mocked itself.

As for censoring comments, it's one thing to censor bigots or Viagra advertisements. Quite another to censor arguments that just trumped your own. It's dishonesty serving a flawed and (apparently) indefensible political program. When you (continuously, obnoxiously) describe yourself as an "Authentic Journalist," you do well to hold to another Frank Herbert quotation:
"Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality."

Posted by max at June 10, 2009 11:11 AM

NE, "so when i read in your post 'which indicates that the real problem here is many people consider any criticism at all of Obama intolerable,' I am a little dumbstruck. I have never read anyone on this site, including me, say anything like that."

They don't have to, just as the US doesn't have to say explicitly that any country that elects a leader we don't like will soon drown in its own blood. I think the trend is evident, and I've seen it other places than here: any criticism of Obama is met with variations on the theme that if you are critical of him, there must be something wrong with you -- the kind of rhetorical nonsense that Jenny, for example, indulged in. Few Obama fans are going to say explicitly that their man is the living god, that divine ichor flows in his veins, and none may diss him. But it's the way they respond to criticism that shows that they consider it intolerable lese majeste.

"It looks to me like what causes more of an uproar 'here' is anything that is NOT blanket criticism of Obama or his administration's policies." Well, it doesn't look that way to me. I see very specific -- not "blanket" --criticism of Obama's policies and actions. In the case of the Cairo speech, of course, it was largely an exercise in hot air, the sort of thing that's true of every speech of his I've read, so in response to O's blanket bloviating some blanket criticism may be proper.

"You seem to have something in mind from his career in Illinois politics ..." Erm, no.

Max, sorry; I think I was aware that you were quoting Giordano, and only put your name there because it was your comment I was quoting. But I'm still not aware that what he wrote "mocked itself." I've seen too many Obama fans exult in such similar terms not to have to jeer.

Posted by Duncan at June 10, 2009 11:50 AM

We need to get out but if our leaving leads to bloody chaos then our failing will be as big as Bush's.

Just to be absolutely clear, Obama isn't leaving carefully, or even carefully maintaining the status quo. He's escalating the war. But it sounds like you don't have a problem with that, so at least you're being consistent.

if I wanted to end executive privilege and immunity, what better way than to assert that privilege in the face of Bush-appointed judges.

Yes, I've heard this theory before, as an example of the "11-dimensional chess" that Obama's playing that isn't comprehensible to mere mortals such as us. He's asserting rights he doesn't really want, so that he can provoke the Supreme Court into ruling against him, which is what he really, secretly wants. Should I even bother to argue against this? Any sane person can see this argument is ridiculous on its face, and any person who buys this argument isn't open to reason anyway, so I won't bother.

Posted by SteveB at June 10, 2009 12:12 PM

Nikolay Levin:

You're right about some of undertones. I don't spot anything wrong in your history, but i haven't looked over that JFK stuff in a while, especially with an eye to details. And JFK isn't the only President who ever ran afoul of dangerous jingoes who considered him either weak and way too peace-loving (see McKinley) or a traitor (most Democrats, except for Truman until 1950 and maybe for LBJ, though he wouldn't push "the button" either).

Nor is getting shot or poisoned the only thing a President has to worry about. Jimmy Carter got taken out pretty effectively via the machinations of the Chase Manhattan Bank (see Interlock, Mark Hulbert), Kissinger, the CIA, and the GOP-orchestrated arms sales to iran that kept the hostages snugly in Teheran until Reagan was inaugurated. And Saddam's attack on Iran didn't happen at a very opportune time either, which probably should have required a Presidential sign-off by Carter, but not everyone was asking Carter's permission about such things by then. (he certainly would have been an idiot to give permission to an attack that sabotaged his own efforts to get the hostages back). There's plenty short of assassination that can be done to create massive problems for a President who pisses off the National Security Establishment. I suppose a President might pretend that none of that is so and just try to do the right thing all the time, without consideration of what huge practical problems that are foreseeable, and maybe Jimmy Carter did that. Or maybe he didn't even realize how screwed he was going to be. But he found out. And the Reagan Revolution really turned out to be so helpful to everyone, didn't it? (rhetorical question)

Even part of the reason we got Reagan is that the wingnuts in the GOP took out Nixon so effectively after detente became his game, so it isn't just Dems who need to be very careful who they cross. There are lots of vipers ready to bite in what the Professor called the dark corridors of power (which don't interest him). I'm not making this stuff up. Read russ baker's book Family of Secrets, which incorporates much from a number of the old Watergate books, or any number of books about what happened to Carter, which a variety of witnesses have now confirmed in memoirs.

So yes, there are undertones i only alluded to for reasons of brevity behind my view that it can be pretty hard to be a President. Somewhat to my own surprise, once i actually started looking into the administrations of Presidents in some detail, i discovered that i even have a little respect for warren harding. (I never would have believed it.) i can't say that for truman, because i'm not about to forgive somebody for using nukes, but even he later stood up to macarthur and edgar hoover when it took some balls in 1950, when Edgar Hoover wanted to use concentration camps domestically and macarthur wanted to nuke the chinese and maybe, what the hell, moscow too. And Truman did come to realize, in November 1963 after JFK was shot, (see his 1963 letter to the Washington Post), that he really did make a huge mistake letting the CIA have an operations component as well as an analysis component. What a weird letter to write at that time!

When i read extremely bold pronouncements about Presidents that evaluate them on the basis of nothing more than whether they had a great legislative or political accomplishment, without any consideration of what's going on in an administration and around it, and in particular what political costs are involved, and i hear that i'm supposed to think i've been deceived unless i agree with that, i'm not impressed. And when i'm treated like i just don't have an enlightened world view by someone who hasn't even given the issue of how our government actually works any careful thought that i can discern, i find that irritating. Penetrating the deception that surrounds us is way harder than just looking at a President's bottom line, and i think anyone who feels sure they've done it should think again. And they should keep thinking again, because that's what real skepticism is, not just saying something that makes you feel proud of yourself and gets applause.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 12:41 PM

Duncan:

You view seems to be that everyone loves obama even if they in fact criticize him, and you don't actually have any reason to think he's corruptible even before he entered the Senate despite your earlier statement that you suspected he was.

If you have any evidence or arguments on substance, other than that you believe things are "obviously hot air" and people should be understood to be saying something other than what they do say, i'm all ears.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 12:49 PM

If you can point me to anything that shows obama having sold out his beliefs to cut a deal that advanced him personally at the expense of others, i'd definitely read it.

A pretty narrow definition of corruption, don't you think? I would say our political system is corrupted because people who sincerely hold beliefs that are useful to wealthy individuals and powerful corporations are inherently more likely to make it into high public office, so no envelope of cash under the table is even necessary.

I don't think Obama needs to be bribed by the military-industrial complex in order to decide that we should increase military spending by 10% this year (which he is doing). I think he's increasing military spending by 10% this year because he really wants the US to have the biggest and bestest military in the world, and because he wants to win the war in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, I would say Obama is the product of a corrupt system, which is naturally going to produce charismatic spokespersons for its interests.

Posted by SteveB at June 10, 2009 01:25 PM

SteveB:

I already know you think powerful people are generally sincere, and we don't need to argue about that any more, though perhaps bringing up the question of hitler's sincerity again is the magic way to mercifully kill this thread.

I had just asked that question of Duncan because he seemed to be alluding to some information he had, but it seems there was none.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 01:40 PM

I had just asked that question of Duncan because he seemed to be alluding to some information he had, but it seems there was none.

Well, I thought it was a revealing question because it points to an important fault line in the radical/liberal debate going on here (just so you know, I'm placing you on the "liberal" side of that line, and myself on the "radical" side.)

You seem to be quite interested in the question of Obama's character, so you want to know if there is evidence he's acted in a way which fits your narrow definition of corruption. I'm not interested in Obama's character very much at all, because I see him as basically a figurehead for a corrupt system. And the whole point of working within a corrupt system is that it enables you to do truly horrific things (like robot-drone-bombings of Pakistani women and children) while holding to some personal sense of honor and "proper" behavior.

It's the functioning of the system that interests me, and the specific actions that Obama takes that further the interests of that system, and questions of Obama's "true" beliefs, his sincerity, his personal honor or honesty couldn't interest me less.

Posted by SteveB at June 10, 2009 01:58 PM

SteveB:

actually, i'm not particularly interested in that stuff you're talking about at all, and i wasn't meaning to define corruption narrowly or broadly, i was just asking duncan a question as i said. so i guess we don't have to argue about that, and what's the point, since i see no way for it to get us back to hitler.

if you don't like drone killings and the like, go forth and do something about it. i'm 100% behind you. it's very wrong.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 02:21 PM

SteveB:

actually, i'm not particularly interested in that stuff you're talking about at all, and i wasn't meaning to define corruption narrowly or broadly, i was just asking duncan a question as i said. so i guess we don't have to argue about that, and what's the point, since i see no way for it to get us back to hitler.

if you don't like drone killings and the like, go forth and do something about it. i'm 100% behind you. it's very wrong.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 02:21 PM

NE, SteveB, I'm probably the stupidest person in this comments thread. If not the dumbest, the least educated almost certainly. All I know is what I know, and I find that others often present as fact what they only suspect. Studying the Obama administration so far, I have no clue what deals have been cut, what threats (to and from) made, what the politics of the decisions has been. But I can see a rationale to most of it, even if I don't know the truth of the matter.

I know that if you want to slap Israel back into line you hire someone like Rahm Emanuel. If you want to get the Pentagon to do what you say, you hire someone they respect. And if you believe a pull out would result in a bloodbath, you don't pull out. The mechanics of ending a war are not something I would trust to peaceniks, however much I believe that all war is stupid and evil. These were wars to avoid but now that we're wrestling with Uncle Remus's West Africa tar "doll," our options are limited and in ways we cannot easily ascertain from the outside. Leaving the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan would be as heinous as giving Idaho to the militias.

My default position is to trust, then verify. Verification I'm not worried about (time will tell) and just because every other president in my lifetime has been a liar is no reason to assume the new one is until he proves otherwise.

Besides, you don't have another horse in this argument. Make peace with Obama as best you can because you can't get rid of him before 2012.

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 10, 2009 03:21 PM

Not Exactly: I'm kind of sick of it, especially when i'm ducking boulders instead of stones (not you throwing them Duncan, that i can remember).

I'm genuinely sorry if I hurt your feelings, NE; as with my other comments and the other posting I referred you to, you're just misunderstanding my meaning. At the same time, though, I hope you see that it's pretty ironic to protest terms like "straw men" and "sarcasm" in a comment that includes both of them.

Also, my mention of "divergent views" wasn't meant as a swipe at you—I didn't mean my views were right and yours were wrong (though obviously I adopt the views that I think have merit, like you or anyone else). In fact I wasn't even speaking generally, but just about the posting I referred you to, which—for whatever reason—you're completely misreading.

Finally, I'd suggest that if you really are interested in substantive debate, maybe "Oh please. I'm going to spare everyone what i think about that" isn't the best way to begin.

Posted by John Caruso at June 10, 2009 03:43 PM

mark g.: My default position is to trust, then verify. Verification I'm not worried about...

then your default position is actually trust.

yeah, if you want to take on the tobacco lobby, put philip morris in charge of the FDA. always works. bush seemed to agree with. henry paulson really stuck it to Big Finance.

Posted by anonymous at June 10, 2009 03:54 PM

In the interests of fairness,there are a couple of people who I respect a lot who think Obama's speech did have merit. Here's one--

Tony Karon

And here's another--

Empire notes

Posted by Donald Johnson at June 10, 2009 04:34 PM

I have constructed a Not Exactly-bot. Here is its robotic reply to everyone:

I know you are, but what am I?
I know you are, but what am I?
I know you are, but what am I?
INFINITY!

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 10, 2009 05:19 PM

I know that if you want to slap Israel back into line you hire someone like Rahm Emanuel.

Yes, and if you want to stop serial killing, you resurrect Ed Gein, Jeff Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Dean Corll, Gary Ridgeway, and about 170 other American serial killers, and create yourself an army who will save us all from serial killers.

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

Nicely done Giselson, you have an impeccable sense of inverted reality.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 10, 2009 05:23 PM

Mr. Seis-Olla, your brashness isn't impressing anybody.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 10, 2009 07:57 PM

How ironic you would accuse me of brashness. Seems to me the brash disregard for reality is in the minds and keyboards of "Not Exactly" and Mr Giselson.

But if you wish to distort things, that's your privilege I suppose. I mean, you may as well. Reality's been twisted well beyond fact by NE and Giselson, you should feel right at home in their company.

I'm not the least bit impressed with your poorly aimed accusations. And, I don't much care to "impress" anyone myself. I'm not sure why you'd assume I'm trying to be "impressive." I'm just being factual and honest. That bothers you?

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 10, 2009 08:34 PM

The derision from Donald Johnson was worth the effort. I thought I had to give credit where credit was due. I reject the notion that EVERY politician who desired Capitol Hill or the White House EXCLUSIVELY pursued it for his or her own gain.

At the same time, I don't think their efforts are best utilized there.

I'm going to give Steve this one. There's a reason why the actions of United State's earliest Presidents were mere footnotes in history books. Its because thats how the Presidency was designed.

The growing "executive" power of the presidency was just an illusion. It was always supposed to be subordinate.

The fact that Emperor Hirohito never really had any power was a well-known fact, there is convincing evidence Stalin was murdered by the KGB. Even Hitler knew what his "power" really meant when Albert Speer, his minister, refused to implement the Nero Decree. Such is the limits of power.

Obama cannot use the Complex's resources for good. Infact, I would say it would be unjust to the Complex that a President seeks the office to bring justice to the world. Thats not what Goldman Sachs paid him to do :).

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 10, 2009 08:54 PM

Well, alright. I'm sorry for the label.

Honestly though, I don't think ad hominem attacks should belong in the highest forms of discourse.

IMO, the only types who think so must have a low self-concept, have no argument and/or are of questionable moral fiber.

If you have to attack something, don't attack the person, attack the idea.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 10, 2009 09:10 PM

John Caruso:

Don't worry, you just pissed me off. i'm over it . you're obviously one of the good guys, so keep on with it.

you're absolutely right that i shouldn't have said "oh please i'll spare you what i think about that." I should have just said i disagreed with that post and reiterated again that the first one was great. On the other hand, i actually was going to have that "oh please" be my whole commentary until i got the condescendingly dismissive charge. The rest is a microspec of blog history and was, of course, a stupid waste of time and energy, though maybe it's a destresser or something. hell if i know.

i do remember why your first post was effective for me, and why it was a great post.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 10, 2009 09:19 PM

AND he's a Chicago Politician, there's always that. If ONLY he had been Governor of Illnois first WE'ed KNOW FOR SURE he belongs in prison, but since he was ONLY a Senator its all up in the air.

Posted by Mike Meyer at June 10, 2009 10:26 PM

Nikolay Levin:

I think you're right that it's suspected that beria poisoned Stalin at the end, but what would you expect him to do, knowing what had happened to kirov and kamenev and zinoviev and trotsky and marshall tukhachevsky and on and on and on. yo'd have to have pretty good nerves to keep working close to stalin without trying to slip him an extra couple of pills, given his history of turning on subordinates. i don't think that means stalin was weak, just old and on the way out.

simon sebag montefiore has a very interesting book published recently called "young stalin" that examines his early career. it surprised me. he was pretty handsome, a ladies man, not at all just the bureaucrat trotsky depicted, a little more literary and intellectual than i would have guessed (though by no means a scholar), was on the rothschild payroll with regard to their baku oil fields at various times (that really caught my eye), was a tremendous natural leader, including of brigands, and generally one hell of a charming and skillful operator. oh yes, what wasn't surprising, he was a ruthless killer.

stalin's early years in the great oil town of baku caught my eye especially because what was going on there all the way up through WWII involves the control of oil so intensively, what with the brits trying to split the ussr in two at that time to control baku after WWI in addition to grabbing the middle east at versailles, and standard oil was trying to block all those brit moves. (not many people seem to know that about 15 million people died in the civil war in the ussr after WWI, with the brits playing the leading foreign role, though the u.s. was in it for a while too). there was some real tension between the brit imperial faction and the us imperial faction in the 20s, both of which were dominated by oil interests. i am speculating wildly and irresponsibly on this one, but i wouldn't be surprised if some US corporate interests had a little to do with stalin's success against trotsky. i know the elite approved of the outcome there. stalin only became a villain later, much like saddam, when times and circumstances changed.

in any case oil and turmoil in central asia is where we are again. i have a different view than marc G of why we're in afghanistan, of course, since i think the war on terror was at the outset a scam. even to the extent it's not a scam now (once you start torturing muslims randomly and sending them to guantanamo you get one), i don't think that what's going on in iraq and afghanistan has all that much to do with terrorism. (weapons of mass destruction yes, because the gulf isn't that big and a few nukes shot a couple hundred miles could really make a mess). i think it's about keeping the world stable so our commercial interests are protected.

your point about speer and the nero decree is interesting too, but like in the case of stalin, i wouldn't draw the conclusion that it meant hitler had limited power in general. it doesn't surprise me that speer wasn't willing to follow that order with the war on the eve of ending with germany's loss. the power of defeated leaders is limited. (the books about hitler by sebastian haffner are spectacularly good, by the way. for me they made much clear that hadn't been clear.).

the paradox i see in executive power in the u.s. now is that it is simultaneously broader than ever but also more constrained than ever. it's broader than ever because of the expansion of the national security state and the development of the unitary executive doctrine, which is a nice term for fascism.

it's more constrained than ever because a President finds himself with so few politically viable ways to extricate himself from imperial commitments. i mean, do we ever give up bases? We have to stay EVERYWHERE or all hell will supposedly break lose. if we leave korea, we might get a war there. we can't leave japan or they will rearm to protect themselves from china. if we don't occupy everything in and around the gulf, we'll lose control of that powder keg, and we can't abandon israel or it might end up using some of its nukes (plus, there's no way saudi arabia can continue as it is indefinitely). central asia is where the most remaining carbon resources in the world might be, so we can't just let china and russia and india and iran get together and control that. So we just have to keep everything and spend spend spend expand expand expand.

this is probably not going to work out in the longer term. we are on a train headed for a canyon and the bridge is out. our government is just going to keep getting more and more "unitary" to keep the train going and try to repair the bridge, but the bridge is going to keep falling apart. It has to, because we don't any longer have the resources to fix it properly and maintain it, and the train is still moving toward it. this strikes me as being almost scientifically inevitable. but i might just be gloomy.

so presidents are in a pickle. Like we do, they see more and more evidence of what a mess we are in because of our own power--i.e., the responsibilities of being the world's indispensable nation--but if they try to do anything about this mess they create of tensions in the national security establishment and generate anxiety and opposition. and they end up facing very hard political problems and real skullduggery, including the very real prospect of violence if they put their political agenda ahead of the national security interests of the country.

so Pesidents can and do in a weird way end up the most powerful man in the country, but unable to do a damn thing. This reminds me of Warren Harding, because even then the die had been cast. On his last train trip acorss the country in the summer of 1923, before he got out to alaska and came down with fatal ptomaine poisoning or something like that, he wistfully told a train conductor in Kansas that people really misunderstood what he could and couldn't do as President. They just thought he had more control of things than he did. This is reported in a 1923 NY times article that you can pull up in any public library through the NYTImes archive, by the way. As i recall, though i haven't looked at it recently, harding (a very ambiable man) told the conductor that he envied him for being able to actually drive the train. he would really like to do that, he said. And in fact Harding trying to take control of his Presidency too, but he got a bad supper at the end of that trip that killed him instead, and Sinclair and Doheny and Secretary Fall, completely corrupted by the oil lobby, and maybe even some folks at Standard Oil breathed a big sigh of relief.

every president at some point really wants to drive that train.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 11, 2009 12:56 AM

NE: "You view seems to be that everyone loves obama even if they in fact criticize him, and you don't actually have any reason to think he's corruptible even before he entered the Senate despite your earlier statement that you suspected he was."

Um, no. My view is certainly not that "everyone loves obama even if they in fact criticize him"; my view is that some people love obama and will not countenance any criticismm of him that goes beyond what they are willing to offer. I was explicit that I was talking about Obama fans, not "everybody." Not everybody here is an Obama fan, hadn't you noticed? The fact that you can't tell the difference says a lot about you, as does the "Oh please" remark that John and others rightly pointed out. Specifically, it shows that you are misrepresenting the positions you're attacking.

As I said, the criticisms of Obama you'll find on this site are not nebulous or vague, they are specific. As for the "corruption" question, others have partially answered that: Obama took large amounts of campaign money from certain industries (banking, insurance, etc.) whose interests he has done far more to protect and advance since he took office (and even before -- he voted for the bailout last fall) than he has done to protect the interests of all the small donors that have been so loudly touted as his grass roots base. His cabinet reflects the same interests he protects so assiduously. The few exceptions, mainly Hilda Solis, have been undercut (his backing down on the Employee Free Choice Act, for example). If you compare his conduct with his rhetoric even in his first book, you can see that this is not from ignorance. He has chosen to throw in his lot with the rich, the powerful, the corrupt. I have not seen any evidence that he has kept himself pure while doing so. Hence, I consider him corrupt. It's not a secret change, it has happened in full public view. I think it takes considerable memory control to ignore it. Clearly, with your high IQ, you have such control.

Posted by Duncan at June 11, 2009 03:48 AM

Death to the white hegemony.

Posted by jim at June 11, 2009 06:37 AM

Duncan:

i just haven't seen anybody on this site say anything like they love obama, but you know, maybe i missed it

as for what you quoted, i said that because you said something that looked to me like people didn't need to say they love obama for you to conclude they do because it's so pervasive or something like that. i accept your explanation of what you meant. whatever you said is posted there somewhere and it's no big deal anyway. i began by asking for information because sometimes people have information in mind when they say something, sometimes a more general impression. unless i trust someone from some past experience, a general impression isn't worth much to me. as someone pointed out on this site recently, and i thought it was funny, neither one of us can be sure we aren't actually communicating with a dog. Woof!

thanks for thinking i'm a bright fella, even if i got that little bit praise only as part of being told i'm a victim of memory control. i'll take what i can get, but memory control?

i certainly agree with you obama "has chosen to throw in his lot with the rich, the powerful, and the corrupt" and that he hasn't remained pure in doing so. he's definitely no community organizer any more. and he hasn't done all the things i'd like. like Marc G., i have a hard time evaluating what he's done in comparison to what he could have done. i just don't know enough. if that makes me an obamamaniac, so be it. seems weird to me, but whatever.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 11, 2009 07:48 AM

NE, I never said we should be in Afghanistan. I was blogging at City Pages during the run up to war and was a constant critic. Then again I was the first person to (in print) call for Al Franken to run for our Senate seat so that shows I don't always get things right.

My point was that once some jackass leaves you with a war, things are different because you now own the consequences of pulling out without a properly established government in place (sadly lacking now in both Iraq and Afghanistan).

Had you asked, I would have told you I favor ceding most of Iraq to Iran as I view Iran as an overall benificent force in the Middle East albeit temporarily governed by religious bigots. And yes, I agree that we went to war with Afghanistan for an oil pipeline.

Such is the curse of being a "realist" in a room full of idealists -- not that I am complaining. I enjoy the posts here very much, if not always the comments. But at the end of the day Obama will still be President, and none of you will have any real power, any more than I have any. That is the basis of my realism.

I'm not cheering for Obama, I am hoping for Obama because if he doesn't do it, it won't get done. I don't fault anyone for being less than thrilled to date, but I think many here fail to accept the difficulty of making changes to an empire. The consequences of trying and failing is the lesson of Jimmy Carter.

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 11, 2009 08:15 AM

NE, let's suppose that obama "really wants", say openly gay people in the military, but feels, rightly or wrongly, that an executive order would be disruptive.

he can always get on the teevee and say this. "i want to do x...by y is preventing it." ie, in this case, military brass, religio-types, etc. he could say the US military already has "gays" in it, to whatever degree it's interoperable w/NATO, etc., so what's the big deal?

why doesn't he? b/c to do so would be too revealing of the actual power relations of this country.

POTUS is not their to badmouth those powers. he's there to fellate them.

Posted by anonymous at June 11, 2009 08:16 AM

I am hoping for Obama because if he doesn't do it, it won't get done.

Well then, we truly are fucked.

Posted by SteveB at June 11, 2009 09:18 AM


I pulled the following from an article from the always terrific Paul Street...who, to me, is the most accurate and devastating critic of Obama I've read ...I've mentioned his book on Obama in the past...It is highly recommended.

This is a nice little list of Obama's actions so far...with more to come no doubt.Tony

There has been a lot of left-wing teeth-gnashing over the policies of the United States' fake-progressive president Barack Obama. Left-progressives' anger with the Obama administration is understandable given the new White House's actions to (for example):

* Significantly expand the reach and intensity of imperial violence (replete with the mass slaughter of civilians and the related escalation of targeted assassinations) in South Asia.

* Promote a notorious assassin and death-squad leader (Lt. General Stanley A McChrystal - former chief of the military's special Joint Special Operations Command) to the position of Commander of U.S. Forces in the newly merged "Af-Pak" war theater. [1]

* Sustain the criminal occupation of Iraq beneath rhetoric of withdrawal. [2]

* Increase "defense" (empire) spending, consistent with the following statement in a report issued by the leading Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley one day after Obama's presidential election victory: "As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend."[3]

* Revive military commissions.

* Continue the practice of renditions.

* Maintain secret prisons for persons "held on a short-term, transitory basis."

* Continue the unspeakable torture of prisoners by an "extrajudicial terror squad" (Jeremy Scahill's description of the Pentagon's sadistic "Immediate Reaction Force" in Cuba) at Guantanamo Bay. [4]

* Advance the policy of "indefinite detention" (potentially permanent incarceration) for Guantanamo prisoners for whom no legally compelling evidence can be marshaled.

* Intimidate England (with a threat to withhold intelligence data on potential terrorist attacks!) into preventing a Guantanamo victim from having his day in court on the Bush administration's torture practices. [5]

* Sustain the Bush administration's abrogation of habeas corpus rights in regard to the roughly 600 "enemy combatants" kept at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (where people rendered out of other countries like Yemen and England can be considered "war [-zone]" prisoners!. [6]

* Advance nauseatingly specious legal and moral arguments ("better to look forward than backward") to prevent serious federal investigation of the Bush administration's human rights crimes.

* Sustain George W. Bush's domestic wiretapping program.

* Invoke the "state secrets" (akin to the divine right of kings) doctrine to prevent disclosure of evidence in response to lawsuits emerging from Bush era rendition and surveillance policies.

* Suppress photographic evidence of U.S. torture practices.

* Justify all this and more in the name of the supposed "global war on terror" that was supposedly launched in legitimate defense against the supposedly unprovoked jetliner attacks of September 11, 2001.

* Disregard qualified progressive defenders of civil liberties and human rights from consideration for appointment to succeed Supreme Justice David H. Souter and to thereby counter the hard right leanings of the court's conservative majority. [7]

* Send clear signals of intent to roll back and partially privatize Social Security and Medicare benefits.

* Betray campaign pledges to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to insert stronger labor and environmental protections. [7A]

* Betray campaign pledges of serious intent to advance an elementary and overdue labor law reform (the Employee Free Choice Act).

* Force and approve an automobile industry re-structuring that drastically cuts domestic autoworkers' jobs, wages and benefits while subsidizing General Motors' further shifting of jobs abroad. [8]

* Advance a tepid, business-friendly health care "reform" that leaves the leading parasitic insurance corporations (major campaign sponsors of his) in power.

* "Methodically erase single-payer advocates from the picture" (Glen Ford) of health care reform despite the fact that a majority of Americans have long favored a single-payer ("Medicare for all") health insurance system. [9]

* Spend trillions of federal dollars on taxpayer handouts to giant Wall Street firms who spent millions on his campaign and who drove the economy over the cliff. Obama's Wall Street bailout rejects the elementary bank nationalizations and public financial restructuring that are required to put the nation's credit system on a sound and socially responsible basis, choosing instead to guarantee the financial, insurance, and real estate industries' toxic, hyper-inflated assets while keeping existing Wall Street management in place. It amounts to a giant effort to "keep perpetrators afloat" (liberal economist James Gailbraith) through a scheme in which the government takes more than 90 percent of the risk but private investors reap at least half the reward.

I could go on. It's not a pretty story. And it's only going to get worse.

Posted by tony at June 11, 2009 09:41 AM

Nikolay Levin, it's annoying to me that you keep accusing me of doing something I am simply not doing. In fact, if we were face to face, you'd have a bloody nose now, because you are dishonest and pretending to be serious about your dishonesty. There isn't much that's more annoying than being accused of doing something I'm not doing.

I haven't attacked any PERSON, Nikolay Levin. I haven't even attacked an e-person.

I am attacking ideas, posted by supposed people, using e-handles on an e-forum.

That you consider my incisive remarks to be attacking people? Idiotic. Punching someone in the face, that's attacking a person. Poking holes in a person's posts? That's attacking a post, attacking a communique. This should not be a problem for you, unless your aim is to discredit me with lies.

Which is what you are trying here.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 11, 2009 10:28 AM

Abe Foxman is proud of Not Exactly. So is Rahm Emanuel. Seriously, it's like Israel speaks through Not Exactly, and it's as if the Democratic Leadership Council speaks through Not Exactly.

I bet it is a well-paying gig. It reminds me of used car sales -- nice profit if you're willing to lie your ass off with a poker face.

Startling as hell that Not Exactly is defended by Nikolay Levin, is it? Startling? No, not startling. Predictable. Levin is another fraud masquerading as a concerned "liberal". In the halcyon days of Donkey Disaffection (circa 2000-2004), people who posted such tripe from a perspective that criticized Democrats were called "concern trolls" at the usual Donkeybot outlets like Digbyland, Smirking Chimp, Daily Kos, Eschaton, HuffPo. You couldn't raise an honest observation about Donkey complicity without being labelled a "concern troll."

And how ironic that Nikolay Levin and Not Exactly would be playing concern trolling for all it's worth here at Schwarz's place.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 11, 2009 10:36 AM

Giselson argues for immediate suicide:

Such is the curse of being a "realist" in a room full of idealists -- not that I am complaining. I enjoy the posts here very much, if not always the comments. But at the end of the day Obama will still be President, and none of you will have any real power, any more than I have any. That is the basis of my realism.

The old "inevitability" argument, eh?

Well, Giselson. We're all mortal. We're all going to die. We don't have the power to change that. Might as well accept our inevitable death. Why not just hasten it, get the inevitable done and past? Yeah, let's all drink some Jim Jones Juice! That's REALISM for ya!

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 11, 2009 10:40 AM

JS-O, there is nothing inevitable about a four-year term as President, but unless you're proposing a von Brunn solution I don't understand your point.

You don't make peace with the President you wish you had, you make peace with the President you have.

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 11, 2009 11:01 AM

You don't make peace with the President you wish you had, you make peace with the President you have.

And you were saying this in December of 2004, right?

Or maybe you weren't? Maybe you decided not to make peace with the President you had? If so, what did you do? And looking back, was any of what you did worthwhile?

I'm not being snarky, I'm genuinely interested in how you spend your time in between presidential elections.

Posted by SteveB at June 11, 2009 12:57 PM

Marc G:

You seem pretty sharp to me. I wasn't meaning to trash you, if that's how it came off. i actually don't think somebody disagreeing with me about one policy or another is so bad, which would be ridiculous since i change my own mind from time to time, and you're certainly not obnoxious or preachy or full of yourself or dumb, and my impression from what you said is you think fairly carefully and honestly and have something to say. with regard to a lot of this stuff, i thought you were right in saying that we're all just guessing as best we can. i certainly don't think it's gullible to take a different view of the war on terror than i do and didn't intend to sound like i thought you were naive or anything, let alone condemn your foreign policy views. my view that the war on terror is a fraud pretty much reduces me to political irrelevance, but i don't care because it has to stop and eventually there should be a tipping point about that, even if it isn't in my lifetime. but only if people actually quit accepting it as a taboo to think that, because that's really the biggest impediment.

as for how to get out of iraq and afghanistan responsibly, that would be a problem if the military would allow it at all, but i can't get past that first problem. i don't think they're planning on going anywhere even if they say they are. i think they say that for the same reason that the health insurers get interested in reforming health care whenever a movement builds up to make them do it--it gets everyone to back off and leave them alone. then they go back what they were doing. so if we get the military to leave iraq and afghanistan, which won't be easy, i think they'll find a way to do it responsibly. they'll say they can't, but i'm skeptical about that. they aren't going to let the world crumble unless some catastrophe brings the roof down on us all. In the US, no one has the power to force change that radical and unanticipated on the military. i'm really not sure anyone has enough power to make them do a damn thing, to tell you the truth. certainly nothing i've heard lately has filled me with confidence.

i definitely believe that i am, like you, considered an "obamamaniac" because i don't join the chorus against him and have the audacity to be unpersauded by the majority about him on this site. that doesn't mean i'm sure he's doing the right thing, but like you, i'm not sure he isn't doing what he can. and like you, i think posting and reading posts interesting even if ridiculous sometimes. some of my reasons for not being absolutely disgusted with obama are very similar to yours, others less so, and i do agree with you that he is what we have and we'll find out more in the next year.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 11, 2009 02:23 PM

Tony:

Do you know who Paul Street supported for President (if anyone)?

Posted by Not Exactly at June 11, 2009 02:36 PM

NE,

I believe he worked for John Edwards, but I am not sure about that..he wrote a very strong analysis of Edwards pointing out Edward's commitment to "Empire and Inequality" which is available for viewing at znet...as to actually voting I dont really know...he is more committed to movement building than corporate crafted and funded election extravaganzas which don't have much to do with democracy.

The article I pulled the quotes from is long but also excellent and worth reading since its main points are how the left can use the Obama election as a teaching tool to build a left based movement for change, One example: since the word socialism is back in vogue we on the left can give a true understanding to those who want to know what it actually means, not corporate back bailouts that keep power and wealth and decision making in the hands of corporate america and so on..

you can ask him who he supported for president yourself at the bottom of the article where you can ask him questions. But by all means read the article....-Tony


http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/21576

Posted by tony at June 11, 2009 03:27 PM

Tony:

I certainly think a left movement is necessary and sorely lacking. i read an excellent little book by a chicago labor lawyer named tom geoghegan called the law in shambles about how the real problem with america is what happens to ordinary people in the courts (after it has happened elsewhere). and i think there's a lot of truth to it. (geoghegan ran for rahm emmanuel's seat this year and lost in the primary). working people are very unprotected in our society and that needs to change and obama was right as a candidate when he said change comes from the bottom up and paul street is right to push for that.

But i don't think it's odd, as street does, that obama doesn't talk about change coming from the bottom up when he's president. that to me would sound like he's not going to work for change, because he now is the top. it's no longer appropriate for him to say that. but it doesn't matter. if you create pressure and change does come from the bottom, as we seem to agree it does, then obama will have to respond to it. you don't have to support him. i'm not saying you should. obviously he got all that wall street money for a reason, and he doesn't really represent your beliefs. (whether he represents his own beliefs is a weird question we can skip) all i've ever been trying to say is don't mistake what the real problem is, or presume that he's got bad intentions because he's in a position in which there are really serious limitations on what he can do. but i'm not even sure that recognition needs to affect you much. so go for it--work for the good and apply pressure. if you want to hate him at the same time, i guess it doesn't really matter. i certainly don't really care. it remains to be seen what he'll do in the white house.

thanks for the link

Posted by Not Exactly at June 11, 2009 06:47 PM

Last time I checked calling someone a "bot" was an ad-hominem attack.

"An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. The process of proving or disproving the claim is thereby subverted, and the argumentum ad hominem works to change the subject.
It is most commonly used to refer specifically to the ad hominem as abusive, sexist, racist, or argumentum ad personam, which consists of criticizing or attacking the person who proposed the argument (personal attack) in an attempt to discredit the argument."

-Refrence.com

Speaking of e-forums, I have a feeling that you wouldn't call someone that to their face. Its easy to be internet tough guy, especially anonymously.

But thats a lie isn't it?

Can't break it down any further, so I won't.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 11, 2009 07:54 PM

Mark Gisleson: "My default position is to trust, then verify. Verification I'm not worried about (time will tell) and just because every other president in my lifetime has been a liar is no reason to assume the new one is until he proves otherwise."

Well, Obama has lied, so there's no need to assume. Just one example: on the campaign trail last September he told an audience that the Bush-Paulson-Obama-McCain bailout plan was "not just throwing money at the banks." So you can stop trusting him now.

Not Exactly: "you said something that looked to me like people didn't need to say they love obama for you to conclude they do because it's so pervasive or something like that." Straw man. You need to look a little harder. And do you really think that we can only conclude that someone loves Obama because they say so explicitly? Of course, it's quite possible that these people don't love Obama; what is visible to the reader is that they will not countenance any criticism of him. Any criticism of what he's doing shows that the critic wants perfection, wants him to solve all the world's problems in a few months, won't wait until the god-king reveals his secret plans, doesn't trust Obama, hates Obama, etc. These are not arguments. Neither is the claim that Obama's critics are blaming him not for what he has done, but for what (they think) he should have done, and they don't know what he could have done. I don't know what he could have done either, but I know what he has done. (Tony provided a handy list.) After all, as SteveB pointed out, Bush's lib/prog/Dem critics never extended such consideration to him -- they didn't make do with the President they had. (Though it must be remembered that the Democrats did exactly that: even after they gained control of Congress in 2006 they went on collaborating slavishly with Bush.)

Also, I don't assume, as so many of Obama's defenders do, that Obama's critics are simply snarking at him and sitting back doing nothing until the Perfect President comes along. That's what Obama's defenders want them to do, I bet, but in fact, many of Obama's critics are taking their dissatisfaction into activism, throwing a fine monkey wrench into his corporate-welfare healthcare "reform" plans and demanding that single-payer at least be considered and discussed. That's real grass-roots work, and it's annoying Obama's partisans no end.

Posted by Duncan at June 11, 2009 09:15 PM


NE,

I certainly think a left movement is necessary and sorely lacking.

this is how real change will come...not from corporate backed and paid for presidential candidates...so yes we agree on this.

i read an excellent little book by a chicago labor lawyer named tom geoghegan called the law in shambles about how the real problem with america is what happens to ordinary people in the courts

ordinary people is another way of saying the population....yes, the population is usually getting screwed in way or another by politicos and so on....

(after it has happened elsewhere). and i think there's a lot of truth to it. (geoghegan ran for rahm emmanuel's seat this year and lost in the primary). working people are very unprotected in our society and that needs to change and obama was right as a candidate when he said change comes from the bottom up and paul street is right to push for that.

Well yes...that is just another example of Obama adopting popular rhetoric while running for president...yes we should push him but if he really believed in it then he would act upon it...he doesn't.


But i don't think it's odd, as street does, that obama doesn't talk about change coming from the bottom up when he's president. that to me would sound like he's not going to work for change, because he now is the top. it's no longer appropriate for him to say that. but it doesn't matter. if you create pressure and change does come from the bottom, as we seem to agree it does, then obama will have to respond to it.


Thats true..if there is a strong enough movement for change then the powers that be will have to act upon it...thats why I dont waste my time on electoral politics...it fruitless in my opinion as far as change is concerned....movements cause change, not heroes entering the white house.

you don't have to support him. i'm not saying you should. obviously he got all that wall street money for a reason, and he doesn't really represent your beliefs.

That's correct...but my beliefs are shared by the majority of the population on issue after issue.... so to say Obama does not represent my beliefs is to also to say Obama does not represent the beliefs of the population which is true....why should he?

(whether he represents his own beliefs is a weird question we can skip) all i've ever been trying to say is don't mistake what the real problem is, or presume that he's got bad intentions because he's in a position in which there are really serious limitations on what he can do. but i'm not even sure that recognition needs to affect you much. so go for it--work for the good and apply pressure. if you want to hate him at the same time, i guess it doesn't really matter. i certainly don't really care. it remains to be seen what he'll do in the white house.

We've seen plenty already...I gave a list of what he has already done and yes the situation will only get worse...as far as hating him or not thats a non issue...he is what he is...a corporate neoliberal firmly committed to Empire and inequality-to use Streets words-and we should see him as such..he will act to preserve and expand the interests of wealth and power...how could it be otherwise? If he didnt do this he would not be president.-Tony

thanks for the link

Posted by tony at June 11, 2009 10:22 PM

Not Exactly, it seems that much of the Soviet establishment was well in agreement that Stalin needed to go. Of course, not because of his Purges or mass arrests. No, not at all.

If Stalin seemed to be mentally unstable before, provoking nuclear war with America had to be the zenith of his insanity. According to Russian historian Edvard Radzinski part of his plan was likely to send Jews to concentration camps to trigger the conflict.

Though there is some evidence suggesting that Stalin's own guards' testified of a stand down (Hello JFK) and of people reporting seeing buses and special barnhouses that would be used to temporarily cart the Jews, the most convincing piece of evidence is what the establishment did with his legacy.

Lenin was responsible for the deaths of thousands! His Cheka police killed countless Social Democrats and other "enemies of the revolution", his policies starved the people and overall he was almost responsible for the collapse of the Union itself...

And yet the establishment worshiped him.

Stalin dragged the country kicking and screaming into the industrialist age, created a strong security establishment and centralized more power than the Politburo had ever known.

And how did they reward him?

By belittling his accomplishments, demolishing his statues and re-burying him outside the Kremlin Wall.

One has to know which side of their bread is buttered, my friend.

I'm sure a good biography of Hitler mentions the assassination attempt on Hitler by his own "subordinates".

When the Roman "Republic" became imperialistic, assassinations were so common, a Tiberius AND Caligula were assassinated in SUCCESSIVE administrations.

I am reminded of the movie Scarface, the controversial movie the MPAA only allowed when they were convinced the movie depicted the reality of the of the drug underworld.

LOPEZ
Y'know I told you when you started Tony, the guys who last in this business are guys who fly straight, real low key, real quiet.. -the guys who
want it all,...they don't last.

Indeed.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 12, 2009 03:04 AM

PEZ
Y'know I told you when you started Tony, the guys who last in this business are guys who fly straight, real low key, real quiet.. -the guys who
want it all,...they don't last.

Indeed.

Does this refer to me? I dont understand what it means if it does? If not, no need to reply.-Tony

Posted by tony at June 12, 2009 08:21 AM

That text should be published in all so-called "liberal" mainstream media.
That piece of John Caruso is very inspired, and efficiently shows for everybody to see what some of us (progressives and neocons alike) long knew: Obama is nothing more than the knew face of mercyless imperialism, a king of doublespeak and a ruthless lier and opportunist.

Posted by christian at June 12, 2009 08:46 AM

Nikolay Levin:

Interesting stuff about Stalin. I haven't read or heard of Radzinski's book, so i just looked it up. I'll try to get a copy, but i'm more than a little skeptical. If Stalin was trying to provoke an all-out war with the u.s. in the early 50s, he certainly was insane, because the ussr would have been obliterated. Eisenhower himself remarked in 1953 that they must be scared out of their minds, such was the huge advantage we had in nukes. And the army was full of generals clammoring to use them too. but maybe stalin was out of his mind by then and had lost his cunning. i'll check out radzinski's book. i certainly have no problem believing Stalin was capable of mass murder. he proved that well enough.

lenin was obviously brutal too, and thousands is probably a pretty low count of the deaths he caused, but so were the whites and the foreign armies so it gets hard for me to figure out how unnecessarily bloodthirsty he was. i just haven't looked into that enough.

you don't need to read sebastian haffner to know about the july 20 plot against hitler, or indeed earlier schemes. you can even see the tom cruise movie released this year, not that anyone should believe movies. you're right that even modern dictators have to keep their eyes open.

i think half or maybe even more of the roman emperors were assassinated. certainly a big percentage, and many deaths aren't explained.

stalin did industrialize the ussr, and very rapidly too. he predicted in 1928 that they better be quick about it too, or they would be destroyed. that looks prescient, in retrospect, but obviously he was doing it all more for his own good than the good of the country, or he wouldn't have purged the whole red army officer corps in 1937. the only excuse for that was keeping power in his own hands, perhaps becaause heydrich convinced him that marshall tukhachevsky was a traitor, but in any case you don't ruin your army on the eve of a looming world war if you're a patriot.

so i definitely plan to keep an eye on my buttered bread.

Posted by Not Exactly at June 12, 2009 12:04 PM

Many up-thread commenters have praised Caruso's final paragraph. Here it is:

One can only hope that some day these people will embrace the habit of skepticism for all politicians, not just the ones on the other side, and finally and fully accept that fine words alone mean nothing at all—no matter who speaks them.

Two thoughts. Caruso here invokes a bare platitutde to convey a deeper message which lay beneath the mere 'fine words' he uses. What is that message? Not that skepticism of the claims made by 'our side' is also justified - that's the fine words part. Rather, Caruso implies that a critical evaluation of Obama's words/actions will reveal that his policies are indistinguishable from Bush's. He is (like Bush) a ruthless corporate imperialist militarist unitari-executivist. Well, perhaps.

But is it true that 'fine words alone mean nothing at all'? I think that words alone can sometimes mean a great deal. According to Caruso, Obama's claims during the campaign and while in office are perhaps nothing but fine words. But as a result of those words, health care reform, global warming, a two state solution in I/P, etc., are all part of our everyday political discourse. Calls for major reform hardly seem consistent with preserving the corporatist status quo.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that populism will triumph over corporatism/etc. here. But progressives - by definition - aren't radicals, and incremental change in the right direction is progress nonetheless, and a change in discourse can sometimes be sufficient for a change in policy. Thus, the words alone can matter.

Even if Obama fails to achieve (or never had any intention of achieving) any of these policy goals, however, there is - as a result of those 'fine words' - a general clamoring from the citizenry for real change in these areas. Now, the cynical will claim that any policy changes that result from this clamoring (if/when they occur) will serve, and preserve, the corporatist/militarist/imperialist/unitari-ist status quo. But this argument is quite clearly circular: it's main premise is that only policies which serve the status quo are ever enacted. More importantly is that it the claim is true, it reduces to a tautology, and is therefore explanatorily meaningless. Since (on this account) all policy choices serve corporate/imperial power, why would one alternative be chosen over another? Because it best serves C/I power? Here, the classical political lines can be drawn: because it favors special interest groups, overall equity, fairness, long-term as opposed to short term considerations, etc.

Perhaps more to the point with respect to Caruso is that, it seems to me, he is guilty of a different form of naivete than he is observing in others: believing that there can be no real difference between the institutional policy constraints imposed on the office of the President and the idiosyncratic policies advocated by the person who occupies that office. Caruso's view of US Presidents appears to be that they are merely 'salesmen for American empire and corporate capitalism'.

In Obama's case, this seems a stretch. The mere suggestion of a public option health plan contradicts this view (unless you say, as per tautology, that this policy does in fact serve corporate power), but so do other of Obama's policy proposals. As another example, consider Obama's call for a halt in settlement construction in the occupied territories. The suggestion that this policy serves 'American empire and corporate capitalism' in the way Caruso intends those words to be understood seems confused (or at least conspiratorial) given that the same was presumably true of the prior policy allowing settlement expansion. But more to the point, that Obama proposed this particular policy (as opposed to its opposite) highlights the fact that the individual views of the President (on how best to serve empire and capitalism) actually do matter, and can differ wildly between Presidents.

Posted by scudbucket at June 12, 2009 03:31 PM

NE, I was never under the impresion you were criticizing me. In any event I spent most of the '70s as a union steward in the world's largest tire factory where my nickname was MF. (It's really, really hard to hurt my feelings, as you might have guessed if you looked at my blog.)

Posted by Mark Gisleson at June 12, 2009 03:32 PM

No Tony, you just share the name of the tragic anti-hero Tony Montana played by Al Pacino. The scene I was referring to is when Tony's boss and drug kingpin Frank fatefully warns Tony about the dangers of ambition.

Ironically, thats what the Reichstag and Politburo feared most. Turn the state into a banana republic? I can see the leadership not minding that. Expecting an establishment to fight to the death for a political idealogy, not so much.

Anyhow, although the Army purge was crude and downright evil, one-third of the victims were simply political commissars. Another third were just NKVD officials. Although, I'm quite sure that most of the statesman thought even of the military the way Henry Kissinger did.

Yes, I'm not praising the Georgian at all. Remember that his "reforms" were, believe it or not, never the issue at all..

...Stains deathwish was.

But thats my grand total of two cents for you.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 12, 2009 04:08 PM

"As another example, consider Obama's call for a halt in settlement construction in the occupied territories. The suggestion that this policy serves 'American empire and corporate capitalism' in the way Caruso intends those words to be understood seems confused..."

Posted by scudbucket at June 12, 2009 03:31 PM

"I think the wall is a problem. And I discussed this with Ariel Sharon. It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank."

This wall is being built along the 1949 Armistice "Green Line" which, nevertheless is STILL in internationally recognized Arab territory.

You don't really need to guess the status of the wall.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 12, 2009 04:40 PM

scudbucket: Rather, Caruso implies that a critical evaluation of Obama's words/actions will reveal that his policies are indistinguishable from Bush's. He is (like Bush) a ruthless corporate imperialist militarist unitari-executivist.

Nope, you're reading far more into it than I intended (a common occurrence in this thread). "Fine words alone mean nothing at all" means just what it would seem to mean: that actions speak louder than words. The key word there is "alone" (which was intended to echo the "his words aren't matched by his actions" in the preceding paragraph).

I think that words alone can sometimes mean a great deal.

I'd agree; I was formulating a general statement (albeit in a specific sphere), and in a case like that there are always going to be exceptions. However...

But as a result of [Obama's] words, health care reform, global warming, a two state solution in I/P, etc., are all part of our everyday political discourse.

...Barack Obama didn't singlehandedly put any of these into our everyday political discourse, so these are not exceptions. To take just one, the "two-state solution" has been discussed and debated for decades, and if you look at the posting itself you'll see Bush directly calling for a two-state solution, as he did repeatedly during his two terms in office.

The suggestion that this policy serves 'American empire and corporate capitalism' in the way Caruso intends those words to be understood seems confused (or at least conspiratorial) given that the same was presumably true of the prior policy allowing settlement expansion.

Again, I didn't suggest that. And you're confused, and pretty badly; the "prior policy" (Bush's) was identical to Obama's, as I illustrated in the thread. Read the Bush quotes in the posting again and see for yourself.

If you're talking about actual vs. stated policy that's another thing, of course, but we have yet to see Obama take any concrete, meaningful steps to prevent Israeli settlement expansion. If he does, I'll be the first to congratulate him. Until then it's nothing but words—and the same words we've heard before from George Bush. My point is simply that we should get no more excited about Barack Obama saying them than we did about George Bush saying them. Actions—and nothing but actions—are what matters in cases like this.

Posted by John Caruso at June 12, 2009 05:29 PM

No Tony, you just share the name of the tragic anti-hero Tony Montana played by Al Pacino. The scene I was referring to is when Tony's boss and drug kingpin Frank fatefully warns Tony about the dangers of ambition.

Ha... I am fan of this movie and i didnt get this!!-Tony

Posted by tony at June 13, 2009 04:39 PM

"Ha... I am fan of this movie and i didnt get this!!"-Tony

Posted by tony at June 13, 2009 04:39 PM

Hehehe.

Happens to the best of us.

Posted by Nikolay Levin at June 13, 2009 10:41 PM